Nathan Bransford, Author

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Page Critique Tuesday - My Critique

Thanks so much to Screaming Guppy (who, by the way, is coming off of a well-deserved contest honorable mention) for offering up the page for critique.

I think this is a very engaging opening, and there's some very strong writing here. For a scene that drops us right into the action, there's enough detail to keep us grounded and knowing where we are, even though it's an unfamiliar world. I'm very curious about what this humanoid is and whether they'll catch it (and why they need to), and it's setting up an interesting beginning. Nicely done.

My main concern is one that comes from a great place, but is actually one of the most common mistakes I see of all: there are parts where it feels like the author is trying just a bit too hard. Just a tiny bit

Too often, aspiring writers try to reinvent the hovercraft when it comes to crafting totally unique phrases, and the writing doesn't come across as effortlessly as it needs to in order to keep the reader engaged with the story. There are turns of phrase in this page that strive for originality at the expense of (my favorite writing word you know it's coming here it is): precision. I'm just not sure some of the turns of phrase ("coarse bits of the world," "broken earth," "in a peppered graffiti") achieved more than a simpler phrase or word choice would have in the same place.

This is such a tricky thing - you definitely want to be unique, but at the same time you don't want to lose the reader. Better to trust in the precision of your writing and the uniqueness of your characters and achieve style through cadence, perspective, and through your characters coming alive rather than trying to do so through complicated turns of phrases, particularly in an action scene.

I also had a few concerns about the Part 1 - is this a prologue? Pull quote? But this is also something that agents see quite a bit of - a quick bit of rug-pulling before the main action. For whatever reason, this type of a beginning tends to be something that critique groups love. They'll tell you this is a terrific hook, it's just the thing to begin with, and if you have it at the end of the first page they'll tell you to put it right at the beginning to catch the reader right away. Critique groups love love love themselves an opening hook.

In my opinion though, it feels just a bit gimmicky, and also represents, I think, a missed opportunity. There is a quick reversal, which immediately builds conflict and intrigue, but it is too easily lost and forgotten when the main action arrives, and feels just a bit superficial. "I hated her" feels a bit overly direct and generic, and there could perhaps be another way to reveal more about the character of the person/humanoid speaking.

That said, I think this is a well-balanced opening and it shows promise. With just a few tweaks the reader will very well engaged and the story will be on its way.


Title: Hound in Blood and Black
Genre: dystopian fiction

Part 1
The first time I met Kumari, she smelled of gunmetal, blood and death. Her purpose, through chance and circumstance, became to save my life This feels just a tad overwrought to me.

I hated her Missed opportunity to show more about the narrator?.

Chapter 1

Last tank of gas, she thought as the engine spit out a black cloud before picking the Jeep back up to speed. It meant one thing: last chance to make a catch. Last chance to eat, drink. To win I like the other last chances, but "to win" doesn't quite seem like it fits. If this is actually a matter of life and death does winning matter? It may be something that's explained later, but still wonder if the idea of winning cuts against the life and death stakes.

Last chance to stay alive.

“Harder!” Kumari screamed over the howl of the battered engine good detail. It revved as Bastion punched the gas pedal, dust and pebbles spraying the old army Jeep in a peppered graffiti. Driven by the wind, coarse bits of the world feels overdone (see below) clawed her cheeks and scratched the surface of her shades. She adjusted the bandana across the lower half of her face good.

I would suggest combining the second and third sentences for more seamless description. Something along the lines of: "Bastion punched the gas pedal (no need to say it revved because that's what happens by default when you punch the gas pedal). Dust and pebbles sprayed the old army jeep, clawed her cheeks and scratched the surface of her shades."

Despite the murky air she saw her quarry not sure "quarry" feels like the right word choice here - target?, clear against the horizon. Missed opportunity to provide a bit of description about what they're chasing. Also, this seems to be a dusty, murky place - so how is the humanoid clear against the horizon? Maybe consider a different way of phrasing?.

“Left!” she shouted. The Jeep veered hard to the side, tires skidding and jumping over the rocky desert good. Kumari caught herself with a hard foot to the wheel well, keeping her balance in check don't think you need "in check" while the vehicle sped across the plain. Her prey, a humanoid, stumbled as the Jeep cut in front of its path Another missed opportunity on description - humanoid could mean anything, particularly when it's a humanoid that can apparently run as fast as a car. The description is otherwise precise, but not about the most important thing of all. “Damn it, Bastion. Don’t run it over!”

