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Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007

Friend to Crows
Lover of Fungi
Queen of Blood


It's high time we open up another workshopping thread!

What this thread is for

This is the thread where you can post your short stories and novel excerpts for feedback!

Previous threads had maximum word counts. I don't think that's useful, especially for those of us working on longer short stories, novellas, and novels.

I'm going to put this right up front: If you are planning to submit your story for publication, please be aware that publishers may or may not consider posts in this thread as "prior publication" which could make your story ineligible. The way around this is to post your stories behind a link; most people will use Google docs for this purpose.

How to post

You can of course just paste your story directly into the thread.

Many CC writers use Google docs. If you would like to share your story as a Google docs link, make sure your share settings are set to "anyone with a link can read/comment"

You do not have to allow comments on your doc. You can certainly make it read-only and direct crits back to this thread. If you want line-by-line crits on a Google doc, however, it's better to enable comments.

How to post goodly

Any story or excerpt longer than about 5000 words should be posted as a Google docs link (or similar format) so readers don't have to scroll for ages.

Any story or excerpt shorter than 5000 words may be posted in this thread. Please see the caveat about publishers at the top of this post.

If you post a story, you should be prepared to crit someone else's story.

If you are posting your story in the thread, make sure to hit preview to catch any formatting errors. No one wants to read a horrible block of text because you couldn't be bothered to format your story for the forums. If you write in standard manuscript format in a word processor, you will need to do a small amount of work to make sure your spacing and formatting is appropriate for this thread.

Bad:

quote:

Title
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Good:

quote:

Title

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

How to crit goodly

The Fiction Advice thread has an excellent post about giving and receiving feedback! Scroll down a bit for advice on giving critiques.

I'm not going to post a rubric or guide because there are a lot of different ways to critique and some of it will depend on the format. Offering line-by-line critique directly in-document is going to be very different than writing a general content critique on the forums.

You do not have to have to have any special experience or insight to offer someone a critique. The only thing that isn't helpful are short, shallow responses like "this sucks" or "this is great".

I'll say it again: if you post a story, you should be prepared to crit someone else's story.

Resources:

Feel free to join CC's premier writing Discord! Also the home of the Thunderdome contest community.

https://discord.gg/FHT2UVM

I will add other resources here as people give them to me.

Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 20:28 on Sep 28, 2020

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Ccs
Feb 25, 2011


I'm looking for feedback on the opening section of my novel. A lot of people have looked at it and I got a few sparse notes but I had one recent viewer that had an issue with almost every line. I was so thrown by the reaction that I'm now second guessing my ability to string a sentence together or construct a scene at all. Wondering if people here will have similar reactions.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/...dit?usp=sharing

Feel free to comment on the doc or quote sections here, though as I just learned trying to copy from Google Docs into a forum post leads to very strange formatting issues.
I'll also take a look at the next few things posted in this thread that people are looking for feedback on, as long as they're not too many pages.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007

Friend to Crows
Lover of Fungi
Queen of Blood


Ccs posted:

I'm looking for feedback on the opening section of my novel. A lot of people have looked at it and I got a few sparse notes but I had one recent viewer that had an issue with almost every line. I was so thrown by the reaction that I'm now second guessing my ability to string a sentence together or construct a scene at all. Wondering if people here will have similar reactions.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/...dit?usp=sharing

Feel free to comment on the doc or quote sections here, though as I just learned trying to copy from Google Docs into a forum post leads to very strange formatting issues.
I'll also take a look at the next few things posted in this thread that people are looking for feedback on, as long as they're not too many pages.

I left a few comments on the doc.

In general, I enjoyed this! It's punchy and funny. Cantus is really legible as someone who really really wants his job to be more exciting than it is. I had a few nitpicks, but I am having trouble figuring out what was so egregious in the mind of your other reader.

Ccs
Feb 25, 2011


Sitting Here posted:

I left a few comments on the doc.

In general, I enjoyed this! It's punchy and funny. Cantus is really legible as someone who really really wants his job to be more exciting than it is. I had a few nitpicks, but I am having trouble figuring out what was so egregious in the mind of your other reader.

Thanks! Your critique is useful and gives me some confidence back. The other reviewer basically had an issue with everything, from the idea that doors crashing to the ground would create a lot of of noise, that there would be dust created by them falling ("how old would the doors have to be to send up a cloud of dust?") to the magic system not being clarified when "astral world" is mentioned, to not understanding why there was a fight happening, finding fault with the tone of sentences ("clumsy suggests a value judgement that a third person narrator shouldn't have, describe instead") and so forth. I can understand some of the critiques but in my opinion providing a lot of clarification would bog down the pacing with extraneous information that isn't pertinent to the story. Oh well.

