Red Pencil Thursday

Red Pencil Thursday

Click image for details on how YOU can be a Red Pencil Thursday Volunteer!

Please welcome Beth Ann Reid, another intrepid member of CTRWA who’s joining us today for Red Pencil Thursday.  I had a ball with these writers in Connecticut a few weeks ago. What a fun group! And now I know they’re a generous bunch too. I have several the RPT queue so we’re good for volunteers for a little while. However, if you have 500 words of your WIP ready, I invite you to look into being a RPT volunteer. It’s mostly painless and you allow others to learn from you, both what to do and what not to do.

My comments are in red. Beth’s responses are in blue. Please let us know what you think at the end of the post!


“Ms. Stanwood, I read on the internet that the Flower Duet is about lesbians. Is that true?”

Mia: You had me at “the Flower Duet!” I adore opera and this ethereal piece is a treasure. This certainly sounds like something a teenager would ask about it as well. I’m hooked.

Beth: Yay! It took me several hundred tries (I’m not kidding) to write something I hoped would hook readers. I love opera too!

For the love of God. Really?

Elise Stanwood closed her eyes. She honestly thought because music was her whole life, she’d be able to teach it. So far, that proved to be totally untrue.

Britney, an alto in the Wellington High School Women’s Choral Ensemble, was never afraid to stir up things. With her spiky punk hair and her dramatic makeup she was the quintessential attention hog. Her latest attempt was certain to generate an unfavorable reaction from other students.

Mia: Wellington High School Women’s Choral Ensemble is quite a mouthful. I’m not sure you need it all here. Spiky and punk are sort of synonymous. I’d pick one or the other. I’m not sure her comment would generate unfavorable reactions. When I was in school, the goal seemed to be how best to sidetrack the teacher’s lesson plans. Looks like Britney’s doing well in that department. Also, how about letting us know Britney’s an alto sooner, maybe when she asks about the duet?

Beth: It is a mouthful.  Originally I had it written as ‘her women’s chorus’ so I think I’ll change it back.   I’ll choose spiky or punk and will write in Britney being an alto in the first paragraph.  It makes more sense that way.

Jamie, a first soprano, threw her hand up.

And there it was.

“Is that true Ms. Stanwood?” Jamie’s face went ashen, as if she’d just seen a ghost.

Elise knew if Jamie had seen a ghost, it would’ve been that of composer Leo Delibes passed out cold after hearing the chorus massacre his beautiful aria.

Mia: Not aria. That’s a solo number. They were singing a duet.

Beth: Duly noted.

Thanks to Britney’s interruption, the whole room had erupted into chatter and quickly reached a crescendo.

Elise glanced over at Sam, her piano accompanist, and nodded. She never knew exactly how he did it; he just stuck his fingers in his mouth and an ear piercing whistle came out.

Mia: Condense piano accompanist to pianist. Is Sam going to be our hero? If so, I’d like more about him here.

Beth: Actually Sam isn’t the hero.  The hero comes in toward the middle of this chapter. He will eventually take Sam’s place.  Do you think I should just refer to Sam as the pianist and leave him nameless?

Mia: Yes, if he’s going to be replaced soon, he doesn’t need a name. Sorry, Sam.

She winced against the shrill sound.

All twenty-two members of the chorus stopped talking mid-sentence to stare at her and finally a blissful silence came over the room.

Mia: We have several sentences that have two clauses connected with and. I’d separate these and remove finally. Like this:

All twenty-two members of the chorus stopped talking mid-sentence. Blissful silence came over the room.

“It’s never been established that, er, lesbianism was Mr. Delibes intention when he wrote Lakmé and since he’s been dead for well over a hundred years we’ll never know. Let’s move on.”

Ugh. This rehearsal was a bust. Her patience had gone the way of Elvis and left the building. Usually her job as choral director was, well, tolerable. Today it had been as much fun as having your wisdom teeth pulled.

Mia: Underline Ugh. It’s her direct thought. Also, you need to say having her wisdom teeth pulled in the last sentence instead of your. By using your, you make the sentence almost an author intrusion. Your Elvis reference made me smile.

Beth: Yes! I’ll change your to her.  I don’t even realize I’m doing that either, until someone points it out.  Thanks.

Elise was frustrated that she couldn’t make a connection with her students. It was something she’d struggled with since school began in September. And now her stomach clenched in disappointment when she realized it was already April so it may never happen.

Mia: You start this paragraph by telling me Elise was frustrated, then you show it in her clenched stomach. You can show or you can tell, but readers don’t like it when you do both.

Beth: I knew when I read and re-read this it sounded off, but couldn’t put my finger on it. That will make the writing tighter.

Before Britney’s question, the chorus had just sung the Flower Duet from Lakmé four times in a row. Each time it got worse instead of better. Off-key, not fast enough in some spots, too fast in others. If they couldn’t make this piece sound somewhat presentable, she would have no other choice but to forgo it for the Heritage Music Festival competition.

Mia: I used to be a choir director. Repeating the whole thing when there are problems is counterproductive. Elise would have taken it in sections, working over difficult parts. She might encounter problems when moving from one section to the next once she ran the number from the top, but just repeating the piece means they are reinforcing errors. Perhaps she has some individuals who are sabotaging the piece, not blending or messing up entrances.

