Friday, July 10, 2015

Friday Feedback: The Art of Persistence with the Awesome Martha Brockenbrough

Dear Campers,

Once in a while I read an author who truly makes me swoon with unabashed envy. Today, one such author, Martha Brockenbrough, is here.

The chic and amazing Martha B.

I have made no bones about hiding my crazy love for Martha and her book during the last few weeks on social media, and for your sake (lie: mine) I threw myself at her and groveled for her to come in the midst of her book-release craziness and host a Friday Feedback.

I fell in love with Martha, the person, on facebook, then fell in quick hate with Martha, the author, about one page in to her extraordinary novel The Game of Love and Death.

You know, the kind of mesmerized, green-eyed hate where, with each sentence you read, you start to question why you even bother to write.

No, really.

I am telling you this: if you read one book this summer, this is worthy of your read. . .

(luckily, I know you will all read more than one book and so won't have to pick and choose).

Kirkus' called Martha's prose "precise" and "luscious" and Booklist chimed in with "breathtaking." I think, so far, The Game of Love and Death has already garnered a well-deserved FOUR stars, and I give it FIVE HUNDRED more.

All I can tell you is this: I am three quarters of the way through it, and I have marveled on pretty much every page. What I know is I wish I wrote this book.

As I made my way through the early chapters, I started sending Martha notes. "But, HOW?!" I asked. "HOW did you think of this?" "... write this?" "HOW did you make this story happen?!"

So when she agreed to do Friday Feedback, I asked her to talk a little bit about that. So here she is, in a post she calls The Art of Persistence:


Starting a new book is a bit like starting a new romance.

You flirt with an idea. You move in closer. You give it the eye. It looks back at you and you just know. This … is the one.

As with love in the real world, though, the intoxication of possibility and potential eventually wears off, and you are left with a book that has morning breath and stubble, and those qualities that were perhaps endearing at first have become wearing.

But as I have told the couples I have married in my alternative life as an internet-ordained minister, love is fundamentally a choice you make every day. Whether your relationship succeeds, provided you’ve chosen a reasonable partner, is up to you.

This same thing is true with writing a book. And in all likelihood when you hit a rough patch, it’s not your book’s stubble, morning breath, or irritating qualities that are making you want to abandon ship. It’s your own darned self.

So here’s how to navigate that.

Step 1: Choose thoughtfully

I’ll stop belaboring the relationship metaphor soon, but you do want to choose wisely, both with partners and with books. Writing to a trend is like choosing a partner based on looks. This can seem necessary, but it rarely works out for the best in the long run.

  "Do I have some notion of why this story is important to tell?"

Before you set out, ask yourself:

-       Is this a story idea I love and will potentially be proud of for the rest of my life?
-       Is it one only I can write?
-       Can I imagine specific emotional moments for this character that give me the chills?
-       Do I have some notion of why this story is important to tell?

Step 2: Give yourself permission to think

It’s tempting, when you have a new idea for a novel, to jump right in. And a lot of good can come from this: excitement, the discovery of new things about your characters, the feeling that you’re attached to the skirts of a rocket-powered muse. If that’s helpful to you, go for it!

That’s what I did with The Game of Love and Death. I got to know the character of Love, who was my original starting point. I wanted to know what Love would think of humanity. What would give him hope. What would irritate him. I did always know my version of Love was a man—which was a good choice made instinctively (but often the sort of choice better made upon reflection). And I found his voice and point of view to be delicious.

I also knew I wanted to write the story of people who’d never not loved each other—but still struggled to be together. That gave me Henry and Flora, who initially were Sam and Isabel.

But I did not know who his antagonist was. I did not know the story would be better set in 1937. I also did not know that Flora was a pilot. Or even that she was black. In the first draft, it was contemporary and Flora was a white girl named Isabel, while Sam was a black boy. (He was always a bass player, though.)

Most important, I didn’t quite know how or where the story would end. To me, endings have to be unexpected but inevitable, and that is a hard balance to strike. It takes a lot of thinking to get there, and sometimes—especially in this day and age of public writing and declarations of word count—the desire to be in the frenzy of creation swallows us whole.

Then, when it spits us out as it inevitably does, we’re left with more anxiety and self-doubt than before.

Step 3: Know that anxiety and doubt are normal … and that they are allies

Sometimes the mere existence of anxiety and doubt make us think there is something wrong with us and our ideas.

This is false. In fact, there would be something deeply wrong with us if we never doubted. If we never feared. We would be insufferably arrogant. Reckless. Liable to produce garbage creatively and leave misery in our wakes personally.

So don’t fear these things—know they are inevitable and that they come bearing gifts.


"When fear and doubt arrive, ask them what they are trying to tell you."

When fear and doubt arrive, ask them what they are trying to tell you. Sometimes they’re saying that an idea isn’t fully cooked. That you are shying away from the depths you need to plumb. That you have not yet uncovered your characters’ real fears, and that you are sparing them the suffering that makes for a bad life, but for great reading.

Sometimes, they’re giving you the gift of greasy baloney: that you are not good enough, that you are incapable, that you have nothing of worth to say. Learn to recognize these and shut them down. You will be happier in every way once you’ve gotten rid of the alluring garbage peddlers in your life and work.

Step 4: Know where you are going—and that you aren’t actually writing a novel

Wait. What? You’re not writing a novel? Yes. Bear with me a moment.

There is no one way to write a novel. And every novel demands different tools. Some people plot extensively in advance. Some fly by the seat of their pants. But I can’t help but believe that even the blindest of fliers is heading in a particular direction.

For me, it helps very much to know where I am going, and the closer I get to the end, the more specific detail there is in my mental map.

"In any case, there is no such thing as writing a novel. 
There is writing a sentence. 
A paragraph. A scene. A chapter." 

In any case, there is no such thing as writing a novel. There is writing a sentence. A paragraph. A scene. A chapter. These are challenges that can be managed on a daily basis. Just as relationships are sustained or spoiled by the daily choices we make, big projects like novels are the result of accumulated efforts.

As you write the novel, you also write yourself as a person who is brave, resourceful, persistent, and a welcome presence in the world. Here is this thing you are pulling from yourself. And while the process can sometimes feel like you’re yanking your guts through your left nostril with a crochet hook, the truth is you are adding love and beauty to the world without exploiting the planet’s resources or taking advantage of anyone in the process. This is a remarkable thing, and there is no one like you, no one able to do just what you do in the way you can do it. It doesn’t mean that you can’t do it better, but that again is nothing to fear. Don’t focus on the imperfections and inadequacies. Focus on the potential. Pardon my French, but that’s a f*cking exciting prospect and it is yours and yours alone.

"I revised the book 31 times."

So, know what you are about as much as you can (knowing you can always adjust later), and set a reasonable daily goal. It took me several years to write The Game of Love and Death. I revised the book 31 times. Had I known this at the outset, I might have been too intimidated or dispirited to proceed.

But I had an idea I believed in, and I managed to create sustaining moments in each day’s writing. A sentence I liked. A scene that thrilled me. An idea for work yet to come. And the knowledge that no one but me could write this book in the way I had imagined it.

This is not to say that every day was a basket of lavender-scented kittens. Far from it. But if you keep at your work knowing you are just swimming from one buoy to the next with the distant shoreline in mind if not in sight, then that is all you need.

Step 5: You don’t need to be perfect, just focused

Your goal when you’re struggling with that first draft is simply to finish it. Get to the end. When you finish things as a habit, you have the confidence you will finish this book, too, no matter how rough the going gets.

Most books require editing and revision, and lots of it. Yes, you will always hear stories of people whose books came to them in dreams or in three feverish weeks of typing. You sometimes hear people boast that they are so good at what they do they need only one draft to get the story right.

That may be true for those writers, but I think in general these tales and models are poison for the rest of us.

"The performance is not in the moment, 
but in the sum total of moments spent."

The beauty of writing as an art form, as opposed to something like music or dance, is that we can continue to improve and refine it over time. The performance is not in the moment, but in the sum total of moments spent.

We don’t have to get it right the first time or all at once. We can do our best and then resume work the next day (preferably after we have filled our emotional wells with rest, reading, exercise, companionship, and other good things).

It really doesn’t matter how long a book takes to write or how many drafts it demands. What’s important is the knowledge that you have something worth saying—story that adds something new to the world.

Readers, especially young ones, deserve our best efforts. So does literature. Bookshelves and bookstores are already overstuffed. If it’s not better than what’s out there already, a book shouldn’t be published. I believe time and thought are necessary ingredients to this process. And likewise, so are you. Just as you are, with all of the flaws and fears and sorrows and joys.


So go forth and write with everything you have, knowing both you and the world will be better for your efforts.

- Martha

So, there you have it, some wonderful gems from Martha to digest and hold on to.

When I read Martha's post, one of the things that resonated with me most was her question, "Can I imagine specific emotional moments for this character that give me the chills?" Such moments, in my writing, are often what inspire me to keep writing even when the rest of the story fills me with self doubt. As if such moments are proof that the character is worthy, even if the story hasn't quite yet settled around him or her.


In THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH, which you should run out and buy right now, there were so many moments that gave me chills as the reader. Two earlier ones come to mind, one in a gondola in Venice, between Love, Death and the Gondolier. The other, a moment surrounding the Hindenburg. Still now, just thinking about them, I get chills.

From THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH, Martha Brockenbrough

So, I thought, since it's Friday Feedback, I'd ask Martha to share one of those emotional moments from her new WIP, and I invite you to share the same pursuant to our Friday Feedback RULES. Share a brief moment that gives you, the writer, emotional chills.

PLEASE, if you haven't participated before and don't know the rules, STOP and click this link, scroll to the bottom of the post and READ the RULES and abide by them!

Martha will only be here today, but as always, I will read excerpts through Saturday.

Also, please note that Martha is in Seattle, so three hours earlier there! She won't be here until a few hours later EST.

So, without further ado, this excerpt, from Martha's yet-untitled WIP, an "experimental fairy tale with a non-human narrator, which will (probably) be set in medieval Germany and post Gold Rush Seattle. As with THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH," Martha adds, "Music, truth and love are core elements of the story."


The world emptied itself of everything unnecessary. There was nothing in front of me but this child. I touched her, and the song devoured me. I'd once seen an owl struck by lightning as it launched itself from a tree. Its entire body arched and sparked and turned white with the sheer power of it. I felt like that owl, and it was all I could do to remove my paw and remain conscious. (I cannot say the owl fared nearly as well, but you get my point.)
I don't know how long I stood in thrall before Magnus's voice came from the shadows, where he liked to fiddle with his whiskers and observe the world. "You're a fool, Tomas."
"Am I?" I pulled my paw away from the child and smoothed the fur on my cheeks. I suppose I was embarrassed, I am not proud to admit. And despite my question, I knew he was right.
I was a fool. I remain a fool. I will ever be a fool for love. A fool, a soldier, a prophet, a martyr. If love makes a demand, I offer myself in my entirety.






199 comments:

  1. First, Martha.....I feel like I need to offer you the fee for a session with my therapist. I'm pretty choked up reading your encouragement with Gae's emphasis. THIS. This is why I write....but I do let the impatience get to me. I know that I need to slow. listen and just do the next sentence but I want to swallow the whole thing and it gets stuck in my throat. I will keep this advice and refer to it often. Thank you!

    Second, oh.my.goodness. The child a song....the energy of being struck by lightening with the seeing of a child. That. is. story. epic. poetry. legend. I want to know more.

    I'm racing off to purchase The Game of Love and Death. I love novels that have the feel of poetry over prose.....and I think I will not be disappointed. Your words have touched me today. Thank you.

    For my Friday Feedback (always in verse for me) I am writing for one of my WIPs a passage by a character I consider crazy....and who pops up in my fb feed with crazy comments. It's part of my story...and MEANT TO BE A BIT INFLAMMATORY (caps for emphasis). Hugs to you Gae. Thanks as always for feedback!

    Anti-Government Citizen



    Citizens, teachers, students and

    esteemed school board members.

    I have lived in this district all my life.

    Which means I have been educated here,

    graduated from this high school,

    took my learning to college

    became a business man

    in our community where I

    serve you all proudly.

    My taxes, time and energy are this district.

    And I’m baffled

    Baffled because big-government

    has hi-jacked our system

    with requirements, layers of bureaucracy

    costing me more time,

    taxes and energy than I’ve got.

    Kids today aren’t educated.

    I can’t hire ‘em.

    They can’t think or read

    or make change in their head.

    What’s this world coming to?

    When I was in school in 1964

    Mrs. Pratt kept me after school

    re-writing essays and diagramming sentences.

    Today, there are just tests and tests and tests.

    I demand that this school board fire at least

    half the administrators,

    make English the official language

    Eradicate this junk science of global warming

    and stick to one exit test before graduation.

    Any teacher not willing to keep kids after school

    for extra help should be fired.

    We need to get back to reading, writing and ‘rithmatic

    before it’s too late.

    Thank you.

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  2. Wendy Watts ScalfaroJuly 10, 2015 at 5:17 AM

    Wow. Martha, I am blown away by this post. I know I will return to it again and again, and I will be contemplating the questions you have us ask ourselves when setting out on the journey of writing words and sentences and paragraphs. This is truly awe-inspiring. Thank you for taking the time to write this for us (and many thanks to Gae, as always, for sharing).

    As for your novel, The Game of Love and Death... amazing. I read it for two reasons: 1) I want to read as many titles by TW authors as I possibly can, and 2) Gae said it was awesome. I was not disappointed. I will be purchasing it for my high school library. My 12-year-old daughter - an advanced reader - is reading it now. I know there will be nuances that she misses, due to her lack of experience and not-yet-fully-formed brain, but I think she'll really like it. Thank you for bringing this lovely novel into the world.

    I have a brief, and very rough, excerpt to share. One that is emotionally wrenching for me, because the story is based on my grandmother's childhood spent in an orphanage. I can only imagine the fear an depression she must have felt.

    ******************
    Morning mass is followed by religious instruction. Lily is trying to pay attention, but her mind is on Momma. Yesterday she would have come back for Lily. Did Momma show up at the Schmidts’ and was surprised that Lily wasn’t there? Did she ask Mrs. Schmidt where Lily was? Did she have to plead and beg? Would Mrs. Schmidt tell her? Is Momma searching all over the city, trying to find Lily, or…

    Did Momma even return for her?

    This is the thought that kept Lily awake last night. And it’s the same agonizing question that is on her mind right now.

    The Sisters say that Jesus died for our sins. Lily thinks about this. She recalls how she’s supposed to give up something, to help better understand Jesus’ sacrifice for his children. But what sins has she committed, she wonders? Is being an orphan a sin? She doesn’t remember that from the Commandments. And hasn’t she given up enough already? Her father, her mother, her home. She has nothing left to let go.

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  3. Martha,
    The image of the owl is one of the most unusual, vivid, and haunting things I have ever read. I was, pardon the pun, shocked by it. I know what Gae means when she wonders how you write these things.


    I am normally not one for fantasy, but I love the way you revealed details about the characters nonhuman qualities. Very cool stuff that draws me in.

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  4. Stephani Martinell EatonJuly 10, 2015 at 5:23 AM

    Wow, Martha. Thanks for sharing with us. I look forward to reading the entire story one day!
    Here's my feedback:
    What works: I love the interaction between Magnus and Tomas.
    I like the contrast between their personalities. They say so little to each other but I can feel their relationship. For me, the memory of the owl is the most powerful of the selection. It is beautiful imagery and conveys the strength of love Tomas feels for the child.

    What doesn’t work: Because the owl memory is so strong, why
    not start with it? I am not sure you need the first two sentences. Also, I don’t think you need the statement in parentheses. For me, it interrupts the flow of emotion and is a bit jarring.

    Compelling: Yes! I want to read on. I want to know who the
    child is. I want to know why Tomas loves the child. What sort of danger are they all in? I want to know why Magnus is skeptical about love. What’s his backstory? Has he been a fool before?

    Thanks for an encouraging post today.
    Happy writing,
    Stephani

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  5. Here's a short bit from my WIP in which the narrator is a boy with severe physical disabilities.


