Turnabout is Fair Play: Your Turn to Critique MY Work

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I’m taking a break this week from the Creative Intersections posts that I’ve been working on.  It is just a break — I’m enjoying writing them, and the response to them has been positive, so I fully intend to continue the series on and off throughout the year.  But there are other things I would like to do with my time here at MW, and today I introduce another one of them.

We — my fellow writers and I — often post about some aspect of writing or another, and then ask you, our readers, to share something of yours with the rest of us.  We then offer a quick critique of what you’ve done that (we hope) will prove helpful as you move forward with your WIP.  Well, today I would like to post the opening graphs of my current WIP along with a brief description of what I hope to accomplish with the passage.  And I welcome all of you to comment on the work: to critique it, to offer suggestions, to tell me what works and what doesn’t.  “Revenge,” to paraphrase Khan (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan), “is a dish best served cold.  It is very cold in cyberspace . . .”

The WIP is called City of Shades, and it is the third Thieftaker book (written as D.B. Jackson; book II, Thieves’ Quarry, will be released in July).  This is my first draft — I have not yet revised it or shown it to an editor.  In fact, I haven’t shown it to anyone before now.  You all are the first to see it.  So, if it’s rough, that’s why.

 Boston, Province of Massachusetts Bay, July 12, 1769

Ethan Kaille knew that he had been followed. Even as he pursued Peter Salter, who had stolen a pair of ivory-handled dueling pistols from a wealthy attorney in the South End, he himself was pursued. Like a fox running before hounds, he could almost feel Sephira Pryce’s toughs bearing down on him, snarling like curs, determined to take what he had claimed for himself.
    Salter had led him out along Boston’s Neck, the narrow strip of land that connected the city to the causeway across Roxbury Flats.  British regulars, who had occupied Boston since the previous autumn, had established a guard post at the town gate, and so before reaching the end of the Neck the young thief had turned off of Orange Street to cut across the barren grasslands that fronted the flats. Ethan could see the pup ahead of him, wading through the grasses.
    If not for the concealment spell Ethan had cast on himself, Salter would have needed only to glance back to see him as well.  But with his conjuring in place, Ethan was invisible to all.  Still, Pryce’s men followed, whether directed by Ethan’s tracks or simply by Sephira’s uncanny knowledge of all that he did, Ethan could not say.
    The western horizon still glowed faintly with the dying light of another sweltering summer day, and a thin haze obscured all but the brightest stars in the darkening, moonless sky.  Not a breath of wind stirred the humid air, heavy with the sour stink of tidal mud; even with the sun down, the heat remained, unabated. The city itself seemed to be in the throes of ague.
    Ethan’s sweat-soaked linen shirt clung to his skin, and his waistcoat, also darkened with sweat, felt leaden. His usual limp, a memento of years spent laboring as a prisoner on a sugar plantation in Barbados, grew more pronounced with each step he took, the pain radiating up his leg into his groin.  He hoped that the sound of his uneven gait wouldn’t alert Salter to his pursuit, or allow Sephira’s men to locate him too soon.

Let’s start with that first paragraph.  There are a few things going on here, not the least of which is that I have plunked my reader down right in the middle of the action.  I like to start each book with a scene like this, to draw my readers in, and to give them some sense of what it is a thieftaker does.  These opening scenes also help me establish the pace and voice of the book. The idea of Ethan being pursued even as he himself pursues is a recurring one throughout the series.  He is a thieftaker, after all, and so is constantly searching for one thief or another.  But he is usually being hunted as well, and never is that more true than in this book.  So this serves both to reestablish immediately the feel of the first two books, but also to foreshadow what is coming.  In addition, it also introduces Ethan’s rivalry with Sephira Pryce, and it is their conflict that gives narrative continuity and shape to the Thieftaker series as a whole.

The second paragraph establishes time and place, reminding returning readers of the British occupation, which served as the historical backdrop for book II.  For readers who are just coming to the series with this book (and I hope there will be some who do this — authors are always looking to broaden their readership) the paragraph begins to build the contours of the Colonial setting, which is, of course, key to the entire Thieftaker concept.  In describing the Neck, in making it clear that while the Boston we are familiar with today is a booming metropolis, the Boston of the 1760s is still part hinterland, a city with grasslands and grazing pastures as well as buildings and streets, I hope to give my readers a clearer idea of what the city was like two hundred and forty years ago.  Also, “pup” or “puppy” is a word that was used in the 1700s to describe a young man, usually a foolish one.  Using slang from the period reinforces the historical feel.

