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shatteredsmooth

Junk Junction Ch. 3 & 4_July 29 2019_(4628 words)

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Hi all,
 
Thank you for all he helpful feedback you gave me last week! Here are the next two chapters on Junk Junction, a middle grade paranormal (and maybe horror) novel. 
 
I'm worried Ch. 3 drags a little even though the first person who read it thought it didn't. I can't pin point where or why I think the tension lags, so at the moment, I'm not sure how to fix it. I'm hoping something will click after I get feedback. Otherwise, I don't have any specific questions. Whatever feedback you have will be appreciated. 
 
As far as editing goes, I read aloud again but didn't go over with a pen and paper since it seemed like last weeks submission was readable, and at the moment, I'm more concerned with content that grammar. 
 
Thanks,
 
Sara
 
Last time: E's mom gets turned into a mannequin in an antique shop. A haunted doll helps E's and the shop dog escape the same fate. 
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Overall, I enjoyed this more than the first two chapters, now that we're into the story. My main issue was there was a lot of exposition and telling which could be smoothed out by another draft. I think this is where you're feeling it's dragging. Spreading things out a little would up the tension. We've basically been told that A needs to help E go fight the thing in the mannequin with M, who A has a grudge against. There's not much left to reveal... It depends on whether this book will be about gearing up enough to defeat the Big Bad, or whether it's about the characters learning what they're up against. But we've already been told most of what they're up against already.


pg 1: Holy expository sentence! Can probably cut the first sentence down since readers will have just come from chapter 2

pg 1: "his wife’s disappearance"
--maybe "Mom's disappearance," since this is from a young POV.

pg 1: "and maybe a psychic"
--I don't have enough worldbuilding knowledge yet to determine whether a psychic is real or not. I assume so, since the mannequin thing is true, as are ghosts, but I don't know if this is a known, respected profession in this world.

pg 4: "I couldn’t stuff A’s doll far enough..."
--has the doll been moving or speaking? We haven't seen anything from the doll the rest of the chapter.

pg 5: the list of paranormal titles makes me think this is the "hidden history" style world where no one knows that magic/paranormal stuff can happen.

pg 6: "sometimes, rumor had it that she would invite the child workers over for tea parties."
--That's not creepy at all.
Also, this paragraph is a bit infodumpy. I get that it's a summary of a news article, but it's also not as engaging to the reader.

pg 6: "One kid had reported her to the police"
--might want to do a little research on whether this would be something that actually got reported/paid attention to 100 years ago. Yes, the police didn't do anything, but would the paper even have picked it up?

pg 7: "the doll was in it with him, pointing at a little neon sign hanging in the window above the pizza shop."
--It's now sort of reassuring that the creepy doll is still inhabited by the ghost...

pg 8: "assuming he, she, or they weren’t a complete fraud"
--could probably just use a generic "they," especially since this is repeated further down the page.

pg 9: "Aunty Rs’s"
--I....don't actually know a gender neutral term for a parent's sibling...

pg 11: “Did you call the police?”
--uhhh, especially after three days...

pg 11: "my stepmom died three years ago.”
--it took me a minute to figure this out, as it came right after telling about her dad. Was this her Mom's new wife? I assume if she didn't know her father, then she wouldn't know her father's second wife.

pg 13: "What pronoun should I use for you?” 
--I get the sentiment, but that would really not be the first thing out of my mouth watching this event.

pg 13: "I didn’t know there were other choices, but in my bones, back when I had bones, I knew I was neither boy nor girl.” 
--Again, I like the sentiment, but A latches on to a completely new pronoun that they didn't even know existed in a couple seconds. I'd think they would need to think about it at least.

pg 13: “The unknown entity could be a number of things."
--we've gone from wondering if M was in the mannequin to knowing she's in there along with Something Else in the space of a few sentences. I think spreading the realizations out a bit would help the tension.

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23 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 5: the list of paranormal titles makes me think this is the "hidden history" style world where no one knows that magic/paranormal stuff can happen.

 

Yes, this is more or less what I was trying to get across. This is like a contemporary fantasy setting. Like in reality, some people believe in ghosts, but many don't. Beyond that, most don't believe in magic or paranormal things, unless like D and her mom, they are among the few psychics who can actually communicate with ghosts. I was trying to describe occult type books one might find in an actual library, though I think before I get to the final draft, I need to go peruse a couple libraries (or at least look at the online catalogue) to see how true to reality the section I am describing is. As I revise, I'll try to make sure this is clear from Ch. 1.

23 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 6: "One kid had reported her to the police"
--might want to do a little research on whether this would be something that actually got reported/paid attention to 100 years ago. Yes, the police didn't do anything, but would the paper even have picked it up?

Good idea. 

23 hours ago, Mandamon said:

Was this her Mom's new wife?

Yes. Her mom's wife. 

23 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 9: "Aunty Rs’s"
--I....don't actually know a gender neutral term for a parent's sibling...

Yeah. Digging on the internet, I found one or two obscure ones that sounded really awkward, and at the moment, I can't remember what they were. I talked to a couple other non-binary people about the aunty thing and they thought it was fine. 