    You should have seen them after they dropped the TV on the printer. They hunched over that thing for at least a half hour. They moved it this way and that. They laughed when glass shards rained down ever so gently. They pried into it to see what had made it work in the first place. They talked about whether the dust on the inside of the screen would give them cancer. Broken things take on new life in their hands. Even cleaning up, they keep interesting pieces to store away. To use again. The broken things are loved. The broken things aren't forgotten.
    I wish my parents were more like them.

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  6. Martha BrockenbroughJuly 10, 2015 at 5:26 AM

    Todd, thank you! And I know what you mean about fantasy/realistic. I love both. For me, fantasy elements become useful as a tool for building and enhancing metaphor. It's like an extra color for my paintbox. Trust your instincts, though. Write something you would love to read.

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  7. I love this and think you are both brave and wise to write about something that means so much to you. I also think you've done an excellent job getting inside the head of a girl. As you revise this, consider taking advantage of the setting to move outside Lily's head a bit and build the world around you. What's the room like? Does it smell of incense? Does smoke sting her eyes? Is there a nun speaking--could you insert some dialogue?


    Successful novels tend to be a balance of an emotional/internal story and an external series of events (and these wind around each other like DNA strands). So, pair some external with the internal, and you'll be on your way. Thanks for sharing.

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  8. Hi, Linda! I'm so glad what I wrote resonated. As further therapy: patience isn't an achievement you unlock and then own. It's some to practice every day--paired with the urgency of work. Push yourself to be better every day. We have no time to waste (even if we're always asked to wait).


    I am so glad you posted something in verse. I love novels in verse, and this is one of the miraculous things about children's literature--it's popular. The most popular poetry in the nation, and it's read and loved by children. If that isn't a reason to respect our audience, I don't know what is.


    I really think you nailed this one. And I caution you not to give warnings about being offensive. Don't censor yourself--at least not in the first draft. What really works for me is that your character sounds sane and makes good points in addition to the nutty ones. When you construct a villain, you have to make that villain the hero of his story. He has to be right sometimes. You did that.


    I'd be careful with things like 'rithmetic, because dialect is very hard to keep consistent and non-distracting. If you do create a dialect for your character, keep a spreadsheet of words so you can be absolutely consistent in your characterization. That's something you can give to a copy editor later.

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  9. Such a heart breaking metaphor! Wish I could read more!

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  10. Todd, thank you for sharing. This is really wonderful, and I absolutely LOVE the metaphor of broken things. I also think it's so unexpected that they are gentle and joyful when dealing with a broken TV. You could have taken two roads here emotionally—had them do the expected, which is curse and mutter as they're cleaning, or take this broken thing and see the humanity and humor in it. As I write scenes, I always like to think about the expected/unexpected reactions. The unexpected ones are often the better choices that surprise readers and keep them turning. And the way you make this scene underscore your character's emotional desire is great.


    I do have one thing for you to consider, and that is your character's voice. "Rained down ever so gently" wouldn't be a typical thing for a child to say. It feels more like an author talking. This can work, though, if your character is really consistent about it, and if the beauty of his mind is a strong contrast to the imperfection of his body. Anything can work. Just make sure every aspect of your work is deliberate (something to work on in revision--the first draft is to get the story down).

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  11. Thank you, Stephani! And good luck with your writing!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Todd, agree with all Martha says, though I think your characters might be older -- not sure of their ages -- but especially after rereading, wonder if, in these particular circumstances which I know from last week to be an intentional smashing, the shards would actually rain down gently anyway... and love the power of it if you just end that sentence on down. Either way, small points in some strong writing.

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  13. The narrator's embarrassment is funny. It reads as a very true moment. I also like how he pays attention to the librarian. I wonder what their story is going to be. Once he noticed her I became more interested. I wonder why he noted so many things about the library's setup and the space. Will this be important to know later?

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  14. Thank you--and yes! In many ways, the story is about who has the power, and how they use that to own the narrative and put forward "truths" that aren't.


    I love your excerpt and would have happily read more. The best thing about this is your choice of the word "shot." "Torn" in two is the usual image, and it's familiar and boring, and with one small choice, you blasted power and interest into your verse. Nice. Verbs are a terrific tool.

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  15. What a great insight you had about the emotional parts to your WIP. People read novels, in part, to have an emotional experience. Your job as an author is to construct a believable character in a situation that will evoke this emotion from the reader. It's benevolent mind control.


    I love the last sentence of your excerpt very much and feel as though it could be the first line of a novel. What I'm hungry for are some scenes that will help me understand this character's insights. Maybe as an exercise, you take that "tracks" sentence and then immediately write an active scene that shows your character's plight. Try to do it without any internal narration. You can add that later, to shade the emotion a bit. I want to see her in a situation that will make me feel for her.

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  16. Hello all,

    Lots of great things to point out in this excerpt. Like others have said, the owl image is one of my favorites. And I actually like the thought in parenthesis after you describe it. It kind of transitions you back to the scene with these great characters. And I think the details about the whiskers works really well too as a visual. I'm not sure about the last line. Seems a bit melodramatic, but maybe it's supposed to be?

    Here are the first paragraphs from my middle grade WIP:

    I stood in line at the bank, ready to roll.

    Well, as ready as I could ever be for my first bank robbery. Sweat poured off my skin—like enough to fill a bucket—and the pinched
    face lady at the counter probably wondered why I couldn’t keep my feet still.

    It’s not like The Rockwell Savings Bank in Springfield, New Jersey had a bunch of security guards on duty or an elaborate alarm system to dismantle. Every dusty old floorboard creaked and moaned
    with the slightest breeze. I bet it never occurred to ole pinch face that someone would think it’s worth the trouble to rob. But it did have cash,
    which was what my family needed if we were going to get to Florida.

    “I’d like to open an account,” I said in my sweetest, most innocent sounding voice. I wanted to itch my scalp where the fresh dye turned my long hair from blonde to Bold Brunette #45, but itchy
    people look suspicious, so I shoved my sweat filled hands into my pockets.

    I only agreed to do this because it meant an end to my horrible life, or at least a chance for a slightly less horrible life in a much warmer climate. Living life on the run, altering our names, never making friends, always living out of a broken suitcase—I was done. One small crime and maybe my world would change.

    Plus, we had a plan. A perfect one. Foolproof, even.

    ReplyDelete
  17. David G. CassidyJuly 10, 2015 at 6:48 AM

    Martha - Thanks for being with us today. Gae is right; even the writing in your blog post is compelling. I just downloaded "The Game of Love and Death" and will be starting it as soon as I finish this post.

    This is from a new story I've been toying with (and I'm thinking of abandoning the project I've been working on for this). The character is halfway through his senior year in St. Augustine, FL. He left his middle school girlfriend back in Massachusetts when his family moved almost four years ago. Before he moved, they lost their virginity to each other.
    He is sitting on a lonely stretch of winter beach in North Florida.
    ***********************************
    I thought that maybe I should have asked to go to Massachusetts for the funeral. Maybe I owed her that much. Then again, maybe it would have been more painful for her parents to see me – a blast from the past – show up to remind them of how they had broken
    their daughter’s heart. Then again, I might have reminded them of a simpler, happier time, and wouldn’t that be a good thing? Who knows? I sure as hell didn’t. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do – how I was supposed to feel. Did I still owe Lisa something? If so, what?

    My phone buzzed:

    “U should B here.”

    It was from Lisa’s friend, Sandy.

    “Hi. Sorry. No way I could. R U OK?"

    “Like u give a shit?”

    “Don’t. It’s been a long time.
    Yea. I give a shit."

    That was pretty harsh for someone I hadn’t talked to in over three years, but I let it go. She was likely watching them lower her best friend’s casket into the cold ground of Plymouth County and I was 1600 miles away, sitting with my butt on the sand of one of Florida’s prettiest beaches. I was trying to figure out what my obligation might be to a girlfriend I hadn’t seen in three years. Sandy was trying to come to grips with losing her best friend who she had spent every day with for those three years.

    "I have something for you."

    "What?"

    "Later.
    Sorry. You’re not a shit.
    This is SO fucking hard!"

    "I know."

    Truth be told, I felt like a total shit.

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  18. Hello, Ms. Cole!

    This chicken idea has so much potential. I love it, and I will offer you two challenges: one small, one bigger.

    First, the small one. The first is to take great care with point of view. This is one of our most powerful writing tools. With this sentence, you step out of your first person POV: The chickens froze, startled.



    Only the chickens know if they are startled. If you cut the word "startled," you say the same thing but stay in your POV.


    Now, the larger one. Stay patient as a writer. Focus on your character. What she wants. Her obstacle in that moment and in the long term. This means providing backstory and explanation only when necessary. Can you identify backstory and explanation in this passage that can be withheld or compressed? You always want readers to have some questions about why X or Y is the case, and if you answer them immediately with backstory, you lose an opportunity for narrative tension.

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  19. Dawn Miller-FultonJuly 10, 2015 at 7:00 AM

    Good morning, Martha. Thank you for your post and sharing your WIP with us. The entire piece builds anticipation and makes me want to keep reading. The narrator's inner dialogue at the end makes me want to know more about who these characters are and the situation they are in.

    Here it goes:

    The wall of heat and noxious new car smell hit me as I tumble into the backseat of our new silver Camero. My sweaty little legs instantly stick to the vinyl. As I peel them off my souvenir sunburn, my prize from a day idyllic childhood freedom, the searing pain shoots up my spine. We are leaving too soon.

    We had arrived first and flung our beach chairs onto the dusty ground, staking out a large shady picnic area between the creek and canyon walls. As the sun rose in the sky, others joined us, and boisterous conversation drowned out the sounds of the gurgling water. As guitars and voices of soon to be famous friends joined in the fray and echoed through the park. The rollicking continued throughout the day as the wine flowed and pungent circles of smoke tangled with the sweet smells of oak and barbeque.

    Dad is way too drunk and way too high to be driving home. I can already barely breathe, but I pull my jacket over my head. Maybe it is better to suffocate than die in a fiery crash. The canyon roads are narrow and winding. This car is fast and I can feel him accelerate out of each turn. I curl into a tight ball and recite the heady prayers of salvation that I had committed to memory this year in preparation for my first holy communion, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

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  20. Hi, David. Thanks for your kind words and for sharing.


    I don't want you to abandon your WIP. Finish a draft. This is so you can set it aside and let it cool while you work on your extremely compelling and seductive new story. Meanwhile, as you are taking little breaks on your WIP, start a brand new notebook or file, and jot down ideas and such for that shiny new project. That way, when you DO start it in earnest, you will have a bit of foundation and scaffolding in place. Cultivating a habit of completing projects is a powerful tool in fighting off fear and self-doubt.


    Now, as far as your enticing passage went... dialogue is a tricky thing to start with, but what if you started with the dialogue? It's vivid and would immediately make the reader wonder what is unfolding. That is part of the pleasure of reading ... it's like eavesdropping, only with all of our senses.


    I have no problem with swearing, but it's worth pointing out that this can limit the audience for your book, particularly if it appears on the first page. It's worth thinking about, and often you can sometimes (but not always) have a more specific and unusual character by finding or inventing alternative words.

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  21. Caroline Starr RoseJuly 10, 2015 at 7:02 AM

    So much resonated. Thank you for this post!

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  22. I love a middle-grade bank robbery so much as an idea (and was just reading Tom Robbins' autobiography, where he tried the same maneuver).


    There is enough tension in the bank robbery that you don't need any backstory. So, try this passage again without backstory, and with as much measured sensory detail as you can imagine. The tension in this scene comes from whether your character will succeed and what in the "foolproof" plan (YAY! DISASTER IS LOOMING) is going to go wrong.


    Withholding backstory--WHY is he robbing the bank--gives your reader the opportunity to ask that question and keep reading to find out.


    And while we're asking questions, I am assuming your character is a boy. This is my own cultural baggage. With that in mind, it might be more interesting an unexpected if your narrator is a girl. A young girl bank robber? Who isn't going to be interested in that pitch. Write on...

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  23. Ooh, talk about chills. The first line had me by the throat. I haven't had the opportunity to read THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH, but if this is what your first drafts sound like, then I am (ahem) dying to see what your final product can be.

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  24. Dawn, thanks for your kind words and for sharing your excerpt.


    You have lots of marvelous details in this piece. Without knowing the overall shape of your story, I can't say for certain which bits of narrative summary should be turned into entire scenes. What we do have for certain is a tense situation. A child in a car being driven by an incapacitated parent.


    What I'd like to see is the "leaving too soon" bit be the start of the scene. It's too soon because the character is enjoying herself. And it's too soon because the father hasn't sobered up. Does she try to take his keys? Say anything? This would be a painful scene to witness and read, which is why you must write it so we can read it and see those details in slow motion and really feel the fear of it.

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  25. Sound advice! That is always the difficulty. What to give away, what not to & when. So much to learn! Thank you

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  26. thank you for your critique and encouragement. Now I'm off to do the suggested exercise!

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  27. me too! *kisses you*

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  28. Dawn Miller-FultonJuly 10, 2015 at 7:45 AM

    Thank you for the feedback. It is memoir, I will work on the developing scenes from this piece.

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  29. Thanks so much for sharing! What works for me is the rapid dialation of the scene to the narrator and the child. It makes the dialogue from the third character shocking to the reader.

    From just this excerpt, I found myself distracted trying to puzzle out who/what the narrator was, which took me slightly out of the story itself, but obviously that would be/become clear in the broader story.

    Yes, the beginning hooks me immediately, but it is the ending paragraph that makes me want to read more right now! There is such an interesting combination of self-knowledge and hints at past/future issues that make me quite curious.

    Here is my brief excerpt, based on a character I've been developing through the earlier prompts this week:

    Mom pulled me down the hallway in that firm, no-more-excuses way of hers. I kept my eyes down and watched my shoes instead. My thick hiking socks peeked out, reminding me that I was prepared, that I could handle any adventure. I tried to block out the smells that always seem to lurk in hospitals. Too clean, too sharp, too busy hiding scarier smells.

    Rather than think about hospitals, I snuck my right hand into my jacket pocket and found the reassuring firmness of my magnifying glass. Hard and cool. I ran my fingers over the bumps of the engravings on its lid, found the latch, and swung the glass out from the case. Click, click. Out and back in. Right where it was supposed to be.

    The magnifying glass anchored me to other memories, better times. Unwrapping it from an overly large box and seeing the knowing smiles on Dad’s face and on Grandma’s. Watching Grandma demonstrate how to slide the glass out of the case, examining the ridges and creases on our hands together. Trekking out with Dad and finding new wonders to examine and record in our notebooks. Seeing all the little things in life and not having to worry about the big things, like moving, like loud conversations at night, like hospitals.

    Thanks, Katie

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  30. Great feedback from Martha! I agree wholeheartedly with the tension and STAKES in this scene!

    Watch tense switches back and forth between past and present if you don't intend them, and really watch repeated "as" phrases if you're unaware of repeat usage, at least one of which here, I believe, creates an unintended fragment rather than a sentence:

    "As I peel them off my souvenir sunburn, my prize from a day idyllic childhood freedom, the searing pain shoots up my spine. "

    "As the sun rose in the sky, others joined us, and boisterous conversation drowned out the sounds of the gurgling water. As guitars and voices of soon to be famous friends joined in the fray and echoed through the park."

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  31. David, you have plenty with Martha's feedback and what I'd strongly suggest is that you go and do Jo Knowle's Monday Morning Warm up White Page List Poem for BOTH of these projects (if you haven't already) and see what that does for compelling you toward one project over another. I do agree with Martha that, a lot of times, it is so much easier to abandon ship for the shiny new thing when the dusty old thing feels hard. But the problem just repeats itself. Either way, Jo's List Poem might really spark some renewed vision or new vision for each project. It was a lifesaver for me this week!


    I was going to leave you the link here, but there's an outage right now on live journal so it's not working. Go to the main TW blog and go to Monday's post. <3

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  32. AH, but Martha gives the best feedback! Onward you go, David! Great story unfolding right here!

