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Rogueshar

Rogueshar- 1/8/18 prelude and 1/2 first chapter

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This is the prelude and first half of my first chapter of a book/story I have been working on for a while. Thank you in advance for all comments and edits you make/recommend. I look forward to them.

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Overall

Well, what a very detailed beginning. You certainly know a lot about your world and it's characters, that comes across on every page. It does result in a bit of information overload though, some tangents too. You could trim that down quite a bit, really tighten the opening and make it sharper. It's the first thing your readers will get, and for me that means I need a hook. Reading this, I get this feeling I'm in for a really long book with a lot of descriptions, and there's not a carrot to draw me in yet.

Not a lot happens too, in the end, your main character comes home, eats, reads, and goes to sleep, and that took 10 pages. I"m just not sure what to make of it really. A- is an interesting enough character when she's talking about the conflict in her life (see notes). Need more of that, less descriptions. Also, is this a farm girl becomes the prophesied saviour narrative? I get that feeling reading this.

On the Prelude too, others will say it, and they've said it to me as well, so here it is for you. It doesn't have any meaning at this point in your story. None of the things discussed are relevant to chapter one, and so it's not really needed. I won't lie either, I didn't really enjoy it.

Notes as I go:

- Information overload in the prelude - B, U, D, N, Kings, crowns, thrones, halls, wars... Pick one thing and soak me in it. 

- Why did the herald pale? Why did the King's face fill with dread? It remains unanswered, and then her request is a tad underwhelming, seems pretty simple and straight forward.

- Why is U wanting to leave, be an envoy, a problem? What makes it dramatic? 

- But then the King just agrees, so what was going on? Why did everyone have to hear that?

- It's about 5 paragraphs before we get A's name, I'd start the first sentence with her name, and give me some information about her before you talk about Dragons, etc.

- I'd trim/skip most of the descriptions of the area on pages 5/6/7, and skip to A talking about A, and flesh it out some more. That's more interesting.r.

- Again, trim/skip most of the descriptions on pages 8/9/10, and skip to things happening. By this point, it's 10 pages in and A has only gotten home.

- Can you spend more time on the marriage issue with E-. It's mentioned, the mechanics are spoken of, then A- dismisses it because she wants to see the world. This sounds like a potential source of conflict and drama.

- More on the dreams, again that sounds interesting but gets only one paragraph.

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Hey hey! Welcome to RE!

Overall

The prologue left me.. confused. I don't know what its purpose was, and I don't know much of anything about the characters. I'm guessing the narrative would work better if you cut it and inserted the relevant information into chapter one or later. The first part of chapter one also did not appear to have a purpose. What is the plot? What is the through line? I don't necessarily need them all spelled out, but a hint as to what they are, at this stage, would be nice.

Think of it from a subbing standpoint. If an agent requests a section of your book with your query letter, it's usually the first 5K words. You have to be able to hook them in 5K, and that includes an actual hook, and some idea of the through line of the book. They have to be able to get the flavor of your work, and an idea where it is going. Right now, this book appears to be about idyllic pastoral life, and just that, alone, doesn't really make for a compelling read. 

I think you could trim a lot of the description and backstory out, cut the prologue entirely, and get to the meat of the work quicker. You have a great descriptive style that shouldn't be lost, but it needs to be reigned in somewhat. Unless you're just writing for you. If you're just writing for you, carry on!

As I go

- prelude: not a fan and generally, neither are agents. Most won't even let you sub them with your sample pages. It's either chapter one, or cut it.

- woah, too many names in that first page. I don't know who any of these people are, and I don't yet care about them, so I'm likely to just forget all of this

- [insert name]?

- dark things coming and heroes needing to be gathered is pretty cookie cutter. You might want to be more specific

- generally speaking, you should start and end your chapters with hooks that make the reader want to keep reading. Lines about dandelions do not fall, generally, into this mold, unless the dandelion is about to do something questionable

- you've got a lot of commas being used where periods should go, making a lot of run on sentences. Read your work aloud. That should help ferret out a lot of these things

- I'm on page six and I still don't have a hook, or an idea where this is going. I've been given a lot of info dump that is blurring in my mind, and a lot about pastures and sheep. It's hard now to keep interested

- page nine, and still no through line, or hint of plot. I don't need to know how her parents met at this juncture. This... it just seems like a lot of filler, or the part where you are writing out the world for yourself, as you try to build it. In a book, most of this would be cut out. It's an important exercise for an author to do, but most writers don't want this level of detail without a reason.

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Quote

unless the dandelion is about to do something questionable

Now that's something I want to read...