 

23 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 13: "What pronoun should I use for you?” 
--I get the sentiment, but that would really not be the first thing out of my mouth watching this event.

pg 13: "I didn’t know there were other choices, but in my bones, back when I had bones, I knew I was neither boy nor girl.” 
--Again, I like the sentiment, but A latches on to a completely new pronoun that they didn't even know existed in a couple seconds. I'd think they would need to think about it at least.

Thanks for pointing this out. It sounds like I was definitely rushing things, like I trying to just get it out on the page without making it thoughtful or realistic, and was sort of oblivious to what I was doing until I read this.

 

Your comments about the way information is revealed and how that affects the tension are also very very helpful! Thank you! 

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Hi @shatteredsmooth

I didn't make many line notes:

Starts off with a LOT of preparation and rationalization even for a non-middle grade book. I like the attention to detail, but the story is getting lost within itself.

I'm very curious as to what the cookie to cat feeding exchange rate is these days. :)

My interest wasn't truly piqued until page 6 when we learn about A's past.

The meeting between E and D is jarringly convenient, especially considering how meticulously careful E has been this entire time. 

On the last page E refers to A with a male pronoun multiple times.

Overall:
Everything feels a bit rushed, but I think I know why (more on that in a moment). What I like: I like that the story has some more direction now and that E has become more proactive. I like that we learn more about A and that you introduce a plot line that ties them with the mannequins. I also like the new character. I feel the gender pronoun stuff is a bit forced, but then I have only ever had to deal with such a thing in real life a handful of times, usually boiling down to: "Actually, it's..." 

You mentioned pacing (it feeling like it's dragging) and I think I see exactly what the problem is. It doesn't feel like you're thinking or writing in terms of building a scene. You're stringing together events, exposition and train of thought into a timeline, and in most of your chapters you've been fortunate enough that the scenes have almost built themselves. This is not the case in Chapter 3, however. There isn't a single coherent scene that doesn't feel like it's part of a long laundry list, and scenes are literally why we read. Every chapter needs (at least) one concrete scene to act as a linchpin. Everything else you write should serve these scenes. I think refocusing on this primary element in your writing will not only help you fix Chapter 3, but it will make the other chapters' scenes pop off the page a lot more.

I would refer you to THIS Writing Excuses episode.

Hope this helped! Looking forward to more of the story next submission!

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9 hours ago, hawkedup said:

It doesn't feel like you're thinking or writing in terms of building a scene. You're stringing together events, exposition and train of thought into a timeline, and in most of your chapters you've been fortunate enough that the scenes have almost built themselves.

You make a very good point here. When I draft, I don't always think on too technical a level. I'm typing things as they play out in my head and sometimes I think in terms of scenes, but often, I get too caught up in figuring out the story and background. That may be what is happening here.

One revision technique I've used in the past on some of my manuscripts is to annotate each scene by describing the what the character wants in it, what is stopping them, what are they doing to get it, how does it advance the overall plot.  I'll try doing that with this and see if it helps. 

Thank you so much for bringing this up. :)

9 hours ago, hawkedup said:

I would refer you to THIS Writing Excuses episode.

Thanks for recommendation! Do you know if there are transcripts for the podcasts? I didn't see one on the page, and I cannot absorb much information just from listening. Podcasts and my brain are not super compatible. 

Thanks for reading and critiquing! 

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41 minutes ago, shatteredsmooth said:

Do you know if there are transcripts for the podcasts?

WE does transcripts for all its podcasts. They are hosted different places, but this one is on LJ: https://wetranscripts.livejournal.com/103734.html?nojs=1

If you go to the WE webpage and look down the lefthand column, to the very bottom of the season listings, there's a link to transcripts.

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35 minutes ago, industrialistDragon said:

WE does transcripts for all its podcasts. They are hosted different places, but this one is on LJ: https://wetranscripts.livejournal.com/103734.html?nojs=1

If you go to the WE webpage and look down the lefthand column, to the very bottom of the season listings, there's a link to transcripts.

Fantastic! I thought I had seen you link transcripts before, but I could find which thread it was in.

Now I see the transcript button. Thank you. 

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overall

These chapters suffered from the lack of emotions of some of your previous characters, and I had a hard time connecting even though I liked our MC originally. I also thought there was a lot of lag in the start, once we meet the psychic things are better.

The doll ghost's voice seems very discordant with the narrative, and every time A spoke I was yanked from it. Might be something to look into there.

Generally, I thought tension was lacking in these chapters, as well as emotional buy-in. The plot is interesting though!

 

22 hours ago, hawkedup said:

It doesn't feel like you're thinking or writing in terms of building a scene.

I agree with this!

 

As I go

- is that recap in the first sentence of chapter three needed, since we're coming in right off of chapter 2? It seems redundant

- pg 2: the MC is taking this mannequin thing VERY well I feel like

It was pink, my least favorite color, and had ponies all over it, <--- AHEM

- pg 5: I wasn't particularly hooked at the beginning, and at this point things are dragging. We got a ton of info about what is being packed but there's no tension from any of it. It seems very matter of fact, with the MC not really super concerned or afraid and so it makes it seem more like this happens every day, or they were expecting it

- a lot of time is spent on the dog. It makes me think the dog will be plot relevant as a familiar or something

- pg 8: the bit in the library was good, but now we are back to moving around and describing things without any real tension. MC needs more emotions, I think. This is all so matter-of-fact

- pg 9: oh, the end of this chapter is excellent!

