Friday, July 24, 2015

#YayYA Entry #14

Name: Laura E. Weymouth

Twitter Handle: @lauraeweymouth

Genre: Fantasy

Title: Casters and Crowns

35 Word Pitch: Finnikin of the Rock with gunpowder and monsters: For two years Pip Martin has survived in the troubled city of Inverlyn by keeping his head down. When he is reluctantly drawn into the King's Guard, he must fight for the city's survival as well as his own. 

First 500:

The first time I set out to find Thelonius Small, I nearly walked off Inverlyn's city wall instead. I was in the Cooper's Quarter, about as far as you could get from my tenement on Fuller's Row. Normally I stayed close to home, but I wanted to see the mage folk were calling Inverlyn's Last Resort. Rumor had it Thelonius liked to stop for a bite of dinner at a pub in the Quarter. It was a place mages favored, called the Gilded Pig, and though I'd never been, I had a dim idea of where it was. 

In retrospect, wandering about the city alone of a summer evening was monumentally stupid. I was usually more careful than that, but I'd been two years in Inverlyn and grown comfortable there, thinking myself safe behind the walls and the strong magic that warded them. I should have known better. 

I took my time in the Quarter, poking around unfamiliar streets and stopping to buy a hot cross bun. It was quiet at that end of the city. There were the usual sounds of hansoms and penny pullers out on the main thoroughfares, and of course the clang of traffic bells, but I was used to Fuller's Row where the sound of wooden hammers beating out wool weighs heavy on your ears. I'd come to think of the fulling mills as Inverlyn's heartbeat, and it was strange to wander through a neighborhood where they weren't audible. My ears were pricked by the underlying quiet, and when a sudden ripple of sweet music drifted around a corner I stopped to listen. 

That was my first mistake. 

After a moment I carried on, but something about the scrap of song nagged at me. It was unlike anything I'd heard on a street corner or drifting out of a pub. Even the palace minstrels parading through the streets on holy days had never played a piece with such allure. Taking a bite of my hot cross bun, I turned back the way I'd come. It was still early. With any luck I'd have time to track the errant music to its source and still catch Thelonius at the Gilded Pig.

Turning back, of course, was my second mistake. I followed the song through the maze of Inverlyn's streets, occasionally reorienting myself after taking a wrong turn or coming up against a dead end. The singing rose high and pure above the buildings and city noise, cold and clear as the year's first snowfall.

Clambering up and over a tumbledown wall, I dropped to the ground near the end of a blind alley. There in the shadows was a tall, pale woman dressed all in white and singing a song that would break your heart. I stood motionless before her and listened as the song got into my blood and bones, piercing me through with an indefinable longing. It was the rushing of water, the ice in winter, the emptiness behind the stars.

REVISION:

Name: Laura E. Weymouth

Twitter Handle: @lauraeweymouth

Genre: Fantasy

Title: Casters and Crowns

35 Word Pitch: When Dark beasts overwhelm his homeland, Pip Martin is drafted into the army. There he is forced to choose between desertion from a fight he never wanted, and devotion to the friends he never planned to make.

First 500 Words: 

The night I met Inverlyn's most famous mage, I nearly threw myself off the city wall. 

I was in the Cooper's Quarter running a message for the few extra coins it would earn me. The sun hung low over the hills around the city and cast honey-colored light over the buildings and streets. Normally I stayed close to home so late in the day, but that afternoon I was foolish. I let myself feel safe behind Inverlyn's walls and the strong magic that warded them. 

I should have known better. Even the wards were not enough to keep the Dark wholly at bay. I ought to have been home, where I knew the alleys and roadways like the palm of my hand, but instead I was in unfamiliar territory chasing a last handful of pennies.

The Quarter was quieter than what I was used to. There were the usual sounds of hansoms and penny pullers out on the main thoroughfares, and of course the clang of traffic bells, but I bunked on Fuller's Row where the sound of wooden hammers beating out wool weighs heavy on your ears. I'd come to think of the fulling mills as Inverlyn's heartbeat, and it was strange to wander through a neighborhood where they weren't audible. My ears were pricked by their absence, and when a sudden ripple of sweet singing drifted around a corner, I stopped to listen. 

That was my first mistake. 

After a moment I carried on, but something about the scrap of song nagged at me. It was unlike anything I'd heard on a street corner or drifting out of a pub. It called to me, beckoning with an irresistible allure. It drove the errand I'd come to the Quarter for quite out of my mind and muddied my thoughts, until I could think of almost nothing else but finding the source of that singing. I turned back to follow the song.

Turning back was my second mistake. I tracked the sound of singing through the maze of Inverlyn's streets, occasionally reorienting myself after taking a wrong turn or coming up against a dead end. The beckoning voice rose high and pure above the buildings and city noise, cold and clear as the year's first snowfall. 