Beth: I’ll definitely rewrite that. So you used to be a chorus director, huh?  How would you feel about answering some questions … strictly for research purposes? ;-)

Mia: Drop me an email,  though if I’m behind on my WIP, my response may be slow. ;-(

“But Ms. Stanwood, didn’t you say that Lakmé and her maid are bathing in the river and a guy is watching them?”

Dear God. She could only imagine where Britney was going with this.

“Yes, I said that. And the guy, as you so eloquently put it, is Gerald, a British soldier. He is watching the two women sing because he’s falling in love with Lakmé.”

“I read that Delibes wrote the Flower Duet specifically with the soldier watching the two women to, you know, turn on the men in the audience.”

Mia: Love your musical heroine, Beth. I’d read on to see what other devilry Britney has in mind!

Beth: Thanks for the great feedback Mia!  And I’m serious about those questions.

Beth’s Bio:

Beth Ann Reid writes contemporary romance set in the current music scene and has been known to frequent outdoor music festivals and concerts strictly for, cough, research, cough, purposes.  Beth Ann has hopes of crowd surfing one day, even though her three daughters ages 13, 23 & 25 (all taller than her 4’11” frame) insist that she keep her feet on the ground, in the back of the crowd and away from the mosh pit.


A Duke for All Seasons

Click to order!

Now it’s your turn to weigh in on Beth’s opener. Our Red Pencil Thursday critique is only as strong as all the eyes around our virtual kitchen table. Please add your comments below!

On a different note, I want to thank all of you who’ve downloaded A Duke for All Seasons! Your support has made it hit the Top 100 in Regency Romance on Kindle. This story started with you, my readers, and now its success is yours too! So thank you for telling your reading friends about my 99 cent e-novella, for “liking” it, and for giving it a great rating!

You’re the best!

11 thoughts on “Red Pencil Thursday

  1. Beth Ann Reid says:

    Thanks to everyone who commented! It took a lot for me to post those 500 words and I appreciate people taking the time to read them and offer feedback:)

  2. Brenda says:

    Nice work Beth,
    Beginnings are hard.

    Great suggestions. I think I’m learning just by reading your posts. Thanks.

  3. Serena Bell says:

    Beth, I *really* like this opening! It gives us a lot of characterization of Elise and her life very quickly. I don’t have any substantive criticism (aside from agreeing with the others that “ashen” isn’t quite the right descriptor for the emotion you’re trying to capture). All I’ve got for you is a few nitpicks.

    Whatever reaction Jamie DOES have to the lesbianism possibility, you have to describe it earlier, when she throws her hand up, because that’s when Elise’s attention turns to her. (So if you stuck with turning ashen, for example, you’d write, “Jamie, a first soprano, threw her hand up. Her face was ashen.” (or some less to-be-ish rendering :-)

    And you want “might” instead of “may” in the sentence about how now it was April and getting too late to pull off the festival, because the rest of the sentence is in past tense. (That might be part of why you were having cognitive dissonance w/that sentence!)

  4. I really liked the opening, Beth.I’ll definitely read on…so hurry LOL. One thing I didn’t get, tho, was why she automatically thought the student reaction would be unfavorable,(and the other girl’s ashen reaction) unless it were a religious school, as the other Barbara said. Perhaps an indication of that? Or else a different word.

    Thank you for allowing us to pitch in with our comments. Best of luck with your story.
    I’d think kids this age would welcome a salacious discussion in music–of all places.

  5. Gail Ingis says:

    Good crit, refreshing story about music. I would enjoy reading more.

  6. Amber R. says:

    I think this critique is really going to help you along with cleaning up and tightening the story. You already know I love this story, it’s so incredible and I can’t wait to see it published.

    P.S. I think we’ve been to enough shows to get you comfortable, I would love to see the day you get the nerve to try and crowd surf! That would be awesome!!

  7. Casey Wyatt says:

    Awesome Beth! I would love to read more of this book.

  8. Barbara Britton says:

    Hi Beth Ann,

    I liked your opening. It is really fun. Since I write YA, I was focused on the teens in the story.
    I think you can remove the last line in the paragraph where you describe Britney. Instead of telling us her latest attempt is causing turmoil, you show us with Jamie’s hand shooting up in the next sentence. Dropping this line gets us into the dialogue faster as well. We already know Britney is a trouble maker from your description of her.
    Also, it didn’t ring true to me that Jamie would be ashen after the lesbian comment. If this was a religious school maybe, but most teens are bombarded with lesbian, gay, etc. talk in media and at school. Jamie may be shocked or embarrassed to sing a lesbian part, but the ashen face and ghost-talk makes me think she’s scared instead of feeling awkward. You may want to run that by your teenager.
    I really sympathized with the teacher–having been there myself–and am looking forward to the “new” pianist’s arrival.
    Great start!

  9. One thing you mentioned was author intrusion by using “your”. This is something I try to avoid, but lately I’ve noticed some writers (big name writers, if I remember correctly) using it effectively, blatantly addressing the reader. Sometimes even saying “dear reader”. I thought that was interesting. I guess it shows that rules can be broken, and effectively. I guess the trick is knowing when it will work and when it won’t.

  10. Loved this post. First of all, it seems to be an interesting story, but I learned a lot from reading the critique. Very helpful. It’s so easy to make mistakes without realizing it.

  11. J Monkeys says:

    Hi! I think this is a perfectly nice opening for a book, but what really jumped out at me is Beth’s bio. I love the idea of the writer’s kids ‘forbidding’ her to crowd surf!

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