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1 hour ago, toomsta said:

Overall

Well, what a very detailed beginning. You certainly know a lot about your world and it's characters, that comes across on every page. It does result in a bit of information overload though, some tangents too. You could trim that down quite a bit, really tighten the opening and make it sharper. It's the first thing your readers will get, and for me that means I need a hook. Reading this, I get this feeling I'm in for a really long book with a lot of descriptions, and there's not a carrot to draw me in yet.

Not a lot happens too, in the end, your main character comes home, eats, reads, and goes to sleep, and that took 10 pages. I"m just not sure what to make of it really. A- is an interesting enough character when she's talking about the conflict in her life (see notes). Need more of that, less descriptions. Also, is this a farm girl becomes the prophesied saviour narrative? I get that feeling reading this.

On the Prelude too, others will say it, and they've said it to me as well, so here it is for you. It doesn't have any meaning at this point in your story. None of the things discussed are relevant to chapter one, and so it's not really needed. I won't lie either, I didn't really enjoy it.

 

I know I already said thank you in advanced, but thank you once again. When I first started writing (as a kid) I got the critism that I didn't put enough detail in, now I think I over compensate so I will definitely try to scale down the level of unnecessary detail. As for the narrative, I would say this somewhat follows farm girl prophesied savior narrative, A- was definitely inspired by Luke Skywalker and the likes. As for the Prelude, this is my first draft with this in it and I can definitely see how it is unnecessary.

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1 hour ago, kais said:

Hey hey! Welcome to RE!

Overall

The prologue left me.. confused. I don't know what its purpose was, and I don't know much of anything about the characters. I'm guessing the narrative would work better if you cut it and inserted the relevant information into chapter one or later. The first part of chapter one also did not appear to have a purpose. What is the plot? What is the through line? I don't necessarily need them all spelled out, but a hint as to what they are, at this stage, would be nice.

Think of it from a subbing standpoint. If an agent requests a section of your book with your query letter, it's usually the first 5K words. You have to be able to hook them in 5K, and that includes an actual hook, and some idea of the through line of the book. They have to be able to get the flavor of your work, and an idea where it is going. Right now, this book appears to be about idyllic pastoral life, and just that, alone, doesn't really make for a compelling read. 

I think you could trim a lot of the description and backstory out, cut the prologue entirely, and get to the meat of the work quicker. You have a great descriptive style that shouldn't be lost, but it needs to be reigned in somewhat. Unless you're just writing for you. If you're just writing for you, carry on!

 

Thank you for the information about publishing/publishers, I don't know a lot about them and publishing (if I ever did it) always seems to be something in a far distant future. 

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5 hours ago, Rogueshar said:

I know I already said thank you in advanced, but thank you once again. When I first started writing (as a kid) I got the critism that I didn't put enough detail in, now I think I over compensate so I will definitely try to scale down the level of unnecessary detail. As for the narrative, I would say this somewhat follows farm girl prophesied savior narrative, A- was definitely inspired by Luke Skywalker and the likes. As for the Prelude, this is my first draft with this in it and I can definitely see how it is unnecessary.

No need to say thank you, just return the favour when others submit. 

It’s brave enough to let others read your work, and brave again to cop all and any criticism of it. But if you keep coming back and keep trying to get better, you will get there. 

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This is my first critique here, so it won't be as in depth as the others, but I'll try my best ;) 

I actually enjoyed the prologue a bit more than the main story, mostly because U had a goal and I wondered if she would end up completing it. When we get to A-'s part, you gave me a good sense of her as a character, but I didn't get if she had any goals, or anything to work toward, other than the marriage problem that she dismisses quickly. What is she trying to do? A character trying to complete a goal=conflict, and conflict=reader interest. Try bringing up potential problems earlier in the chapter, whether it's A- trying to protect the sheep from a predator or something else. A character in action or facing a problem can help ground their personality and viewpoint, and also lets readers sympathize with them.

I like your descriptions, and they helped cement me into the setting. It did seem a bit overdone in some spots but I personally feel overcompensating on description is better than undercompensating. It can be easily fixed. I find it helpful to add description according to what the character themselves notice. Is something out of place, or does something look particularly beautiful? Have them comment on that and remark why it's unusual.

The writing felt a bit choppy to me in some spots, and there were run-on sentences in others. As another poster mentioned above, reading your work aloud can definitely help with this.

Overall, the main thing I'd like to see more character motivation in the beginning and a hint of something for A to work toward. It can be a lot of fun dreaming up potential problems for characters! Thanks for submitting and good luck with your writing :) 

 

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Welcome to Reading Excuses! It takes a lot to put your work out there, especially to hear others give you critiques on it.

That said...

I think @toomsta and @kais have said a lot of the same things I was going to. At this part the prologue is the most interesting thing that happens, but I'm conditioned to think it doesn't really matter because it won't come up again.

