Thursday, October 15, 2015

#PitchSlam - First 250 Words Critique's

First 250



Below you may post your first 250 words of your finished and polished manuscripts for critique.

Rules: There's only two rules.

1.) If you post your first 250 words for critique you MUST critique at least two others.

2.) Be honest, but don't be cruel. (I shouldn't have to explain what this means.)


Note: The Pitch Slam Team will NOT be critiquing these here. We will only critique/send feedback during the official rounds. If you want our feedback, please check the #PitchSlam tab for how to enter and all of the rules involved. 

If you have questions, please don't post them on this post. This post is ONLY for your first 250 words and critiques. (I'm wanting to keep this clean and easy for everybody to post and reply.) Either ask on the Pitch Slam post, the #pitchslam twitter tag, or the FB group. (Or tweet us. We don't bite!)

Comments will remain open until the team posts are live. Then comments will be on moderation so ONLY the Professors/Agents to make requests/play.

Good luck!!

191 comments:

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  2. Hey there!

    Here's my first 250 words from my MS, Remember Nine. Thoughts and critique appreciated. :)

    I was ten years old when Nine first came into my life. He always wore the same clothes—black T-shirt and black cargo pants with more pockets and zippers than anyone would ever need. Seven pockets to be exact. He wore black army boots that looked as if they barely walked two miles out of the box. Instead of shoe laces, metal bars were infused into the leather from just above his ankle, down to the midline of his foot.

    Smooth olive skin and a strong, lean body gave the impression of a young guy fresh out of high school, but his eyes told another story. Dark brown eyes that seemed to hold secrets of another time and place.

    For the seven years I’ve known him, Nine never aged and we never touched.

    I wasn’t allowed to touch him, and he wasn’t allowed to touch me. That was rule number one.
    Rule number two? Never tell anyone about him. I almost slipped a few times with my best friend, Greer, but I pretty much kept to this rule for one reason—no one else could see him but me.

    Nine usually popped up unexpectedly when no one else was around, but there was one meeting we planned every year: May 30th—the anniversary of the day that my childhood best friend, Liam, went missing.

    Today was that day.

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    1. I read your entry twice and I completely missed "no one else could see him but me " the first time. It's a key element to the story that's hidden between these lines of info. Personally, this exercise has taught me that the first 250 words are precious. Here, I feel as it they're being used on a lot of info dumping that can come later. It's a classic mistake to want to completely describe a character as soon as they're introduced. I do it, too. We all do it. However, it's better for the flow to piece this out bit by bit. There's a lot of potential that's being weighed down. You always want ask, "Does this advance the plot?" and cut the fat from the story. I really want to get into it more because there's something tantalizing there.

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    2. I typed up a reply already, but it didn't seem to publish, so I'm trying again. My apologies if it ends up being a duplicate. This really intrigued me, but I do see Dill's point about the physical description. Since we only have 250 words, putting some of the more important/interesting/unique information earlier may have more of an impact. I think you could move that whole thing under "Today was that day" by saying he wore the same clothes he always did.

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    3. I think you have a great opening sentence, and you end REALLY strong as well! Makes me super curious and want to read more! I definitely have the same concerns as Dill though. I think there's a bit too much description here of Nine. Leaving some would be okay, but we don't need to know every detail right off the bat. I'm way more curious to know why she's the only one who can see him, than what his shoes look like. (Even if his shoes DO sound super cool).
      I also love your use of rules 1 and 2. I get a feel for this character's inner monologue, and so far I like it. My overall concern here is the over description of Nine (it'd be great later but maybe save it for these details to come up more naturally), and that the "Today was that day" part should come a little sooner so we can jumped right into the story! Suuuper curious about the connection to Liam as well. That coming sooner would make a big impact. I'd also like to know your main character's name.

      Overall I'm very intrigued by this!

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    4. Wow - I really love your voice and your style - very intriguing / compelling from the first sentence. I agree that maybe there might be too much description up front, but it didn't bother me while I was reading it. And I love the ending 'Today was that day' exactly where it was…. it will make the judges/agent want more IMHO. The rules are great also!!!!!!!

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    6. Ooooh, imaginary friends (?) and the like? I'm already intrigued! Sweet concept!

      Like the others have said, the description, while nice, could definitely come later! I wonder if a complete restructuring of it would help/hook the reader that much quicker?
      For example, you could start with something like:

      --------------------------------------------

      I was ten years old when Nine first came into my life and the rules came into effect.

      Rule #1: I wasn’t allowed to touch him, and he wasn’t allowed to touch me.

      Rule #2: I could never tell anyone about him. Not that anyone else would believe me—I was the only one who could see him.

      There were other rules but those were the most important when it came to Nine.

      Nine/He tended to pop up when no one else was around, but there was one meeting we planned every year: May 30th. It was the anniversary of the day that my childhood best friend, Liam, went missing.

      Today was that day.

      --------------------------------------------

      That's just my opinion and you're definitely welcome to ignore it! I just figure that this way, you're making the reader curious right off the bat! :)
      Hope you found something helpful in this! :D

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    8. Thanks for all your suggestions and comments! Will take a look at some other options before sending in. :)

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    9. This blew me away a little bit, I have to say.

      One ridiculous and nerdy question (because it's the kind of thing I sneak in): Is Nine's name+ the repetition of "seven" a Star Trek reference? I'm a sucker for bizarre and hard-to-pick-out easter eggs like that. If not...carry on. I am just a crazy person. (:

      Usually people warn against character descs on the first page (esp. eye colour), but I think because of the gushing tone of your MC it works here.

      I love the flow of your writing and the way you build up to the reveal that Nine is imaginary--plus the double-whammy of the missing friend on top of that. I would read the hell out of this, just saying.

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    10. Thanks Steve...a true compliment coming from you. I loved your 250 words and would love to read more.

      As for the Nine name, sorry to say I'm not a Trekkie so not familiar with your reference. However, there is a reason for the name ;)

      I knew it wasn't the action type of opening that is the norm. I actually had that, and then I hired an editor/agent that was involved in Pitch Wars. She didn't like the old beginning. I changed it and came up with this. The changes got me a request for a full at least, but I didn't make the cut in the end, but she said I was one of three she narrowed it down to...so that made me feel good. The agent/editor loved the changes too.

      You picked up what I was going for, and I wanted to make what was coming more dramatic. He isn't a normal character she's about to meet, and I suppose I wanted to show that through his description instead of telling. Get inside Liora's head with how she sees him.

      I took Dill's advice and clarified the fact that no one else could see him.

      I'm not one who is afraid to gut and make changes and take advice/feedback, but I also don't want to get to the point wear I overdo it. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut I guess, and not let all the conflicting advice confuse you lol.

      Good luck, and I'll be watching out for your book!

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  3. My turn! I've taken the awesome critiques from the 35-word pitches and fixed my 250 pitch. Those guys even made me rethink part of my query I wasn't 100% happy with. Any other help would be very much appreciated!

    I was born to a woman who never loved me. I’ve pictured her many times, stumbling into the Children’s Bank with the residue of my afterbirth still clinging to her leg. I can ignore how she turned me over only hours after I was born. It’s the fact that she didn’t bother to give me a name which made me resentful. No child should have to go without a name. Having a name is something that makes you feel human. It gives you worth. And I was worth something. We all were.

    My life began on the night they came for us. If I close my eyes, the events return to me in slow motion. They’re always there, in the back of my mind, ready to make a reappearance. It was the lights that woke me. They crept along the walls in blues and reds, smashing together to form momentary purples. My little fingers poked through the holes of my grandma’s crochet blanket. Even at five, I knew that if the sirens started, then we’d hide in the basement. The sirens always meant someone was being taken. We never knew where our neighbors of the Pink District disappeared to. We never asked.

    Footsteps trotted up and down the hallway. White light danced against the black darkness of the ceiling as people moved outside of my bedroom. I squeezed my eyes closed, trying not to listen to my parents’ rushed argument.

    “If it’s us he wants, then she could hide with your mother.”

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    1. I like your first paragraph, and I really like the rest, but it feels like there is a disconnect between them that confuses me. I'm wondering if starting with the second paragraph would be more effective, than adding the first one back in as backstory, with an explanation of how the MC got from being born to someone who didn't care about her to where she is now. But wait to see what others say. I'm just one person who is still new to this and hasn't had coffee yet.

      Overall, it sounds like an interesting story, and the vivid details are great.

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    2. Whoa where does this go?! I'm very interested to know who's taking people and what the overall story is going forth. I think this is very effective, though I have to agree with Kelly that thing could be a bit more connected.

      This sentence for instance I think could be completely removed: "They’re always there, in the back of my mind, ready to make a reappearance." I think it flows much better without it and might give you more space to expand elsewhere.

      I also love the imagery you have going on here. I can really picture what you're describing! I'd just love to know how this little girl connects with the girl feeling resentful in the first paragraph. Once they're connected I think this would be pretty close to perfect.

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    3. Hey, Dill!
      Nice job--you definitely make the reader ask a lot of questions in these 250, which means that they'll definitely be intrigued! :D

      Like Kelly, I think your second paragraph should become your first and, while I like the description in the first para, it is definitely information that could come later!

      I was a bit confused as to WHY the MC had her grandma's crochet blanket, how she knew it was her grandma's, and why, if her mom didn't love her, did she leave the MC with a piece of family history like that? Did she hate the grandma, too?

      "...smashing together to form momentary purples." <-- I wasn't sure about the word "smashing." Can lights do something has harsh sounding as "smash"?

      I'm definitely wondering about who is taking the kids! Do the people KNOW which kids they're taking each time or is it a pick-and-choose thing? I ask because, "...trotted up and down the hallway" implies that the footsteps are moving up and down the hallway, as if they're searching for something. Intentional?

      I'm confused about the sudden mention of her parents in the last past of your 250. I thought she didn't know her parents--wasn't she given up within hours of being born?

      I am definitely interested and I do want to know the answers to the questions you've raised! I just don't want you to get bogged down with bits of confusion that might alienate your reader. =)
      Hope this helps!

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    5. I third that! The second paragraph being your first gives way more of a punch. But I would make a few changes (based on your suggestion to me to stay away from backstory dumping in the beginning) I think cutting these two sentences moves this forward:
      " If I close my eyes, the events return to me in slow motion. They’re always there, in the back of my mind, ready to make a reappearance."

      Taking that out reads like this:


      My life began on the night they came for us. It was the lights that woke me. They crept along the walls in blues and reds, smashing together to form momentary purples. My little fingers poked through the holes of my grandma’s crochet blanket. Even at five, I knew that if the sirens started, then we’d hide in the basement. The sirens always meant someone was being taken. We never knew where our neighbors of the Pink District disappeared to. We never asked.

      Those are my thoughts. Good luck!

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    6. Yep - there is a disconnect between the first and second paragraphs that adds confusion - she was not named by her mother yet she mentions parents and grandmother. For this 250 words, the second paragraph might be a better place to start as there would be no confusion - plus it is very strong and draws the reader in. The first line of the second paragraph is Great!!!! I am very interested to learn more about the story and the characters. Also, if you decide to start with Paragraph Two, then I like Leila's suggestion.

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    7. I didn't find it confusing at all--flowed along well for me. I don't really have much/anything to add except that I love this to pieces and when it goes out in the world in book form I want to be notified so I can buy it and find out what happens, haha.

      One small thing:

      "outside of my bedroom" can lose the "of". (:

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    8. O.k. first, great imagery.

      If I went to sleep right now, your words would infect my dreams.

      If there is a way to clear up how the MC went from no name to hearing her parents arguing, I assume she was adopted from the Bank, otherwise I was totally drawn in.

      I want to know what happens next.

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  4. My first 250 (all feedback appreciated):

    It was a college bar, and college kids did what college kids do on graduation weekend. Some drowned themselves in liquor and boasted about accomplishments they may never achieve, like becoming CEO by thirty. Others laughed again about the night their roommate peed in the closet. And they preened—tossing hair, flexing biceps, puffing out their chests—looking for someone to take home at last call.

    Tessa McLaughlin stood at the bar, her eyes scanning the room for the assholes. Her best friend, Danica, waited beside her, searching the room for her next conquest. No bystander would’ve recognized the distinction; Tessa had learned long ago to act normal.

    “So Gram went all in on a pair of nines and everyone folded.” Danica used a napkin to wipe off a stool. “Someone accused her of cheating and she swung her walker. Almost took out an 82-year-old with two fake hips.”

    “I hope I have her spunk when I’m eighty.” Tessa accepted the beers the bartender handed her, passing one to Dani, another to Caitlin as she joined them.

    “Spunk…malicious intent. Six in one...” Danica froze. “Tessa, look at me.”

    Dani stepped sideways and lifted a finger. One o’clock. Obeying the silent direction, Tessa focused her attention behind her friend.

    Tyler Coleman.

    His dark hair fell a little longer than the last time she saw him, giving him a tousled, just-rolled-out-of-your-bed look. A few days’ worth of scruff dirtied up the clean-cut image enough to inspire some ink-and-engine fantasies.

    No. Just no.

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    1. So far I think I have a decent sense of who your main character is (I think). I like her inner monologue/your descriptions. My only concern is that everything seems to jump around in a disconnected way that I had a hard time following.

      For example this sentence "And they preened—tossing hair, flexing biceps, puffing out their chests—looking for someone to take home at last call." is interesting by itself, but I'm not a fan of how is starts on "And". It seems disconnect from the stellar commentary that comes before it.

      "...scanning the room for the assholes." I'm concerned that you're saying "the assholes" here instead of telling us who she's actually scanning the room for. Through this page I get the feeling that Tessa and her friend aren't there to be drunk college kids (which is interesting and really makes me wonder why they're there). But I think this is a case of telling and not showing. Or in this case please tell me who she's looking for!

      "No bystander would’ve recognized the distinction; Tessa had learned long ago to act normal." What distinction? Again I'm not sure what Tessa is looking for, or why she needs to act "normal", while Danica sounds like she's there looking to conquer her next boy toy (which I love btw).

      Sorry for such a long post/reply, but I really liked your opening and I thought it could be so strong if just a few things were changed! I love your spunk Grandma comments and this little paragraph is just perfect "Dani stepped sideways and lifted a finger. One o’clock. Obeying the silent direction, Tessa focused her attention behind her friend." I love this interaction because it REALLY shows me that they are best friends or extremely close. I mean you have to be to have hand signals come so easily.