- pg 12: Ma is mannequin that turned my mom and Mx. R to mannequins. <-- was this confirmed? I thought it was just implied? When was the decision made??

- pg 12: wouldn't our MC have asked A to confirm they were the same A? I'm so confused

“No one’s asked me that before. No one ever gave me to the option to not be she or he. I didn’t know there were other choices, but in my bones, back when I had bones, I knew I was neither boy nor girl.” Al’s purple lips pulled back into a grim smile filled with crooked green teeth. “I’ll try they.” <-- this does ping me as out of place. This kid died a while ago, right? This would be a harder concept, at least in terms of neopronouns. It also doesn't sound like a kid talking. This section threw me hard from the narrative. It's too on the nose, and too in the now, for the tone of the story and for the kid in question, I feel

- And D is... perfectly fine with the ghost of a murdered child? Emotions? Anywhere?

- pg 14: A's voice is in such deep contrast to their age and the other kids. It's really jarring

- again, strong ending

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17 hours ago, kais said:

It was pink, my least favorite color, and had ponies all over it, <--- AHEM

 

Sorry. I have a deep seated dislike of pink and blue, so I tend to write characters who dislike those colors, and then sometimes try to counter them with one who appreciates them. If it is any consolation, the mc doesn't dislike the ponies, just the pink. And D loves both pink and ponies. :lol:

17 hours ago, kais said:

- pg 14: A's voice is in such deep contrast to their age and the other kids. It's really jarring

 

I'm very conflicted with A and what their voice should be like. They died as a kid, but they've been a ghost for a very long time. So do they still talk like a kid? Or do they talk like someone who is very old? I was thinking that to an extent, their voice and personality matured while they spend so much time thinking, watching, and plotting. Maybe that was the wrong choice, and I should go at from the perspective of their spectral self being stuck in a more kid-like mindset. 

 

Thanks for the feedback! I'll definitely be working on framing scenes and adding more emotion to the chapters. 

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Posted (edited)

I want to ask you, @shatteredsmoothplease turn on spellcheck. There are lots of little errors you could easily fix just by having this on. And after that, look out for errors when you do a re-read. Finding grammatical and spelling mistakes while reading makes doing so a more time-consuming thing than it ought to be.

Story-wise, something I've noticed is that E has some skewed priorities. Despite that their mother has been turned into a mannequin (which they react very little to; you'd expect a kid to be horrified, scared and confused) they seem to spend a lot of time worrying over what gender pronouns to use with people. I feel that the worst thing that could happen if you get a pronoun wrong is you get corrected. Also, E also does a fair amount of agonizing about whether or not she can bring the dog certain places or not. Worst case scenario: leave the dog outside.

Again, E's mother turned into a mannequin. There are so many consequences that can arise from this—homelessness, police questioning, mother stuck that way, etc—and none of them are delved upon. Whether or not E is able to save their mother is much more interesting and tense than whether or not they get someone's pronouns right and/or is allowed to bring a dog into a building.

All these children, also, don't feel like children. They don't talk like children, they don't act like children. They act and speak like adults we are supposed to believe are children. They react very little to events going on around them, their dialogue feels very stilted (not much in the way of contractions) and their vocab is too advanced. 

I feel like you're not taking advantage of your premise. At least, not as quickly as I'd like. The pacing is slow; you gave us a tour of an antique store that we didn't need, delivered the dramatic buy-in (mom turns into a mannequin), before going to meticulously, unemotionally describe E's library research, before delivering a series of conveniences in our lap (D's mom is in the same place A died, E finds the two establishments she's looking for in the same building) and then finally giving us a new character. But there has been very little in the way of actual action, thus far.

To improve this, I think you need to cut a lot of extraneous details, put us inside E's head to tell us what they are feeling, have them stay mostly focused on helping their mother, and reworking the characterization of all the children's characters to make them feel less like robots. And put your docs through spell-check before you submit, please.

Notes below: 

(pg. 1)

-And if I was home with an overprotective Dad made more overprotective—Overprotective is one word.

-Where were a few things I could take from the shop.—Is E asking a question here? 

(pg. 2)

-I also texted my friend K, whose

-Plus, if K was feeding him, then no one would suspect anything had happened to Mom.—That's a pretty big logical stretch there. What happens when someone tries to call or e-mail her and gets no response? They're not gonna take the cat they may or may not even see as an indicator that she's fine. 

-I emptied the contents of the vampire hunting kit into it.—Why not just take the kit wholesale? 

(pg. 4)

-I used another bungee cord to the secure the tent—Delete bolded 'the'

-Last but not least—I wouldn't use this. It's cliché. It's the equivalent of ending your essay with 'all in all.' 

-The building, one story and kind of square—Kind of square? What makes it kind of? 

-The latter didn’t

(pg. 5)

- Is there something specific you are looking for?—Paranormal books are already pretty specific. 