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  33. Stephani Martinell EatonJuly 10, 2015 at 8:59 AM

    I posted my feedback earlier. Again, thanks for such an encouraging and inspiring post. I'm looking forward to reading THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH, I just ordered it. I've edited the first paragraphs of my middle grade WIP for feedback today:

    “You don’t throw people away,” said Grandpa. He pushed back from the table. From around the corner, Cordelia watched him pace the porch and grumble. Why did he have to get so mad all the time? It only upset Grammy.


    “He won’t listen,” said her mother pounding her fist. Cordelia peaked into the kitchen. Her mother could get dramatic and it was interesting to watch her get worked up, as long as she wasn’t getting worked up at Cordelia.

    “He’ll come around with time,” said Uncle Ned shaking the newspaper until it opened.

    “She doesn’t have time,” said her mother snatching the paper and folding it back up.

    “Remember when you went off to New York?” Ned swatted the air around his head. A fly had wandered into the kitchen and buzzed past his head. It was the end of the summer and with no air conditioning, her grandparents kept the windows open hoping to catch a breeze from the river. Cordelia thought it would be a good
    idea to patch the screens and keep the bugs where they belonged, but Grandpa didn’t have time to mess around with home improvement projects. Anyways, there was no breeze today. The humidity sunk the house and everyone in it in a thick, hot soup.

    Her mother said, “Yeah, he was mad as—“

    “And he came around. Let him blow his top. He’ll do what’s right for Mom.”

    “This is different. This is about her safety.”

    “That was about your safety,” said Uncle Ned reaching for the newspaper, but her mother snatched it, rolled it, and swatted the fly.

    “You are totally missing the point and getting away from the real problem,” she said as she scooped up the fly, its legs quivering in the newspaper and threw both in the trash. Cordelia thought if the fly had just stayed where it belonged with its family, outside, it’d still be alive.

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  34. I needed this today Martha. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. And, I do have your book along with me on my long never-ending trip (that will be ending soon.) :)

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  35. Thanks Martha!
    I'm thinking MG & definite life lesson, but playing with a picture book could be fun too.
    Thanks for the encouragement. My chicken & I had a good time back in the old days!

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  36. There's so much good tension in this piece! Tension with the creak of the step, the way he feels about his dad (where's mom?), the journey he's embarking on and why it'll mean that he never returns. Hooked!

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  37. Well, I beat Martha here on yours, John...

    First I’m going to yay that you're here, second I'm going to tsk you
    lovingly for going way over the limit and then, leaving substantive feedback
    for Martha since you already know how I feel about you and this story that is
    unfolding, am going to push you on a superspeed flash edit – only through the
    word gross as I didn’t yet read more, because over the limit, dude!!! <3

    I know you are often the
    proud (?) recipient of these, and IMPORTANTLY, I know this is a super rough
    draft and that much of this would be addressed by YOU in subsequent revision,
    but it’s such a great example to again show where removal of often unneeded
    words and phrases, e.g. “and then” or “then,” and repeat words (look at the
    word house x 4 in the first paragraph, “I could” x 3 in the second, and and the
    word open/opening throughout. Also, don’t need the self conscious clarification
    of the Hulk thing, so I took it out, let the fun writing stand on its own! Just
    want to make sure as you write this beautiful wonderful story you are
    intentional and conscious as you use and reuse words!

    So, I took the long way down past old man Noel’s house by the blue metal mailbox and turned left. After walking past several houses, I spotted my grandparent’s, a small, white, single-story house
    with a closed-in front porch that sat up on a mound. Their car was parked in the driveway, as well as a few cars parked out front.

    As I walked up the stairs,I could hear the din inside. Amidst the several people in the living room, I
    could see grandpa sunken in his chair. He had his legs folded, with one quickly rocking back and forth. He wasn’t doing too well.

    Because I didn’t want to be surrounded by fake smiles and phony conversations, I decided to turn back and walk around the house instead. Why not? By the look of grandpa’s bucking leg, everyone would be gone soon. The garage was on one side of their property and the basement on the other. I didn’t want to go into the garage because it was filled with junk and spider webs. Grandpa hadn’t used nor parked his car inside in years, maybe decades!

    They did use the basement,but I knew not in years.

    I headed toward that along the broken cement slabs that made up the overgrown walkway. The outside door led down into the basement. I pulled on the handle using both hands because the door weighed almost a ton. You’d have needed Hulk Hogan’s 24 inch pythons to open it!

    The light from outside illuminated the cracked cement steps that led down into the basement. Chunks of
    cement had broken off a few of the steps. It was a hazard to walk down. I carefully made it to the bottom and I stopped at the closed wooden door. I ran my hand over the flecks of peeled paint.

    A woosh of cool damp air escaped as I opened it. Darkness covered every inch of every space inside, so I held it open allowing some light to enter, and pulled the metal cord to the only fixture inside.

    Darkness was replaced by light. The chain cord swung from side-to-side making a clinking noise against objects that it found in its way. I looked around. There had been a time when Grandma and Grandpa were hoarding food for an impending apocalypse. Cans and jars of food lined the wooden shelving that grandpa made that attached to the
    cement wall. Grandma had scribbled in black sharpie Peaches on the glass side of one of the jars. They were sealed. But inside didn’t look anything like
    peaches. The liquid barely moved and whatever was inside had turned black. As I picked up the jar, I felt like I was staring at some specimen that would be on
    some famous biologist’s shelf.


    I walked over to the cans and selected one, its top metal cover rusted. The label was faded and starting to peel away from the can.

    This was gross.

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  38. Thank you, Martha. I loved the post, and the idea that I need to look for emotional moments that give me chills was a great way to push forward with characters.

    Feedback: I needed to read through this excerpt twice, mostly because I am a new mom who is sleep-deprived, and so I skipped the intro that said the narrator was non-human. I was trying to figure out what they were. When I went back I really liked the use of short and long sentences. After the lovely description of the owl, the short "I was a fool. I remain a fool", was powerful. I don't think the next sentence worked as well for me, the soldier/prohpet/martyr idea was distracting from the next sentence about love's demands. Mostly, with the short excerpt I just wanted to know more, which is not feedback, but interest. Yes, the beginning hooked me. I like the concrete of the second sentences, while the first gave me questions...how did the world empty? Was it in the narrator's mind or in reality? Thanks for sharing, and for taking time to read all the wonderful pieces people are posting today.

    My WIP is something I've been playing with for awhile. I live in a neighborhood that is just outside the main neighborhoods of gentrification in Portland, but close enough that things are changing. I think a lot about this, and wanted to write about it. My MC (so far) is a realtor who is greedy and looking for opportunity to partner with a big bold developer. This part is full of description, but just follows dialogue...
    ***
    Kenneth changes direction and drives slowly through his mother’s neighborhood. It is the neighborhood that he used to speed through to make curfew, or pedal around on his bike with the meandering troublemaking of childhood. Now, he looks closely at the homes he passes, with a broken bottle sharp realtor’s gaze. He can almost always guess the age and financial health of the inhabitants by looking at the house from the street.

    Generally, Cully residents fall into three categories. There are the oldest residents, some having immaculate yards, wrought iron security doors and carved ornamental hedges; others are left with chipped paint and tall, brown grass. For those residents, the street view depends on their finances and proximity to family. There are the eager new residents who push to make their mark on their first home. Young couples, mostly, who grow lavender and make garden boxes for shiny tomatoes and layers of kale leaves. Those houses bother Kenneth the most and he glares behind his sunglasses at the oversized brushed chrome house numbers and new natural wood railings that lead to brightly painted doors.

    It is outside the final category of homes that Kenneth stops his freshly waxed SUV to admire. These residents could be old or young, but what Kenneth sees is size. Hidden among these country streets in the city are large lots, big enough for two or three houses. Kenneth was behind the times for other neighborhoods in Portland that have seen redevelopment in recent years. He was able to just stay afloat by working non-stop in competition with every other realtor in the city. Here he wants to pull into this driveway of profit before anyone else smells the deal. He stalks these homes, watching carefully for signs of upcoming relocation. Kenneth prints special fliers for these homes, dropping them off and hoping for a call. If it weren’t for his mother still living here, he wouldn’t have discovered these pockets of land. He smirks as he recognizes that if it weren’t for these precious hidden gems, his mother would see a lot less of him.

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  39. Barb SomethingwitzJuly 10, 2015 at 10:14 AM

    What works for me starts with the third sentence. What doesn't work for me yet is my sense of the narrator's character in this passage. When I read the first two sentences, the narrator seems human (or nearly human) to me. Later there's the mention of the narrator's "paw." I'm curious about (and something that would compel me to keep reading is any hint of information about) the relationship between whatever species the narrator is and the owl the narrator mentions. Is it a predator-prey relationship? I seem to need/ want to know the answer to that question to keep reading. The mention of "the fool" immediately conjures references to Tarot cards too.

    Here's a passage I wrote (adult nonfiction):

    “Walk right through the mud,” she tells me now. “If you step to the side, it widens the trail and that speeds up the erosion.”

    I tromp through the mud behind her, even though my first instinct is to try to keep my boots clean, stepping to the side. I can do this, I tell myself. I am doing this. I trust Paula when she explains stuff to me. I’m familiar with erosion and the damage it causes. But she’s telling me to get dirty, I think. That’s against my grain.

    Pausing periodically to drink from our Nalgene containers feels good. I’m aware I’m using my muscles a little to get up the steeper parts. My daypack isn’t heavy, but I haven’t really made peace with it. We continue, energized. The dog pulls us onward, ahead.

    I get discouraged as the physical distance between us increases. She slows down to wait for me. But what if she forgets to wait? What if she charges on ahead of me and I’m left back alone? What if she has the map and it gets dark and I’m lost and can’t find my way?

    “But I always loop back,” Paula says when I share my concerns.

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  40. Thanks so much for your feedback. Given the sleep deprivation, you are writing so well! There is a lot to like about this passage, and you have nice moments of fresh and inventive language.


    I wanted to talk a bit about unsympathetic characters, and you have the makings of a great one here. We do not have to write "likable" people. They have to be interesting, which is a different challenge (and sometimes hard, as we so want to be likable ourselves). That said, it's important to LOVE your characters. Is Kenneth motivated purely by greed? Or is there a deeper wound he is trying to hide from the world (notice I didn't say heal--we hide our wounds at first; the healing comes with wisdom, focus, and commitment). So, I want you to think about what his wounds are and how you can reveal them in active scenes so we sympathize with him, even as we don't like him a whole lot.

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  41. Hi, Stephani. Thanks again for your feedback.

    This is a nice intro. What works particularly well is that you have given stage direction to all of your characters. Since Cordelia is your viewpoint character, you might want to put her more in the center of things. She's looking around a lot of corners. But maybe that's her character. If so, continue.

    Meanwhile, a couple of finer points of writing. You have:

    From around the corner, Cordelia watched him pace the porch and grumble.

    I'd suggest this revision.

    He paced the porched, grumbling. (Or something like that.)

    I took Cordelia's sensory direction out, which puts the reader more into her head (once she has been introduced).

    Also, with dialogue, you can compress the tags with the stage direction for a tighter, smoother read. Compare:

    “He’ll come around with time,” said Uncle Ned shaking the newspaper until it opened.


    with:

    "He'll come around with time." Uncle Ned snapped the newspaper open.



    These are changes to make on revision, not while drafting--but a good habit to get into as you write!

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  42. That was Gae's excellent feedback!


    I'd second what she says to you. Also, as you revise--and this is definitely a revision step--focus on two things: compression and smart verb choices.


    You have a lot of sensory detail, but it's introduced with things like "I could hear the din inside." You can go deeper into a character's head by writing something like, "Chairs scraped the floor, and people argued." Or whatever the din is. The word "scraped" gives the reader a sound to hear without the insertion of the person hearing it, which distances the reader.


    Keep going, and thanks for being brave and sharing!

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  43. Wonderful stuff here, David. Thank you for sharing it. You have such nice sensory information, from the blowing out of the lamp (which places us in time), to the crunch of gravel. It's great.


    I do think you can hold back a bit on the telling. So, "He looked down at his father and tried to feel something." Cut that next sentence. We already know he's leaving. We can infer.


    Likewise, in your walkoff, I like the bit about the kiss (and I want to know who Erich is). But a more of a teasing sentence than one that is wearing its plot on its sleeve might serve. So, "he may have kissed Erich on his thick, scarred brow. ... But in some ways it was good that he started off confident and quick."


    Or something like that. It's all about leaving the reader wanting more, instead of connecting all of those dots. You want to give the reader just enough.


    Keep going!

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  44. Thank you so much for this advice and for being here. I'm printing this out to read again and again.

    I was captured by your excerpt, the image of the owl, the world emptying itself of everything unnecessary. I'm looking forward to reading more.

    In my excerpt, my main character Skyler is struggling with anxiety and OCD, which, for her, includes an irrational fear of snakes appearing in the shower.

    I say I’m fine, and I hear Mom hesitate before walking away. Don’t worry, everything's fine. Fine here under this towel, just a seventh-grade girl cowering on a bathmat because of a washcloth she thought was a snake. Too pathetic to stand up and get back in the shower. Nothing to see here.

    One of the tiles on the floor is split by a crack. A long, spidery crack that no one has time to fix. A crack that’s going to keep growing until it breaks.

    I blow on my fingers to push away the bad-luck germs.
    Once. Twice. I know it’s not normal. I know the things my brain
    makes me do aren’t things people are supposed do. But I’m so weak I can’t stop.

    I blow again. And once more.

    I wonder what it would be like to not have to do
    these things, if I didn’t have to worry about bad-luck germs and shower snakes and crooked posters. I bet I’m never going to know.

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  45. Emily, I agree with Martha that there is a ton of fresh, wonderful, intriguing writing in here. Kudos on that. As for the remainder of Martha's feedback, it's so important and insightful, so I'll just sit over here and reread it and keep on learning from her, with you. <3


    Great work, keep going!

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  46. Martha,

    First of all thanks for taking the time to write a blog post that is not only entertaining, but also encouraging and informative! I read the excerpt from your WIP and found it gripping. I didn't realize at first that the narrator wasn't human, but as this is an excerpt, I just assumed that this was clarified earlier. Either way, it was an easy adjustment to make and a nice little shake to my assumptions (kept me on my toes for the remainder of the excerpt). Like so many others, the scene with the owl worked very well for me. Clearly Tomas is powerfully linked to this mysterious child. I didn't understand the nature of that relationship but trust that it will be revealed as the story unfolds. I'd love to read more!

    I don't have a WIP, but have a number of things I'm puttering about with--essays, poems, exercises, etc. I'm sharing a bit that I worked on when I was trying to incorporate more voice in my work. I have no idea where this came from or where it might go (if anywhere!), but would love some feedback.

    Bang! Bang! Bang! When Iggy gets mad, she gets really, really mad and let me tell you, she is not shy about it. Her feet hit the ground like little jackhammers. Next, she looks you right in the face and then quick as a wink she starts holdin’ her breath ’til she’s turnin’ blue—not just a cold-in-the-pond-around-the-lips blue, but a deep, dark, ripe blueberry blue! Boy, that girl is stubborn!

    The blue upsets Ma and Pa, but if they aren’t around, I just poke Iggy —hard—right in the side. Whoosh! All that air comes flying out from her blue puffed-up cheeks and next thing I know she’s hollerin’ and my eardrums are screamin’ “Uncle!” If I’m not quick enough my face starts hurtin’, too. Because Iggy isn’t only loud when she’s mad, she’s dangerous!

    Pa says Iggy is a one-girl show and you never know what act’s comin’ up next. Me, I think she’s a one-girl freak show. But Ma taught me not to say that anymore. Anyway, even when Iggy’s not acting freaky she still looks kinda weird. She’s got big, buggy blue eyes and crazy blond hair that fluffs up all over her head. When she’s fussin’ about somethin’ she tugs at it and it looks even worse. She sort of looks like a deranged chick. But I learned not to say that out loud neither.