      Now I'm left wanting to know who this Tyler Coleman fella is, and much more. If you end up making revisions I'd really like to read them!

      PS- "A few days’ worth of scruff dirtied up the clean-cut image enough to inspire some ink-and-engine fantasies." This is perfection.

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    2. Thanks, Kat! This is really helpful. I have some ideas how to use this for revising. I'm also noting here, in case it affects the reading, the context: it's romantic suspense, and Tessa is paranoid.

      Adding: in fact, I forgot to hit publish, and have already made some changes. I'm still working on the disconnected/jumping issue, but fixed some of the others. Thank you!

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    3. You're welcome dear! That does put this is better context for me, I don't read a lot of romantic suspense but her paranoia makes sense! Thanks for clarifying!

      Awesome, I'm glad this was helpful! Happy editing!

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    4. Heya, Kelly! It randomly deleted my comment...
      Basically, I said I was super interested and I definitely got a decent sense of Tessa's character. I also loved her friendship with Danica.

      Having said that, I was a little confused by the random addition of Caitlin, who just seems to be dropped in there. :P

      I had many of the same questions as Kat, so I won't waste your time asking them again but one thing I was wondering was why you didn't start the story with the second para? Sure, the first para sets the scene but the second one is the one that draws people into the story and gives them something concrete/a character to latch on to.

      Just a thought! :)

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    5. Thanks, Chelsea! The first paragraph/second paragraph question is a good one. I've gone back and forth on it myself. I actually started with multiple "setting the scene" paragraphs, went to skipping them all, then added this one back in. I'll stew on it some more. I appreciate your thoughts!

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  5. Hey guys!
    Here are my first 250 words on my Haven MS. Any feedback or critique is much appreciated!! I've been struggling with whether this opening is good enough for sometime, so please let me know your thoughts!

    “You will be perfect. You will be great. You will be a just Queen.” Haven stared at her reflection. Auburn eyes stared back at her. “You will lead them fairly. You will save them. By the grace of the gods, you will.”

    A knock at the door startled her. She sighed and turned from her stern, yet haunted eyes. “Princess?” a voice sounded from behind the door.

    “Yes?”

    “The coronation begins shortly, My Lady.”

    Haven never thought she’d live long enough to take the throne. In a family of two older brothers, and a healthy father, it would never be expected that the eldest daughter would ascend. She was a princess, and supposed to stay as such. But it was her misfortune to be blessed with longevity. Haven had outlived much of her family, and as the idea of becoming Queen grew near, that blessing had only become a curse.

    She had thought of perhaps ending her life, just to spare her people, her inadequacy. She could try hanging herself, but the moment she was released from the noose, even if her neck broke, air would return to her lungs, and her neck would mend itself. She could slit her wrists, or even her throat, but the wounds would heal in minutes, the scars in hours. There were many ways she had contemplated, until Haven realized something. The only thing worse than living forever, would be to leave her people without a Queen, especially in times like these.

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    1. Okay, so off the bat what draws me out of the story is the look into the mirror and describe the character, just because its such a well worn trope. What I'd do instead is have her pacing the room, talking to herself about how she's going to be fine. She's used to crowds and ruling. She's a princess after all, she just never expected to become Queen. He father lived to a ripe old age and her older brothers had been in their prime when he passed. Yet, misfortune decided to bless her with longevity and she had outlived everyone in her family.... and then so on and so forth. I'd say, save the description for the coronation. Like, when she thinks about what everyone must think of her in this dress with that hair and those shoes.. or however much mind she would pay to those sorts of things.

      Other than that, I'd say this was a good start. Has the character, gives me some clue into the fact there's a problem and I'm sensing the Queen might be about to run off and get herself into some crazy adventure. Other wise, she wouldn't be so worried about the town's folk without a Queen if she wasn't contemplating something dangerous.

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    2. I love (LOVE) the last two paragraphs. They draw me right in to wanting to know more and read more. I'm less enthusiastic about the ones before it, and am not sure I can pinpoint why. Her words to herself fit better once I've read the rest and have some context. But on first reading, I was uncertain about them. I couldn't tell if she had a really high opinion of herself, or was pulling a Stuart Smiley. A single sentence before them setting up her doubts or fears--maybe the description of her eyes as haunted--may make all the difference. Then again, knowing the pitch before reading may make all the difference. So consider that before putting too much weight into my words.

      Back to those last two paragraphs, though--those are awesome.

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    3. Your concept is really cool (think I saw your query, or maybe your first line of the query) on Twitter or elsewhere.

      Although I'm guilty of doing the same thing at a later point in my story, I agree about the mirror. I'll also add that during PW I saw a few potential mentors arguing against descriptions of eye colour, etc, on the first page.

      The last paragraph is very emotionally charged, but I couldn't help but feel there was a very sudden tonal change from the first few paragraphs to that one. I think Kimbery's suggestion of having Haven pacing, or displaying some anxiety, in the opening may solve that problem.

      Also, a small detail, but you don't need those commas in the first sentence of your last paragraph.

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    4. I am the worst comma overuser sometimes! Thank you three for your feedback! This is helpful beyond words! Re-reading I definitely agree with the pacing especially. I never thought to include that to portray her anxiety better.

      One note just to clarify Kimberly is that her father and brothers all die in a war going on. I'm glad you said that though so now I can make that much more clear in the opening sequence!

      You guys are great! Thank you so much!

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    5. Hiya, Kat!
      I am a huge sucker for monarch stories so I was interested from the start, pretty much.

      Like the others have said, the pacing and tone seems to shift a bit but I figure you're already working on that. The only other thing I'd want to point out is that (at least to me), your para about how she's immortal (or close enough to) seems like a lot of info-dumping. Is there a way that, during her pacing, you could have her injure herself and watch it heal or something? I think that might do the same amount of work in a smaller space--showing and not telling!

      Outside of that, good job!

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    6. Hi Kat,

      I am definitely intrigued to know more! But I think this opening could be more powerful by taking out a few things and rearranging the paragraphs. Here's an example:

      "Haven had thought of ending her life, just to spare her people, her inadequacy. She could try hanging herself, but the moment she was released from the noose, even if her neck broke, air would return to her lungs, and her neck would mend itself. She could slit her wrists, or even her throat, but the wounds would heal in minutes, the scars in hours.

      Haven never thought she’d live long enough to take the throne. In a family of two older brothers, and a healthy father, it would never be expected that the eldest daughter would ascend. She was a princess, and supposed to stay as such. But it was her misfortune to be blessed with longevity. Haven had outlived much of her family, and as the idea of becoming Queen grew near, that blessing had only become a curse.

      A knock at the door startled her. She sighed and turned from her stern, yet haunted eyes. “Princess?” a voice sounded from behind the door.

      “Yes?”

      “The coronation begins shortly, My Lady.”

      Only a suggestion, hope this help and good luck!

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    7. Oh wow thank you both! This was awesome to come back to! I love that both of your suggestions touched on the other half of things I've been concerned over! Very grateful for the feed back, and Leila I like the reorder! I think if I added a bit more before that it could definitely work. Chelsea I agree fully, show don't tell, I may have to rework my opening. There's "showing" later in the chapter though in a BIG way so I'll have to think about how to reorder things.

      Again, sincerely a big thank you!

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    8. You don't need my help. Not after the brilliance you've already gotten. I can't possibly do better than they did.

      But rework it, and put it back up. We'll be watching.

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  6. Here's my first 250 for The Quester. For context, it's YA Sci-fi. I made one response, but I the comments above cover everything and I can't find anything constructive to add. I'll be back when a few more get posted to make a second post for sure.

    ----

    "We should spend every Halloween like this!" Christine said. She was seventeen years old with black hair and fair skin. She had whiskers painted on her face and had a ball of white fluff pinned to the back of her blue jeans. On the top of her head was a pair of pink and white bunny ears.

    "Calm down, Christine," Andrew, who was about sixteen, said. He had dark brown hair and a warm skin tone that tanned easily. He was dressed as a pirate with a goofy plastic hat and an eye patch over his left eye. His shirt had a giant skull and crossbones printed on it.

    Andrew looked down to the three tickets he had left. "Well, what should we ride next?" They were at a small, roadside carnival that had come through town for the week. The rides were questionable and the food was mostly sugar, but it was cheap. Everyone was dressed in costumes and the sounds of joyful screams occasionally rose over the crowd.

    "The Twister!" Christine exclaimed. They had already been on the Twister three times.

    Andrew gave a frown as he waved his tickets in front of Christine. "We need four tickets for that and we’ve only got three." He liked the ride because it made him dizzy. It spun around and then tipped in random directions. His favorite part was that it did not go up very high.

    "Forgot about that part."

    "Oh… Well, the Ferris Wheel takes three," Andrew suggested.

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    1. It's you! (this is Steve, haha).

      I'm very curious about the choice of setting for your opening--it seems prime for some excitement right off the bat.

      Your writing is mostly very smooth, but an immediate suggestion would be to try re-working some of the descriptions of Christine and Andrew so there's a bit more personality along with the information. I honestly don't mind being "told" when it comes to what a character looks like, as I find other methods tend to sound disingenuous and forced, but if this is from Andrew's perspective, maybe let his opinion of how things look show through. For instance, is Christine's costume just the sort of thing she'd choose, or was it forced on her by her mother, etc. Just something to add a bit of flavour.

      Although it doesn't bother me particularly, I've heard multiple times that judges/agents don't like descriptions of the characters to be the first thing they read, so take that how you will!

      For me the most effective part was the exposition after Andrew's question of what to ride next. It painted a vivid picture for me of the fair.

      Couple of small things:

      One small typo--you're missing a "said" after Andrew's first bit of dialogue.

      I'd get rid of "exclaimed" and use "said Christine".

      "Forget about that part," seems like it should be "Forget about that [then]".

      Curious to see where this goes!

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    2. You know, I was just thinking that about their descs. I'll get to work on it.

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    3. I can definitely picture where the characters are and what they're doing! You have an uncommon setting that promises a lot of fun. I would love to get there sooner, however! I have read that it's essential to have a hint of conflict on the first page. It doesn't have to be huge conflict, even just a character decision, but I don't think having three tickets instead of four is enough. The reader needs a reason to turn the page

      I'd suggest trimming down some of the description, and rewrite the basic telling in character voice to give you some of that inherent inner conflict. For example, you have:

      He liked the ride because it made him dizzy. It spun around and then tipped in random directions. His favorite part was that it did not go up very high.

      Maybe try something like:

      The dizzy ride was his favorite, with its random spins--too bad it didn't go high enough.

      Does that make sense? I hope it helps!

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    4. Ahh, you actually helped. Andrew's actually afraid of heights, so it not going up high is a good thing. I see I need to be very clear with that.

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    5. Hi, Kimberly!

      I agree with what most everyone else has said! The only additional comment I have is maybe give us a bit more setting? If they're at a carnival, they're going to be constantly bombarded with sights, smells, and noises! Show us that! It might ground your story/setting a bit more.
      HOWEVER, that's only my opinion. :P

      Either way, good job! :D

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    6. Haha, ended up shoving in a lot more description words about the setting, so had to cut off the later conversation to make it 250.It's a trade off, that's for sure. But I'm happier with the direction at the least. I may go back and work on it again to get the conversation back. What do you guys think? More, here's the setting, or more, here's the conversation?

      "We should spend every Halloween like this!" Christine said. She had whiskers painted on her face and had a ball of white fluff pinned to the back of her blue jeans. On the top of her head was a pair of pink and white bunny ears.

      "Calm down, Christine," Andrew said half-heartedly, he was having a good time too. He adjusted the eye patch he was wearing and pushed his pirate hat down tighter on his head. The goofy plastic hat was constantly threatening to fall of his head, but he insisted on wearing it. It matched the giant skull and crossbones painted on his shirt.

      Andrew looked down to the three tickets he had left. He said, "Well, what should we ride next?"

      They were at a small, roadside carnival that had come through town for the week. The rides were questionable and the food was mostly sugar, but it was cheap. The smell of everything fried hung heavy in the air and the sounds of joyful screams occasionally rose over the crowd. All the teenagers there were dressed in costumes. A few had nice costumes, but most wore whatever they could manage to throw together.

      "The Twister!" Christine exclaimed. They had already been on the Twister three times. It was probably the most popular ride there and many of their high school friends were standing in line for it. Andrew and Christine were about the same age, sixteen and seventeen respectively.

      Delete
    7. I'm definitely a fan of the changes--only comment now is that you probably don't need, "...many of their high school friends were standing in line for it," as that's sort of implied by the "most popular ride" description (but that's just my opinion).

      I also would recommend (if possible) finding a better way of inserting their ages--or even waiting until later!

      But seriously--good job! I was a fan before and I'm even more of a fan now! :D

      Delete
    8. Lol,funny thing is that about 10 min after I posted it, I thought the exact same things you did and removed them. It allowed me to get in that one little detail line I wanted about 3 vs 4 tickets! Thanks much for all the feed back from everyone.

      Delete
    9. I love the changes, definitely sets the mood and gets less bogged down in character description (which we can get later as the characters become more distinct). I'm still concerned there isn't a hint of conflict yet. Right now we have a great setting but not enough knowledge of the characters (beyond their costumes). I would revise with an eye toward previewing some conflict for these characters.

      For example, I love that Andrew is afraid of heights. Use that for conflict, either between the characters or within Andrew. Do the others know he's afraid of heights? If not, maybe have him hedge out of doing the Twister because "the line is too long" and tell the reader the real reason in his thoughts. Or use the 3 v 4 tickets to give him his escape (probably what you meant to do in the first place, LOL).

      Delete
    10. What's funny is, I do something similar.. Not two lines later, and Andrew goes on to suggest the Ferris Wheel, Christine points out he's afraid of heights. Unless of course she's kissing him, then it's all great and wonderful. So the compromise is the haunted house.. and that's where the trouble starts.

      Delete
  7. Here are mine!:

    The city was dying, or so it seemed.

    Samelqo eq-Milqar looked out on the oily, black clouds above the temple district. Though he was high up in the palace now, the screams of the mothers still sounded in his ears as though he were standing beside them. His lungs still fought for clean air amongst the foulness of the smoke from their sacrifices, though the room he stood in was clear of vapor, free of any sound but his own breath.

    Samelqo was heq-Ashqen, high-priest. It wasn't his place to falter, when the gods called on him to lead the people of Qemassen. It wasn't the place of Qemassen's people to falter in their own daily observances. Yet true sacrifice required pain. What pain had they allowed themselves to feel in the dog days of their influence?