With the third paragraph, I establish the third thematic leg of the book and series:  Magic.  The Thieftaker books are mysteries, in a historical setting, with a fantasy element.  Paragraph one was about mystery; paragraph two was about historical setting.  This paragraph tells us that Ethan is a conjurer, and he uses his magic to help him in his work as a thieftaker.

Paragraph four refines the sense of time and place, filling in the immediate setting so that my readers can picture more clearly the scene I’m laying out for them.  It is dusk, summer, hot, a bit smelly.  I’m trying to engage the senses.  It’s one thing to tell my readers where and when this is happening.  With this graph, I begin the process of transporting them to the place and time.  And I also throw in another bit of foreshadowing with that last line.  The prominent historical element of this book is going to be a minor smallpox outbreak that hit Boston in 1769.  And so ending with “The city itself seemed to be in the throes of ague,” is more than a nice turn of phrase.  It is another attempt to establish an important theme of this book.

And finally, paragraph five is intended to begin the process of immersing the reader in Ethan’s POV.  I reference a bit of his personal history, I take the elements of setting (heat and the uneven terrain in this part of Boston), action (his pursuit of Salter and Sephira’s pursuit of him), and period (he’s wearing a waistcoat, he was a prisoner on a Caribbean sugar plantation) and I blend them into a set of emotions and physical sensations.  Again, I want my readers to be transported, but I also want them to be invested in Ethan, my lead character.  This paragraph attempts to do both.

So there is is.   The first five graphs — 350 words or so — of City of Shades.  Let the critiquing begin!  I’d love to know what you think works and what doesn’t.  And I would also like to discuss the purposes I assign to each graph.  I will tell you up front that I don’t necessarily plan out each graph with the intent of doing this with the first and that with the second.  But as I write, I know what things I need to tell my readers, and I have some sense of the order in which I wish to establish these things.

David B. Coe
http://www.DavidBCoe.com
http://www.dbjackson-author.com
http://magicalwords.net

 

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27 comments to Turnabout is Fair Play: Your Turn to Critique MY Work

  • :) When I first saw this I was like – Oh no! A quiz! But I loved Theiftaker 1, and it’s kind of super cool to see the rough stuff.

    Essentially, my main comment is that right now the situation is pretty confusing. Ethan’s chasing a thief and thugs are chasing him, but it’s really easy to lose track of that. I think I might start with a little more immediacy and sense of place. Ethan’s running, can he see the thief? Can he see the thugs following him? Instead of having paragraph 2 as a flashback, make it action. It’s less jarring and confusing if we stay in Ethan’s immediate mental state – seeing the guard post, chasing the thief into the grasslands, (muddy?), leg hurting.

    I think it’s totally possible to do all the things you want to do from inside a temporally and physically stable perspective, and it would be a bit easier to follow.

    Did I pass? :)

  • The fourth paragraph lost me, but I also have the attention span of a goldfish on caffeine, so pay that no mind. The last sentence of that paragraph caught my eye, so it must have worked. (I’m a technician, not a writer, so I obviously can’t presume to critique your work.)

    My favorite part is the invisible person trying to be quiet. It’s fun to think of invisibility as something that requires extra effort to use successfully.

  • Thanks for opening up your work, David! As a writer, I know that it is never an easy thing to do.

    As for the story, I would like more sense of urgency and less story prep. I know the 3rd book in a series need not read like the 1st, but in the first 350 words of this one, not much really happens. There is nothing so far which would make my heart beat faster. I guess what I am saying is, put Ethan some sense of danger or quicken the pace of the chase.

    Thanks again!

  • TwilightHero

    Oooh. Now THIS looks like fun :) Let’s see here…

    I agree with Cara that the situation is a bit confusing. I’m the sort of person who’ll visualize the scene, so I’d have an eye towards a clear progression of details. Say, establishing what’s going on where, generally radiating out from the POV character – their immediate sensations, to immediate surroundings, to the significance of their sensations in relation to their surroundings…you get the idea. So to start off…I would make paragraph 5 into paragraph (1).

