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Cathy Lim

1/23/23- Cathy Lim- Traveler's Magic- sub 1, 3,470 words

19 posts in this topic

Hello Everyone!

 

I am new to Reading Excuses. Bill Tracy has graciously (heroically?) taken on the challenge of publishing my series. While he works on developmental edits of the first book, he wanted me to get reader feedback from this forum for the second book. Per his suggestion I have included a synopsis of book one for you- it does not need any critique. I only included chapter one of book two so I it could be a short read for you all.

 

This is a YA second world fantasy. This draft is only one clean up edit away from the first draft so it’s still very rough. I’m looking for reader feedback on the story- what’s working and what’s not working for you. 

Thank you!

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Welcome! Always glad to see a new face

Overall

I think this chapter may need to be cut. The dream makes a good start but then it becomes a walking around town and introducing people chapter. This can be fine as long as it advances the plot and has an arc, but there's so much information and so many names I'm not sure what I'm to focus on. There also doesn't appear to be an arc to the chapter. Is the inciting incident the dream, or the first day of being a librarian? If it's the librarian then we need to start the chapter on her actual first day and get to the inciting incident from that (dropping books in front of Someone Important? Doesn't know how to use a magical card catalog?). 

While well written, the chapter comes off more like a character exercise. Which is just fine and we all do them, but I think at this stage best to delete it and move us to where the forward plot progression begins.

Looking forward to the next chapter. I do love a good library story.

 

As I go

- pg 4: As all the action focus seems to be on the man at the door, I'm left wondering why we aren't in his POV. I feel very removed from the action and emotion here

- oh, it's a dream. That makes more sense but it's so long, and the start of a book, so I think for it to work we;'re going to need more indication that it is indeed a dream

- first day as research assistant seems to be our inciting incident and the main plot driver. I like a good library book but I think I need more emotion from our MC over it. There is a lot of worldbuilding that doesn't do double duty of helping build suspense for the library job itself, and then detracts from what could be good tension. 

- pg 8: there is a lot of talk about clothes and dresses, but the theme earlier seemed to be excitement over being a librarian? Is the MC's second passion clothing? I feel adrift right now, like I'm being given too much sensory information without context

- pg 9: I'm name overloaded

 

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Welcome! 

I think I agree with @kais on this one. The dream at the beginning was interesting and emotionally charged, but then things kind of fell off from there. Also, as I note below, while the dream was my favorite part of the chapter, I think it can also be cut down if the protagonist doesn't remember it. And, like kais, I thought that this chapter kind of lacked a hook. I get that most readers will be coming off the first book and already be invested in the characters and setting, but even then, everything in this chapter could be summarized so we get R to the library, where I assume the story begins in earnest. Other than the dream (which R doesn't even remember) what are the emotional stakes here? What does it mean for R to be a librarian, and what does she lose if that doesn't go well? Etc.

I was also a little bit overwhelmed with the number of characters all introduced at the same time, and had trouble remembering which one was which by the end. 

All that being said, this was well written, and has some really good imagery! The idea of magical genetic lines is intriguing to me, and I wonder what sort of things she will research. Excited to read more!

Pg 1

“the only sound,” you can remove the comma after “sound”. I only bring it up because it’s the second sentence of the book. (In my opinion, the second-most important sentence of the book!)

“like a painting” simple, yet very effective imagery. I like it

Pg 2

“unnaturally bright white hair” I’m guessing white despite his relative youth? Or is he old? “Hunched” in the next sentence makes me think old

“wearing nothing but a cloak” wait what?

Pg 3

“She had been dreaming…something” This might just be personal taste, but if R doesn’t remember the dream I think it would make more sense for us, as the reader, to also only get a vague description of the events of the dream. While the events of the dream were well-written and dramatic, if the protagonist doesn’t even remember what happened, what is the point of having all that in the first pages of the book? A few paragraphs of what vague-yet-emotionally-charged snippets she does remember might be more effective.

Pg 4

“working with patience” working with patients?

Is Z and T looking at the boy and then R teasing him supposed to imply that both of them like boys? A little confused here

Pg 7 “top of her inside thigh to the floor” is this in front of everyone? Seems like maybe they would go to another room?

 

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Hello!

First off, I like the lightness of style: there is just enough description of the characters and the setting to paint a mental picture but then focus attention on the plot. The only two characterizations that fell short for me were "definitely not like anyone" for T, and the description of the tailor, who just looked so much as a typical tailor that he barely seemed to need a description at all. 

I do not mind starting with a dream, but it was confusing when it was not remembered. I suspect something will trigger R's memory of it later, but at the moment if feels odd.