The Jeep jerked again, this time to the right, spewing more broken earth dirt? into the sky. Bastion yelled something back at her, but his words were stolen by the wind this can be your stylistic flair. Of the unique turns of phrase I think "words were stolen by the wind" works the best.

Her throat was dry. Only daybreak, and already hot as hell good voice.


Josin L. McQuein said...

I find the comment about the Part 1 statement interesting, mainly because I keep going back and forth with making my own chapter 1 a single sentence (or moving the sentence into the space a normal prologue would go.)

I also find it interesting how many times you point out a missed chance at description when so many times writers are told not to over describe things. There's always a happy medium, I guess, but it's so hard to find.

Nathan Bransford said...


Definitely necessary to find that happy medium. In this case though, the humanoid isn't described at all. I don't know that it has to be described too thoroughly right off the bat, but since "humanoid" is a pretty general word I feel like there could be just a bit more of a sense of what exactly they're chasing to give us a picture. I can picture the Jeep bouncing through the desert, but when it comes to what they're chasing it's kind of a blank.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful critique, Nathan.

Nathan Bransford said...

By the way - do you guys like the two-post system for the critiques or do you prefer the way I've done in the past where I updated one post throughout the day?

Robert A Meacham said...

Mr. Bransford,
Your critique is helping me tons.

Josin L. McQuein said...

I like the old way so all the comments are together.

Anonymous said...

I like the new way. It really separates the before and after conversations nicely.

BTW, does the 250 word limit include or exclude things like title of chapter, part one, prologue (the word)?

Nathan Bransford said...

Exclude - just the actual words need to be under 250

Carol Riggs said...

I like the new way better, also; it's easier to tell which is the new post without having to scroll down. Great critique, although now I'm slightly chagrined and wondering about some of my own "unique" phrasings. LOL And I'm still wondering if there is a better way of entering than split-nanosecond-posting....

Bane of Anubis said...

I prefer the new way.

Great critique. Overwroughting is definitely something I find myself doing from time to time.

As far as description goes... seems like what's different/unique/unknown should be described (otherwise it seems like one's having the wool pulled over).

Nice passage SG -- makes me think of Terminator for some reason I can't quite pinpoint.

The Screaming Guppy said...

Thanks for the critique Nathan. This is very helpful!

Man, it seems like no matter how hard you try not to, that opening page always ends up a little too much – exactly like you said, trying a tiny bit too hard.

As for the humanoid (as a lot of people seemed curious) – in a few more paragraphs, as the hunt continues, the humanoid is revealed to be a zombie. So I guess my question is this: should I just come out with it right away and say undead instead of humanoid? It’s not meant to be a big surprise that it’s a zombie – it’s a well established fact of the world. Maybe another product of trying to hard? Almost, I guess, like it might come across as trying to be coy for no reason?

Thanks again for the feedback, everyone! Much appreciated.

Tania said...

What's interesting is that you liked that last phrase the most, but "words were stolen by the wind" is passive voice. It just goes to show that the rules of writing can be broken for the sake of style and voice. Thanks, Nathan!

Joseph said...

Each way has its merits, but I think I like the new way better. A couple more weeks of comparison, and I'll be able to confirm.

Nathan Bransford said...

screaming guppy-

Ah - a zombie! If your characters know it's a zombie I'd probably call it a zombie, particularly if it's not a mystery, though you can probably get away with a bit of delay on revealing that provided you can give a bit more description so we know generally what to picture. You could also use whatever slang term these people might use since the description is tied closely to Kumari's perspective.

At the very least I don't know that I'd use "humanoid," which sounds more like an alien than a zombie. The reader will be picturing alien, and then when they get the first description it's going to be a zombie and I worry that's going to be jarring.

Amanda said...

Good going SG. Great critque. Yes, finding that balance is hard - still working on it.

I thought Kumari was the alien and the humanoid was perhaps human, which actually, really confuses me, if the zombie is coherent enought to hate Kumari.

abc said...

I like the old way, but not for any particular reason other than that is what I've grown used to and it doesn't seem necessary to have two posts.

Who needs to be accepted to any ole Writer's Program when we have this!

