May 7th on 7th

 

For 7th on 7th, I take a blog subscriber’s seventh page and show you how I’d improve it for the upcoming #pg70pit contest. See the #70pit16 contest schedule here.

7th on 7th

THE ORIGINAL PAGE

– his musculature hugging them. He could be a model for the cover of GQ or Men’s Health. I felt my eyelashes fluttering involuntarily – was I batting my eyes flirtatiously, or just trying to focus? And then our eyes met…and locked. I could have sworn his eyes changed colors like a mood ring. It felt like we had gone through eternity together. I felt the strongest connection between this stranger (and yet not a stranger) and me. Then he lowered his eyes quickly and stated, “Walking and texting can kill you. I apologize. It’s just dangerous…you could’ve run into that door,” he smirked.

“I– I…” I couldn’t speak. He was so mesmerizing.

“See you around. Don’t walk into any more doors.” He walked into the library towards the reference desk, and I hurried out of the library doors, confused…embarrassed…excited.

Oh great. Now I really can’t concentrate. Forget about studying now. I’m gonna grab something to eat and run to my class.

I wasn’t too keen on signing up for an evening anatomy lab, but I had no choice – all of the other sections were filled. There are a few seats left in my section, but not many. Normally, I am one of those goody-two-shoes that sits in the front row, but I’m gonna turn over a new leaf – be a rebel – and sit in the back of the class! I started to get my lab kit out. A group of girls walked towards me and asked if they could sit in my row.

“Hi, I’m Veronica, and this is Angelique, Mackenzie, and Phoebe.”

“Hi, I’m Raina.” These girls had an extraordinary beauty to them. Like supermodels without even trying. Could they be Elites? Why would they ever want to be seen with me in the same row, let alone talk to me? Call me paranoid, but the first letter of each of their names spells ‘VAMP’! Coincidence? Are they what I think they are? Are they the ‘Elites’ I’ve been hearing about? What exactly are these ‘Elites’, anyways – brainy, intelligent people? Perfect people? Aliens? A cult of some sort? I really don’t know.

Of course, I’ve met some normal people that look normal, sound normal, smell normal (OK, they actually didn’t smell good, just average). So, I was guessing that those normal people were humans, and not Elites – at least from what I’ve been hearing. They usually want to borrow my notes or study with me. I guess I gave them the impression that I’m studious or something. I have got to change that. Or maybe it’s the stereotypical notion that all East Indians and Asians are studious – ‘Hang out with them if you want to improve your GPA’. Typical. I have no problem helping people out, but it just bothers me when they can’t acknowledge my existence outside of schoolwork – I think that’s called ‘selfish’, but whatever.

Veronica was a gorgeous redhead, with long spiral curls framing down her shoulders like a lion’s mane. Her light green eyes softened her ferocious look. She seemed confident, but not arrogant. She certainly looked like the leader of the group.

