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  1. #1
    Ridill
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    Writing a book, looking for feedback

    So I've been working on a book for about a year now. I've gotten two complete drafts done and I have the third and forth drafts of my first four chapters done, which I'm hoping should be the last of my major overhauling drafts.
    My second draft ended at about 175,000 words, and I'm shooting for my forth draft to be roughly around the same length.

    It's a fantasy genre book which can be a bit violent, set in a typical medieval fantasy-type setting. If anyone's interested, the synopses (which I just wrote in 5 min, so it could definitely be better) I wrote just to throw in this post is;

    "A betrayed assassin out for revenge, an abused woman afraid of what she may become, a man condemned and consumed by hatred, and a forgotten god desperate to finish what he started, all find themselves swept into the chaos of a secret war in which gods fight amongst themselves using humans like pawns to decide the fate of the world."

    I just copy/pasted the first chapter on my blog, It's not spaced how I would want it to be spaced, but didn't have time to do that before I left for work today and can be found here;

    http://burnscorp.blogspot.com/2014_02_01_archive.html


    If anyone is interested in reading more, I can get you the next three chapters.
    And if you want to keep up after that, I can update you as I finish more chapters.

    I'm looking for basically any feedback I can get because when I'm completely done with the forth edit I plan to go shopping around for editor/publisher.
    I'm not really looking for grammatical corrections though at this stage, unless there are some real atrocious mistakes I constantly repeat.

  2. #2
    29 in magical dog years
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    I had a hard time getting into it.
    Idk if you want to click, but just my opinion:

    Spoiler: show

    PRAY (Working Title)
    Written by Corey Burns
    Chapter 1
    “Blessed Provider, our Lord and Father, I thank you for this meal you have given to us,” Braiden prayed aloud, thinking more about the smell of cooked sheep sitting at the table in front of him than the prayer that had become nothing more than habitual repetition.
    The title, working or not, is PRAY, and the book starts with "Blessed Provider, our Lord and Father;" It is terribly obvious that this is a prayer, I don't think you need to tell us that "Braiden prayed aloud." I think it is probably understood that if it isn't in italics and in quotation marks, that it is aloud. This is a really long sentence, with a bunch of verbs, some of them unnecessary. Try removing obvious things like "Braiden prayed aloud," and changing "habitual repetition" to "habit," as well as breaking up the flow of this first sentence. Is Braiden praying for just himself? If he is praying for himself and others (or if everyone is praying aloud, speaking in unison), shouldn't he/they say "we thank you" rather than "I thank you?"

    “You are welcome.”

    (I know quotes on this board automatically italicize everything, so keep that in mind, because this is based on your blog post).
    Later on, this seems to be only in Braiden's head, so while there isn't some hard and fast rule about what it takes to signal to the reader that something is said aloud versus internally, I think you're going to confuse people with things like this. I usually assume that internal, literal thoughts (as well as to provide emphasis) are italicized and spoken dialogue is in quotes; the usual exception to this is when you are going to announce that something was thought.
    I'd expect these to serve the same function:

    Code:
    Man, that was a bad decision, he thought.
    Man, that was a bad decision.
    
    Braiden’s eyes shot open and his hands clenched tightly around his parent’s. Sweat ran down his forehead as he looked around the kitchen. His parents’ eyes were still closed and no one else was in the room.
    /nitpick
    Putting dripping sweat in the same speed as Braiden's eyes shooting open and clenching his hands seems a bit weird. I'm kind of a fat guy and even I don't sweat that fast.
    /nitpickoff


    “Do you really not know who’s talking to you?” asked the same voice. “You did just pray to me.”
    If you do decide to remove quotes from internal dialogue, then you could also try removing some of the lack of confidence from God's voice. He's a big powerful dude that can beam voices in to this kid's head - he doesn't need to ask him questions, and he certainly should be aware that anyone he talks to for the first time is going to be a little bewildered. He should be prepared for this.

    Braiden’s eyes shot open and his hands clenched tightly around his parent’s.

    “Braiden? What’s wrong?” his mother asked. His hands were trembling in his parents’ grip.