Screaming Guppy--I like it! Don't stop. Also, everything that Nathan said.

Anonymous said...

When I read "Humanoid" it made me think that the Aliens (or non-humans) were the two MC doing the chasing, and they referred to Humans as Humanoids. Just my first impression.

Josin L. McQuein said...

Zombies aren't humaniod, they're former humans, so it's a misnomer. Humanoid is something with no relation to humanity that has human traits (human-like).

scott g.f.bailey said...

Guppy: Way cool! Like everyone else here, I don't like "humanoid." Maybe something like (after the murky air bit) "Kumari saw it, this thing that used to be human" or something. You'll find a better way than any of us will suggest, of course.

Anne R. Allen said...

Hey, if you've got zombies, toot your zombie horn. Zombies are sizzle-hot right now.

I like the new format. This way you can see how people react before and after the Master has spoken.

I find it interesting that most people loved the mini-prologue until Nathan said he found it gimicky. Critiquing can so easily fall into a follow-the-leader mentality.

I'm not a big prologue fan, since I like to be welcomed into a story, not confused. But obviously a lot of commenters enjoyed the challenge.

Amanda Sablan said...

There are some fantastic tips here, and it got me thinking about my own work.

Anonymous said...

I think of zombies as "creatures!"

(creepy creatures)


(I too would like another way to enter these crits without having to be Johnny on the gun first.

Nathan Bransford said...


Yeah, by all means if people like the prologue definitely say so! I do sometimes wonder how much of the sentiment about very hook-y openings is an internalized sense of "agents always say you have to have a great opening and this seems like that" vs. "this is the type of thing I like to read at the beginning of the book and would make me more likely to buy it." I'd be curious to hear people's take on that - it may just be my personal taste coming into play.

Anonymous said...

I like a prologue that will set the tone or a sense of the suspense or, in the case of some fantasies, that will outline and tell me about the world I am about to enter soI can enter the storyline without confusion or flashbacks.

I like poems or quotes at the tops of sections or chapters too.

Unfortunately, that means with one of my works, if I entered it into this contest, I would just be entering my prologue and opening (together they are about 250 words) setting ahead of the first story words.

swampfox said...

Great comments.

Lucy said...

"Quarry" worked for me; as I tend to think of a "target" in military terms, whereas a quarry is something one hunts, and she's clearly hunting. You could also use "prey."

As a whole, I found this page effective.

Anonymous said...

yeah, as far as submissions, I don't get how those pages got posted so fast! There I was, hovering over the blog's refresh button, and clicked on it as soon as the new one appeared...only to find 4-5 submissions posted there already. Eh? How do you guys DO it?

Anonymous said...


No matter which post-sytsem you choose, these critics are a wonderful resource for all of us. Agents can talk abou good writing and bad writing until their faces turn blue, but I'm a learn by example type of person. No matter whose lucky enough to get the page critic, by posting it first, then criticing it later, we are all involved in the process. Excellent.

Anonymous said...

I liked prologues if they truely set the tone of the story, which I think this one did. One of my WIPs has a prologue and after reading how iffy people (agent) can be about them, I tried to work it into the novel. It didn't work. It's a prologue, take it or leave it. Good job Guppy.

Misty Waters said...

Until recently, I NEVER thought about going w/out the Prologue! A good prologue will lead you in, set you up and leave you hanging. If it's really good, you'll fly through a book hoping that the explanation is on the next page . . . or the next.

I think this Prologue was good, but could use a bit more. But, no worries, it left me with enough questions and I wanted to continue on because of it.

My only problem was the humanoid. I went to Terminator immediately upon reading it, so I'm shocked that it's a zombie! Most def take that part out.

Oh, and the new format is the way to go NB.

Unrepentant Escapist said...

Re: Zombie vs. Humanoid...

It depends if your character can see its a zombie/knows its a zombie. The problem is, we don't get any description whether she's seeing a vague form through the dust or can actually make out the details. If she knows its a zombie and doesn't tell us, you're hiding things from the reader. If she doesn't, then I want to feel the curiosity, the fear as she engages something unknown that might kill her and her teammate for the game.

I presume, given your writing skills, that that stuff comes along on page 2.

For our personal enjoyment, Guppy, I'd love to see you post a short plot summary, because I really want to know what your book is about.