    Smoothing his hand over his bald head, Samelqo closed his eyes.

    A baby was crying in the next room—King Eshmunen's newborn son, or daughter. The sixteenth child of the sixteenth king had been prophesied to lead his country at a time of great need. With the Lora threatening war from across the sea, and Qemassen brought low by drought and famine, the need was no mystery.

    Two weeks ago Queen Moniqa had given birth to her sixteenth and seventeenth children, a boy and a girl. It was the girl who'd been born first, the true sixteenth.

    The omen did not bode well for the city.

    “Sese?”

    Samelqo turned at the honorific.

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    Replies
    1. Woot, okay, so here we go.

      Okay, so first impressions, I'm very curious where this is going. But the line, Though he was high up in the palace now, the screams of the mothers still sounded in his ears as though he were standing beside them. - Is kinda clunky to me. I mean, I like the impression I get that he hates what he's doing, but that he's got to do it... just more like.. He was high up in the palace now, but no matter where he went their screams followed, as if he was standing next to them. No matter how many times he took an infant from a mother, it never got easier...

      And I have to think, 17 kids!? Poor woman, lol. I've known someone who was 16 and 17 though, him and his twin sister... but that's another story. But, still, now I'm curious. My brain is going, oh there's two of them... that's interesting and I can see all sorts of ways that a spell might not take too kindly to that little detail of there being 2.

      The last thing I can think is... Why does it not bode well for the city. Sure, he knows, but I want more of his thoughts on the matter. I'm sure someone out there will see it as a good omen, even if he sees it as a bad.. so why should I also see it as a bad?

      Other than that, more this please. I wana know where this goes.

      Delete
    2. Thanks so much! I'll try reworking and repost! (: I have to finish some corrections on my thesis though, so it may be later this afternoon. I'm sure I can make that line run a bit smoother, and I think you may be right about it.

      You don't necessarily have to agree with Samelqo, haha. He's actually just being sexist. I'm very fond of the unreliable narrator. ;p

      Delete
    3. Hey, Steve!
      DEFINITELY INTRIGUED!

      My main comment would be to streamline some of your descriptions/paras so that they're not just large blocks of text? I found myself, by the end of the second para sort've skimming to get the salient facts. =\
      What really drew me in and made me want to keep reading was when you were describing the kids. However, I was still confused because I didn't know that King Eshmunen and Queen Moniqa were married--at least, not until the third or fourth read-through. So, when I finished, my immediate question was, "Why are you even telling us about Eshmunen's kid if one of Moniqa's kids, born two weeks before this random child, is already, surely, the prophesized one?"
      And some additional setting about where they are wouldn't be unwelcome, however I know that you want to get as much into that 250 as you can! :D

      I might be the only one who got confused, though. :P
      Either way, I want more! :D :D :D

      Delete
    4. I love it and love the opening. In all honesty there's nothing about it I want to change. But that's me :) By the way, how do you pronounce Samelqo eq-Milqar?

      Delete
    5. Thanks, Chelsea and Leila!

      My posts weren't showing up as "invisibleflyingtrolleybus" so I signed in using a different account, but it is still me. D:

      I appreciate all the help!

      Chelsea: Waaaay back when, my first draft was heavily focused on setting, but the advice I got on QT was to limit that, so I paired it down to what you see here, haha. There is a bit more after the first 250 though.

      Is it clear it's a non-Western setting?

      Also, it didn't occur to me that someone might think Moniqa was a queen of somewhere else! I used their titles in an effort to imply their marriage, but maybe I should state it more explicitly.

      ALSO. Is yours posted anywhere? I want to reciprocate, but can't find it somehow, haha.


      Leila:

      Thanks so much! That's very kind and flattering.

      The "qs" are pronounced as "ks." The emphasis would be sa-MEL-ko eq mil-KAR. The city is kay-MAS-sen. Samelqo's first name translates to "Beloved of the king" and his patronymic means "kingly", ahaha.

      Delete
    6. I love the first line, hints at a certain wry sarcasm. The next paragraph starts well, but these sentences were jarring:

      Though he was high up in the palace now, the screams of the mothers still sounded in his ears as though he were standing beside them. His lungs still fought for clean air amongst the foulness of the smoke from their sacrifices, though the room he stood in was clear of vapor, free of any sound but his own breath.
      --

      I get lost between he he is now and where he was before. I can figure it out on re-read but you should be as clear as you can. Maybe something like:


      He felt like he was still back there, with all those mothers, listening to them scream, choking on the smoke from their sacrifices.

      The next paragraph again starts well in creating the sense of distance--he is not them. he can't afford to feel for them. here's where you lose me:

      Yet true sacrifice required pain. What pain had they allowed themselves to feel in the dog days of their influence?
      --

      You're getting vague here. Clearly the mothers felt pain. So who does 'they' refer to?

      Love the part about the bald head, nice detail there, :)

      I'm confused again about the children. After a few rereads, I get that Queen Moniqa had two kids a few weeks before, a girl and a boy. One of them is crying next door. Is that right? I assume it's the boy, even though the girl is the true heir. If that's what you intended, I think it needs to be more clear. Maybe just re-ordering your paragraphs, like:

      Two weeks ago Queen Moniqa had given birth to her sixteenth and seventeenth children, a boy and a girl.

      One of those babies was crying in the next room—King Eshmunen's heir. The sixteenth child of the sixteenth king had been prophesied to lead his country at a time of great need. With the Lora threatening war from across the sea, and Qemassen brought low by drought and famine, the need was no mystery. It was the girl who'd been born first, the true sixteenth. The omen did not bode well for the city.

      I really enjoyed the story so far, though, and it's definitely something I would read more of!

      Delete
  8. So here are my 250 words -- what do you think??? Title: Catnapped


    I am Maximilian the Stealthy, on the trail of a trickster cat with a weird sense of humor and no tact.

    Max’s nose twitched with excitement as he followed Chevis’ fresh minty scent. Hide ‘n Sniff was as easy as eating. No wonder Chevis hadn’t taught him sooner.

    Because he knows that my nose is sharper than his sharpest claw.

    At the laundry room door, Max slouched to the floor and snuck up on the dirty-clothes basket. He took aim and jumped.

    His belly rammed into the side of the basket, which fell over. Clothes spilled out: Doug’s school shirts, Mom’s dresses, Dad’s gym stuff. The ache from the basket slam vanished as he pounced and pranced, bit and rolled. His ears tangled themselves in his paws and—
    Hey wait! Chevis wasn’t here.

    Max shook himself in disgust and his ears whipped him across the face. He’d been tricked again.

    I am Maximilian the Hunter, resistant to distractions. Always.

    “Meeoooow. That you, Max.”

    “Chevis?” Max dashed up the stairs. What a dumb thing to call out before the end of the game.

    The living room and bathroom were empty. That left the kitchen. Max skidded to a stop against the refrigerator. A strange odor prickled his nostrils and his hackles rose. Someone had broken into the house. That’s why Chevis had meowed. To warn him. Hey! Where was Chevis? Most likely he’d run off, the scaredy cat.

    Max sniffed the floor: rust and grime, mingled with a metallic sweaty odor he’d never encountered before.

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    1. Hey, Ann!
      First things first--you definitely do a good job with the sensory details (probably because Max is a dog and relies on his smell, haha), which is something that a lot of authors struggle with!

      I felt, perhaps, that some of the information you give us is unnecessary--and if you cut it out, you'd have more room for more in the 250! But these are just MY suggestions--ignore them if they sound crazy.

      --------------------------------------------------------

      I am Maximilian the Stealthy, on the trail of a trickster cat with a weird sense of humor and no tact.

      At the laundry room door, Max slouched to the floor and snuck up on the dirty-clothes basket. He took aim and jumped.

      His belly rammed into the side of the basket, which fell over. Clothes spilled out: Doug’s school shirts, Mom’s dresses, Dad’s gym stuff. The ache from the basket slam vanished as he pounced and pranced, bit and rolled. His ears tangled themselves in his paws and—

      Hey wait! Chevis isn't here.

      Max shook himself in disgust and his ears whipped him across the face. He’d been tricked again.

      From somewhere in the house, Chevis meowed. "Is that you, Max?"

      “Chevis?” Max dashed up the stairs. What a dumb thing to call out before the end of the game.

      Max checked both the living room and bathroom--they were empty. That left the kitchen.

      His paws padded against the floor as he ran into the kitchen, skidding to a stop against the refrigerator. A strange odor prickled his nostrils and his hackles rose.

      Someone had broken into the house. Chevis must've meowed to warn him.

      Speaking of... where was Chevis? Most likely he ran off, the scaredy cat.

      Max sniffed the floor: it smelled of rust and grime, mingled with a metallic sweaty odor he’d never encountered before.

      --------------------------------------------------------

      Like I said, those are just my thoughts. Bring us into the scene a bit more (with more of the senses/sensory details that you're already doing such a good job with), give us a bit more of Max's voice, and perhaps extend the scene when he runs into the kitchen to heighten the tension a bit instead of giving it away in the second or so sentence.

      And if you all of this sounds crazy to you, completely ignore it. It's not MY story--it's yours and you know best! :D
      Either way, good start! Max seems like such a character. :)

      Delete
    2. Thanks so much Chelsea !!! I like your version - I'll see if I can incorporate some of the ideas :)

      Delete
    3. I typed up a comment on this earlier, but it was one of the ones that got eaten. ): I'll try and remember as much as I can of what I typed!


      I remember your pitch from the FB group and thought the idea was really cute.

      You start off with a bang, which is good, and gives us a sense of Max's excitability.

      I feel like there could be a bit more detail here and there, maybe a bit more info about Max and Chevis and their friendship. I don't know if that would bog it down too much though.

      Is it a MG?

      Delete
    4. Hi Steve - yes this is MG. Giving more info on the friendship might bog it down - especially as this comes shortly after the 250 words….

      Delete
    5. That makes sense! The reason I asked was because you probably do want to keep it more concise with MG. (:

      Delete
    6. Ann,

      This is a cute story that starts giving us personality right from the start. I like that you give us conflict (someone breaking in) right away. Would a cat have seen an intruder before a dog would have smelled him?

      Mostly, I think you can trim unnecessary details out (see below) but overall this reads well. Nice job.


      At the laundry room door, Max slouched to the floor and snuck up on the dirty-clothes basket. He took aim and jumped. --SMELLS? I ASSUME HE'D BE ASSAULTED BY THE SMELLS.

      His belly rammed into the side of the basket, which fell over. --HIS BELLY, NOT HIS HEAD? HARD TO PICTURE

      Max checked both the living room and bathroom--they were empty. That left the kitchen. DERAILS TENSION A BIT. WOULDN'T HE HAVE AVOIDED THE ROOMS BASED ON SMELL?

      His paws padded against the floor as he ran into the kitchen, skidding to a stop against the refrigerator. A strange odor WHAT ODOR? DESCRIBE RIGHT AWAY prickled his nostrils and his hackles rose.

      Someone had broken into the house. Chevis must've meowed to warn him.

      Speaking of... where was Chevis? Most likely he ran off, the scaredy cat.

      Max sniffed the floor: it smelled of rust and grime, mingled with a metallic sweaty odor he’d never encountered before. THESE DETAILS SHOULD BE MOVED UP EARLIER, WHEN HE SMELLS THEM

      Hope this helps!

      Delete
    7. Hi Ann! First off, I think your story sounds so cute. As Vanitha and Chelsea have already given such a detailed critique, I'll just add a few of my thoughts. I love your first line, especially the part "with a weird sense of humor and no tact." Made my chuckle. The one thing that gave me pause-- How does he know someone broke into the house if he doesn't recognize the scents that go along with it? Other than that, your story sounds like a lot of fun. :)

      Delete
    8. Ann-Marie, I love the title and the story about the cat. I agree with the others. One nitpick: no colon after clothes spilled out. But I loved the details of the storyline.

      Delete
    9. Thank you so much everyone for your feedback !!!!!!! I will be submitting later on today - now to work in your suggestions

      Delete
  9. Hullo, friends!
    Here's my first 250 words! :)
    Please give me your honest opinions and I'll definitely do the same! :D

    First blood had been spilt.

    Kali ducked under her opponent’s next strike and grimaced, backing into the shadows cast by the cathedral. She glanced at the wound; it was shallow. I still have a chance.

    Nia was struggling for breath and her simple, blue tunic was plastered to her dark skin. She grinned but didn’t press the advantage, flicking blood from her sword. “Running scared?”

    Kali shook her head. “You’re the one wheezing. Why should I be afraid?”

    Around the outdoor arena the crowd cheered—but not for Kali. On her side of the ring, shattered glass, broken tech, and thrown food littered the ground.

    “Hey, Nia,” a man shouted. “I’m upping my bet to thirty belnin! You better win!”

    Behind her, someone asked, “Are you sure? It’s 10-1 odds on Kali.”

    “Like I’m going to throw away money on her. Thirty belnin on Nia.”

    The clink of coins was loud as the money exchanged hands. The scratching of the bookies’ pencils was almost lost in the noise from the rest of the audience.

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    Replies
    1. I really love what you write here. It's a genre and style that immediately connected with me. The first line promises conflict right away, which the next paragraph delivers. The conflict continues throughout, with Kali as the complete underdog, which if course makes me root for her even more.

      The one thing I did want here was something to grab onto as I imagine Kali. I don't need a full-fledged description of her, but in the way that Nia's blue tunic helps me imagine her, what can I take from Kali? Maybe her blonde braid whips around as she ducks. Or it was easy to flatten her small frame into the sliver of shadows.

      There were a couple of places where you could tighten word choice. 'Thrown food' could be more evocative. Rotten fruit? Half-eaten apples? Also, "the scratching of the bookies'" feels a little clunky, maybe too passive. Maybe Bookies scratching their notes buzzed underneath the noise... And noise from the rest of the audience begs the question 'what kind of noise.'

      Minor stuff. You have a great read here!

      Delete
    2. So many pluses here. You start with a hook, right in the middle of the action. There's so much showing and it's not weighed down with unnecessary explaination of what things like the different currency are. You have plenty of time to get to that. Now's the time for the punch- hehe. Terrible fighting joke. I know.

