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  1. #11
    Conor Beaulieu

    Re: Need a critique. First Chapter.

    Give me no real criticisms to be found, no real advice that I can put into action, other than what amounts to "do better".

    Absolutely no focus on anything "good" in it, just condescending references to "at least you tried" and "a nascent voice".

    I'm extremely disappointed in this forum.

  2. #12
    rock doctor

    Re: Need a critique. First Chapter.

    I am going to try and be civil here Conor. The reason why you have not had an "exact" critique and re-write is for two reasons:

    (1) Too much needs revision. For us to re-write your work is a) a diservice to you as a writer and b)a waste of time for us
    (2) This forum give you pointers, general guidelines and an opinion. From what I've learned, opinion is opinion (you don't dictate it) and you should respect a person for giving your work the time of day. We're all busy people.

    With that said, folks here were fairly specific about your use of 'and' and commas. Simply put, you DO NOT understand how to use commas. Two options, look up their use and follow it, or search through the posts on here and see what people have said. We don't do your work for you my friend. Granted, many adults haven't learned this, but at 18 get a start and you will be more successful in the end.

    Lastly, get off your emotional tyraid. If you can't survive the rather benign comments here, you will be slaughtered in the publishing world. Here, you received a minor lashing, barely a bruise. In the real world, you will be bloodied-up. If you can't survive it and learn, you won't make it.


  3. #13
    Conor Beaulieu

    Re: Need a critique. First Chapter.

    The overuse of "and" is intentional in the first paragraph. As are the commas.

    You ever read "The Road"? Regarded as one of the best books in a decade. Had some of the technically "worst" grammar I've ever seen.

    Ever read "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"? One of the most influential philosophy books of the modern age, top 5 without a doubt. Was about 90% internal monologue, 10% dialogue.

    Now, I'm not using this as an excuse to ignore grammar, or justify BAD writing. What I'm saying is that I object to your homogenization of literature. Not everything is the same, not everyone writes the same, and thats how it should be.

    Now if you want me to fall into line in the narrow procession of painstaking comma usage, that thin band of precision that gets all 10th grade english teachers hot and bothered, then of course you're not going to like my writing. Now if you open up that scope, and realize that some of the best books of all time have had absolutely horrid grammar according to the majority, you'll improve yourself

    Even Webster himself said that grammar is eternally changing, and in the end grammar is whatever makes sense.

  4. #14
    rock doctor

    Re: Need a critique. First Chapter.

    However, if your grammar gets in the way of getting your story across (which your piece at times has problems with), then your grammar has issues no matter what.

  5. #15
    Conor Beaulieu

    Re: Need a critique. First Chapter.

    Point them out. You call it a rewrite, well, I'm not going to throw a blanketed comma catching net over my entire piece and end up fixing things that were better left unchanged.

    I'm not good at grammar because its not a priority of mine. Thats not an excuse, its a reason purposed for clarification, and I'm not going to hit something with a nuke that needs a flick of a scalpel.

  6. #16
    Jeanne Gassman

    Re: Need a critique. First Chapter.


    I'll bite. (I may regret this if you bite back too hard!) I am a literary writer. I read, write, and publish literary fiction. In January, I will be graduating with my MFA in Writing from one of the top schools in the country. You want specifics? Let's look at the first two paragraphs...

    It was LINKING VERB a grand staircase, and on the landing was LINKING VERB a massive window of amber, honeyed glass. And through this window was LINKING VERB a garden, with ancient oaks. And the leaves were LINKING VERB falling, in eternal autumn through this window. And the leaves looked VERB OF BEING like [B]fire[B] 1ST USE OF FIRE on the wind. Falling flames. And on this window hung a painting, a painting of the world on [B]fire</> 2ND USE OF FIRE. A determined, sad fire 3RD USE OF FIRE. A fire 4TH USE OF FIRE of passion. A fire 5TH USE OF FIRE of knowing we are all coming to an end, and burning in spite of it. And the world was on fire. 6TH USE OF FIRE And the monster wept.

    ~ I ~

    I'm awake long before the alarm clock sounds. I let it scream through the morning for a while before turning it off. Everyone tells me I need a wake-up call, YOU NEED A PERIOD OR SEMI-COLON HERE, NOT A COMMA. somehow I don't think this is it. A sigh escapes me as I roll out of bed, already deciding whether or not to play sick to stay home from yet another day of senior year. Its CONTRACTION IS SPELLED IT'S. THIS IS A MISTAKE YOU MAKE EVERY SINGLE TIME. not really playing these days, I get so little sleep that I look sick without trying, and the headaches I complain of are all too real. As I hit the light in the bathroom and start the water running, I'm still undecided. I think best in the shower anyways ANYWAYS IS NOT A WORD. THE CORRECT WORD IS ANYWAY. With the water thundering in my ears I can actually hear. This morning I stay in longer than usual, water stealing the life from my fingers and loaning INCORRECT USAGE. YOU CAN'T 'LOAN' A COLOR. my skin an angry red stain in return.