Clambering up and over a tumbledown wall, I dropped to the ground near the end of a blind alley. There in the shadows was a tall, pale woman dressed all in white and singing a song that seeped into my blood and bones, piercing me through with an indefinable longing. It was the rushing of water, the ice in winter, the emptiness behind the stars.

30 comments:

  1. Hi Laura, I wanted to give your entry a quick first read. I'm getting a strong sense of your setting right off the bat. I'll have more feedback this weekend and into next week, but I wanted to go ahead and introduce myself!

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  2. Hi Laura!! Thanks for entering!! :D

    Remember all my comments are subjective so if anything I say doesn't work for YOUR story, feel free to throw them out the window.

    I love the sound of this book! The pitch reminds me of Lyonesse: Well Between the Worlds, which might be a good comp title. I recommend checking it out! :D

    I feel like your pitch could use some more specifics. What does he have to save the city from? Why him as opposed to the rest of the guard? Pitches are really hard to write, because they're so crucial. I think you might want to give the pitch a second shot.

    Your first 500 is marvelous. The voice is great, and I love the setting. However, too many Capitalized Names on the first page tends to throw readers off. Also, skip world building to jump to the action. World building can always be worked in later. When you do world build, put yourself into Pip's shoes, and think how he wouldn't notice stuff he's used to and mentally elaborate on it. However, I can see the complexity of your world building and it sounds really amazing. Like, I want to run around and explore this place amazing.

    I'd italicize The Gilded Pig. Watch your use of "was" "were" "had" "has" etc. It can weaken your writing.

    The only other comment I have is you mention in the pitch that this is a world with gunpowder. Well, than can mean anywhere between 1350s China and today's world, so I'd show a little more telltale technology to show your readers what era we're talking about. Napoleonic? World War Two? Baroque?

    I LOVE the emptiness behind the stars line.

    All together a good entry that just needs a little polishing. Hope my comments help! :D

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    Replies
    1. Awesome, thanks Rachel! I'm definitely going to have to check out the book you mentioned.

      Yeah, about that pitch ;) I pretty much made it up on the spot as I decided to enter this whole thing about two hours after registration opened up. It baffles me that you can tell!!! (Three exclamation marks=sarcasm) An elevator pitch and a synopsis are the two things still left on my to do list for this particular MS.

      Thanks again for the feedback! I can't wait to put it to good use!

      Delete
  3. Hi Laura,

    Intro to critique:
    First, allow me to say thank you for being so brave as to put your work out there for praise and criticism. It’s never easy to send writing efforts into the world, and it’s even harder to do it when you know people are going to be reviewing it with a fine-toothed comb.

    Also, please remember that this is your work, and mine is only one opinion. So, take what you like and leave what you don’t.

    Oh, I’m also going to try something different on this critique. When I see some technical edits that need to be made, I’ll put them directly in the text in [brackets] so that you know it’s mine and you know exactly where the edit should be made. I think it’ll allow me to focus more on the story, plot, characters, etc., rather than on the copyediting.

    Pitch:
    I’m going to focus on your 35-word pitch first.

    “Finnikin of the Rock with gunpowder and monsters”: Love the reference to Finnikin of the Rock with the addition of gunpowder and monsters. It immediately gives me a sense of setting and fantasy sub-genre.

    “For two years Pip Martin has survived in the troubled city of Inverlyn by keeping his head down. When he is reluctantly drawn into the King's Guard, he must fight for the city's survival as well as his own.”: So, here’s an interesting fact. I wrote this pitch (well, not exactly this one, but one that read a lot like this one) last year for #PitchWars and got ZERO traction. I was then told, by one PitchWars mentor on Twitter, that she’d read my pitch hundreds of times, just different settings, different MC, different villains. Her advice to me, in a nutshell, was this: Think about what makes your story unique and wrap your pitch around that idea. The uniqueness of your story is what is going to catch the attention of an agent, mentor, etc., not the plot they’ve sort of read before.

    Entry:
    “The first time I set out to find Thelonius Small, I nearly walked off Inverlyn's city wall instead. I was in the Cooper's Quarter, about as far as you could get from my tenement on Fuller's Row. Normally[,] I stayed close to home, but I wanted to see [what] the mage folk were calling Inverlyn's Last Resort. Rumor had it Thelonius liked to stop for a bite of dinner at a pub in the Quarter. It was a place mages favored, called the Gilded Pig, and though I'd never been, I had a dim idea of where it was.”: I like the bard’s voice going on here. It seems colloquial but inviting, and though a little wordy, I’m still interested in reading. I will say that the lines from “…but I wanted to see…Inverlyn’s Last Resort,” is confusing. The issue is that it looks like a word is missing. I added in “what” to see if it made sense, and it does, but from the context of the whole paragraph, I don’t think “what” is the word that is missing. So give this a reread and add any words that you think are missing. Also, I assumed Inverlyn’s Last Resort was the pub’s name, until I read Gilded Pig. If these are indeed the same place, and the italicized name is a nickname or pseudonym of sorts, then you may want to make that more clear, such as putting the italicized name directly after the pub’s name using an appositive construction.