      I like the "scratching of the bookies," personally. Everyone will be different here. It's not too wordy. I'm the sort of person who wants to hear, taste, and smell things in a book. It's something I picked up from my writing workshops. Thrown food is too vague. That's a great time to put one of those little sensory details into the story. It doesn't have to be a big ode to rotting plums. Think of it like smelling salts- quick but pungent and it gets the job done.

      Over all, I want to know more about this. I'm immediately drawn into this world. I feel like if you have 500 words (don't we wish), then you'd be able to give us everything we want and so much more. I have to give you kudos on one thing. You set the tone right away, which is really hard to do! I've noticed a lot of people struggling with that.

      Delete
    3. Great start! Dill said it perfectly...you really set the scene/tone/characters. We already know that Kali is the underdog by showing not telling. I love it and want to read more.

      Delete
    4. I love the action and some of the descriptive words you use! Awesome! I just want to know a bit more about these girls, even a word or two thrown in at different places will help me feel like I'm getting to know them while "watching" this duel.

      Delete
    5. Good job setting the scene. and defining your characters. Not an easy task in 250 words...

      Delete
  10. Here is my YA. Thanks!

    The stars stopped singing to Rasmi the day her best friend’s mother was killed.

    At first she thought they stayed silent out of respect, and she mourned their absence while she cried over Avie’s mom. For as long as she could remember, the stars had called to her. When she was younger it had been about the endless stories played across the night sky: Orion, carrying a spear in one hand and leashed hounds in the other, chased the Great Bear while Lupus the Betrayer watched with intent eyes. Later it became about the stars themselves. Luminous balls of plasma light years away shouldn't have personalities, or a sense of humor, but they did. The Hunter is a silly old farmer, the Canid Star crooned, and the Great Bear would move faster if she lost weight. The Little Bear giggled while the Vermillion Bird of Chinese myth lorded over his vaster repertoire.

    When days passed and the stars still kept their distance, Rasmi wondered if they had something different to tell her, a message subtler than what stories and song could convey.

    Today, now, as she stood standing on Avie’s porch with her back to the wake, Rasmi understood the stars stayed aloof because they stood in on judgment. Against her, against her Dream, against her decision to keep the Dream a secret. Tears pricked her eyes, and Rasmi clomped down the stairs so hard she wished the whole house would shake. But it didn’t, and her tears still fell.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like this, a lot. I want to see where it goes from here. I will admit, the story part avout the stars seems drawn out more than it should be. Maybe, the last two lines.. start with ... sense of humor, but they did. The Great Bear would move faster if she lost weight. Little Bear giggled while the Vermillion Bird lorded over his vast repertoire.

      That said, I do feel that you should drop of Chinese myth. If people don't know what it is, they will look it up, other wise it comes off as too US/Europe-centric. You don't say, Orion of Greek myth, so don't do it to the Chinese one. If the constellations are equal in your MC's mind, then present them with the same confidence that your readers know what who they are.

      Delete
    2. Thank you! MC is definitely very versed in the different myths so I think dropping the Chinese label makes a lot of sense.

      Delete
    3. More of this please!

      If your pitch doesn't attract the attention of mentors/agents, your 250 should.

      I agree with the point made by Kimberly--I think the list goes on for one line too much, but I understand why you wouldn't want to lose the mention of the chinese constellation.

      Also, in your final paragraph "stood standing" is redundant--get rid of one of them.

      Delete
    4. Love the first line!!! And I also like what follows in the second paragraph. My problem comes with the final paragraph. I think it might be stronger if you SHOWED how she knows the stars were angry at her and have us feel this 'emotionally' so to speak. Then you could bring in the dream, and what this dream is, if you have space… Hope this helps.

      Delete
    5. Vanitha, hey!
      Good job on this! Like the others, I loved the descriptions about the constellations. You really scored on personifying them! :D

      My only question is--and correct me if I'm wrong--but did you switch to present tense when you started describing The Hunter? You're writing in third-person past, right?

      I also think you can, in the first sentence, change "best friend" to "Avie." It'll come through in the rest of the piece/ms that Avie's her best friend, so perhaps you don't need it now, especially since you don't make much more mention of "Avie-as-a-best-friend" in this 250! :)
      That's my two cents~ :)

      Either way, this is awesome and I want to keep reading, so GOOD ON YOU. :D

      Delete
    6. Thank you all so much for your comments. I love hearing different bits of feedback! Btw, yes, I did switch to present tense, because that bit is thoughts in italics, which I couldn't figure out how to do here. Anyway, thank you all again!

      Delete
  11. Here's my first 250:

    River sprinted down the block, her heavy backpack beating a biology text sized hole in her back. "Hold the bus! Hold the bus!"



    The last person climbed up the stairs and made no move to ask the driver to wait so she picked up the pace. She'd moved Olympus and Hades to get here and she'd be damned if she'd let something as minuscule as a hybrid university bus give her father reason to drag her back to the Underworld.



    Her eyes narrowed as the bus doors swung closed. River stopped running and felt ice coil in her stomach. This was the last straw. She'd tried all month. A whole month, only to have humanity come up and slap her in the face at every turn. The cold burn spread up her spine and down her arms. “I said hold the bus.”



    As she raised her hand to do something about the betrayal, someone collided with her shoulder. Someone big. And not stopping to apologize.


    One thing he did do, however, was get the bus driver's attention with a completely ordinary “hey”.


    Just like that, the glass doors parted like the sea and the guy waved his thanks as he picked up the pace. River glared as she started walking again hoping the damn doors wouldn't shut right in her face.



    Daughter of Hades himself and she couldn't even get a sliver of the respect some dude in a tight t-shirt and slouchy beanie did. Humans.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This had me smiling as I read. I'm curious about River and her relationship with the Greek gods, and she seems fun and easy to relate to as a MC.

      I feel like "ice coil" is a bit of a mixed metaphor, as ice is usually rigid, not bendy (unless it's magic and ice actually is coiling in her stomach).

      The other thing I noticed was that "hey" is lowercase. It seemed like this was done intentionally to convey the normalcy of it, but I feel like it's still best to capitalize.

      Delete
    2. Hullo, Danielle!
      I'm already loving River. She's the best. And I definitely want to see father/daughter interactions between her and Hades. I'm sure they're HILARIOUS.

      Other than a few grammatical things (such as a few missing commas in the second para), my only advice to you on this 250 is, perhaps, vary up your sentence structure a bit? For about 80% of it, you have rather long sentences--which makes your short ones hold more of a punch, for sure--but in my opinion, it'd be better to see more a mix between short and long.
      But even if you didn't do any of that, this is awesome. :)

      Good job! I want to read more! <3

      Delete
    3. I like your voice..very sassy, and I love that the daughter of Hades is having to beg the bus to stop! Other than the few commas, very nice :)

      Delete
    4. River sounds like an awesome character. I also love how her magic seems to be an ice form where I think of her father as fire. I agree with Chelsea B. in that some of your sentences are a bit long--shortening them up a bit will prevent readers' eyes from skipping across the page.

      Other than that...I want to read more!

      Delete
    5. Thank you everyone! Some definite food for thought here.

      Delete
    6. Oh, I like this. I want to read more.

      Just wanted to echo Chelsea's comments and also add that the last paragraph tripped me up. I had to reread it a couple of times, and maybe it's just me, but something about the wording made me feel like there were words missing the first time I read it. Since you want to end a strong note, maybe play around with the wording. I like what you're saying but not how you're saying it, if that makes sense.

      Again, I'm just one person, and I might very well be the only person who will have trouble with basic reading comprehension while reading on your entry. :)

      But I like this. I keep thinking the Greek and Roman God genre is too crowded, then I read something like this and go "No, there's definitely space for more."

      Delete
    7. Thank you! Reworking things tonight.

      Delete
    8. NEWEST VERSION:


      River sprinted down the block, her heavy backpack beating a biology text sized hole in her back. “Hold the bus! Hold the bus!”

      The last person climbed on and made no move to ask the driver to wait. Like River didn't exist. Well, she did and she wanted on that freaking bus.

      She ran faster.

      She'd moved Olympus and Hades to get here and she'd be damned if she'd let something as minuscule as public transportation give her father reason to drag her back to the Underworld.

      Her eyes narrowed as the doors swung closed. River stopped as ice coiled in her stomach. This was the last straw. She'd tried all month. A whole month, only to have humanity come up and slap her in the face at every turn. She wanted to cry. Or break things. Hear someone scream. The cold burn spread up her spine and down her arms. “I said hold the bus.”

      She raised her hand, instinct guiding her, when someone collided with her shoulder. Someone big. And not stopping to apologize.

      One thing he did do was get the bus driver's attention with a completely ordinary “hey”.

      Just like that the glass doors parted like the sea and the guy waved his thanks as he picked up the pace. River glared as she started walking, hoping the damn doors wouldn't shut right in her face.


      Daughter of Hades himself and she couldn't get a sliver of the respect some dude in a tight t-shirt and slouchy beanie did. Humans.

      Delete
    9. You've already gotten great comments here, just wanted to high-five you back for the great mythology-based concept! I like River already and you'll be able to have a ton of fun with Hades and the underworld.

      Delete
  12. Here's my first 250!

    Flat on one’s back is a great way to see how blue the sky is, how white clouds are, and how tall trees must be. Summer enjoyed nature’s beauty as much as the next girl, but regaining dignity was more important right now than gazing at the great outdoors. Pushing up on skinned elbows, she scrunched her nose at the sneaky, broken concrete that had caused her untimely mishap.

    Real professional.

    She sat up and slapped her palms together to rid them of dirt, and she glared at the two inch heels she’d worn to increase not only her stature, but her sophistication level.

    Stupid idea.

    Eyeing her black satchel lying a few feet away in a patch of clover, she crouched forward to scoop her scattered belongings back inside. Thankfully, her case files had stayed tucked in place. When she spotted her tissue package and pack of spearmint gum in a stump of weeds off the gravelly path, she reached for them. She sighed, hoping her monkey-like stance on the ground appeared natural, or perhaps her backward splat on the driveway hadn’t been witnessed at all. No such luck.

    Movement against the house’s siding a few yards away caught her eye. Still hunched and clutching her things, she peeked through her jaw-length hair. Filthy black boots, one crossing the other, kicked up dirt inches away from her inhaler. Her flustered gaze trailed past the boots onto faded blue jeans, taut in all the right places, and a white tee stretched across a cut chest.

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    1. I like the first line, but the second doesn't continue the banter. I'd like to see how landing smack on her back was ruining her day specifically, e.g. "It is not how you keep your powder blue skirt mud-free on the way to the most important trial of you life."

      She also does a lot of visual things: eyeing, glaring, spotted then caught her eye. Most of these could be eliminated. Her black satchel lay a few feet away... Tissue pack hid in a patch of weeds... You don't need to tell us she saw these things. we are in her head, if she knows where they are then we assume she saw them.
      Since there isn't much happening on the first page, voice will be key to selling it. Good luck!

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    2. I love where this is going. But the short two word lines are, I admit, distracting from the flow of the longer lines. I feel like I'm reading something really involved and then get hit with a pretty casual line that draws me out. You show that she's having doubts very well, there's no reason to also tell it. That said, if that's the style you're going for, where a tiny voice pop up now and then that is sarcastic and critical, then carry on.

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    3. Those two short lines are internal dialogue, supposed to be in italics, but I'll take into consideration if they're really needed. Thanks!

      Also really good point about the visual things...

      Thanks for both of yall's thoughts!

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    5. Okay, I think the guts are all there. I would start with the quippy remarks. As in:

      Real professional (THE 'PROFESSIONAL' THING NEEDS TO PAY OFF), Summer thought to herself.

      Next, I see that you are great with the poetic words, but it doesn't seem to be the essence atm and might be better used later on once the reader is drawn in. I'd say next go into the tension:

      She pushed herself up and scowled at the uneven driveway and her black satchel lying a few feet away. Scooping up her scattered belongings and stuffing them back inside, she quietly thanked god (or her chosen deity) that her case files had stayed tucked in place.

      Question I have: Is she nervous? Why?

      Then...

      This was a stupid idea, she thought. I never should have taken this job.

      Her tissue package and pack of spearmint gum sat in a clump of weeds off the gravelled path. She sighed and picked them up, hoping her monkey-like stance on the ground appeared natural, (WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT TO LOOK NATURAL?) or perhaps she'd gotten luck and no one had seen her backward splat on the driveway. Maybe?

      Movement against the house’s siding a few yards away caught her eye. She had never been particularly lucky.

      (Does she straighten when she realizes she's seen?)

      Still hunched and clutching her things, she peeked through her discheveled hair.

      Filthy black boots, one crossing the other, kicked up dirt inches away from her inhaler (THAT HAD JUMPED OUT OF HER BAG). (REMOVE THE DETAILS OF HER LOOKING) Past the boots WERE A PAIR OF faded blue jeans, taut in all the right places, and a white tee stretched across a cut chest.

      SORRY THAT'S A MESS OF A CRIT. IT'S NOT EASY EDITING ON A BLOG, BUT I HOPE IT HELPS!

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    6. Ok, I seriously love starting a book with the main character flat on her back after tripping over cement.

      Unlike Joanna, I don't think you need to cut the first paragraph, but I would tweak it. I otherwise think she has some great feedback (and, hey, she might be onto something with cutting the first paragraph - I leave that for you to decide :) ).

      This might just be me, but the wording of the first paragraph bugs me. The use of "one's" in the first sentence struck me as oddly formal and created an unnecessary distance between the reader and the character. I felt like the writer was telling me this rather than Summer. To that end, the present tense before switching to past was also odd, and I think you have a few unnecessary verbs. Would something like "Flat on her back was a great way to see the blue of the sky, the white of the clouds, and the height of the trees" work? I'd also consider moving "right now" to immediately after the "but." I feel like that phrase is important but a little lost with where it is right now.

      Again, I love this opening, I just think you have something good when it could be great. Good luck!!!

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    7. Joanna and G.Rose, thank you both! I love your feedback!

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  13. Here's my first 250! Thanks to everyone for your critiques.