Re: The Hook
I think the difference may be that writing groups don't see a hundred people trying to be hook-y every day. So we think its cool (though I didn't like this particular one) and an agent says. "Oh, another hook that, scrutinized closely, doesn't actually mean anything."

Re: The format change. Good. I like it better. On the fast clicking of submissions, it would be fun sometime to try collecting the first ten first pages and then have an hour of voting for which one we would like to see critiqued, and then go with that. There are always some good ones that I wish I could see critiqued.

Allan Dorr said...

I enjoyed reading this. I liked the phrase: "...a hard foot to the wheel well." That really made me feel how sharp of a turn the jeep is making.

Admittedly, I was also thrown by the short part one prologue. It didn't seem to work. But I also think there's merit in trying other forms. Not sure if I would call it gimmicky, though. Just a little stumble...

Humanoid - I picture something that looks completely human, although there is something not quite human about it. So, calling a zombie a humanoid may not be a bad thing. But it does leave a blank there, which I attributed to them being so dusty and murky. But if they can see the zombie well, then perhaps more description is important. If they are far away, however, his gate may tell something more about him.

These critiques are very helpful, Nathan. I just started following you, and am learning so much.
The two separate posts format works for me.

Cheryl said...

I actually prefer it this way. It's easier to get through the comments since we aren't having to scroll through the subs, then the crits and coms and other conversations. By the time you've put your redline and comments up, there's already 50 comments.

I enjoy reading all the comments so I think this makes it easier to find the latest one.

I suppose I could always subscribe to comments, too. That would be too easy, though.

@Josin I know what you mean, we are always told not to over describe. I understand what Nathan means here but seriously, knowing when it's too much or too little is hard.

Amanda P. said...

I personally like it the new way. I just think it keeps the comments more organized. :-)

Love this new feature, btw. Now if I can ever hit that durn refresh button quick enough. Thankfully, I'm off all summer (teacher) so I'm going to stalk even more faithfully - in a non-creepy way, of course.

As for the piece, I agreed with Nathan's sentiments, but I also really enjoyed this! I think once you edit some of the description a bit, it will fantastic! :)

And I pictured that part one piece being on one page, nothing on the back, and then chapter one beginning when you flipped. If that makes sense.

Jill said...

SG, I like humanoid.

I get it -- it's a human zombie. As opposed to a dog zombie, or a rat zombie, or a flying squirrel zombie.

Darn, I hope your novel has flying squirrel zombies.


nimarii said...

Maybe I would feel different if I had read further than 250 words, but in this excerpt, both "quarry" and "humanoid" worked for me...

(Recently discovered this blog, and I am loving it. It's become one of the 3 sites that I check daily now!)

Mira said...

I definitely prefer the new format. It's more organized, and helps your critique stand out more.

But now I'm confused about where to post my two cents? Do I add them here, or on the previous post?

Nathan, I thought your review was terrific, as usual - I hadn't thought of it as trying to hard, but that felt spot on. It was very helpful reading what about precision. I could see that as a common 'trap' for new writers, and I think precision is exactly the way to go.

I also agreed with everything about liking the piece. This felt strong to me. For the most part, the writing well - with confidence. I really liked the example of good voice, too.

Um...I guess I'm posting my two cents here. :)

In terms of the prologue - for me, I liked it - I could picture just that one short paragraph on a page right before the story starts. Although it felt alittle too short....I agree that you could reveal more without overdoing it.

The part about the prologue that was alittle confusing for me, though, was the change of perspective - from first person to third. There may not be anything you can do about that - but I had a moment of confusion.

Great critique of a very good action piece! I get so much out of this - thank you Nathan. Screaming Guppy - right on - best of luck! :)

Anonymous said...

