“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
—Louis L’Amour

A Writer’s Guide to Stop Panicking and Get the Most from a Critique

Even when you ask for it, when people critique your writing it can feel like a dagger to the gut. It can knock out your confidence and even cause you to question whether you should ever bother picking up a pen again.

how to stop panicking and get the most from a critique

Photo by star5112

When a group of beta readers critiqued the manuscript for my first novel, I felt like I was on the cusp of a true panic for days. Was my manuscript too problematic to be fixed? Was I terrible writer? Maybe I wasn’t really a writer at all and should just give up.

But critique feedback can also help you make your work even better—not just in this manuscript but in general. Once I calmed down, I realized that there was a lot of positive in the feedback I’d gotten, too. My manuscript was definitely fixable, perhaps even pretty good—it just had some areas where it could be even better. And then I actually excited to make those improvements and started coming up with even more creative ideas to add into it.

You can get past critique panic too—what makes the difference is how you handle it. Here’s some tips on how to move past the fear and get the most from it:

Accept the critique

The worst thing about feedback is what we imagine it will be. Don’t let the fear of your feedback stop you from moving forward. Bite the bullet and read it through all the way. It’s okay if at first it makes you angry or if you don’t agree with any of it. Just read and take it all in.

Take some space to think about the critique

Once you’ve read through all your feedback, step away from it for a few days and just let the feedback marinate. It’s hard to hear criticism and alternate ideas about something you’ve created. During this time, remember the positive comments you got, too–just because there’s ways to improve doesn’t mean you’re not a good writer!

But if you let yourself have the time to mull on that feedback, you may be surprised to find you agree or that it triggers new creative ideas. Other suggestions you may decide not to take.

Get a game plan on how to act on the critique

Even when you you’ve had the space to calm down and decide what to do with your feedback, it can be overwhelming to think about the work required to execute on them. What you need is a game plan.

Write a list of all the things you want to address, and order them from the biggest plot-level changes to the smallest detail changes like word choices. Addressing changes in this order will eliminate some unnecessary effort fixing things that need to change anyway.

Butt in seat.

Then, the only thing left is to put in the work and plug through your to-dos. Stay focused and don’t let this last stage of hard effort get you down. You’ll be working your way into the publishing stages soon.

Receiving a critique on your manuscript can be deeply personal and extremely difficult. But don’t let that fear or insecurity hold you back from getting all you can from constructive feedback. Keep a cool head and a critique can make your manuscript even stronger.

How do you cope with the emotional side of critiques?

PRACTICE

Share a paragraph of your work in progress in the comments for critique from other Write Practice readers—and be sure to give helpful comments on other paragraphs submitted for feedback, too!

As you read your feedback, pay attention to how you feel. Why do you feel that way? Can you hear the good comments in addition to the critiques? Come back to it again in a few days and try applying some of the suggestions you got.

About Emily Wenstrom

By day, Emily Wenstrom, is the editor of short story website wordhaus, author social media coach, and freelance content marketing specialist. By early-early morning, she is E. J. Wenstrom, a sci-fi and fantasy author whose first novel Mud will release in March 2016.

  • Laura

    This is a part of a scene from my current WIP. Please let me know what you guys think about it; I am always looking to improve. Also, the reference to the plate in the kitchen is a reference to the fact that earlier in the scene one of them smashed a plate in anger.

    I tucked the note away more carefully now, aware of its value not only as a sentimental memory of a loved one, but also as a bargaining chip. I could tell him that she’d written anything at all, and he’d have to believe me because he wanted to. We both wanted something to believe in that could reassure us, that could piece together the shards of the plate that lay in the can in the kitchen. We hoped desperately for something that would make us feel like it was all OK, like we were alright and she was alright and after a good night’s sleep, everything would disappear. We hoped like children.

    We both knew that there wasn’t a fairytale ending, that there wasn’t going to be a magic wand or a fairy godmother or a wish upon a star. We knew that there wasn’t going to be a happy ever after. But somehow, somehow the desperation brought out the madmen in us, and we hoped.

    • Nancygem

      I like it! Very nice. You may want to change the start of the first word of the second paragraph. You used “we” to start the previous two sentences. Good job!

      • Reagan

        This is real life. Something everyone can relate to.

        • Laura

          I’m not quite sure if this is addressed to me (I think you accidentally posted it as a reply to Nancygem.)

          • Reagan

            Sorry, it was meant for your post. Still haven’t gotten used to the order 🙂

          • Laura

            That’s OK. In that case, thank you very much for the nice comment. I’m glad you enjoyed my writing.

      • Laura

        Thank you so much for the comment. I’m not sure how to correct this but I will definitely take a look and see what I can do to improve.

    • Sweet.
      Lots of use of the word ‘we’ as the first word for a sentence.

      Some suggestions.
      Neither of us expected a fairytale ending complete with magic wand and fairy godmother nor wish upon star. ‘Happy ever after’ was highly unlikely. Yet somehow……

      Also even though it is a beautiful sentence the concept of ‘no dream ending’ in the above example kind of repeats itself. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I’m just noting it as it is something I would address in my own writing.
      (fairytale ending, magic wand, fairy godmother, wish upon a star, happy ever after…. all kind of say the same thing.)

      I’m really interested in this story-line though; hooked and want to know more. Thanks for sharing,
      Regards
      DAwn

      • Laura

        Thanks for you suggestions, Dawn! I definitely agree with the way you re-wrote that section, but I don’t feel it fits the voice of this particular character. Also, I was planning on using the repetition for effect, to show how desperate they really are, if that makes sense. Do you think it could work in this context?
        I’m glad I could interest you in my story! Thanks again for the comments and I will keep them in mind.

    • Sandra D

      Nice. I can feel the drama. I liked the using of the note as a bargaining chip. Clever, and the line after, “and he’d believe me because he wanted to.” Adds a lot of power to this too. The last paragraph focused on their hoping to me is good I think because it shows how important this is to them.

    • Annika Smith

      I like it! I could feel the desperation and drama, especially in the last paragraph. I liked how you used to repetition of the fairytale ideas. It really did help in pulling emotion into the paragraph.

    • themagicviolinist

      I love this. 🙂 It’s so poetic. One thing I noticed is that you said “OK” when technically it should be spelled out (“okay”). I also think “happy ever after” could be changed to “happily ever after,” though that’s just my personal preference. This was beautifully written. 🙂

  • themagicviolinist

    Receiving critiques was hard for me at first, but I’ve learned not to take things too personally. 😛 Any artist who is trying to become better at their craft should develop a thick skin as quickly as possible. Great post!

    The next few paragraphs don’t go together, but they’re all from the same book, a YA romance called Beneath the Moon and Stars:

    I stuffed my hands in my pockets and walked away. The
    living room wasn’t very crowded yet, but it sounded like there were at least
    triple the amount of people, due to the fact that everyone spoke as if they
    were shouting across a football field. It was as if they were trying to prove
    that their story was funnier than the other person’s story because they SPOKE
    LIKE THIS.