    It just doesn’t stand to reason why my very normal life would have to be interrupted by weirdness on the last day of school. Of course, reason isn’t pervading my thoughts at the moment. Only alarm.
    “Stop with this nonsense.” I admonish myself. “You can figure this out.”
    The cause of my distress is a ball of the spherical variety that, up until a few moments ago, I was using to practice a magic disappearing trick.
    Until the ball actually vanished.
    Footsteps crunch past me. “Have a good summer, Kate.” A guy—a rising senior, like me—heads toward his bus stop.
    I stop frisking myself for the ball long enough to nod politely to him. “Thanks. And if you need any help with summer homework, just let me know.”
    “Will do.” His bus pulls up and he takes off to catch it.
    Behind the row of buses, a silver pick-up tags along. Wait. Idina? What is she doing here? A cold, heavy weight descends on me, chilling the already chilly New Jersey day. Does she have news from the trial?
    The pick-up’s passenger window rolls down and a cheery voice sings out, “Hop in, Kate!”
    Something must have happened at court for Idina to pick me up. After all, I haven’t seen her in over a month. She must want to break the news to me before I get home, so we don’t upset Mom.

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    1. Hi Michele!

      I really like your voice and love the hints you drop in the first 250.

      One thing I'd point out is the formality of Kate's speech “Stop with this nonsense.” isn't something the average teen would say, let alone to herself.

      Also, what other kind of ball could it be? Unless you mention a ball of nerves before the actual ball, saying it's of the spherical variety is a bit redundant.

      That aside, I really like where you're going with this and I'd totally read on!

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    2. Thanks so much for your comments!

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    3. Michele, you've got some seriously weird stuff going on here, and I mean that as a compliment. There are several different oddities in the storyline, leading us forward. That's what you want.

      Couple things. The first sentence jars. "Stand to reason" isn't the phrase you want here. Something like "It WOULD have to be the last day of school that my perfectly normal life went Apollo 13" would flow better, I think. I'm with Danielle on the "admonish". Nobody admonishes any more. Crunching footsteps sounds like fall, not summer. What's the guy's name? Even if he's nobody in the text, he uses her name, she should use his, even if just in her head. Or maybe she's so flustered she can't remember it? (and unless the world is radically different than it was a couple years ago, rising seniors don't take the bus home from high school, unless they are uncool in an almost irredeemable way). Watch out for the pairing of the "chilly"s in the New Jersey day, which, again, doesn't go with the summer thing. Jersey is sweltering in June.

      But dang, the trial. And what the bleep with the ball? Fix the cosmetics, and you've got something here. The tone's good, the pace is good, it's going somewhere interesting.

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  14. hi fellow one l,
    first: I was trying to decide if the peculiar voice was intentional, or not. Her voice is overly formal with repeated use of reflexive pronouns and several instances where contractions could be used but were written as separate words, but it seems to dissipate completely in the last paragraph. make sure voice is consistent throughout.

    Second: The dialogue tag, "I admonish myself," can be deleted since we understand that she is talking to herself and the words are clearly an admonishment.

    Third: As Danielle said, you did a great job dropping crumbs of an interesting backstory without dumping backstory. Kudos! I also liked that standing on the street corner practicing magic is a totally normal thing for her to be doing.
    good luck!

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  15. Magnolia had long ago given up hope that her Ma would ever save her.

    “So you’re really leaving?” Magnolia asked.

    She gripped tight a pair of men’s trousers in one hand. In the other was a threaded sewing needle and a spare button. She held them more like horse reins than haberdashery.

    Magnolia and her Ma stood in the doorway of the homestead, a timber palace tucked between forests and rolling foothills. It was the home that they shared with Pa and a half dozen other men Magnolia called her uncles. This house, these people, her family, it was all she had ever known, all she had ever needed in her twelve small years of living.

    Inside the house, sprawled on a mattress in the middle of the room was a man, brawny and solid and strong. He grunted and scratched his bare chest. Though he wasn’t a blood relation, Magnolia called him Uncle Ed, and she had been promised to him for as long as she could remember. Something about the war and about owing him something great. It wasn’t meant to be a marriage, per se. That sort of thing didn’t seem to have much hold out in the frontier, but it was pretty close to it and that scared the hell out of Magnolia more than anything else ever had.

    Magnolia bit the inside of her cheek. The valley filled with the whisper of a howling wind, as if it were screaming but was too far away to be heard properly.

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    1. I'm not good at critiques but I really liked this opening. In each paragraph you give me a little bit of information about the main character without overwhelming me. I'm intrigued to find out why she lives with so many men and why she is promised to Uncle Ed. I think you did a good job.

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    2. Mood! Oh, have you nailed that. It FEELS. That's a hard thing to do. Me, myself, I like the slow burn, I like the something-off-but-I'm-not-telling-what kind of feeling, and you have that here. It leaps off the page.

      Stylistically, you have one or two places ("she gripped tight", "it was pretty close to it") where I had to reread to figure out what you were saying. It's a problem I have myself; I love twisted syntax and beautiful, surprising language. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes people out of the story. It did me. Be careful there.

      Beyond that, I'd be picking the tiniest of nits to say anything negative. You're on your way with this. It's good.

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    3. The only thing I can see is haberdashery. I have no idea what that is. But the rest of the piece has great flow/mood. Good work!

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    4. This isn't something I'd normally pick up when searching for something to read, but I want to read more! You hooked me and that's what the first page is supposed to do right? The only thing that confused me at all was the first line (felt like a tag line for a movie) As for the rest, loved it!

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    5. Great job setting the mood, not an easy job in 250 words. I would definitely read more.

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  16. Here is my first 250 of my urban fantasy.

    The city streets of Portland held my prey. The normal people. I laughed. They had no idea I was in their heads.

    My partner spoke in my ear through the com link. “Hunter, stop being such a girl and locate the mark.”

    Although the world moved around me, a stillness flowed through my mind letting it open up to the people that passed. The movement of their voices and the chaotic thoughts made it hard to distinguish one person from the next but I had learned to control it a long time ago. Learned to find what I was looking for.

    The mellow grays of the city streets set a dull surrounding, one that gave off a sad vibe. The warm yellows of the sun would never show itself here. Portland, what a joke. I wished we hadn’t taken this assignment.

    I hated big cities. There were too many people, too many voices rolling around in my head. My eyes closed, focused on the thoughts around me again. It was easier to concentrate if I didn’t have to battle with my sight.

    My mind tried to pull one person at a time from the crowd, scanning their inner monologue for the information I needed, but it was proving to be difficult. Come on, where were they.

    I wandered further even though the mass amount of voices in my head was getting to me. The all familiar ache was starting to seep into the spot between my eyes.

    Then I heard her.

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    1. So good! I think you should start with the paragraph "Although the world moved around me . . ." That is really where your story starts and tells SO much. It's really strong just the way it is. If the part about the partner is important I'd move it somewhere else.

      This is one I'd want to read and not just because I'm from Portland!

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    2. Love me some Portland! I see what you're saying about the beginning and I like the change. I could move the paragraph about the partner toward the end since I need that line to discern that the MC is a girl and her name is Hunter. That would certainly give me more words to add at the end.

      Thanks!

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    3. Made some changes and I love it even more!

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  17. Here's the first 250 from my Adult Historical Fantasy.

    Rasteem resisted sending the boy back to his tent as he watched another volley of fiery arrows whistle into the city, amplifying the chaos. Flaming missiles from their siege engines had already reduced sections of the city’s wall to rubble. Persian soldiers waited for his signal.

    He was ready to conquer this enigmatic kingdom. Eager to find and put an end to the Viper, he most wanted to keep Kamran safe. He wouldn’t allow his nephew’s death to fulfill the bizarre prophecy that had brought them to Dodrazeb. This must be a quick victory.

    “What’re we waiting for?” Kamran bounced on his toes.

    Rasteem glanced at the young soldier. “Light. We don’t know this city.” The eastern sky slowly brightened. “Stay close.”

    Rasteem raised his sword and roared an order. He sprinted through a smoking breach in the wall, Kamran at his heels. Persians poured inside on foot and on horseback. Rasteem veered left, leading a flanking maneuver. The cavalry pushed straight through.

    Slaughtered Dodrazebbian soldiers littered the streets. Rasteem yanked his blade from an enemy’s belly. When another came at him, he kicked away the man’s weapon and drove a sword through his heart.

    He looked over his shoulder for Kamran. The boy was nowhere in sight. Rasteem spun around. Cold dread washed over him, sucking the air from his lungs. Frantic, he ignored the metallic stink of blood and filtered out tortured cries. Searching, about to pass an alley, he heard a familiar voice shouting. He saw Kamran trapped, backed against a wall.

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    1. I really like your voice in this. The only thing I was confused on was the first line. I had to read it over a few times because I didn't know who the boys was yet and that was the only mention of him in the whole paragraph. Maybe give me a little more info about the boy in that first paragraph or move that line to the next paragraph where Rasteem talks about keep Kamran safe.
      I hope that makes sense and helps a little. Good opening, I can't wait to see it on the shelves so I can read more. :)

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    2. I agree about the first line. I think you can start with the second line and it will be stronger. Otherwise, it looks good!

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    3. Thanks for the feedback! I was hoping to be selected in #PitchSlam, but I won't be entering the final round. I've been chosen as a finalist in Nightmare on Query Street! Go #TeamMonsters! Good luck to everyone working on your entries for both contests.

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  18. Here's my 250 words for my adult thriller/eco-thriller Venom:

    Kylie shook the compass so hard, the arrow trembled. “Come on now!” She muttered under her breath. How had she allowed herself to become lost out here? She wiped a sweat pearl from her forehead and pressed on when-- “Oh!” Her foot sunk into something soft. She looked down, and to her horror, stared right at an animal carcass. Her muscles tensed. She walked in a rigid posture, and then stumbled across a dozen more disemboweled carcasses in the midst of the tall grasses and mangrove trees. A scream escaped her mouth, tearing through the silence of the late afternoon. Her face paled as a shadowy movement caught her eye. A man with a bloody knife carved into the womb of a dead reptile. She didn't know what kind it was, but this was clear--it was pregnant. She became careful of her footsteps, while she dried her tears. Her eyes widened as he fired the gun. The deafening blast echoed through the swamp, when she discovered another death from the poached and now skinned animals.
    Two minutes later, he pivoted and spotted her hovering near the trees. “What are you looking at?”
    “Nothing,” Kylie responded. In honesty, she didn't know what she saw.
    “What are you doing here?”
    “I'm just lost. I couldn't find the exit.”
    He laughed in his booming loud voice. “You're a long way from there.” His eyes narrowed at her. He rose in a slow motion, eyes set on her.

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    1. Great start! Yick - i immediately felt like I was stepping into a dead animal. I'm intrigued and terrified for what happens next your protag. My only (minor) criticism -- instead of reptile, can it be more specific? Alligator? Lizard? Etc? I immediately thought it was a gator, but who knows. :) Also, visually, for some reason, I thought it must be dark for her to step in dead animals without seeing them beforehand, but it is late afternoon -- so a little conflicted there for me. But still -- on the edge of my seat. :)

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    2. Holy imagery! This was some startling stuff to read! I was most certainly not expecting this right away. It is definitely memorable and eye catching. It makes me want to know WTH is going to happen next!

      I don't spend a lot of time reading thrillers so I'm definitely not super qualified to comment on the gore, but I think in my personal opinion, it may be slightly too far? Or just maybe too focused on that. I want to get more of a feel for what Kylie is feeling and how she got here. Instead I'm just shocked and disturbed by the poor dead animals!

      I don't get a good sense of where Kylie is in this case either. I know she's in the Everglades from reading your pitch, so I assume that's where, though it may be unclear if someone didn't read that first.

      I think this could be a very strong opening (visually and emotionally) if you focus a tid bit more on Kylie and how she's doing with all of this and less on the mangled animals. I'd love to see a revised version of this if you may changes!

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    3. Thanks Kat and Sheryl. I'll do some tweaking on this tomorrow and get it ready for Wednesday. Something to think about.

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  20. All righty. I'll be brave. Here are my first 250 from my women's fiction novel, "Stupid Girl." Have at it :) And thanks :)

    250 Words for my Women's Fiction novel, "Stupid Girl" :) Fire when ready ;-)


    So why am I never going to be somebody’s muse?

    I glared at the poorly-lit face staring back at me in the ladies room mirror. You know, someone like Helen of Troy who guys literally died for? Or like some Pre-Raphaelite babe who inspired poetry and paintings that schoolchildren all over the world are stuck reading a hundred-plus years later? Yeah. Going with that thought, I launch into one of my mini-reveries, where I, Barrie Isaacs, have guys panting, inspired to do great works, wishing they could find a woman like me in reality. I remain, all the while, completely unreachable on my own little pedestal. Barrie-olotry, you might call it, hee hee. (English major joke there.) Aahhh. Content smile.

    I start to pump a little of that cloying, almondy-smelling, work-bathroom soap on my hands and rub them together slowly, as if performing some demented Howard Hughes ritual. Shit, the closest I’ll get is being revered by a bunch of nerd boys. Yeah, I can see it now: I’ll be the patron saint of pathetic little geekers who probably date once every two years, when they come out of their darkened, Mountain Dew- and Snickers bar-fortified lairs. Of course, there’ll be nothing romantic or ethereal about their thoughts. They’ll think, ooh, now THERE’S the girl I wanna fuck. She develops content and can talk to you about Java. Two, two, TWO mints in one.

    And then I pinch myself and wake up.

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    1. This is maybe the most difficult piece to critique that I can remember. Your tone, the voice of the piece, is all there. Altering the sentence structure alters the voice, and I'm loath to fiddle with that.

      Still, a couple places are probably going to stop agents from biting. One, I had to reread the transition from the second sentence to the third and fourth; I didn't follow that it connected back to the FIRST sentence. You might move that second sentence to the back of the question marks, before the Yeah. Just a suggestion.

      "Content smile" makes me work as a reader, especially because you have "develops content" at the end of the next paragraph. Maybe a different word there. And I doubt they'll like your parenthetical at the end of the first paragraph, although I did.

      Otherwise, it's hard for me to offer suggestions. Once you start talking about Helen of Troy and pre-Raphaelite women, I find it difficult to concentrate.

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    2. I agree that the tone and voice of the piece are right there. You are so close!
      Personally, I'm not a fan of opening with a question and I don't think you really need it. I can see where you are going with the rest of the text. Be careful using too much narrative at the beginning. I want action.

      I'm not sure about the comparison with Helen of Troy or Pre-Raphaelite babe. This, of course, depends on the audience you want to attract but it seems like an old/outdated comparison.

      I love the soap description because that really brought me right into the work bathroom. Good job!



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    3. thanks, all. things to think about; work to do :)

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  21. Having missed out on BOTH of the Goblet lotteries, I'm wondering if I'm snakebit, or just suck so bad no one wants to have the responsibility of telling me.