-I hated the idea of her falsely assuming that he was a service dog, because people pretending dogs that aren’t service dogs are creates huge problems for real service dogs—A few problems here. For one, this feels like preaching, which never reads well. Also, 'hated'? That's a pretty strong emotion to be feeling for something E doesn't even really know the librarian is doing or not. And finally, everything after 'because' is nonsensical: what does "pretending dogs that aren't service dogs" mean? And why is it more of a problem for the service dogs than humans? 

-If I had anywhere else to bring him, I wouldn’t bring him in a building pets weren’t allowed in.—Why doesn't E leave him with a friend? 

-The shelves were full of hardcovers with plastic protecting the spines and call numbers.—You mean like all libraries? 

-There were titles about doing tarot readings, about spirituality, and about communicating with the dead.—And suddenly, we've teleported to the paranormal section. 

(pg. 6)

- and took them to the most hidden table I could find.—What makes this table hidden? And why is E even trying to hide? 

-and Googling related topics.

-That owner’s name was MF.—What's E's emotional reaction to this? Thus far, they've displayed little to no emotion. 

(pg. 7)

-I’d have something to compare them to.

-Conveniently enough, there was one psychic place listed on the same street as a sub shop.—You're right. That's convenient. Way too convenient. Impossibly convenient. 

- I ordered a small cheese pizza, because you can get that at any pizza place.—Please don't tell me you can buy pizza at a pizza shop.

- I gave G a chance to do his business in the woods behind the library—Small details like this are not advancing the plot.

(pg. 8)

-it probably wasn’t a neo pronoun, but that didn’t mean it hadn’t started using a new pronoun as a ghost.—E's mother turned into a mannequin. Wondering what pronouns a dead child would use—said child probably doesn't even know what a pronoun is—ought to be the last thing they're worried about. 

-I walked my bike around the back entrance that led to the psychic's shop

-I wasn’t sure what you called said place.—Definitely not a lair. 

-put some of his kibble in the lid of my thermos while I ate.—What? E's putting dog food IN the lid of the thing they drink from? Ew. 

-made an effort to minimize conversation with grown-ups

-There were no signs telling me pets were not allowed—Why is E worried about this? Their mom is a mannequin! 

-before I told that person—I would replace with 'them'

(pg. 9)

-Maybe if the psychic was the real deal, he, she, or they might—I would delete the bolded part

-G certainly thought there was because his tail thumped against my leg.—I don't see how that translates to 'danger ahead.'

-more makeup than I would be allowed to wear even if I actually ever wanted to wear makeup—Makeup is one word. 

-The person wore—Replace with 'they'

(pg. 10)

-I stood in the dark, mystical room and filled with candles—Deleted bolded 'and'

-“You’re talking about Mx. R who owns JJ, right?I asked, wanting to make

(pg. 11)

-“Then why was the open sign lit?"—I would either capitalize this or put apostrophes around it, and all further instances of sign names. 

-Some of the breaths caught on tear snot, like it was a gooey sad net—What is tear snot? And also, yuck. 

-This girl’s mom could’ve fallen through the floor or gotten killed by some violent criminal who was hiding out in that mill.—I am having trouble believing any kid's thought process would run like this. 

-“We called the police, but they searched the area and didn’t see any sign of her. Her car isn’t even anywhere."—This girl is awfully trusting of E, for only just having met them. 

(pg. 12)

-“I was planning on sleeping in a backpacking tent I took from JJ, but I’d rather not illegally camp if I can avoid it.”—Why can't E just go home?  

-That is where A died.—Their delivery is robotic ("That's where A died!" might be an improvement) and this fact is too convenient. 

(pg. 13)

-A formed into a zombie kid ghost.

-“What pronoun should I use for you?” I asked because I really didn’t want to think of A with the wrong gender.—Why would E presume a dead kid from the 19th century have any idea what this means?

-No one ever gave me to the option—Delete bolded letter. Also, I do not buy A knows what gender pronouns are. 

-was there are creepy lady—Delete bolded letters

(pg. 14)

-but all vampires allegedly—No child's vocabulary is this good. Not only that, all these children talk like emotionless adults. 

-Without this vessel, I might lose myself.

(pg. 16)

-You use masculine pronouns for A three times. 

Edited by JWerner
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3 hours ago, JWerner said:

 please turn on spellcheck. There are lots of little errors you could easily fix just by having this on

I have spell check on in Word. It doesn't catch missing words or pick up on when I said "too" instead of "to" or "loose" instead of "lose."  Is it supposed to? Maybe something is wrong with mine? It only seems to catch actual misspellings, not incorrect forms. The grammar function is good at catching fragments and some wrong sentence constructions, but it also sometimes labels things as fragments when that is not the case. 

It would be nice if it actually caught that stuff, because I could read the piece ten times and not see a missing word or an extra "o". I really don't want to pay for something like Grammarly. I looked this over twice, one time was out loud, but reading out loud is almost useless for me. If I spend hours editing something and post it here only to find out I need to do a major rewrite, I fell like I wasted a ridiculous amount of time. 

It's funny, because I can handle rejections and major rewrites, but it's my inability to see errors that sometimes makes me doubt whether I have any business writing. 

I can work on the pacing and put more emotion into the piece. If my Microsoft Word's spell check isn't doing what its supposed to, I can try a different word processor. I can't change the way my brain, eyes, and ears communicate (or fail to communicate) with each other. 

