Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Page Critique: SEER + Launch Party

Today's post is an excerpt sent to me for public critique, an opening of Rosie Connolly's New Adult paranormal novel entitled SEER. New Adult is an interesting new category that falls in between Young Adult and Adult novels. The protagonist is older, roughly 18-25, and the books involve subjects pertinent to older characters and readers.

Rosie would love constructive feedback of any kind, so please chime in!


As a child, I dreamt of people’s deaths. Growing older, I tried to save the people I saw in my dreams. Now Death has come to collect its due. I’ve cheated Death so many times over the years by saving others that it refuses to let me out of its grasp.

The first dream I had scared me the most, of course. I was four. The night before the wedding rehearsal for my mother’s cousin Edgar will forever be the night that changed my life.

In my dream, the wedding took place in the most beautiful grove I had ever seen—or still have ever seen to this day, since I was four. It almost resembled something from a Dr. Seuss novel, the trees with their red bark and purple leaves, everything smooth as if it had been made of Play-Doh. The couple, a pair of doves, matched the scene with their sleek red bodies, ornamented with purple human hair. The crowd stood in the tiny grove, or further back amongst the trees. I stood up front, holding the bride-bird’s flowers.

The priest made his pronouncement, and the couple leaned forward to kiss. In the moment, a huge whoosh filled the air, making tiny me drop the flowers and cover my ears. The wind picks up, pushing the trees almost flat against the ground, bending like rubber at their bases. The couple seemed not to notice the chaos, however, still moving in slow motion toward one another for their kiss. The ground began to shrivel, and each person’s feet sunk, creating indentations in the earth. The edge of the woods began to fall away, and the crowd fell one by one off the land.


General Confusion
I am confused as to why her mother's cousin Edgar and his bride are doves. It sounds literal, here. It makes me wonder if the main character a bird, therefore. If the main character is human, maybe it could be more clear that the wedding of Edgar is not the wedding of the MC's dream. As it stands now, it sounds like it is.

Tense inconsistencies
The tense (past tense) is not consistent in this piece:
1. The wind picks up is in present tense; the verb should be picked.
2. …each person's feet sunk is also not in past tense; the verb should be sank.

Clarity of Sentences
1. The night before the wedding rehearsal for my mother's cousin Edgar is quite a mouthful that would be good to simplify. The phrase is too long by the time the reader reaches the verb.
2. …or still have ever seen to this day, since I was four is a bit awkward; "since I was four" seems unnecessary and confusing.
3. The crowd stood in the tiny grove, or further back amongst the trees seems contradictory. Which is it--in the grove or further back? Perhaps use "and"?

Wording and Little Things
1. A "Dr. Seuss novel"--I'm not aware that Dr. Seuss wrote novels; say "book" instead?
2. In the moment, a huge whoosh filled the air: say "that" moment rather than "the"?
3. Still is used twice in this short excerpt. Kinda close together.

Summary: Kudos
I really enjoyed the description of the wedding; the words paint a vivid picture. I can see the trees, and having the scene be the smooth consistency of Play-Doh is a cool detail. It really sounds like a nightmare a four-year-old would have. It would be freaky enough for an adult--the edge of the woods falling away, the ground shriveling, and the people falling off into nothingness. Neat! Also, the opening is intriguing and sets up a conflict right away.

Can you add any other helpful comments to the above critique?
What's your favorite part of this excerpt? Your least favorite?
How often do you read or write paranormal novels--are they your "thing"?
Were you confused as to why the wedding involved BIRDS at Edgar's wedding, or was I the only one who thought the weddings were one and the same?


Deborah Halverson's book, WRITING YOUNG ADULT FICTION FOR DUMMIES hits stores on July 5. Big virtual book launch party June 29-July 5 on Visit for daily giveaways (woo--manuscript critiques!), free downloads, excerpts from the book, and more!! Mark your calendars!

Click for purchase/book info: Wiley or Amazon
Click to visit the site for details about the launch party: or the specific Launch Party Post.


  1. Thanks for hosting me, Carol. Excellent comments. Thank you so much. I'll keep my thoughts to myself on the bird issue, since I want to see what others have to say as well.

    And great to have the info on the launch party. Who doesn't want MS critiques? :D

  2. I was confused by the doves. At first I thought it was a metaphor (because the bride's in white and they're tucked close together may have been my thinking) but then came the 'sleek red bodies' and 'purple human hair' and my mental image fell apart. If I saw a red dove with purple human hair I'm not sure I'd be able to identify it as a dove. It just confused me. And a few alarm bells went off when, after ending the first paragraph with the hook of Death being after the narrator, we then have 1) a flashback to 2) a dream. I did love the visual of the play-doh Dr Seuss trees though: they're especially appropriate references for a four year old but also really easy to picture.