    Here's the 250:

    When you jack in, it always feels like you’re falling, falling from so high you can’t see the ground, but then it comes rushing up at you like an asphalt wave and you know when you hit bottom it will crush you.
    I’ve done it a thousand times, and every time I feel like it will kill me.
    I’m dropping into a city, a glowing, always changing city of some data nexus of the Virt. I used to like Virt cities, until some things in them started trying to tear me apart. Or worse.
    IRL—In Real Life—my city is familiar, dirty, and smells like a sewer six hours a day. But nothing there has ever tried to kill me the way the Virt does every time I jack.
    For now my attention is focused on the onrushing pavement. My falling speed is far too high for me to survive contact with the ground. Now I’m at building-top, falling past what look like windows but aren’t. The glare from them is a blur. At the last second, when I’m sure I will be crushed on impact, I slow and my feet touch down softly, like gently stepping off a curb. I’m shaking. The nausea passes. The terror sweat cools.
    “We have good jack,” I say into the comm. It’s pinching, and I reach up to adjust it, a thin wire headset with a tiny flat mic on my chin.
    “Good jack confirmed,” Jolly says in my ear, good and loud.

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    1. OMG I DID A CRIT AND IT ALL JUST LIKE SONTANEOUSLY DISAPPEARED. LET'S TRY THIS AGAIN.

      FAB START! THE MC (MALE OR FEMALE, BTW?) IS FREAKING FALLING FROM THE SKY... WELL KINDA, BUT YEAH. I WOULD ALMOST TREAT IT IN THE BEGINNING JUST AS A SPONTANEOUS FALLING AND THEN HAVE MC STOP AND -BAM!- READER KNOWS THEY'RE NOT IN THE REAL WORLD.

      When you jack in (DON'T KNOW WHAT JACK IN MEANS), it always feels like you’re falling, falling from so high you can’t see the ground, but then it comes rushing up at you like an asphalt wave and you know when you hit bottom it will crush you.

      I’ve done it a thousand times, and every time I feel like it will kill me. (I LIKE THIS SENTENCE BETTER. THINK IT WOULD BE STRONGER TO START HERE)

      I’m dropping into a city, a glowing, always changing city of some data nexus of the Virt ('DATA NEXUS OF THE VIRT' MADE MY BRAIN GLAZE OVER, WHICH VERY WELL MAY BE PERSONAL, BUT THOUGHT I'D NOTE IT). I used to like Virt cities, until some things in them started trying to tear me apart. Or worse.

      IRL—In Real Life—my city is familiar, dirty, and smells like a sewer six hours a day. But nothing there has ever tried to kill me the way the Virt does every time I jack.

      THESE TWO LITTLE PARAS REALLY SLOW DOWN THINGS. I'M NOT A BIG FAN OF THEM. KEEP THE READER IN THE MOMENT OF THE FALLING AND THINGS STARTING. THIS STUFF CAN BE WOVEN IN MORE DISCRETELY.

      For now my attention is focused on the onrushing pavement. My falling speed is far too high for me to survive contact with the ground (THESE SENTENCES FEEL REPETITIOUS FROM EARLIER). Now I’m at building-top, falling past what look like windows but aren’t. The glare from them is a blur. At the last second, when I’m sure I will be crushed on impact, I slow and my feet touch down softly, like gently stepping off a curb. I’m shaking. The nausea passes. The terror sweat cools. (THE PACING IN THE SECOND HALF OF THIS PARA FEELS OFF.)

      “We have good jack,” (STILL NOT ENTIRELY SURE WHAT 'JACK' IS BUT THINK IT HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH A REAL PERSON CONNECTING TO A VIRTUAL WORLD) I say into the comm. It pinchES, and I reach up to adjust it, a thin wire headset with a tiny flat mic on my chin.

      “Good jack confirmed,” Jolly says in my ear, good and loud. (REMOVE 'GOOD' BC IT'S A REPETITION AND SHOW 'LOUD' BY MC TURNING THE VOLUME DOWN OR SOMETHING.)

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    2. Thank you, Joanna. That's exactly what I need.

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    3. Oooh...this is interesting! Just a couple of things:

      I got caught up figuring out what "jack" means. Don't let anything distract the reader!

      More of the falling - the sensation. I want to FEEL the wind in my hair as I read it!

      Everything Joanna said is spot on to how I felt while reading it. This has the makings of something very, very cool!

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    4. Both of you mentioned "jack" being confusing. I don't know what to do about that. It's absolutely critical to know that we're talking about a computer interface as close to the beginning as possible (though Joanna's idea about NOT telling the reader is intriguing; I'm definitely playing with that), but how do I explain it? It's a computer word, as common as "ansible" is in sci-fi. It never occurred to me that everyone wouldn't know it. But as my father would say, never argue with the people. I'll have to come up with something.

      Of course the title of the book is THE VORTIGERN JACK, so that's problematic, too.

      Your own blind spots are the biggest, neh?

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    5. First of all. YES. I LOVE THESE KINDS OF BOOKS/MOVIES/TV SHOWS. From on the SAO and Eye of Minds. Great idea for a book. Seriously, love it. And this opening really did it justice. I can see this book going really well. (Please note I didn't read the comments above, so I may be reiterating commentary. Sorry in advance.)

      "When you jack in, it always feels like you’re falling, falling from so high you can’t see the ground, but then it comes rushing up at you like an asphalt wave and you know when you hit bottom it will crush you."

      Fabulous opening! Though the sentence seems a bit long to me, even though it draws me in completely. From what I've read, you should be able to say it all aloud in one breath. Or at least that's what to go on with sentence length. I would try this:

      "When you jack in, it always feels like you’re falling, falling from so high you can’t see the ground. But then it comes rushing up at you like an asphalt wave and you know when you hit bottom it will crush you."

      Rereading again I think this sounds a bit better. Just that little break really gives you more impact.

      "...changing city of some data nexus of the Virt." I'd use "in" instead of "of".

      "I used to like Virt cities," Since this is the second time you're using Virt so close together, I would change this to Virtual cities. It would also help for those who aren't gamers and don't get what you mean by "Virt".

      "...until some things in them started trying to tear me apart."

      To give this sentence more impact I'd take out a few words and rewrite it as: "...until things started trying to tear me apart."

      "...Virt does every time I jack." I'd add "in" to the end of this, so it reads "every time I jack in."

      "IRL—In Real Life—my city is familiar, dirty, and smells like a sewer six hours a day. But nothing there has ever tried to kill me the way the Virt does every time I jack."

      Having this part written where it is disconnects from the rest of the opening. The sentences sound great, but this is info we can learn later. You should keep us in the now, in the Virt.

      I'd write this "Now I’m at building-top..." as either "Now I'm at building-top height" or "Now I'm level with the building-tops".

      "I’m shaking. The nausea passes. The terror sweat cools." Love this. Perfectly sums it up in a catchy way.

      Overall love this! I'd read more!

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  23. I wasn't chosen in the lottery either. My genre is Adult Thriller. Thanks everyone! I want to make sure it shines.

    Police cars lined the rain-soaked street and showed no signs of leaving, forcing me to park several blocks away. By the time I made it through the news vans and security, water found its way into my collar and cold drops snaked down my spine. The officer posted at the front door handed me a log book and I quickly scribbled my name while Susan with victim's assistance waited just inside the tiny yellow cottage.

    My heels clicked on the hardwood floor as she led me down the hall, past the kitchen where a makeshift command center had been set up. Men gathered around a pile of stale sandwiches, two of them glancing my way as we passed. With no more than a cursory nod in my direction, they resumed their conversation.

    I followed Susan to the sunroom where my patient waited. Outside the door, I paused to gather my dripping hair into a sloppy bun and stood as tall as my five-foot-three-inch frame would allow. After I took a deep breath and braced myself for what I was about to face, I opened the door.

    Sigourney Larson paced in front of me with fists clenched so tight her knuckles were white. Her dark curls were like a mass of electricity as if a conduit for the storm gathering outside. Her agitation hung in the air like a cloud and I waded through it towards her. She met my gaze and her eyes danced as her voice rose.

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    1. Can I go backward? Because it was hard to really focus on this one. Because I was a READER, not doing a crit. :D

      This sentence: "Her dark curls were like a mass of electricity as if a conduit for the storm gathering outside." Were they a literal mass of electricity? How did the character know? Show what you mean by being a mass of electricity.

      "...and showed no signs of leaving..." ? Not sure this is necessary.

      "Men gathered around a pile of stale sandwiches, two of them glancing my way as we passed." What kind of men? Officers? Morgue techs? Friends?

      A bit of tightening, and this is stellar!



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    2. Thanks Mary! Easy fixes . . . I'm on it!

      Delete

    3. Police cars lined the rain-soaked street, WHICH MEANT I HAD TO park several blocks away. (WOULD SOMETHING LIKE HER SHOES GETTING WET BOTHER HER?) By the time I made it through the HERD OF news vans and security, I WAS SHIVERING AS water (IS IT STILL RAINING? FOR ME, I THOUGHT IT HAD STOPPED AND WAS JUST RISIDUALLY WET.) found its way into my collar and cold drops snaked down my spine. The officer posted at the front door handed me a log book and I quickly scribbled my name [while Susan with victim's assistance waited just inside the tiny yellow cottage.] OKAY I'M A LITTLE CONFUSED. 1) 'SUSAN WITH VICTIM'S ASSISTANCE' READ ODDLY TO ME AND I STILL DON'T QUITE UNDERSTAND IT AFTER RE-READING. 2) TINY YELLOW COTTAGE CONJURES UP A VERY DIFFERENT IMAGE TO WHAT I WAS THINKING AT THE BEGINNING OF THE PARAGRAPH. IS THIS RURAL? HOW IS SHE WALKING BLOCKS TO GET THERE. BLOCKS MAKES ME THINK CITY, BUT THIS IS A COTTAGE. DO YOU SEE THE DISCONNECT?

      My heels clicked on the hardwood floor as she (I'M ASSUMING THIS IS SUSAN--CAN WE SEE HER? OR IS SHE UNIMPORTANT.) led me down the hall, past the kitchen where a makeshift command center had been set up. Men gathered around a pile of stale sandwiches (BROUGHT IN FROM XXX--WHAT DOES MC THINK ABOUT THIS SORT OF THING? EATING IN A VICTIM'S HOUSE?), two of them glancing my way as we passed. With no more than a cursory nod in my direction, they resumed their conversation. (I LIKE THAT LAST SENTENCE.)

      I followed Susan to the sunroom (IN THE BACK OF THE HOUSE? OVERLOOKING THE GARDEN?) where my patient (WAIT WHAT? PATIENT? SO SHE'S A DOCTOR...) waited. Outside the door, I paused to gather my dripping hair into a sloppy bun and stood as tall as my five-foot-three-inch frame would allow (NOT SURE ABOUT HER SPECIFIC HEIGHT DETAILS HERE). After I took a deep breath and braced myself for what I was about to face, I opened the door.

      Sigourney Larson paced in front of me with fists clenched so tight her knuckles were white. Her dark curls were like a mass of electricity as if a conduit for the storm gathering outside (MAKES IT WOUND LIKE THE STORM HAS NOT YET HAPPENED, WHICH CLEARLY IT HAS). Her agitation hung in the air like a cloud (THIS IS TWO SIMILIES TOO CLOSE TOGETHER, IMO) and I waded through it (HER AGITATION?) towards her. She met my gaze and her eyes danced as her voice rose. (IMO, I WOULD JUST LET HER SPEAK.)

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    4. Actually, I'd dump the first sentence altogether. You don't need it, and although I'm a huge fan of cold rain snaking down my back, I don't want to wait until the second sentence for it. The mood is there, you write a beautiful sentence, but for a thriller your pacing is critical, and this is a bit slow in places.

      Ditto the last sentence of the second paragraph. Do we need it? Or does it help establish something important with the police-victim's assistance dynamic?

      Last sentence of the third paragraph is mostly a prepositional phrase. It's stronger as "I took a deep breath, laid on my counselor face like armor, and opened the door" or something like that.

      And the last sentence, too. You want her talking already, not getting us ready for it.

      But if you're thinking these are minor quibbles, that's because they are. You have guts and bones here. All you need are accessories, and those are cheap.

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    5. You guys are awesome! Made some changes and was able to fit my first line of text in and end with a great hook. Thanks for the feedback.

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    6. This was a great start for your thriller. The V and A in Victim's Assistance should be capitalized. I agree with the others, too.

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    7. So I had a really long reply that Google decided to eat (bad Google). As I think this is an already good first 250 words that's super close to being fantastic, I'm going to try and recreate the previous entry.

      You have some great feedback, and I agree with most of it, I just wanted to add my two cents on a few things:

      * I like the first sentence. As someone who reads mysteries and thrillers and watches the occasional procedural, that first line immediately set the stage for me. You used a common scene to help instantly drop readers into your world and in under 10 words. That's impressive. My one quibble would be the "showed no signs of leaving" - it had me wondering what signs of leaving would be, and it's not necessary. I think you could go with a bigger verb and lose some words with something like: "Police cars crowded the rain-soaked street, forcing me to park several blocks away."

      * Given how the sentence is written, it seems like it should be "water had found."

      *I want a little more out of the paragraph with the command center - not a lot, just a little more specificity. As someone said above, who are these men? Identifying them would give us insight into your character and her place in this world. To that end, I want just a little more interaction between the two groups. Not a lot, just something to help readers learn this world: Does she recognize any of the men? Like I said, not a lot - this just seems like a good chance to add a little more depth to the setting.

      * The final paragraph is good but it has all the pieces to be great. The dark curls sentence is using two descriptions (electricity / gathering storm) when one would suffice. For that matter, could the more active "gathering storm" work instead of the more passive "cloud"? And I love the sense that the air is heavy with emotion, but I feel like you need one more sentence to get that moment and really sell it.

      Mostly, though, this entry has the most important thing for me when I read thrillers: A sense of urgency from the start. I read thrillers for the adrenaline rush of being unable to put the book down, and these 250 words have that.

      I'm going to cut and paste CJ's advice because it's so perfect it bears repeating: "You have guts and bones here. All you need are accessories, and those are cheap."

      Good luck!!

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    8. Did I tell you all how great you are? Very good stuff. If nothing else, having the opportunity to get feedback from other writers is priceless. I already feel like a winner!

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  24. Hey all! Here's my 250. Let me know your thoughts. You guys...wow. Awesome!