I'm sorry this was such a mess. Thank you very much for reading in spite of my malfunctioning brain and malfunctioning spell check, and for pointing out all the things I missed. I truely appreciate it. I'll try putting my next submission in Google docs and Pages next time and see if either of those catch more than Word did. 

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@JWerner I just put it in Google Docs and that seemed to focus more on the types of errors I make than word did. Next week's submission should be cleaner. I didn't realize how much Google Docs had improved its spell check. 

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26 minutes ago, shatteredsmooth said:

It's funny, because I can handle rejections and major rewrites, but it's my inability to see errors that sometimes makes me doubt whether I have any business writing. 

Don't think that! The writer of the piece is almost always too close to the project to see small stuff like spelling errors, dropped words, typos. Brandon has said multiple times that his books sometimes make it all the way to the publication stage with spelling errors. I mean, spell check IS your friend, but at this stage, you definitely shouldn't be putting any extra effort into catching these issues because it'll bog you down. It'll become a chore. (At least it would if it was me.) Spelling errors and typos are such easy fixes and can be done at the very end. A simple solution would be to ask us in your OP not to worry about spotting these things for you?

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Posted (edited)

@hawkedupThanks for the encouragement. I'll try to be clearer in OP next time.

I'm probably over reacting to this anyway. I just kind of melt down when people say or imply they think I need to proof read something that I spent a couple hours proof reading. By now I should just accept that there will always be someone who will see the amount of errors and make assumptions, but every time it happens, it makes me more frustrated instead of less frustrated. 

1 hour ago, hawkedup said:

but at this stage, you definitely shouldn't be putting any extra effort into catching these issues because it'll bog you down. It'll become a chore. (At least it would if it was me.)

It is a huge chore, and no matter how much effort I put in, I will still miss things.  I'm trying to find a balance between editing enough so that readers don't get too distracted by the errors, but not so much that I get distracted from more important elements of the piece. 

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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1 hour ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I just kind of melt down when people say or imply they think I need to proof read something that I spent a couple hours proof reading.

I'm sorry! I didn't mean to upset you. And please don't think by making errors, that makes you unworthy of being a writer; if that held true, nobody would write in the first place. 

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On 8/3/2019 at 3:20 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

Sorry. I have a deep seated dislike of pink and blue,

My two favorite colors! :o Nooooooo

Ahem.

Oh, and I didn't think the spelling/grammar stuff was that bad at all! I never felt like it actually impeded my ability to understand what was going on. So from a purely linguistic standpoint, you could argue that it's not a huge deal since all language is arbitrary anyway and we can still comprehend what you're trying to get across. Maybe that argument won't win over editors, but it makes me feel better when I look at my own work. :) 

Anyways...

What I liked:

Ch. 3 in particular had a really nice advancement of a bunch of ideas we got introduced to. It really felt like E learns a lot during this time and makes substantial progress towards tackling the larger conflict of this story. I also love how the father and brother are away at a motorcycle rally. That's all I need to know to get a general picture of them that suffices for now. :) 

Ch. 4 also really moves the narrative forward and introduces us to a fun new character. I like D overall, and the part about getting a discount at the pizza place was the most relateable thing I've read in weeks (idk what that says about me). In general, I do like how much information we get during these chapters, since I don't really like watching characters flounder in uncertainty. I think concerns about the story running out of things to reveal may be legitimate, but right now I have trust in the story to keep up the pace. 

Suggestions:

You mentioned the tension lagging in ch. 3, so I'll do my best to articulate my thoughts about it. From my perspective, I think the general structure of E going around town to hunt for info is solid, and what might be missing is a force pushing/challenging them to do so. It seems right now that the main force driving E forward is that they don't really have anyone to rely on. This can be kept or changed, and either way I'd like to see it putting more pressure on E to get something accomplished. I'm not exactly sure how long E has to accomplish what the story needs them to, for example, so I don't get a lot of tension from the library scene simply because it doesn't feel like E is rushed. A metaphorical time bomb prompting E to research things quickly certainly isn't the only plot device that can be used here; any force that puts the pressure on E to get stuff done should work fine. Ideally it also connects to some personal motivation/fear of E's.

Some of the dialogue in chapter 4 is given to us in pretty big blocks from D. A bit more back and forth with comments from E might let us see more of E's personality and help the dialogue from feeling a bit less expository. 

I have mixed feelings on the other comments in this thread about E going into detail about pronouns and the dog instead of worrying about their mother, ect. Because I do really like how E buckles down and tries to get things done instead of spending a bunch of time panicking. Unless E worrying about their mom leads to some revelation that advances the story, I don't think we need a whole lot of it. I'll even say that I think it's realistic on some level because fears aren't always rational (people will cite a fact about how public speaking is a more common fear than death). However, I do think that the little worries that E has highlight that the story may need a larger force pushing E forward instead of letting them go through research/conversations at a comfortable pace. In other words, I can see E acting the way they do, and I think because of that we need more challenges/looming threats thrown their way to force them to react in more specific/characterizing ways. 

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Overall, I like how practical E is, but I feel like they should maybe be agonizing over some of these choices more. E is prioritizing and reacting very much like an adult, and I think a kid would get to the same places eventually, but be worried about and act on different things. 