    Mama says Iggy’s got “pizzazz.” “Pi-what?” I asked.

    She said, “Well, let’s just say that Iggy livens up our world.”

    Well that’s one way of puttin' it. But if I had that much pizzazz, I’d be grounded for a week and livin’ on bread and water.

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  47. Stephani,


    Lots of lovely colorful writing and I do so love how the fly -- the distraction -- clearly becomes a microcosm of the macrocosm of Cordelia's life as we are clued in by that last poignant, powerful line!


    And all of what Martha writes -- by keeping the focus more tightly on Cordelia, we (I) won't get the tiniest bit confused by who the he/she's are and where the focus is.


    Keep going!

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  48. Thanks for your feedback, Barb.


    You've marked your passage as adult nonfiction. The sense I get is that your narrator (you) are a child in this passage. If that's the case, nice work! You conveyed youth and inexperience without saying a character's age, which very often feels artificial in first-person narration.


    I do think your setting might not be mined as well as it could be. There are no smells or sounds, and while you do have the nice bit about drinking from the water bottle (is the Nalgene detail important?), I don't know what you're seeing, how hot it is, what time of day it is. You might have that info elsewhere, but it's what I want to feel fully immersed in your hike.


    Great work!

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  49. It appears I will be running out to buy a book today. <3

    Martha, so much of your post resonated deeply with me. Thank you for sharing your time and writerly wisdom with us here. The snippet Gae shared from THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH is just lovely. I want to sink into this story and live in their world, if only for a little while.

    As for the bit of your WIP shared here, I wish I could add something worthwhile to what everyone else has already so eloquently stated. The beginning narrative held me captive -- I watched as the owl took flight, cringed as it was struck down. I'm intrigued about the song and want to know so much more about what is happening there. I also want to know more about Magnus and Tomas. You breathed life into them in just a few sentences, and I'm eager to understand who they are, what their relationship is, and what is happening with the child.

    And because I promised myself I would share this year... here's a few paragraphs from the project I'm working on this summer. This is from a reflective scene set in a group therapy session (led by Paul). The wording of the pilot's story is bugging me, so I thought it would be a good part to share:

    Standing on the fringe of our circle, Paul launches into a story about a pilot who loses control while flying in the night sky over a large body of water. Although he manages to regain control, the small craft’s directional instruments fail. The vessel sails forward, cloaked in darkness both above and below. While it feels as though everything has returned to normal, the pilot is actually flying upside-down. Without light or tools to help him get his bearings, the feeling of being upside down has become his normal.

    As Paul shares the story, I sketch a dark sea in my journal. Waves lick up from the ocean’s surface, batting at a tiny upside-down airplane. Above, grey clouds block out the light. The plane stares up at me, and I find myself remembering the model bombers and fighter jets that hung from the ceiling of my father’s den when I was a child. On the most sweltering of summer afternoons, I could be found lying beneath those miniature planes, sweat-itchy body pressed against the carpet, enjoying the breeze from the only ceiling fan in the house. I loved lying there watching the planes closest to the fan swing lazily back and forth, imagining flying away to an adventure of my own. That room had been one of my favorite places until, like most of my memories, my father stumbled in and stole it from me.

    I look again at the tiny airplane on the page. How long have I been flying upside-down in the world my father created?

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  50. Kelly, what strong writing you've shared with us. I have a though about why the wording from the story is bugging you--you've translated it through your narrator instead of letting Paul have the dialogue.


    Dialogue does a lot of useful things for readers:
    - It gives white space and speeds the reading (or at least the perception of it
    - It puts them into the center of action, which is easier than always being inside someone's head
    - It adds liveliness and personality and reveals a lot of character


    So, let Paul be a character and convey his story in dialogue. This, you intersperse with your narrator's sketch so that we hear the story and see her drawing all at once.


    I also wonder if you can be less on-the-nose about your last line. What if your narrator turns the plane right side up and lets the reader infer the meaning? Maybe that's not the solution--the heart of the suggestion is to let your reader have some work too. This is not something you can get "right," as all readers are different and have different experiences that will inform their perception of your work. It's just something to keep in mind: the tension is between characters on the page, and between the reader's engagement and the questions your work creates. The right questions keep readers turning.


    One last tiny thing: You are not allowed to use a beautiful and perfect verb like "swing" and dress it up with an adverb. Swing implies lazy and relaxed, at least in the fine sentence you've written.


    Keep going!

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  51. I love the opening sentence. It draws me in and is so poetic. The fact they are animals was an interesting slow reveal. I love the tension between the two and the child in between. What didn't work for me was the parentheses and side note about the owl. It didn't feel like it fit. I am anxious to read more about the backstory of these two and how they came to feel this way about love.

    Here is my moment from my story Flip Flop--

    And it was just that tiny bit of worn that was like truth
    poking through his tee. A second glance that dared me to notice, to acknowledge the dark red smudge on his collar that questioned how? Wonder spread warm and warning through my belly about the origin of blood on his collar. A constellation of colors were revealed when he stretched up to reach more cups and his too short shirt showed his ribs. A history of a galaxy violent in
    its start then the shirt came down. Smoothed and pulled hard. My
    wonder seen.

    And he answered my stare more with the shrugging of the
    shoulders and the right angle of his wrists than he did with the voice that hardly any of us in the now crowded classroom heard but I heard him this morning. I heard him ask what in a hush
    that I wasn’t sure was him or the voices inside my head demanding answers and volunteering comfort to his battered frame.

    They don’t tell you college or grad school that in ten
    years of teaching this fear will grip you and more than once because then you’d never show up but what if you knew what I was feeling? What if you could see it? Would you show up
    and if you showed up would it make you stupid or make you brave.

    I felt brave moments later when I left my classroom filled
    with morning readers and one wounded boy.
    I felt certain when I turned the doorknob to the office startling the
    principal unpacking her tote bag. I felt
    stupid when I left.

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  52. Hi Martha!

    I am both intrigued and frightened by your statement, "I revised the book 31 times." I recently wrote a short story, and although it was for an assignment, I felt I connected to my character. I slid into her skin, her mind and her world and I was very happy with the result of her story. I was then met with the challenge of revision. It wasn't so much the tightening of sentences and strengthening of verbs that I was worried about. It was making changes to choices that were born from my original passion for the project. I felt as though my revisions wouldn't be as good as what had first come to me when I moved into the world of my main character. I'm just wondering what you do when you are forced to reckon with the stubbornness of your own writing self when it comes time for revision. I originally had my main character remain nameless, but then gave her a name. I'm still not in love with what i've done to it, and feel like it lost the original energy due to revision. I've included a very small excerpt from my story, "Honey Child" below. Thanks again!

    The grand room of the suite stood still except for delicate white curtains billowing in the mid-morning Lucayan breeze. For a brief moment Eve admired the peaceful dance as the curtains flowed gracefully and effortlessly against a deep turquoise sky. Not a cloud in sight as usual. She secretly longed for a chill. Some snow perhaps, or the cold fronts her guests often complained about while lounging on expensive teak furniture, their honey-colored skin glistening with beads of water from the pool. She wanted to
    feel something. Instead it is another picture-perfect Bahamian morning—a day in paradise for visitors, just a day-in-the-life for her.

    She picked up the dry mop and watched it glide along the dark, wide-planked wooden floor capturing specks of dust and sand and minuscule crumbs left behind by her guests. There is never much to clean. Her guests spend more time exploring the tiny island and the depths of its surrounding waters. They only enter her world when it’s
    time to sleep or have sex. In a way they are her guests. She has been working at the resort since age seventeen and it does not look as if she’ll ever get a chance to work anywhere else. In her world this
    was the definition of making it.

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  53. there is so much I love about this piece and your writing. I feel the barn, the clutter of chickens, the feed and dust, etc.


    Martha's point about POV is interesting... and honestly, I would have missed it. I surmised she had surmised they were startled by the fact that they froze! Either way, that moment made me smile, immediately warmed me to the piece.


    What Martha says about patience and allowing yourself to be in this moment without worrying about giving all the story to us is a good stuff!


    Keep going!

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  54. I'm glad you are, because I agree! Sometimes we -- I!!! I know I do in my early drafts!!! -- use internal narration as a crutch. Then I have to force myself to go back and show it in a way that the reader will feel it and not be told.


    keep going!

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  55. Hi, Andy! So nice to see you here! YAY!!! (I <3 my returning campers, especially those I've known since Year One!!!)

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  56. Hi, Gae! I was so excited about Friday Feedback that I emailed you a few hours ago. As always, I learned a ton (especially about writing voice) in week one of Teachers Write! It is so good to be back for another summer. Happy writing!

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  57. Diane, thank you for your feedback!


    Your passage struck me with the richness and inventiveness of your writing. There's real voice to it. I'm also intrigued by the "they don't tell you in college or grad school" bit--in part because it feels true and unusual.


    Before that, though, I wasn't really sure of the age of your narrator, and whether she was looking at the boy with the eyes of a lover or with someone else. It's always hard to tell these things out of context, so take that with a grain of salt.


    I think it was "red smudge" that did it. To me, the first image that came to mind wasn't blood. It was lipstick. This is where sometimes clarity and concreteness is worth the sacrifice of poetry. Starkness is a poetry of his own.


    A bloody, torn T-shirt. Bruised ribs. A scratchy whisper. You have a lot to work with it, so let the concrete details anchor your writing and you'll be in great shape.


    Thanks for sharing, and keep going!

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  58. Wow, Martha,


    I would happily read more too. Isn't it amazing how in those few little lines you have so much voice and power?


    Beautiful. Keep going!

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  59. Yep! I see it there! But between here and real life, I am IN THE WEEDS today! Am so happy to see you! Will respond soon. <3

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  60. Thank you thank you thank you!

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  61. Martha,
    I can't wait to read The Game of Love and Death. I was drawn into your excerpt immediately. In fact, your first sentence completely grabbed me. What a compelling way to describe the emotions the narrator is feeling. The entire first paragraph transports me to the time and place. What didn't work for me was Tomas admitting to being a fool. The remainder of his narration gives me the impression that he has quite a bit of self esteem. I am definitely compelled to read on. I want to know more about Magnus.

    Here is a bit from what I am working on:

    Phoebe turns around and Zoe’s hands slip from her back. “How long have
    you been standing there?” she asks.

    “Long enough.”

    With a sigh, Phoebe shifts her body so she is looking at her wrinkled
    host. “I hope I didn’t disturb you. I didn’t realize I was playing loud enough
    for you to hear inside.”

    Zoe’s deep green eyes stare at Phoebe as the young girl shifts back and
    forth in her seat. “You would be surprised what I can hear,” Zoe says. If
    Phoebe wasn’t the only other person on the porch, she would think she was
    talking to someone else.

    “Okay, well, I guess I’ll just go in to bed,” Phoebe says as she stands
    up, and walks to the door, but Zoe slides herself between the door and Phoebe.

    “I’m glad you are here my dear. I’ve waited a long time to see you
    again.” Phoebe looks around to make sure no one else is there. She does not
    remember ever meeting this woman before. Although she is an expert at strange
    relatives and places, this woman takes the cake.

    “Yeah, well thanks for having me,” she says as she fakes a yawn.

    Even with Phoebe’s eyes shifting around the porch, she can
    still feel Zoe’s eyes on her. When their eyes meet once more, Zoe smiles
    revealing her five remaining teeth, “You are everything I hoped you would be.”

    Phoebe moves slightly attempting to give Zoe the hint to get
    out her way, but instead of taking the hint, Zoe grabs her hands and begins to
    examine them. “Yes,” she says in another whisper, “It is wonderful to have you
    here at last.”

    Phoebe, visibly rattled, returns to the chair and picks up
    Layla, instinctively fingering chords. Keeping her eye on the guitar, she yawns
    once more and says, “Look, I really appreciate it, but I’m tired from the trip
    and I really need to get some rest.”

    Zoe’s grin returns and she lets out a raspy laugh, “Ah,
    rest. Yes, I suppose you must. In fact, I insist, get some rest. You will need
    your energy tomorrow.” Without moving her eyes from Phoebe, she steps aside and
    opens the door. Phoebe, looking confused and a little uneasy, walks through the
    door.

    Once she has shut the door, Zoe looks out to the full moon
    rising in the sky and whispers, “Yes, Marian, I think I will see you soon.”

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  62. Andy, we all have our Achille's heels and yours tends to be that overuse of physical description. I think Martha's suggestion to read it aloud is a great one!

    But how do I love this? Let me count the ways:

    "To my right are smaller shelves with the newest “spicy” fiction. Should I be looking at this shelf? Boy, oh boy, the girls on the cover of these books are in their bras."



    Yep, already love this kid. Keep going!

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  63. Andrea, thanks for sharing this excerpt. I'm so glad you came to inhabit the character--even if it's "just" an assignment, you have to write as though it's for keeps. We don't have a student mode and a pro mode. We are always students all the time. We are always striving for professional results.

    You asked a great question about revising and getting over your old self. This is one reason it's good to put time between drafting and revision. Time helps us see what we could not see before (particularly if we have been reading and studying writing in the interim). The original energy we bring to stories is so important, and not something to lose. But there has to be humility too. No one gets it all right the first time. To keep that energy, you might write yourself a letter at some point when you're drafting. Tell yourself why the idea excites you, what the book is about, what moments are really resonating with you.

    This will remind you what your original intention was, and your cooler editor's eye can see how well you have achieved it.

    As far as your writing sample goes, I love it. Keep the descriptions tight. And don't let your character get in the way of the reader's sensory perceptions:

    She [slid the mop] along the dark, wide-planked wooden floor, capturing specks of dust and sand and minuscule crumbs left [ ] by her guests.



    Great job! Keep at it!

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  64. Hi, Carrie: Thanks for your feedback and kind words.


    On your paragraphs: I wasn't sure who the viewpoint character was until Zoe shut the door and spoke to the moon. This is one of the tricky things about writing a scene with same-sex characters. We don't necessarily know who the "she" is without really careful writing. I confess to some confusion on this score, and dialogue is extra-tricky on this score.


    What I like about the excerpt is the sense that something is about to happen. This is powerful stuff! What I think you can work on next is building out your set a bit more. Think like a film director. Let the camera establish the set and the characters and their locations relative to each other before they start their conversation.


    Then, intersperse more blocking and descriptions between those lines of dialogues. What was Phoebe playing? A game? An instrument? What is the relationship of the two to each other? Is anyone in the house you want us to wonder about?


    Nice work here. Thanks for sharing. Keep going!

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  65. I'm feeling like Martha -- that there's so much good here, that I'm wanting you to pull back a bit to let all that good stuff shine!! It's there! It's beautiful and powerful. One simple fix is that you simply have way more either common and assumed or repeated adjectives and adverbs than you need so that they bog down the other unique and emotional stuff. As such, I'm going to do a super speed flash edit, which i think will also address some of the final points that martha makes! I'll be back with it in a bit. Bear in mind I do these fast, and you keep what you like and you lose what you don't! Will post soon in a second comment.

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  66. Thank you for the thoughtful feedback! Giving Paul dialogue is an excellent way to fix the spot that's troubling me... and because Paul is actually a prominent part of the whole story, he deserves much more attention that I've given him, and I'm just now realizing this. Now I have fresh eyes and am ready to dig back in. Also, man, you caught me. I am an adverbaholic, as much as I try to shoo those little words out. :) Glad you noticed that. Your insight is much appreciated!

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  67. Thank you for being a good sport about the adverb. :-) Much has been said about these. I think there is plenty of room for them in the right spots.


    But what I really wanted to say was that you sensed the problem in your writing. Keep honing that sense! It's such a valuable tool. When it signals you, stop. Mark the passage. Consider ways you might address the problem. Try a few out. Boom! You've revised like a pro.

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  68. Hi, Molly.


    Thanks for your feedback and for sharing this excerpt. You have an official WIP. It's this story, about a pair of siblings with a terrifically entertaining rivalry.