    The weak verb choices in your first graph lessen the impact of your imagery. If you replace them with dynamic verbs, the sentences will have more energy. As they read now, they're flat and "telling." Your constant repetition of "fire" doesn't add anything. In fact, it detracts. If you want us to think of a conflagration, then build this flame from smoldering embers to raging inferno. Your incorrect spelling of "it's" is either sloppy or indicates that you don't know the difference. (I suspect the latter because you repeat the mistake numerous times.) Yes, commas are important. They set off important elements of a sentence and add to the meaning. Without them, the reader is left to parse the meaning--not good, especially for an unknown, beginning writer. Before you break the rules, you need to understand the logic behind them. Cormac McCarthy knows his grammar rules inside out. I'm not sure you do.

    I didn't mark it, but you commented on repetition of of "And." Sorry, but it's not working here, especially when it's conjoined with a whole series of sentences with linking verbs. Your use of "loaning" feels either forced or else exhibits an incomplete knowlege of the word's meaning. In this case, I'm guessing you forced the metaphor. However, "anyways" is NOT a word.

    Finally, this opening is a cliche. I'm guessing the first graph is a dream? The next graph is the character waking up. This is the most common choice of openings for beginning writers. Unfortunately, despite the intense internal monologue, the opening still lacks tension. What is at stake for this character? Going to school? He appears to have skipped school often, so why should it matter? Why is this morning different from all the rest?

    You have some specifics now to work with. Fair enough?

    Lose the defensive attitude. Learn to read your work with an objective eye. You have a strong voice and a good sense of character. No one is being condescending here. They are simply honest. If you want to learn the craft--really learn the craft--stop talking back and start listening.

    End of my lecture. Good luck to you.


  7. #17
    Jeanne Gassman

    Re: Need a critique. First Chapter.

    Crap, my apologies for the complete BF. I thought I turned it off between comments! Please, please, moderator, update this site!



  8. #18
    junel ;-)

    Re: Need a critique. First Chapter.

    Conor you have a gift for writing angst and melancholy. I really felt as though you have lived it, and i suspect you have in real life, this is not just a story for you, it may even be cathartic for you, if im wrong, that's even better, because as a writer you managed to convince me as a reader. But i strongly suspect im right. If that makes any sense.

    I get the short, harsh, inhospitable, almost fragmented style of writing you've adopted, it's how your character sees the world.

    For writers, grammer is there to be manipulated, a writer (at least a good writer)should not becomes a slave to grammer, but make grammer slaves to his/her writing.

    The lead up is a bit long, i would consider making that shorter.

    I'll try and come back to this if i have time, and i would like to come back to this.

    Good luck.

  9. #19
    Conor Beaulieu

    Re: Need a critique. First Chapter.

    Goddamn, finally. Thank you Jeanne.

    Thank you for pointing out the mis-usage of the words in there, and specifying the rogue commas in question. I knew that if I went back over trying to examine them all, I would end up killing some innocents.

    The "loaning" was of the stain by the way, not the color. "Loaning my skin an angry red stain...." You're right though, I do not like that particular verb in there. I struggled with that sentence for about 10 minutes.

    I've also been meaning to touch up the opening paragraph. The dream one as you call it. Funny thing, that was actually I dream of mine. I woke up, wrote it down, went back to sleep. Haven't touched it since. I like the repeated imagery of fire in it, its important, but I agree it needs to be varied a little bit. Theres not supposed to be any "building" from coal to furnace, its just meant to convey a sense of anger, and desperation, and hope in spite of all of this. The monster is humanity, and the world on fire is our unavoidable fate. We may ignore it most of the time, but when we see it, we weep.

    You're right, I do NOT know the correct usage of its or it's, it seems every time I try to use the conjunction, its wrong, and vice versa.

    I had aimed for this book's progression to mirror the character's growth. The opening starts mired in his thoughts, not much dialogue whatsoever, and kind of appears aimless. As he opens up and starts becoming more extroverted, more dialogue is injected into the book and it gains a more rigid direction. Then, when something sets him back, the shell comes up to cover it again. I know its risky, but if I can find a way to maintain this while still hooking readers into wanting to continue during the depressed times, it will be may more effective than having a rigid direction the entire time. I need to figure out how to do this though, at least better, because I'm not doing it now according to you.