 

As i go:

"had a good rack on the back, but no basket" -- Milk crates and bungee cords! There has to be a milk crate or a wire or wooden box or something that E can strap to the back. A front-type bike basket would not be great on a back rack, I don't think. I used a plastic milk crate and 3 bungee cords to haul a ton of stuff around on my bicycle before I upgraded to an actual back-of-the-bike bag... 

I think the thing that stands out here from this is the very adult way E is prioritizing and reacting to things. I think a kid that age could do everything I've read about so far, but I think a kid would probably put different emphasis on the importance of certain things. Since E keeps prioritizing and acting like an adult, I don't feel a lot of tension here. The situation would be scary for an adult, but not overwhelming and I feel like even a kid used to operating more solo would be at about the end of their ability to cope here. 

Like the first part, i'm also seeing some vocab and terms of art, especially around the pronouns and such that don't seem to fit quite right in the mouth of a kid.  I definitely think a kid can be having those kinds of thoughts and worries, but I'm not sure if the language is quite right for a kid. 

 

I will also say, that having worked in a public library, that unattended minors that just roll in on their own are SUPER suspect. Libraries are not free daycare, and it's something librarians struggle with constantly. With no one to ride herd on them, the unattended kids also tend to be very destructive and disruptive. You also get some nice quiet ones like E, but there's no way for this librarian to know which one E is when E comes in.  I'd expect someone to be watching E pretty closely, especially at the beginning, even if no one confronts E directly. Sort of like <pointedly shelving books with a direct line-of-sight to E> or <deciding to do a walking circuit of the building every hour or so that just happens to pass by where E is sitting> or something. Once E proves to be quiet, it'll lighten up, but if E is staying close to closing, someone's going to start checking up on them again, and more frequently as closing nears. 

Plus there's the dog. Legally, the only thing you can ask is "is that a service animal," and then you have to wait for the animal to damage something or cause a disturbance before you can toss it out, but you'd better believe that animal is being tracked by staff the entire time it's there. As with kids, dogs that prove to be quiet aren't watched as closely, generally. I've definitely given my fair share of stink eyes to "service animals" that clearly aren't. I was a little surprised E didn't get a librarian glare for that at least. 

 

I'm kind of surprised in general at the amount of freedom E has moving around this town. It's been my experience that young kids alone get hassled by well-meaning adults to find their parents pretty regularly. Yet E sails through the library, buying and picking up a pizza, eating it on the street in public, and standing in front of the psychic's building with barely any problems. I feel like there's a missed opportunity for kid-tension here.  

Generally, I think a lot of the "stalled" problems will work out if we get to feel more of the kid-tension and kid-emotions in this story. right now, I feel like there's a lot of adult energy coming off of things, and as an adult, a situation like that is scary, but not particularly tense or difficult. 

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19 hours ago, JWerner said:

I'm sorry! I didn't mean to upset you. And please don't think by making errors, that makes you unworthy of being a writer; if that held true, nobody would write in the first place. 

Thank you. I was overtired when I saw it, and since I was in college, I've had people assuming I didn't make an effort to catch errors simply because they were there. I'm sorry if I blew it out of proportion. 

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8 minutes ago, industrialistDragon said:

I will also say, that having worked in a public library, that unattended minors that just roll in on their own are SUPER suspect.

I had been wondering about this. Thanks for the insight. 

12 minutes ago, industrialistDragon said:

I'd expect someone to be watching E pretty closely, especially at the beginning, even if no one confronts E directly. Sort of like <pointedly shelving books with a direct line-of-sight to E> or <deciding to do a walking circuit of the building every hour or so that just happens to pass by where E is sitting> or something.

Good idea! This will be a great way to up the tension. 

13 minutes ago, industrialistDragon said:

Legally, the only thing you can ask is "is that a service animal," and then you have to wait for the animal to damage something or cause a disturbance before you can toss it out, but you'd better believe that animal is being tracked by staff the entire time it's there.

I guess if the librarian does ask, it would put E in a situation where they can choose to be truthful and leave or be lie and stay. If I do rewrite so the librarian asks and E lies, I need to make sure E is very uncomfortable with it and the narrative voice isn't endorsing it. That said, I think it could add more tension.

17 minutes ago, industrialistDragon said:

I feel like there's a missed opportunity for kid-tension here. 

 

18 minutes ago, industrialistDragon said:

Generally, I think a lot of the "stalled" problems will work out if we get to feel more of the kid-tension and kid-emotions in this story. right now, I feel like there's a lot of adult energy coming off of things, and as an adult, a situation like that is scary, but not particularly tense or difficult.

This makes a lot of sense, and is some thing concrete I can focus on when revising. Thank you! 

@industrialistDragon Thank you for all the great feedback. 

2 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Maybe that argument won't win over editors, but it makes me feel better when I look at my own work.

:-) This manuscript has a long way to go before it gets looked at by editors.

2 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

This can be kept or changed, and either way I'd like to see it putting more pressure on E to get something accomplished. I'm not exactly sure how long E has to accomplish what the story needs them to, for example, so I don't get a lot of tension from the library scene simply because it doesn't feel like E is rushed.

 

2 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

In other words, I can see E acting the way they do, and I think because of that we need more challenges/looming threats thrown their way to force them to react in more specific/characterizing ways. 