Nae
Sep 3, 2020


Ccs posted:

I'm looking for feedback on the opening section of my novel. A lot of people have looked at it and I got a few sparse notes but I had one recent viewer that had an issue with almost every line. I was so thrown by the reaction that I'm now second guessing my ability to string a sentence together or construct a scene at all. Wondering if people here will have similar reactions.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/...dit?usp=sharing

Feel free to comment on the doc or quote sections here, though as I just learned trying to copy from Google Docs into a forum post leads to very strange formatting issues.
I'll also take a look at the next few things posted in this thread that people are looking for feedback on, as long as they're not too many pages.

Just threw my crit in the doc as well. I did a few line-by-lines and then an overall at the bottom. You've got a good grip on your protagonist and his conflict and it came across well, so that's the bulk of the hard poo poo out of the way. Now you can focus on all the boring stuff, like verb choices and sentence order.

As for the recent crit bringing you down, I just went through something similar and I know how much it sucks. I got through it by reminding myself that a) the person took the time to critique, and that's absolutely better than someone not caring about the story enough to say anything, and b) some people's critique style is focused strictly on pointing out problems, rather than highlighting both what works and what doesn't. And that's okay! Strangely enough, there are people in this world who really want to have their flaws pointed out in excruciating detail, which is why the subreddit /r/roastme exists. For others, this isn't particularly helpful, and they need some positivity in the mix too. That's why /r/getmotivated exists. Those groups couldn't be more different, yet each one has millions of followers. Point is, it takes all kinds of make a world, and even your harshest critic can be trying to help you in their own way.

having said all that, i still hate getting harsh crits, and i for sure stay up all night thinking about them as i take sad pics of myself in animal crossing. such is life...

Leng
May 13, 2006



Ccs posted:

I'm looking for feedback on the opening section of my novel. A lot of people have looked at it and I got a few sparse notes but I had one recent viewer that had an issue with almost every line. I was so thrown by the reaction that I'm now second guessing my ability to string a sentence together or construct a scene at all. Wondering if people here will have similar reactions.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/...dit?usp=sharing

Feel free to comment on the doc or quote sections here, though as I just learned trying to copy from Google Docs into a forum post leads to very strange formatting issues.
I'll also take a look at the next few things posted in this thread that people are looking for feedback on, as long as they're not too many pages.

Thirding that I really liked this. I didn't have much to add on top of what has already been commented inline, so I just made two notes of my reactions as a reader. If you need beta readers later, let me know, I'd be game for this.

Ccs
Feb 25, 2011


Leng posted:

Thirding that I really liked this. I didn't have much to add on top of what has already been commented inline, so I just made two notes of my reactions as a reader. If you need beta readers later, let me know, I'd be game for this.

Hey thanks! I don't have private messaging so I can't really send you the full thing through PMs. I added my email address to the end of the document though so send me an email if you'd like to read the full thing, and I'll add you to the google doc!

NuclearEagleFox!!!
Oct 7, 2011


Ccs posted:

I'm looking for feedback on the opening section of my novel. A lot of people have looked at it and I got a few sparse notes but I had one recent viewer that had an issue with almost every line. I was so thrown by the reaction that I'm now second guessing my ability to string a sentence together or construct a scene at all. Wondering if people here will have similar reactions.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/...dit?usp=sharing

Feel free to comment on the doc or quote sections here, though as I just learned trying to copy from Google Docs into a forum post leads to very strange formatting issues.
I'll also take a look at the next few things posted in this thread that people are looking for feedback on, as long as they're not too many pages.

This was refreshing to read, I liked it. It reminded me strongly of the comedic fantasy elephants in the room. If that's not what you were going for, take all my crits with a grain of salt.

animaldog
Oct 18, 2013


Tell me what you think of this opening scene.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/...dit?usp=sharing

Ccs posted:

I'm looking for feedback on the opening section of my novel. A lot of people have looked at it and I got a few sparse notes but I had one recent viewer that had an issue with almost every line. I was so thrown by the reaction that I'm now second guessing my ability to string a sentence together or construct a scene at all. Wondering if people here will have similar reactions.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/...dit?usp=sharing

Feel free to comment on the doc or quote sections here, though as I just learned trying to copy from Google Docs into a forum post leads to very strange formatting issues.
I'll also take a look at the next few things posted in this thread that people are looking for feedback on, as long as they're not too many pages.