    “In retrospect, wandering about the city alone of a summer evening was monumentally stupid. I was usually more careful than that, but I'd been two years in Inverlyn and grown comfortable there, thinking myself safe behind the walls and the strong magic that warded them. I should have known better.”: Again, very strong voice. The words “monumentally stupid” seem to date this piece as more contemporary, but the rest feels old and ancient. I’m interested to know why there is magic warding the walls, and I’m interested to know why it’s stupid he was walking around. Reader Expectation Alert: I thought that in this paragraph I would find out how the MC had almost walked off the city wall. I’m still wondering, so don’t forget to resolve that.

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  4. “I took my time in the Q[q]uarter, poking around unfamiliar streets and stopping to buy a hot cross bun. It was quiet at that end of the city. There were the usual sounds of hansoms and penny pullers out on the main thoroughfares, and of course the clang of traffic bells, but I was used to Fuller's Row where the sound of wooden hammers beating out wool weighs heavy on your ears. I'd come to think of the fulling mills as Inverlyn's heartbeat, and it was strange to wander through a neighborhood where they weren't audible. My ears were pricked by the underlying quiet, and when a sudden ripple of sweet music drifted around a corner I stopped to listen.”: Yes, yes, I’ve said it, but I’ll say it again. Great voice! I love how you are working in a description of Fuller’s Row, the MC’s home street, while describing the quarter. When the MC hears the music, I want to stop and listen, too.

    “That was my first mistake.”: Now I’m intrigued. It’s not often that stopping to listen to music can be considered a mistake.

    “After a moment I carried on, but something about the scrap of song nagged at me. It was unlike anything I'd heard on a street corner or drifting out of a pub. Even the palace minstrels parading through the streets on holy days had never played a piece with such allure. Taking a bite of my hot cross bun, I turned back the way I'd come. It was still early. With any luck I'd have time to track the errant music to its source and still catch Thelonius at the Gilded Pig.”: Still interested in the music, still loving the voice, but I’m bothered by the last sentence. The fact that he abandons his initial goal for coming to the quarter and follows the music instead—with no certainty that he’ll catch Thelonius, makes me wonder about the MC and his ability to stay on track with a goal or objective. If this is his personality, then this is good, but if he is supposed to be more steadfast in reaching his goals, you may want to let him struggle with this decision. It seems fairly flippant at this point.

    “Turning back, of course, was my second mistake. I followed the song through the maze of Inverlyn's streets, occasionally reorienting myself after taking a wrong turn or coming up against a dead end. The singing rose high and pure above the buildings and city noise, cold and clear as the year's first snowfall.”: I’m still very interested in the music and where it is coming from, but when you change music to singing, I’m a little stumped. It is true that singing is musical, but that’s not where I went at first when you mentioned the music. I literally thought music—like instruments, not a singing voice. Also, I had an issue with the description of the singing as being cold. I like the analogy of a clear and quiet snowy evening (thinking Robert Frost here), but the idea of “cold” makes me think something sinister may be in the mix. If the singer is not supposed to be a cold individual, then you may want to drop the adjective altogether.

    “Clambering up and over a tumbled[-d]own wall, I dropped to the ground near the end of a blind alley. There in the shadows was a tall, pale woman dressed all in white and singing a song that would break your [my] heart.”: The last sentence is in passive voice. Try switching it around to something like, “A tall, pale woman dressed all in white stood in the shadows, singing a song that…” Also, “…would break your heart” is a little cliché, try something original, bold, or unique that fits in your world, like, “…singing a song that wove a needle through my heart.” Lastly, when you use the word “You,” it directly addresses your reader. Although it has been done tastefully in first-person narrative before, it’s a good rule of them to use it sparingly or not at all if possible. I often finds it trips me up when reading.

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  5. “I stood motionless before her and listened as the song got into my blood and bones, piercing me through with an indefinable longing. It was the rushing of water, the ice in winter, the emptiness behind the stars.”: I almost think these two sentences are stronger if reworded a bit and combined into one sentence. Maybe like the following: “Like the rushing of water, or the ice in winter, or the emptiness around the stars, the song spread into my blood and bones, striking me with indefinable longing.”