I liked the MidWinter Ball promise and am looking forward to "the something spectacular" that hopefully R will get to wear. Also, while on the topic of clothes, wearing only the cloak and measuring the inside of the thigh seem rather exposing.

I am not sure how I feel about Z and R relationship in this chapter. It is great to see them being so close (I love the special language and teasing), but the kissing on the forehead part seemed a bit too much for two teeneagers.

I will not point out the grammatical mistakes, since most have already been mentioned above.

Overall, a great read and thank you for the summary of the first book. I would be quite lost in the names otherwise.

 

 

Edited by Yuliya
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Welcome! I’m excited to get into this! :)

Overall:

The good news is that the flow of the story is smooth and easy to follow. However, I can’t quite say I was hooked by this opening. I want to advocate for more plot action with a real inciting incident, but I also get the feeling that the story is aiming to be more slice of life and charming/meandering like a Ghibli movie. If that’s the case, we need a stronger sense of atmosphere right off the bat. Though I’ll also say that regardless of atmosphere, more plot and conflict couldn’t hurt.

Also, to me this reads more like middle-grade than YA. How old are R and friends?

As I go:

Pg 3. I like the first sentence but the length of the following description fizzles the tension a bit

Pg 4. Dream sequences are notoriously hard to do because it’s tricky to establish what is “real” and has solid stakes. I think we need to focus on the few impressions that matter here, especially because this isn’t the first time R has seen her father in a dream

Pg 5-7. I’m wondering if it’s necessary to open with something so slice of life. I think we either need some plot here to start us off or a really strong atmosphere to draw us into charming daily life. To me the plot seems easier

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Not sure why, but starting in the second paragraph or so I became unsure whether we were still in a dream. Maybe one or two more cues scattered throughout to denote a ‘dreamlike’ atmosphere?

A lot of the sentences are very similar in structure and length. Consider looking for ways to vary them up once you’re ready to do line edits.

P4: I know we’re still in the dream sequence here, but I’m starting to get antsy for a sense of stakes. What does R, even the dream version of R, actually want during this sequence?

P5: “It was a uniform.” Seems fairly obvious from context.

P6 “It was going to be her first day as a Research Assistant.” Ahah! I had been wondering why we started the story this morning, as opposed to any other morning. This gives me way more grounding in the character than anything that has come before.

P7 “working with patience” should be “patients” I imagine, flagging as spellcheck won’t catch it

Curious as to the difference, functionally, between a physician and a healer, and why they seem to be at least to some degree exclusive to one another.

P8 So far it feels like the function of the chapter is only to introduce us to the cast of characters. I’m feeling antsy for some sense of stakes or tension that drives us toward the inciting incident. The “first day at a new job” helps but now I’m looking for the things that are going to make it difficult for her to actually do her job.

P9 “T looked Z up and down.” The “charming” remark here came across as very sarcastic. If that was the intent, carry on.

Overall: The biggest challenge for me was the lack of sense of stakes throughout the chapter, which feels very “a day in the life” right now. The only real sense I get of something changing is the realization partway through that this is R’s first day in her new job, which helps, but isn’t enough on its own to keep me engaged. So far there doesn’t seem to be an inciting incident—something that brings us into this book in particular, even if some of those stakes and goals are wrapped up in the previous book.

On a general note, I kept noticing that a lot of the sentences are very similar in structure and length. Consider looking for ways to vary them up once you’re ready to do line edits.

I am interested in the world and what seems like an intrigue-style fantasy from the first book. Carry on!

 

 

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12 hours ago, Yuliya said:

I do not mind starting with a dream, but it was confusing when it was not remembered.

Forgot to mention this but this struck me as a bit odd too, to spend several pages on something that the POV character then didn't remember. 

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On 1/24/2023 at 10:00 AM, kais said:

- pg 8: there is a lot of talk about clothes and dresses, but the theme earlier seemed to be excitement over being a librarian? Is the MC's second passion clothing? I feel adrift right now, like I'm being given too much sensory information without context

No- not R's passion, but mine. This is just the wannabe dress historian in me coming coming out. I try to inject a lot of costume description into my writing. Ha ha! 

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13 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Also, to me this reads more like middle-grade than YA. How old are R and friends?

Oh, oh, oh- don't even get me started on this topic. Do you have the laughing/crying emoji on here somewhere? 

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Thank you everyone for making the time and effort to read and give me feedback. I appreciate it! I really need the help since my previous readers were unable to finish. I am grateful that you all are making an effort in my behalf- thank you!