In response to Page Critique:
My God, Nathan, you’re half my age and have read more of the classics than I probably ever will. Kudos to you. And I do mean that—even though you’ve rejected me twice. Without websites like yours many of us might have thrown in the towel long ago. You offer encouragement, information, and assistance. All worthwhile facets in the search for an ever elusive gem. But in your critiques, in your judgment, in YOUR words please…please…please, in this over-competitive market that is driving newbie writers/newbie artists with fresh pink skin susceptible to a blush and vulnerable to burns, some with inherent talent (granted, many without) to strive for the stars, already tailoring our words for the masses by the time we’ve subjected ourselves to reviewing websites, to further pimp ourselves based on what those sites tell us—let’s all take a breath and remember: This Is Art before we stamp our feet and crush the juice from the seeds of our passion. I myself have written for over two years with no light at the end of the tunnel save that which glows in my own beating heart. And regardless of what happens in Manhattan, San Francisco, Timbuktu or elsewhere I will continue to do so for as long as I feel that glow. Why, you ask, am I even bothering to try and become published given the odds against me? I’ll tell you that in my case writing was not something that I set out to succeed in, rather it came to me almost like a calling. An accident. A happy accident. (No, I’m not religious, but when I’ve written something that pleases me, I will admit that I do feel a certain glow (quite an embarrassing glow—to the extent that I’m very happy to do my work in solitude) which I’m sure some would call spiritual and others would label an addiction.) I also believe that if it happens then I will have the pleasure—the simple exhale of relief—of knowing that a few people have read and enjoyed what I was moved to write. If I had my husband mow it in our front lawn, paid to send it in smoke trails from an airplane, or as my son would attempt, farted it in code, it would not reach the masses in the way a reputable publisher might. So I persevere. And of course lighting the way along this tunnel littered with the failure of so many likewise impassioned souls is the success of a few. A beacon.

Don’t blot it out.

Susan said...

This is how I felt too, Nathan. The wording was a bit overworked at times when simplicity---like that opening paragraph--delivered just so much more.

And that was part of what I saw as the problem: some sentences were straightforward and the better for being so, and then there were the overworked ones. Almost as two different authors were at work here.

Great scene, though.

D. G. Hudson said...

Nathan, I'm one of those that agrees with:
"this is the type of thing I like to read at the beginning of the book and would make me more likely to buy it." Frank Herbert and a few other writers (distinguished in their writing fields) have used the teasers at the beginning to great effect. I think it's a personal choice.

I haven't changed my comments as some others have -- I still think that smaller bites to whet the appetite are a matter of taste & only work with certain stories. I prefer not to be a sheep.

The new way of posting your redline comments saves us time -- so I'll go with the majority on that one.

Dave said...

I find the page critique to be most helpful. Thanks Nathan!

Nathan Bransford said...

Thanks, D.G.! I should clarify that what I meant with the question was more about having a very hooky-opening being something that I worry people have internalized, rather than specifically about short prologues. I should have had a paragraph break there to distinguish.

ryan field said...

Great critique. And I like the new way.

Becca said...

Great critique, Nathan.

You asked about if people liked the opening because it's something they would buy, or because they *think* agent's would like it.

As someone who buys a lot of books, and is extremely selective (and, might I add, I'm a kick ass book-picker, because everyone I know loves the books I recommend 99% of the time), I liked the opening because it was a book I would buy.

The following section didn't really fit the opening though, so I wouldn't have picked it up. But if it kept up with that opening, I would have bought it.

I, personally, liked the simple line "I hated her." It was simplistic and contrary. While we weren't "shown" her hating the person, being told she hated her, for me, was more interesting. And it was an immediate pay off.

Of course these are only my opinions as a reader. I've never been published and I've never helped a book to be published. But I buy a lot of book and read a lot of books and I'm picky, picky, picky. But I can only be picky for what I like.

Okay, I'm rambling on. It's a good piece and you gave a wonderful critique. I'm more interested the part one section than the part 2 section.

Another thing I'm not big on, is the literal "action" openings. This seems to stem from the "start with action" advice, but when this is taken to mean an intense action scene, I'm immediately put off from the novel. Not that I want boring, slow opening either, but I want a chance to get to know the character (and gain interest in them) before crazy stuff starts happening to them.

That's my opinion, as a reader. Bet you wish you hadn't asked :

But in the end, it's a matter of taste. The writing is definitely skilled, and would appeal to it's target audience, I'm sure.

rachelcapps said...

What a seriously encouraging critique! I liked the prologue, it made me curious. I did have to read it twice because the first name I see is Kumari (great name, btw) and obviously it's not her POV, but that's just me - slow on the uptake sometimes. I think Nathan's comments will make the prologue shine. Well done, SG :)

Nathan, you've made me curious. I wonder that SG's first page is at a level where agents will be ready to take it on, despite the tweaks? I realise that's a subjective/loaded question ...