    Closure:
    I’m intrigued, and I’d definitely keep reading at this point. I want to know about the song, the woman, Thelonius Small, and I’m still waiting to understand how he almost walked off the wall, so don’t forget to explain that since it was your first sentence. You’ve got wonderful voice, and I’m a sucker for any MC that seems to take on the role of Bard and Hero in one.

    Again, thank you for putting this out to the world for review. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and I hope to learn more as we discuss our entries over twitter and through the comments.

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  6. Hi, Laura: This is beautiful writing, almost poetic. A lot was thrown at me in the first paragraph, but as I read on, it became clearer. I could almost hear the song as I read your words. The only thing that puzzled me was the first part of your pitch – Finnikin of the Rock with gunpowder and monsters. Is this part needed to get your pitch across?
    I can’t wait to read your finished work.

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  7. Pitch: I think Katie's advice about the pitch here is bang on. Can you elaborate on the monsters, maybe? What are they fighting against? What is special about Pip Martin and his world?

    First 500: I love the specificity of your scene-setting details, especially the sounds of the different quarters and the unearthly music he's following. I think you can layer on even more of these to make the city come to life - visuals and scents would be particularly evocative. I wondered if there were similar specifics you could apply to the references to "strong magic" warding the walls.

    Keep an eye out for anachronistic turns of phrase - "monumentally stupid" jumped out at me, especially juxtaposed with "of a summer evening". I wondered if there might not be a stronger verb you could use to replace "got" in "got into my blood and bones" - seeped into? stole through?

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  8. Pitch: I think Katie's advice about the pitch here is bang on. Can you elaborate on the monsters, maybe? What are they fighting against? What is special about Pip Martin and his world?

    First 500: I love the specificity of your scene-setting details, especially the sounds of the different quarters and the unearthly music he's following. I think you can layer on even more of these to make the city come to life - visuals and scents would be particularly evocative. I wondered if there were similar specifics you could apply to the references to "strong magic" warding the walls.

    Keep an eye out for anachronistic turns of phrase - "monumentally stupid" jumped out at me, especially juxtaposed with "of a summer evening". I wondered if there might not be a stronger verb you could use to replace "got" in "got into my blood and bones" - seeped into? stole through?

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  9. The following are my opinions and questions that pop into my mind as I read so read them as the subjective fodder they are!

    Pitch: You set the scene, introduce your MC [how old?], and let us know what he is up against. Nice but it's easy to sound similar to other pithces. Is there any room to be more specific about the troubles? Who is he fighting against? Just ideas for another pass through the pitch.

    First 500:
    The first time I set out to find Thelonius Small, I nearly walked off Inverlyn's city wall instead [why? Don’t forget to resolve this soon. Readers can only carry so much in short term memory—at least those of us over 45.)]. I was in the Cooper's Quarter, about as far as you could get from my tenement on Fuller's Row. Normally I stayed close to home, but I wanted to see the mage folk were calling Inverlyn's Last Resort. Rumor had it Thelonius liked to stop for a bite of dinner at a pub in the Quarter. [Lot’s of names. This is tough for readers to handle. Can you weave this into action or dialogue?] It was a place mages favored, called the Gilded Pig, and though I'd never been, I had a dim idea of where it was. [I had to look up what a mage was. A wizard, right? Can you make that clearer for us muggles? :) ]

    In retrospect, wandering about the city alone of a summer evening was monumentally stupid [I don’t know if he would say this exactly. More like: not very bright]. I was usually more careful than that, but I'd been two years in Inverlyn and grown comfortable there, thinking myself safe [from what?] behind the walls and the strong magic that warded them. I should have known better. [If he’s keeping his head down, does he feel as safe as he comes across?]

    I took my time in the Quarter, poking around unfamiliar streets and stopping to buy a hot cross bun [He lives in a tenement. Where did he get the $? Might be a way to flesh him out here]. It was quiet at that end of the city [Love the sounds. What does he see?]. There were the usual sounds of hansoms and penny pullers out on the main thoroughfares, and of course the clang of traffic bells, but I was used to Fuller's Row where the sound of wooden hammers beating out wool weighs heavy on your ears. I'd come to think of the fulling mills as Inverlyn's heartbeat [LOVE THIS], and it was strange to wander through a neighborhood where they weren't audible. My ears were pricked by the underlying quiet, and when a sudden ripple of sweet music drifted around a corner I stopped to listen.

    That was my first mistake. [I am HOOKED.]

