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Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


Good on you for posting!

newts posted:

Anyway, I would love any and all feedback Get mean if you like. I can handle it. Let me know if my dumb alternate world makes no sense or is boring or whatever. Or if my characters suck. Or if my murder plot is dumb, because that's been the hardest part so far. If I get no feedback, I'm still gonna keep posting. If I do get feedback then, yay!

If you want line edits or more granular feedback, it'd be good if you can turn commenting on in the Google Doc! Anyway, I'll give a range of crits to begin with, then you can let me know what you find the most helpful. So far, I've only read Chapter 1 of what's been posted.
  • Felt like it was a slow beginning, despite the excitement of a dead body being discovered. This is supposed to be an unusual case right? Something that shouldn't normally happen? If so, I could use some more context to hook me in, other than just oh, no, more red tape, which sounds boring and not interesting.
  • There's a lot of characters introduced, and the blurb made me think Stockton was the sleeper cop, before I hit the end of the chapter and realized that was Rush. I think that might be due to the order of how Lucia's internal narration about her partner versus the dialogue about Stockton.
  • The prose reads fine for me, but could use some tightening up as part of your editing pass. Just the normal stuff on checking sentence construction, using stronger verbs and thinking more carefully about where you could be concrete and specific instead of abstract.
Example of what I mean about the prose below:

quote:

The sound [1] woke her [2] and she opened her eyes [3] to a room still deep in the orange glow of a city night [4].

Lucia [2] squinted [3] at the clock until the numbers resolved into recognizable shapes. Four am.[4]

The annoying buzzing [1] she was hearing wasn't part of her dream [7], after all, but was actually her phone on the bedside table. Even the steady tap and whisper of the rain on her window [1] couldn't drown out that sound.

Work. She groaned and rolled over, slapped a hand down on the phone to shut it up and thought about smashing it against the wall. [5] She swiped to answer, instead. The first sound that came out of her mouth was something caught between a cough and grunt. She swallowed and tried again. “Kowalski,” she rasped. [6]

[1]: Why begin with the abstract word "sound" when you have all of these much more specific noises later on?
[2]: Why not say Lucia to begin with? This is your opening sentence and it'd be nice to know who "she" is.
[3]: Same with the verb leading to the first instance of imagery. "Opened her eyes" is neutral and abstract, "squinted" is much stronger, or you could go stronger still with some metaphors.
[4]: Here's your first visual. The "room" isn't important, but the "orange glow" and the "clock" are. "City night" feels a little on the nose - could you use more specific description to lead me to this conclusion? When you describe a generic orange glow, I immediately think sunrise, sunset, fire and then possibly neon lights in an entertainment or red light district. Anyway, the quality of the lights is what you're using to signify an urban environment, since you don't have any other sounds going on other than the phone and the rain. The night part becomes obvious when Lucia reads the clock.
[5]: I think you could be more concise here. Also, you've used both direct and indirect thought, though I think the direct style would work better for you here.
[6]: Would also suggest looking at how you use line breaks here. It took me a moment to figure out whether she was addressing the person calling her Kowalski, or whether she was answering the phone with her last name.
[7]: Is this an important or relevant detail, or something that conveys character or backstory? I'm assuming it is on the basis that you've called Lucia and Rush psychic detectives in the thread title. If so, work some specifics of the dream into the opening sentence, otherwise I glaze over it as a reader.

Edit: fixed bad BB code!

Leng fucked around with this message at 16:33 on Dec 29, 2020

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Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


Okay, I've finished reading the rest of the chapters you posted!

newts posted:

I agree that the beginning is very slow. I think I've recognized that as a fundamental problem with my plot. I've decided not to change it at this point and just keep it in mind for the next thing I write. This is a learning experience and I don't really plan on doing anything with the book after I'm done.

After getting 4 chapters in, I don't think your plot is actually slow. It's more that your scenes/dialogue are a little longer/blow by blow in some places than they probably need to be.

Your characters are also doing a lot of running around from location to location, which I get is part of the murder procedural genre, though I wonder whether you need to have so much bouncing around locations.

Here are some of the things that made me feel like the pacing dragged a bit:

  • Lucia and Rush always having a back and forth about the next steps. I know a lot of it is characterization about her uncertainty this being her first case and all, though I think we kind of get it after the first few times
  • Lucia heading to the lab multiple times. The second visit with Sam is much more significant, so I wonder about the choice to have Lucia go twice instead of calling the first time
  • The delay in getting Rush into the story. The dynamic between your two main characters and the way they interact is more interesting than Lucia puttering around with the rest of the humans. The tension set up by the fact that she and her team missed stuff that he catches is a good hook, and gets away from the boring red tape part

newts posted:

I think the problem is that I was actually trying to convey the opposite of what you got from the the story: that there's nothing special or interesting about the case, at least at first. The case is a typical boring dead, junkie hooker case, but with extra annoying added red tape because the dead hooker is a sleeper. The only person who's excited about it is Lucia and that's just because it's her first case. Which... still doesn't make the beginning an interesting hook for the reader.

