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211004 - TMM - Three new openings in draft - Robinski - (L) mild, anatomical


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Hi folks,
Wow, I had pretty much forgottwn how to do this. Do let me know if you don't get the emaikl, of course.
My novel TMM has been through here before some time ago. I'm going into a major edit as I have the prospect of it being published in the next few months, all going well. Actually, it was Reading Excuses that prompted me to review and revise the beginning, which I have significant doubts about in terms of being strong enough, or maybe rather tight enough with respect to what constitutes an engaging opening. 

So, here are three versions of the original opening, each taking its cue from one of the three styles of opening discussed by Dong Won Son on Reading Excuses. I would love to hear your thoughts and preferences. 

As noted, if you have something specific that you’d like me to read other than just your last submission, do let me know, otherwise I will browse through the recent subs, and maybe go back to the first in the project, or cover a few recent ones. 

Cheers, Robinski
p.s. Gentle reminder, please do not use any original names in the comments. Thanks!
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That's fantastic news! Well done!

My favorite by a large margin is the second option. The first would be my second choice. The last version didn't hold up to the others in my opinion, although the detail of why the skin darkening spray was being used was nice. 

A few details caught my attention. If you weren't looking for line by lines, please ignore:

In Version #2:

The first paragraph has a lot of comas, so in my head it read a little choppy. 

"Darkening of his skin" is in a slightly different font than the rest of the text.

"I may have a job to do...": Q's thoughts later on are italicized, but these aren't. Unless he is speaking outloud? 


Again, well done! Please keep us posted on how it goes

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I agree with @Sarah B that the second one is the winner. I think especially since Q's personality is one of the driving factors of the book, a mental state is required. That said, I do like a lot of the voice and brevity of the first one. It reads a bit better, so if some of the direct thoughts were cut down in the second one, that would make it more streamlined. So maybe a combination of the first and second, with some of the brevity and wit of the description, but also the added mental remarks by Q that show us what he's like.


Notes while reading:

Opening 1:
You don't mention Q's name until the third paragraph. Moving it up a bit might help.

pg 2: "he noted a family portrait wedged..."
--I thought this was a room at the airline or a hotel. Why would there be a family portrait?

pg 2: "a full two minutes at the mirror"
--That's...a lot of time staring in the mirror. Q is fairly vain, but after a point, you run out of things to look at.

Opening 2:
This one seems very overwrought, though I'm assuming "call me Q" is a reference to Moby Dick?
Regardless I like the extra thoughts adding more character to Q, but maybe indirect thoughts rather than direct, so it doesn't break up the flow as much?

pg 4: The part about his past is much more informative here. I think that's a good thing to have in the opening few pages.

pg 4: "These homely touches, reminders of distant family,"
--yeah, still confused about the picture. Is he using crew's quarters? How did he get in here?

pg 4: ", but still there was nothing even close to an answer there"
--at least this answers some of why he was staring into the mirror.

Opening 3:
Don't like this one. It strips out everything that's the soul of this book. It's about Q's journey and seeing from his eyes, so not having his thoughts or headspace takes a lot away.

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Good luck with the edits, and congratulations on the publishing prospects! Hope all goes well!

Oh hey! I just listened to those episodes :) 

Opening 1:

It’s probably the fact that I spend 2-3 hours a day with middle schoolers and high schoolers, but the anatomical references were a little more off-putting through here than I would have expected.  Normally that wouldn’t bother me unless it was excessive, and I think it calls out the tone well but after spending far too much time day-to-day dealing with “Yes. Everyone has a butt. While we are stretching, yours will probably be facing someone else. That is how life goes. Just touch your toes so you don’t tear a hamstring” while coaching, most anatomical references elsewhere gets shoved into the “is this necessary?” category.   Being female probably doesn’t help sympathize with the crotch scratching detail either…

So, I think the tone carries solidly, which is good.  It’s always helpful to know what you’re getting into from the start, even if (in this case) I’m not personally likely to find the character super engaging on page one. Probably also doesn’t help that adult sci-fi isn’t usually what I reach for when looking for something to read.