    After a moment I carried on, but something about the scrap of song nagged at me. It was unlike anything I'd heard on a street corner or drifting out of a pub. Even the palace minstrels parading through the streets on holy days had never played a piece with such allure [This sounds like it is instrumental only]. Taking a bite of my hot cross bun, I turned back the way I'd come. It was still early. With any luck I'd have time to track the errant music to its source and still catch Thelonius at the Gilded Pig.

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  10. Continued:

    Turning back, of course, was my second mistake. I followed the song through the maze of Inverlyn's streets, occasionally reorienting myself after taking a wrong turn or coming up against a dead end. The singing [vocals] rose high and pure above the buildings and city noise; cold and clear as the year's first snowfall.

    Clambering up and over a tumbledown wall, I dropped to the ground near the end of a blind alley. There in the shadows was a tall, pale woman dressed all in white and singing a song that [Cut this and the sentence works: would break your heart. I stood motionless before her and listened as the song] got into my blood and bones, piercing me through with an indefinable longing. It was the rushing of water, the ice in winter, the emptiness behind the stars.

    I love the MC voice. He’s interesting and introspective with a bit of swagger, and I like the way he hears the world around him. This piece has a lot to do with sounds. Is that a theme you will continue elsewhere?

    Good luck with this and I hope my comments are helpful!

    Kelly (#17)

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  11. Hello Laura!

    First off, great job! Your voice sounds like fantasy, and I instantly enjoyed it. Anyways, just a few little suggestions could help with pacing.

    Pitch: I understand what your story is about, however, I feel like it's a generic pitch as Katie mentioned, could be changed with a different MC and situation. The stakes are the same no matter how you slice it. Really think about how your story is unique, because I am sure it is. Focus on that and you'll have a winner.

    First 500: I think you do a great job with your description and your story telling in general is flawless. My only suggestion to you would be maybe get to the part about the mysterious song Pip is searching for. I struggle with world building and cramming everything I can in the first few hundred words, but I have found less is best. It's best to intertwine the info as the story progresses.

    Clambering up and over a tumbledown wall, I dropped to the ground near the end of a blind alley. There in the shadows was a tall, pale woman dressed all in white and singing a song that would break your heart. I stood motionless before her and listened as the song got into my blood and bones, piercing me through with an indefinable longing. It was the rushing of water, the ice in winter, the emptiness behind the stars. [The only part that pulled me out of the story was the line "a song that would break your heart". It sound too modern and maybe a bit cliche. I also think you rush over the description of the woman in white too quickly. It's as if she an insignificant character by the lack description. But it feels as if she's not insignificant. Really focus on what she looks like, how she singing, what does the song really sound like? Can you smell her? This could really make this section sing (no pun intended :-)]

    I would totally keep reading cause i want to find out who this mysterious lady is and how is Pip roped into the King's Guard!! great job. I don't think you have a lot of work, you are so close! :-) Thanks for letting me read!

    Monica M. Hoffman #12

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  12. Pitch: The first sentence with comps works for me, but the second just doesn't. I'd suggest focusing on what Pip's goals are. Kepping your head down is a survival technique, not a goal. What is he hiding? Hint that he's hiding something. Hint what his goals are, and then hint what is standing in the way.

    Hope that helps.

    500: First off, you have a great voice. It definitely reads fantasy, a bit sword and sorcery, (Even the title Casters and Crowns! Ha it's reminiscent of Swords and Sorcery. Brilliant.) I adore the title.

    I do think the first sentence gets lost. What the heck is a Thadeous Small? IS it a person, is it a place, why is Pip looking for it, and obviously it's not going to work. I'd like at least one more mention of what T. Small is, and why Pip needs to find it. That is where the hook, for me, will come in. Right now, it's good writing, that isn't being pulled by a good motivation. (At least not that I can find in the first 500)

    Also the second hot cross bun probably doesn't need the full name.

    Hope this helps!
    ~Sheena #11

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  13. Hey there, Laura! (Jamie #19)

    I see you've gotten quite a bit of feedback already, so I'll keep my comments brief. I agree with the above comment that perhaps you're starting a bit early. The part with Pip looking for the music stands out as a strong starting point to me. And as was already mentioned, you can scatter in the world-building/ back story as you go. A good rule of thumb that an editor shared: Go through the first (however many) pages of your MS. Highlight whatever is action in green, and highlight whatever is backstory in yellow. If the green outweighs the yellow (by a good majority) then you're good. If yellow is more prevalent, rework the sections. Just a trick to visualize how much action vs. backstory you have going on.

    As I've mentioned to everyone I've critiqued on here, be wary of overusing adverbs! Another fun exercise is to search your MS for words that end in 'ly' and see how many you can replace or eliminate. It forces you to use stronger verbs and get creative with your descriptions. (I can tell you'd do well with this because you already have some fabulous descriptions going on here!)