    You need to get them into a scene. What you have is more internal narrative, which is entertaining but not yet optimized for the reader. Don't lose all of the internal narrative. I love the recurring joke of Things I've Learned Not to Say (which might actually be a funny list for the endpapers of a book).


    So, give them a scene. It's set somewhere. A character is perhaps in a room. Another one makes an entrance. With the entrance comes some sort of conflict. The two characters reveal their incompatible wants (or they withhold them, but are stubborn about not giving their antagonist what they want). The scene ends with the main character either making progress toward her want, or being impeded. And in a good scene, you've planted a seed for future conflict.


    Go, go, go!

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  69. Thank for the specific feedback and double thank you for the fixes as well. I agree, that if have too much of ourselves in the writing then there isn't enough room for the reader to bill in the blanks. Great advice.

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  70. So, the first paragraph particularly, is hard to edit and should be... there's more detail about the stepping than we need and so I'm not even clear which step is getting skipped or stepped on by the end of it. I played with it a little. But the truth is, you don't need much about that. We all know what it is like to try to avoid that creaky step!

    Keep playing with this too. But not now. Later when you go back to revise. For now, move forward with the story!

    I'm super curious to hear why Anthony never comes back again!

    Anthony had practiced stepping on the third step many times that afternoon, knowing he’d need to skip
    it completely now and step down to the second. He had even practiced different methods, alternating feet, climbing on the rail but had settled on the idea of going left foot first, while using the rail to steady himself. He lifted his foot high and cleared the step, but misplaced his other down onto it so that it groaned in the quiet night, tattling on the boy for trying to sneak away without permission.

    Anthony froze, ready to sprint to the top of the stairs and dive into his bed if his Poppa came barreling out of the living room, yelling at him for being a dishonest little sneak. Seconds stretched to the infinite, but all was quiet, no purple faced tyrants jumped out of the darkened doorway and Anthony took the last step to the bottom of the stairs.

    His father sat silhouetted
    on the couch, a lamp burned dimly behind him, his heavy breathing drifting into light snores which echoed through the house. An empty glass sat next to him, one last drink before going to bed. Anthony sighed. At least his father would not wake till well past the rooster crow and by then Anthony would be done with his chores and his little misdemeanor would go undiscovered, a precious,
    private secret he could hold forever.


    Anthony walked into the living room and blew out the lamp just to be safe. He looked down at his father and tried to feel something, but only mustered indifference, so he turned toward the porch.

    Once down the front steps, he pulled on his shoes and moved into the yard. Old Trapper looked up from his grazing to watch the boy go, his quick steps making a soothing crunch in the
    gravel. The road rose up to meet Anthony, accepting him like an old friend. Anthony moved forward with purpose, the road pushing him on. If he had known this might be his last time to travel it, to see his father, or pet old Trapper’s head, he may have stepped slower, he may have taken the picture of his mother and father, he may have kissed Erich on his thick, scarred brow. But he knew
    nothing of what was to come.

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  71. All of what Martha said! And, I do so love this:

    My thick hiking socks peeked out, reminding me that I was prepared, that I could handle any adventure.



    Just love that. Funny and unexpected. Keep going!

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  72. Andrew StarowiczJuly 10, 2015 at 1:09 PM

    Believe me, I completely understand. I'll catch up with you soon. Enjoy the weekend!

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  73. If I remember from last week and aren't confusing you with another, this takes place in Africa and we got some of that great gritty detail elsewhere, so we know you can do it!


    I love seeing the narrator's struggle to behave in a way that is outside her comfort zone. To get dirty when her instincts don't want to let her!


    Keep going!

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  74. Thank you so much. The first paragraph is a pile of mush and I did not do a good job of showing his planning to sneak out of the house. I am going to paste your revisions side by side with original text so I can dig deeper into your feedback.
    I also plan to show my students so they can see how peer feedback looks like and they see real world connection.

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  75. Molly, just so colorful and lively and wonderful! Strong clear voice developing here!

    Love this: The blue upsets Ma and Pa, but if they aren’t around, I just poke Iggy —hard—right in the side. Whoosh! All that air comes flying out from her blue puffed-up cheeks and next thing I know she’s hollerin’ and my eardrums are screamin’ “Uncle!” If I’m not quick enough my face starts hurtin’, too. Because Iggy isn’t only loud when she’s mad, she’s dangerous!



    Martha is right: go, go go!

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  76. Yay! No worries. If you like what your writing, keep going, David. You can go back and fix the small stuff later! I say forward motion THEN revision!! :D

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  77. Hi, Martha, reposting Jane's comment and excerpt. Let me know if you see it now:

    Thank you so much for this advice and for being here. I'm printing this out to read again and again.

    I was captured by your excerpt, the image of the owl, the world emptying itself of everything unnecessary. I'm looking forward to reading more.

    In my excerpt, my main character Skyler is struggling with anxiety and OCD, which, for her, includes an irrational fear of snakes appearing in the shower.

    I say I’m fine, and I hear Mom hesitate before walking away. Don’t worry, everything's fine. Fine here under this towel, just a seventh-grade girl cowering on a bathmat because of a washcloth she thought was a snake. Too pathetic to stand up and get back in the shower. Nothing to see here.

    One of the tiles on the floor is split by a crack. A long, spidery crack that no one has time to fix. A crack that’s going to keep growing until it breaks.

    I blow on my fingers to push away the bad-luck germs.
    Once. Twice. I know it’s not normal. I know the things my brain
    makes me do aren’t things people are supposed do. But I’m so weak I can’t stop.

    I blow again. And once more.

    I wonder what it would be like to not have to do
    these things, if I didn’t have to worry about bad-luck germs and shower snakes and crooked posters. I bet I’m never going to know.

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  78. I love that the main character is so insightful and yet not able to change what she can't control. It's heartbreaking to know that this character is trapped by her behavior. I would love to see a reference to the cracked tile in her list of worries....since it's what triggers her. I wonder when this character is going to realize it's time to ask for help.

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  79. Okay, guys, I'm going to take a break for a few hours and will be back later this evening. Please buy THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH, share it with your students, your family, your friends. It is stellar. You'll thank me later. See you all in a few.

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  80. Martha – Thank you for your fabulous words of wisdom!

    My feedback on your WIP - I am intrigued with the emptied
    world and definitely want to read more. When I first read, “fiddle with
    his whiskers” my mind went to the instrument and had to think for a
    minute to get my brain on the correct track. Both of your excerpts caught my
    reading interest and I will be reading The Game of Love and Death, SOON!

    As for mine, I don’t have much but welcome your feedback.

    He awoke with a jolt at 2 am. He lay in bed tossing, turning,
    and talking to himself trying to sooth the raw gnawing ache in the pit of his stomach.

    He arose, slipped on his faded, tattered navy sweater, and
    crept downstairs. Slowly sliding the moldy lime green leather case across the
    dust covered linoleum the aching pit in his stomach continued. He snapped open
    the latches on the front of the case, the musty aroma gave him a startling slap
    in the face.

    He took a deep sighing breath and slipped the old typewriter
    onto the table. Slowly, the keys struck the ribbon, words began to formulate.
    As his mind replayed the explanation, his stomach began to relax.

    Thanks Gae for sharing Martha with us!

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  81. Thank you both so much for the feedback! It's great to have encouragement to push on these two and see where they go. I'm already thinking about possible scenes and conflicts. TW is an amazing resource and opportunity!!!

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  82. Gae, thanks for reposting. And Jane, thanks for your patience and feedback!


    Not to terrify Skyler or anything, but once my shower rained maggots. TRUE STORY.


    On to your excerpt. I'm fascinated by your character and the wee glimpse you gave of the relationship between her and her mother. Relationships are really the ribs of books. They wrap around the heart and provide structure and something for the meat of scenes to cling to. And a daughter who lies to her mom? YES.


    Your challenge is writing in the first-person POV. It's the right one for this story, I think. But it does make conveying certain information hard. So, that bit about her being in the 7th grade clanks just a wee. It's an authorial insertion, and I am betting there is a more elegant way for you to convey this information. Think about how it's done on screen. We get clues about characters from their clothes, their bedrooms, what they're studying in school... do that if you can.


    And, since this is a psychological story, you're going to have to fight to convey as much of this through active scenes as possible. Let us SEE what's going on inside S's head. Try not to tell us.


    Good luck! Keep going!

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  83. Such a beautiful excerpt. I'm in love. I'm not going to share today, just wanted to fawn over Martha's words. Thanks for sharing.

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  84. Hi, Sheila:


    Thanks for reading and commenting.


    Here's a general observation for all of us: We don't have to apologize for our work. Ever. There's this strange thing going on in the world where writing (especially for children) is mocked. Many of my peers say, "I JUST write YA."


    Whichever audience you write for, know that you are participating in one of the oldest things people have done. Since we gathered around fires, we have told each other stories. Stories keep the darkness at bay. And I am guessing they have kept people alive not just physically, but emotionally, through the darkest nights in time.


    Love your work. Love that you are doing it. Know that every writer can always do better, and that we have nothing to apologize for when we are engaged in this ancient human craft.


    All right! So you have here a character who can't sleep. Something is troubling him. He turns to writing to solve this problem. Your mini scene has a beginning, a middle, and an end, so you have conquered this challenge. What you can do, now that you have the framework, is round it out with specific actions that bring your particular character to life.


    "Tossing and turning," for example, is a more familiar phrase than you might want to press into service.


    I like the business with the typewriter and case, though I'd like for you to read it aloud to ensure you've narrated as simply and clearly as possible. And then perhaps provide more detail about the setting? We have the sweater. What's the sky look like? Is mold the only thing he smells? Whatever details you choose, make sure they reveal his state of mind--a happy person notices different things from a sad person. Someone who loves a room sees different things than someone who hates the room.


    Thanks for sharing. Keep writing!

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  85. Thank you Martha!

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  86. Oh, Megan. You are too kind. See you around soon, I hope!

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  87. Thank you so much. I inserted that for this excerpt to make her age clear, so it's coming right back out again.

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  88. First time here, first time with Teachers Write!, and first time thinking fiction is within my realm of possibility. So - THANK YOU. I can't wait to get a copy of your book. (I hope I followed the rules!)

    My response to Martha -

    What works? The first line grabbed me. It can mean so many things but I felt myself there as a mother, with a new child. When everything crystalizes and you can never turn back.

    What doesn't? I can't even answer this. I'm intrigued and too new to look for what doesn't.

    Am I hooked? YES - especially now that I suspect it is not a mother as all, but some kind of creature who isn't supposed to have these feelings for this child.

    My passage -
    Shoulders curved, a slight slump. Neither tall nor short, fat nor thin. In many respects she looked unnoticeable. Hair was long, but not so long to be remarkable. The way she carried herself hid the pride she felt. As a silhouette you might look over, and then glance away. Because there just weren't any surprises.

    She carried books, almost too many to hold at one time. And a bag on one arm. That kind of low hanging purse that speaks of non-conformity. The canvas one, greenish, with the rivets. I like to have things in this bag but I’m not fancy. Her slacks are the khaki kind, a little slouchy. I’m comfortable but I don’t show off. And the tank-top attests to warmth of the day.

    People bustling about didn’t really stop to take a look. They weren’t on a search for her. They were trying to get somewhere. Class was starting, they had somewhere to be. Besides that, their friendships had started a long time ago. Before they entered this building they knew who they were here for, and if not, had a plan for when they would meet up. So no one was really looking for her. It was she that would have to do the looking. And as she did, there were things she noticed about them. Look at the distraction, the hurry, the business. That one with coffee in hand, moving forward, fast. That one, head down. Who are you texting? Over there, a group laughing. Sure they were here to learn, maybe. More importantly, they had each other to fill the moment. It seemed as if everyone had something or someone or somewhere. Each person in that room was connected to another. And she figured she must be too. Somehow there is someone in here that is my people.

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  89. David G. CassidyJuly 10, 2015 at 2:12 PM

    Thanks for your helpful comments. I was kinda' hoping you'd say something about abandoning a project. I guess I just needed someone to say "No!"


    The passage I shared is actually the end of chapter 2 (the stuff I said to set the scene is all stuff the reader already knows), but you have made me think: What if I started the book with the text dialogue, then provided the necessary back story as the first couple of chapters progressed. OK. OK. Back to the first book.


    (BTW, I'm eight chapters in to "The Game . . ." and I am in awe. )

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  90. Yes! Thank you for bringing up that our characters can be unlikable and lovable. I've recently decided to give my character a secret love-food (as in gourmet, not binge eating) and a romantic interest (one of his wounds is his divorce) that will earn him some empathy and interest from readers (hopefully) Thank you for reading my work and for that nugget of wisdom about wounds. I will reread that again later when baby is in bed!

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  91. Dawn, welcome! And thanks for your kind words and feedback.


    What really works about your excerpt is that you've revealed a clear "want" for your character. This is the best way, I think, to hook a reader. The reader knows what the character wants, and if the character and obstacles are interesting and compelling, the reader keep turning pages (even without knowing that the want is the engine of curiosity).


    I think your challenge here is to clean up your point of view. Is it your narrator's shoulders that are slumped? Or is she looking at someone? That part wasn't quite clear to me, as much as I like your sentence fragments and the voice they help provide.


    So, if this is a close third-person POV, your character isn't really going to be looking at herself from the outside, unless she catches sight of herself in a mirror (which happens an awful lot in books and should therefore be avoided). Think of a close third-person POV as a camera stuck to a character's forehead. It goes where she goes, zooms in on what she's studying, and pans out when she wants. It does not go inside anyone else's head. It does not see what is behind her. That's a creative constraint that can help you create the most polished and powerful scenes.


    Good luck. Thanks again for taking the plunge. Keep swimming!

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  92. Thank you Martha! I don't know how you've created time to read all of this but I hope you are commending yourself for doing it! All the best.

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  93. What an intriguing passage! Here's my feedback:

    1. What works for you and why?
    The owl analogy completely captured me. I might have even opened with that, but it's hard to truly tell without the context of previous passages. Also, I want to know so much more about this world. I want to know how much interaction the child will have with Tomas and Magnus. I want to know the relationship of the latter two.

    2. What doesn't work for you if anything, and why not?
    I was taken from the moment, almost taken from the world, with the brief aside following the owl analogy. Upon reading the passage again I think that maybe it doesn't feel like Tomas's voice.

    And now, for my own share:

    As the oldest of three children, Katie's parents usually only paid attention to her when she had done something wrong. Or when they suspected that she may do something wrong in the near future. Otherwise, she was old enough to figure stuff out for herself. Her sister was an incessant talker and her brother was clinically angry. Dinners consisted of Lizzy telling one of her four favorite stories while Chris screamed for her to do something interesting so she would have a new story. Of course, her father never recognized the faults in his own children. Psychology only existed outside the house, and certainly no self-respecting psychiatrist could ever unknowingly raise such case studies. Katie was used to being forgotten, used to being ignored, because she was the most normal in her family. She did not expect, however, to be the only person on the platform as the train continued with her grey wool coat still above her seat.

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  94. Martha -Thank You for share your wonderful insight!

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  95. I am definitely hooked, drawn into the world, engaged with the narrator. We can all identify in some way with the fool. Not sure if it is in any way connected, but I love the "fiddle" with his whiskers after the reference to a song. Can't say there is anything from this snippet that doesn't work for me. I want to read more.

    Well, here goes mine: a scene from a YA WIP which has been in floating around in my notes and head for awhile, and I finally put it into print today.

    After the school day and week finally ended, I headed straight to the the woods again. I had snuck back to the cottage almost every afternoon that week, but had not see anyone or anything else suspicious. Excited for the weekend and not expecting anythin out of the ordinary, I strolled carefree, weaving through the trees quickly, but not at all cautiously, Penny bouncing along nearby, stopping to sniff something every few yards. We were almost to the clearing, but luckily not yet in sight when I heard a voice, followed by a loud guffaw. I stopped, feeling like we had been crunching up a racket stepping through the underbrush. pulled Penny to my side and giving her the finger to mouth “Shh” sign I had taught her as soon as she learned how to sit. We got low and I crept closer, keeping her by my side, until I felt I had a decent view of the area from behind a tall elm tree at the edge of the clearing. There were a few seedlings and clumps of tall weeds in front of it, which along with the late afternoon shadows, I thought would help keep me concealed. The log cabin style cottage was on the right, the Cottonwood with the tire swing situated between me and the owners of the voices, giving even a little more cover. With my back to the elm, giving Penny the “fist” sign to stay put, I slowly leaned to my left, around my cover tree, binoculars at my eyes, bewteen the cabin and the tree, over the grasses but under the swing branch, I was able to focus through a perfect little window onto an old rusty sedan and...the same guys as like last week….last Friday. Was this a weekly occurence?

