Fixing the First Page Feature #34

Photo credit: gvgoebel on Flickr
May is on its way, the days are getting longer, and summer is on the horizon. Which means, of course, it's once again time for the Fixing the First Page critique!

As usual, I'll start by posting the full first 250 excerpt, after which I'll share my overall thoughts, then my redline critique. I encourage you guys to share your own thoughts and critiques in the comments (because I'm one person with one opinion!), as long as it's polite, thoughtful, and constructive. Any rude or mean comments will be unceremoniously deleted.

Here we go!

Title: MY DEGRADE

Genre/Category: Psychological Suspense

First 250 Words:

"I’m not looking forward to tomorrow. It’s coming way too fast. The first day of school will be tomorrow, and I hadn’t quite recovered from last year. School wasn’t the best place for me; Mrs. Jackson made it hell. She thought everything I did was rude, and if I get her on my schedule, I know I’ll be sent at least three times a week to the office. There was an incident last year where she accused me of “assaulting” her. She was standing too close when she startled me awake and my arm hit her. They suspended me for the rest of the year after that. I still think she was overreacting, but it wasn’t like I did it on purpose!
I let out a deep breath. The sun was starting to set behind the mountains. It was time to go home. It was nice here, quiet, empty, and peaceful, except for the families that used the playgrounds. I could be here all the time. That wasn’t something that I could do though. Dad would send Uncle Hal after me, and being a police officer, he kind of had the upper hand on me. He’d find me so fast that I’d barely had time to breathe before I was found. I’d run, but he always could catch me; not bad for a guy as old as he is. 
I started walking home, my eyes stayed fixed on the sky. It’s so cool how the evenings could turn the sky into a myriad of colors."

Okay! So. Firstly, I'm guessing the category was just forgotten here, because with no category mentioned I was expecting adult but this is definitely not adult—judging by the voice, I'd say it was MG. That's not a flaw with the excerpt, but just be careful with how you're pitching it, because category is very important!

As far as the excerpt goes, the biggest thing I'm noticing right away is this is all exposition. You have to be very careful with expository openings—they're not impossible to pull off, but they are tricky because if you're too in the character's head, then readers have no idea what's going on and have no way to picture where the character is or what they're doing—which is what's happening here until the last paragraph. The other issue with expository openings is they often (though not always) equate a slower pace, particularly if there isn't an immediate conflict the character is thinking about. Here we do have some conflict—the protagonist doesn't want to go to school—but it seems he's just walking around thinking, and I don't think that's a powerful enough opening to really grab the reader. I'd consider starting somewhere closer to the inciting incident.

All right, let's take a look at the line edits:

"I’m not looking forward to tomorrow. It’s coming way too fast. The first day of school will be tomorrow, and I hadn’t quite recovered from last year. Okay, so we've got some tense slippage here. Your first two and a half sentences are in present tense, but then everything else is in past tense. Pick a tense and stick with it (I'm guessing go with past tense, because it seems that's what the majority of your manuscript is.) School wasn’t the best place for me; Mrs. Jackson made it hell. She thought everything I did was rude, and if I get her on my schedule, I know I’ll be sent at least three times a week to the office. There was an incident last year where she accused me of “assaulting” her. She was standing too close when she startled me awake and my arm hit her. They suspended me for the rest of the year after that. This honestly just seems really unlikely. Accidentally hitting someone (and in the scenario described, it seems pretty obvious it'd be an accident) wouldn't end in someone's suspension that long. Especially since schools acknowledge end-of-year tests are important. I still think she was overreacting, but it wasn’t like I did it on purpose!
I let out a deep breath. The sun was starting to setting behind the mountains. It was time to go home. It was nice here, quiet, empty, and peaceful, except for the families that usinged the playgrounds. I wish I could be here all the time,. That wasn’t something that I could do though. but Dad would send Uncle Hal after me, and being a police officer, he kind of had the upper hand on me. He’d find me so fast that I’d barely had time to breathe before I was found. I’d run, but he always could catch me; not bad for a guy as old as he iwas. 
I started walking towards home, my eyes stayed fixed on the sky. It’ was so cool how the evenings could turned the sky into a myriad of colors." "Myriad" doesn't fit the voice, to me. It's not a word a teen or younger kid would casually say.

So that's what I've got! Overall I think the opening would likely be better off closer to the inciting incident, as I mentioned, and with less exposition. Therefore, if I saw this in the slush, I would pass.

I hope that helps! Thanks for sharing your first 250 with us, David!

Twitter-sized bite:
.@Ava_Jae talks expository openings, starting in the right spot & more in the 34th Fixing the First Page Feature. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: How to Write Fights

By request! I love writing fight scenes and have written more of them than I can remember. So today I'm sharing some quick dos, don'ts, and things to remember while writing your characters beating each other up.