I thought my character introductions were clear, but I'll go back and have another look. I hate infodumps (both reading and writing them) so I've tried to have Lucia just think of things organically. But that might not be working. I'll take another look and see if I can fix it.

The way you introduce the backstory of the world is a good balance for me. The juxtaposition between everyone else dismissing the case and Lucia being super excited is good, though it takes a while for her to get going on that angle. Some of the stuff she says later on to Rush when he challenges her might feel more natural if she pushed back on everyone else's dismissal earlier.

I think it's about framing. Since we're in Lucia's POV, if she feels strongly about the case, it doesn't matter that nobody else does. Show us the reasons for why she's excited - and it's okay for those to simply be a desire to prove herself vs the old boys' club. That gives us immediate tension rather than a feeling of going through the motions.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


newts posted:


Again, I don't think I'm going to mess with the plot a bunch because, yeah. I think I'd rather work on tightening up my prose and my characters. And the plot stuff would require an in-depth rewrite that I don't want to do on this.

<snip>

So, my plan is to work on those two things: (1) inner dialogue and (2) scene transitions, and get Lucia's motivation to want to solve the case established more quickly.

Yeah I think this is the right call. There's nothing wrong with your plot. If you improve your characters and your prose a bunch, I won't really care too much about the plot, I'll just be happy to be along for the ride.

newts posted:


I'm pretty poo poo at writing internal monologues and I think it shows.

At the risk of being known as that person who posts this in every crit thread, I'm gonna plug Brandon Sanderson's lectures again, mainly because I found them so helpful myself.

He may or may not be your cup of tea but he does a good job of covering the craft of writing. And in his lectures, he does address introspection specifically, see Sanderson’s 2020 BYU Lecture 10: https://youtu.be/fJfE-HMfSkk?t=1135 and https://youtu.be/fJfE-HMfSkk?t=2079

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


The latest chapter is much stronger than the earlier ones. Better characterization, done more concisely. Keep it up!

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


Popping back in to let you know I've read the other chapters that you've posted. Generally, Chapters 6-11 feel like things are dragging a lot more. I think it's because even though you have stuff happening, as a reader I feel like I'm no closer to unravelling the mystery than I was in Chapter 5. I know you've put stuff in there for a reason, though here's what I'm feeling at the end of each chapter as a reader:

Chapter 6: I want to read more about what NorthSide/nocturnum culture is like, and I felt like this was way too brief a glimpse. But in terms of the overall case, it's a dead end. So, drat.
Chapter 7: Another dead body in a related death. Yay! The bar scene in the middle doesn't really interest me, because all I want is to find out more about the latest murder. The National Defense stuff feels like a good kind of foreboding. The murder scene itself is another dead end, so now I'm really bummed because I've had two dead ends in a row, until Rush makes the connection with drug ODs on NorthSide. Chapter ends on yet another dead body and I'm a bit unsure as to whether I should feel like the stakes are being raised or whether this is going to turn out to be another dead end.
Chapter 8: Just when the opening scene is getting interesting, Rush is about to pass out into sleep. The rest of the chapter is a nice series of character moments which is nice. But I am feeling very, very frustrated that I've read 3 whole chapters with no progress on the killer's identity.
Chapter 9: The whole time I am reading this chapter, I am yelling at the characters in my head to ask them why didn't they go to Asa FIRST when they were still investigating the first murder because then maybe she wouldn't have been the latest murder victim?
Chapter 10: Some more nice character moments and finally some momentum on the case. My favorite chapter of the lot by far.
Chapter 11: Also pretty happy with this chapter because things feel like they're moving. The random call with Lucia's mom feels very out of place though.

The things I enjoyed the most were the reveals about nocturnum culture, the backstory of the world, the upcoming reconciliation, the separationist movement, etc. These all are great details that make your story richer. I wish there was a stronger tie in to the plot or the characters that we're seeing besides the predominant speciest (?) overtones, since that is feeling pretty similar to racism.

Some questions you might want to consider:
- do some of these scenes/information really need to be dramatized vs summarized via narration?
- what is the emotion you want the reader to be feeling in these sequences?
- how does that emotion change over the course of the chapters?
- are there long stretches of the same emotion without any heightening tension or release?