    Some continuity issue here - not huge but only sub-150 words in, this should be one of the first things you catch.


  3. #3
    Ridill
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    Yeah, the italicized thing I was trying to figure out because there will be people thinking to themselves, people talking inside their head to others, and I wanted to make sure those two things were differentiated. But if people aren't going to be confused, which I suppose I could just make sure I write clearly enough to make sure that happens.
    And as for the beginning not catching you,
    Spoiler: show
    I've been fighting with how I should start it for awhile. I've added and removed stuff quite a few times. That beginning sequemce is there to establish the world while the character is purposely a cliched fantasy trope character so when he dies a little bit later in the chapter it helps show how the gods actually just use people. But if you cant even get that far, then yeah, theres definitely a problem with it.
    Are you able to give any reasons why you couldn't get into it? The editing, the pace, just plain boring and uninteresting? Or is it just something you can't place? I know I'm going to be editing this stuff a lot more, especially if/when I get a professional editor, but if it's the story beat itself that's busted then that's something else.

  4. #4
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    long long long

    Spoiler: show
    imo you need to work on tone, atm it's like you are reading a story aloud not thinking about how it will be READ

    tense is also an issue

    The Church tell all children how to open prayers and how to respond if the Provider was to talk to them but that was years ago and no one actually believed their god would personally talk to them.
    & also you have kinda said the same thing twice there and it's overstating the obvious.

    “Yes, my Lord. That is the reason why we hadn’t gone into the city today.”
    awkward and ungrammatical

    also how is he speaking inside his own head? can't this speaker just pick up on his thoughts? does Generic Farmboy need his own dialogue or can you just describe how he feels while dropping in a bit of exposition?

    if he is the only one who can hear the voice and no one actually expects to hear it when they pray, how do his parents immediately know what's happening, asking "What did he want?", and that he's not for example having a seizure? You give a partial response to this question with "He needs me.." sentence from your main character but they seem a bit two-dimensional and blase, you are rushing too fast.

    you are expanding sentences unnecessarily in some places & going too informal in others as well as switching too much between the two. (eg That is/That's/It is/it's) Stick to one tone or it's jarring.

    They will never be want for food or shelter again.
    Braiden swiftly stood out of his chair
    Wut?

    We’ll just throw the sheep back on the oven to warm it up a little when we get back.
    You don't throw anything on an oven. You can throw something in an oven, but if these are peasants in a medieval setting an oven will not be a common household appliance. I would like to see you fit a whole sheep in an oven anyway...

    Without gas or electricity a large brick or stone oven is the only method of oven baking available, apart from the small clay ovens which are not typically used indoors. Historically, bakers or well off people with grand houses and a cook were the only ones who had them, unless you are setting your book in the mid-18th century equivalent or later. To make bread in a brick oven you need a chimney, lots of fuel, a large fireplace, building materials and someone to watch the bread, so out of reach of the ordinary household. Everyone else bought bread from the baker, or used a communal oven, and spit roasted or stewed their meat over a fire. It is also not the norm for everyone to live at home and do their own cooking. Medieval pre-technological society ran on armies of servants. Think 12 servants for every Lord Stuckinthemud. Yet you have a farmer living a few minutes' walk from the centre of town and a hunter living in the city centre. Where do all these servants live? How on earth did he manage to bring a whole elk home let alone cook it?? If the cast iron stove has been invented and ordinary people can afford one, then your whole society is contemporaneous with the age of steam, so I hope your assassin leaves the city by rail.

    Also it's called sheep until it dies, thereafter it becomes mutton or lamb.

    "Throwing" implies disrespect/a lack of care, things which a poor hungry farm family will not be in a position to do. If times are so hard, how come they can afford meat? Sheep require grazing land so unless they have enough land to let some lie fallow or some spare cash this is a bit odd. I really can't remember how crop rotation or medieval farming works atm, but wouldn't sheep normally be raised for wool and only slaughtered when old? Your poor people do tend to eat a lot of meat. Pigs are historically the only animal routinely slaughtered for eating (rather than when they are too old to be useful) - cheaper to raise and need far less land.

