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  1. #1
    Topher Too

    Back to my beginning

    I've worked with some of your suggestions, trying to tighten my opening chapter. I would appreciate feedback here. Thanks to all who have already contributed. (Can someone remind me how to put italics in. There are a couple parts in here that should be in italics.

    Paul didn’t get his wife’s e-mail until four hours after she’d sent it. He left for home immediately. They rarely fought and his stomach had hurt all day from this morning’s bruiser, an exchange he hadn’t understood. Then he got her e-mail and it was all clear and he wanted to be with her and their son as soon as possible.

    The Interstate to Minneapolis was a prairie of brake lights. After not moving for five minutes he pulled to the shoulder, then backed up the quarter mile to the previous exit. He thought he was home free, but at the end of the on-ramp to Highway 55 he ran into another wall of traffic. He called Patty on his cell phone to tell her he was coming home early. He got her voice mail.

    She’d called before nine this morning, angry that he’d left for work early, forgetting his promise to walk Scott to school this morning. He felt bad but he was gathering some material for an interviewer.

    “I won’t forget tomorrow,” Paul said, “If I have to I’ll sleep on his floor in a sleeping bag and duct tape the door shut.” He and Patty joked about how absent minded he was, how he could remember the large numbers of wind speeds at his company’s biggest wind farms, but couldn’t remember if he’d eaten breakfast. For the past week.

    Before she responded, he’d never heard that tone in her voice in her. Powerful, yet afraid of its power. Sincere, a bitter pill to swallow. “If you’re going to be gone all the time Scott and I might as well move back South and you can just commute,” she yelled.

    He closed his office door and sat down. “Patty, is everything okay?”
    “If you’re okay with living a thousand miles away from your wife and son, then sure, everything is fine. A-1-okay.” And then she’d hung up. He was flabbergasted. Work was taking off and he was going to be on the cover of the magazine and he was making more money. They hadn’t been arguing, he thought everything was chaotic, but going well.

    Then he got her e-mail. She apologized for her part in the argument, but asked him to read the attachment. He opened the spreadsheet. It was a calendar of the past month. She’d shaded in any time he was home between the time of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m, including weekends. The calendar was mostly blank. Below the calendar she’d listed each day he hadn’t gotten home until after 7 p.m. She had every conference call, every meeting in western Minnesota, it was all down. Then she listed each day of the month and the activities that Scott had hoped to do with Paul. Go to the library and read about iguanas. Make a pile of leaves big enough to jump into from the front porch. Watch Road Runner cartoons he’d ordered from Netflix. Then, she listed days Scott had cried because of missing Paul. Why hadn’t she told him? Other men became these kinds of husbands and fathers. That wasn’t who he wanted to be. That wasn’t who he was.

    The killer was the final category, the number of nights she’d cried herself to sleep. They loved each other. They weren’t one of the couples headed towards divorce or staleness. How had he let this happen?

    The driver of the car behind him lay on his horn. Someone in another Prius. Paul shrugged his shoulders. What could he do? Traffic was at a standstill, nobody was moving. He redialed Patty’s number. Voice mail.

    Twenty five minutes later Paul parked in front of the Queen Anne Victorian and looked up to the bay window of their third floor apartment. Patty said that she and Scott spent their afternoons in the table there without fail. But the lights were off and nobody was in the window. Paul tried to smile, but he’d imagined waving to them from the car, the eager grin on Scott’s face and yes, Patty’s surprise and approval.

    He found a note from their elderly neighbor, Alice, taped to the apartment door. She wanted him to call her when he got home. He turned the knob, but the door was locked and he had to fetch his keys from his coat pocket. “I’m home,” he called as he stepped into the entryway.

    The Regulator clock in the living room ticked through the silence. He hung his jacket on the coat-rack and stepped into the kitchen. The warm air smelled like banana bread, Scott’s favorite afternoon snack. Two loaves wrapped in aluminum foil sat on the counter, untouched.

    “Patty? Scott?” The Regulator clock chimed five times. Paul checked his watch. Scott finished school three hours ago. In the living room he saw that Patty had lugged two boxes of winter clothes from their storage space and sat them in the middle of the floor. She’d sorted one of them; Paul’s winter gear was stacked high on the floor. But scarves, snow pants and Scott’s tiny thermal underwear spilled out of the second one, neglected, waiting.

    Paul had never been alone in their apartment and the quiet made him lonely. He’d made his family cry. He went to the bedroom to change into jeans. The bed was made. Patty’s school books were stacked on the corner of the wood desk. Paul snapped his fingers and felt a bit of relief, a bit more of disappointment. Patty had mentioned she was going to pick up a book for Scott on card game rules. She and Scott must be at the library. He hung up his pants and then headed to call Patty and meet them there. He glanced into Scott’s room as he passed and then stopped, switched on the light. Scott had scrawled Dad Stinks! on his dry erase board. Smile,Paul heard his mother’s say in her southern drawl. Smile when things aren’t going your way. But his stomach opened wide and took a bite out of his attempt at being positive. He picked up the green marker. Only some of the time, he wrote to the side of Scott’s words. As he turned to leave he saw a book on Scott’s bedside table. He picked it up. It was Hoyle’s Modern Encyclopedia of Card Games. A library book. His heart beat faster. Patty and Scott had already gone to the library. He glanced at his watch again.