Keep going! The fact that you've cranked out and posted 11 chapters at almost 45k words is no small achievement. I had a friend who said he would do NaNo with me last year and was all fired up about it, but then just fizzled 3k words in and just gave up. He had no real excuses for it either, except for the fact that he didn't have the grit to persevere for more than a few days. The fact that you wrote so many words AND the fact that you have the courage to go back through and start revisions is really admirable and you should feel proud of it!


Ccs posted:

I was chided by an editor recently for putting thoughts in italics. Apparently that's going out of style, and "Deep POV" is supposed to eliminate the need for italicizing thoughts. I've seen it in a lot of books and some beta readers of my own work have wanted thoughts in italics though so it seems to be a matter of taste.

Thanks for sharing! I have now spent an hour googling "Deep POV" and I'm pretty about it. Neither Sanderson in his BYU lectures nor Ursula Le Guin in Steering the Craft discussed it as distinct from a "close limited third POV" so this is super interesting.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


newts posted:

Thanks so much for the feedback! Really appreciate it.

And, yeah, I’m pretty much feeling all that, too My plan right now is to just finish these first edits and get the whole thing cleaned up. Then go back through to try to fix the momentum issues that are making the story drag. I’m not sure how to make my boring scenes more exciting—it’s not a thriller. So, most of the tension will have to come from the character’s frustration/revelations, and the stakes being raised by their potential failure. I think I suck at that part, though, so I guess it will be a challenge. I don’t want to write a novel with super high stakes, though. More personal stakes, I guess.

Wanted to bold this because this is super important. Write the story you want to write! Feedback is just feedback; it's to help you understand whether you're achieving what you want. You don't need to accept and act on all feedback, just the feedback that's going to help you write a better version of the story you're trying to tell. Keep in mind that not all who provide feedback will be your target audience–for example, I am very much NOT your target audience, however

A Small Car posted:

I'm thoroughly enjoying reading your work so far. I'll be a bit of a contrarian by saying that I enjoy the slow burn you've got going on, but that's always been my favorite type of detective story.

<snip>

I look forward to reading the rest of this book, and to reading the sequel next year!

Here's someone who clearly is–so weigh our feedback accordingly! (i.e. listen to what's working/not working for A Small Car, and only listen to my comments to the extent that they are helpful)

A Small Car posted:

As Leng knows, I'm not great at feedback/editing

Think your post history demonstrates otherwise.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


I like these chapters a LOT more than the previous ones. Can't wait to see how the story ends.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


newts posted:

Then I’ll just sit and read it. Maybe I’ll still like it.

First of all, congratulations! You're probably your own harshest critic. Here's a list of things that I liked to help counter that voice in your head:
  • Chapters 12-18 are noticeably better than the earlier chapters in terms of character, pacing, plot and prose. When reading these, it was quite easy for me to slip into reading mode, where I was just enjoying the story instead of mainly looking for things to critique. If you wanted critiques, I'm sure I could go find some, but I would have to make a dedicated effort to switch my brain over into critique mode.
  • The ending: for whatever reason, I had already pegged Jameson or Mac early on as the big bad, though I'd quickly dismissed Mac because he hardly ever appeared on screen. I'd have to go back at look at the early chapters to figure out why, but I'd chalk this one up to you getting your foreshadowing right
  • I found your setting intriguing enough to keep reading even though the pacing of the early chapters felt slow to me. I actually wanted more of the political stuff around the reconciliation vote than you had in the story!

A Small Car posted:

I loved it and look forward to reading the next one! It'll be interesting to go back and read the whole thing in one sitting, I've intentionally avoided re-reading previous chapters while the writing was ongoing. Well done!



newts posted:

fixed a dumb author problem by turning it into a dumb character problem.

This is my main learning from your thread!

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


Nice job! I look forward to reading the whole thing in full. Will leave you any line level suggestions/comments in doc (which, as always, feel free to take or leave). Congrats again!

If you want to turn this into an actual ebook, there's a download to epub option from Google Docs directly but I don't know how well that plays with eReaders, since my experience with the Google Docs epub formatting wasn't great. I did a write up here on making an epub with Calibre and its plugins if you're interested/want to tinker with the epub that Google Docs spits out - since you have it all in one doc you could just use Calibre's built in ebook editor without needing to install plugins.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


newts posted:

Thank you! I appreciate you taking the time to do that. I was planning to let this sit for a week and do more tinkering, so these will come in handy.

