Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Thank you and Dark & Stormy Blogfest Revisited

I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who took part in the Top Ten Movie Quotes Blogfest, my 200th Followers Q and A Competition, and those who gave me much needed feedback on the first line of my horror novel, The Devil’s Song. On Friday I will post the answers to half the questions you posed for the competition and announce two of the winners, and then repeat the process for the remaining questions and winners on Sunday.

Now back to the It Was A Dark and Stormy Blogfest. Whenever a writer asks for feedback they are laying themselves open to both positive and critical comments. You will note I did not say positive and negative comments. Why? I do not see criticism as a negative thing.

To have something you’ve invested a lot of time and energy in criticised is painful; you cannot get away from that fact. But it does not have to be a negative experience. Writers are a selfless group of individuals who will always give advice along with the criticism, and you should listen. These writers who you seek an opinion from may one day be your readers and, right now, many of them will have considerably more experience than you. They know what works and what doesn’t. They know what they want to read.

From the comments I received during the last two days, I was able to list the reasons why the reviewers felt the opening line did not work and also what about it was worth saving. The reasons were varied and included:

Too long.
Too many adjectives and adverbs.
Clunky and purple prose.
Not enough of a hook.
Needing more tension and malevolence.
Passive verbs.
Clich├ęd opening.
Overuse of ‘that’.
Good character name and imagery.
Intriguing opening.
Use of crows a good foreshadowing device.

So, after careful consideration, I rewrote the opening line:

Morwenna was not sure which had awoken her, the noise of her notebook dropping to the floor or the incessant cacophony of the crows surrounding the cottage.

But I was still unhappy with it. I wanted an opening line with more of a hook. So, I decided to cut the second and third paragraphs from the prologue and go straight to the point where the reader learns what evil force the crows are foreshadowing:

Morwenna covered her ears in a futile attempt to block out the noise of the murderous chorus of crows surrounding the cottage. She knew their incessant cries were a warning – Lucian King was back.

Okay. Neither of these lines (two in the second re-write) have yet convinced me they are worthy openers but I hope I am on the right path. I would be very grateful to learn whether you think either of these is an improvement on the first.

22 comments:

  1. OH,YES!

    The first is hard to decipher the meaning that the crows represent. Now the second version it perfect. Simple, direct, and to the point.


    Excellent Ellie.... you did great!


    Michael

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  2. I like this version better...the first sentence is still a bit wordy. It reads like a tongue twister. I do like the imagery though. It makes me think that Lucian is himself a murderer.

    demitrialunetta.blogspot.com

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  3. The second has me hooked. It's very powerful, to the point. I wish you all the best with this novel as you move forward. I just clicked back to read the previous post and the story sounds very compelling.

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  4. I know your game, Ellie. You're going to put your novel up one sentence at a time so we edit it for free! Well I demand recompense...and a balloon with a monkey on it!

    And yes, I prefer the second opening.

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  5. Love the second one. Maybe (to get it into one sentence) you could combine the two:

    "Morwenna covered her ears in a futile attempt to block out the noise of the murderous chorus of crows surrounding the cottage, their incessant cries a warning Lucian King was back."

    Or something like it...great job, though!

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  6. I like the second one better. The first line is still a little clunky though, probably from “in a futile attempt”.

    In the second line, I suggest removing: “She knew”.

    She knew / She felt / She heard, etc. are ‘filter words’. They weaken the impact of the sentence. Whenever you see these constructs, imagine the sentence without them and see if it doesn’t sound stronger and more deliberate.

    Other than that, I think it works!

    @Steven Chapman: Hey, you might be on to something. Fess up, Ellie. Steven figured out your diabolical plan. LOL!

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  7. Hiya,

    I think you are very brave, I am still way too precious over my writing to even post the opening sentence - So well done you.

    It has shown me though that by re-writing it and looking at it one paragraph at a time is something to do!