    “AND THEN I
    SAID, ISN’T HE A HOOT? AND THEY JUST ABOUT DIED LAUGHING.”
    “THAT’S
    HYSTERICAL, MARLENE! AND THAT REMINDS ME OF THIS ONE TIME WHEN WENDY WAS
    AT THE DENTIST.”

    Dakota wasn’t someone I could talk
    to or hang out with like I did with Lane. Sure, we could talk about silly
    stuff—boys, classmates, our teachers, even bands—but we couldn’t ever have a
    serious conversation. Not over the loud music or the incessant clickclickclick
    of her typing on her iPhone, even when I was right in the middle of
    telling her something.

    Mom always did all the talking whenever the two of them
    were together. Dad would grunt every once in a while, but it was very clear who
    was in charge.

    Their
    conversations always went something like this:

    “Paul, what
    do you think of these flowers?”

    “Hmm, I don’t think they really
    go with the rest of the room.”

    “Really?”
    She’d make a tutting noise, then, “I like them.”

    “Whatever
    you want, dear.”

    Or:

    “Paul, does
    this dress make me look fat?”

    “No, it
    looks fine.”

    “Really?”
    Tutting. “I think it makes me look fat.”

    “You look
    gorgeous in anything, dear.”

    • Laura

      Your paragraphs are great! I especially love your narrator’s voice as she describes everything. Just a few things to consider changing:
      The use of “as if” twice in a row in the first paragraph is a little off-putting. It just interrupts the flow you have going there.
      When you write, “THAT’S HYSTERICAL, MARLENE!” I don’t think you need to mention Marlene’s name, because it doesn’t add anything to the story as far as I can tell (and therefore serves only to confuse the reader) and people don’t generally address each other by name in the middle of a conversation.

      Other than that, though, it’s really intriguing. Keep up the good work!

      • themagicviolinist

        Ooh, thanks for your advice. I hadn’t thought about those things!

    • Very comical. I like it! 🙂

      • themagicviolinist

        Thank you! 🙂

  • Chloee

    This is something form my WIP.

    I sat on the grass the setting sun cast shadows that played with my mind. Ryder sat down next to me his blue eyes stared at me and his nice cocky grin was replaced with a straight line of sorrow. My own eyes were red from crying and my face was blothcy from cursing the sky. “I’m sorry Rocky.” Ryder said he looked the ground. “Sorry’s not gonna bring her back.”

    I stared at the sky the purple mixed with the red,yellow, and blue it was almost a heavenly color unseen from anywhere else. “Rocky please smile it’ll be fine.” Ryder sighed. I snapped my head to him. “It won’t be all fine She’s gone!” I stood up and ran. Ran from what I don’t know but I ran till my legs finally gave up. I threw myself on the ground screaming like a wild animal. I was angry. Angry at her for leaving me and angry for me for acting like a baby and angry at Ryder for saying it’ll all be fine. I sat and just rocked back and forth trying to calm down.

    I thought back to when I learned that Aunt Sal had died. I was sitting with Ryder under the big oak tree and we were joking about nothing just laughing Ryder had said something not even remotely funny and we just laughed. All of a sudden Shane walked up. I waved and smiled and he just walked up his face was grim and I stood up Ryder right by my side. “Rocky it’s Sal.” He didn’t even have to finish.

    I ran down the path and into town where Shane parked his truck. I climbed in and just sat in shock till we arrived at the Hospital. I wish I could say I hung onto Sal without ever wanting to let go but instead I walked over to her bed where she lay but that wasn’t Sal that I knew what lay there was a shell of the woman I loved the aunt that set me up with Ryder the knuckle head she was gone and instead was this corpse.

    I held her hand and tears silently slid down my face as I took shallow breaths. I sat there staring at Sal the smell of bleach and the occasional sound of the doctor’s walking though the hallways their shoes clicking on the hallway. Finally Ryder walked me into the hallway and spoke to me but I couldn’t hear him nothing reached my ears. My body felt like it had fought a battle instead of walking in a Hospital hallway. When we finally left the Hospital Shane dropped me off at home.

    I walked into the kitchen and sat ate dinner but didn’t really have a appetite so I just laid down and fell asleep not wanting to do anything but sleep. Finally a couple of days later and after people told me “How sorry they were and that Sal was such a good woman.” We held the funnel everyone was dressed in black and I just sat and said a few words. I gave a speech and finally it was over. I watched them throw the dirt on the coffin and everyone left.

    I sat with Ryder by her grave and we just stared at the sky. So there we were until I ran away now I was sitting underneath the big oak tree. Ryder found me and sat next to me. He put his arm around me and held me tight I cried into his dress shirt and tried to stop. “It’s okay.” He hummed. “No it’ll be fine.” I looked at him and smiled.

    • Laura

      I love how emotionally captivating this is. I would just suggest that you try to break up some of the longer/run-on sentences like the one that begins “I wish I could say…” and the one that begins “I walked into the kitchen.” Long sentences can be confusing for the reader, so you may just want to make several shorter ones of out them. Also, I would recommend changing up your sentence structure occasionally, meaning that you should try not to start each sentence with the subject or at least try to use a different subject (not I or he) occasionally. For example, you might want to change “I thought back to when I learned that Aunt Sal had died” to “When I learned that Aunt Sal died….” or “The memories of when Aunt Sal died…”
      But you really have something interesting going here; I enjoyed reading what you posted so far.

      • Chloee

        Thank you so much!

    • Adam

      Hey Chloee,

      I agree with Laura that the run on sentences are what could use improvement. I like writing longer sentences too because I like the feeling of being caught in the movement of a sentence.

      So, I’m going to go over this sentence of yours: “We held the funnel everyone was dressed in black and I just sat and said a few words.”

      Well, first funeral is misspelled. But what I want to say is that this sentence jumps from funeral to everyone and the contrast is stark. It isn’t a smooth jump. You could add a semi-colon, but I think that you would like to add an and to keep the flow. I noticed this happening in other places such as the first sentences of the first two paragraphs where you make a statement and then describe it without really flowing into it.

      For example “I stared at the sky the purple mixed with the red,yellow, and blue it was almost a heavenly color unseen from anywhere else. ” Here, your sentence shifts from “sky” to “the purple.” I would consider using a comma to separate the thoughts and possibly using “its” instead of “the.” Meanwhile, you shift again from “blue” to “it.” Either a comma or using “that” instead of “it” would make this smoother

      Anyway, just food for thought. I like what you are going for.

      Thanks,
      Adam

      • Chloee

        Okay thanks for the feedback I was reading it over and see exactly what you were talking about!