    “Why’d I let her talk me into this?”

    Few lonesome leaves still clung to the oaks surrounding Fuller Field, where the Homecoming bonfire burned. At the far end of the lot, as far as I could get without actually leaving, I sat on a patch of dead grass with my knees drawn to my chest. I held the top of my jacket shut as the wind whipped my hair into my numb face. The scent of dirt and pine tickled my runny nose until I sneezed. I rubbed my face with my sleeve and sighed.

    A moment later, a single raindrop splattered onto my glasses.

    “Great.”

    My hands shook as I wiped the lens on my jeans. Thunder crashed; a great rumble that shook the ground and made me cringe. I held myself tighter and peered through the darkness to see if I could pick April out of the crowd of cheering students. A soft couch, fluffy blanket, and a cup of Granny’s homemade hot cocoa waited for me at home. I could be safe in a warm house, yet there I froze on the damp ground, in the dark, with a storm on its way, waiting for my best friend.

    “Where is she?” I muttered, and shoved my glasses into place with the tip of my forefinger.

    The fire looked much clearer now.

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    1. I really love what you have going on here! I think it would be super strong if you just cut the first paragraph altogether and started with the raindrop splattering onto the glasses. You have enough description in the next paragraph to set the mood of the weather that I don't need the rest. Otherwise, it's great! I'm curious what the next paragraph will be!

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    2. Scene is nailed. I got a chill reading this; we all know what that Octobery feeling is, and you bring it right out.

      Possibly, you could cut some of the description. You do repeat a little from the first to the second block, but there's information there we probably need, like Fuller Field, and the bonfire. It's tricky. Play with it some.

      I don't think you need the quotation marks either of the first two times. Those are internal dialogue moments; do those with italics, or don't even bother. We know what those lines are. You don't want readers trying to figure out if someone is actually speaking aloud there, and to whom.

      And you know what? I have NOTHING else to suggest. That's essentially impossible, but it's true. You've got the mood and the scene. Drive the bus.

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    3. “Why’d I let her talk me into this?” (DOES MC SUSPECT IT'S GOING TO RAIN?)

      (FROM HERE--)Few lonesome leaves still clung to the oaks surrounding Fuller Field, where the Homecoming bonfire burned. At the far end of the lot, as far as I could get without actually leaving, (--TO HERE I'D ALMOST GET RID OF) I sat on a patch of dead grass, my knees drawn to my chest ***STARING AT XYZ. I held the top of my jacket shut as the wind whipped my hair OVER my numb CHEEKS. The scent of dirt and pine tickled my runny nose until I sneezed (LOVE THIS). I rubbed my face with my sleeve and sighed.

      A moment later, a single raindrop splattered onto my glasses.

      “Great.”

      My hands shook as I wiped the lens on my jeans. Thunder crashed; a great rumble that shook the ground and made me cringe. I held myself tighter (I LIKE THIS TOO) and peered through the darkness to see if I could pick April out of the crowd of cheering students. (OKAY, I WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THE CROWD EARLIER AT ***) I WANTED TO GO HOME WHERE A soft couch, fluffy blanket, and a cup of Granny’s homemade hot cocoa waited for me at home. I could be safe in a warm house. BUT NO, there I froze on the damp ground, in the dark, with a storm on its way, waiting for my best friend WHO XYZ (GIVE SOME VOICE AND CHARACTER INSIGHT QUICKLY HERE).

      “Where is she?” I muttered, and shoved my glasses into place with the tip of my forefinger.

      The fire looked much clearer now.

      Delete
  25. Hi all, here's my first 250 from my YA Contemporary Fantasy, Project Siren. There are a couple lines toward the end when she remembers her sister's instructions that are supposed to be italicized, but I couldn't do that here. Thanks for taking a look, and I'll be back to comment on others once I finish up my commute :)

    The man in front of me was about to fall off a cliff, and it was my job to stop him.

    My sisters made it look easy. I'd seen Ianthe freeze a college boy in mid-step with a quirk of her eyebrow, keeping him safe on a curb instead of flattened under a bus. Phaedra wasn't as good yet, but she had that gorgeous voice.

    Me? My target still hadn't noticed me, and I was five feet away. "Hey!" I called. Nothing musical about MY tone. Things would be a lot simpler if I could tell him he was seconds from a thirty-foot plunge. But that level of interference wasn't allowed.

    He ignored me and walked backwards, artfully mussing his hair while taking a selfie on the dramatic cliffside beach. Vanity plus flagrant disregard for warning signs could be a deadly combination.

    “Excuse me,” I said with a desperate, decidedly un-seductive edge to my voice.

    His eyeroll in my direction changed to a surprised smile. I was good at that part, but couldn’t take any credit. My face did all the work. “Well, hello.”

    "Hi." Then I stopped, cheeks burning as I tried to recall the formula Ianthe had coached me on before we'd left Olympus Academy. If you want someone to walk toward you ... what? Back up? Stand still? Interpretive dance?

    He waited a beat, then moved back another step while squinting into his phone. "Good talk."

    And never break eye contact. Argh. Too late.

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    1. I'm struggling to find something to criticize. It reads just like forty books already on my shelves. Maybe dialogue tags--you say "my face did all the work", but then HE'S speaking in the next sentence. That took me a second. I'd tag all of the last three bits of dialogue in this. The last sentence, perhaps, "No matter what, never break eye contact," but that might be overkill.

      I'd love to be helpful. How do I say, "you're already good enough that I can't help you"?

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    2. I agree with Cj. I honestly think this is a shoo-in to be chosen for the agent round. :)

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    3. High five to another Greek myth writer. I adore your voice here and the humor was super fun. Like CJ said, I'd give "Hello there." It's own paragraph to make the distinction that it's the guy talking, and that's about it. Wonderful job!

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    4. I like this a lot! I would maybe consider using a more descriptive word instead of "changed to a surprised smile", maybe "shifted to a surprised smile" also maybe instead of "squinting into his phone", "squinting towards/at his phone". Everything else looks really good!

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    5. WONDERFUL START! JUST A FEW LITTLE THINGS:

      The man in front of me was about to fall off a cliff (OKAY, BC THERE'S NO CONTEXT YET, I ENVISIONED HIM FACING THE CLIFF, KNOWING IT WAS THERE, JUST FYI), and it was my job to stop him.

      My sisters made it look easy. I'd seen Ianthe freeze a college boy in mid-step with a quirk of her eyebrow, keeping him safe on a curb instead of flattened under a bus. Phaedra wasn't as good, NOT yet, but she had that gorgeous voice.

      Me? My target still hadn't noticed me, and I was ONLY five feet away. COULD HAVE REACHED OUT AND GRABBED HIM AND SAID XYZ (SOME VOICE HERE MAYBE?) "Hey!" I called. Nothing musical about MY tone. Things would be a lot simpler if I could tell him he was seconds from a thirty-foot plunge. But that level of interference wasn't allowed.

      He ignored me and walked backwards, artfully mussing his hair while taking a selfie on the dramatic cliffside beach. Vanity plus flagrant disregard for warning signs WERE a deadly combination. (IS IT JUST THE TWO OF THEM THERE ON THE CLIFF?)

      “Excuse me,” I said with a desperate, decidedly un-seductive edge to my voice.

      His eyeroll in my direction changed to a surprised smile. I was good at that part, but couldn’t take any credit FOR IT. My face (GENETICS?) did all the work. “Well, hello.”

      "Hi," I SAID, cheeks burning as I tried to recall the formula Ianthe had coached me on before we'd left Olympus Academy. If you want someone to walk toward you ... what? Back up? Stand still? Interpretive dance?

      He waited a beat, then moved back another step while squinting into his phone. "Good talk."

      WHAT DOES SHE MAKE OF HIS VANITY? And never break eye contact. (CAN SHE LOOK AWAY AT SOMETHING ELSE AND THEN BE LIKE 'SHIT! NEVER BREAK EYE CONTACT!?) Argh. Too late.

      SEE? TINY THINGS.

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    6. Thank you all so much for the input! Just found out I was picked for NoQS, so sadly I am out of Pitch Slam. But I will be back to comment on other entries because you all are awesome.

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    7. Well, I'm definitely going to start following you because when this is published, it's getting downloaded on my Kindle. Congrats on #NoQS. Personally, I wouldn't go messing with it too much. I love it the way it is.

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    8. I don't have much to say. It's pretty solid. The one thing could just be a personal preference, but I don't care for that 'Aargh.'

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  26. Here are my first 250 for my YA sci-fi. Thanks in advance for any feedback!

    Today is the last day of my sophomore year. It’s 1:40 PM, and fifth period ends in five minutes. I’m facing an open locker. Inside, it’s empty besides a crinkled plastic bag and a copy of the Scottsbluff High yearbook. I guess I should feel nostalgic. Instead, I’m eager. It’s my favorite part of the school year. The last part.


    I take a small mirror out of the bag and tape it to the metal door, careful not to catch my own reflection. I angle it so the hallway is reflected behind me, then withdraw a thick black marker from my backpack. I crack open the yearbook to the last page I have not filled in. I shouldn’t have put it off like this, but I couldn’t risk losing sleep during finals week if the numbers stuck around.


    1:44. One minute. I uncap the sharpie and check the angle of the mirror again. Perfect. This isn’t my locker. It’s just the locker closest to the biology lab, which is Kelsey Hopkins’ fifth period.


    The bell rings, and I watch the mirror until I see Kelsey’s orange hair. She’s talking to Allison Hertz, and then, finally, she looks up—


    six.



    The number sounds out loudly in my head, a distortion of my own voice, as though recorded and played back through a digital filter. It’s always my voice, sometimes screaming, sometimes whispering, always a decibel away from being comfortably unrecognizable.


    I look down at the yearbook and draw a large six over her smiling face.

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    1. The first paragraph you are telling the story instead of showing me the story. Once you get to the second paragraph you are in the groove and everything flows from there on.

      I like the description of the voice sounding in her head. That is what makes me curious to read more. Maybe you could start with that? Six. The number sounds loudly in my head . . . That makes for an interesting beginning. Set the stage after.

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    2. I loved this. I seriously wanted to keep on reading. Great job on the tension. I'll say that I didn't pick up on the fact that it wasn't her locker until the second read through. Since it seems like such an important point, I would consider splitting that sentence and the one after into its own paragraph. I agree that having the description come after an inner thought from her would help ground the reader better.

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    3. Thanks so much for your feedback!

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  28. Here are my 1st 250 words from my adult historical fiction, To Thee I Sing. It opens in Hawaii the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor when all is still right with the world.

    Hawaii at Christmas time, who would’ve thought? A cool ocean breeze washed over Elizabeth Wellman as she dug her feet into the sand and leaned her head back to catch the early morning rays of the sun.

    “I said I’d take care of it, and I will.”

    Elizabeth started as her sister’s raised voice carried through the open doors from inside the large bungalow.

    Oh no, they’re at it again. Elizabeth rose, brushed the sand off her skirt and climbed the few wide steps.

    Her sister, Katherine, huffed out onto the porch, her arms crossed. “Why does she insist I have to go to college? Because she marched in a few parades and carried a sign? Big deal.”

    “Women getting the vote was a big deal. You don’t know the whole--” Elizabeth stopped. “Mother just wants us to have the opportunities she didn’t.”

    Her sister paced back and forth. “If that was the case, she’d help me find an apartment in Hollywood while I establish my career.” Katherine stopped and narrowed her gaze on Elizabeth. “Besides, that’s easy for you to say. You always do what she wants.”

    “Career?” Bernice Wellman joined her daughters on the porch. “Singing a few monotone notes into a microphone does not a career make. And don’t belittle your sister for the good choices she’s made.”

    “I’m not, but I don’t want to be like her. All she cares about are books. It’s not normal. Look at her. She has nice dresses; I’ve seen them in her closet.”

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    1. I think you should cut that first sentence. It's a telling sentence where it is, where as the following eases the reader into the scene. I also think you need a lot more descriptio to paint the picture. What does the beach look like? The sun rise? Her sisters words need to jar the reader out of the peaceful beauty, then you should include some details on the bungalow and her sister's appearance and actions while she speaks.
      Hope that helps!

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    2. I agree with Katie, you should make the reader feel the setting rather than telling it. Nothing too lengthy, but I want to be able to more vividly picture what you're describing. Also, at first, the action's a bit unclear. I can't tell if Elizabeth is sitting or standing or lounging, etc. Also, maybe show Elizabeth's irritation at her mother and sister's fighting beyond the "Oh no, they're at it again." Your characterization and dialogue are strong, you could just benefit from a little more detail and clarification in the first few sentences. Good luck!

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    3. You have some good dialogue here and the premise is interesting. I agree with Selandra that showing Elizabeth's reaction to the scene would be useful to draw us into a closer connection with her as the main character. I think it might also be good if we can have a glimpse of her inner thoughts on how the fight relates to her. Good luck!

      Delete
  29. Here's my NA HistRom. Thanks to everyone in advance!

    The steam engine pulls to a halt at the quiet Georgia town, the brakes squealing under the weight of the locomotive and carriages. Outside the window, steam swirls around the platform as I stumble to stand. Going home for the summer isn't really going home when my father up and moved after my mother's death. Straightening my traveling coat over my dress, I am suddenly surrounded by young men rushing to help me with my bags.
    "Thank you," I say softly, as a young lady of my background should. If I learned nothing else at boarding school, I had at least learned how to be gracious.
    Following three young men out of the carriage, I step down from the vestibule. A hand flies out and catches mine to help me. With a quick glance, I smile at the kindly round face of my father.
    "My sweet Ginny." He opens his arms for me.
    I fall into them, resting my head on his chest. "I missed you, Pa. How are you holding up?"
    "Oh, it's been difficult without your mother." He gives me a firm squeeze, then slips my arm through his. "I'm glad you're here with me now. Settling into a parish is always hard."
    "Especially when you were at the last one for ten years." We stroll along the platform toward the gates, the men carrying my bags hurrying along in front of us.
    "The white automobile!" Father calls.

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    1. This is an interesting concept (I don't know a lot about the genre, but I can't easily recall any NA historical romance, and this intrigues me), but I would love to see a more voice.

      The first line tripped me up, and it took me a second reading to figure out why: "Pulls to a halt" creates two different images. Pulling indicates starting an action while halting indicates the end of an action. Could you try "slows to a halt" instead? Or even "pulls into he station of the small Georgia town." I'd also think about switching around the order of "quiet Georgia town" and "the breaks squealing." Something like: "The steam engine slows to a halt. The brakes squeal under the weight of the locomotive and carriages, and cut through the quiet of the small Georgia town."