    I get the feeling with this one that I have to accept it wont be for everyone. That if I try and cater to everyone, nobody will get fed. So I'll try to maintain the essence of what I want to do, and the book idea will be scrapped before that is abandoned.

    Thank you for giving me a well written, thoughtful response. It was extremely helpful.

  10. #20
    Conor Beaulieu

    Re: Need a critique. First Chapter.

    Thanks, its nice to have a word of praise once in a while. You're right, this character mirrors me in a lot of ways, but I believe that this is the only way for it to be. I'm young as hell, and I can't exactly write that which I have experienced. Not in a way that will satisfy myself. Luckily, I've also experienced coming out of this shell, so hopefully I'll show a gift at writing transitions between the two, and ultimately the good parts of his life. I already have the entire storyline rough-shod out. Clear as day what I want to do in my head, now I just have to do it.

    I need some advice on how to keep my readers hooked through the melancholic areas of the book, though. I feel like if I stretch it out too long it'll end up putting my readers off completely. I need something to punch them in the gut once in a while. I don't know if that's something disturbing and graphic, that most people dont want to think is real, injected into it, or what.

    My next chapter is working out as below, I do need to flesh it out some, though. It feels like my chapters are sliding into the tradition of being short and intense, and I switch scenery between them. It adds to the fragmented feeling of the story, which I like, but also makes for rather thin chapters.

    The view through the glass of a Greyhound window is of a sky the color of ash. A silent movie in black and white. I thought only plane rides came with a complimentary film. I brush this thought away with a grimace. The worst little jokes run through my head sometimes, and these days they make me think of Jake. He always laughed at them, even when everyone knew they weren't funny. That memory stings a bit, and I turn my thoughts to back home. Well, can't call it home anymore. Already I feel detached. Severed. I think to myself that I felt something inside of me break as I walked out the door of that house; could feel it snap like a bone. But that part of me is over, and now here I sit, the sky gliding silently past me as I try to imagine color into the world outside my looking glass. Try to see if I can will a little green into the cold grey earth, a little red into the dying leaves.
    When no trees burst into flame, I give up and direct my attention to the inside of the bus, which is colorful enough to make up for anything the landscape might lack. I'm wedged as far into a window seat as I can manage, my duffel sat carefully next to me. A warning sign. Seat not available. Looking around I can pick out a cast worthy of any director's vision of Rent. The man across the aisle is sound asleep, mouth open and legs thrown across the arms of his seat. A grocery bag of what I think are clothes under is propped up under his head, a makeshift pillow. I wonder if he knows where he's going, if he even cares. I smile as I wonder the same about myself.
    Up front, in the first row, there's an old woman in a floral print blouse, something you'd expect to see in a guidebook for how to be a grandmother. She was sitting there when I got on, eyes staring determinedly ahead, so intense I almost turned to see what she was looking at. She hasn't moved since, and somehow I get the feeling that she'll be there for a long time after I get off. I wonder about her, wonder what stories she could tell. What advice she could give. It's almost enough for me to go up and talk to her, but in the end I decide against it. Theres not enough quiet time in the world as it is.
    In the back sits the only source of noise in the whole bus. I think its a mom with her three kids, but I'm not sure. She's pretty young to have so many. There's two little boys and a baby girl with her. I can tell its a girl by the pink blanket she's swaddled in. The boys are back there fighting over something, while the young mother tries to keep them quiet in between rocking the baby and casting nervous glances around the cabin. I think I can make out the shadow of a bruise in the hollow of an eye, and I can't tell if thats a swollen lip, or if she just has the kind of look that actresses would kill for. Once, her eyes meet mine on one of their trips across the bus. Its just for a moment, but I imagine to myself that I see a world in those eyes. I wonder about her, wonder what stories she'll never tell. She gets off at the next stop, while my heart is still busy breaking a little bit for her. As she passes me she looks down, but this time I don't meet her eyes. I'm not sure I want to see that world again.
    A few miles down the road the bus pulls to the side. I kind of hate myself for it, but I've already forgotten the color of those eyes. I wonder how I could have forgotten the color of sadness. My attention is pulled to the front of the bus, where the cast's newest member is standing. She's talking to the driver, gesturing intently from him to her ticket. I can't quite make out what they're saying, but I know she sounds like music. After another minute, the bus driver waves her on to just go sit down. I'm pretty sure he just doesn't care enough to keep arguing. As the girl starts down the row I avert my eyes, but not before they catch on hers, just for a second. I debate pretending to be asleep, but instead satisfy myself with adjusting my warning sign. Sometimes I'm in awe of the things lonely people do to stay lonely. I'm once again staring out the window when I'm surprised by that music at my shoulder. “Is this seat taken?”, it sings. I look over and pause for a moment, my eyes taking in the empty seats all around us. In the end I say nothing, just give my head a little shake and move my duffel down in between my legs. She collapses down into the upholstery like she's been walking for years, and my seat gives a little shake from the force of it. Her backpack swings around onto her lap, and she starts digging through it, apparently oblivious of me. I try to keep my attention focused outside, but find myself sneaking little glances at her out of the corner of my eye. Studying her. She's a looker, thats for sure. She's short, I estimate that she would come up to about chest height on me, but somehow she sits higher than me in our seats. I self-consciously adjust my posture. Mom always did say I slouched. I steal another look at her when she leans in to her bag to root around at the bottom. I can't manage a good look at her face while it's half buried in her bag, but I can see she's a blonde, and has her hair up in these little Pippy Longstocking pigtails. I feel like laughing on the inside, which surprises me enough that I don't want to anymore. I try again to get a good look at her, but when I can't I return my attention to a much more mundane view. No sooner have I turned away when I feel a poke. A poke. I look over to see her hand extended halfway between us. “Hi”. Now that I can see her clearly, she really is cute. She has these big blue eyes under eyebrows so fair you'd think they didn't exist. The biggest smile I've ever seen sits on that face, and I find myself almost smiling in return. It feels rusty, like old machinery. She gives her head a little twitch and I realize that I've just spent half a minute staring at her, the outstretched hand in front of me totally forgotten. I nearly slap myself. I reach out and give it a shake. It feels so small in mine, like a toy. I make sure I'm gentle with it, kinda scared it might break. The handshake goes on longer than expected, and I break it off suddenly, thinking to myself that this whole scene is a little strange. She gives me an obvious once over, and I nearly laugh again. “You have soft skin,” she says, that singsong tone never leaving her voice. I cock my head in a surprised gesture and mutter a thanks, embarrassed to speak in my rough voice after hearing hers. She stops talking for a while after that, and we just sit. Occasionally she looks to me and gives me another once over, as if she's searching for something in my face. I pretend not to notice. After a while I start to doze, but wake up with a little jerk as the bus pulls to the side, picking up another group. The man across the aisle gets up to leave, the pattern of the grocery bag still faintly visible on his cheek. He throws the girl a lingering look as he passes, and I feel something inside me flare up. Protective. I wonder at myself.

