250 Word First Page Critique

fireworks

 

Here is the first page critique that I offered for my giveaway winner. First, we’ll look at the excerpt by itself and I’ll offer my general comments. Then, I’ll do a line edit below. Thanks to Ava Jae @ Writability for inspiring the format of the critique.

Title: WOVEN MAGIC

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

First Page:  A tingly nagging sensation crept up my neck as though someone was looking at me. The clay shop fronts all looked normal, as did the familiar sellers at their carts lining the street.

An unfamiliar man sat across the street wearing a brown dress, but that wasn’t the strangest thing about him. He had colored threads swirling inside him. His eyes locked on mine and I turned away.

“Hey, girl!”

I walked quickly away, but felt him behind me. It must’ve been obvious to the crowd that I was in trouble, but no one stopped to help the weird girl. Several people surprised me by giving the man behind me dirty looks as well.

“Filthy Wizard.” An old woman muttered.

He’s a wizard? What’s a wizard doing all of the way out here? I broke into a run, hearing his puffing breaths close behind me.

A net of glowing blue threads appeared in the road. I batted them out of the way and they parted like cobwebs.

I ducked down an ally. Other kids run along the flat roofs all the time, but I’d always been too afraid. It felt as if there was a ball of insects in my stomach trying to get out, but I didn’t have a choice.

Using an old barrel to give me a boost I grabbed the side of the building. A piece of the yellow clay broke off in my hand, but I got my leg over the side and levered myself up.

General Comments

First of all, I’ll just say that I LOVE how you jumped right into the action. There is a man-a wizard-chasing a girl. There’s no unnecessary backstory or boring description, and that’s great because it pulled me right in. It also made me ask so many questions, and questions are ultimately what makes the reader want to keep reading. Who is this man? Why is he chasing the girl? Why is this girl weird? What’s with the threads? Speaking of threads, I also love how you incorporated the details of your storyworld into your story so smoothly. You were able to tell me so much about the threads and the magical aspect of the story even though I’ve only read the first page. Better yet, you’ve been able to do this without dumping a bunch of backstory down my throat. I do think that there are some ways that you could prove on this. I feel the flow of this first section is a little bit off and it could be edited to make it both less wordy and more clear. I’ll try to show you more of what I mean in the line edits.

Line Edits

A tingly nagging sensation crept up my neck as though. I suggest that you separate this sentence into two sentences. It creates a stronger sense of immediacy and pulls the reader into the action a lot more effectively. Someone was looking at me. The clay shop fronts all looked normal, as did the familiar sellers at their carts lining the street.

An unfamiliar man sat across the street wearing a brown dress, but that wasn’t the strangest thing about him.  I think that deleting this phrase and adding a transition to the next sentence will both eliminate wordiness and help the piece flow a little bit better. Stranger yet, he had colored threads swirling inside him. Hmmm…I like how you incorporated the “colored threads” part of your storyworld in here, but it’s a little bit unclear how the threads can be swirling inside of him. Where are they on his body? How does the girl know? Can she see through him? His eyes locked on mine and I turned away.

“Hey, girl!”

I walked quickly Switching this to “quickly walked” sounds a little less awkward away, but felt him behind me. It must’ve been obvious to the crowd that I was in trouble, but no one stopped to help the weird girl. Several people surprised me by giving the man behind me dirty looks as well.  This is a little bit unclear. Are you saying that it was surprising that they gave the man dirty looks? If so, then you can delete “as well”. Or do you mean that the people gave the man and the girl dirty looks? If so, you might want to try to find a way to clear that up a bit.

“Filthy Wizard.” An old woman muttered.

He’s a wizard? What’s a wizard doing all of the way out here? It looks like you have some tense issues hear. The girl’s thoughts are in the present tense, but the rest of this excerpt is in the past tense. You might try to rephrase it like this: “He was a wizard? What was a wizard doing all of the way out here?” I broke into a run, hearing his puffing breaths close behind me.