    He's an only child? Boring, typical hero fodder. He should be the oldest of about 12, seven living. (Or thereabouts). Anything else makes him 'special'. Especially if he only has sisters so he is the One True Lad by default. (See also Mat Cauthon & Perrin Aybara).

    You mention farmers crowding together. Why? The most typical urban growth involves farms becoming part of villages and gradually linking with urban sprawl extending from a city outwards. You say this isn't a large city so why so many people?

    There is a certain point at which small-scale farming becomes unsustainable, historically farmers did not own their land but paid their rent in food, so needed to grow more than they needed to support themselves. Who owns the land? How come a guy can just rock up and start farming on the land your family have been farming for generations? You have town guards so presumably there is some rule of law. If these people are fleeing from something, either say so now or imply that something is wrong.

    A Will of any god showing up in public would have attracted a large amount of people from nearby villages and even the bordering cities. The fact that the Will of Shadow was making a literal parade of his travel through the city only drew even larger crowds.
    Awkward exposition, it sounds like a footnote - which only Terry Pratchett is allowed to do imo. Why do all the gods' representatives have the same title of Will? I keep reading it as Willy and giggling. Why is the god called Shadow? It may superficially sound dark and sinister but in a 'meh kinda spooky way' rather than something out-and-out feral like the RL examples of Mithras and Ereshkigal. It also confuses the reader as Shadow is of course an actual word you may wish to use in future chapters.

    Don't say 'literal parade'. He's parading, it's already literal. Your neutral narrator is going sarcastic, not cool or funny. If you are going to mock your bad guy have your hero do it.

    "Crowds had gathered from as far afield as Nerdville to the west, and even Geek Bay, a full day's walk away, to see Evil Guy look spooky and weird in person." or "Two-dimensional hero could see many people wearing guild badges from the sailing towns of Boatland and Yachtville. Like him, they had undertaken a long journey up the coast to see Evil Guy in the flesh." are more natural examples. Although shittily written but fuck it I have been up all night.

    Things like "Man!", "couple minutes" (as opposed to "Oh no!"/"couple of minutes") etc are modern American English and I would strongly consider not using them as it can seem out of place in fantasy settings. Tolkien, for example, drew from the sentence structure of Icelandic sagas and Anglo-Saxon language, which does make LotR etc feel ancient. I appreciate that is not quite what you are going for here. However your reader will be imagining your characters speaking the dialogue you give them, and if it does not fit the way they imagine the character, then it will not be an enjoyable read. You should look into archaic speech and see if it fits your world. As it's pretty religious that could work. The Book of Common Prayer and various guides to it have a lot of phrases that are still used today which you could refer to. As they are in common use, your readers will understand but the words will have more resonance and meaning.

    Why are they saying they're selling old bows to pay off new ones? A hunting bow would usually be handmade if you needed one regularly, it is a skilled trade but not on the level of a clockmaker/gunsmith to justify exorbitant costs and demand. Something like a crossbow would be too pricey though and may not fit your time period/technological stage. Why would a family using hunting bows need better ones when the old ones are clearly fine for both hunting and assassination? Is the guard humouring them by accepting this explanation for having bows, when all the tradespeople, being self-employed, are presumably watching the parade? Is there a reason they wouldn't want to say they are watching the evil bad guy pass by like everyone else? Does the guard sympathise? Explain.

    In RL medieval olde times people would not have "paid off" anything as biblically, quranically etc, loans with (and even sometimes without) interest were considered usury, a sin. Since this seems heavily religiously themed this is something for you to consider.

    Meatloaf?! Unless your book is set in 1962, rethink this. I appreciate you are looking for a folksy homemade type of food but there is a reason all the characters in fantasy novels eat stew, because you need an oven for meatloaf and again, ovens are not usually household appliances in a low-technology fantasy world. The chimney only started to appear in the 12th century in the real world and was not common until the 17th century. (Although the Romans had them for bakeries, so you could get away with one in a large manor house but certainly not in ordinary homes). You could maybe get away with scrapple if your peasant family can afford a flying pan. Or just some nice sheep's cheese.

