Post A Paragraph From Your WIP, Receive Critique

It’s that time again, word-nerds.

The comments on this post is now an open forum where you can drop a paragraph of your work-in-progress (aka “WIP”) — limited to ~100 words or so. Pop it in the comments and others may offer some critique — critique not meaning, “Tear it to shreds,” but rather, “An evaluation of the good and bad elements of the work.”

(This is salient, by the way, as this week I’ll have a short post about critique.)

The one rule is:

If you post a paragraph for critique…

You must then also offer critique for someone else’s paragraph.

Quid pro quo, Clarice.

As to what paragraph you choose?

You might choose an opening paragraph, or a paragraph that’s giving you some trouble.

Good luck.

Be kind.

Be constructive, not destructive.

Go forth and help one another.

536 comments

  • “Brenna leaned over the railing, watching the fake log full of squealing teenagers careen over the log ride and feeling the slightly chlorinated spray waft up from the bottom of the drop. From her vantage point she could see hundreds of people shopping, riding rides, milling around and generally going on with their lives, seemingly blissfully unaware of Brenna and her test subjects. She wondered for the umpteenth time whether she could get funding to research how all these people came to be here and what they were doing at the Mall of America on the astral plane, but instead turned her attention to several of her Guinea Pigs walking up the walkway toward her, Manny Pedraza in the lead.”

    • It’s hard to critique something when it’s so out of context like this, but your concept sounds really intruguing. I had a bit of difficulty navigating the rhythm of your sentences, maybe they could be reworked into longer and shorter pieces. Just a feeling, don’t put too much stock in my opinion…

    • You do a good job of creating a detailed scene here. However, you may want to try reading out loud though and tighten up some of your sentence structure. You tend towards very long sentences with a lot of detail and adverbs packed in and I find myself looking to catch a breath. I think most of the adverb could be ditched and especially the last sentence should be broken into two. You drop some important information here, like the fact they’re in the astral plane and she’s some kind of scientist, which is interesting and makes me want to read on. Just make sure those pieces of information aren’t just throw away lines, but tie into the continuation of your story. :)

    • Hi, thanks for sharing.

      I agree with what the others have said about needing a breath. Part of the length is the amount of description as well. I like that you’re observing, but some of the detail makes me ask questions that don’t follow. Is it important for Brenna to note that the spray is slightly chlorinated as opposed to just feeling the spray on her face or even the chlorinated spray on her face?

      I also agree with getting rid of the adverbs. Especially when chained together they slow down the pace.

      Because you capitalized Guinea Pigs and this is taking place on the astral plane, this makes me curious. I have to wonder if these are actual Guinea Pigs walking towards her or the objects of her research. This is very interesting, and a good hook for the reader to find out more. Well done!

      Eric

    • I’m incredibly intrigued by this already, you really manage to convey the voice of your character in a way that makes me feel like I already know her! I do think the sentence’s rhythm is a bit wonky, but that’s really easily fixable, and totally easy to catch if you just read it out loud to yourself a couple of times. The visuals were fantastic, you did a wonderful job conveying everything that you wanted without making me feel like I was drowning in description, but it did verge on that. It’s really tempting to just sink your teeth into a scene and go on and on to try to convey that, and again, just reading it out loud to yourself is a great way to avoid that. All in all, I left this smiling, thanks for sharing!

  • This paragraph is from a chapter well into my first WIP novel.

    Kai knew it was time to pack up and start heading back if he was to traverse the arch and make the swim back to the beach at Kalalau Valley before dark. As he moved back down the trail something caught his eye deep into the vegetation at the base of the cliff wall to his left. A thin red line ran back and forth between the branches of a large tree before it trailed towards the ground and out of sight. The solid red line was different than a crown of scattered red flowers. He dropped his backpack and began to work his way up the steep incline and into a stand of native trees and large ferns. When he reached the site, what he had seen in the tree was several coils of a red nylon climbing rope. He followed the rope on the ground as it passed around the tree and into some ferns and dense shrubs. What he found drained him of any feeling of euphoria and replaced it with shock and disbelief. The red rope was still secured to the rappelling harness on a body broken and mangled from a fall into the valley from several thousand feet above. A small blue backpack was still riding on his back.