  3. Good catch on the "Dr. Seuss novel," Carol. You're right, of course, but I read right over it myself. In fact, I agreed with almost all of your points. Great excerpt, vividly written. Should turn into a great opener with a little tweaking.

  4. I agree with Sophia's comments about the doves. It got a little confusing.

    Carol, you did another great job and made some good points. I don't think I can add anything else.

    Great excerpt with beautiful details.

  5. Great excerpt and critique. The only thing for me is that I was highly intrigued by the first paragraph, then by the end of the excerpt I'd forgotten about how intrigued I was even though there were interesting details and great description here. Maybe because it was a dream sequence and that sort of pulled me out of it.

  6. The story reminds me of Medium, with Patricia Arquette. I like physic stories. Af far as the birds go, dreams can be weird. I just figured it was a child's dream and let the birds go. I also like the play dough thing.

  7. Carol - I really liked your comments and as usual, can't really find anything to add. I attributed the birds to the dream and not to Edgar's wedding, although I can see how you took it that way. The playdough dream idea was really cool though. Kudos.

  8. Hi Carol
    You've been awarded the Stylish Blogger Award. Canb you stop by my blog to collect.

  9. I liked your comments. And I agree, the dream scene was vividly depicted.

  10. While I think in general it's risky to start with flashbacks, I think this one would work better if there wasn't that zoom-out in the beginning. If you cut the lines from "Growing older" to "out of its grasp," I actually think the beginning will be a bit more compelling. It allows the reader to focus on one time: "when I was a child," and then more specifically, "when I was four years old." Especially in the very beginning of a book, you don't want to confuse readers by jumping around.

    Plus, on a more specific/personal level, "Death has come to collect its due" is too vague, but vagueness as a stylistic conceit in openings is a bizarre pet peeve of mine. So that might not be something other people would care about!

  11. A thorough critique, as always, Carol.
    As for the Excerpt, I believe I read that dreams aren't the best place to start a story. Otherwise, I'm interested to see where this story will lead!

  12. That was one wild dream, definitely vivid and scary. Not sure about the birds, but I assumed they had some dreamlike metaphoric meaning that will be revealed later. I was jarred between the cheating death comments and the wedding dream - I really couldn't figure out how they connected. But then again, that may be revealed later.
    Carol - excellect critique!
    Rosie- Interesting and intriguing story.

  13. Great critique Carol! I thought the Doves part was confusing, too. Definitely sounded like they were actually doves.

    Definitely liked the bit about death in the opening paragraph. Creates immediate tension.
    Best of luck!

  14. New Adult...that's what I write and why I gave up on traditional publishers. I'm glad they have expanded the market.

    The concept is intriguing. I think the opening needs to grab a reader more.
    Example: Death has come to collect me. I've cheated it so often, saving those that it threatened in my dreams. Yes, my dreams.

    Can you see the difference?

    Next paragraph:
    The first dream I had scared me the most, of course. I was four.

    This would be better if you said:
    My first dream at four scared me the most.

    Delete of course. It isn't necessary and the reader will assume so from your writing. The sentence becomes tighter.

    I agree with Carol's critique. One helpful thing I do is keep a sticky note on my computer to remind me to include the 5 senses in my writing. Sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing. We always remember sight but the rest add so much more flavor to your creative dish.

    Good luck.

    Carol, thanks for your help.
    The first dream I had scared me the most, of course. I was four

  15. Your writing is really strong, Rosie, excellent start! I was really intrigued with the opening paragraph about seeing death, and the dream was also intriguing. When she first started talking about the dream, I assumed it would be a literal dream about someone's death, but the imagery seemed whimsical so then I got a little confused. But of course I only saw the first page. When she gets older, are her dreams kind of metaphorical like that?

    I agree with Meagan that starting with a flashback can be risky, since a lot of agents don't care for it. But, I also agree that you can pull it off, because your writing is good, and it's vivid and intriguing. If it quickly ties in with the true beginning of the story, where the action starts, then I think it'll work.

    I definitely want to read more; I'll be excited when this gets published!

  16. I like the concept, but I agreed with your comments Carol. Since it's the first page, I might have let the doves slide, hoping it would be explained later on.
    I've only heard of New Adult a couple of times - which published books are considered to be in that genre?

  17. Great job, Carol. I think the first paragraph can be moved elsewhere, maybe as part of a scene or chapter ending. Beginning with the action of the dream is stronger.

    I follow Rosie's blog, so it was nice to see an excerpt of her writing. She has talent.

  18. I'm super late getting over here again, but I want to thank everyone so much for their comments. Strong recommendations across the board from everyone. Also, thank you for your supportive words. It means a lot to me :)



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