Thursday, July 22, 2010


"AJ is a straight shooter from Toronto, Canada. The nickname JAWS comes from her innate ability to tear a person's writing the shreds and leave a trail of blood behind ..." Charli Mac

Welcome, lads, lassies. Pull up a chair, get comfortable. I hope you haven't eaten ... yet.

How many of you would go streaking? Shed your clothes, run stark arse naked down the street. Maybe you’ve had a few drinks and your friends were doing it, or maybe you just love to shock.

Aye, in my youth I was known for such stunts. There. My secret is out. But shh, don’t tell my husband, he thinks he married a nice girl!

Critting is a very similar experience. You’re completely naked, vulnerable. Trepidation runs down your spine like a cool wind. At first, you might think, bah, my story is perfect. I’m ready to publish. Think again.

I know the first time I received a heavily scrutinized crit, I huffed and puffed, in complete denial. This person obviously didn’t grasp my premise. They don’t know what there talking about.

Or did they? If they’ve been around the block more times than you, good chances are you ought to listen to them. I went kicking and screaming, Charli threatened to bring in her leg breakers, but in the end, after we’d shaken away pesky denial, we accepted that critting only serves to make us BETTER.

When I joined my first critique group, I was a bit overwhelmed. I perused through all the stories posted, and ta-da, BY GRACE ALONE was the first one that jumped out at me. Why? AJ shrugs, I liked the name Grace.

Each week we're going to take the first page of someone’s MS and toss it into the SHARK TANK. I’ll get first crack at feeding, then everyone else can join in. This week we're going to look at Charli’s first page – remember, I’ve bled the sh*t out of it.

This is an older version. I want to see what YOU think of it. And, next week, after a collaborative effort, I’ll post the final version, along with my next victim.

And, yes, I’ll even toss my MS up here for Charli to bleed, lord knows she likes payback.


The South Jersey Shore

Miguel eased back into the Adirondack chair. He glided his fingers over the smooth oak finish. His own work, crafted with bare hands, comforted him. Summer light warmed his face. Shoulders usually tense from worry lowered and he stared ahead wondering what memory he would drum up first.The chair, the view, and his thoughts relaxed him.

The summer of kites.

He was nine and Grace eight. The day her purple kite finally flew high in the air, soaring into the sky. The joy on her face as it kept going, the string unwinding without an end in sight. “Look Miggy look!”

A glare hit his eye, daydream interrupted. The sun’s rays bounced off the gold band on his finger. He twirled it around hoping that one day it would feel like it was a part of him, not a prop or show piece. He fisted his hand into his pocket.

On a deep inhale he let the salt air fill his lungs. The crashing waves beat upon the sand and its rhythm lulled his heavy heart. With closed his eyes he let his mind wander again . This place, this beach, held all of his secrets - a past long gone. Of a love that only happened once in a lifetime. It never failed to amaze him how a visit here provoked memories better left buried. Dreams of something that would never be.

He basked in them, looked forward to recalling each and every moment. It was here he cheated on his wife every week, not with his body but with his heart. In this chair he would sit and remember. Remember their friendship, their love. Some days, if it was quiet enough, he could start from his first memory of her at age five and work his way up to the very last moment he saw her, when he let her go.

Here's my take: there are several awkward sentences, that, if fused together as one, would flow better. Starting the first chapter with a flash back doesn't quite give me the action I was looking for. Tons of tell and little show. I LOVE show. Was I hooked? Not so much. Harsh eh? Probably, depending on who you are. But, and this is a big BUT, the reason Charli and I mesh so well is because we are BRUTALLY HONEST with each other. If something sucks, one will tell the other.

So what's going on here? What do you know about the characters? Do they draw you in? Peek your interest? Is there a good hook? What would you change? Lets get this ball rolling - tear the shi*t out of this. I did.


  1. Wow, Charli, I had no idea...I really did come in later, lol. Okay, here goes (and I expect the same when its my turn!).

    The first paragraph is, well, not very interesting. We get a little glimpse of Mig, that he likes to work with his hands, he's by the seashore. But the first four sentences have the same plodding rhythm as the subject matter, kind of like you're reading "da-DA-da-DA-da-DA".

    But then, oh Charli, a whole sentence setting up a flashback? In the first paragraph? Really? know I love you!

  2. Thanks Megan. When I re-read this I did miss some of it. Knowing where it is now, JAWS IS A MIRACLE WORKER!!! Keep rippin her lassies...

  3. What the heck was I thinking??? LOL. But the process made me stronger...

  4. I remember the beginning. LOL

  5. Good writing but what I feel the opening lacks is conflict. Maybe add a disturbance or something that can spark a little more curiosity.
    I would also toss the word wondered. By doing so it puts u in a deeper pov. It brings readers In more. I think by doing this is could sparkle some more.
    Good job;)

  6. Megan ... I love it! da-da-da! LOL "The first paragraph is, well, not very interesting." Keep it coming. Trust me, the NOW version is 12x better!

    Love the deep POV comment, Mart! Keep makin' 'er bleed, lassies!

    Thanks so much for stopping by.

  7. Okay, I have never read your story, but I have to say just by reading this little bit, I think I will have to.
    I'm going to start with what I liked, cause, yeah, there are things I like. Number 1 is the emotion does come shining through. I totally FEEL his heartbreak, and for me that is great. That right there shows talent because it is easy to write words, but hard to write emotion.
    Now onto what I'm not to crazy about. First, I get little glimpses of him, but not enough to really start caring about him just yet. The little flash back could be moved to a different chapter, maybe after Grace has been introduced. Also, since we don't know too much about him yet, I feel sorry for his wife, lol.
    I'm not going to mention the show and tell cause that has been mentioned already.
    There isn't much action, but that in itself doesn't bother me. I like getting to know the characters before things start to heat up.
    But really, C, for a first draft, this ain't half bad. I can already tell that you know your characters very well. And that is half the battle.
    Hey, thanks for having the guts to let us have a go at your early version.