  • Here is a little snippet:

    There was a overwhelming buzz when he ended the phone call with her, like after you goto a loud concert and you can still hear the ringing well after when it is quite. He was stunned. He was luckily home and retreated to his bedroom to absorb what he had just been told only to find her tracks. The pillows on his bed were freshly stained with eyeliner and a faint smell of her sweet floral perfume still lingered. She had stayed over the night before and all he could do was look back at this bed at the twisted sheets and slight impression left behind from her curvy body. He back tracked and wished it was yesterday and embraced a ghost. It was overwhelming to think how she changed over night and seemed so passive and stoned. He thought about how they met and how quickly she changed like catching a snowflake and only getting a quick glimpse as it disappears from solid to liquid. The wreckage still hadn’t hit the ground and all he could do is stare and wonder, would it have been a boy or a girl?

  • Here is a little snippet:

    There was a overwhelming buzz when he ended the phone call with her, like after you goto a loud concert and you can still hear the ringing well after when it is quite. He was stunned. He was luckily home and retreated to his bedroom to absorb what he had just been told only to find her tracks. The pillows on his bed were freshly stained with eyeliner and a faint smell of her sweet floral perfume still lingered. She had stayed over the night before and all he could do was look back at this bed at the twisted sheets and slight impression left behind from her curvy body. He back tracked and wished it was yesterday and embraced a ghost. It was overwhelming to think how she changed over night and seemed so passive and stoned. He thought about how they met and how quickly she changed like catching a snowflake and only getting a quick glimpse as it disappears from solid to liquid. The wreckage still hadn’t hit the ground and all he could do is stare and wonder, would it have been a boy or a girl?

    He lost track of time and only came back to reality because of a poke of hunger. He didn’t want to move but He thought he better eat because it was getting late and he had work very early in the morning. He needed all the strength he could get to get through tomorrow. He was still in a misty hazy from the news. When he got outside he actually couldn’t even remember putting on his jacket and finding his shoes. The sidewalks felt hollow, the sun stung and the small trees on the street almost seemed to droop. He approached the local bar and as he neared he saw a familiar face smoking outside. It was her best friend Meghan. “Fuck” he thought. He wanted to hightail it home, borrow deep into his bed and forget. But, she had already spotted him and he had to commit. His anxiety fizzed in his stomach and gripped his shoulders. He stopped in front of her and she starred him in the sharp green eyes and took a long drag of cigarette. “Hi, Meghan” he exhaled. She was of russian decent, taller than him in heels, had long flat black hair, with a dress to match and didn’t look trilled. She took another long drag of her cigarette and turned to the front door of the bar and blew smoke as she spoke “She’s inside”.

  • Reagan

    I love posting from my WIP!

    The hospital cafeteria was noisy, deafeningly, like always. And like
    always, Dr. Jacob McCarthy found the most secluded, and, if possible,
    quiet table there. His lunch in hand, he sat facing the crowd, not
    minding watching, but from a considerable distance, enough to where
    no friendly chatterboxes would strike up a useless conversation. But
    from here, they entertained him, and even distracted him, something,
    though he wouldn’t admit it, that was desperately necessary. Though
    he tried to look past it, thoughts from his earlier conversation
    crept in, bits and pieces standing out, most prominently the ones he
    wanted to avoid. He shook his head suddenly, trying to whisk away the
    unpleasantness of it all.
    He looked down at his uneaten food. He was a loner by his own choice, an
    outcast by his own making. It was a strange personality for a man
    with his occupation. Hospitalists were to be positive and welcoming.
    He was, at least he thought, to an extent. With the patients anyway.
    Nowhere else. He’d never had a complaint from a patient, and
    although he had only worked at Boston Medical Center for a little
    over a year, based on his anti social behavior, that was shocking.
    But that was before. Before Alyssa Brenton came onto the
    scene. Never had he seen a patient like her, and he hoped never to
    again after she left. When she had first come in five days ago, she
    had been no different than the hundreds of patients he had worked
    with. But that was until she started in with her religion. Now she
    never stopped, despite her situation, despite everything that had
    happened to her. To anyone else, it just wouldn’t have made sense,
    but it wouldn’t go farther than that. But every time he saw her Bible
    lying next to her in that room, every time he heard her speak of her
    God, her faith, it was like a smack in the face. It brought him back.
    Back to that day five years ago. Back through every minute since
    then, that he’d had to deal with just what God had done to him.
    He slammed the table, and didn’t look to see if anyone had heard. He
    didn’t care. All he knew is he couldn’t go on like this much longer.
    Certainly not forever.

    Critique away!

    In all you do, do to the Glory of God

    • I like the story you’ve got going here, Reagan. One thing I did notice was the fact that you used many commas, especially at the beginning. That made it hard to follow, since my mind had to keep adjusting to all the different transitions. Perhaps you could break some sentences into smaller ones to sort of vary the lengths.

      • Reagan

        Thanks for the tip! I always thought that would make it seem choppy, but now that you mention it, it would be better that way!

        • I’ve always heard that good prose should have varying lengths of sentences. It definitely makes for smooth reading, but of course, you’ll have to find how that fits into your personal writing style.

  • SunflowerJ.

    I am very uncomfortable with critique or even sharing that I’m working on something. So, to beat that fear, I’m posting for you all to see! It’s still in the rough draft stage, but I look forward to any and all kinds of feedback!

    Across the back field she strolled, her footfalls muffled by the tall grass. Maida’s small, scarred hand reached out to touch every blade of grass as she passed. She headed towards the surrounding woods.

    In those woods, Maida felt a comfort and an unnatural knowing. She was not afraid, she had spent too many days and nights in woods by herself, but she knew and had seen what happened between tall trees that made her feel uneasy, perhaps even cautious. And yet they provided a certain level of comfort because she knew how to survive in woods. Maida knew where to go and where to hide and how to be safe. It was quiet in these woods, and too cool for any dangerous creatures to be out.

    • I totally relate to your hesitancy in sharing your writing. I face the same feelings many times, but it’s so good to overcome the fear. You write beautifully. I particularly liked the imagery in the second sentence. Keep sharing! 🙂

    • Reagan

      So glad you can overcome that fear! A really good scene, it’s very dramatic.

    • Lisette Murphy

      That was a great story! You have talent! I would love it if you kept posting!

  • Here’s a scene from my WIP. I’d love advice. (The protagonist/narrator is an eighteen-year-old girl traveling in Israel.)

    I finished the Skype call with Mom and slowly closed the laptop lid. Tears streamed down my face, but I didn’t care what the others in the lobby thought. The door to the hostel opened and Ezra walked in. I hurriedly swiped at the tears on my cheek. I did care what he thought.
    “Grace are you okay?”
    “I’m fine,” I replied, but I didn’t sound convincing.
    “Is everything okay?”
    I couldn’t honestly say “yes.”
    “I’m fine,” I said, ‘It’s just been a long day.”
    Ezra nodded, “It must have been tough with–” he stopped short, likely not wanting to say anything that might hurt me. He understood.
    I nodded, “Yeah it was tough.”
    I stood up with the laptop under my arm and started walking toward the stairs, then turned around. Ezra had seated himself at one of the hostel computers, but he was still looking at me. There was sympathy in his eyes.
    “Hey, Ezra–”
    “Yeah?”
    “Would you pray for me?” I asked.
    “Of course,” he assured me. He looked relieved, like my request made him feel useful.
    “Thank you.”
    “Anytime, Grace.”
    I smiled slightly. Everybody needed someone like Ezra in there life.