MY NOTES

  • I like the interaction when your main character meets this mystery man—fun and romantic. I love the line about the mood ring.
  • I don’t know what “(and not a stranger)” means here, out of context.
  • You need an action beat before “I apologize” because he switches his tone right there. “He smirked” isn’t a dialogue tag, it’s an action, so move that there.
  • The stage directions regarding the library are confusing. Are they in between storm doors or something? Are they inside or outside? If they’re inside, why is he walking inside? If they are outside, why is she walking out?
  • “I’m gonna grab a snack” isn’t pertinent information enough that it needs to be spotlighted by internal dialogue. Dialogue, whether internal or external, is emphasized, so make sure anything said in italics (internal) or quotation marks (external) is remarkable.
  • After that, when “Raina” is left to her own devices, her narration gets a bit frantic. Maybe that’s her character, but give the reader a chance to breathe and process the information. Throwing it all in quick succession is like hooking up a fire hydrant to a water fountain. The reader comes for a nice refreshing drink but is blasted by information.
  • The smell thing—is she talking about normal people she usually interacts with, or is she talking about VAMP sitting next to her?
  • The biggest issue I see here, though, is that it can’t decide whether it’s in present tense or past tense. I know italics aren’t transferred over when submitting your entry, so maybe some of this is direct thought, but I can’t tell. (If you submit for pg70pit, include *asterisks* around anything that you want in italics.)
  • Yes, the VAMP thing seems too cute. It might feel less contrived if Raina figures this out rather than Vanessa spelling out their names so quickly. Slow down the pace to give the reader a chance to process.
  • To slow down the narration, we’re going to make sure we spread out that information and “telling” with action or “showing.” Try to picture your novel as a movie, and that will help you show more. The narration is then a voice-over. You want things happening during the voice over, or else the action stops, and we see a freeze-frame while you stop to narrate. Don’t let that freeze-frame last too long—insert action beats. You can also slow down the reader by including paragraph breaks.
  • If Veronica is talking, then Raina’s observations about her can be in the same paragraph. But as soon as the focus switches over to Raina, you need to be in a new paragraph. Consider each paragraph as one camera shot or pan. If the camera switches abruptly, you need a new paragraph.
  • Internal narration is in present tense always and should be italicized, unless your entire book is written in first person present tense.

THE EDITED PAGE

– his musculature hugging them. He could be a model for the cover of GQ or Men’s Health. I felt my eyelashes fluttering involuntarily – was I batting my eyes flirtatiously, or just trying to focus? And then our eyes met…and locked. I could have sworn his eyes changed colors like a mood ring. It felt like we had gone through eternity together. I felt the strongest connection between this stranger (and yet not a stranger) and me. Then he lowered his eyes quickly and stated, “Walking and texting can kill you.” He smirked. “I apologize. It’s just dangerous … you could’ve run into that door.”

“I– I…” I couldn’t speak. He was so mesmerizing.

“See you around. Don’t walk into any more doors.” He walked towards the reference desk, and I hurried out, confused…embarrassed…excited.

Oh great. Now I really can’t concentrate. Forget about studying now.

I went straight to my next class. I hadn’t been too keen to sign up for an evening anatomy lab, but I had no choice – all of the other sections were filled. There were a few seats left in my section, but not many. Normally, I’d be one of those goody-two-shoes that sits in the front row, but I was gonna turn over a new leaf – be a rebel – and sit in the back of the class! I started to get my lab kit out. A group of girls walked towards me with an extraordinary beauty to them. Like supermodels without even trying. Could they be Elites?

“Can we sit here?” said a gorgeous redhead, with long spiral curls framing down her shoulders like a lion’s mane. Her light green eyes softened her ferocious look. She seemed confident, but not arrogant. She certainly looked like the leader of the group.

I nodded.

“I’m Veronica,” said the redhead. She tossed her head back at the girls next to her. “Angelique, Mackenzie, and Phoebe.”

“Hi, I’m Raina.” Why would girls like these ever want to be seen with me in the same row, let alone talk to me? Are they the ‘Elites’ I’ve been hearing about?

Normal people usually wanted to borrow my notes or study with me. I guess I gave these girls the impression that I’m studious or something. I have got to change that. Or maybe it was the stereotypical notion that all East Indians and Asians are studious – ‘Hang out with them if you want to improve your GPA’. Typical. I bet Veronica and company wouldn’t acknowledge my existence apart from schoolwork.

Veronica, Angelique, Mackenzie, Phoebe—call me paranoid, but the first letter of each of their names spells ‘VAMP’! Coincidence? Are they what I think they are?

They seemed normal enough. They looked normal, acted normal. They even smelled normal—not that I was, like, smelling my classmates or anything!  

What exactly are ‘Elites’, anyways – brainy, intelligent people? Perfect people? Aliens? A cult of some sort?

I really didn’t know.

2015 Entry: I’m the Best Mistake You’ll Ever Make

This was the highest-scoring adult entry of last year’s pg70pit, scoring a perfect 3.0.