    Where are they getting pepper from and how come it's affordable at all? Black and chilli peppers only grow in tropical or very warm climates. If their road into town was "weedy" I presume they are not on a major trade route, so since they live somewhere you can find an elk to roast, wtf is going on...?

    think stew.


    Each armored man held a halberd in one hand and a shield in the other and a golden flame was engraved into each of their chests.
    That must have hurt. Think carefully about the words you use - FFXI is a great resource for this tbh - haubergeon, hauberk, brigandine, etc etc. Think of how it will look and google till you find the appropriate item, make sure it fits your setting for example if they can't make good steel then they won't be wearing an item traditionally made from it. Do you mean gilded or embossed flames, unless the armour is made of gold and it's etched in?

    The Will of Shadow walked a slow pace
    at a slow pace (boring), or paced slowly towards (better).

    The banner holders wore black robes similar to the Will’s yet managed to look so much more plain, dull, and unimportant looking.
    Managing to look unimportant implies there is a conscious effort on their part not to look important. Emphasise the spookiness of the bad guy, & how it makes them look, eg "yet did not have the aura of power and malice that surrounded him" or similar. While I get that you are heavily hinting at what will happen in a few pages, it's not subtle enough so don't bother unless you rephrase it, mentioning them will be enough to draw them to the reader's attention without going on about it.


    The arrows tumbled down as the black blur quickly closed the gap between the Will and Braiden, becoming an unfocused human shape as it shoved its way through the crowd and jumped onto a lamppost, springing onto the rooftop neighboring the house Braiden and his father was on.
    “Run!” Braiden’s father shouted as he pushed Braiden back. The black, vaguely human shape leapt onto their rooftop as Braiden stumbled backward just a step away from falling off the roof and his father pulled free his hunting knife.
    You have used the phrases "black blur", "unfocused human shape" and "black, vaguely human shape" in rapid succession in this paragraph. They are too similar so it's repetitive. Switch it up. The assailant, or the figure hurtling towards them, or the streak of movement or something. Also, too many Braidens.

    a trail of scarlet blood in the air and a gash in his father’s neck.
    yes, blood is usually red. unless this is meant to indicate it's human and not a specific green-blooded creature that you've already mentioned (which you haven't), you don't need the scarlet. mentioning the trail and the gash separately implies they are unrelated, try "a trail of blood in the air from the gash in his father's neck". However the bigger problem is that you are writing in the passive voice, which is hindering the sense of fast paced action you are trying to impart to your reader. look it up.

    just before the knife broke through the bones in his chest and pierced his heart
    Those are the ribs and the sternum, there is a reason they crack them open in open heart surgery, a knife is not going to go through the sternum and inflict a fatal wound on the heart, it would need to avoid bone and thick layers of muscle. I would suggest doing a bit more research. if this is such a great assassin that it's killing the guy with one stab of a knife it will be efficient enough to go for the right spot.

    See also: http://absolutewrite.com/forums/arch...p/t-91105.html

    Why do the Twin Fangs also go by the Blades of Shadow? It's confusing. You also used the word assassins twice in 2 consecutive sentences. You write better in this Marcus part, but you tend to extend your sentences too much. You're using too many commas, instead of breaking things up and cutting out excess.

    In his right hand he held his bronze colored, double edged dirk and in his left was the black hilted, broad, silver-bladed knife.
    Way TMI. "His right hand held a bronze dirk and his left a wicked-looking cleaver" for example. Why would he be using silver and bronze though? They don't hold a very good edge. If they are purely ceremonial, why make a big deal out of what kind of blades they have? If you are only referring to the colour, don't use words that are also used for metals.

    In general you spend too many words describing clothes and armour all at once, too many adjectives.

    they didn’t fear dying, they didn’t even feel like it is their duty.
    Feel like is modern colloquial present tense American English, feel that or feel as though is better. You have changed tense again, stick to the past tense except for dialogue unless you're James Joyce. Go back and check as you write if need be.