    • Bill, I like where this is headed. There is some good imagery here and I can clearly visualize the scene as Kai sees it. I’d love to get into Kai’s head a little more and find out the reason he decides to investigate. What is it about the red line that compels him to risk climbing down the side of the cliff?

  • My pleasure. Sci-fi is a great genre for addressing topics that are controversial or uncomfortable. Robert Heinlein was a master at this. In light of Ferguson and other recent events, prejudice and racism are topics America needs to address more than ever, and books like yours are a good place to start.

  • This is from something I’m working on that I’m starting to feel may be a little to ambitious for me…
    Questa spread a small red blanket on the thick, luxurious grass covering the hillside’s gentle slope. Emanta’s vegetation was all blues and purples, due to the heavy dose of ultraviolet from the distant blue star she shared with Kendu, Charon’s home world. The Kendans had long ago ruined their biosphere, and there was no plant life left there at all. Gesturing for Charon to sit by her side, Questa plucked a few tri-lobed, aquamarine flowers peeking from the ground cover. “Smell these, aramasia. Considered sacred, part of many rituals,” Charon was charmed by her manner of speaking. Questa was more accustomed to telepathic communication, with ideas and concepts conveyed as a fully formed whole, much less prone to misinterpretation.
    Charon bent close to her outstretched hand, breathing deeply of the sweet, strangely pungent aroma. “Mmm, that’s…unique. I’ve never smelled anything quite like it.”
    She laughed mischievously, and the bright, melodious trill of her voice melted his skipping heart. “Understatement. You wait.”
    Gradually, he began to feel a subtle physical and psychological relaxation overtake him, starting in his chest, then radiating throughout his entire body. His mind felt focused, but not on one particular thing. Charon felt he was able to perceive a deeper subtext beneath the surface of his surroundings. The effect on the light was hard to describe, colors were brighter and at the same time, softer. The grass felt somehow more inviting, the blanket’s texture more sensuous. Looking at Questa, he was sure he had never seen anything more beautiful in the galaxy.

    • I could really use some input on this close third POV thing. I have no idea if I’m doing it well or not. Thanks to all who comment.

    • I like this. I can already visualize this place and smell the flowers, sweet, yet pungent. Love the dichotomy. Would like to hear more than just 100 words on this…your thoughts Mr. Wendig? or anyone else?

    • Hi, thanks for posting. I’m interested to see where this is going.

      I have a question. Is this 3rd person omniscient or 3rd person close point of view? In the first paragraph, we are bouncing back and forth between Charon and Questa’s thoughts. So, this makes me think that it is 3rd person omniscient, but the rest of the paragraphs are close in on Charon’s thoughts, which reads like 3rd person close POV.

      The first sentence begins with Questa; so, I was really expecting her to be the main character, but by the end of the piece, I’m thinking it’s Charon. This might be due to the omniscient point of view, though.

      Finally, I was confused by the introduction of too many proper nouns in the first paragraph. It took me a couple glances to get that Questa and Charon are characters, and Emanta and Kendu are places. Can the places come in a later paragraph after introducing Questa and Charon?

      I’m interested in these flowers. I think the descriptions of the flowers are excellent, and the effects they have on Charon make me wonder about the rituals they are used in. You’ve done a good job building curiosity for me through a small detail. Well done!

