About a month ago, author Julieanne Reeves approached me about offering critiques on The Romantic Editor. She and I are Internet buddies and she knew I was looking for content to post.
Julieanne had a great idea and she was volunteered to be the first entry…or as she calls it, victim.
|Book:||Nick of Time, book 2 in the Walking a Thin Blue Line Series. Unpublished|
|Julieanne’s Email:||Okay, so it’s a few more than 500 (about 700), but I wanted to get you to a good point. Use which ever you want. 🙂|
|Kristin:||Thank you! While I may read the entire 723 words, your readers may not wait that long to be drawn in. The first 500 words are important. If you think the “good point” doesn’t happen before then, consider moving it up.|
|Julieanne:||I think the first 500 words give a pretty good idea where the book is headed, especially on the heels of the prologue. I included the few extra words so that there was more of a finish to the “scene”.|
|Kristin:||I assume your chapter one starts three days after your Prologue. That’s good. Your reader most likely won’t feel they’ve invested their time for something irrelevant. (They can feel that way when a Prologue occurs in the far, distant past, even if the Prologue is VERY relevant.)|
Officer Nick Astenbeck sat at the nurses’ station inside the Emergency Department of Payson Regional Medical Center typing
up his incident report. He’d been here for hours, tying up what now amounted to a homicide. Nick glanced into the dark triage room across the hall where he could see the outline of two children sleptsleeping, wrapped tightly around each other. Dispatch had received a frantic 911 call from the six-year-old girl. She’d taken the phone and her little brother, and hidden them in the a closet when her mother’s boyfriend started beating their mom.
With a hammer.
|Kristin:||Great hook. Anyone who read your first novel will be looking for this.This hasn’t been edited yet, but watch for recurring words. “…typing up his incident report” and “…tying up what now amounted to a homicide” can get distracting so close together. My suggestion is to cut the first “up.” I believe your sentence is more powerful without it.|
|Julieanne:||You’re right, this is an initial/rough draft. But I agree with your changes.|
|Kristin:||Can Nick see the children from the nurses’ station? If not, he might glance across the hall where he left two children sleeping, wrapped tightly around each other.|
|Julieanne:||Yes, he can see into the trauma bay from where he’s sitting at the nurse’s station. Payson is a real life town and, while I use it fictitiously, the Emergency Department of the regional hospital is laid out with a horse shoe of trauma bays surrounding it. Each visible from a central nurses’ station.|
|Kristin:||(Ohh. Check out the new redlines then.)Nick is a police officer. Would his internal dialogue refer to the six-year-old girl’s brother as “little” or “younger?” He’s also writing his incident report—would his words would be more procedural since he’s in cop mode?“The” closet or “a” closet? “The” implies there was only one closet in their home—and there may have been.|
|Julieanne:||I’d go with “a” in this case.|
Nick and backup officers had arrived to find a badly beaten woman lying in a pool of her own blood on the living room floor. She’d been alive. Barely. The suspect, however,
had been was crashing through the house, bloody hammer still in hand, screaming for the children to come out of hiding. The suspect’s intent had been clear about what he’d intended to do to the children once he’d found them. There was no question about what he intended to do. He’d been screaming it in sickening detail.
|Kristin:||Gross! Exactly what you’re going for!|
|Julieanne:||Ha! Be glad you haven’t seen the crime scene photos. Just sayin.|
|Kristin:||“Had beens” are good sometimes, but try to use sparingly. They remind the reader they are in a flashback of sorts. Since your readers just came out of a Prologue, try to remove “had beens” all together. Readers might be anxious to read what’s happening in the present day.Sometimes less is more in a tense situation. Thus my removing of, “…to come out of hiding.”“The suspect’s intent had been clear about what he’d intended to do to the children once he’d found them.” This is a little repetitive and confusing. Also mucho “had beens!” I’m just offering you the same information in a more direct sentence. You don’t have to use this one. This is one of many.|
|Julieanne:||Good choice, and something I’m totally okay with. I may be able to write the story, but I have to depend on an editor to help make it look good.|
|Kristin:||(Good thing ‘cause we depend on you authors to write them. 🙂 )|
Nick and fellow officers
had tried to talk the asshole down, but he’d been too high on adrenaline and drugs to cooperate. In the end, he ‘d charged another officer with that bloody his hammer raised to strike, and had been was shot. Oh, the guy would live, which was more than Nick could say about the victim. He ‘dreceived word about an hour ago that she ‘d died en route via helicopter to a trauma center in Phoenix. He’dThe suspect/bastard had taken that hammer to her skull. And the two little kids? They ‘d been were unharmed. Physically. Emotionally? He Nick wasn’t sure they’d ever be okay. Not after witnessing violence like that. Nick knew it was something they’d never forget.