This week is a bit crazy for me, so I've only done comments up to Chapter 4. Some are on an anonymous account because I was working from a different laptop.

newts posted:

I’ve got some work up here: https://bluefootedb.tumblr.com/

this is top notch amazing stuff. I'm working on a very different type of creative project and would love to get your thoughts on that. I can see you don't have PMs but you can reach me on the gmail account I'm using to comment on your Google doc.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


A Small Car posted:

For what it's worth, I prefer the second cover, largely because it pulls something that was actually in the story itself with the bee. I'm throwing out whatever random crap knocks around in my head at this point, but what about doing a cover where you see the split city, and the nocturnum side all lit up, and the bee has been turned into a constellation? Or is that just dumb?

and also that is an awesome idea.

newts posted:

I just suck at graphic design in general, so I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm not going to pay anyone to make me a cover, so it will have to be something I throw together. Ugh.

I'd suggest playing to your strengths. The artwork you linked is amazing–what if your cover had more illustrated elements? I think as long as you get the right tone promises across in the cover you'll be ok.

newts posted:

Leng, I can't seem to send you an email from Google docs

All good! The email is "<my SA username>sa<my SA userid>" AT gmail DOT com - let me know if that works, as I can't find an email/contact for you on your tumblr and Google won't let me email you from Docs either.

Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


Yay, a sequel! I'm so happy that you've kept writing. And I love the switch in POVs as well. Good choice!

newts posted:

One thing that’s become obvious is that the new book will have to have a lot of telepathy (duh!) which is going to be italicized. But also texts, which I’ve also italicized. I will go back through the first book and make sure I don’t have italics for random thoughts, unless they’re ‘out loud’ thoughts, which I remember there was some debate about in this thread before. Ugh. I just have to keep it consistent.

Here’s part of the first chapter (or what will probably be the first chapter unless I change something). Just wondering if the combo of italics for both text and telepathy works, or if it’s too confusing. I think it’s fine, and I think I’ve made it obvious, but I know what’s happening. Yes, it sucks and is boring right now.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/156zVqCizNbaxs1wfLdFxeIXtgUQpsIizKDCr1jyIR5Y/edit

Don't be so harsh on yourself; this chapter picked up the sequel at a good point for me. The conclusion on the first one was quite short so it's nice to see how things are settling in.

On the italics thing, I used italics both for deliberate internal thoughts as well as telepathy in my NaNoWriMo project, which seemed to work fine. For texts, I've seen other strategies like using a different font. Sanderson uses italicized small caps in cases of special mental communications. You could also play around with indents, etc: https://cmosshoptalk.com/2020/03/10/formatting-text-messages-in-fiction/ and https://www.artfuleditor.com/blog/2019/6/12/how-to-use-modern-tech-in-your-novel

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Leng
May 13, 2006

One song / Glory
One song before I go / Glory
One song to leave behind


No other road
No other way
No day but today


newts posted:

Re: italics. I did look through your Nano project and noticed you used them for both regular and magic thoughts. I didn’t have a problem with it. Maybe I should just trust my readers? Because they are smart and know how to read poo poo?

Once you set up the convention early on and your readers know what to expect, I think most people will be able to infer which it is from context. I made a point of using different dialogue tags for telepathy (e.g. "sent" instead of "said" or making a note that a character would relax a mental shield first before the mental communication happened, or that a different character's voice was sounding in someone's head, etc) vs internal thoughts (which usually got something like "decided" or just "thought" or it was in a paragraph that consisted solely of introspection and nothing else).

newts posted:

Hmm, good thought on a different font for texts. I’m wondering, though, how that will work with ebooks? I’m trying to keep the formatting as simple as possible because I have no technical ability at all to troubleshoot formatting issues. I always thought readers could change the font of ebooks? Never tried it myself—only changed the font size because my eyes suck. I will have to read about it.

The way I understand ebook files is they're basically packaged up HTML and CSS files. Any e-reader software is basically a kind of web browser that interprets the fonts. The way CSS styling works, more specific rules trump more general rules. Some e-readers (Kobo, Nook) will allow a reader to substitute the e-reader's stylesheet instead of the one that comes with the book for fonts, etc.

See: https://ebooks.stackexchange.com/questions/864/can-custom-fonts-be-embedded-in-mobi-or-epub-books-targeting-eink-readers

If you really want to make sure the readers can't do anything, see this: https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2019/03/fun-with-fonts-getting-ebook-typefaces-right/

But it's generally more trouble than it's worth.

What you CAN do, is specify the font-type of texts to be a different one to the font-type of all your other text (e.g. maybe everything is in sans serif except texts which are serif or monospaced fonts). This won't help if the reader is very particular about how they like to read their ebooks, but they'll be a minority.

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