    (1)Ethan Kaille’s sweat-soaked linen shirt clung to his skin, and his waistcoat, also darkened with sweat, felt leaden. Not a breath of wind stirred the humid air, heavy with the sour stink of tidal mud; even with the sun down, the heat remained, unabated. The city itself seemed to be in the throes of ague. His usual limp, a memento of years spent laboring as a prisoner on a sugar plantation in Barbados, grew more pronounced with each step he took, the pain radiating up his leg into his groin. He hoped that the sound of his uneven gait wouldn’t alert Salter to his pursuit, or allow Sephira’s men to locate him too soon.

    The last sentence now becomes a hook. Making para 1 into para (2) then expands on the hook. And since invisibility is a major part of the action, it would help to fuse it with para 3. And then follow up with para 2 – (3). (I also split para 4 between (1) and (3), to better tie the description to other things.)

    (2)Ethan knew that he had been followed. Even as he pursued Peter Salter, who had stolen a pair of ivory-handled dueling pistols from a wealthy attorney in the South End, he himself was pursued. Like a fox running before hounds, he could almost feel Sephira Pryce’s toughs bearing down on him, snarling like curs, determined to take what he had claimed for himself. Had he looked back, he would have seen them in the distance.> <<Just something to link the paras. Though incidentally, how close are the toughs? If not for the concealment spell Ethan had cast on himself, Salter would have needed only to glance back to see him in turn. But with his conjuring in place, Ethan was invisible to all. Still, Pryce’s men followed, whether directed by Ethan’s tracks or simply by Sephira’s uncanny knowledge of all that he did, Ethan could not say.
    (3)Salter had led him out along Boston’s Neck, the narrow strip of land that connected the city to the causeway across Roxbury Flats. British regulars, who had occupied Boston since the previous autumn, had established a guard post at the town gate, and so before reaching the end of the Neck the young thief had turned off of Orange Street to cut across the barren grasslands that fronted the flats. Ethan could see the pup ahead of him, wading through the grasses. The western horizon still glowed faintly with the dying light of another sweltering summer day, and a thin haze obscured all but the brightest stars in the darkening, moonless sky.

    Of course, all this is just my humble opinion. You’re the pro :) But I hope at least some of this helps.

  • Thanks all, for the feedback (this is tougher than it looks . . .) According to Clarion rules, I’m not really supposed to respond until all critiques are in. But I will say that my initial response to Cara’s helpful criticism was to start looking at ways to change the order of the sentences and graphs — much as Twilight has done. Often the words are right, but the flow needs tweaking, as seems to be the case here. DFG, I would imagine that changing the order of things might help with the issue you ran into, too. Mark, I’m not sure what to tell you, except that 350 words in a 100,000+ word novel is pretty early, and I feel that the sense of dual pursuit does give urgency to the opening. But it may be that when I rework this passage to make it flow better, the urgency will come as well. Again, many thanks!! Keep the responses coming.

  • Maybe if you tell what would happen (or what Ethan thinks would happen) if Sephora’s toughs catch up to him? Will they tie him up, break his legs, kill him, or tote him off to face Sephora? Or else, what would happen if Sephora’s men actually beat Ethan to the prey? Will Ethan have to face a very influential patron empty handed? Will Ethan be able to eat tonight?

    Just some ideas to help clarify my point.

  • Thanks, Mark. I understand, and fully agree that I need to make sure my readers understand what is at stake. I would just say that, to me, that is something for a bit later in the first chapter. But that is me, and it may be that my editor will ultimately agree with you. ;)

  • sagablessed

    I hope I am not out of place to do this, but you asked. So, here goes. I would set the general setting first, as it preps the reader. But that’s me. And in all honesty, it does loose me. I understand the info you want to portray, but the manner seems jumbled. Again, I hope I am not out of place to do this, but I re-worded a few paragraphs. It’s how my writer’s group does things, so it is waht I am used to. I apologize if this method offends.

    “Boston, Province of Massachusetts Bay, July 12, 1769

    Ethan Kaille knew that he had been followed. (This is your ‘grab’.)

    The western horizon still glowed faintly with the dying light of another sweltering summer day, and a thin haze obscured all but the brightest stars in the darkening, moonless sky. Not a breath of wind stirred the humid air, heavy with the sour stink of tidal mud; even with the sun down, the heat remained, unabated. The city itself seemed to be in the throes of ague. (I love this last sentence.)