    The bit with the family and the roasted elk was just like, what. Like a comedy interlude with no comedy. Pacing all wrong unless the little girl was coming with him, which she didn't? You describe every movement they make; no need. The only impression I got was that the guy needed to hide and he made a guy piss himself. Not cool.

    However I don't think it is a bad story. No story is a bad story (except Atlas Shrugged, obv).

    Why do you feel the need for a generic hero failing at the start as opposed to a weightlifting hallucinating librarian? Irony/humour? Been done to death, as have betrayed assassins and abused women, so if you need to write about them, make sure it's essential to the way you want your story to go rather than rehashing old tropes.

    Please use caution if you are a man writing about abused women, btw, and if you need to ask why then you shouldn't try at all.

    Do you need violent death to move the story along? If you are having someone get killed "because he is a bad guy" etc it's probably bad planning on your part. Not saying this is the case now, but think about it.

    Peter V Brett painted man/desert spear guy is what this reminds me of with the whole mysterious assassin thing, I have a love hate relationship with that book as it is a pretty good fantasy story spoiled by lazy characterisation, writing in an abuse victim who OF COURSE gets with the hero because he is the only one SENSITIVE enough to SHOW HER REAL LOVE hnnnngh, way too much needless sex and violence, and slapdash vocab. Don't go down that road D: The thing that saved that series (slightly) was the warding, it was fantastic. What is your unique 'hook'?

    I would strongly suggest you read some Robin Hobb (assassin's apprentice/royal assassin/assassin's quest) if you haven't. You've got (SPOILER SPOILERS SPOILERS) basically everything you said your book was going to have in there, so learn from the best :D


    If you feel I am too harsh by all means banter with me re: your decisions, I am an insomniac who enjoys analyzing what I read, and I am also pretty may-ad having been stuck with SE online support for the last hour.

  5. #5
    Ridill
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    Wow, you guys went above and beyond what I was expecting to get lol
    Thanks for the time you spent on this.
    Quote Originally Posted by Keria View Post

    If you feel I am too harsh by all means banter with me re: your decisions, I am an insomniac who enjoys analyzing what I read, and I am also pretty may-ad having been stuck with SE online support for the last hour.
    The harsher the better. Writing isn't something I'm giving up, so the more I realize the mistakes I'm making, the better. Not going to respond to most of what you talked about cause most of it would just sound like excuses, but;

    Spoiler: show


    Why do the Twin Fangs also go by the Blades of Shadow? It's confusing. You also used the word assassins twice in 2 consecutive sentences. You write better in this Marcus part, but you tend to extend your sentences too much. You're using too many commas, instead of breaking things up and cutting out excess.
    Basically, storywise, each god has an assassin and the name for a god's assassin is a Blade. Then there's a specific title given to each Blade depending on what god they serve.

    also how is he speaking inside his own head? can't this speaker just pick up on his thoughts? does Generic Farmboy need his own dialogue or can you just describe how he feels while dropping in a bit of exposition?
    The gods definitely can't just pick up what's inside someone's head (in most cases). The gods aren't omniscient beings and have plenty of restrictions placed on them. Though I agree that entire dialog needs to be fixed up.

    And generic farmboy was a generic farmboy on purpose because he was dying so soon. I was basically trying to set up how the gods just use and throw away human lives without much care. But from what I've been thinking hearing from you and Jakson is that the beginning probably isn't working all that well anyway and I should probably scrap that whole character.

    aside from what you've stated above, was the story at least somewhat interesting or did you have to force yourself to get through it? Editing is one thing, but if the characters and story aren't working then that's a lot different. Granted its only the firat chapter of a lengthyish book and theres little of that to go on atm.
    and would you mind giving the other 3 chapters a quick read through? or was that 1 chapter enough?lol
    You don't have to give an indepth study of what's wrong, just a more general idea of how I'm doing.
    I'd say a few more things, but I should have left for work 3 min ago lol

  6. #6
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    I wouldn't mind reading more, it's a bit hard to tell how strong a story is based on 1 chapter. I am getting a strong sense of "dark misunderstood anti/hero" which personally annoys me a bit but go ahead and prove me wrong :D

  7. #7
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    Something to consider, depending on your style, is to have your characters do all the seeing, thinking, acting, and noticing. Sure, an omnipresent set of eyes that mind reads and knows everything can do the job, but having your characters do everything makes them more understandable and endearing.