    • Reagan

      Really sweet! Intriguing, makes me want to read more.

      • Thank you, Reagan.

    • Laura

      Just watch your use of “there” at the end; it should be “their,” the possessive form.

      • Thank you, Laura. I noticed that after posting. 🙂

    • A sweet scene.
      It gives some indication/suggestion about the type of friendship between the characters. Some suggestions below.

      In some places I felt like I was being ‘told’ a bit much. For example in the first paragraph the details about the tears – not caring what the others in the lobby thought – AND then adding at the end that you cared what Ezra thought.

      I would suggest letting the reader work that out from Graces’ action. For example:
      I finished the Skype call with Mom and slowly closed the laptop lid. The door to the hostel opened and Ezra walked in. I hurriedly wiped away the tears curling down my cheek hoping he didn’t see them.

      Rather than say : “I’m fine,” I replied, but I didn’t sound convincing.
      Try to show it -example -: “I’m fine,” I replied, biting my lip and lowering my head.

      Same for : “… he stopped short, likely not wanting to say anything that might hurt me. He understood.”
      Try to show it:’…he stopped short, his kind eyes were reassuring and his lips whispered a gentle comforting smile. He understood.

      Tense ” Everybody needed someone like Ezra in their life.” perhaps could/should be “Everybody needs someone like Ezra in their life.”

      I really enjoyed this little scene. In such a short space it is very revealing of characters and the dynamic in their relationship.
      I hope I’ve been helpful.

      Regards
      Dawn

      • Thank you very much for this advice, Dawn. I really appreciate what you have said. Thanks for taking the time to critique. The last suggestion confuses me though. I like the way you said it in the present tense, but is it all right to change tenses like that?

        • Yes you’re probably right Joy re the tense.
          I just found something a little jarring about that sentence.

          Your writing is lovely.
          I only respond to work that I feel drawn to.
          Regards Dawn

    • Lisette Murphy

      Quite an interesting story. I liked it and would love to finish it!

      • Thank you, Lisette. It has a long ways to go….

    • themagicviolinist

      I’m intrigued. 🙂 I would definitely read on. One thing I would change is the line “I couldn’t honestly say ‘yes.'” I don’t think it’s necessary. If she’s crying and doesn’t sound convincing when she says “I’m fine,” it’s pretty obvious that she can’t honestly say yes. But other than that, great job!

      • Thanks for the advice! 🙂

  • Eliese

    short story WIP first draft.

    Thump. Thump. Thump. The glittering white snow boots bounces down each carpet stair to the basement. The last place either of us want to go.

    “My boot.” My little sister Gem whines.”Get it John.” She commands.

    “Fine, but since you dropped it, and it’s your boot, you have to come with me.” I bargain. I am the strong, brave older brother, but the real reason I want her to come with me is because I am scared to go down there alone.

    She twirls her blond hair around her fingers until the tip becomes purple. “Deal.” She agrees. Gem pretends like she isn’t afraid but we both know better.

    • Laura

      This sounds like part of a really good story; I can already see the relationship between the two main characters. I would just change in the last paragraph, where you write, “until the tip becomes purple,” because I honestly thought it was the tip of her hair somehow rather than her finger. Maybe you can clarify this a little?

      • Eliese

        Thanks for the helpful comment. It’s funny you should comment on that sentence since it is the one I quickly added a bit to before posting 😛

        ((She twirls her blond hair around her finger until the tip of it becomes bloated and purple.)

    • Kylie

      This is great! You’ve really captured the feeling of being a kid for me. I like the spookiness too, an element of foreboding mixed in with the innocence of the children 🙂

      • Eliese

        Thanks 🙂 I am glad you liked it, and the feelings of being children came through. 🙂

    • Ed Pena

      I like the start here. For my tastes, there’s a bit too much “she commands”, and “I bargain”. And there seems to be and odd dissonance between whining and commanding. Maybe some exposition such as Gem stamps her foot petulantly or something? Dunno. I may have mentioned in another post I’m not very good at critiquing. 🙂 keep writing.

      • Eliese

        Thank you Edna. I agree with you. This is something I worked on a while ago and before I posted it I thought the same thing about bargining ect. I posted this because there were things I havent liked about the peice and I think what you said has to do with that.

        I like your idea with the stomping.

        Your critique is good, the only advice I have is that if you put ‘keep writing’ it makes the writing feel like what they just wrote was horrible lol, but next time might be better lol. 😛

        I will use your advice in the next draft 🙂

  • EndlessExposition

    From my WIP.

    The front doors of the car squeaked open and a woman and a kid stepped out. The woman was kind of short. She had long brown curls that bounced everywhere and sunglasses on top of her head. She had “mom” written all over her. She looked pretty nice though; she smiled at the moving men and went over to them, gesturing at the boxes and then back at the house. The kid was my age. I got a little excited when I saw that, but I couldn’t tell if they were a boy or a girl. I inched backwards and tried to stand behind one of the porch beams, then stuck my head out so I could stare without the kid noticing. After staring very-not-obviously, I determined that she was a she. She was tall, taller than my dad, pale and skinny. Her hair was short and black; she had high cheekbones and thin lips. She, well, um – she wasn’t exactly pretty. Even though it was warm she had tucked a leather jacket under her arm. She stuck her hands in her pockets and swivelled her head left to right, scanning the whole block like a security
    camera. I got the feeling she was trying to take in everything at once and store it. There was something kind of intense about her, even from behind the column of the porch. And that’s when she saw me. Her eyes stopped on my face and didn’t move. Crap crap crap! I pulled my head behind the column. I was blushing. I can always feel my freckles burn. I hadn’t even talked to my neighbor yet and she already thought I was a creeper. Slick, Alex, real slick.

    • Eliese

      This story was very visual. I could see the girl very well. I do think that if there were paragraphs it would be easier to read, and more effective. I also think that a different description for not-obviously could be better. I feel like the character of the story was, young and I liked how that came through.

      I liked the ending, and enjoyed reading this. 🙂

      • EndlessExposition

        Thanks!

    • Lisette Murphy

      Oh, my! I loved it! I want to know who the girl is! Advice: keep going!

      • EndlessExposition

        Thanks! 🙂

  • madeline40

    This is exactly where I am in the process – letting my beta reader comments rest for a bit. Thanks so much for this today. Just what I needed.

    • Good for you! Congrats. 😀

  • Claire

    Good post. Here’s part of my WIP:

    As Silvia walked through the leaf-strewn path leading to the back entrance of the
    building, she debated with the idea of entering. She didn’t feel like going
    back to work at that particular moment, and the fact was that she had some
    spare time from her lunch hour.