    The one I thought they called Keith was standing over his BMX bike, kind of facing us, dark T-shirt, sunglasses, baseball cap on backwards like me, from the other side of the car. I could only see him from the waist up as he leaned over his handlebars, peering into the old car and talking with the two passengers in the front seats. The rear half of the car was hidden behind the tree so I wasn’t sure if there was anyone else with them, but I had feeling that was it, as Keith never seemed to look in back.

    Suddenly, he stood up on his bike and looked seemingly right back at me. It felt just like the hawk the other day. I quickly ducked down and rolled back behind the tree, my heart pounding inside my chest like Penny’s excited tail thumps the ground. Had he caught a glint of light of my lens? Was he pedaling over here right now? I didn’t hear any voices or movement. I was paralyzed, afraid to look but terrified I would see him coming right at us. Penny sensed my anxiety, and stared at me intently, slightly quivering, but did not give me away. I had to do something, even knowing that if he was indeed headed this way I was probably dead meat. I rustled up the courage to roll right, peeking around the tree, without binoculars this time, and although my angle gave me less of a view, I could make out Keith leaning into the car.
    Without warning, he stood up again, at the same time the car's engine started up. Keith pushed hard on his pedals and cruised out of the parking lot. I thought he might have glanced my way again but it was hard to see without my binocs. Then he was out of sight to my left. The old beater, it looked a little like my uncle’s Chevy Impala, turned around and left by the same path. I might have been being paranoid, but was a little worried that Keith might circle around, if he was really concerned about having seen something, so I took off jogging in the opposite direction, Penny at my side.

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  96. David G. CassidyJuly 10, 2015 at 4:12 PM

    I did the old one on Monday, but not the new.


    I know I need to finish the first one. I'm just being a baby. :-P

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  97. Stephani Martinell EatonJuly 10, 2015 at 4:26 PM

    Thanks for the specific and honest feedback! I am getting so much out of Teachers Write. Thank you Martha and Gae for taking the time to read, respond, and encourage. It sure makes sharing less scary.

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  98. Hi, David. Thanks for the feedback and for participating.

    There is so much to love about this passage: You do a really nice job of slowing down the action to focus on the tension at hand. Your character does not want to be seen, and the tension comes directly from that want, which the reader identifies with.

    That said, I think you can have a larger-scale desire working for you. Here's what you wrote:

    "Excited for the weekend and not expecting anythin out of the ordinary, I strolled carefree, weaving through the trees quickly, but not at all cautiously, Penny bouncing along nearby, stopping to sniff something every few yards."



    So, your character right here doesn't have a particular goal. That means we're not invested as deeply as we might be, and when the "don't be spotted" desire comes up, it only gets half the weight that it could have. Let's say your character is on his way home for a date and really wants to keep his shirt clean (lame, I know). The chance that he could be beaten up and bloodied is bad. But rolling on the ground? There goes the shirt.


    Keep working on this! I very much like what you have so far.

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  99. What Martha said! I particularly love the imagery and moments you create with your MC and Penny, his sidekick. We feel the woods and the camaraderie and there is some added intrigue that this MC has seemingly taught the dog to read the kind of signs he might need when in danger or on the sly!

    I do wish, like we've commented on a few other posts, when you go back to revise, that you will work to use only the logistical directions or descriptions you need! When there's too much the reader spends time trying to picture "and then this, and then this and then this" at the expense of the breathtaking action.

    So, like here: can the between the cabin and the tree come out in the list of various placement descriptions we're too follow? With my back to the elm, giving Penny the “fist” sign to stay put, I slowly leaned to my left, around my cover tree, binoculars at my eyes, bewteen the cabin and the tree, over the grasses but under the swing branch..." Can you see what I mean when isolated that it's a lot to take in? You'd be surprised how much a reader can infer by some really minimal descriptions.

    Here's another spot:

    I could only see him from the waist up as he leaned over his handlebars, peering into the old car and talking with the two passengers in the front seats. The rear half of the car was hidden behind the tree so I wasn’t sure if there was anyone else with them. . .



    Do you lose anything by leaving out the rear half of the car being hidden, since we already are clear that for various reasons the MC's view is obscured?


    Also, and I hope our posters read all the comments so they don't miss any gems, for the heck of it, browse through Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules. This is one of my personal favorite writerly tool/reminders (with the caveat, of course, that rules are meant to be broken... but only if you are intentional about what you are doing).


    Keep going! Good stuff here that, up revision, will really pop and shine!

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  100. What Martha said! I particularly love the imagery and moments you create with your MC and Penny, his sidekick. We feel the woods and the camaraderie and there is some added intrigue that this MC has seemingly taught the dog to read the kind of signs he might need when in danger or on the sly!

    I do wish, like we've commented on a few other posts, when you go back to revise, that you will work to use only the logistical directions or descriptions you need! When there's too much the reader spends time trying to picture "and then this, and then this and then this" at the expense of the breathtaking action.

    So, like here: can the between the cabin and the tree come out in the list of various placement descriptions we're too follow? With my back to the elm, giving Penny the “fist” sign to stay put, I slowly leaned to my left, around my cover tree, binoculars at my eyes, bewteen the cabin and the tree, over the grasses but under the swing branch..." Can you see what I mean when isolated that it's a lot to take in? You'd be surprised how much a reader can infer by some really minimal descriptions.

    Here's another spot:

    I could only see him from the waist up as he leaned over his handlebars, peering into the old car and talking with the two passengers in the front seats. The rear half of the car was hidden behind the tree so I wasn’t sure if there was anyone else with them. . .

    Do you lose anything by leaving out the rear half of the car being hidden, since we already are clear that for various reasons the MC's view is obscured?

    Also -- and I hope our posters read all the comments so they don't miss any gems -- for the heck of it, browse through Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules. This is one of my personal favorite writerly tool/reminders (with the caveat, of course, that rules are meant to be broken... but only if you are intentional about what you are doing).

    Keep going! Good stuff here that, up revision, will really pop and shine!

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  101. Martha is good! SO agree on that last sentence! I was like, oh, wow!


    Onward you go!

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  102. Agree with all Martha says. I feel sometimes you switched from third person to first person narrator...


    And, yes, welcome to FF and keep writing!

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  103. RIGHT?!?!? (Hi, Megan!)

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  104. What a scene! Thank you for the excellent feedback and assignment. This definitely gives me a clear direction.

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  105. Susan MacKay-LogueJuly 10, 2015 at 5:35 PM

    Martha Brockenbrough, I just downloaded The Game of Love and Death for my flight to Michigan in the morning. Truly looking forward to it. Thank you for the great suggestions for breaking your writing down to manageable chunks. With that in mind, I worked to pull together some of the exercises that I did this week to create a single scene. Any suggestions or thoughts would be appreciated.

    He travels with an entourage these days, one in front, and one in back, frequently hangers-on crowd along his side. His gait is deliberate. People take notice when he enters a room. They pause from their meal, their conversation, their cocktail and watch as the group passes.

    Ahead, the door is held for him, wide and welcoming. Heads turn at a table nearby, all eyes upon him. People smile, and titter, and make way. Someone standing nearby quickly moves an errant chair out of the way as he heads toward a chosen table. The table is covered with the bounty of summer. Bowls of fresh cherries shimmer in the sun, chilled glasses of recently poured IPAs fizz, while giving off a golden glow.

    A woman, noticing him at the door, leaves her position at the table and heads over to him. She moves efficiently, yet gracefully, in his direction. Her sun-kissed nose and cheeks reflect the flickering light. Her hair curls softly about her face, the blonde dulled with age, but still lovely. She smiles comfortably as she approaches, and holds her arm out to him.

    “This way, Dad,” she says, as she steers him toward her table. The entourage peels away like the petals of a banana, leaving the tender fruit exposed.

    “Oh, it’s you! Are you Kathy or are you Sue?” he asks with a goodnatured smile.

    “It’s me, Dad. It’s Kathy.”

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  106. I realize that I am posting this late. I worked throughout the day trying to have something to share, so I could go beyond a comment...but alas, I wasn't able to produce anything worthy. However, the image of the owl being struck by lightening really stuck with me. I began to wonder why. I mean, I don't have any personal experience viewing owls or any other animal electrocuted by lightening, yet the words Martha used produced such a clear image, touch/sensation and maybe even smell with her description of the event.

    "Its entire body arched and sparked and turned white with the sheer power of it."

    I felt the power which made what Tomas was experiencing by touching a human child that much more intense. You took things I am familiar with: owls, sparks, the feeling of being shocked by electricity and made something unfamiliar be experienced.

    Thank you for sharing. Thank you for the encouraging words in your blog. Thank you for being willing to spend a day with us, a group of teachers. Thanks!

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  107. Martha--Thank you for sharing with us today. I needed the dose of reality about persistence and purpose.

    What stood out the first time I read the excerpt from your WIP was something with paws and fur found a child. I don't know why, but I immediately thought of paintings I've seen of Puss and Boots with a violin. I am totally intrigued. I want to know more about the power Magnus might have over Tomas. Ready for more!

    My WIP is a historical, coming-of-age piece set in the late 1940's and early 1950's.

    As the
    headmistress handed Jody her diploma and shook her hand, Jody looked once more
    at the few rows of onlookers. No
    mom. No sister. No brother.
    Nobody.

    “I guess it figures that they didn’t want to celebrate
    something they don’t think’s important,” Jody said as she looked up through the
    branches. She scooted back against the
    tree so hard that the bark was bound to leave an imprint on her back. The rough, scratchy bark wasn’t nearly as irritating
    as the echo of Duncan’s words right before she left for the 8th
    grade graduation ceremony.

    “If you’re thinking ‘bout goin’ to high school, you might as
    well know that yer not welcome here, Jody.
    Nothing but lazy people go and sit in classes when they could be workin’
    and helpin’ the ones who put a roof over their heads.”

    Jody didn’t talk back to him at the time. But now, with the study oak as her witness,
    she had a lot to say. A lot to
    scream. A lot to plan.

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  108. Thank you for your thoughtful advice and amazing feedback to others' writing, Martha and Gae. Each nugget of wisdom and encouragement helps me even when it isn't specific to my work.

    I, too, thought of The Owl and the Pussycat when I read your excerpt, but I think that was linking the gondola of your published novel with the WIP! As others said, the haunting imagery of the owl stays with me. I also am intrigued by Magnus watching from the shadows. I want to read on- I want to see if this is forbidden love, and/or something that has happened to your narrator before- "I will ever be a fool for love."

    The following is a brief interaction from the middle of my WIP:

    Isabel turned to face him, hands on her hips. He could feel energy vibrating off of her, and he ran his hands through his already messy hair, in hopes he’d get similar energy to match her.

    “I’m gonna sit.” Jackson sat on the edge of the chair at the desk. He watched her and waited.

    “So Maya told me everything.”

    Jackson’s eyes narrowed and he felt his heart rate sped up. Here comes the energy.

    “What do you mean? Why didn’t she come with you?”

    “I mean, she told me about you. About you not knowing who you are. And I told her I think you’re full of shit. That doesn’t happen to people.”

    Jackson could feel his face grow hot and he stood up again, taller than Isabel by a good two heads. She took a step back but kept talking, getting faster as she spoke.

    “She’s naive, Jackson. Or whatever your name is. And it’s cruel and ugly to prey on her like this. I don’t know what you want or what you think she has to give you, but it’s sick. And to think that you’ve been around the kids at the center makes me so angry.” Isabel waved her arm in agitation, and when she stopped, her own face red, Jackson noticed she held a cell phone. His eyes focused on it long enough to see that the numbers 9-1 were already typed in. She was afraid of him.

    Jackson forced himself to sit down again, his eyes flicking to the phone.

    “Look Iz-”

    “Shut up. I just wanted to come and tell you to stay away from us.”

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  109. Martha,

    Your steps are so practical, and so reassuring. I will share these principles over and over with my students, both verbally, and through my example. Gae was right about how marvelous you are!

    For my entry today:

    Driven.

    It is a word that coaches and teachers have used to describe me for years. Understandable, because I have always been pushing the envelope in my workouts. First to hit the weight room; last to leave the practice field. Up late studying film. Mindful about the foods I eat.

    These are unusual traits for many of my high school peers, but beneath the facade, I wonder how long I can sustain this manic pace. The drive has always felt external, rather than internal. I feel less and less like I'm running towards some level of excellence.

    Instead, it feels like I'm running away. 

    Fearful of being exposed as the fraud.

    Afraid that behind the reputation of adored star athlete, lurks the real me.

    Lost. 
    Unsure.
    A loser. 

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  110. Thank you, Gae!

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  111. Martha,

    What works for me is your word choices! Your first line drew me right in with the power of what you say in just those few words. You reveal a lot about Magnus with the "fiddle" with his whiskers.

    The only thing that doesn't work it leaves me needing more. So, yes you hooked me. You hooked me in a genre that doesn't usually draw me in as well. But Tomas loves with his whole soul, and you have to love that!

    I am still trying to find my way in the world of writing. I am playing with a piece from a prompt I had that took me out of my comfort zone. So, here is a very rough draft of a beginning. I look forward to learning and stretching this summer.

    Caitlyn stared at the table in the cafeteria surrounded by boys. Her eyes settled on her, the new girl. What was it? Since she had walked through the door, all their heads turned, and she drew them in like fish to the best bait. And every day the scene in the cafeteria was the same, they swam to her, and seemed to be bound by a spell in her presence.

    Each day Caitlyn got closer to her, trying to find what was different about her beauty. The hair was long, and thick, with just enough wave. Her eyes seemed to sparkle with a marble like pattern of multi-colors. Her smile revealed perfect teeth, and the laughter that fell through those lips was like a song.

    Caitlyn wasn't figuring anything out from this distance, she would need to get closer. They were in the same class next period, she would check the current and maybe attempt to break through into a conversation. No other girl had seemed to attempt this as of yet.

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  112. Martha, your words were the ones I needed today. TW camp has gotten me excited to write, and I’ve been writing, and also learning a lot! But, I’m wandering and collecting and not quite sure which way to turn yet. Your words have reminded me that my first goal in joining TW camp was simply to adopt the habits of a writer, and to write! This simple act will make me a better writer, and a better teacher. However, this seemingly simple decision has had me thinking about what I want to say. What do I want to write? I’ve claimed a broad goal of writing biographies for children, but this goal is largely undefined, and it was beginning to stress me out in the last couple of days. Do I really have what it takes? Is this even what I want to do? Your words have reminded me to stay the course (“anxiety and doubt are normal”), and to look at the smaller, more manageable chunks. Take the time to define what it is that fits me to a T. My goodness, if it’s going to be years, and dozens of rewrites (31!), I’d better take time to think carefully about what I want to spend my time doing! Your words have helped me to take a breath today. I will figure out what I want to write, but first, I will take time to think, and wander, and plan…and commit to writing a little every day- persevere. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    Here are my thoughts about your WIP…

    What works is the imagery of the owl, and these two opening sentences: “The world emptied itself of everything unnecessary. There was nothing in front of me but this child.” The closing lines of the passage are a confirmation of what you’ve illustrated: “If love makes a demand, I offer myself in my entirety.” I also love the tenderness of the paw touching the baby, and then withdrawn in embarrassment. We learn so much in that small gesture, and the character’s revelation of discomfort in being seen and called out for the action.

    What doesn’t work? Not a thing that I could identify.