    As a fellow fantasy writer, I love your world-building. I think if you work to intertwine it with the action a little more, it'll amp up the wow factor here. And as a fellow commentator said, working in the right details will help give the reader a better grip on the time period you're writing in. (It's tough, isn't it? Took me a while to get the right mix, where CPs were reading and going, "Oh, so this is like 1800's, right?" You can do it!)

    Thanks for letting me take a look at this and I hope you find some of my comments helpful! Good luck!

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  14. Hiya Laura :)

    I know you mentioned making up your pitch on the spot and you've gotten awesome suggestions already so I'll just say, can't wait to see what you come up with :)

    First 500

    So, I love Fantasy. Your book sounds like one I'd like to curl up with on a really long rainy couple of days. Your MC voice is great and I get sucked into your world with all your wonderful details. I agree with the others about finding that fine line with combining the action with the world building in the first few pages. Leave little trails for us to follow until we are totally involved.

    I would totally read on and can't wait to see what your revisions are like. :)

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  15. Hi Laura!

    This looks like something really cool! Secret agents (basically) in a fantasy world? Sounds epic!
    The pitch... Well.... First off I am pretty new to this myself so I can't help out too much....I guess other have asked this but what is he saving he city from? I picked up it was just a bad city but I might be wrong of course. Also.... The ducking his head part to save himself was a little confusing. If you shorten that to hiding away or something it could give you more words.

    There were a lot of names in the first half which doesn't bother me but some people might get a little confused.
    I could see you were trying to give us a feel of the city but I had a little trouble with all the wordiness... That might just be me though.
    I am excited about the secret guard and whatever that lady was doing left me wanting to read more!
    The voice is really good too for a first person POV!
    I hope this helps!

    -Grace (#10)

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  16. I’m posting in 2 separate comments bc of size. Sorry.
    Loved the title. You’re story sounds really interesting and you did a great job setting the scene and giving a sense of place. I think you could start a little farther along the story and then explain the ‘why’ he’s there later on. Just a thought. The pitch was solid, the changes I suggested where simply preference and opinion. I do think you could tighten it a bit and keep the momentum going. Good luck and I look forward to reading the revision!

    Casters and Crowns (really like the title)

    Finnikin of the Rock with gunpowder and monsters: For two years Pip Martin has survived in the troubled city of Inverlyn by keeping his head down. When he is reluctantly drawn into the King's Guard, he must fight for the city's survival as well as his own.  (I would consider reworking the last sentence. Maybe cutting ‘reluctantly’ and putting the second part first. “He must fight for the city’s survival as well as his own, after being pulled into the King’s Guard.”)

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  17. The first time I set out to find Thelonius Small, I nearly walked off Inverlyn's city wall instead. I was in the Cooper's Quarter, about as far as you could get from my tenement on Fuller's Row. (So many foreign locations that I’m lost trying to remember them all and can’t focus on what’s happening. Maybe spread it out a bit) Normally I stayed close to home, but I wanted to see the mage folk were calling Inverlyn's Last Resort.(reword this last sentence I wasn’t sure if you meant a group of mage folk or a specific mage people were talking about) Rumor had it Thelonius liked to stop for a bite of dinner at a pub in the Quarter. It was a place mages favored, called the Gilded Pig, and though I'd never been, I had a dim idea of where it was. (We assume you’ve never been bc you say you had a dim idea of where it was) 

    In retrospect, wandering about the city alone of a summer evening was monumentally stupid. (Delete the first sentence) I was usually more careful than (to wander around the city alone) that, but I'd been two years in Inverlyn and grown comfortable there, (skip ‘grown comfortable’) thinking myself safe behind the walls and the strong magic that warded them. I should have known better. 

    I took my time in the Quarter, poking around unfamiliar streets and stopping to buy a hot cross bun. It was quiet at that end of the city.(condense the 2 previous sentences) There were the usual sounds of hansoms and penny pullers out on the main thoroughfares, and of course the clang of traffic bells, but I was used to Fuller's Row where the sound of wooden hammers beating out wool weighs heavy on your ears. I'd come to think of the fulling mills as Inverlyn's heartbeat, and it was strange to wander through a neighborhood where they weren't audible. My ears were pricked by the underlying quiet, and when a sudden ripple of sweet music drifted around a corner I stopped to listen. (I LOVE the imagery here and it gives me a good sense of place but I don’t know if you need to say it was quiet in the beginning of the paragraph when you’re going to say it again at the end)

    That was my first mistake. (Combine this with the last sentence. ..sweet music drifted around the corner. Stopping to listen was my first mistake.’)