The opening line makes me wonder if whales are more central to normal daily life in this world than they are in ours or if our protagonist has reasons to make that comparison instead of some other one.  And if we’re getting into the nitty-gritty of it, wouldn’t “the other side” just be the ocean? Which, to me, seems happier than the …uh… passage.

“At least…comfort.” Something in the flow of this sentence is off for me. I keep wanting to read it as two with a split at “case. All”

“the … businessman”  what businessman?  “the” is making me try to link this detail with someone we’ve already seen.

I think getting Q’s name earlier would be helpful.

“his room” The jump to here is a little sudden. Is this like a hotel room? The equivalent of an airport bathroom? Or some sort of frequent-traveler lounge? Upon addition of the family photo: Some sort of locker room? Is it his family photo? Is he using someone else’s space?  

Two minutes seems like a long time.


Opening 2:

Similar LBL thoughts at the start.

Having the job description here is really helpful for placing us and the character in the world a little better. Though I guess we’d probably get that from a back-of-book summary (or from the title, now that I’m looking at that again)

Still confused about the interaction with the businessman, and the dialogue line just adds to that, unfortunately.

The transition to the shower room is smoother here, though the other questions about it are still there.

The em-dashes are already breaking up the sentence a little, so having “yet again” right after breaks up the flow. Shifting that to the end of the sentence might make that a little smoother.

“He was looking…” the punctuation here seems off, but I’m not sure how much of that is personal preference, though. I know I tend toward periods and em-dashes too often, when commas would be perfectly fine. So my opinion on that matter is pretty skewed.

“, however,”  missing commas.

Is flypaper a familiar thing in this setting? Not sure how far future we are, or what level of existing tech is still familiar. Or familiar enough for the comparisons to stick around.  Even now, the term is probably familiar to most people, but I don’t know too many people who use flypaper. Seems like a lot of people (at least in my area/social circle) have shifted to powered bug zappers.

“I may have…” I assume this should be italicized? And that the line above it shouldn’t be?

I like the additional character background we get in the second half of this one.  Gives me a far better idea of who Q is and what he’s dealing with.

Come on, J.   I’m assuming this is the aforementioned boss’s daughter? If we aren’t supposed to assume that (or if it’s a problem to assume that), it might be worth adding some additional detail here to help us file this away in the right spot.  The transition from admiring himself in the mirror to this sort of threatening thought is a big jump, and I’m not entirely sure what to make of it.  If I was reading something longer, I’d probably mentally note it as “Okay. He lives in a state of constant hatred of J. Check. Unclear if J deserves that or not.” and move along until that becomes relevant. But if we didn’t get more clarification on it before too long, I’d get a little antsy because of how bluntly the thought is put out there, and because it seems to play a big part in the aloneness and completeness that is mentioned here.


Opening 3:

“shed…and don” ?  The sentence feels incomplete with just the commas.

The crotch-scratching detail goes even more firmly into the “Is this necessary?” category in my brain when the colorful commentary on squishing into seats is removed.

“stepped into…and stood” ?

The “through the timeline” sentence runs more smoothly here than in version 2



I definitely agree with the others.  Two is my favorite, followed by one, then three.  I think that one gives the strongest impression of who the character is and where he’s coming from.

I don’t know enough about where things go from here to say much about whether it seems like it should be trimmed back or what questions need clearer answers here or what can be put off until later. 

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Welcome back! I look forward to reading this!

Opening #1

pg 1

-”he bore no disadv” the “he” here threw me off. I think you can get away without mentioning a name right away but here, i feel caught off guard.

-”now, if only.., but it was not, quite” I don't like all the commas in this sentence; it feels super muddled and unnatural.

-”the most comfortable ones” compared to the other openings, this one feels very out of order. I know this line is referring to the miles but it almost makes me think, “most comfortable what?” also “unfortunately” doesnt feel entirely necessary

-”making a pained expression” I’m having trouble picturing this whole action. He winked while making a pained expression?? What was he trying to do here? edit: I see now its bc of the seat and him not fitting into it right? that's why he is pained. when i see wink, i think flirting, so this read odd to me.