      Eric

      • Thank you Eric. You’re questions regarding 3rd omniscient and 3rd close summarize my quandary quite well. I didn’t even realize I was mixing them. Thanks for your kind words, and for clarifying my problem for me

  • No one is going to annihilate you here, we’ve all felt like you do, probably just before lunch yesterday. A great place to get tips on improving your craft is K M Weiland’s site, “Helping Writers Become Authors.” Just type her name into a search engine, you’ll find it. You demonstrate great imagination, BTW

  • “Dear 3:00, I am completely aware that you show up twice a day. I would appreciate missing one of those events. Please!”
    Feeling sucked down the proverbial rabbit hole, by forces stronger than a Hoover vacuum cleaner, Indi knew she had to do ‘something’ quick to pull herself back to center. She lay in the bed with her eyes wide open looking at the clock time projected on the ceiling. What was it with these projection clocks? (research) She didn’t WANT to know what time it was. She just wanted to sleep till day light. Was that too much to ask?

    • Indi seems to be in a situation without the ability to control her environment. I wonder why the daytime 3:00 is also a problem for her. I wonder why she is awake? How did the projection clock interfere with her sleep? It seems that she would be awake in the dark – not sleeping until daylight – whether the clock was there or not.

      Apparently Indi is not in her own home. Why not put a pillow over the projection? The first sentence reminds me of the “Dear (Blank), …. Signed (Blank)” meme. Is there a reason you chose not to follow that form?

      By the way: till=the cash drawer at a store.

      • This is for Susacadia…notation says for L.C. Rooney, to whom I have already replied. The day time 3:00 is not a problem, as she states she would like to miss just one of the appearances…I should word that better. I see where there is confusion. Anyway, Indi is in her own home, the projection clock is a tool, suggested by a friend/therapist, to help her not stare at a clock, but to note the time and turn over to go back to sleep. And the clock is not helping with the problem as she had hoped. You are completely right in thinking she does not have control over her insomnia. She refuses to rely on substance or drugs due to her past. But only 100 words left little room for the minutia. The ’till’ is a lazy slang, I should pull it and insert ‘until.’

    • A couple of thoughts: Since the narrator is clearly agitated by being awake at 3 AM, perhaps the second sentence should read, “I would appreciate missing the one in the middle of the night, if you don’t mind.” Second, I’m unsure why s/he would feel s/he’s being “sucked down the…rabbit hole,” since “down the rabbit hole” is a metaphor for entering into the unknown, or the void – which, to me, would be the opposite of being awake. It’s an interesting opening, and I want to know whether this 3 AM awakening is a nightly occurrence and maybe get a clue as to why it’s happening (foreshadowing).

      • Yes, Indi has chronic insomnia. She only wants to miss the 03:00 am showing. Her ‘rabbit hole’ is foreshadowing to another chronic problem…but I was sticking to the 100 word limitation. Good eye! And thank you!

  • From the last page of my WIP:

    Mommy stayed at a hospital, even though she didn’t get hurt. I think it’s a different type of hospital. They called it a ‘men till’ hospital. Men till what, I wonder? I am at the cemetery now, as I write this, because they said I could visit him. I know he will hear me. I said that if he just breathes, everything will be okay. I told him about how even though it’s very quiet down where he is, and I know he is hurt, if he just breathes then I won’t tell anybody anything, and I can help him. Like the ants. Well…they haven’t woken up yet, but they will. I still have my spider. When they let me go home, when Mommy is better, then I will ask the ants again. Mommy’s lucky. I think she forgot, and she’s just kind of dreaming again. But she will wake up again, for me. Like the last time she slept for a long time. I wish I could just dream of a different place, like she does. Even if it’s scarier, at least it’s not real. An imaginary friend.
    I’m not mad at Mommy or Daddy for not waking up. I just wish I could sleep with them, too. And the ants. The kids still make fun of me. Different kids, but really the same.
    I hope Mommy and Daddy both wake up for me, because I just got through telling Daddy how I am going to come back and listen for his breathing. I put my head to the dirt where he’s lying under just now, and after I talked to him, I thought I heard something. That’s good.
    I just want to sleep now.
    I wish I was asleep.
    I wish it was all just on big, bad dream.

    • You have nailed the naive speaker – almost. The only place that jars is “as I write this,” — maybe make it a separate short sentence the way you’ve written the rest of the narrator’s reflection. You’ve certainly got a creepy mojo working for you, as well. The imaginary friend sounds out of place, too. The narrator already has all those sleepy ants as his/her pals.