A great opening. It has me interested in what comes next. Its so short though that I feel I don't have anything to add to what's already been said. I've struggled to find the perfect size snippet before - too short and all critiques are identical, too long and few will read it.

ultrachrist
Sep 27, 2008


animaldog posted:

Tell me what you think of this opening scene.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/...dit?usp=sharing


My first impression of this is one of unpolish. There's many grammatical/spelling errors (plenty of which Google has underlined so I'm not sure why you didn't fix them.) The characters names (as well as some in-universe terms) are sometimes capitalized and sometimes not which is particularly confusing due to their names.

I highly suggest reading this out loud and going through sentence by sentence. It's just too rough to give feedback right now. There's parts during the action I am completely lost.

animaldog
Oct 18, 2013


I know that I tend to create a muddled mess when I go for style I'm just too tangled up in it to see where I went wrong. Could you give an example of where you were lost and break it down? I've gone over it so many times I cant read it for what it is. I need someone else's eyes.

Leng
May 13, 2006



I had a look when you first posted the link last week. My eyes glazed over pretty quickly and my brain went, this is way too hard to comment on. Here are some thoughts after rewatching Brandon Sanderson's 2020 lecture on plot (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrIogch5DBU) and a second pass.

The lecture I linked specifically addresses hooking readers with plot. Sanderson may not be your cup of tea, but he is very good at explaining the basics of craft: your opening makes certain promises (tone, story) to the reader and it's on you as the author to convince them to keep reading by giving them a sense of progress towards satisfying payoffs (i.e. delivering on the promises you made at the beginning).

Here are the tone and story promises I get from your opening:
  • Lots of epistolary journal entries from a not very interesting protagonist (the Prince)
  • The whole thing seems like it's going to be in omniscient third present tense with a detached narrator voice that isn't to my taste (note: that's personal preference, others may like it)
  • The journal made me expect fantasy (Prince, Guard, Help) but it quickly becomes clear that it's a modern setting (cars, guns, gas station, batteries, photos, concrete) without any of the typical hallmarks of urban fantasy. So now I'm very confused about what genre I'm in and therefore what kind of story I should be expecting
  • The prose is rough and difficult to read. You specifically mentioned going for style, but I'm not sure what effect you're deliberately going for. At any rate, running it through the free Grammarly online checker:

    That's a lot of issues for such a short excerpt. I'll leave some in-line comments in your Google Doc as an example.

I have no idea what your story is about. This "useless Prince" gave...some orders? To Guard and Help who then did stuff that pissed off the mob and the Errants and they're now on the run. The Prince seems to be a whiny delusional rich kid that Guard and Help (understandably) don't respect.

Why should I care about these characters? Why should I keep reading? My answer to both of those questions are "I don't know" and that's not a good thing for your opening.

animaldog
Oct 18, 2013


Thanks for the comments in the doc. I'll use them to rewrite and will post another version soon. I may cut the journal entries entirely, they are supposed to be milestones in the prince's transformation from "We're on a fun adventure to escape the ungrateful peasants" to "Oh, God. Literally everything is my fault". I'll try to bring these ideas up more naturally.

As for caring about the characters: The prince is based on the "let them eat cake" version of Marie Antoinette. Guard is the only reasonable character but he has no morals. A pure self-interest machine. The narrator isn't quite omniscient and they despise the prince, in a way they are Guard's internal monologue. Is the way I introduce them bad, or are they just not interesting? The way their personalities interact are fundamental to the story so if there's something wrong there I'm not sure if I can fix it.

animaldog fucked around with this message at 04:14 on Oct 17, 2020

Leng
May 13, 2006



animaldog posted:

The narrator isn't quite omniscient and they despise the prince, in a way they are Guard's internal monologue.

Ok, this is the missing piece!

animaldog posted:

Guard is the only reasonable character but he has no morals. A pure self-interest machine.

<snip>

Is the way I introduce them bad, or are they just not interesting? The way their personalities interact are fundamental to the story so if there's something wrong there I'm not sure if I can fix it.

It's more that I had NO IDEA that we're supposed to be in Guard's head. Your current opening is written in such a distant third that I mistook it for omniscient. Get closer, so that it's really clear who the POV character is. The journal entry is actually a red herring, because it made me assume that if we were in anybody's head, it was going to be the Prince. That was really off putting since he's unlikeable, incompetent and uninteresting.