10 hours ago, Rogueshar said:

I would say this somewhat follows farm girl prophesied savior narrative, A- was definitely inspired by Luke Skywalker and the likes.

Glad that it's a farmgirl instead of a farmboy, and this is certainly a good training story to write on, but honestly, that trope has been used so many times you really have to find something unique to write about that others haven't already.

You have a lot of backstory and information in here, as well as telling us about important relationships, but if agents don't see something specific and dramatic happen on the first couple pages, it's not likely ever to get accepted. What's the inciting incident for this story? what makes the farmgirl leave the farm? We all know what "simple farm life" is like from all the other books we've read. Show us how it's different.

 

Notes as I read:

pg 1: There's a lot of backstory here that isn't interesting yet because I don't know the characters. This reads like the summary of the previous book, but I don't think it's relevant to this book yet.

pg 2: "And the Heroes, they will need to be gathered.”
--This is so generic to fantasy that it's a cliche. Make it specific.

I don't get a whole lot from the prelude.

pg 4: telling us that nothing is happening doesn't get me very interested in the story. pg 4-6 I'm starting to skim, wanting to get to where something does happen.

pg 9: There's still nothing happening, and going into backstory about her parents meeting isn't helping.

pg 11: So far the most interesting thing that has happened has been her friends asking her to pick strawberries. I've getting a very Jane Austin vibe from the relationships here.

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Again, welcome to Reading Excuses. I am always excited to dive into a new writer’s work. So here goes, I hope these comments are of some use. Also, before I get started, I apologise if there is some nit-picky grammar stuff in my comments, but I struggle not to mention these things, even in early edits :)

  • Paragraph 1—first impressions: I like that we are coming into the story after something momentous has happened, the end of exile, defeat of an enemy, and it’s good that we are told the cost. The language itself flows pretty well, I thought, but the punctuation seems off in several places. Also, some of the phrasing is a bit wordy, but still not hard to follow.
  • “…hearing citizens’ concerns.” – possessive of multiple citizens.
  • “There was were always a lot…” – of concerns, plural.
  • “Lady U,” the herald said…” – the tag is part of the same sentence.
  • Yeah, there are quite a few grammar issues, such as: “She didn’t care of the gossip this would cause” – I would say ‘didn’t care what gossip this would cause’ or ‘didn’t care if this caused gossip’. Missing words, too. I've noted several. It becomes really quite distracting after a bit.
  • Anytime you add “said XXX”, it’s part of the same sentence as the preceding (or following) dialogue. Look at those tags at the moment, read them in isolation: they are not complete sentences.
  • “she wanted to hold the man” – You said earlier he was a dwarf? So, he’s not a man, right?
  • “She was a dwarven woman” – maybe it’s may problem, not the story’s, but this clashes with my Tolkienesque upbringing, which dictates that man/woman is a separate race from dwarf/female dwarf. HOWEVER, thinking back, I do believe that Tolkien himself may have used the terms ‘dwarf women’. Anyway, it confuses me when I see a character referred to as a man, then a dwarf.
  • Two pages in, I like the conflict going on, and the tension between the character is good. I would be drawn in even more if all the line editing and grammar stuff was fixed, which really would ease the flow of the reading. Have you read this out loud to yourself? You’d be amazed (I always am) how many issues this technique flags up with language, grammar and punctuation: it’s an invaluable tool.
  • “he was saddened by her decision”
  • “yet his own actions were what was driving her away” – here’s a good example of wordiness. I think it’s a valuable discipline to have as you are writing to have an antenna that spots wordiness like this a simplifies phrasing. I have the same issue sometimes. Trimming this excess really helps the reader progress and become absorbed by narrative if they are not weighed down by extraneous words.
  • Ah, so the dwarves have recaptured their ancestral home? This is very similar to events on which The Hobbit is based around. I'd be wary about that, and try and distance your plot from that. You don't have a dark lord in the mix, do you?
  • I know very little about shepherding. Do they keep the rams with that sheep? Does she not have a dog? Grammar issues again. I'm going to stop flagging them, but I would strongly suggest turning on spellchecker and grammar checking as-you-type. WPs provide the tools to remove these annoying issues from even your first drafts. It will really help the comments you get from alpha readers. Some readers get really p'd off with this stuff ;)
  • "Arw--na" - really? This name is virtually straight out of Tolkien. Oh, and The Vale is a named and fairly prominent location in Game of Thrones.
  • The phrase “Huge unmarred land” threw me a bit. Is that a field? A big garden? It kind of lacks definition.
  • What’s a “member of the Vale”? The term makes it sound like there is a cooperative maybe? More than just a resident, which is what I took it to mean at first.
  • I don’t like the use of the slash in “well maintained herb/flower garden”, not in fantasy anyway. You might get away with it in SF. It just seems off tone. Is there any reason not to say ‘herb and flower garden’?
  • For the same reason of pseudo-historical fantasy tone, I think using kilometres sounds very odd. Imagine reading Tolkien and Gandalf said, ‘Yes, only two kilometres left to go.’
  • “good-naturedly” needs to be hyphenated. There were some other instances previously where words needed to be hyphenated to make compound adverbs or adjectives, but I haven’t flagged them all.
  • The F-F and M-M ‘reveal’ being so close together felt a bit odd.  The bit about Arw’s feelings for Rok was fine. I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting it, as we had been in very standard hero’s journey territory before that. Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue, and I like how you casually dropped it in without fanfare. What I though was a bit odd was how the legend of the M-M hero’s tragedy book came along so quickly after.
  • Really like the bit about the book being passed around the families. This is the sort of small detail that really grounds a setting and the NPC’s in that setting. It creates a lot of goodwill from me in believing the setting.
  • Another detail I like is the father darning socks. Everyone on the farm mucks in to whatever jobs need doing, and has diverse range of skills. No pride about something being women’s work. Good job.
  • Gw. seems a very unfeminine name, to me. Perhaps it has a root in tradition? Is it Welsh, like Gwyneth? The thing is, for me, it looks a lot like dwarf, which is a small, hairy male. It just created a difficult impression for me that I struggle to associated with a motherly figure.