      I also wonder if you could stretch the “men till” with more comments to Daddy.

      As a question, because I see it frequently, I hope you mean till=cash drawer or plowing the land. The other is a bit archaic, but still spoken a lot until= ’til.

      • Thanks for the critique. I agree that “as I write this” sounds a bit odd. I apologize since reading your response I realize I should have explained the context of the paragraph. The imaginary friend and ants make more sense within the story. As for your question, men till was the young narrator’s misunderstanding of mental. Sorry for any confusion and thanks again. :)

    • I got the ‘men till’ and saw your person as young and not understanding the full meaning of “mental.” It came across as quite clever and how a child hears one thing, but interprets it as another.

  • Rafe stood in the Sojourner’s Gallery and crossed her arms gripping her sides. The frame was made of cherry. The backing was a heavy parchment made of heavily bleached woven fibers. She had seen that often enough in the big cities, but to find it in a backwater like Riverside would have meant a special order, planning. She couldn’t think who in her family might have gone to that effort. On the paper, a frame within a frame, was a sixteen twist chain braid fastened with a hook and eye. This surrounded her mark, woven into braided lengths depicting the vibrating sword emerging from a stylized mouth. Little flowers lined the bottom of the braid in a sort of garden, and horseshoes were tipped up to catch luck in the corners. It stood out among the ironwork, the trays, the slabs of oak etched in fire.

  • FOR CRITIQUE:

    I’d spent the week battling sleazy real estate agents, cantankerous attorneys, and a ninety-two-year-old woman who was, so far, refusing to vacate the house she had sold me. If Chris SanGiacomo thought a phone call from the township lockup was going to interrupt five-dollar margarita night at The Cantina, well, he didn’t know jack. “And you thought of me first? Well, I’m flattered, Chris, really, I am,” I said, over the steadily increasing din of the Friday night crowd. “But if I were you, with just one call to make, I’d have thought this thing through a little better.” I drained the last of margarita number one and motioned to the bartender for a second. Where the hell was Kate? I was starving.

  • This is a paragraph toward the beginning of my WIP, sorry if this is too late or anything.

    The roads stretched for miles and miles, masses of crops and flatlands interrupted only by the odd fence or two. The sky overhead was a pristine blue, appearing to Fallon as though it had been stretched over the horizon like saran wrap; too tight and low to the ground. It felt to Fallon as though he could reach out and touch it, though he knew that would be unadvisable while still riding in Caldwell’s truck.

    Caldwell themselves looked over at Fallon and grinned, thick-lensed glasses glinting in the light of the setting sun. “Welcome to the Big Sky State, kiddo,” they repeated, just loud enough to be heard over the mechanical roar of their truck’s engine.

    Fallon finally saw where it got the name.

    • FIRST PARAGRAPH:
      Since you can only be on one road at a time, I’d change “roads” to singular.

      “The road stretched on for miles, masses of crops…” avoids the unnecessary repetition of the word “miles.”

      Because you’d know exactly whether it was just one fence or two, I’d say, “…interrupted only by the odd fence here and there.”

      Change semi-colon after “saran wrap” to a comma.

      Eliminate unnecessary words in last sentence with: “Fallon felt he could reach out….”

      It’s “inadvisable, not “unadvisable,” although I don’t think that clause is necessary at all (unless this is a sci-fi/fantasy where touching the sky from a moving truck is actually possible).

      SECOND PARAGRAPH:
      Caldwell appears to be plural, which doesn’t make sense to me.

      Avoid “themselves” or “himself” and simply say: “Caldwell looked over….”

      Montana’s unofficial state slogan is Big Sky Country, not Big Sky State; I’m assuming that’s where they are, but I could be wrong.

      Not sure why “repeated” is the dialogue tag here, since it’s the first time the reader is hearing Caldwell’s welcome.

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