    Back in the kitchen he opened the refrigerator. Patty hadn’t started dinner. A low buzzing started at the back of his head. He walked back to the living room to call her. The red light on the answering machine blinked rapidly. He stared at the machine, frightened. He sat slowly, hit play, watched the clock’s pendulum swing back and forth.

  2. #2

    Re: Back to my beginning

    -Patty hadn’t started
    -A low buzzing started

    You don't want those back-to-back in a sentence.

    -his stomach had hurt

    Get rid of "had"

    -Before she responded, he’d never heard that tone in her voice in her.

    Very awkward. You probably mean tone of voice. And it would be from her, not in her.

    -Below the calendar she’d listed
    -Then she listed
    -Then, she listed

    These repetitions aren't helping you. You've got a vocabulary. Use it.

  3. #3

    Re: Back to my beginning

    If that came out sounding snotty, it isn't intentional. I'm just trying to encourage you not to repeat yourself.

  4. #4
    Unique One

    Re: Back to my beginning

    I am by no means qualified to edit this, I did see some mistakes, and sentences that could have been left out.
    I think Leslee made some good points. Most of the mistakes will be worked out in the final edit, I'm sure.

    But besides another revise for the 100th time, it kept me reading. Maybe it's just my style, and others may not have enjoyed it, but I would be interested in reading another chapter for sure.

    Just my thoughts.


  5. #5
    Patrick Edwards

    Re: Back to my beginning

    Hey, Topher

    I have to admit that I stopped early. The reason is that the sentence transitions are a bit too choppy for me. Maybe try to flow things up a bit. I mean, I realize you're probably going for a mood or sorts, which is good, but maybe try to "connect" the sentences better (carry me from one sentence to the next; don't leave me handing in between that period and capital).

  6. #6
    Lisa P

    Re: Back to my beginning


    Just type < i > before the link and < / i > after the link for italics. (Remove all the spaces)

    As far as the excerpt, I think the first two sentences do a much better job creating some tension, but the second reference to the email in the same paragraph kind of pulled me out of the story.

    The 3rd - 6th paragraph confused me, even after I read through them twice. First they were joking, then she was yelling, and the time line was a little confusing.

    I agree with leslee about changing the format of the spreadsheet description. Maybe you could reword to remove some of the "listeds".

    Hope it helps.
    ; )

  7. #7
    Butterfly Kisses

    Re: Back to my beginning

    Hey Topher:

    I'm sorry to say, like Patrick, I stopped also. Bear in mind, I found where beta's stopped reading to be the best area to edit. What made them stop?

    Here's my take:

    I copied and pasted your work. I set it up in manuscript format(I got four pages) and started reading. Personally, I feel something should happen on that first page. Something gripping. Something to keep me reading. What I got was a late email, I'm assuming a protag who felt bad about it, and got cuaght in a traffic jam trying to get back to them. All the while, he reflected on his wife's, or girfriend's, comments. I'm sure it's leading to something more, but this happens everyday. What's different about this segment?

    My reason for not progressing may be that I didn't read the query, so I don't know what lies ahead. If you think about it, the summary is what gets a reader to buy your work.

    Some of the things that stopped me:

    You end your second sentence with an adverb and start your third with one, separated by "They". Like leslee, I'm not a fan of "had". These words are useless and slow the story down. Let's take a look at that first para--

    "Paul didn’t get his wife’s e-mail until four hours after she’d sent it. He left for home immediately. They rarely fought and his stomach had hurt all day from this morning’s bruiser, an exchange he hadn’t understood. Then he got her e-mail and it was all clear and he wanted to be with her and their son as soon as possible."

    You start with an email that forces Paul to get back to Patty. You reflect on an earlier exchange, and then you end with that same email and the same intention. I feel you can cut this down without disturbing his intentions.

    In your second para--second sentence--you have "After not moving". I stumbled on that. I feel replacing "After not" with "Without" would flow better. You also say he backed up a quarter mile. I think you can get rid of the distance and continue on. Let the reader visualize the distance. They really don't need to know that. Your last two sentences of this para seemed awkward to me also. I think you can safely join those with a conjunction. I'm not a fan of them, but(no pun intended)it would fit here.

    It should look something like this:

    He called Patty on his cell phone, to tell her he was coming home early, but got her voice mail instead.

    I can see your laying out a scene, I just feel you can tighten this in a way that would get the reader passed it. I reiterate my earlier comment about "biting" the reader also.

    Topher, a reader wants reason to keep reading your work. They also want to relate to your protag and, in some instances, the antag. If you can pull that off in the beginning, you have them turning the page. If you continue that, you've got a winner.

    Good luck in writing,


  8. #8
    Topher Too

    Re: Back to my beginning

    Thanks again for everyone's input.
    I'm back to the drawing board, happily.

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