I know I moaned a lot about details, but there were plenty of positives for me. I don’t mind a slow opening, and Arw’s chapter was pretty slow, but it was good to get to know her and her situation and the setting of her home. You do mention that this is only half of Chapter 1? I would strongly advise splitting it up. If you’re going to have an opening chapter without action, I would suggest it should not be overly long. There a perfectly decent chapter break point here at the end, especially if she is about to go into a dream sequence, which I thought might what was coming from the end bit there.

The language, punctuation, grammar and some of the word choice (occasional) really needs to be tidied up, but that is easily enough done. I would say that the setting and plot are very typical epic fantasy. There are so many such stories that I would suggest you need to be very careful to keep inserting novel elements so that it does not become cliché.

In terms of voice however, I enjoyed what I read. I thought there was a confident flow to it (grammar, etc. notwithstanding), and I enjoyed that. I'd be interested to reading more, certainly.

<R>

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On 09/01/2018 at 5:34 AM, Rogueshar said:

A- was definitely inspired by Luke Skywalker and the likes.

Ha-ha, Lucy Skywalker!!

Hero's journey was overdone for many, many years. I don't think it's quite as bad now, because more pro writers, I think, keep away from that clichéd territory. As I said, I think you need more novel elements, because some readers will just think 'Hero's journey; read it all before.'

On 09/01/2018 at 3:39 PM, Mandamon said:

This is so generic to fantasy that it's a cliche. Make it specific.

"I agree with @Mandamon"(C). If you're going to write a clichéd element, it needs to be incredibly strong and insanely well-written for it to entertain readers who have read it a bazillion times before, or have a new or less-used element. Maybe all the heroes are female. Maybe they are all in the 80's. Dunno, something.

I do agree about the prologue comments too. Why not just have it as Chapter 1? There is some decent conflict in that opening, and there is absolutely no law against having short chapters. I'm already concerned that Arw's section is only half her chapter.

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Hello and welcome!

I'm sorry this will be so short; real life is kicking me in the teeth at the moment. 

Basically I'm just going to echo what others have said: that this is well-written, but not terribly interesting to me. I'm seeing a lot of genre cliches being played very straight, without much to separate them from the other versions that I've read, and I think just about every comment here has mentioned it.  The thing to remember here is that Tropes Are Not Inherently Bad. They're also not inherently GOOD, either. They're tools, and shorthand, and some are far more problematic than others. They can be deliciously subverted, or comfortingly met. They can be horrifically overused and terribly written, too.  If the tropes are desired in the work, then what readers need to see, and see clearly from the start, is how the author is differentiating their characters and plot from all the other stories using the same archetypes. How the author is turning the work from just another Trope X tale into something uniquely their own. Readers of genre fiction like to see how this story makes something new out of something familiar.  Or at least, that's what I look for. 

 

I also agree with the general sentiment about the prologue. Besides being disfavored by the current market, prologues always make me wonder two things: First, is this information necessary to the story; and second, if it is, why isn't it incorporated into the main body of the work at the point where it will have the most impact? If it's not important to the story, why is it in the novel at all, much less in the critical opening pages? 

I certainly don't mind reading a hero's journey, and I enjoy coming-of-age stories probably more than I ought to, so I do think this has potential. Keep at it! I look forward to your next submission. :) 

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