I'd suggesting watching this Sanderson lecture on characters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NCiuI6F5O0 - he talks about figuring out where your characters sit on 3 different sliding scales (likeability, proactivity and competence) and how that will change over their character arc.

If Guard never develops morals over the course of the story, that decreases his likeability so you have to make up for it with his proactivity and competence - it's ok to have an unlikeable character if they are always doing badass and interesting things. If Guard does have an arc that ends with him developing some morals, then you'll need to show that he's got some hope of overcoming that flaw.

That is your hook: Guard has the world's whiniest and most incompetent boss who just destroyed the kingdom. Somehow, he's got to keep his Prince (a ridiculous idiot rich kid who is completely out of touch with reality) alive for the ??? (insert period of time) drive across a rioting country over the ??? (insert direction) border to seek refuge with the closest ally while fighting mobs and dangerous Errants.

Everybody knows somebody like the Prince - whether we've worked for them, been bullied by them, had some aspect of our life ruined by them - and we all hate them. That makes your reader immediately identify with Guard.

Having a clear goal (direction of nearest ally) - and knowing how far away it is/how hard it is get there - establishes your stakes and gives me an idea of what the progress will be.

We also then have a number of clear conflicts established:
1) conflict with the Prince - he's so incompetent that he's bound to blow their cover and Guard can't get rid of him for (insert reasons)
2) conflict with the mob
3) conflict with the Errants - they're armed and dangerous

There wasn't enough in your opening for me to understand what the specific issue with #2 is, but you get the idea. I look forward to seeing your next version.

ultrachrist
Sep 27, 2008


animaldog posted:

I know that I tend to create a muddled mess when I go for style I'm just too tangled up in it to see where I went wrong. Could you give an example of where you were lost and break it down? I've gone over it so many times I cant read it for what it is. I need someone else's eyes.

Leng is giving you good advice. I'll take another look after you edit.

I never would have guessed this is from Guard's POV. Seems like it's supposed to be the Prince's from the start, which greatly adds to the confusion later.

FightingMongoose
Oct 19, 2006


So hopefully this link works, I'm not very familiar with google drive

https://docs.google.com/document/d/...dit?usp=sharing

That's the first part of my novel. Comments and criticisms all welcome and don't feel you have to read the whole lot in order to comment.

It's an urban fantasy about a secretive British agency called Unit 13 tasked with protecting the country against paranormal threats. Only because it's a British agency it's woefully underfunded. The main character is meant to have a cosy desk job but gets drafted in to cover the London branch's ghost hunter when she goes on maternity leave. It's meant to be a do nothing job, after all ghosts only haunt tumbledown castles and manor houses, there are never any actual hauntings in a big city like London....

Leng
May 13, 2006




Works fine and I'm happy take a look over the weekend, though I might not read all 20k words. What sort of critique are you specifically looking for?