I'm thinking that @industrialistDragon suggestion (which was posted after your comments) of a suspicious librarian looking over E's shoulder, and knowing when the library closes, might put some pressure on E. They might not know how long they have to save Mom, but their time in the library should be limited. Getting kicked out and/or having Dad or police called would be a good threat to have looming over them, at least in that scene. 

@Ace of HeartsThank you for reading and commenting. Your feedback is very helpful. :-)

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I'm so late. My apologies.

(page 1)

- First line: :lol: I love the kind of sarcastic understatement. Oscar Wilde said "Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit," but the bit that doesn't get quoted so often is the rest of the line... "but the highest form of intelligence." Anyway, I'm quite partial to it, obviously!

- "made more over protective by" - delete.

- "for a day or two to see if I could figure out a way to turn mom back" - This sounds too casual, for me. Like, ho hum, probably this won't take more than a couple of days to sort out.

- "I needed Wi-Fi" - Again, it seems a bit too casual. Is E expecting the a 'CLOSED' sign is going to keep people away from the shop for two days, while they go somewhere else? Will it not just be full of customers again tomorrow, wondering what the heck's going on?

(page 2)

- "negotiating the right terms" - This sounds older than the rest of the chapter so far. What age is the E again?

(page 3)

- "including the keys" - I wondered about this when E flipped the closed sign. Could they not have locked the door at that point? Just seems cleaner than having to think about the possibility of someone come through the door.

- "to further secure" - The grammar as well as the wording seems a little mature sometimes. Just now and then, like this.

(page 4)

- "wishing he had a helmet too" - I think the closing line of the paragraph could be stronger. Maybe something about cycling away and leaving Mom behind (for now)?

- "I locked my bike" - I'd say 'the bike', because you've referred in the previous paragraph to E's own bike, with this is not.

- Who's A again? Complete and total WRS, but I suspect I'd have to flip back to find this out anyway, even if reading right through. Also, I don't get why E is nervous about taking the doll into the library.

(page 5)

- I found the bit when E thinks about the alternatives for G rather confusing. What's the message?

- "to the most hidden table" - This is awkward phrasing for me. I think you could turn it round, as in 'the least visible table', or maybe the most concealed table. E's certainly shown the vocabulary to be more sophisticated than this, imo.

- Could you maybe say 'library wi-fi'? I'd like a reminder of where I am: it hasn't been mentioned much.

(page 6)

- I think you need to have 'rumour had it' before 'sometimes' in the passage about the factory owner's wife. I'd 'that sometimes she would invite'. I'm trying to get at putting sometimes close to what she does sometimes, i.e. the inviting. That's makes things clearer and more effective, imo.

- I don't believe a kid would report the owner for making then sit still for a portrait, not when there are such abuses of factory safe and child labour, that sort if bullying would be insignificant, imo, in that time period. What would the police charge the owner with, literarily, bullying? I don't believe it.

- You say the owner's wife, then you say the owner's name was MF. I presume you mean the owner's wife was MF?

- "Then I got tired of it and just took pictures of the pages" - Lol. But thinking about it a bit more, would E not have photo'd the pages straight away? Why start writing at all? This can't be the first time they've encountered this situation.

- "I always had a hard time deciding which websites could be trusted and which ones couldn’t be" - Consistency issue: E can't decide between websites, but seems to be quite happy to believe everything in the first book they read on the subject.

- "I’d have something to compare them too" - delete, for me, fur purposes of clarity. What is 'them' in this sentence? Unclear, and you don't need it

(page 7)

- "like chicken fingers or pizza" - ROFL, no greens? Very in-voice.

- The stuff about the shops and what E ordered is quite boring. I want to know what happens and the train of thought, but I think this can be cut down a fair bit.

- "I retrieved A’s doll" - still don't know why E didn't take it into the library. Also, chances of it being stolen by some kid, or dragged away by a cat/dog/rat/squirrel/skunk/fox/ groundhog/crow/magpie? Fairly high, I would have thought, but I guess I can roll with that.

- "what you called said place" - another sort of knowing, older phrase.

(page 8)

- "I walked into a room with a beaded curtain" - I don't follow: does E walk through the curtain to get into the room, or is there a curtain separating a smaller area of the room?

(page 9)

- Good encounter with the girl. I like her description, and I like the tone of the place and there's a nice surprise that she knows R.

(page 10)

- "a low end table" - I presume you don't mean a down-market table but that's one of the meanings ;) 

(page 11)

- "caught on tear snot" - I don't remember any other signs that the girl had been crying, which I would have expected before we got to tear snot.

- "an abandoned mill" - Not the abandoned mill! Don't go to the Abandoned Mill!!! :o  I just had a total Scooby Doo moment, but in a really good way. And I mean classic CBS Scooby, not all the nonsense that came afterwards.

- "They seem to think she just ran away and left me" - Problem: we have recently seen aunty being pretty jaunty and happy in the store. There's no way she behaves like that if her sister(?) is missing without a trace and it's only a day or two later, which is my impression. The only think I can think of to justify this is is aunty is complicit somehow, and mom in fact has been turned to a mannequin and aunty is aware of this. Otherwise, the emotional tone seems off to me, or the logic, or something.