  8. Here goes! In the first paragraph- a lot of he and his are keeping me from being IN the story. I feel like I'm watching it happen and I want to experience it! The kite memory is interesting but the sentences are choppy and hard to connect with. (I really hate prepositions.) Anyway, I'm not feeling the characters emotions about these events. Is this a happy memory? I liked the twirling of the ring. The action along with the feelings and thoughts pulled me into the character.

    Now I'm kind of a cheater here because I've read the polished version. Aye, that one's a very good story indeed.

  9. She knows her characters too well, but, Brenda, she can write emotion better than anyone one I know. Can even make me cry!

  10. Charli, recommendations... Don't start with the flashback. This first page doesn't grab my attention. While the writing is sound and I like your voice (I know that from reading your second book's prologue), I feel no tension, no need to keep reading. I'd rewrite with a different scene and I think the deep pov is a plus... I'd like to see the now version.

  11. Thanks lassies. I wrote this when BGA took a major shift. I had already written 20 something chapters when I changed the plot, so yeah I knew them well. I hated how I made Mig look like such a douche here. In my head I knew the reason why he was doing what he was doing but the reader didn't... That is so important for us to see in OUR own work...

    Yeah, me and my flashbacks...I am attached to them. JAWS and my other awesome CP's took care of it.

    You guys will see the finished product. But question, a teaser. Anyone see something already here that would make a better opening????

  12. Other than a number of awkward sentences, which have already been mentioned, my biggest concern with this opening is the distance created in the POV. A rather high percentage of these sentences have "he" as the primary subject, and the action is often what he is thinking, remembering, wondering, etc. If you simply allow your characters to remember or wonder, etc. without telling us that is what they are doing, subconsciously, we are drawn in closer to them.

    The other main concern I have? Everything in this selection is what has already happened, apart from things that don't really matter--i.e. sitting in the chair, taking a breath (okay, breathing is important, but the reader's knowledge of it isn't so much), fisting a hand in a pocket. I'd much prefer to be learning this back story alongside important current action.

  13. Haven't read this so it's hard to pinpoint where to start this based only on the first page. Based on the few paragraphs read, I'd say starting with where they meet again would probably be the best place to begin. I think deep pov and really making us feel that punch in the gut through Miguel would be hot. The part where he lost her should come out in a conversation between them later on, that would add tension there. Just a thought in answer to Charli's question.

  14. Agents seem to hate them, but as a reader I love them: Prologues that set up the story. You've been very, very good here. You just have a snippet of backstory, a little tease. Perfect length for backstory, a taste...

    My favorite line of yours, with a little addition, could be the hook:

    It was the summer of kites.

    I don't know how you'd work that in but that is the line that jumps out and me and grabs my attention.

    And here's the other one that grabs me in a secondary way, but it's too far down.

    It was here he cheated on his wife every week, not with his body but with his heart.

    I'd take your two best lines and re-work them together for a kick-butt hook. Something like:

    It was the summer of kites when their life started. Twenty years later Grace and her purple kite had become a metaphor, the string unwinding without an end in sight, just like the women he cheated with every week seemed to unwind from a spool of endless string that tied Grace to him on one end, and stretched into the unknown bright blue sky on the other.

    OK, I'm reaching. I guess my point was that your hook needs to be stronger, tighter. You want to both introduce your characters and set up a conflict as soon as possible.

    Nice writing by the way! Thanks for the invitation.

  15. p.s. Don't toss out the other stuff. Once you get your hook written, you can start adding things you already wrote after the hook. Because you do have a talent.

  16. Eve, that was fantastic! Really, I am so excited for you to read the other version! Thanks so much for stopping by! You loved the exact same things I did!

  17. Hey Eve thanks for joining. You are in the right pew with your suggestions.

    Emotion, for me, its simple. K-I-S-S keep it simple stupid, not so much. Awkward sentences are my BFF's. I love them. We all have strengths, weaknesses. Doing things like this only helps us learn more about our craft.

    Thanks ladies....

  18. Thanks AJ. So glad to be of some inspiration. That was sort of impulsive and off the cuff, but I try not to hyperanalyze every word in some negative spirit, but to pick out the best words and start moving them up to be the hook.

    What happens when we start a story is we pour out every idea in a brainstorm, to coin a phrase that encompasses the birth of a story. Then what happens is you take your brainstorm and pick out the best bits and start trying to work that backstory in without making it seem separate from the nowstory. If that makes sense. That's my philosophy and I'm sticking to it. :-) What a great idea for a blog.

  19. Thank you for inviting me, Charli! Best of luck with this wonderful story.

  20. Thanks Eve, Letters from David trailer, very moving. Keep us posted too! BGA started out at 136 and is now 121. All from doing this. My CP's kick my arse!

  21. Oh Anne, I love making people cry, makes me all tingly inside!

  22. Thanks for the kind words about the book trailer for Letters from David.

    Your trailer is fantastic. :-)

  23. Man, being brutally honest is hard.

    I thought the first paragraph was a little too much telling, not enough showing. The sentences are awkward. I liked the flashback, but I'm not sure that's the right spot for it. I did, however, love the part about the ring. Nice.

    I think the second to last paragraph would make a better opening.

  24. Sigh, the whole flashback is taken out of the scene, this scene becomes the opening to chapter 1. It's on my author site. Thanks for the read and the input!

  25. Thanks for the opportunity to see your work and all the critiques. I'll be anxiously checking your blog for more.