EDIT: Alright, a quicker read of your 20k words than I thought it would be! Since you haven't specifically said you wanted a line critique, I'll just give you general comments (bear in mind that I don't normally read this genre unless you count Cassandra Clare).
  • Overall good story and plotting, I like it. I appreciate how you circled back on things introduced earlier throughout the extract you shared.
  • What I like best about your prose is your description - the strong imagery really appeals to me
  • That said, I think you could work on tightening the prose as sometimes you repeat the same idea in multiple paragraphs in the same chapter. Martha and bungalow vs cottage is one example
  • I would suggest you really reconsider the little italicized epigraphs. I felt they detracted from my experience of the story, mainly because the first one literally opens with the sentence "It was a dark and stormy night" and the second one seems to be just setting that could easily be done in the main body of the text rather than as an epigraph. So as a reader, I'm cringing at the first one (which is the opening paragraph of your novel–not a good thing), learning that it's a fluffy summary of what I'm about to read (and not just the chapter but the entire book apparently!), so when I get to the second one, I decide to skim it (if not skip it entirely)
  • However, having read your whole extract, I'm going to guess that the epigraphs are what Martha is seeing over time, or it's a ghost puppet master or something like that, and presumably the epigraphs gives us some clues as to why ghosts are now appearing in force so we can try to figure it out as we go along
  • If I've guessed correctly, then I think you need to do something a little differently with these epigraphs. They seem to be written by some omniscient narrator (the voice is distinctly different to Martha's if it's her seeing these things) and the other problem is it's happening RIGHT BEFORE the chapter we're about to read. If you want me to figure out the clues, then you need to help me understand that there are clues here to be figured out. Consider:
    - whether you've placed these epigraphs in the correct spots; do they need to be epigraphs or should you do cut scenes in the text?
    - Do I need to see these in chronological order, reverse chronological order, some other order? Could you pair them with chapters thematically rather than literally?
    - Is it better to group a few together or to spread them out so sporadically?
    - Do you need to start off with one, or would it be better to place it later, once we know there is a mystery and we can have fun recognizing the opening scene?
    - Should I just be recognizing the scene, or is there entirely new information in these epigraphs (thanks to them being seen by someone attuned to power, etc or whatever) that I didn't see when we saw the event happen earlier?
  • Finally, I felt like the beginning started off a little slow, even though I think structurally the prologue is the right choice. It felt like I was reading about a drug addict driving a reluctant friend to a rave for way too long before I got supernatural stuff happening, and then the punchline was really the moment when Tom asked "Do you have any jobs going?" - after that point, the job interview doesn't really add anything in the way of characterization or setting that your opening chapter in the office doesn't do (since your joke is Unit 13 operates like every other bureaucratic organization). The best characterization you did with that kind of moment is when Tom's sitting in Taylor's office panicking about padding his resume and not really wanting to be a field agent.
There are some word choice, grammar, punctuation, etc issues in what you've posted but it's readable right now so I would still be focusing on getting the pacing, structure, tone, emotional reactions right. My suggestion would be to do another pass for these kinds of things and get line critiques on the next version.

Hope that helps and is what you were looking for!

Leng fucked around with this message at 03:56 on Oct 24, 2020

FightingMongoose
Oct 19, 2006


That is really helpful, yes, thank you!.

Those are actually the only two epigraphs in the novel. The first one was deliberately meant to cheesy but it seems it missed the mark if it's gone into full cringe. It's probably easiest for me to just remove them both.

I do have the other two parts written up. If you have any interest in reading them let me know and I'll share the links here. Otherwise, thanks again for the comments.

ultrachrist
Sep 27, 2008


FightingMongoose posted:

So hopefully this link works, I'm not very familiar with google drive

https://docs.google.com/document/d/...dit?usp=sharing

That's the first part of my novel. Comments and criticisms all welcome and don't feel you have to read the whole lot in order to comment.

It's an urban fantasy about a secretive British agency called Unit 13 tasked with protecting the country against paranormal threats. Only because it's a British agency it's woefully underfunded. The main character is meant to have a cosy desk job but gets drafted in to cover the London branch's ghost hunter when she goes on maternity leave. It's meant to be a do nothing job, after all ghosts only haunt tumbledown castles and manor houses, there are never any actual hauntings in a big city like London....

My impression of this is that there is a tremendous amount of detail that is not very important. It feels like they're in the car forever before they arrive at the 'rave'. Nearly all the details about Chris don't matter when he's about to be shivved. I started skimming until they arrived. The story picks up from there, but the detail overload continues. For example:

quote:

He turned and scanned the foyer for the seats that the receptionist had told him to go to. There were no obvious chairs or benches that he could see. There were some dark grey stone cubes that were roughly the size and dimensions of a stool and Tom wandered over to them. They could be intended as stools, he reasoned, but equally they could be corporate art of some kind or even security barriers to prevent someone driving a car through the windows behind them.

Too risky to sit on them, Tom decided, and he opted to stand beside them instead.

That is 100 words and more than 1 paragraph to describe a relatively unimportant bit of scene setting. Here's me trying to reduce it by 2/3rds while using almost entirely your words: "In the foyer, there were grey stone cubes that resembled stools, but could equally well be some kind of corporate art. Too risky to sit on them, Tom decided, and opted to stand instead."

Alternatively, if you want to write detailed description, I think the details need to be more interesting. You'd have to describe the stools in an interesting or funny way.

Lastly, when you write about London, you almost have to characterize the city itself. Or at least acknowledge most of your audience has some idea of the city. I don't read urban fantasy but would expect it to be extra important there. I wondered which tube station Tom was at and was unhappy I couldn't place him anywhere. Felt like it could be any crowded city with mass transit.

I stopped reading/scanning after the interview because I felt I had read enough to give feedback.

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FightingMongoose
Oct 19, 2006


Makes sense, thanks.

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