    It was a glorious fall day, so she decided to walk up to the weather-beaten bench not
    far from the back door entrance and sit for a while. The area was deserted, and
    she was glad about that. She really didn’t feel like talking with anyone today.
    All she wanted to do was reflect on the dream she had last night. It seemed so
    real and so tangible.

    It had been close to fifteen months since she had seen or heard from Nick, and yet, just
    thinking about what had taken place in that dream gave her goose bumps. She
    tilted her head back and closed her eyes. The autumn sun felt warm and soothing on her face. In an instant, Silvia transported herself into the realm where Nick had manifested himself…

    There he was mowing the lawn, and she was intently looking at him through her second floor bedroom window. The sun created a bright aura around him, and she could see all
    his upper arm muscles flexing as he pushed the mower effortlessly along the
    grass. He stopped for a moment looking around as if he was aware of someone’s
    presence. Looking up, he saw her. He took a small handkerchief from his back
    pocket and wiped the beads of sweat from his brow and the back of his neck
    while maintaining eye contact. Silvia sighed and thought, if only I could be
    that handkerchief…

    Without uttering a word, he turned off the mower and started walking towards the house. At the sound of his footsteps on the stairs, Silvia’s heart skipped a beat, and it began to beat wildly when she saw him standing at the door. Walking towards each
    other, they embraced, and the embrace made her remember many things. The feel
    of his hugs, his caresses, his familiar scent, the way his hair felt as she ran
    her fingers through it and, ultimately, the sensation of his body pressing
    against hers…

    Thump! Silvia’s eyes opened wide, and she turned in the direction of the clatter that had shattered her reverie. One of the secretaries had exited the building and had let the entrance door slam. At that point, Silvia stood and sighed somewhat annoyed. “Hi, Kate,” she called out waving at the secretary.

    She reluctantly started towards the entrance bracing herself against the autumn wind, which was swirling the leaves along the path. The spectacle paralleled her present
    emotional state—disordered and at the whim of external circumstances.

    • Laura

      I can tell from reading this piece a lot about how your character feels about Nick, which is good, considering how short it is. Just a few small changes I would make. Instead of saying “debate with the idea…” in the beginning, I would just use “debate the idea.” Also, instead of writing “The autumn sun felt warm and soothing on her face,” you might want to include something more descriptive, like “The autumn sun peeked through the leaves and warmed her skin with a gentle touch,” or “She relaxed and closed her eyes as the sun danced through the leaves and dotted her face with warmth.” Personally, I try to avoid using “feel” in my writing, because often there is a better way to describe a character’s feelings that simply stating what they are.

      • Claire

        Thanks for your insightful comments, Laura. They have been very helpful and certainly give that part of the writing, where you have made the suggestions, a tighter angle. I appreciate that you took out the time to read it.

  • Kylie

    Here’s a scene from my WIP. It’s my first try at a first draft, so I’d welcome any feedback people have to offer! 🙂
    Siska couldn’t sleep. With a sigh, she finally gave up trying and sat up, hugging her knees against the cold. The fire was nearly out; the embers smouldered with a steady red glow and every now and then gave a small flash as some residual bit of fuel was consumed.

    It was Dalar’s turn for the watch. She could just see him sitting on a stump near the treeline with his back to the fire to preserve his night vision. Marron and Eben slumbered still, their forms still black shapes limned in firelight. She pulled her blanket
    around her shoulders and rose, crossing to where Dalar sat. He looked at her as
    she approached, but said nothing. The forest was still and dark. A new moon was
    rising, like a shard of crystal in the sky. Its faint light was defeated by the
    glow from the fire pit. There was no sound, not even crickets.

    The chestnut mare suddenly whinnied, head up and ears pricked forwards. The sound echoed around the clearing, bouncing off the trees. Siska heard a jingle of metal in the
    darkness, from the direction of the road. She turned towards the sound, her
    lips forming the question and the world erupted into chaos around her. Horses burst into the clearing,one, two, five, six; single-file on the narrow trail. Their riders wore the emblems of Peacemakers, silver breastplates flashing in the firelight.

    Cursing, Dalar drew his sword with a ringing rasp. He pushed her backwards with his free arm as he leapt to meet their attackers. Fire sprang up all around him. He met the first attack with his blade, the clang of steel on steel. Flames sprang forwards past the
    reach of his weapon, engulfing the horse and rider in front of him and turning
    them into a living bonfire; a burning, fused being that galloped drunkenly into
    the trees, screaming with two voices, until it careened into a trunk and was
    still.

    Tearing her eyes away from the burning heap, Siska saw Eben, parrying blows desperately with a half-burned piece of wood from the fire, his back to Marron’s. She
    couldn’t see Dalar anymore. As she watched, another horse streaked past, mane
    and tail afire, vanishing into the darkness. A figure loomed up behind Marron,
    sword raised as he turned, too slowly. And then Eben was there, catching the
    blow, turning it and, unbelievably, the sword flipped out of the other man’s
    hand. She saw the shock on the soldier’s homely face just before Marron ran him
    through.

    The firelight was blinding her; she couldn’t see anything immediately around her. She could only watch the tableau, lit by flames, from her patch of darkness, as if in another world. And then there came a whispering, just behind her ear; words hissing in a myriad of voices. Cold ran through her, turning her spine to ice. She stumbled forwards and fell to the ground, her feet tangled in the bracken. Something brushed along her leg
    and she scrambled to her feet and ran, insensate with terror.

    • Laura

      You include such vivid imagery in this scene; it really makes it comes alive in my mind. The only thing I would recommend you change is adding to parts with weak descriptions to make them even better. For example, “Siska couldn’t sleep,” could be replaced with a description of her tossing and turning, etc.

      • Ed Pena

        I agree with Laura. One thing, this sounds like a million other sword and sorcery or similar books. It’s well written, but feels like it’s been done to death. Nothing against formulaic, it works for many big name authors. Just curious about other’s take on more originality in our prose?

        • Kylie

          Thanks for the feedback, Ed. I think being branded as unoriginal is an issue that a lot of fantasy stuff, especially sword and sorcery types, face. When I first started this project, I worried a lot about being original, until I realised that I was strangling my muse. Since then, I’ve just let the words come and it is working for me.
          I can say that as an avid fantasy reader, among other genres, what really concerns me is things like character depth, interaction, writing style, much more so than whether an idea has been done before.
          And really, why is it more original to have two people meet in a busy street in downtown Las Vegas, compared to when two people meet in a busy street with swords on their backs? But I do thank you for taking the time to read it and give your input, it is much appreciated 🙂

          • Ed Pena

            I can certainly empathize, Kylie.

            I find myself skipping or skimming large sections of books because of this. A reason I don’t read serials, as well. How many times can you read about Dresden suffering the same angst, having the same monetary problems, etc, before you just put down the book? Yes, Dresden remains consistent, but he doesn’t change and ultimately is predictable and boring.