I prefer the two-post system, no doubts.

Mari said...

Screaming Guppy,

Contrats on winning the contest.

I must say that I was intrigued by your post and would read more.

Regarding humanoid...I too thought about aliens (but that may be because I love SciFi).

Nathan's recommendation of giving a little description prior to saying that the 'humanoid' is a zombie would be cool.

Mari said...


First and foremost, thank you so much for all you do for us. You really take the time to teach us, guide us, help us grow. I don't know how you find the time to do it, but I'm glad you do.

It is because I'm so grateful that I hate mentioning anything that could be in the slightest way be perceived as a negative comment. So please, if this sounds wrong, please, please, ignore it.

Like many people, I work a full-time job (yes, bring out the mini-violin). The problem is that where I work we are not allowed (in fact we are blocked) to visit any type of "social networking" sites. In addition, our cell phones must be turned off.

As a result, it would be next to impossible for me to ever be able to be the first one to post anything early enough to get critiqued. (I know, whine, whine)

Last week I was on vacation (to move to a new home). I thought: "Cool, maybe, just maybe I can stalk the site and be the first one to post for the 1st page contest."

But then ('conflict') I remembered that I had no Internet connection during the move. Ah!!! It was going to be like a 5-day gap without connectivity. The horror!!

I was like...sigh...oh well.

But then, suddenly...Ding. What am I thinking? I've got the iPhone. I do have connectivity. Yeah! I’m going to send….

Wait, how do I get the first page of my book into the iPhone?

Arg! Bummed again.

But wait, I do have it. The first 30 pages are in my email's send box from when I participated in one of your contests. I’m back to my stalking plan!!!! Whoo hoo!!!

So I find the email with the attached pages and copy/paste the first page to my ‘notes’ app of my iPhone.

On Tuesday, I copy the page into memory so that when the 1st-page contest starts I can just paste it and have a chance.

I wake up early and start checking the blog. But…I’m in the middle of a move.

So, apart from moving stuff I have to go shopping!!!!! (Yes, I’m a woman, but I really don’t like to shop). I don’t think I’ve gone to Home Depot, Lowe’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, and Wal-Mart so much in my life! (And with my 4 year old).

But, every time I parked the car, I checked the blog with my trusty iPhone.

Still a no-go.

Then….the action contest came and I had several days.


Anyway, I’m back to work, but very thankful for your contests.

I understand the rules of the 1st page contest and I’m good with them. I learn even if it’s not my page. But…. if you every decide you want to change the rules every now and then, so that us wanna-be-but-can’t-be blog stalkers can participate, perhaps something like the following would work:

People post their pages and you select (randomly) a page to critique. I realize that this still would be a long shot for getting critiqued, but it would be a shot.

Thanks for listening, your guidance, and I humbly apologize for the lengthy message.

D. G. Hudson said...

Thanks Nathan, for the clarification.

IMO, hooks don't have to be heavy-handed. A lot of writers do over-write the opening possibly to catch the agent's eye (with only the query and a few pages to keep them reading. A subtle, spinning hook will catch the fish, too, but that takes expertise.

treeoflife said...

Congrats on the great excerpt Screaming Guppy. This was one of my favorites of the weekly critiques so far!

I liked the "To Win" part after the last chances... got the imagination running. I was wondering if they're part of a deadly game where survival and winning go hand in hand.

I also didn't mind the use of the term humanoid, although I would've like a bit of description of it. Humanoid was certainly better than saying straight out it's a zombie though. That would've turned me off pretty quickly as "just another zombie book", whereas by building it up, I think maybe these zombies could be unique in some way.

As for what to improve on... about all I can say is that I agree with Nathans comments on toning down some description (ie deleting 'revved', etc).

Really good. Thanks!

RB Ripley said...

As always, thanks for offering your time to do this.

To log another opinion for your poll. I like the new way,

Stephen Prosapio said...

$575 worth of education in this blog.

I hope this not only helps make us better writers but better *reviewers*.

Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

Hi Nathan,

I'm loving these critiques. They're helping with my writing. I can see how I've overdone the unique phrases. Too wordy!

Claire Robyns said...