Code Name: I’m the Best Mistake You’ll Ever Make

Your 70th Page (up to 259 words): The woman was waiting for him outside his tenement, hands folded primly over the handle of a lace parasol.

Anton stopped, shuffling his feet and glancing up beneath his eyelashes. “Sweet of you to check up on me.”

An indulgent smile tugged at her wine red lips. “You know you really oughtn’t walk around so late alone. Someone might get the wrong idea.”

Anton swallowed. He didn’t much mind other people’s ideas. It was his own that concerned him. “You said you had names. I want one.”

“I thought you might.” From the breast pocket of her greatcoat, she withdrew an envelope. “I’ll give you two, free of charge. They’re quite good at what they do.”

“I don’t want a sell-sword.”

“Smart boy. A poisoner would be more prudent.”

“No,” Anton said. “I want you to give me the name of the Phantom.”

“The Phantom,” she repeated, her face carefully blank.

“I know you know what I’m talking about.” The woman had eyes in every back alley from Copenhagen to Casablanca. Of course she knew of the Phantom.

“Perhaps I’ve heard the tales,” she said, twirling the parasol idly. “But what makes you think I have his name?”

Her name,” Anton corrected. The deliberate error didn’t fool him. “You know it’s a she. And you know how to find her.”

The woman hesitated. “I can’t help you with this.”

“Can’t? Or won’t?”

Her dark-rimmed eyes narrowed. “Even if you do manage to track her down, what do you think you can offer her? She’s not for hire.”

Intended Audience: Adult
Word Count:
135K
Genre: Fantasy
7-word description for your MC: Clever, secretive. Hiding unwanted magic, scrupulous streak.

Deconstruction

Again, this entry isn’t perfect, but it’s a solid one. Let’s tear it apart.

MARKS AGAINST

  • “Anton stopped, shuffling his feet and glancing up beneath his eyelashes.” This is too much stage direction for me, but what concerns me more is that the “glancing up beneath his eyelashes” reads like it’s from an external POV, but then we go into Anton’s POV later, so I’m not sure if it’s a mistake or if this is omniscient third person, and we’ll go in and out of Anton’s POV as the story progresses. Hard to tell out of context.
  • I’d hyphenate wine-red lips.

MARKS FOR

  • Biggest mark for: this writer knows how to use action beats in dialogue. Every time she pauses for an action beat, we know the speaker is pausing. The pacing of this page is spot-on.
  • “Anton swallowed. He didn’t much mind other people’s ideas. It was his own that concerned him.” I didn’t expect to go into Anton’s POV, so when we did, I was delightfully surprised. This is a great way of writing limited third person—we get into the character’s thoughts only when we need to, and when we do, it’s strong writing and important insight into the character.
  • “she repeated, her face carefully blank.” This is so great, I’ll overlook that “carefully” is in the woman’s POV.
  • Clients will tell you that in prose, I tend to be very hard on alliteration, but the “from Copenhagen to Casablanca” works very well here. Alliteration draws attention to itself like a neon sign. That extra emphasis here totally works.
  • Ultimately, I want to read more!

I’m the Best Mistake You’ll Ever Make got four requests during 2015’s pg70pit. Katy Pool is now represented by Alexandra Machinist at ICM Partners!


Did you get something out of today’s reconstruction? Want more? I’ll be leading writing workshops this summer, including courses in drafting, revision, and pitching to agents. Subscribe to larawillard.com (or StoryCadet.com) or follow @LaraEdits on Twitter to be notified of the course schedule.

4 thoughts on “May 7th on 7th

  1. Abrian Curington says:

    Ah I’ve learned some things from this critique, even though it wasn’t my work! I might sign up for one of the workshops this summer. Just have to decide which one and if I’ll have anything to work on at that time 🙂

  2. Rosa Taylor says:

    I just thought about your favorite comic question way too much, and I’ve decided that The Sandman series is my favorite. I love how they feel bigger than the pages they’re printed on. More so than any other comic I’ve read.

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