RELATED LINKS:


What tips do you have for writing fight scenes? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
Struggling to get that fight scene in your WIP right? @Ava_Jae vlogs some tips. (Click to tweet)

On Reading Slumps

Photo credit: mark sebastian on Flickr
I'm not sure if this is a busy-ness thing, a dealing with a whole lot of words thing, or a tiredness thing (or maybe all three?) but I've been dealing with a bit of a reading slump lately.

It's not like I don't have good books to read (that is definitely not a problem *eyes growing TBR shelf*), but I've been finding that my motivation to read has just been...waning. Which it shouldn't be, because there've been so many books I want to read but when I sit down to actually get through some pages, I've been super easily distracted and just...in general struggling.

Maybe it's partially what I've been reading too? I've been enjoying the last several books overall, but it seems even when I'm invested the motivation has been lacking. I'm mostly hoping this too shall pass and I'll be back to my regular reading motiv
ation levels soon, but for now it's been a struggle with nearly everything I've tried to read, which has been annoying.

#bookworm problems, I suppose. Or overworking problems, maybe.

I'm curious, though: what do you guise do when you hit a reading slump? What has gotten you through it?

Twitter-sized bite:
What do you do to get through a reading slump? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Winner #34!

Photo credit: coffeego on Flickr
Quick Saturday post to announce the winner of the thirty-fourth fixing the first page feature giveaway!

*drumroll*

And the thirty-fourth winner is…


DAVID TUCKER!


Hooray! Congratulations, David!

Thanks again to all you wonderful entrants! If you didn't win, as always, there will be another fixing the first page giveaway in May, so keep an eye out!

On (Needing?) External Deadlines

Photo credit: dgoomany on Flickr
So I recently started part-time work again to help me save for a thing, and when I initially started and got my hours I was a little worried about how I was going to be able to squeeze everything in. Between being on deadline (and not a self-imposed one!), and working on my freelance projects, and now the extra work, I was genuinely concerned there might not be enough hours in the day for me to get everything done that I needed to—and that's even with starting work around 6AM most days, and working on Saturdays.

That concern is still there for some days, but on my first super-packed day where I had a long shift and had to work on my deadline project and had to work on my freelance project, I found that squeezing it all in actually wasn't as terrible as I thought it might be. Largely because I wasted a hell of a lot less time on Twitter and random apps when I knew I had to stop working in a couple hours to go to work.

It kind of surprised me how easy it was to ignore distractions when I didn't have unlimited time throughout the day—I hunkered down and edited, and read, and did everything I needed to, and on the day that I tweeted, I ended up finishing with time to spare. Go figure.

Which got me thinking...maybe I kind of need less hours in the day from time to time? Even on the days that I don't go in to the day job, I had a renewed appreciation for the full hours I had available to me, and I ended up getting more work done than I needed to so I'd have less work to do on days I had less hours available. And really, getting my butt in gear was as a simple as just having five to six hours less on certain days of the week.

It's something I hadn't really thought about before—and I am still more actively worried about burnout, because understandably, I'm working even longer days than I used to. But it's been interesting, at least, to see how much easier it is to focus when my days are less flexible.

Maybe I work best under external deadlines after all.

What do you think? Do you work best under external deadlines or limited time?

Twitter-sized bites:
Do you work best under external deadlines or limited time? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Ava Edits One Year Anniversary Sale!

So about a year ago I made a pretty site and opened my doors to freelance editing! It's been a fantastic decision for me—I've really enjoyed working with so many talented clients—and I love my job. I'd like to celebrate my one year freelancing anniversary with a sale—yay sales!

To celebrate my one year freelancing anniversary, from now until end of May all services are 5% off to everyone, and because I'd like to help get more #ownvoices projects out in the world however I can, I'm also offering 10% off to #ownvoices projects! #ownvoices means you share a marginalization with your protagonist (not that someone in your family shares that marginalization, you). Also it must be a marginalization, not an experience, so something related to race, gender (I don't mean "woman," I mean "not cis"), sexuality/romanticism, religion, disability, or neuroatypicality.

Don't have an #ownvoices project you want edited? That's fine, you still can get 5% off any service! And like last time, you don't necessarily have to have anything ready right now to take advantage of the sale—as long as you book before the end of May (even if you book for, say, July), it will count!

Finally, I'm currently pretty booked in April, but I've got openings for everything May onwards.

So that covers it! Thanks again for all of your wonderful support—it's been a great year!

Twitter-sized bite:
Freelance editor @Ava_Jae is hosting a one year anniversary sale w/ 5% off all projects & 10% off #ownvoices projects until 5/31/17! (Click to tweet)

Vlog: Why Didn't I Self-Publish?

Once upon a time, several years before I got an agent and well before I got published, I seriously considered self-publishing. But here's why I decided it wasn't for me.


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What do you think?

Twitter-sized bite:
Author @Ava_Jae vlogs about why she didn't self-publish one of her nine trunked manuscripts. (Click to tweet)
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