I'm not mad about prologues, but what I do like are mini-intro's into each chapter. This would have worked great for me if the "Part 1" header had been left out and the format continued throughout the book with a sentence or two introducing the chapter.

Loving these critiques and learning lots

Joseph L. Selby said...

I gave this more thought and went back and reviewed posts. I definitely prefer your critique as a separate post.

Also, I will throw my two cents on the pile against humanoids. Unless the zombies are from another planet.

Erica S. said...

I usually like little prologue hooks, though for me what really makes it or breaks it is how well the hook tails in to the rest of the story. I think the biggest jolt with this piece was that the hook was in first person the rest was not. Especially given that the person of the hook was not Kumari, and then when the author picks up with the chapter, we're in tight third person with Kumari herself.

Nathan, I'm curious if your qualms with the Part 1 hook was in any way related to the length of it. What do you consider a good prologue bit, and what would justify a writer using one?

Ermo said...

Some quick comments:

1) Prologues rock if they work and suck if they don't. Much like everything else in writing.

2) I like the new post for the critique.

3) The one advantage to changing the way you select these, Nathan, is you could ensure that you mix up the genres a bit.

4) Can you eat a Zombie?

Carrie said...

This is a great service for writers.

Great energy. I'm not a post-apoc kinda girl, but I liked this.

My two cents - Humanoid = Alien. I might be the only one who associates those two words, but I'd definitely say that humanoid does not mean zombie to me.

That said, I like keeping it a mystery for a bit.

Agree that the hunter would be assessing details about her prey, and that those details would invigorate the scene.

This is something I'd like to read - and I'd especially be interested to see this page again, once Nathan's comments have been applied.

Good work!

Dara said...

Thanks for posting that excerpt Screaming Guppy. And thanks Nathan for giving the critique. Even though it's not my piece, it helps me see what I need to do to polish up my own beginning.

Also I like this new way of critiquing better. :)

Carrie said...

Oh - also prefer this as two separate posts. I like things tidy.

Thermocline said...

I like the new format as well. It helps me see whether I am noticing the same things an agent might.

I'd rather jump right into Chapter 1 than read a prologue. The jacket copy has already lured me into starting a new book. I don't need a prologue to tease me a little more (and delay the story.)

Chuck H. said...

Had a thought about how to select the page you critique. You could do like the radio stations and say, "Be caller number seven and get a free, all expenses paid critique of your first 250 words."

Either format works for me.

Charles said...

Oh, what I would give to actually have my work seen by an agent.

Carol Riggs said...

yes, if you're "caller #7" or some other pre-specified entry, then Nathan won't be put in the awkward position of choosing. That would be less work for Nathan, which is important (however do you find time to write and be an agent, N?). Although that doesn't help people who work, admittedly.

mythicagirl said...

Oh wow!
I just saw that this was posted, and I guess I'm biased, but I remember reading this when it was posted on Rick's Query site (with pages of course) back when it was stated that it was all about zombie hunting.

I love zombies, and this opening, with Nathan's critique is great!

Hey Screaming Guppie, have you thought about sending this to Juno? (now a division of Pocket books) This kick butt heroine might be something editor Paula Guran would like.

If anyone is interested, there's a new writer's community called inkwell that I helped co-found with two other writers.
we're at

Mira said...

Yes, it seems like the current selection process has some difficulties....I agree, though, given that Nathan is offering this incredible service for free, selection should be effortless for him.

So, I'm actually having trouble thinking of a better system - one that is absolutely no work for Nathan....

I also don't know if he even wants to change it.....but if he did, I'm not sure what that would be.

I still like the idea of offering it as a perk, though, maybe attaching it to comment of the week (?)....not sure if that would be more or less work.

Mira said...

Oh! For goodness sakes. Nathan already had a solution. Never mind.

John said...

I think you can change "humanoid" to "brain-eating biped" and things'll be just spiffy.

I'm ambivalent about the new post method. Either works for me.

I agree for the most part about overwrought purple prose. Why not just say what things are? I dunno, some people are really good at weaving flowery prose seamlessly. I have a somewhat jaded eye to it after years of critting and writing.

I think the action sequence is otherwise well written and conveys a good sense of movement and setting.

Good job.

Joe G said...

So are the humans... going to eat... the zombie?! *_*

Christina said...

the comment about that part 1 was really interesting :)
Great post!!!!!

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