Red Pencil Thursday with Krista McKenna
Welcome to another Red Pencil Thursday, my online critique group. My volunteer today is Krista McKenna, whom I first met in Judi McCoy’s Aspiring Writer’s Workshops. I was one of the authors who came to the Romantic Times Convention a couple days early so I could give workshops for aspiring authors. (I’m happy to announce I’ll be doing it again next April. Hope you’ll make plans to join me in Los Angeles for Judi or Bobbi Smith’s aspiring writers program!)
I’ve done my critique on Krista’s opening. My comments are in red. Her responses are in blue. Please add your thoughts in the comment section. A critique group is only as strong as all its members, so be sure to give us the benefit of your opinion, too.
I like the title. It suggests a paranormal element and sounds deliciously dark.
“If I wanted to live in earthquake central, I would have moved to L.A.!” Holly muttered span softly as the earth beneath her feet rumbled and swayed with the fifth small aftershock since last week’s 4.9 shaker.
Ok, if she’s not in LA, you have to tell us where she is after this opener.
Good Idea, I don’t think I mentioned she is in Seattle until later on.
Looking at her watch, she frowned silently, shaking her head as others, like her, looked around wearily before going on with their business as usual.
Dividing long sentences makes a passage read easier. I’d split this up like this:
Looking at her watch, she frowned silently, shaking her head. Others looked around wearily before going on with their business as usual.
Also notice that you’ve used 3 dreaded -ly words in as many sentences (I turned them purple so they’d leap out at you). I’m very anti-adverb because I think it keeps us from choosing active, descriptive verbs and specific nouns. I try to limit myself to 2-ly words per manuscript page.
You’re right. Breaking things up does flow better and I will be dropping some of those adjectives. 2-ly words per page sounds like a good rule of thumb
“You’re gonna be late!” mocked a sudden, grating, male voice from just behind her. Rolling her eyes, she sighed, quickly span resuming her path.
Angela James, executive editor for Harlequin’s Carina Press says, “Not every noun deserves an adjective.” You’ve given ‘voice’ three adjectives. Pick one. Your writing will be cleaner with fewer modifiers.
“Why me?” Holly groaned out between clenched teeth, readjusting the bag of fresh pastries she had just picked from the fourth street bakery, and picking up her pace.
Fourth Street should be capitalized. Maybe Bakery too if that’s the name of the business.
Duh, even I should have known that. Rookie move, lol. ;-)
Try not to use two prepositions in a row. Instead of out between, I’d use between alone. I’d also change picking to picked. Read it out loud as see if it sounds better to you. When you read it aloud, you’ll hear that you’re using picked and picking in the same sentence. To avoid this, how about saying she bought from instead of picked up from?
“Late, late, late,” the voice taunted further instead of just going away as she had hoped.
My paranormal antenna is twitching. Something’s happening here and I like it.
Refusing to acknowledge him, she pushed the button at the intersection waiting for the little cross walk hand to flash green so she could safely cross the street.
We don’t need the bit waiting for the cross walk hand. I’d cut from waiting to the end of the sentence. We know why she pushed the button. Less really is more.
Okay, it’s a given that the hand flashes and isn’t really anything the reader needs to know to enhance the story.
“So what is this, the third time this week? It’s shameful I tell you…just shameful.”
Growling low in her throat she fought not to turn. Come on Holly, just ignore him, she told herself silently as the hand turned green freeing her to go.
I’ve bolded all the times you’ve used just so you’ll see them. There are a number of “filler” words we writers like to use–even, just, still, always, that, etc. Sometimes they get stuck in our heads and flow out our fingers without our being aware of them. If you read your work aloud, you’ll hear them. You’ll also hear that you have an echo–turn and turned–in this paragraph as well. I catch more weakness in my own prose by reading it aloud than anything else.
Darn filter words. ;-) I have been working on getting my ‘that’s’ (something I am terrible with) under control only to have neglected the other words.(sigh) Something I’ll have to continue to work on. I am trying to get myself in the habit of reading out loud, It really does make a big difference.
I don’t know how you expect to run a business like this,” he continued, following right along behind her as she crossed the street, heading toward Westlake. “I mean really, if I—”
“Enough!” she yelled, spinning around to face the semi-transparent figure of the seventyish year old man who hung in the air just behind her. “I mean it Bob, I’ve had enough. Just… go haunt some one else, okay!”
I love it! She’s being haunted by a grumpy grandpa.
The ghost snorted inelegantly as he continued to hang in mid air, his face dower as always. In life, Bob had owned a small grocery store in the same building where she now housed her own beloved bookstore cafe. For forty years he had run his store and garnered the reputation of being a surly, nosy, grumpy, old, fart.
There is no other way to snort but inelegantly. I see this particular trope a lot and it always strikes me as being unnecessary.
I see what you mean, I’ll toss inelegant.
And now we know they’re connected by place. Good hook.
In death, Bob hadn’t changed much. He was still surly, nosy and grumpy, but since she was the only one who could see him, she bore the brunt of his frequent tirades.
“And just who else am I supposed to haunt, hmmm?” he asked floating around her as she turned from him sighing deeply as she resumed her course. “I don’t like it anymore than you do. It’s not my fault you’re the only one who can see and hear me. I had hoped if they…” he started pointing up to the sky as he ranted on about how terrible it was having no others like her so that he could choose who he wanted torture with his incessant negative babble. As another familiar tirade began, Holly shook her head in frustration, knowing she had to cut him off before he really got started.
You used tirade twice in close proximity. It’s an unusual enough word to be an echo.
I hadn’t even caught that one. ;-) You’re good.
“Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before,” she began cutting him off. “I’ll say what I always say. If you don’t like me, GO AWAY,”
Good start, Kristi. Even though your ghost is a grump, I can see how he could be used as comic relief as well. If you do that, you might want to rethink your title which sounds dark. Which ever way you decide to go, as long as you’re consistent you’ll be fine.
The title is darker but it comes to make sense later in the story. Bob is a fun character who adds a bit of levity to the story when things get to intense. I think a little humor can add a lot to a story if done correctly. Holly ends up getting herself tangled up in some pretty dark stuff with her ability to see and talk to ghosts, hence the title.
Thanks so much for your time Mia. I think that with just the few small tips you have given me I go do a lot in tightening up my WIP and making it really great.
Krista’s Bio: I grew up in the Foothills of Northern California where I still live with my husband, 3 kids, a dog and a cat. I have been writing since I was in grade school, entertaining my teachers and family with my tall tales and huge imagination. After geting a Degree in English from The College of Southern Idaho I sat down to write a short story. That story turned out to be over two hundred pages long, and I realized then, writing was what I wanted to do. Since then I have been writing nearly every day and loving every sencond of it.
Now it’s your turn to give Krista some advice. Thanks!