Red Pencil Thursday

Red Pencil ThursdayEach week I host an online critique group, but unless I have an author willing to put his/her work out there, it can’t happen. That’s why we need stead stream of victims . . . er, volunteers. All kidding aside, I’m committed to making this a positive experience for all involved.

» The latest critiques

If you’re a writer and would like to participate, here’s what you need to do. Send me the following through the email address on my Contact Page:

  • First 500 words of your WIP
  • A headshot of you
  • 2-3 sentence bio
  • URLs for your FB, Twitter, blog or website

If you don’t have a headshot or a web presence, don’t sweat it. The writing is the most important thing. Once I receive your material, I’ll let you know when your work will appear on my blog. Before it goes live, I’ll do the critique and send it to you for your responses. Then on your appointed Thursday, we’ll see what the rest of the online gang thinks.

I’ve had writers ask why I focus on the first 500 words. It’s because that may be all you get when it comes to impressing an agent or editor. Or reader. The beginning of a story is a very delicate time and it has to carry an enormous amount of freight.

The opening is frequently referred to as “the Ordinary World.” It’s life as your protagonist knows it, but it can’t be humdrum and you can’t wallow in it long. The opening needs to introduce the hero/heroine in a memorable way, set up the basic conflict or at least show that there’s an imbalance in your character’s life, and hit the ground running with just enough information for the reader to keep going forward.

It’s a tall order, but take one of the books from your keepers shelf and scan the opening. I’ll bet your favorite author manages it all beautifully. It’s part of why they are your favorite. And I’ll bet they spent more time crafting the beginning than any other part of the book. I’ve been known to agonize over just my first line for weeks, revising it many times.

A fitting opening lets the reader relax, knowing they’re in the hands of a gifted storyteller. That’s what we’re aiming for–getting our readers to buy into the world of our story and we have to do it in the first 500 words.

Hope to hear from you soon!