I've never been satisfied with the opening of my WIP novel I want to get published in August. This was the original:
The winds blew harshly, bringing about a chill to the evening uncommon in the summer months. A single woman stood there, eyes trained to the river rushing through the small clearing. She allowed her black hair to move as the wind did, despite the fact that she herself stayed still, and the ripped, bloodied garments rustled in time with the gusts. At first glance she seemed human.
It just never appealed to me. Some people have said they really like it, so I'm wondering if that one is better, or if this one I just wrote is better:
She stood alone. The harsh wind blew around her, rustling her black hair and her ripped, bloodied garments. Her body was still as she stared at the rushing river before her. The water dipped and splashed, running along without a care in the world. Colored fish swam just below the surface of the murky water, their scales glowing from the light of the moon. She took a deep breath, allowing the musky scent of the river, and earthy smell of the forest around her to invade her senses.
Standing there, unmoving, relishing in the heat of the summer evening, she looked almost human.
Any thoughts, suggestions, and ideas would be greatly appreciated!
I like the first one better.
August is very close. What opening does your editor suggest? I would say not to rush it. Speaking from experience, I know how it feels to want to get a product out there, but if you take your time, you might be more pleased with the results in the long run.
What's the name of your book? What's it about? How long is it?
Alright :) May I ask for what reason?
I don't have an editor. I'm self editing it. And I'm considering pushing back the date, but if I actually get my act together I can finish this before the end of August and get it up. My only set back would be the book cover.
The name of my book is The Fallen Nine. It's a low fantasy novel about demons, basically. I mean, it's much more than that, but it's hard to explain. Basically the story revolves around three teenagers, Mia, Derek, and Cody. Mia and Derek are twins, Mia being older, and Cody is her best friend. When Mia and Derek's parents (they work in a museum, their dad as an archeologist and their mom an anthropologist, both who work on Siamese culture mostly as their mom is from Thailand), open a new exhibit featuring a statue of what they presume is a goddess, things start to go awry for the three teens, especially when the statue breaks in the middle of the night after the opening.
It turns out the statue wasn't of a goddess, but of a the demon queen, Shion, who was sealed away thousands of years ago. The teens get involved in her life, as well as the other of The Nine (nine immortal demons) and their lives basically fall apart.
It's a lot more complicated than that, but it's hard to explain without giving pretty much everything away ^^;
It's currently 82,000 words long, but I'm still adding more as I revise.
The imagery is cleaner and the text is just tighter. Except for a few glimmers of moonlight on the fish, you said the same thing in the first passage, but with less fluff. Of course, a lot of readers like fluff. I just tend to like less of it in the beginning of a story.
Sounds like you're going to cut it close, if you're still writing/revising, and planning to publish next month. Also, if you can afford to, consider hiring an editor. They catch a LOT of stuff that we don't see. When I self-edit, I tend to read the text as I intend it to be, not necessarily what's actually on the page. Good editors are worth it.
In any case, good luck with it, and happy writing. :) I really like the title. As for covers, I know there are a lot of authors you can reach out to here on She Writes, who can probably recommend a good cover designer.
Well, I did just write the second one in about two minutes :P The other one has been revised multiple times. I'll work on getting it cleaner, though I personally like the fluff. It sets the mood for the type of style I want for the prologue. But thanks for your opinion!
Hm... yeah, probably, but if I don't cut it close I won't get it done. And I don't have the money. Editors can cost up to 300 dollars per manuscript. I just don't have that kind of money. I know they're worth it, but if I really need to I can ask my friends for help. I know plenty who would love to help me for a lot cheaper than a professional.
Thanks! I like the title too :D Gives it an air of mystery, even though the title doesn't really make sense until the third book. I'll be looking around for a book cover person on here then :)
I like the second one - the first one doesn't pull me in to the story.
The second one starts the reader asking questions - why is she alone? Showing the wind's actions is good, and the reader wonders why the bloodied garments.
Third sentence might be edited - to show. Still as a rock, she stared at the rushing river. (don't need the before her - unless she has eyes behind her head - I think my mom did)
Okay - the other images near the end are evocative - but I wonder if she would be watching fish, smelling musky scent of river with bloody clothes - She might wash clothes, pull up a ripped garment and shiver in the breeze.
What I like is your command of language - your words evoke images.
Thanks :) That's what I feared with the first one. I hate not being able to pull people into the story.
I'll ditch the "before her" then. Thanks!
Well, the blood isn't hers. It's that of a family members. Of course, the reader doesn't know this, but that's the point. The prologue goes on to explain a war, and her pain from her family getting hurt, and so on, and ends with a priest sealing her away. The entire thing doesn't make much sense until you get the context and the back story later on. She's the demon queen. Her pride wouldn't allow her to strip in the middle of the forest at night.
But anyway, thanks again for letting me know what you think! I really appreciate it! One of the biggest things people say I don't do is smell, so I've been trying to add that in more to set the scene (note the end of the first paragraph in the second one), and I'm glad to see it's evocative.
A few things strike me as off. It's not uncommon to have a chill in the air in summer. A single woman meaning she's not married? otherwise a woman is single. It's seems deliberately long winded, rather than aptly so.