      You don't want to get too detail heavy, but I do think this opening could use with a bit more padding. What does she do when she stands? Does she smooth out her dress? Adjust her hat? Those kind of small details can help establish the place and give some insight into her character.

      You have all the pieces here, which is really the hardest part. Now just expand on a few of the details so you can drop readers straight into this intriguing world you've built.

      Good luck!!

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    2. Scanning the options to read and comment, you had me at quiet Georgia town.

      Ok, being from the South, the MC must not be if she had to learn the politeness from a finishing school. We are pummeled with it down here growing up. I agree with the above comments about the rewording the train pulling into the station, also though it's miniscule, the engine and its carriages. I think you've built interest into the what the MC might be in for and having married into a family where my father in law was a priest, I know Southern Churches have all kinds of drama going on. I'm sucked in.

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  30. I'm ready to dig into critiquing. I'm going to post my 250 below and settle in to read some of your words. I'd appreciate any feedback to get ready for the third round!

    My 250 words:

    Tim Dreadmore sat at the oak dining table with a crisp napkin on his lap and a bowl of piranha porridge in front of him. All around, his father’s lair bustled in the early morning hours. Henchmen wandered in and out of the stone hallway. They hurried past framed portraits of Tim’s villainous ancestors and brass sconces that flickered in the underground tunnels. Several carried file folders or cactus plants. One very scared-looking henchman carried a badger with a laser beam attached to its head.

    Just another average day in The Night Terror’s Lair.

    If only I was average, thought Tim.

    He looked warily at the bowl of grey sludge. It rattled as the fish tails sloshed against the side of the bowl. He had never had much luck with piranha porridge. Piranhas are inordinately fond of molars. Just one more tick mark on a long list of things he couldn’t do right. But Tim had other things to worry about this morning. His father, the Night Terror, the most feared villain in Metropollen City, wanted to have, “a talk” with him. The possibilities made Tim’s stomach ache.

    A sweaty henchman had delivered the summons. This didn’t necessarily mean anything. A lot of his father’s henchman seemed to sweat and stutter. Still, it made Tim even less hungry.

    He looked at his father’s empty chair across the table. The massive chandelier on the ceiling threw a dark shadow on the brocade seat.

    What could he possibly have done to merit his father's undivided attention?

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    1. Jess, out of interest, what's the genre and age for this?

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    2. I really love the tone you've established here! I assume this is middle grade? The voice fits really well in that age category and the sense of humor is witty and spot-on in my opinion. I couldn't find much to critique. In the sentence "He had never had much luck with piranha porridge." maybe delete the first had or change it to "He'd never had". Also maybe clarify what you're referring to as "one more tick mark on a long list..." If it's eating, then say so. Really entertaining first 250, good luck!

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    3. Sorry, I forgot that part in the intro. This is a Middle Grade Fantasy.

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    4. Well, I think this is utterly charming. I laughed out loud at the badger with the head lamp. You do a terrific job balancing your world building and your action, giving the reader a glimpse into Tim's life without exposition overload.

      Like Selandra I can't find much to critique, although I agree with her that "He'd never had" would work better, and it's wasn't fully clear to me what the "tick mark" was about - I guessed the piranhas chomp Tim's molars when he tries to eat them, but I wasn't 100% sure. But overall, this is super strong!

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    5. I like this. I like the voice, I like the details, I love the last question (and I'm not normally a question kind of person in narratives), but it still feels a bit rough. I can't put my finger on any single thing, it just feels like it needs a little bit more polish. I wish I could clearly say "x,y, and z don't work for me and here's why" because I love the potential here. I love this fantastic, weird setting juxtaposed against a relatively ordinary problem of childhood.

      But I like these 250 words and I want them to be awesome, so here's my attempt to try and help more specifically:

      * Why not just do "cacti" instead of cactus plants?

      * Does Tom want to be average or normal? And since he doesn't think he is, why not "I wish I were average"?

      * No comma between have and "the talk."

      * Why is the one henchman "very scared"? Great opportunity show instead of tell - or does that henchman always look a bit freaked out?

      For what it's worth, this reminds me of the first book in The Tale Dark and Grimm series, and I mean that in the best way possible. That book was weird and hilarious and matched to its own beat, and this has that same sort of feel to it.
      Good luck!!

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    6. Thanks so much for the critiques! It's very useful to have someone hone in on problems I haven't noticed, especially when we only have 250 words to show.

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    7. Okay, this sounds pretty awesome. I love the concept. My comments pretty much agree with the ones above. Also, I think italicizing the thoughts could be useful.

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  32. My feedback seemed to focus on it not being interesting till the last line, emotional disconnect, lack of stakes, and feels generic. I have no idea where to start with revising.

    A guy behind me laughs. “I bet Zoe’d spread her legs for me.”

    My cheeks burn with embarrassment. I grip my dress, wishing for the nerve to confront them.

    I turn around in time to catch his buddy nudge his side. The trees blotting out the moon’s light cast eerie shadows across their faces. “Just say something smart.” He takes a drink from his cup. “Dumb chicks love that.”

    What chicks don't like are guys who speak like Neanderthals.

    The crisp night air mixes with the sizzling burgers, hotdogs, and chicken cooking on the grill, but my stomach is tangled in knots, making me queasy instead of hungry. Music pulses from the speakers by the lake house’s door. I shuffle away.

    Why did I let my friends talk me into going to this party?

    “It’ll be fine, Zo,” my best friend Jenny says, coming up behind me. She places her hand on my back, and leads me away from them. Warmth fills me, and it’s times like these I remember why I put up with her yearning for popularity. “Don’t listen to those idiots. They’ll believe whatever they want to.” As she runs her fingers through her curled black hair, the golden bracelets jingle along her arm. She scans the crowd with interest. “There are plenty of other guys here to take your mind off things.” Of course, we’re back onto that now.

    “I just want a nice boy,” I confess. Or girl, but I doubt she’d like to hear that.

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    1. Heya!
      If you're still struggling for some ideas, here are a few--but know that I definitely liked what I got of the story and the setting/scenery! :)
      Now, this is most definitely not what you want to hear but... maybe your should START the story where everyone has said it starts to get interested? I know it's hard to kill your darlings but--try it and see if it flows better? Here's sort of an idea:

      ----------------------------------------------------------

      Why did I let my friends talk me into going to this party?

      “It’ll be fine, Zo,” my best friend Jenny says, coming up behind me. She places her hand on my back, and leads me away from them. Warmth fills me, and it’s times like these I remember why I put up with her yearning for popularity. “I know most of the people here must seem like Neanderthals to you--they’ll believe whatever they want to.” As she runs her fingers through her curled black hair, the golden bracelets jingle along her arm. She scans the crowd with interest. “But, there are plenty of other guys here to take your mind off things.” Of course, we’re back onto that now.

      “I just want a nice boy,” I confess. Or girl, but I doubt she’d like to hear that.

      ----------------------------------------------------------

      And then you could continue the story from there? That sort of puts us immediately into the character's story which might help with the emotional disconnect? It also gives you more space to add in stakes!

      Delete
  33. Hi Ashlyn. I can see why reviewers like your last line - it's great! Your first one didn't sit as well for me; that's such prime book real estate, it seems a shame to give it to a stock character. Same for the boys' conversation overall - Zoe's reaction to them didn't give me much insight into her character, because it wasn't surprising she found them distasteful (anyone would!) Having her react to a more complex or nuanced social situation might bring her out better.

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  34. Ok. Thanks in advance to anyone who critiques my early Historical YA / Thriller? THE NEW RECRUITS first 250.

    A moist, slightly foggy morning greeted us as we pedaled our bikes to the first two-a-days football practice of summer 1984.

    It was already hot, and the dew flicked up from our back tires as we made our way through the tall grass next to the canal before reaching the road that led to Warrior High.

    My next door neighbor friend, Joey, and I rode together filled with hope of making the team. We had played little league football together since we were eight and been friends since I’d moved in at the end of my first grade year.

    “Johnny, you ready for this?” Joey asked.

    “Yeah, sure,” I said nervously as we leaned and locked our bikes against the No Parking sign.

    We met our coaches, all of them intimidating.

    Coach Rob Hill, the head of the varsity squad, barked at everyone, a harsh leader with little time or patience for anything but solid confidence and undying dedication to football and nothing else.

    Coach Dean Martin, no seriously, that was his name (go ask your grandparents who Dean Martin was), headed up of the Junior Varsity or JV squad and was the one we interacted with the most. Coach Martin, a hard-nosed Navy veteran, also demanded a high level of dedication, but his methods were not as harsh as Coach Hill’s seemed.

    Grouped out on the front practice field, slowly the coaches separated us based on previous experience, position we wanted to play, and perceived ability.

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    1. Hey James! I think you have a solid scene-setting opening, although I stumbled a little over the description of Joey. You might be using a few too many words to get the relationship across. I don't know that it's important to know that they played football together since they were eight AND had been friends since first grade. Those ages are close together so you could kind of lump in together and just focus on the fact that they've been friends and teammates a long time.

      I felt your opening lost momentum when you got to the coaches. Both those paragraphs are very "telling", and it might be more powerful to show how the coaches are demanding by providing actual interactions with Joey and Johnny, or other players already on the field. The Dean Martin reference also took me out of the story a little because the voice didn't sound YA there, and it didn't seem like something you need to introduce right away.

      I hope some of that is helpful!

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  35. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  36. Here is my first 250 words - I welcome any and all feedback!!!

    On April 3rd, Mahatma Gandhi began a three-day fast in protest of British rule, and this had very little impact on Shanta. She spent those three days wandering the town with her little sister, Mangala, not minding that the bottom inch of their skirts had turned the pale color of the dirt roads. The roads were usually quite busy, filling their ears with sounds of chatter and horse hooves. But for those three days, the streets had grown quieter. As Mangala pulled her to every shop that sold sweet burfis, Shanta took notice of the whispers and concerned faces among her neighbors, as if they were discussing something top-secret. But it wasn’t her concern. And as she and Mangala walked home, their tongues filled with the taste of sweet cardamom and coconut, they jumped aside as horses carrying British officials barged down the street, kicking up a cloud of dust as they made their way towards Shanta’s bungalow. She knew they were going to discuss something important with her father. But Shanta easily dismissed all these anomalies; she and Mangala took up residence under a mango tree near their home and discussed the very important decision that lay ahead for her.

    Her father, J. Deshpande, honorary Deputy Commissioner in Bangalore, leaned back on his elbows, resting on the long arms of the dark rosewood planter’s chair, his hands folded over his belly, and pondered a significant marriage proposal. Shanta trusted Appa to choose a man for her - a man like him, with a delicate balance of frivolity and practicality and an abundance of kindness and generosity.

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    1. I enjoy all the cultural details you added in here like burfis, sweet cardamom and the imagery of the edge of the skirts pale with the dust from the road. I think it would make your first sentence stronger to focus only on Shanta, maybe to have her mention the important decision that lays ahead of her. Then after you've grounded the reader with a bit about what is going on with Shanta, to then mention the time period and what's going on around her. (i.e. Ghandi's fast that has little effect on her.)

      I also think that splitting some of your opening into separate paragraphs would be useful. For example, at "The roads were quite busy..." I would start that as a new paragraph. Good luck with your entry, the details of your opening are very interesting!

      Delete
  37. Hiya, friends!
    Sorry I've been so quiet today! I've been in class and stuff. I'm going to post my revised 250 and then I'll be on later to add my thoughts to a few of these! :)
    Please don't hesitate to let me know what you think of the new one:

    Steel sliced through Kali’s skin—first blood.

    The cheers of the audience swelled. A bookie called, “Anyone want to change their bet?”

    Grimacing, Kali ducked under her opponent’s next strike before backing into the shadows cast by the cathedral. She glanced at the wound; it was shallow. I can still win this.

    Nia panted, and her simple, blue tunic stuck to her dark skin. She grinned but didn’t press the advantage, flicking blood from her sword. “Running scared?”

    Kali shook her head and blew her red bangs away from her eyes. “You’re the one wheezing. Why should I be afraid?”

    While catching her breath, she flexed her fingers around her sword's sweat-soaked hilt. The midday sun beat down on her, intensifying the mugginess that heralded Spring storms.

    Around the outdoor arena the crowd cheered—but not for Kali. On her side of the ring, shattered glass, broken tech, and rotten fruits, smelling like sweetness and decay, littered the ground. She struggled not to slip amongst the pulpy, slick remains.

    Nia ran toward her again.

    Kali moved away from the shadows and met the other girl halfway. Their blades shrieked and she clenched her jaw, trying to ignore the sharp flash of pressure as the sound grated against her heightened hearing . She sidestepped left, slid her blade along Nia’s, and then tried to trip her.

    Nia stepped back, retreating to the chalk line of the arena’s edge. The barrier fizzled with a snap of electricity. The proximity sensor crackled but failed to turn red.

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  38. Okay. Here's my revised 250 words for Venom, my adult thriller/eco-thriller. I've added some more words and can't squeeze anymore in. Let me know if it's better.

    Kylie shook the compass so hard, the arrow trembled. “Come on now!” She muttered under her breath. How had she allowed herself to become lost out here? She wiped a sweat pearl from her forehead and pressed on when-- “Oh!” Her foot sunk into something soft. She looked down, and to her horror, stared right at an animal carcass. Her muscles tensed. She walked in a rigid posture, and then stumbled across a half dozen more disemboweled carcasses in the midst of the tall grasses and mangrove trees. A scream escaped her mouth, tearing through the silence of the late afternoon. Her face paled as a shadowy movement caught her eye. A man with a bloody knife carved into the womb of a dead salamander. She didn't know what kind it was, but this was clear--it was pregnant. She became careful of her footsteps, while she dried her tears. Her eyes widened as he fired the gun. The deafening blast echoed through the swamp in the Everglades, when she discovered another death from the poached and now skinned animals.
    Two minutes later, he pivoted and spotted her hovering near the trees. “What are you looking at?”
    “Nothing,” Kylie responded. In honesty, she didn't know what she saw.
    “What are you doing here?”
    “I'm just lost. I couldn't find the exit.”
    He laughed in his booming loud voice. “You're a long way from there.” His eyes narrowed at her. He rose in a slow motion, eyes set on her.

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