Red Pencil Thursday
Welcome back to another online critique group. I’m happy to report that a number of writers have stepped forward to offer the first 500 words of their WIP. So we’re set for the next few weeks of Red Pencil Thursday, but am always looking for new victims…I mean volunteers! If you would like to take a ride in the RPT hotseat, check out the details on how you can submit your material .
Our volunteer today is Vikki Vaught, a historical author. My thoughts about her work are in red, Vikki’s responses in blue. I hope you’ll add yours in the comment section!
Kathleen’s Scandalous Baron
Mia: Since this is a period piece you need something more than merely Kathleen. Miss Kathleen will telegraph the type of story you’re offering more clearly.
Vikki: I see what you mean. I like adding Miss to it. Miss Kathleen’s Scandalous Baron it is. This is a sequel to another completed MS, Anissa’s Perilous Journey. That title will need to change also. I tend to like three word titles for some reason.
Even though it was still a bit cold, Kathleen Hawks enjoyed the beautiful Devonshire beach. It reminded her of the seashore back at home in Baltimore. Walking the beach had always been something she enjoyed immensely and continued to enjoy here. Devonshire had a stark beauty and she found the moors nearby, intriguing.
Mia: After my rules against over-use of exclamation points and words ending in –ly, not starting with the weather comes next. Honestly, I’ve heard editors make jokes about weather openings.
Vikki: I’ve had misgivings concerning this opening. I never even thought about it opening with the weather. How boring is that? I wanted the reader to understand how much Kathleen loves the beach, but this really doesn’t get that across. I’m now thinking about having her at play with her niece and nephew.
Mia: Will there be any tension in that opening? Something unique about her relationship with the kids? You need to show Kathleen’s life is in some sort of imbalance or will become so very shortly.
Shivers of anticipation raced through Kathleen. She was going to London for the season. Since her brother’s wife, Anissa, was with child and due any day, Adam and Sylvia, the Duke and Duchess of Barrington had volunteered to bring her out. The only concern Kathleen had about this was how her betrothed would feel about her dancing and having a good time with other gentlemen. After all, going to parties and balls was what a season was all about, and of course, dancing was part of it.
Mia: This is all important information, but with the exception of the shivers, you’re telling, m’dear, not showing. The shivers show us how Kathleen feels. Is there someone who could walk the beach with her? While you don’t want to use dialogue as an info-dump, it is possible to engage your readers and help them connect with your heroine through her words instead of yours.
Vikki: I’m going to work this into the conversation with either her mother or Anissa. I do want to mention this is a very rough draft and the MS is not finished. I wrote this last year in the month of November for NaNoWriMo and wrote well over 50,000 words in less than a month.
Mia: I’m so impressed that you were able to create 50K shiny new words on a MS in such a short period of time. I enjoy rewriting. It’s the initially pushing the story out that’s harder for me.
William Jones had started courting her last spring, and Kathleen fell head over heels for him right away. The night before she’d left for England, William asked for her hand in marriage. Her brother, Alex, hadn’t wanted to give his permission. Kathleen had only been seventeen at the time, but he finally agreed, with the understanding that they wouldn’t get married for at least a year.
Mia: This is backstory. Does the reader absolutely need to know this at this point? Drop your readers into the middle of the action, into a surprising circumstance and let them scramble a bit to keep up.
Vikki: Again, I will work this into a conversation a little bit at a time. I have another MS where I took out the first 3-4 pages and dropped the reader right into the action. I now have a contract on that one with Secret Cravings Publishing. That book should be released in January 2014.
Mia: Congrats on your sale!
It had been senseless to wait as far as Kathleen was concerned, because she knew her own mind quite well, thank you very much. After all, she was now eighteen, and she would love William forever. Alex could be so old fashioned about some things, and he’d always been over protective. While she loved both her brothers, she felt stifled by their good intentions.
Mia: Have you ever written an argument between Kathleen and her brother? That might be a much better way to show his concern and her feistiness.