    Am I hooked? Completely! Please tell us where and when the
    rest will be available. Oh, and I will be following Gae’s advice and adding your book to my summer reading!

    Thank you again for sharing.

    ```
    Here is my writing to share for feedback:

    As I indicated above, I am focused on writing more, and writing regularly, but I am not entirely sure of my direction yet. However, I have plenty to write about. Here is a poem I wrote using the “3 words per line” voice exercise, by Erin Dealey called Clearing the Cobwebs (pp. 92-93 in 59 Reasons to Write). It is partly inspired by the Pixar movie, Inside Out, and it is about my son.

    Jeremy Flying

    Jeremy graduated from
    college, degree in
    hand, he is
    moving to Japan.
    Joy.
    Sadness.

    Jeremy speaks Japanese
    and will be
    a Coordinator of
    International Relations in
    Okinawa, in a
    town called Urasoe.
    Joy.
    Sadness.

    Jeremy is packing
    his room and
    donating most of
    his stuff, which
    he no longer
    needs because he’s
    all grown up.
    Joy.
    Sadness.

    Jeremy’s mom is
    proud of him,
    and excited for
    him to begin
    this new journey,
    but she is
    also feeling like
    her insides will
    become a large
    knot, or maybe
    jello, or simply
    become empty because
    her baby is
    using the wings
    he grew on
    the path to
    adulthood, and now
    he will fly
    to the other
    side of the
    world, world, world.
    Sadness, Sadness, Sadness.
    Joy, Joy, Joy.

    Jeremy’s mom says.
    “I am proud
    of you, and
    I am excited
    for you, but
    I will MISS
    you.” And, she
    cries, but Jeremy
    replies, “I am
    only a Skype
    away, or a
    very expensive plane
    ticket.” Wry smile.
    Grateful heart for
    this child, this
    man, who is
    ready to fly.
    Joy.
    Sadness.
    Bittersweet.

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  113. Susan MacKay-LogueJuly 10, 2015 at 10:07 PM

    Greg, you have cracked the facade of the competitive athlete. This is how they feel. This is what drives them. This is what panics them. THIS is what they never talk about. Having raised collegiate athletes, this speaks to me. I saw it in their eyes, but they never spoke the words aloud. A mother senses, but can never really know. But a mother sees beyond the drive, beyond the posturing, beyond the fear, and that's why they push mama away. Just my gut reaction to the post, but possibly an interesting idea for another character. The tension it creates is interesting. I'm glad I found you :)

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  114. Thanks for your kind words! This is the primary character in my WIP. The story ceners around the competitive relationship he has with his sister, and how corrosive that competition becomes to their dynamic.

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  115. Hi Gae and Martha,
    Thanks for the inspiring post, for all the wonderful insights into the writing process, and for sharing something from one of your WIP. Here my feedback:
    What works?
    I loved the first two sentences and the second part of the excerpt, starting with "I don't know how long I stood in thrall..." That second part gave me the chills, don't really know why and how but I thought it was just perfect. Maybe its Magnus' voice and how I imagine it, and of course what he says and Tomas' response. That really hooked me.

    What doesn't work?
    I must admit, I had a hard time with the part about the song devouring the narrator and the part of the owl struck by lightning. That somehow confused me. Maybe because English is not my mother tongue. Maybe it's because I process slowly. I need to let things like this sit in my head for some time. They don't discourage me and don't stop me from continuing to read though.

    Hooked? Compelled to keep reading?
    Yes, by the end of the excerpt I am hooked! I am intrigued by Tomas, the "fool for love". I want to get to know him, to find out what makes him a fool for love. I am drawn to him, already have a soft spot for him because whatever mistakes he has made, his heart is in the right spot...


    Since I don't have any stories to share, I was wondering whether it's okay for me to post a book review to get feedback on. A well written review gives me emotional chills, either in anticipation of a great story to read or in reliving the experience of reading the book. I read a lot and share reviews online, always feeling I don't give justice to the wonderful stories I read. My reviews lack this emotional chill, they don't capture what I really want to say. I would like to get better at writing reviews and would love your feedback and ideas on where to start, how to go about it. Many thanks!

    Here the review of one of Gae's books I read just a couple of days ago.

    The Summer of Letting Go
    If you are like me and find comfort in reading, in that beautiful feeling of not being alone, that some books defuse, you will love and treasure the experience of reading A Summer of Letting Go. Sometimes, life deals us a tough hand of cards, and we find ourselves stuck in situations, seemingly so hopeless, that we see no way out. And if on top of all, we feel entirely responsible for it, the guilt might push us into isolation, paralyze us with fear that if we confide in whoever is still near us, we would loose that person as well. This is the situation Francesca, "Frankie", finds herself in after the tragic loss of her little brother, the crush on her best friend's boyfriend she desperately fights against, the fear of her dad planning to leave the family... So much to deal with and no one to confide in. I felt so close to Frankie throughout the book; she felt so real, her fears so tangible, her actions so understandable. Of course, I wished she would confide in her best friend Lizzette, I was convinced that her friend wouldn't let her down - but I also knew that if in the same situation I most probably, just like Frankie, wouldn't have had the courage. What a beautiful book, that even though it deals with tragedy, with grief, with pain and fear, it is full of hope: "You keep on trying the best you can. And you know what? Sometimes life surprises you and rewards you for it more than you know. You never actually know what life will bring.” P. 256

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  116. Hi Greg,
    I'm glad you have another WIP. I've put your book on my TBR pile. We always need sports books. They draw in so many kids. I'm reading Chris Crutcher's memoir, King of the Mild Frontier, and he mentioned that "all teens, then and now, are becoming and that is the connector." You nailed that spot between what he's always done and what it means. Who is he really? Does life match the reality? I remember that. So many students will recognize themselves in that paragraph.
    It also sets up a great question for the reader, "What is he running from?"


    So glad to see you here again!
    Stefanie

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  117. Hi, Tanja,


    Welcome to Friday Feedback! And thank you for that lovely review!!! Going to be hard for me to offer anything objective when faced with such kind words about SUMMER and Frankie and the crew. :D


    I actually think you raise a super interesting question worthy of a TW! discussion in and of itself and am thinking of doing a mid-week post geared only to this!


    I know reviews are so valued by authors -- when posted on sites like Amazon and Goodreads they actually affect sales and keep a book in the limelight.


    So, if it's okay with you, I'm going to use your comment/post and invite other campers who are active reviewers to chime in about what helps them in a book review and how they review!


    Sound good!?


    Thanks for joining in!


    xox gae

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  118. Susan MacKay-LogueJuly 11, 2015 at 5:38 AM

    You have captured my family. Older sister, younger brother, irish twins, essentially who compete about EVERYTHING! Best friends, staunchest supporters, but they can cut each other to the quick with a glance, let alone a word. So intrigued. Keep it coming!

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  119. Your characters are so endearing, you captured me with their personality. You really came to life with voice as you moved into this moment. I do want to hear more, so I echo Go! Go! Go!

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  120. Dalila, you may have missed Martha (I don't ask the guest authors to come back and do a second day) but you have my feedback, which is this:


    I am weeping. This is extraordinarily painful and beautiful. Keep writing.

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  121. Thank you, Gae. I appreciate your words of encouragement so very much. This is the most personal piece of writing I've put out into the world. It felt very raw, and it made me feel anxious to release it, so I thank you for your praise and support.

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  122. Sounds great! Many thanks, Gae!

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  123. Greg, Martha is likely gone from commenting by now and quite frankly, Susan has done a bang up job. What more can you ask for than for your moment of shared writing to resonate on this level ... and what was interesting was that as I was reading Susan's first comment, I was thinking about POV and how many are here, available, on this issue you are writing on to explore!


    Keep going!

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  124. Greg, such a powerful piece of writing!

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  125. Jen,

    What an intriguing and upsetting excerpt! Who is Jackson and
    what has he done?!

    It definitely compels you to keep reading!!

    It also compels me to do a superspeed flash edit for some
    common pitfalls that unnecessarily bog down otherwise stellar writing. Things like “could feel” instead of “felt”
    and places where showing vs. telling us that someone is feeling something is
    stronger in the first place. Extra words like up and down, which always make me
    wonder: does one stand up or just stand? If you stand, how else but up? Same as
    sit down. If one is standing, and one sits, it is necessarily down. Of course,
    if one is already sitting, but slouching, then one could sit up from there… the
    point is to be very intentional about all the words we use and whether they are
    serving a purpose or creating heaviness/density/distraction when not needed.
    Does that make sense?

    As always with these, they are intended to be illustrative to the group and not
    to change the overall voice of your piece, but simply to eliminate wholly
    unneeded words, direction, passive language and make your voice pop and shine
    even more.

    See what you think. Keep what you like. Discard what you don’t. And remember
    this is fast!

    p.s. as I try to revise, I realize I’m having some
    logistical issues with the “physical business” in this first paragraph, the
    whole energy thing. What kind is it? Sexual? Angry? Scared? Nervous? I realize
    when I started to first read the piece that I thought the former, but clearly
    it’s not. Might you want to clue us in? If it’s angry or scared energy instead,
    why would he want to match it? And would running hands through hair create
    that? Think about these actions some more…

    Isabel turned to face him, hands on hips. He
    could feel energy vibrating off her and ran his hands through his messy hair in hopes he’d get similar energy to match hers.

    “I’m gonna sit.” Jackson perched on the edge of the chair at the desk and waited.

    “So Maya told me
    everything.”

    Jackson's eyes narrowed and his heart rate sped up. “What do you mean? Why didn’t she come with you?”

    “I mean, she told me about you. About you not knowing who you are. And I told her I think you’re full of shit. That doesn’t happen to people.”

    Jackson's face grew hot and he stood again, taller than Isabel by a good two heads. She took a step
    back but kept talking, getting faster as she spoke.

    “She’s naive, Jackson. Or whatever your name is. And it’s cruel and ugly to prey on her like this. I
    don’t know what you want or what you think she has to give you, but it’s sick. And to think that you’ve been around the kids at the center makes me so angry.”

    Isabel waved her arm, her face red. When she stopped, Jackson saw the cell phone in her hand, the numbers 9-1 somehow, already dialed in.

    She was afraid of him.

    Jackson forced himself to sit again, his eyes flicking to the phone.

    “Look Iz-”

    “Shut up. I just wanted to come tell you to stay away from us.”

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  126. Martha,

    Such an intriguing excerpt! I love the description of how the animal narrator felt when touching the child. This snippet is so effective in getting across the conflict the animal character is placed in by his own feelings for the child. Thanks for sharing this! Amazing writing.

    This week, I've been working on revisions to a MG grade novel about a girl with social anxiety, and here is a small bit of a key scene I've been working on:



    The closer I get to the house, the tighter I grip my pocket turtle. I run up the concrete steps and knock twice, because I can’t give myself time to chicken out.

    I should’ve asked him before, at the ice cream shop. Or pointed him out to Rebecca so she could do it. He probably has something better to do on Sunday afternoons than hang out at home. Or talk
    to me.

    What if his Mom or Dad answers the door? I don’t even know if they will remember me.

    I don’t even know if he will remember me.

    Inching backwards, I consider my options. Run like crazy for home. Run around the corner of the street. Run around the side of his house and hide until whoever answers the door goes away.

    The door opens and there he is.

    “Hey, Ayla. Need help looking for your dog?”

    Somehow, my turtle isn’t in my pocket anymore and I drop it. We
    both scramble to pick it up, but Vince gets it first.

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  127. David, this really drew me in and I wanted to know what would happen next! It's interesting that your character thinks of a robbery as a small crime.

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  128. So powerful! It makes me want to read more.

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  129. Hi, Andrea. Thanks for your kind feedback!


    I love that you have a clear idea of your character's challenges, and this passage shows how your clear thinking is translating into concrete details for the reader to imagine.


    I think you can even turn up the dial on that. The pocket turtle is intriguing (and I'm assuming this is some sort of toy and not an actual turtle). :-) When you get to where you say "somehow," try giving us more of a disastrous moment with the turtle, and less of her internal dialogue. Can you SHOW us what worry feels like? Is she rubbing its head for luck? Does her hand start to get warm and sweaty? Does she fling the turtle out and hit the person who opens the door?


    In short, what is the WORST thing that can happen in that moment? That's what you want to put her through—and vicariously, your reader. You got right up to the edge of it, and that little word "somehow" was your tell. Vague words like that are often a clue of potential for more specifics and detail. Sometimes, you hide a character's true fears, because this is what we do: We keep our wounds covered so no one will see and judge or be able to hurt us. This secret, which has to be revealed just before the final conflict, can be a powerful one.


    But when the fear/secret/hurt is out in the open, you must wound the character more to make your story reach its potential.


    You hereby have permission to be a jerk as you write. :-)

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  130. Hello, Dalila:


    I am so excited you will be writing biography. It was one of my favorite things to read as a child, and there are many forms they can take (possibly even in verse!).


    What I love about this piece is its palpable emotion and specifics. The creative constraint of the form was probably quite challenging, but you made great use of it. Creative constraints are a writer's friend, whether the constraint is time (write for 15 minutes. No editing. Just fly); the rules of the world (for every spell cast, the character loses a finger); or what have you.


    The whole thing is a metaphor for flight and its costs, and I love the detail about the expensive plane flight. The price of love and letting go is dear. So, as you keep working on this, think about flight and wings and costs--it's a motif you can really expand on.

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  131. Greg, thank you for your kind words.


    I love the passage you shared, and felt the truth of it. (I was one of those kids--12 varsity letters, captain of four teams. I haven't gone to a single high school reunion because the pain of it all remains too potent.)


    I think you could go either way with this: You could continue with this very confessional and intimate style, which is internal narrative instead of scene. (And, just looking at your last three lines, you might try verse, just to see--I think that form might be a good match for your voice.)


    Or you could take the knowledge you have of this character and reveal it in immediate scenes, rather than tell us. You know your character's fear: of being exposed as unworthy. This comes from the deeper fear of being unlovable unless you are performing, that your worth as a human is not unconditional, and that you are worthless unless you are a star. What causes this? How does a child heal?


    It's a great potential character arc for a book, and I wish you good luck in your work.

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  132. Thanks for your feedback. Your excerpt is excellent. I have two suggestions:

    Go through and look at how many times your character feels something. For example:

    He could feel energy vibrating off of her, and he ran his hands through his already messy hair, in hopes he’d get similar energy to match her.



    Rewrite without the feel.


    "Energy vibrated off of her. He ran his hands through his already messy hair, in hopes.."


    Next: Your dialogue is really strong. Your characters are saying what they actually think and feel. That's the emotion you want them to have, but what if they hedge more? I love that detail of the 9-1 so much ... what if he doesn't really know what she's thinking because she's not coming right out with it? Think of how much more powerful it would be when he sees what's being dialed and makes that realization.


    In real life, we lie to each other all the time. We want to be liked. We're afraid of provoking. We're following the social rules. It's a tricky balance to do this in dialogue and have the reader know, but man does it make for sizzling reading.


    Great work.

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  133. Andrea, love this intriguing little excerpt! Lots of tension and a little turtle cliffhanger at the end.


    good stuff! Keep going. That easy. :)

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  134. Gloria, welcome to Friday Feedback!


    A lot to like in this piece -- we immediately feel connected to and worried for Jody without anyone there who cares for her big achievement.


    I'm sure you do plenty of this elsewhere, so it may be unreasonable to want it, but I'm craving to see something in the larger setting that clues me in to the time period and makes me feel when this piece is set. That lets me get to see it. What does a graduation ceremony look like then -- how is it different from now? Formal? All in uniforms? Etc. Look forward to seeing more!

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  135. Christi, breathe! I feel your stress (or am projecting!!) right through the screen. Many campers don't post to FF for a while. It takes time sometimes to have something you feel comfortable posting.


    And thanks for you thoughtful feedback on Martha's piece.


    Keep writing!

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  136. Hi, Gloria. Thanks for your feedback and for sharing.

    I love historical novels, and you've clearly articulated your character's dreams and obstacles in this passage. This is great--readers know what she wants and can therefore sympathize and agonize with her.