A net of glowing blue threads appeared in the road. I batted them out of the way and they parted like cobwebs. I love the imagery that this line evokes and how it also subtly introduces the threads aspect of your storyworld.

I ducked down an ally. Other kids run Again this is just another tense issue. Try changing “run” to “ran” along the flat roofs all the time, but I’d always been too afraid. It felt as if there was a ball of insects in my stomach trying to get out, but I didn’t have a choice. I like how you said “ball of insects” instead of the cliche of butterflies fluttering in the girls stomach.

Using an old barrel to give me a boost I grabbed the side of the building. A piece of the yellow clay broke off in my hand, but I got my leg over the side and levered myself up. One more suggestion. There is a lot of white space in your excerpt. While some white space is good, this seems like a little bit too much white space. Maybe try condensing the sentences into larger paragraphs? This also might be just a formatting issue with the Contact box. If so, just ignore this suggestion.

Overall, you did an amazing job with your first page, Molly! You pulled me right into the story, smoothly introduced aspects of the storyworld, piqued my interest and used strong and vivid imagery. With a little bit of cleaning up in terms of wordiness, flow, tense issues and clearing up some confusion (all little things), I think this could make a great first page. I sure hoped my critique helped.

Oh, and for all of you that don’t know, Molly has a wonderful blog! Go check it out! It has a big following for a reason :).

Do you have any suggestions or compliments for Molly? Feel free to post them below, but be nice. I WILL delete any mean or unconstructive criticism.

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11 thoughts on “250 Word First Page Critique

  1. OOOH! First off, this is such a fantastic idea! I’d love to do something similar on my blog… one day. 🙂 I thought the excerpt was GREAT. It pulled me in straight away, and when I’d finished I was left with that feeling of wanting more, you know? Which is good, as that means it hooked me in. You’ve also given some fantastic suggestions, Ana. I do have one, minor, minor, minor thing I want to comment on — and only because I am a punctuation/grammar nerd. Always remember to have a comma before a dialogue tag instead of a period. Eg: ‘”Filthy Wizard[,]” [a]n old woman muttered.’ (The square bracket-y things show where I’ve corrected errors.” Also: Perhaps revise the use of the capitalization of “Wizard”? If you do intend to keep it capitalized there (which is fine; remember this just a suggestion) then keep it constant through the whole story. I noticed in the paragraph straight after the word “wizard” was NOT capitalized as it had been in that piece of dialogue, and I’m not sure why. (Unless it has some greater significance to the story.) Overall great job and I loved reading this beginning. ❤

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    1. Thank you! I’m so happy that you liked it! Yeah, I didn’t realize it was supposed to be a comma when I wrote my rough draft and it’s been a pain going through and fixing them all. (Though this was a rewrite, evidently I didn’t learn my lesson) Oops on the wizard part. It’s actually the capitalization that’s correct. (I think) Thanks again! 🙂

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  2. What a cute concept! I really liked seeing your critique – and I definitely agree with the new pacing at the beginning.

    Ciera @ The Write Things

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  3. Thank you for the critique and for your kind words. I really appreciate your giving my your suggestions. I had butterflies in my stomach worrying about what you would think!

    Yes, tenses are the bane of my existence! I made some of the paragraphs smaller when I submitted it, because it looked like they looked large in the little comment bubble, oops.

    Thanks again! 🙂

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    1. You’re welcome! I really loved how your piece brought me into the story so quickly, and I would definitely read on. I always get a little bit nervous when my writing gets critiqued, as well.

      Tenses are also the bane of my existence. Sometimes, I’ll read a story that I wrote and realize that halfway through I abruptly changed tenses for no reason. Yea, I could see how the form could make the formatting difficult. White space isn’t really that much of a big deal, anyway, and it’s so easy to tweak.

      You’re welcome. Thank YOU for entering the giveaway!

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  4. This is such a fabulous idea! I agree with your critiques and I think you did all of these really clearly and wonderfully. GOOD STUFF, ANA.

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