The second one—rushing river water isn't murky (murky connotates still water) nor would it have what I think of as colored fish (sea-tropical) so that seems a little at odds with a rushing river, and you couldn't see moonlight reflecting off the scales through murky or running water-so strike murky and running (unless that is a plot point). Black hair-reminds me of a whip so hair whipping make more sense than rustling, but clothes would rustle (love that word). Musky is an animal scent (the gland secretions from a deer) not a watery smell. Watch out for repeatedly using the same words such as around. "Without a care in the world" is a bit cliché also an emotion which strikes a wrong not but that could just be me. Here's how I would edit it—because I'm fricken nervy like that.
First one: Harsh winds blew bringing an uncommon chill to the summer evening. A woman stood eyes trained on the rushing river that flows through the small clearing. She remains still, allowing her black hair to move with the wind while the ripped and bloodied garments rustle in time with the gusts. At first glance, she seems almost human.
The second one: She stands alone and still, black hair whipping, draped in ripped and bloodied garments that rustle in the harsh wind. Before her, the river dips and splashes running along without care. Sparking below the surface, silvery fish scales refract the glowing moonlight. She takes in a deep breath allowing the murky scent of river and earthy decay to invade her senses... AND THEN???
I'm not the fluffy sort but it that was fun. In our zeal to be unique and find our voice we misappropriate adjectives often mistaken for metaphor—my deconstruction of your opener reflects that. As you edit, or better yet, the instructions you give those you've asked to edit, you should ask them to note that type of misuse, also word frequency.
Are you using a writing program that does a word frequency? If not, there are online sources, that would be a big help in editing. As Regina already advised you on how close you're cutting it with that time frame, I will only say, she is absolutely correct that you need more time to edit. Write away.
First off, in Siam it is uncommon to have a chilling wind in the summer months, especially in a forest. That's where this takes place.
Second, I've lived near rushing rivers my entire life and yes, they can be murky and have a musky scent. While yes, the prose needs tightening and I need to find a better way to describe the fish, in retrospect what I've described is possible, especially considering where this takes place. Her hair doesn't whip. The wind isn't strong enough for it to be whipping around. It's rustling, moving gently. Black hair moves just like any other color hair (trust me, I have black hair myself).
To be honest, I don't think your deconstruction of my opening is accurate. I appreciate it, but I don't think it's accurate. I'm not trying to insult you, merely stating my opinion, as you have above.
I do need time to edit, but if I don't push myself it won't be edited at all. Chances are I won't get it published by August but if I don't say I will then I won't edit it. And I'm not going to hire an editor. If I have to I'll use my sister, but chances are I'll catch everything I need to by the first round. This isn't going to be a best seller. I know that and it's not my goal. This is just to get my name out.
But thanks for your answer :) I will think about some of the things you've said because I do often misuse words and have issues with word frequency. I just don't feel I have those things in these two paragraphs.
Those are great explanations of your intent within the world you are building. One can only go by their own impressions based on their knowledge and experiences. With only those few sentences to work with taken completely out of context—well no two people are going to read it the same. I just threw out my impressions, any of it having meaning is up to you, you've done a great job extrapolating what's applicable for you.
Keep what makes sense, toss what doesn't. That's the trust pact both giver and receiver make when asking for and giving a critique and feedback so don't worry about me. I'll never take offense at being told I totally missed the point/got it all wrong/ thanks but we're doing the exact opposite of everything you said... My favorite book right now is "Being Wrong" it is fascinating really.
Except for that uncommon chill darn-it, I'm standing my ground. During summer it is especially common for it to be chillier in the forest. ;-) Ah well, I guess I have to face it, in Siam it is not.
I didn't mean to imply things are impossible—just that those things evoked different meanings to me. That is the wonderful thing about writing, one can make anything possible.
I understand pushing yourself to set a deadline but I'll reiterate the warning for you to be careful to take the editing process slowly so you won't go the way of "just getting your name out there."
If it's not the best possible work you can do why publish something not worthy of your storytelling? You could make a bad impression and possibly lose a potential reader/fan. That old adage "You don't get a second chance to make a first impression," is apt in the publishing world—perhaps not fatal but why risk it? Since this is a series making the best impression with that first book is even more crucial to selling book two and three.
When the time comes, I wrote a (shockingly opinionated) piece on covers for the Blooming Late Group that's chock-full of links. http://blwriters.blogspot.com/2012/02/pov-covers-lynne-favreau-your...
I like the second better. Orients the reader with the character and the setting.
Hi Linnea. I started to read the other comments, but stopped myself at one point. You're getting a lot of advice, so I'll try to be brief. 1) She is bloody, but not human? 2) The setting seems both ominous and carefree. I think you're going for the contrast, but nothing in it makes me feel the character - and in the first paragraph or two that's what matters to me. 3) Is this character the protagonist? Who is looking at her? This is confusing to me. 4) Specifically confusing are the passages about relishing heat and chilling wind. As well as fish scales visible under moonlight that is reflecting off of water. It would take super human powers to see under the reflection of the moon.
As for self-editing, it is a necessary first step, but I would (and will, if I ever self-publish) hire or at least acquire a really skilled editor. Many times published in non-fiction, I can tell you that a good editor with fresh eyes will see things the author does not.
I am curious about your book and hope to see your revision. Hope this helps.