    Duncan's dialogue speaks volumes. I'd expand on it. Where were they when he said it? What was his body language? Was he eating crunchy toast? Really put the reader there.

    Then, take out little bits like that sentence she says to nobody in particular. (“I guess it figures that they didn’t want to celebrate something they don’t think’s important,” Jody said as she looked up through the...") That feels self-pitying. Let the reader draw that conclusion.


    This brings me to a general point about chronology. Sometimes, we figure out a scene as we go, and we tell what happened and provide context through flashback. It's often better, though, to show the reader what has happened chronologically. The emotional heart of this scene is that she is graduating and no one is there. You've started with that, but you might consider building to it.



    So, start her off in the morning. Not necessarily waking up, as that is done. But performing some ritual that is specific and Jody-only. Then have her confrontation with Duncan. Then put her out there, looking for her family. And seeing no one.


    We write so that we can give readers an emotional experience--very often it's optimized when it unfolds for the reader at the same time as for the character.


    Great job! Keep working!

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  137. Susan, you are stuck with only me today, as I only ask the guest author to be here through Friday afternoon.


    As for your piece, if it is cobbled together from various exercises and new, it is absolutely lovely and compelling. In addition to some beautiful bits of writing, I'm intrigued to know who this father is and why he's so regal and regaled and why he doesn't know which daughter she is, which smacks of some serious heartbreak.


    Keep going!

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  138. Hi, Susan. I hope you enjoy the book!


    I am fascinated by your passage. You're doing something very interesting with point of view--it's third person, but your character is imagining himself into the heads of others. When this isn't done well, it's called head-hopping. I think you do it well, and I think it's an aspect of whatever is going on with your character, who does not know the name of someone who calls him "Dad."


    Why doesn't he? Does he have Alzheimer's? I'm totally intrigued. Keep writing.

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  139. Ah, well, Martha is back! Going above and beyond and making me look crazy, too, in my posts. Good lord but I love you, Martha.

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  140. I'm back not to make you crazy, but to show you that I love you enough to give you Saturday morning, a love previously reserved for the Smurfs.

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  141. and, lucky you, turns out you did NOT miss Martha. <3

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  142. Martha,

    What works for me is your word choices! Your first line drew me right in with the power of what you say in just those few words. You reveal a lot about Magnus with the "fiddle" with his whiskers.

    The only thing that doesn't work it leaves me needing more. So, yes you hooked me. You hooked me in a genre that doesn't usually draw me in as well. But Tomas loves with his whole soul, and you have to love that!

    I am still trying to find my way in the world of writing. I am playing with a piece from a prompt I had that took me out of my comfort zone. So, here is a very rough draft of a beginning. I look forward to learning and stretching this summer.

    Caitlyn stared at the table in the cafeteria surrounded by boys. Her eyes settled on her, the new girl. What was it? Since she had walked through the door, all their heads turned, and she drew them in like fish to the best bait. And every day the scene in the cafeteria was the same, they swam to her, and seemed to be bound by a spell in her presence.

    Each day Caitlyn got closer to her, trying to find what was different about her beauty. The hair was long, and thick, with just enough wave. Her eyes seemed to sparkle with a marble like pattern of multi-colors. Her smile revealed perfect teeth, and the laughter that fell through those lips was like a song.

    Caitlyn wasn't figuring anything out from this distance, she would need to get closer. They were in the same class next period, she would check the current and maybe attempt to break through into a conversation. No other girl had seemed to attempt this as of yet.

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  143. As you can see, Martha showed up -- a great thing despite that it makes me, and my claims that she's not here, seem crazy!

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  144. Wow! This summer camp experience is surreal! Last night I stayed up to read the first three chapters of The Game of Love and Death (compelling!), and this morning, the author of this book gives me praise and advice on my writing. Wow! Thank you very much for the guidance and encouragement you've offered, Martha! I am returning to my notebook to keep writing and to put your advice into action!

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  145. Thanks, Gae. I think I will put that in before Jody realizes no one has come. Maybe I can title the chapter "Graduation."
    I've been seeing Jody in different stages of her childhood. Ms. Crowder's assignment helped me realize that trees would be a recurring image--confidant, leaning post, steady, reliable...
    Thanks again.

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  146. Oh, wow! I am so encouraged. I appreciate the comment about avoiding the self-pity. I really want to be careful about that. She does talk to herself a lot at "her tree." So I will work on that tone.
    I think your words about letting emotional experiences unfold for the reader at the same time as it does for the character will serve as a strong guide as continue writing.
    I just want to keep saying thank you!

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  147. Also, thank you for coming back on Saturday to read and comment. I am so impressed by the level of commitment of the author's and moderators at Teachers Write.

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  148. you do make me laugh. And I cannot imagine how thrilling your return is to the TW campers. You give GREAT advice. <3

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  149. SUCH great feedback.

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  150. or maybe that should be, Such GREAT feedback.

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  151. I'm starting to resent the fact that I am here instead of finishing THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH. Good lord, the choices we are forced to make in life. :D <3

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  152. From camper Terry Stoufer (until we can figure out why she can't post...)

    Martha,

    What works for me is your word choices! Your first line drew me right in with the power of what you say in just those few words. You reveal a lot about Magnus with the "fiddle" with his whiskers.

    The only thing that doesn't work it leaves me needing more. So, yes you hooked me. You hooked me in a genre that doesn't usually draw me in as well. But Tomas loves with his whole soul, and you have to love that!

    I am still trying to find my way in the world of writing. I am playing with a piece from a prompt I had that took me out of my comfort zone. So, here is a very rough draft of a beginning. I look forward to learning and stretching this summer.

    Caitlyn stared at the table in the cafeteria surrounded by boys. Her eyes settled on her, the new girl. What was it? Since she had walked through the door, all their heads turned, and she drew them in like fish to the best bait. And every day the scene in the cafeteria was the same, they swam to her, and seemed to be bound by a spell in her presence.

    Each day Caitlyn got closer to her, trying to find what was different about her beauty. The hair was long, and thick, with just enough wave. Her eyes seemed to sparkle with a marble like pattern of multi-colors. Her smile revealed perfect teeth, and the laughter that fell through those lips was like a song.

    Caitlyn wasn't figuring anything out from this distance, she would need to get closer. They were in the same class next period, she would check the current and maybe attempt to break through into a conversation. No other girl had seemed to attempt this as of yet.

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  153. and Martha's reply which wouldn't post (although somehow Martha can see Terry's post when I can't... ah the mysteries of the internets...). If anyone has suggestions for us re: these technical glitches, I'll take them!

    Hi, Terry!

    I'm so glad you brought up "comfort zone."

    Let's break this one down. There's comfort with a task. Let's say you're trying to do a pushup. If you don't know where your hands go, and if you haven't worked up the muscles to do the move, it's not going to be comfortable.

    Writing is like exercise, which is why people often find writing exercises to be helpful. It builds muscles (even if the word "exercise" can be an emotional turn-off!). So, write ALL THE TIME. And read ALL THE TIME. This is how you build muscles to make a certain part of this work comfortable.

    There is also emotional discomfort. We're good people, right? We would never go out of our way to make anyone suffer or feel uncomfortable, right?

    You HAVE to do that with your character. There is a lot of potential to do so in the situation you're describing: someone trying to figure out what makes the new girl beautiful--and perhaps what makes her tick.

    You can make this stronger by doing two things:

    - What is motivating your character to do that? Does he/she have a crush? A plot to murder more beautiful rivals? Is she looking for someone to photograph?
    - Instead of generalizing, create a specific scene. A series of moments in one day. Push it to the edge. Staring is rude and dangerous and has consequences. What worries your character most? Being noticed back? A confrontation? Being thought of as a weirdo? Make your character experience some consequences!

    Good job with this. Keep going!

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  154. Such great advice! On we all go, learning! :D

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  155. Your commitment to TW is truly incredible! I hope you will soon get back to reading The Game of Love and Death. I am anxious to return to it as well! Thanks for all you are doing to make this experience amazing!

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  156. And I feel VERY lucky! I've had two authors give me feedback! I'm pinching myself to see if this is a dream. :)

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  157. And then, proving me wrong, Martha gives you this gem. <3

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  158. Hah - I love when two readers give you the same feedback! It lets you know you are on to something. Martha's substantive comments mirror my own and confirm that a revision like in my flash edit will really strengthen this piece!


    Keep going!

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  159. Thanks ladies for the extra effort you made to get my writing out there, and the comments are so helpful. It makes me excited to share more of this as we move through the month. Let's see if this shows up.

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  160. It does! Did you do something?

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  161. I often go from being a dream to your worst nightmare. Enjoy the former while it lasts. ;)


    Happy to have you here, Dalili, if also happy to not have you make me weep each week.

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  162. I did. I followed you through Disqus. Silly me!

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  163. oh great! So does this mean you can comment throughout now?!

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  164. What works? Your characters work for me. You pulled me in with such a little bit. The fact that he sounds all together, and yet seems broken. I love writing that intrigues me and makes me want more. I hope we will continue to see more of this piece in the weeks to come.

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  165. LOL! If it the dream becomes a nightmare, I'm staying the course.
    The Pull of Gravity had me crying on Wednesday, and Chapter 11 had a zinger that totally took me by surprise. So not what I was expecting!

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  166. I think so. I am reading other's writing and commenting. Hoping it is showing up. I do believe so. YAY! I love this. I already know I'll be sad when camp is over.

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  167. I loved this. There is so much depth here. I like that the main character is sketching while she listens, and that you use the details in that sketch to show her reaction. It definitely hooked me, and I hope to read more of this next week.

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  168. so far, so good.

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  169. What works? You intrigued me with their history. She is questioning his memory, his parents. So who is this from her past? I love all those inner emotions of young crushes, you capture it. I agree, you can turn that up, maybe just a notch. I am curious also why he asked right away about looking for her dog. You have caught my interest with the mystery and the relationship between these characters. Look forward to more.

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  170. ah, well, then fair is fair. Thank you for reading me. :)

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  171. Kelly!!

    I agree with so much of what Martha said, first and foremost that your writing is strong and beautiful. And skilled. And this scene is wonderfully evocative. Just some lovely, lovely things.

    What's interesting is, as I read, and before I saw Martha's comment, my initial though upon finishing the excerpt was that I wished you left the last line like this:

    I look again at the tiny airplane on the page. How long have I been flying upside-down? because the rest is inferred from what you've already given us and even that small adjustment makes it more powerful (to me). Martha's suggestion goes further and is valuable.



    If I have anything constructive to say it is, yes, when you're ready to revise, pull back. Especially in the hands of such a skilled writer less can, truly, be more.


    Keep going. Beautiful work here.

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  172. Wonderful advice by Martha here! Keep going!

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  173. My goodness. What amazing advice Martha has. I want to cut and paste that whole response somewhere!


    Andrea, some absolutely lovely writing and imagery in there. Indeed, keep going!

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  174. You give such a great description of the million thoughts that float through someone's mind as she's worrying--at the same time she's running up the steps. I suspect there's more on the turtle before this passage, but I agree that I think there's room with the turtle to dial up the tension even more. Is it breakable? Has she always kept it hidden and now it's appearing in front of HIM? I love that you take a happy event (he remembers her!) and immediately dash it with a mortification--pocket turtle on the ground. And I want to know why she needs Vince's help particularly--which is another way of saying I'm hooked and want to read more.

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  175. Thank you for your thoughts and encouragement, Jane!

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  176. Thank you, Gae! Comments on these small sections are so helpful, and so motivating! Last year, I was drafting this novel during Teacher's Write and this year I am hoping to finish my revisions.

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  177. Thank you so much for this! It's so helpful and thought-provoking! It's easy to slip in those vague words and much harder to write the part that confronts or exposes something. I love the encouragement to dig a little deeper.

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  178. Thank you, Terry. So great to get someone else's thoughts about my work! FYI, earlier in the story, the boy came across my MC when she was trying to catch her dog.

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  179. Wow. What a lovely, emotional piece of writing. It took me back to the memory of my experience of my daughter leaving for school two years ago. Painful. But joyful as well. You captured it.

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  180. Hi Terry! Your piece is quite interesting. At first, from the second line, I wasn't sure if Caitlyn was the new girl or if it was someone else, but then I got it.


    I really liked the part about the "bait" and the boys swimming to her. I'm wondering why Caitlin so interested in this girl? A hint at her motivations would make this even stronger, I think.

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  181. That's the hard part of sharing an excerpt. Some of the questions and/or advice is addressed in the rest of the writing. However, I understand the logistics. I am amazed at how many the authors take the time to comment on. So very giving and helpful!

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  182. I know! I love reading what people are saying and learning from them. Teacher's Write is a wonderful experience.

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  183. "....before I chicken out..." That's the stuff right there. The anxiety.

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  184. Lovely....I think that's the key to the book. I felt so close to Frankie from the very beginning. Nice review. And, I agree!

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  185. I really, really like the repetition in this piece....it's a refrain and a coming back to....just like all the previous stages of motherhood and womanhood. It is all joy and sadness and we wouldn't trade it for anything! What a tribute and victory in this piece. I hope you share it with your son on a day he can truly understand what he's given you and what you've given him. Lovely.

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  186. Greg, you cannot know how precisely this hits home....for me as a mother to an athlete that did crack and fell apart and is growing back together piece by piece. That is a strong, crisp bit of writing. Two words stopped me and made me wonder if it was you writing as memoir or if it was a character: "my peers". I wonder if a HS student today would use those words. Might! I'm still in MS :) I have several wonders for this piece.....what is this person running from? what is the ultimate goal/prize/win? What will help this character stop pushing too hard? Is this a compulsion or is this just a brief time of self-punishment?

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  187. Wow! The imperfections of paradise....fantastic concept for a book....and the name, EVE---come on! Put it together, sweetie.....it's biblical! You've got TONS of parallels and metaphors to draw on there. Awesome concept. I hope you develop this more. I'd love to read more.

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  188. Wendy Watts ScalfaroJuly 12, 2015 at 10:16 AM

    Marth and Gae,
    I know both of you are gone now (sob). Please accept my very late note of appreciation for your feedback on this excerpt. (This thing called "life" very often doesn't cooperate with my writing time). Your advice is excellent for sending me down the revision path. <3

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  189. Thank you for the feedback Gae - and for your time in TW. Amazing and challenging experience.

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  190. Susan MacKay-LogueJuly 12, 2015 at 7:33 PM

    Thank you, Terry, for the feedback. I am still trying to figure out how to navigate all the different blogs and feedback. I am just now seeing this. I appreciate your thoughts. Now, I will try to figure out where your pieces are and share some feedback with you :)

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  191. Jane, your feedback means so much to me. Thank you for taking time to read and comment. I appreciate you pointing out what worked. Thank you!

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  192. Andrea, I was touched to learn that my writing connected you to the memories of your daughter going to school. It made me feel like a writer (and yes, I still question that I'm actually one) to hear that what I wrote was something your could relate to. You've also made me realize that my own experience with my son leaving for college is connected and also good material to mine for my writing. I will explore this in the coming week. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and offering praise. It means a great deal to me.

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  193. Linda, thank you for your kind words, and for sharing the specific about the repetition of words. Because this was intentional on my part, your comments affirm my decision to structure the poem in this way. You have expressed what I was hoping to capture in this piece of writing. I very much appreciate your feedback. Thank you!

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  194. I think your word choice was effective and meaningful. Nicely done

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  195. Susan MacKay-LogueJuly 17, 2015 at 5:49 AM

    Thank you so much, Martha. I haven't quite figured out how to manage comments. I'm so sorry to take so long to respond. I didn't know you were here. I appreciate you taking the time to give me some feedback. My character has dementia, not Alzheimer's. I am trying to capture what happens as our parents get older. How they feel, how we feel, and how it appears to other. This is one of a series of moments that may turn into something, or may just help me through this journey. Either way, I appreciate your feedback. Thanks!

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  196. Susan MacKay-LogueJuly 17, 2015 at 5:50 AM

    Thanks, Gae. I will.

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