(page 12)

- "I’d rather not illegally camp" - age tone again. It's hard to pin down.

(page 13)

- "My name is D and I use she/her" - Okay, I'm going to wade in here. I come from the context of (a) having 48 years of ignorance of non-binary issues, and 5 years of learning; (b) I am confident that this comment comes from a purely storytelling perspective, because I am completely accepting of that essential aspect of the main character, and of MxR. In the last couple of pages, there have been a lot of introductions. This had led to a lot of discussion over who is using what pronoun. All perfectly valid, no question. But, if you are writing for a mainstream audience, and aiming to enlighten them on these issues or just to communicate and include these characters, I really think if you hit them with this amount of introduction of non-binary context (or not, since D, although female, still goes through consideration of the question) with multiple characters, it takes over the story at this point, and the plot and setting and pacing are sidelined. If you're writing for an 'aware' audience, this still has the potential to deflect them from the story, because the focus has drifted off the plot / setting / pacing, I feel. All I'm suggesting is to give the reader more breathing space between these introductions (D, A's identification, and a revisiting of E's for the benefit of D, and A) so that it feels organic and does dominate everything else in the story. I feel like I've gone from following the story, to the story having become less important than character background, and don't think that's right in any context, for any story.

(page 14)

- "the things she said to him" - Is one of the pronouns here not A, and were they not going to use they/them?

- "She called to me every night, but I recognized her voice" - grammar: but doesn't fit here, because the first part of the sentence doesn't oppose the second part / is not contrary to it.

(page 15)

- "looked proud like a cat that caught a mouse" - Is this really what cats feel what they catch a mouse? I'm not convinced.

- "His feet" - his feet, his legs??

(page 16)

- the white door was disorienting for me, since it's something new introduced in the last line, but otherwise a decent finish in relation to the line about the doll.

Overall

Good chapters, especially the second one, despite the hard crash that I experienced with the pacing. Despite the typos and 'misprints', I'm finding it very easy to read, and to remain invested in. There's a good, strong story here with some solid editing, and continued critiquing. 

Thanks for sharing :) 

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On 04/08/2019 at 2:46 AM, shatteredsmooth said:

@JWerner I just put it in Google Docs and that seemed to focus more on the types of errors I make than word did. Next week's submission should be cleaner. I didn't realize how much Google Docs had improved its spell check. 

I would have thought Word grammar checking would pick up the wrong words.

On 04/08/2019 at 2:27 AM, shatteredsmooth said:

I'm sorry this was such a mess.

It's not a mess. We can fix all the mechanical stuff. Deep breath and keep submitting, please! :D 

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Posted (edited)

3 hours ago, Robinski said:

- First line: :lol: I love the kind of sarcastic understatement. Oscar Wilde said "Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit," but the bit that doesn't get quoted so often is the rest of the line... "but the highest form of intelligence." Anyway, I'm quite partial to it, obviously!

Yay!

3 hours ago, Robinski said:

"I always had a hard time deciding which websites could be trusted and which ones couldn’t be" - Consistency issue: E can't decide between websites, but seems to be quite happy to believe everything in the first book they read on the subject.

Good catch!

3 hours ago, Robinski said:

- "like chicken fingers or pizza" - ROFL, no greens? Very in-voice.

 

I think your comments are spot on regarding where the voice seems too old and where is age appropriate. 

 

3 hours ago, Robinski said:

I don't believe a kid would report the owner for making then sit still for a portrait, not when there are such abuses of factory safe and child labour, that sort if bullying would be insignificant, imo, in that time period. What would the police charge the owner with, literarily, bullying? I don't believe it.

You're not the only one who brought this up. I definitely need to reassess what information is revealed here and how it is revealed. This might be a detail they learn from A, not from some document. 

3 hours ago, Robinski said:

I feel like I've gone from following the story, to the story having become less important than character background, and don't think that's right in any context, for any story

I agree with you and the others that I did not handle that reveal right. I appreciate your insight on it. More breathing room is definitely required. 

3 hours ago, Robinski said:

- "looked proud like a cat that caught a mouse" - Is this really what cats feel what they catch a mouse? I'm not convinced.

 

LOL I'll revisit this. 

3 hours ago, Robinski said:

I would have thought Word grammar checking would pick up the wrong words.

On 8/3/2019 at 9:27 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

I have the version of word for Mac that the community college I teach at gave me for free. It may not do everything it is supposed to. The program as a whole is a little glitchy and might be made for an older OS than what I'm running. Google actually caught things Word didn't. 

3 hours ago, Robinski said:

There's a good, strong story here with some solid editing, and continued critiquing.

Thanks! It might get rocky in a week or two because we're getting close to a point in the manuscript where I have as many questions and notes written for my self as I have story, but then it gets better again

3 hours ago, Robinski said:

- "an abandoned mill" - Not the abandoned mill! Don't go to the Abandoned Mill!!! :o  I just had a total Scooby Doo moment, but in a really good way. And I mean classic CBS Scooby, not all the nonsense that came afterwards.

Scooby Doo vibes are totally appropriate. This story is a hodgepodge of paranormal tropes and weird things I made up as a kid. 

Thank you so much for reading and critiquing! 

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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