Thursday, December 6, 2012

Contest winner critique


At long last, I'm very pleased to say that today's the day: I'm posting my critique of our contest winner's first two pages. Commenter slingsomeink bravely agreed to let me critique the first two pages of her historical romance novel here on the blog.

Blogger is really fighting me on the format of this-- or maybe I'm just doing battle with my own technological ineptness today?-- but keep scrolling down, please, for the annotated pages. I've got a summary of my critique at the bottom.

page 1

page 2

slingsomeink is doing a lot of things here that I really like, not least that she's catapulted her heroine into an unfamiliar and unexpected situation. Emily Starling seems to be a well-bred young lady, at least middle-class (and possibly a member of the ton) based on her education level and memories of "back home," not the sort of woman we expect to see herded onto a prison ship, bound somewhere that's five months' journey from England. The author takes pains, even in these two pages, to draw distinctions between the heroine and her fellow inmates. The former cellmate doesn't seem to like Emily much, for example; I doubt "Duchess" is a term of endearment. Yet there's nothing in this segment that suggests that Emily is wrongfully imprisoned...and I love that we don't yet know what she's imprisoned for. This mystery will keep me reading, and a smart writer will keep me on the hook for a while, till I'm more thoroughly invested in the story.

I also like that slingsomeink wastes no time introducing us to the man I assume will be the hero, this sea-god officer on the prison ship. If Emily's biting back a sharp retort, I'm guessing sparks will fly between these two.

As a number of my comments point to, there are a few clunky bits in here, too; in particular, I'd like slingsomeink to give us a bit more background on what's going on here, as this feels a little disorienting in the first couple of paragraphs. Watch out for cliches, and be mindful that word choice is appropriate to the character whose "head" we're in at that moment.

Overall, this is promising. I'd keep reading.

Thanks, slingsomeink, for being a great sport. What did the rest of you think? (compliments and constructive criticism only, please.) Any questions about any of my terminology, etc.?  

Should we do this again soon?


Chelsie said...

Yes! More critique contests, please. I would really like to win something for once, haha.

Kara said...

I have to say that this isn't usually a genre I read a lot of, but I'm pretty intrigued! I do want to know why Emily is about to board a prison ship, and there is one line, for me, that really clinches that "okay, I really need to know more about this girl" feeling: "The last thing she needed was more trouble"...because I have a feeling that's exactly what she's going to find on the ship. Nice job! Oh...also I'm pretty partial to Bertie...kind of want to know her story, too!

Jessica Brockmole said...

A character out of her element is a surefire draw for me. You've dripped in enough little clues--the book by the fire, the timidness, the contrast to Bertie--to make me wonder how she'll adapt to what comes next. I especially like the detail of her pinching the inside of her elbow.

I saw Bertie in a different light than Courtney did, though. I thought that Bertie was helping, deliberately trying to draw the sailors' attention from Emily, and that the "Duchess" was part of the act. Though ambiguous characters early on add to the intrigue!

Thanks for sharing, slingsomeink!

Courtney Miller-Callihan said...

Ok, Jessica convinced me-- looking forward to seeing more of the Bertie/Emily friendship (?)... And that only makes me like Emily more, of course!

Sonja Foust said...

Love it! What a great start! And thanks for the critique, too, Courtney. It's nice to see some things I can apply to my manuscripts, too-- like getting out those damn cliches that seem to sneak in no matter what. ;)

Jenny H said...

I like how this story hits the ground running and that it’s not your usual drawing room/ball setting. In fact, it’s about as far from the “usual setting” as it possibly could be—a prison ship!—which totally piques my curiosity.

slingsomeink said...

Thanks Courtney....your comments were insightful and i'm going take your suggestions and comb through rest of my manuscript looking for similar trouble spots. On the topic of Bertie, she is one of those mushroom characters. Just popped into the book, never planned for her. She's certainly not a friend to Emily, but does prove herself useful later on. Appreciate the kind comments, this was a great experience!

slingsomeink said...

and yes, cliches are sneaky. i'm also a magnet for filler words (of, could, tried, just, only)...the BANE of my editing

Jessica Brockmole said...

Oh, I love mushroom characters! Most of my favorites began that way, as little walk-ons who popped up then decided to grow.

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed this post and would love to see more of same. I am far too close to my own work to edit it properly and reading through the critiques you made were helpful. Should you do more of this? Most definitely. I would love to see it as a regular feature.