I will ponder what has been said and come up with ways to fix it. 

Thanks again!

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So I guess I have a question- Was there anything good about chapter one? Anything that i should actually keep?

Thanks!

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5 hours ago, Cathy Lim said:

So I guess I have a question- Was there anything good about chapter one? Anything that i should actually keep?

Thanks!

Personally, I think a viable option is to cut all of it, and I think that another viable option is to keep certain events (such as a shortened version of the dream sequence) and integrated into the plot hook. So ultimately I think it depends on what--if anything--here is important for getting the plot moving, and combining that with the plot motion we're missing. Without knowing the broader story strokes, I'm not sure I can say definitively one way or the other.

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9 hours ago, Cathy Lim said:

Was there anything good about chapter one? Anything that i should actually keep?

There was certainly a lot that was good to this chapter! I liked the characters and thought they had a fun voice(though it was a little overwhelming to meet all of them at the same time). It works, I think, as a chapter from the middle of the book, which in my opinion can be a little more laid back and focus on the mundane, fun details of the setting like this chapter does. And, again, I understand that this is the second book in a series, so it kind of is in the middle in some ways. That being said, the first chapter of a book, imo, is by FAR the most important. So, when I read a first chapter, I am usually looking for things that will grab me by the eyes and force me to keep reading. Strong emotions, fascinating setting elements, promises of mysterious things to come (which I think the dream does well).

Like Ace of Hearts, I think you can keep (at least a version of) the dream sequence. I think you can even keep a shortened version of them going to pick up the new clothes. I think you can cut some of the character intorductions, and maybe have the MC meet them after she arrives at the library. I also think you can cut down the scene of her getting the clothes to be a little shorter. 

Ultimately, what you choose to cut or keep is up to you. And while we are your peers as fellow writers, we are not your target YA audience (I'm pretty sure). 

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Sorry this is late. So, I will try to answer both your questions and what I felt of the chapter.

First off I liked it. I can agree with everyone about the dream. Because R does not remember it, I think it lost its meaning on me. Otherwise I know it is poignant to your protagonist and will have deeper meaning for us later on. I am just not sure where it will fit at this time.

I am not good at the As I go (I read the pages two times before writing this), but her we go.

As I go (went):

Pg4. Something about the way R is experiencing the apple sensations seems out of order with the descriptions. 

Pg5. You seem to set up a conflict between R and T but then shrug it off with R doesn't know what to think of her. T is tough, a little more showy, and more outspoken than R. If there is more to this, it is set up fine. I am just wondering if you could expound on R's wariness of T and why to kind of even out the flow. 

Pg6. I kind of want to know more about Z's motivation for skipping lessons is and what it means for him.

Overall: I love your dialogue and how natural it sounds. I think the chapter has good pace and I like it so far. One thing for now is that I can honestly say it has not gripped me yet. That is not to say that I would not read any further. It is intriguing enough to go another chapter. I just mean I don't have any emotional attachment to any particular character or premise at this point. 

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9 minutes ago, K. Preston said:

Overall: I love your dialogue and how natural it sounds.

Thank you! I appreciate you chiming in!

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15 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Personally, I think a viable option is to cut all of it, and I think that another viable option is to keep certain events (such as a shortened version of the dream sequence) and integrated into the plot hook. So ultimately I think it depends on what--if anything--here is important for getting the plot moving, and combining that with the plot motion we're missing. Without knowing the broader story strokes, I'm not sure I can say definitively one way or the other.

Very similar answer to that question here. I think the dream sequence or the "getting ready for new job sequence" could be trimmed and built into solid introductions, potentially, but without knowing the shape of the story it's hard to pick out bits and pieces that should be kept or cut.

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On 1/26/2023 at 0:44 AM, Cathy Lim said:

Thank you everyone for making the time and effort to read and give me feedback. I appreciate it! I really need the help since my previous readers were unable to finish. I am grateful that you all are making an effort in my behalf- thank you!

I will ponder what has been said and come up with ways to fix it. 

Thanks again!

Going to hold off on critiquing this one for now, as I'm just starting reading through the first book. Looks like you got a lot of good feedback, though!

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23 hours ago, Silk said:

Very similar answer to that question here. I think the dream sequence or the "getting ready for new job sequence" could be trimmed and built into solid introductions, potentially, but without knowing the shape of the story it's hard to pick out bits and pieces that should be kept or cut.

Thanks! I really appreciate this!

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3 hours ago, Mandamon said:

Going to hold off on critiquing this one for now, as I'm just starting reading through the first book.

Good luck!

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