            As writers, I personally believe the challenge is to not be afraid to be bold, and unpredictable. Take our characters out of our (and thus their) comfort zones every so often. And don’t be afraid to cut the filler. If it doesn’t really move the story forward, why have it? I think this piece is good, but the tension could be ratchet up several notches with some judicious editing.

            The forest was still and dark, the pop and hiss of the small campfire the only sound. A crystal shard, the new moon barely lit the night. Unable to sleep, Siska rose, and wrapping her blanket around herself against the cold, crossed to where Dalar sat the watch from a stump near the treeline. She passed the huddled forms of Marron and Eben, limned in the dying glow of the fire where they slumbered still, exhausted from the travel. Quiet as her footsteps were, Dalar glanced back at her, but said nothing.

            Suddenly, the chestnut mare’s whinny shattered the silence, her head up and ears pricked forward.

          • Ed Pena

            Didn’t mean to post my edit of your writing. Apologies for that. It got pasted in with my comment, and this “editor” would not let me delete, cut, select, or anything.

      • Kylie

        That’s a very good point… I made a point this morning of going over what I’ve written so far and I’ve found a few of those spots that could definitely do with more “show not tell”. Thanks Laura!

    • Reagan

      Very gripping. The descriptions make it become so real in the reader’s mind!

      • Kylie

        Thank you Reagan!

    • Adam

      Hello Kylie,

      Overall, I think that this was written very carefully and tightly.

      However, this portion is problematic for me. ” A figure loomed up behind Marron,
      sword raised as he turned, too slowly. And then Eben was there, catching the blow, turning it and, unbelievably, the sword flipped out of the other man’s
      hand.”

      I think that you could write the part about Marron turning around to find an attacker more smoothly because I had to reread it to understand. I wasn’t sure if “he” was describing Marron or the attacker at first read.

      Second, “flipped” sounds like a weak way of describing a warrior losing his weapon in the middle of battle. I’d would use another, more powerful word.

      Also, one other thing in this sentence:

      “And then there came a whispering, just behind her ear; words hissing in a myriad of voices.”

      I don’t think that a semi-colon works here because “words hissing in a myriad of voices” is not a complete sentence. I’d pull the semi colon and replace with a comma.

      Anyway, thanks for the read. I was reminded of Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear for some reason and that was nice because I loved that book and haven’t thought about it in years.

      Thanks,
      Adam

      • Kylie

        Hi Adam,
        Thanks for taking the time to critique this for me! You’re dead right about that passage and the more I think about it, the more I think I should rewrite it altogether.
        Also, semi-colons are the bane of my existence. I always seem to be putting them in the wrong places >_<
        Thank you again for your input, very useful!

  • Guest

    Wrote this today, so not exactly a WIP, but it is about my character that I am sorta starting to write about.

    He twists in his bed, the white sheet wrapping around his legs as he rolls. His alarm dings, and with his eyes still closed, his hands reach over and turn the alarm off. He sits up and his hands cover his face, rubbing it to life. He steps out of the bed and walks into the bathroom. He stares at his face examining the wrinkles and crevices and wonders when he started to look old. He turns on the water to his shower, yelps as he steps in. Steamy water pelts him, and steam rises around him. He bends over and twists the faucet handle to a cooler temperature. Runs soap over his body and presses his fingers just over his stomach feeling the deep stitch lines. Swallows. Soap runs down his body, down his legs and rolls into the bath tub where a cloud of bubbles form around the drain. He turns the water off, runs his hands down his hair, patting it down, water drops trickle on the floor. He grabs his towel off the nearby rack, and walks through the house to his bedroom drawer.

    He picks out his outfit. A colared shirt and pressed slacks. He get’s dressed and ties his tie. He walks into the kitchen, looks out the window, and sees the flowers growing nearby. Large pink flowers. He smiles when he sees that several new blooms opened up.

    He grabs a bagel and walks out. As he drives through the freeway he eats the bagel. In ten minutes he pulls up to his work. A large building, he hadn’t spoke to half the people who worked there. Everyone their had their own little niche communities that were divorced from the rest of the building except for in certain kinds of meetings.

    As he walks through the door a woman with wavy black hair down her back and extra tall heels on is smiling at him. She is Shelia, a coworker, recently promoted to be his boss. Hi she says with enthutiasm.
    Hi he says, his head is bent and he is not making eye contact.
    Welcome back, how was your vacation?
    Well, it’s over, so not good.
    We have a line of cases for you to take.
    Already? Don’t you have any other employees here?
    Well you’re grumpy. Here have some coffee and get started. Lot of work to do.
    He mumbles bye and walks off sipping from his hot cup.

    • Sandra D

      Don’t know how I posted this one as guest… and thus can’t delete it… arg.. but it is a rougher draft and the other post above it is what I had intended to post.

  • Sandra D

    He twists in his bed, the white sheet wrapping around his legs as he rolls. His alarm dings, and with his eyes still closed, his hand reaches over and turns the alarm off. He starts to sit up, slow as a dinosaur. He sits there for an indefinite amount of time with his eyes still closed trying to capture the last remnants of a dream that is already far away lost, and get the last pieces of sleep he needs for his day. He feels the pressure of time being lost, and his hands cover his face, rubbing it to life. He steps out of the bed, his feet feel heavy with weight as he plods along into the bathroom.

    He stares at his face examining puffy wrinkles, looking in the mirror is a bleak reminder of his age. He turns on the water to his shower, yelps as he steps in. The steam rains down his back and steam rises around him. He bends over and twists the faucet handle to a cooler temperature, and grabs the bar of soap, lathering it in his hands. Then running the soap over his body, leaving a white silky layer over him. He starts to rinse, moving his hands in circles to wash away the suds. His hand stops moving when he get to his stomach and he presses his fingers inches above, feeling the deep stitch lines. Swallows. Soap runs down his body, down his legs and rolls into the bath tub where a cloud of bubbles form around the drain. He turns the water off, runs his hands down his hair, patting it down, water drops trickle on the floor. He grabs his towel off the nearby rack, and walks through the house to his bedroom drawer.

    He picks out his outfit. A colared shirt and pressed slacks. He get’s dressed and ties his tie. He walks into the kitchen, looks out the window, and sees the flowers growing nearby. Large pink flowers. He smiles when he sees that several new blooms opened up.

    He grabs a bagel and walks out. He eats his bagel while on the freeway. His commute is ten minutes then he parks in the company’s parking lot. A large building, he hasn’t spoken to half the people who work there. Everyone has their little niche of people they talk to and are, for the most part, divorced from the rest of the building except for during big meetings.

    As he walks through the door a woman with wavy black hair down her back and extra tall heels smiles at him, her teeth are white and she has pink lipstick on which make her teeth look bigger and whiter. Her names Shelia, a coworker, recently promoted to be his boss. Hi she says still smiling.
    Hi he says, his head is bent and he is not making eye contact.
    Welcome back, how was your vacation?
    Well, it’s over, so not good now.
    We have a line of cases ready for you.
    Already? I just got here. Aren’t there any other employees here?
    You know I am your boss now don’t you? Here have some coffee, it might lift that cloud of gloom off your head.
    He mumbles bye and walks off sipping from his hot cup. And opens the door with his name on it.