|Kristin:||“…that bloody” makes me think Nick is British. I know he means a literal bloody hammer, but my first thought was—BBC?|
|Julieanne:||Ha! No, Nick is not British. He’s originally from Texas, so he has a bit of an accent.|
|Kristin:||When using pronouns (he, she) be sure readers know who the he and she are. Here, Nick was referring to himself as “he,” then to the suspect. It takes a second to understand the switch and that’s a second readers are out of your story.|
God, his heart ached for them. They had no idea the grim road that lay ahead
in store for them. When Child Protective Services arrived— and where the hell were they anyway? He’d called them three hours ago. —they’d The children would be taken to an emergency placement until either a family member or an adoptive family could be located. Either way, they’d have to go on without their mother. Judging by the conditions of the house, and the drug paraphernalia that had been scattered about, Nick wasn’t sure it wasn’t for the best ,. but But how did doyou tell that to a child who only knew that the mother they loved was gone.? Forever.
|Kristin:||Does “…no idea the grim road that lay in store for them” give an odd visual to you? Roads usually lay ahead of a person (for them to travel). Bad tidings, results of actions, and consequences are in store for people.|
|Julieanne:||Good point. Reads much better that way.|
|Kristin:||“and” is removed after your 2-em dash because Nick’s changing thoughts. The em dash shows one thought is being interrupted by a new thought—“and” makes it read like the thoughts are more related than they actually are.|
|Julieanne:||That makes sense.|
|Kristin:||The yellow highlighted section—is Nick thinking it is for the best that the children are going on without their mother? That’s how I read this and, though it might be in the children’s best interest, this could make him very unlikeable. Especially the way he delivers this thought.Consider, “Judging by the conditions of the house and the drug paraphernalia that had been scattered about, Nick wasn’t sure a new home was a bad thing” or something similar.(You also don’t want to put “wasn’t” twice in a sentence if you can help it.)|
|Julieanne:||That’s the general thought I was going for, but I see your point on rewording it.|
By the time Nick
had his report finished his report , and the booking paperwork ready,CPS had arrived. The frazzled worker confirmed what Nick had feared. They’d be headed The children were heading to the crisis shelter, where they’d be separated until they could be placed in a home. It left Nick seethed seething in anger at the fuck-head that who had taken the children’s mother away from them, and at a system that would separate siblings at a time when they needed each other the most.
|Kristin:||Direct sentences are easier for the reader to digest.You don’t always want them, but you sometimes do.“It” is the news that the children were being separated. “It” should be defined, but “The news left Nick seething…” is passive. Thus—Nick seethed.|
|Julieanne:||I have complete respect for editors. You can take a story and with your magic-wand skills make it shine.|
Nick had just crawled into his patrol car and advised dispatch that he was clear of the E.R. when his cell phone rang. Dispatch.
|Julieanne:||Kristin, thanks for taking the time to do this. I love writing a story and then watching an editor do their voodoo and make it shine. Can’t wait to see who’s next.|
|Kristin:||Aha! But we’re not done yet!|
“Whatever the question is, the answer is no.” He’d already put in a sixteen-hour day. And after this last case he was done.
“Now is that any way to greet the person who has an important message for you?” Hayden. She was one of his favorite dispatchers to work with.
Nick sighed. “Can you just throw them in my box and I’ll get them tomorrow?”
“Nope, this one is personal. She sounded rather upset.”
Nick ran a weary hand down his face. “Who did?”
“Sarah? My Sarah?” No, not your Sarah, Seth’s Sarah. But no matter how many times he told himself that his heart refused to listen.
“The one and only. She said it’s important.”
Nick pulled into his driveway and killed the engine. “It must be if she’s calling dispatch. I’m home, mark me 10-7”.
“Night.” She said and disconnected to answer another officer’s radio call.
Nick pulled out his cell phone and dialed the number from memory. By the third ring Nick was ready to hang up afraid he’d wake Sarah and the kids.
“Hello?” Sarah said, breathlessly. Nick’s gut clinched. Or worse interrupt something.
He had to clear his throat before he could speak. “Sarah, it’s me. Nick.”
“Oh, thank God,” she whispered, her voice trembling.
Nick sat up straight, his senses on high alert. “What’s wrong?”
|Kristin:||Jules! This is the most relevant part! This is the content your readers are going to read about for the next 300-400 pages. Move this up.Unless the children are relevant to the rest of your story, you could reasonably cut about two paragraphs of Nick’s what-happened-earlier pondering. If it’s something you’re willing to do I highlighted (in gray) the beginning of the paragraphs I think could go.The first highlighted paragraph doesn’t have to be completely cut, but it could be combined with the following paragraph. That way you get to keep the “eww! Gross!” factor, but lose the things that don’t push the story or give any knowledge to the reader.|
Thank you for letting me use Nick of Time and for suggesting the idea, Julieanne!
It’s already a huge hit.
Viewers, tell me and Jules what you think! Do you agree with the suggestions? Are you wanting to read Nick of Time when it comes out?