    I look up to see who we're trading grocery-bag man for, and decide I would have kept him, lingering glance or not. Now, I know that as a kid you're always told not to judge people, but right about now I'm thinking this is an exception. The group of guys getting on the bus are young. Older than me, but still young. There's three of them, and I'm guessing that the oldest must be twenty five, no more. They walk with the kind of exaggerated step that's supposed to let the world know you mean business. I almost laugh. I measure a man by his eyes, not his walk. I look into the eyes coming down the aisle, and I don't see men.
    They're loud. Loud enough to draw the attention of the bus driver, who throws them an angry look through the mirror at the front of the bus. They don't notice. They talk for a while near the front, then head to the back to sit down. Abruptly they stop when they notice the girl next to me, and end up sliding into the seats near us. Two of them slip in behind us, and the other one throws himself down across the aisle. Grocery-bag man's seat. One of the guys behind us leans into the aisle, making up something to say to the guy in the seat next to us. His eyes take a long, greedy look at the girl next to me, and I feel that lion inside of me roar a little louder. My gaze meets his, and when I don't look away, he does.
    The man across from us notices, and speaks up. “This your girl, bro?” I look at him for a second, but before I can answer no, she speaks up. “Yes, I'm his girl, and I have a name. It's Samantha”.
    She gives me a peck on the cheek, as if to lend credibility to her statement. By now my brain is still working enough to commit her name to memory, but just barely. I glance over at her, and back at him. He looks at me for a while, and then shrugs. Getting up, he says something to his friends behind us, and they follow him to the back of the bus. I wonder why there wasn't more of a problem. I wonder what he saw when he looked at me. I wonder what she sees. My cheek is still warm from where she kissed it, and I almost put a hand up to rub it away, but stop myself and wonder why I want to. I look over, but she's determinedly digging through her bag again, and I can't think of anything to say to her. Instead I turn back towards the window, and drift off to sleep.
    When I wake up during the night, the seat next to me is empty, and all I can remember of my dream is the color of gold, and the faintest sounds of music. Samantha. She told me her name, I never told her mine. My cheek has gone cold by now, but I put my hand up to feel it anyways. I kind of wonder if she left a mark. I drop my hand and roll back over to fall asleep. Looking out into the night, I think I see a little bit of color.

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