    • Laura

      Great job in writing this piece! I like it a lot. Just a few minor notes:
      I don’t like the simile “slow as a dinosaur.” It just sounds a little cliche, and I think replacing it could add to the scene. You might want to try “slow as the sun rising” (that ties in with your theme of the morning) or “slow as a car on the freeway on Monday” (to describe the setting better).
      Also, “heavy with weight” is redundant; being heavy means that it has weight already.
      “He get’s dressed” should be “he gets dressed.”

      Also, unless you have a reason for omitting the quotation marks (say, you want to emphasize an uneducated narrator or it is a particular style element for you), then it would be easier to read if you included them. For example, you would want to write: “Hi,” she says, still smiling.
      “Welcome back, how was your vacation?”
      Other than those little things, I really enjoyed reading this and am interested in seeing where it goes.

      • Sandra D

        Okay thank you Laura. I didn’t know that omitting quotation marks was an issue. And yes heavy with weight is redundant. Slow as a dinosaur, heh, I had liked it, but I see what you’re saying. Tie the analogy into the scene.

        • Laura

          Omitting quotation marks isn’t necessarily a problem. There are definitely situations in which it works as way to convey a message to the reader that the narrator is uneducated or confused or just to show an author’s preference. I just always find pieces with quotation marks easier to read and understand.

    • Ed Pena

      I really dislike critiquing. I think I suck at it. That being said, this piece really did not grab my attention. Honestly, I struggled through it. The only part I found interesting was the stitch. Where did he get it? Did he have a life saving operation? Was an organ stolen during his vacation in Singapore? Did he donate an organ to a family member or friend? Sorry if this sounds harsh. I don’t mean it to be.

      • Sandra D

        Thank you for letting me know. I will think about that.

        • Sandra D

          I rewrote it somewhat today to try to create more conflict.

          He twists in his bed throughout the night, the white sheet wrapping and coiling around his legs as he rolls. His body not being able to hold the sleep steady, and though it is silent and dark outside, in his head it is like a bright inexhaustable sun blaring at him with conference calls, sirens and power walks. Struggling to capture the sleep he needs, he kicks his legs further into sheets pressing and forcing silence to the mania. After a long struggle he finally collapses, layed out on the sheets in the sweaty sweet blackness of the night.

          In a short blip the alarm dings throughout the house, jarring him out of sleep. He closes his eyes trying to ignore it but it is assailing his ears and nervous system, telling his whole body to fight or run. He sits up, reaches over and smacks the alarm off.

          He sits there for an indefinite amount of time with his eyes still closed and starts remembering his dream. He’s in his car and he goes to open the doors but notices they are locked. He reaches back and tries the other doors and none of them open. He slams his body against his door, but he is still trapped. He hears a trickling sound and looks to see the floor beneath him filling with water. Then looking out the window, sees his best friend standing outside the car. His friend waves and smiles at him. He pounds his hands on the glass, making the car vibrate but not break. His chest goes up and down as the icy water covers his knees. He looks up at his friend and mouths the words, “Help me!” But his friend mouths back, “What did you say?” He yells louder, looks down at the water freezing his stomach. He snaps awake. He’d fallen asleep again. He stands up, moving around pushing tendrils of sleep off him.

          He walks into the bathroom, staring at his face in the mirror, he looks at the wrinkles around his eyes and wonders is this all there is to me?

          He turns on the water to his shower, yelps as the hot water pelts his back. Jumps and bends to twist the knob. Steam rising around him. He grabs the bar of soap, and rubs in small c motions over his chest. His hand stops when he get to his stomach and he presses his fingers inches above, feeling the hills and hollows of stitch lines. Swallows. Soap runs down his legs, rolling into the bath tub and forming bubbles around the drain. He turns the water off, pats his hair down with his hand. He grabs his towel, and goes to his bedroom to dress.

          He drives down the freeway with a bagel perched in his mouth, rolls up to a large building. It is a university research center. He is like an ant amoungst a million others here, putting in his research like all the others.

          • Kylie

            Hi Sandra,
            I like the rewrite. The other version was perhaps a little too bogged down in detail, slow paced. But your rewrite leaves me wondering what sort of ominous things are about to happen to this character today! It has a lot more energy, I like it 🙂
            I think one thing I’d do is have your dream sequence seperated a little bit more from the rest of the writing, so it’s more clearly a flashback. Maybe putting it at the beginning would achieve this? I don’t know, perhaps some others more experienced than me could answer that!

          • Sandra D

            Thank you Kylie. The first time I was too focused on not writing really badly that I had forgotten the story should be somewhat interesting. Yeah that is a good point about separating the flash back more. I will have to think on how to do that. I was thinking myself that each paragraph was different enough that it is a little awkward and I need to get a better transition in so that it can all flow together better. Thanks Kylie for taking the time to read and review. It is very much appreciated.

  • Adam

    “So, who is Mona,” I ask.

    “Mona? She’s my daughter. How did you know her name?” Iris asks.

    I’m looking at her and for a split-second I decide to tell her the truth of how I listened to her sad voice carrying out her daughter’s name within the clutches of inebriated dreams and then I choose not to.

    “Jake told me,” I tell her. “He said something about you saying something about her the first time he met you. Or something like that.”

    “Oh,” she says. “I didn’t realize I’d said anything about her.”

    She pauses. “I tend to not say much about her when I’m out. I don’t like the questions that usually come from announcing that I have daughter when I’m twenty-six and single.”

    I’m not sure what to say and just look past her towards the street.

    “Sorry, I didn’t mean to come off that way.”

    “What way?”

    “Defensive, I guess. So, yes, I have a daughter. Don’t worry about that, though. I’m really not looking for anything anyway. Is that okay?”

    “Yeah, neither am I,” I say.

    In fact, I wasn’t. I’d forgotten on the idea of continually seeing someone. It had only been a recent installment in my thinking and for the last year, it had been working very well for me. I’d met a lot of girls and had been lucky in that none of them seemed as if they wanted me for an extended period of time. It was tragic to think of this as a good thing, that I found it beneficial for women to find me only useful for a short time, for a few weeks of fun, flirting, outings and intimacy while I used them for the same thing, but I got over that feeling eventually. Often, the feelings where mutual anyway. There had only been a couple times resembling heartbreak, but even those heartbreaks that resulted from two or three weeks of seeing one another could only be painful.

    There was Johanna. I’d fallen into a daydream of infatuation. For two weeks, our time together had been a soft blur. I thought that I had found someone. And in the moment, I had been in love. And even when nothing happened that could be used as a reason for it to end, it ended. It had been good, though. There was passion and off of the walls of my apartment it echoed like an ecstatic eulogy that I could only understand in retrospect. We had an open window far above us that we had thrown ropes to and somehow caught an edge so that our rope held firm as we began to pull ourselves up. But at some point, she had realized that the curiosity of the climb and the room was either too strenuous or not as interesting as she had originally thought.