    After a moment I carried on, but something about the scrap of song nagged at me. (After a moment is very passive) It was unlike anything I'd heard on a street corner or drifting out of a pub. Even the palace minstrels parading through the streets on holy days had never played a piece with such allure. (Condense the previous two sentences) Taking a bite of my hot cross bun, I turned back the way I'd come. It was still early. With any luck I'd have time to track the errant music to its source and still catch Thelonius at the Gilded Pig.

    Turning back, of course, (skip ‘of course’) was my second mistake. I followed the song through the maze of Inverlyn's streets, occasionally(drop the adverb) reorienting myself after taking a wrong turn or coming up against a dead end. The singing rose high and pure above the buildings and city noise, cold and clear as the year's first snowfall. (Great sentence)

    Clambering up and over a tumbledown wall, I dropped to the ground near the end of a blind alley. There in the shadows was a tall, pale woman dressed all in white and singing a song that would break your heart. I stood motionless before her and listened as the song got(change ‘got’ to something else maybe seeped or sank) into my blood and bones, piercing me through with an indefinable longing. It was the rushing of water, the ice in winter, the emptiness behind the stars.(Excellent emotion)

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  18. I'm just doing some read-throughs of my non-required-critiques, and thought the writing was strong. Just saying ;) Don't have the time to do a detailed critique of all.

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  19. Hi Laura, this is Jen, entry #9.

    First off, I love your title! I have an alliterating X & X title as well. :)

    35 Word Pitch: Gunpowder fantasy! Right up my alley! My first note is that your pitch, at 47 words, is too long! The second is that I don’t have a clear picture of why Pip is pulled into the King’s Guard, or what he’s fighting against.

    First 500:

    I don’t have a whole lot of notes for you, this is a pretty strong piece. Your prose is very clean, good job. And I love your first line! After that, however, it starts to get a little confusing with all the different names and places, and I wonder if there isn’t a way you can leave some of the backstory/explanation for later? Get us grounded in what your character is doing now, and then feed us information about why bit by bit. I’m not sure we need to know things like the fact your character stops for a hot cross bun.

    I love the line “I'd come to think of the fulling mills as Inverlyn's heartbeat”.

    The paragraph when Pip turns back to follow the music is a little convoluted. You could just have him go straight for the source when he hears it instead of having him continue on his original path, only to turn around in the same paragraph.

    And since I liked your first line so much, I just wanted to say that I hope you actually show us the almost-falling-off-the-wall soon after this because I don’t see it here.

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  20. I'm not sure what to say or how to say. I'm second guessing my own judgment after comparing the two versions and reading the comments. So take what you will, as you will and have confidence in your writing.
    I liked the first version a lot. It had grit. It had moxie. A brilliant neo-noir tone. (I don't know if that was your goal.) I felt the second version is watered-down and flowery (I'm only saying this in comparison to your first version, it's still good.) I'd love to point out change by change why I think your first go was superior, but I will simply give you a few examples.
    The first line:
    The first time I set out to find Thelonius Small, I nearly walked off Inverlyn's city wall instead.
    vs.
    The night I met Inverlyn's most famous mage, I nearly threw myself off the city wall.
    Both are out to goad curiosity. And they do. But the first half of the first version, has clear direction. A goal is being proclaimed. The second is ambiguous and does not really declare anything I care about. The second half of the first version's line suggests that, because of the MC's goal he going to get himself into trouble. The second of the second suggests, he's going to get frustrated and kill himself... no I don't really think that, but it does suggest that the throwing himself off the wall will be more a conscious, deliberate action as opposed to the consequence of his goal.

    The first paragraph. I've noticed a few speak of all the name dropping. I can see their point. But, I think the way it was done gives that rough, gritty, noir-like quality. It 's nonchalant as if to say, 'yeah there's these places. So what?' Besides, it's not as if we have to memorize them, I'd think any of the important places will be mentioned again later. You could have dropped some maybe, but scrapping them all together was overkill.

    I liked the casual feeling of wondering the street you had in the 1st version. And really missed your MC's stopping for hot cross buns. Then, I saw someone suggest you remove 'of course'. I'd keep it. It's a cool self-denouncing 'duh'.

    The last point I will make, is the part where you got rid of my favorite line. Some suggested it was cliché, it could be and so you'd want to double check. "Pale woman dressed all in white and singing a song that would break your heart." It is a simple phrase, but sounds like something out of a dime novel detective story. I liked it the way it added to the voice.