    It was something I noticed in my own writing when I wrote out 100k+ words for a little fiction of my own, though never finished the writing. I wrote the latter with a certain purpose and goal in mind, though it was pretty obvious the beginning ones had no such goal lol.

    Once I got into the habit of the characters doing everything, where the pair of omnipresent eyes could be likened to a parrot that mind reads only when perched on someone's shoulder (still third-ish person), I noticed how much was supposed to slip by. The main character of that chapter was pretty much in charge of noticing everything, which really shortened a lot of those chapters on their revisions.

    The main thing here though is you actually completed your idea. Good job, now with all of it out of your head and on paper, you can really refine it. Think this: who is in control of the chapter and can I make most of it appear out of that character's eyes? Give it a shot for the opening couple chapters. If it's changing things too much, play it by ear, since you probably don't want such a huge ripple to wipe out your story.

    Also, just from your first chapter, I noticed how much things started with "Dude-name did this," "Dude-name and his father," and "Dude-name's father..." etc. Sure, we have to know they are doing things, but you may want to reword this. Maybe have them mention what they're doing, where they're going, have someone else mention their names so we know who they are instead of "knowing it," etc. This goes back to the above point: try to get the omnipresent eyes to not simply narrate and know everything. Let your characters reveal things to the reader if at all possible.

  8. #8
    Ridill
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keria View Post
    I wouldn't mind reading more, it's a bit hard to tell how strong a story is based on 1 chapter. I am getting a strong sense of "dark misunderstood anti/hero" which personally annoys me a bit but go ahead and prove me wrong :D
    I'll pm you a link when I get home from work if Microsoft Word is fine with you.

    And as for the first chapter, doing some thinking and I'm pretty sure I'm just going to get rid of that whole braiden character stuff. It'll shorten it up quite a bit and hopefully get a stronger start.

    And orinthia, edit; reread now that I'm not trying to rush through it on a tiny phone screen and I get what you're trying to say now.

  9. #9
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    What I saw was the very first sentence where we somehow know the name of who's speaking. Why not let his mother name him, and then use that name thereafter? How do we know what The Church tells the children of its congregation? How do we know what a "Will of Shadow" is? How do we know about the Twin Fangs? How do we know someone goes into a murderous rage?

    Little things like that can add a fair bit to the narrative since you're just telling us outright what those are. Describe how we know. Go into detail on important things and use less detail on things that just pass by (we don't need to know how someone's hair is cut if they don't appear very long). Maybe you could have your characters pass the church with children praying in a particular way. Maybe someone can describe what a Will of Shadow is in passing, or just wait until it's important and then describe it in how it's seen. This sort of thing, where the narrator isn't the one who knows everything. Try doing this chapter without any mind reading, strictly third person (a parrot on a shoulder), and I think you'll see what I mean (just as a quick exercise; strict third person with no internal monologue is pretty hard to keep). Once Braiden's part is over, he's never mentioned again in that chapter. I'd probably start the second chapter right there since the main focus changes (parrot finds another shoulder to sit on), but that may feel too short for you.

    Sorry for sounding like a jerk on this. I tore my own writing to pieces once I started seeing things like that lol. I've only gleamed over your first chapter, so what I'm saying may all be noise in the end.

  10. #10
    You wouldn't know that though because you've demonstrably never picked up a book nor educated yourself on the matter. Let me guess, overweight housewife?
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    Sorry if not really specific, but I wanted to touch on something related to keria's post. The biggest rule of thumb in writing is to write what you know. People make the mistake and think that doesn't apply to scifi/fantasy, but it does. Real strong fantasy writers research the fuck out of the time periods they are trying to emulate. And this spans from war strategies to daily living. The more you research, the stronger your story is going to be. I guarantee it.

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