    She didn’t tell me why, she didn’t say anything and life continued as this incongruous blip began to reverberate back to its consistency.

    But how much can you give someone in that amount of time? How much can you really be hurt? It takes years to destroy someone. You have to go in deep, weave yourself into their tendons, into their bloodstreams, attach yourself to their memories, so that their life and your life suddenly become one fabric, even if the fabric is only as long as one year, or two. But when it gets really long, decades long, and your memories are suddenly their memories and the only constant in this world becomes that the other is always there, is just as perceptive to all that happens in your life as you are, that’s when pain is inevitable.

    • Sandra D

      I liked this. It sounded good reading, the words good, the analogies were powerful. I thought you pulled off a good piece about love.

      • Adam

        Thanks Sandra D! I wasn’t really sure how the rope analogy would come across.

    • Kylie

      Hey Adam,This was a good piece, I really enjoyed reading it! It was insightful, and for me it brought home the tawdriness of casual encounters, but with the caveat that finding love can often be a long, hard climb that’s full of pain. Sometimes maybe too much pain to be worth it. I do hope your character finds someone eventually though!
      The only thing I’d add is a little typo: “Often, the feelings where mutual anyway” – where should be “were”.

  • Ed Pena

    Just some practice I did. Not my best work, but curious to see what others feels does and does not work, and why.

    The bus pulls to a stop at the corner, and he exits down the sidewalk, between the brownstones and green leafed oaks, in jeans and slate gray tee, trim and muscular, a bounce in his stride and slight but unmistakable swagger in his hips and shoulders, a young man, or one young in spirit, head up, saying to the world, Here I am, confident and strong, but one wonders what might lay in the secret harbors of his mind and heart.

    Up the street she waits for him, by concrete steps and iron railing, vibrating from foot to foot, shoulder length auburn hair loose and shimmering, she quivers in a shy, hesitant excitement until the very air around her is pregnant with anticipation. Her hands flutter about, smoothing her hair, pulling an earlobe, fingers twisting about one another. She, too, is life, and youth, bursting with the birthright of her future, a succulent fruit ripening in the sun.

    They meet. He takes her shoulders in his hands. Hers caress his face. She leans toward him, arching against the center of him. Her face is alive. She smiles. Her mouth moves. His face rearranges itself into planes and angles of a man in search of an answer to a question he doesn’t quite understand. The bus pulls away. They disappear from view in a haze of exhaust, and I am left to wonder.

    • Sandra D

      I liked how your writing is moving. When I first read I had trouble with all the commas in the first paragraph, but now I see how it works to create a quick pace with the characters striding. And I liked the last line and I am wondering about who the narrator is and what they are wondering about.

  • Annika Smith

    This is a scene from my WIP. I couldn’t find a long paragraph since I’ve been trying to stick to the “show not tell” saying and dialog plays a big part in that, I think.

    “If I’m sneezing because of the dust, then hiding won’t do us much good,” said Ambyr. To punctuate her comment, she sniffed.

    “You’re going to have to get used to it,” Tyv said. “There’s the backroom.”

    They walked between two racks of fabric bolts up to a doorway leading into a small room filled with the remains of a desk, a shattered floor-length mirror and a few mounds of tattered blankets. Pieces of splintered wood, torn fabric, and moldy food were scattered across the floor.

    “Guess this is where Jasp and Trint lived,” Ambyr said.

    “And Nitri,” Tyv said shortly, feeling another stab of anguish at having to leave Nitri in order to protect Ambyr.

    “How did they stand the smell?” Ambyr said, lifting her skirts to pick her way through the mess on the floor over to where a thin rope dangled from the ceiling.

    “This has got to be it,” she said.

    Tyv followed her, and tugged down on the rope. A trapdoor parted from the ceiling and creaked downwards, sending showers of dust and debris raining down on the pair’s heads. They both coughed, and Ambyr even dusted off her shoulders.

    “We need a ladder,” Ambyr pointed out. Tyv glanced out a nearby window. They had been wasting enough time already. The town guard was probably already beginning their search of the town.

    “We don’t have time,” Tyv said. “I’ll give you a boost up, and then use that chest over there to get up myself while you help me.”

    “You sure that that will hold your weight?” She asked doubtfully, looking at the small chest used to hold sewing supplies. It was splintered and rickety, and did not look like it would be able to withstand any sort of strain. Tyv did doubt it would hold his weight, but he wasn’t going to tell Ambyr that. No matter what, he had to keep her safe, even if that meant lying to her.

    “It will hold long enough,” Tyv said. He knelt down and cupped his hands, then looked at her expectantly. With another doubtful look first at the chest, and then at Tyv’s hands, Ambyr placed her foot in his provided step.

    “Ready?” Tyv asked. She nodded, placing her hands on his shoulders for stability.

    “Now!” He said, pushing up with his entire body strength and lifting her off the floor. She quickly let go of his shoulders and grabbed onto the sides of the opening in the ceiling, from which point Tyv was able to help push her up easier. She scrambled into the attic, pulling her skirts after her, and turned to look down at him.

    “Now you come,” she said. Tyv grabbed the chest and dragged it over the floor so that it was directly beneath the trapdoor. It was only about a foot and a half high; just high enough for him to step up and get a good grip on the sides of the opening to hoist himself up.

    “Make room, Ambyr,” He said. She scurried away from the opening, sending clouds of dust billowing out. She sneezed.

    Tyv stepped up onto the chest and without wasting any time, grabbed onto the sides of the opening. The chest collapsed under him, but he already had a grip and was pulling himself up.

    He hoisted himself fully into the hole and rolled in, feeling the dust and dirt layering the floor but not particularly caring. This spot felt safe.

    • Laura

      Interesting scene. I love all the action, and the dialogue seems pretty realistic. The only section that felt a little awkward was when you write ” “We need a ladder,” Ambyr pointed out. ” This just doesn’t strike me as very realistic at all, because if they could both see that they needed a ladder, it seems unlikely that she would have mentioned it like that. Unless, of course, it is just in her character somehow to be always mentioning the obvious. Just my opinion.

      • Annika Smith

        I never would have pinpointed that section myself. I’ll have to think up a few ways to get rid of it. Thanks for the comment!

        • Laura

          You’re welcome. You could try something like “It was obvious to them both that they would need a ladder, but there wasn’t one in sight” or “It looked like a great passageway, except it was missing the most important thing, a ladder.” Not sure if these were what you were looking for, but I hope they can help at least a little.

          • Annika Smith

            Thanks for the ideas. Would it have the same problem if it was stated as one of the characters thinking out loud?

          • Laura

            It would be possible to include it as one of the characters thinking out loud, but just to get the point across, you might add in a “Well, that was obvious” from one of them. Just my thoughts.

          • Annika Smith

            Thanks again for the advice! That would actually fit in well with either character’s personality.

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