    But then I am a complete novice and I am using all these writers blogs to gain a better understanding of these things!

    Rach

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  8. I think your third sentence has the most impact and hook, but it does still (to me) suffer from too many adjectives. I think you could remove some to tighten it up and still keep the same meaning. Maybe more like (cutting off after the first sentence) (remove 'the noise of, you've covered it with 'chorus):
    "Morwenna covered her ears in a futile attempt to block out the murderous chorus of crows surrounding the cottage."

    It's a great opener, and I would keep reading for sure

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  9. Morwenna chewed the tough meat and grimaced as her teeth clamped down on a particularly stubborn bit of gristle. It might take a while, she thought to herself, but I’m going to eat every last one of those noisy gits. Let’s see them try and crow about Lucian King from somewhere in the middle of my lower intestines.

    :D

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  10. I really like the second version. What a difference from the first! It's much more intriguing and it's a great hook.

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  11. I just had to look up what 'purple prose' meant because I had no idea!

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. Morwenna covered her ears in a futile attempt to block out the noise of the murderous chorus of crows surrounding the cottage. She knew their incessant cries were a warning – Lucian King was back.

    I think you could tighten this up and make it one sentence that shows Morwenna trying to block out the crows' warning.
    Thanks for sharing.

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  14. The second re-write is is SUPER-DUPER!!

    I cut out about three words from your original and got this:

    "Morwenna covered her ears in a futile attempt to block out the noise of the crows surrounding the cottage. She knew their incessant cries were a warning – Lucian King was back."

    It's just that the crows speak for themselves. Their symbolism is so much ingrained that re-iterating what they popularly stand for seems excessive. Also we know Lucian King is BAD NASTY NEWS. Let him speak for himself too.

    Just my opinion lovely Ellie!!! It's my darned editing mode mindset!!! Sorry!!

    take care
    x

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  15. I like the last of the sentences best. It seems to work out better. I stopped by for the blogfest and am a new follower.
    bethfred.com

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  16. Morwenna covered her ears in a futile attempt to block out the noise of the murderous chorus of crows surrounding the cottage. She knew their incessant cries were a warning – Lucian King was back.


    Morwena covered her ears to block out the noise of the killer cows. Their incessant bellows warned Lucian King was back.

    Are they killer cows? Cool.

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  17. Hi there,
    I prefer the second option, although the use of "murderous chorus of crows" sounds forced to me. Even though that is the proper name for a group of crows, it feels cute to me. I am sure that is my own personal feeling though. ;)

    I would *definitely* read on though - the news that Lucian King was back is chilling!!

    Very good luck,
    Corinne

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  18. I like the directness of the second one, but I still love the way the first one hints, and invades what should be a peaceful time of sleep....

    I love how you explained the critical versus the negative. Great post!

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  19. The last one, definitely. It grabbed me. I felt a character and I wanted to read on (still want to). You created an atmosphere, great editing.
    Nahno ∗ McLein

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  20. gideon 86 - thank you!

    Demitria - thank you! It's good to know I'm getting there.

    Melissa Bradley - thank you!

    Steven Chapman - LOL. You've discovered my evil master-plan. Muhahahah....

    Jamie - thank you for the advice!

    Maria Zannini - Oh...that is great feedback. Thank you!

    The Myasthenia Kid - it does take nerves of steel and a thick skin, but it is worth it!

    Loralie Hall - It does take nerves of steel and a thick skin, but it is worth it!

    Steven Chapman - LOL. Snort. Snort.

    Talli Roland - thank you!

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  21. Chippy - it's a great term.

    Christine Arnold - thank you!

    kathrynjankowski - thank you!

    Old Kitty - I hadn't though of that. Thank you! You are the best!

    Beth - thank you!

    M Pax - killer cows. LOL. Thank you!

    Corinne O'Flynn - thank you!

    The Words Crafter - thank you!

    Nahno McLein - thank you!

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I love comments. They make my day!