    I may be sound more dramatic than I ought, but a feel you story went from powerful to very good. (And very good is very good). And, I am far from any sort of expert at this kind of thing. And fantasy particularity is not my wield house, but I feel you were too willing to make changes.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for commenting, Rollan. This was really helpful. I thought I'd take as much feedback into account for this rewrite as possible, to see how things looked when I made most of the suggested changes. I do think it would be nice to find a middle road, though. Thanks so much for your faith in my original! I'll likely go back and rework some things. I'm also glad to hear you liked the line about the song that would break your heart. It's something I definitely want to add back in--it's beyond a doubt something my MC would think, and picks up on a theme that's continued throughout the story.

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    2. Sorry if I sounded a bit rabid.

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  21. REVISION:

    Hi Laura,

    I think we covered everything in our talk, but I wanted to post that I love Thelonius Small and Pip Martin, and I can't wait to see this published, as I'm certain it will be. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  22. Revision Notes:

    Hey Laura! (Jamie #19)

    I see that you've gotten some mixed feedback since your rewrite posted. This is always tough because you can't please everyone. My gut tells me that you know your story and the way you want to tell it. I always say to follow your gut. I liked both of your versions. They have different feels and therefore, it's up to you to decide which "feel" you want to run with. (Could you go for a middle ground? The first had as Rollan put it "Moxie", whereas the second read cleaner, a bit smoother (if you will) which might have more commercial appeal.) Always trust your voice. Especially when you're writing fantasy that's not contemporary, you sometimes have to fight for your vision. I've had CP's tell me to use more contractions. That's not part of my novel's voice. I've gotten a lot of great feedback that I still had to temper with my creative vision because I didn't want to lose the "me-ness" of my story. (Does that make any sense?) Sometimes we try new things and they fall flat. Other times, they shine. Don't stop trying to make this the best it can be. But trust your overall instinct and vision for the MS. I'm sorry. I know this is vague, but I have a feeling you'll be conflicted enough without my adding to it at this point. I can tell this is a great story and I hope the Agents who are boycotting fantasy will stop and take a chance on writers like us! Our stories deserve it. Trust yourself to send the version you love best into Pitch Wars/ whatever, because if you love it, someday, someone else will love it too. Good luck!

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  23. The pitch is awesome now. It doesn't sound like every other pitch with different situations. Your story now sounds unique. Good job!

    I do agree with Jamie, I think you know your story best and stay true to your voice. I think your first version had promise, and honestly there were only a few areas on the technical side I thought you may want to look at. I do love the revision, but again, you need to really decide what direction you want to take. Overall though, you have a wonder voice and I really hope to see this story in print and on the shelf one day! :-) Good luck, and keep in touch!

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  24. Hi, Laura. This version is clearer to me than the first, but I've noticed from other comments that many like thought the first had more grit. Writing is subjective and you are the one with the vision. Stay true to your gut feelings, and the story will come out as it should. I am still struggling with my first 500. I don't think I'll ever be satisfied, but there comes a point when you have to say, "This is it, now move on." Good luck with your writing career.

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  25. Hi Laura! Sorry I didn't swing by earlier! Hopefully I can give you a thought or two to chew on and maybe help you make your story EVEN STRONGER!

    Pitch:

    OK, I think I can tell what kind of advice you got just from your changes. In taking out your proper nouns, you put in a vaguer story. My advice is to take another stab focusing more on Pip, who he is and what he's doing. When you say army is does he carry a machine gun? Blunderbuss? Sword?

    Drafting tells us it's a fight he never wanted, use those words to tell us what he does want. It'll be a more powerful contrast if we see that desertion is actually a good option and not him being sent to jail or hung for treason.

    Worry less about the giant consequences, and see if you can imply more about the kind of story we're getting into. The stuff you're going to make us care about the most.

    First 500:

    I have very little to say here! You did a great job! I'm not the best for nitpick edits, I'm better with the whole picture, but you've done a great job of making me interested in Pip's life, understanding the rhythm of his voice, and accepting that he's a character who is good at something, but in an uncomfortable situation.

    Excellent job setting tone and direction!

    So, get your pitch as AMAZING as your story and you're golden!

    Best of luck!

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  26. Hi Laura, Kiernan from #4 here. I wasn't one of your original reviewers but wow, I think your entry is fantastic. Great premise, writing, character development, pacing - I'd read this in a heartbeat! Your pitch is strong but I think you could tighten it a bit more, for example this phrase "There he is forced to choose between desertion from a fight he never wanted, and devotion to the friends" could go down to "He must choose between desertion and devotion to his friends" - and then you have a few more words to play with. But overall I think this is extremely strong.

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  27. Hi Laura,
    I didn't comment the first time around, but I've read both versions. I like the grit that To plan talked about in the first one, but I prefer this version's lack of a geography lesson. I think you could find a middle road. I like that this feels like it's building, the first mistake, second mistake things definitely lend that noir slant and foreshadowing. Well done, the voice is strong.
    Jacqueline #6

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