-also idk what s-n® is

-”the first thing Q did” i would’ve never known this was the POV character were it not for having skimmed some other crits

pg 2

-”porter departed was to disrobe” I think there's a tense issue here. Get rid of “to” maybe?

Opening 1 feels incomplete at the end. Would i keep reading? Probably not. There's nothing that makes me think “wow i need to figure out what's going on.” there’s no oomph. There were a lot of the sentences that felt a bit wordy and did not flow as well as they could have; I think I mentioned them in the lbls though.


Opening #2

pg 3

-way better opening line. though, I don't read a ton of scifi so all the terms in the first sentence tripped me up. IT-, So-, and Geo 1. I wouldn’t completely abandon this piece based on that but still.

-”at least his Mer-” the first pronoun here flows way better than in the other opening. 

-”passengers required to wear the same” were required?

-”thumb-shaped N shuttlecraft’s passengers” I dont think there’s a huge problem here, but to me, this feels wordy. Also could this be taken as the passengers being thumb-shaped?? It's the shuttlecraft that's thumb-shaped right? ;p

-”it was not, quite.” yeah i still don't like this phrasing. Feels unnatural. Im not sure about this, but I think "quite" is one of those words that you can cut, like really and very. Or at least use it sparingly. This is the first instance tho so its probably not the word itself, just how it's used.

-”the most comfortable ones” okay this is exactly the same in opening one but for some reason, i dont mind it here. Like the last few sentences in this paragraph feel okay to me. so i guess ignore my previous gripes?

“Family s-n ®” ohhhhhh the family s-n. I wasnt understanding this but it reads like “a family crest,” huh? I see now. The family android. 

pg 4

-”marrying the boss’s daughter” ho ho intriguing

-”i may have a job” italics?

-”his efficient frame” huh?? Efficient?? Lmao! I’ve never heard someone describing their frame as efficient. Like he’s in shape?

-”the softly lit cabin must serve” tense error? is this present tense? Must have served?

-”and that loathsome flash” i love lines like these that add character

-better ending, though the Jen line felt a bit out of place. 


Opening #3

pg 5

-”left him stiff and aching” i stand by opening 2 being the best intro of the POV character

-“The most comfortable, but the slowest” i like the previous phrasing. This phrasing feels awkward

-”tunnel to the security station” i also like “security station” better than checkpoint

-”once his sy-n porter” this feels way more fast paced and im not getting as good a feel for the character. I do like that it’s simpler and less wordy but we’ve lost the vital character building moments

-”stepping from the shower, he regarded his eff- frame” a lot of sentences (like this one) in this version flow better, imo. In this paragraph, though, there might be too many simple sentences

-second best ending. It feels more complete than the first but its not as good as #2’s. I dont feel like ive been given anything in this one that makes me want to continue reading.



I agree with the others! Opening two was far better!

On 10/5/2021 at 8:59 AM, Mandamon said:

I agree with @Sarah B that the second one is the winner. I think especially since Q's personality is one of the driving factors of the book, a mental state is required. That said, I do like a lot of the voice and brevity of the first one. It reads a bit better, so if some of the direct thoughts were cut down in the second one, that would make it more streamlined. So maybe a combination of the first and second, with some of the brevity and wit of the description, but also the added mental remarks by Q that show us what he's like.

^ this literally sums up everything i want to say.

Edited by karamel
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  • 9 months later...

Hey, thank you so much @Sarah B, @C_Vallion, @karamel, and @Mandamon for reading the openings.

I am so sorry that I did not get back here until now. Long story short, in October '21, I had a relapse of the medical condition that put me in hospital last June. Turns out that I have the chronic form of GBS, which is called CIDP. I got all my gains back after a second course of treatment, and am 95% recovered (and stable) but I definitely did not have the spoons to deal with much of anything for a month or so near the end of last year.

The good news is that I think I fixed almost all of these comments: thank you very much for calling the issues out. The Glasgow SF Writers' Circle had a go at the same submission and tagged a lot of the same things. All that anatomical stuff, and the businessman, etc. is gone. The even better news is that my novel is schedule for release on August, 9th by Space Wizard Science Fantasy!


The opening did end up as something of a mash-up of v1 and v2, with little or nothing of v3 :) 

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