Vikki: I like that idea. That’s a distinct possibility.
Looking up at the sky, Kathleen noticed the sun was fully out. She needed to return to the house or she’d miss breakfast, and her stomach was letting her know that wouldn’t be a good idea. Kathleen made her way up the steep path, leading back to the house. Some women might find the path too steep, but Kathleen had been climbing trees and riding since she was very young, keeping her very fit. Besides, Kathleen preferred being on the move. While she enjoyed reading and needlework at times, her greatest joy was being outside, communing with nature and riding her horse.
Mia: If she had a friend beside her huffing and puffing, Kathleens good health and fitness would be evident. And if her friend castigated her for unladylike activities like tree climbing so much the better.
Vikki: I wanted the reader to know she’s always full of energy. I’ll figure out another way to do this. I’m sure that would come across if I add the children into the scene.
Kathleen quickly made the climb and ran into the house and up the stairs without even losing her breath. Fortunately, today’s fashions didn’t need a corset most of the time. Once Kathleen entered her room, she rushed through her morning ablutions and headed down to the breakfast room.
Mia: If this is the Regency, you’re right about her not wearing a corset. Stays supported a woman’s breasts, but didn’t restrict her waistline. However, the narrow column dresses restricted the length of women’s strides. She’d have to lift her skirts to run.
Vikki: I’m having to move this back to 1803, since I ran into a problem with the year for the first MS. I’ve looked at fashions from that time period, and all the dresses look loose around the hips and legs. However, Kathleen is a bit of a hoyden, and she’d definitely pick up her skirts and run.
Upon entering, her mother, Georgia, looked up and smiled. “Did you enjoy your walk this morning? I don’t know where you find the energy. Oh, to be young again!”
Mia: I think you have a dangling participle there. The way this reads the mother is the one doing the entering.
Vikki: Definitely. Thanks for pointing that out.
Kathleen laughed as she went to the sideboard and filled her plate with coddled eggs, bacon and toast. “Ma, you’re not old, and you’re still very active. You know you enjoy a brisk walk as well as I do, just not as early as I like them. Where’s Anissa this morning?”
Mia: Thanks for letting me take a look at your work, Vikki.
I like Kathleen. She’s energetic and straight-forward. But I’d like to see her in a more unique situation to start your story. The fact that she’s an American gives you a chance to play up her “fish-out-of-water” qualities. (You might take a look at the beginning of my Stroke of Genius for an example. The first chapter is here on my website. My heroine is an American heiress in search of a titled husband.)
Where to begin a novel is a question with which authors always wrestle. Is she going to have a disagreement with someone soon? Start there. How does she meet the hero? Another good jumping off point. I’ve lopped off over 12 pages from the beginning of a manuscript before. It was important for me to write those pages. I needed to learn more about my characters and I was sort of “clearing my throat” before the story got started.
Vikki: Thanks, Mia. This really helped. I was definitely not satisfied with this opening and will be doing major re-writes on it. Just as you said, sometimes you need to write this stuff out to help you get to know your character better, but it doesn’t need to be in the book. I appreciate your time. I will certainly check out Stroke of Genius.
Vikki Vaught started her writing career when a story popped in her head and wouldn’t leave. Over the last three years, she’s written 6 historical romances and is presently working on her seventh. As an avid reader of historical romance, she’s a romantic at heart. Vikki loves a “Happily Ever After”, and she writes them in her stories. While romance is the central theme of all her romances, she includes some significant historical event or place in all her novels.
Vikki lives in the beautiful foothills of the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with her beloved husband, Jim, who has the patience of a saint. She attended the University of Tennessee and St. Leo University and has a degree in Business Management. For many years, Vikki worked for large corporations in team management, but she finds writing much more enjoyable. While she still has a day job, it gives her ample time to devote to her craft.
OK, now it’s your turn. The real power of Red Pencil Thursday lies in your input! What suggestions, comments or encouragement do you have for Vikki?