    Ethan’s sweat-soaked linen shirt clung to his skin, and his waistcoat, also darkened with sweat, felt leaden. His usual limp grew more pronounced with each step he took, the pain radiating up his leg into his groin. He hoped that the sound of his uneven gait wouldn’t alert Salter to his pursuit, or allow Sephira’s men to locate him too soon. If not for the concealment spell Ethan had cast on himself, Salter would have needed only to glance back to see him as well. But with his conjuring in place, Ethan was invisible to all. Still, Pryce’s men followed, determined to take what he had claimed for himself. Whether directed by Ethan’s tracks or simply by Sephira’s uncanny knowledge of all that he did, Ethan could not say.

    Salter had led him out along Boston’s Neck, the narrow strip of land that connected the city to the causeway across Roxbury Flats. British regulars, who had occupied Boston since the previous autumn, had established a guard post at the town gate, and so before reaching the end of the Neck the young thief had turned off of Orange Street to cut across the barren grasslands that fronted the flats. Ethan could see the pup ahead of him, wading through the grasses.

    Like a fox running before hounds,(beautiful image) he could almost feel Sephira Pryce’s toughs bearing down on him, snarling like curs, determined to take what he had claimed for himself: Peter Salter, who had stolen a pair of ivory-handled dueling pistols from a wealthy attorney in the South End.”

    The history of his gait I felt was un-needed. Either the reader already knows by reading the previous books, or it can come into play later. Moving out to in brings the reader into the story…like a cinematic faeture. The rest of the wording seemed…clunky.
    Again, I am so sorry for taking such liberties with your work. But it is how my group does things -we show by example, as we have limited time to do crits. PLEASE don’t be mad. *cringes*

  • Donald, there is absolutely no need to apologize. This is why I posted the sample in the first place. Some of it IS clunky. It’s a first draft, and first drafts often need rewriting, regardless of whether the writer is a professional or someone still aspiring to be a professional. If this was perfect — if my entire first draft was perfect — well that would be an effing miracle, to be honest. It never happens. Thank you for the suggestions. Obviously, when I go back to revise this book, I will take into consideration all the suggestions made here. And I am grateful to you for taking the time to think about my work and comment on it.

  • David, I’m not gonna jump in here, because I think the suggestions are spot on. I am loving it! I want to see what our commenters come up with next. This is instructive all sorts of levels!
    F

  • Chris Branch

    Hey David, first of all, just to be clear, I enjoyed the first book in the series well enough that whatever comments I offer are not serious enough to prevent me from continuing to read the series!

    Okay, so my first thought was the one thing that bugged me _slightly_ about the first book: I absolutely like magical systems to be logical and consistent, but in this case it was so logical as to be almost _too_ straightforward and “workmanlike” – and here again with the matter-of-fact mention of the invisibility conjuring, it’s maybe a little lacking in the “sense of wonder” that makes fantasy fun to read. Not sure if there’s a good way to address that, but there you go.

    And perhaps a similar concern, having read the first book, I wonder, from this opening, what will be new and different about this book? As you mention, you want to bring the reader back into this world: Ethan’s chasing someone; Sephira’s chasing Ethan. Got it, I’m there, but haven’t we “been there and done that”? I’m pretty sure you have something creative and maybe surprising to throw at us here – so is there any way to give us a hint of that in the opening?

    Again, minor stuff, just since you asked!

  • David> The past perfect of the first line feels clunky to me. “Had been followed.” “Ethan knew he was followed” or “was being following” (there’s something about progressive verbs I sometimes like in action). I’d also tighten the second and third: “Even …, he was like a fox before hounds.” I dislike the word “feel” (I think it comes from editing a lot of erotica) so “Sephyra Price’s toughs were bearing down on him … determined to steal what he’d claimed for himself.” (Just a slightly stronger verb than take.

    The next paragraphs is also past perfect, but I think could be simple past. “Salter led him out…” and “so… turned off…” etc. I think the establishment of the British check point is enough to clairfy the order of events without past-perfecting.

    I’d hint more at Price’s magic in the third paragraph–uncanny might not go far enough. Maybe even use the word magic.

    I hope this makes sense! :)

  • Thank you, Faith.

    Chris, thanks for the kind words. I understand what you’re saying about the magic, though I’m afraid that there is not much I can do about the magic system now. I wanted a system that was both “magical” — which is why I introduced the ghost, the thrum of power with each spell, etc. — but also logical and earthy and real. That may be what you’re reacting to, but it was intentional. I wanted the magic to feel grounded. This is not unicorns and rainbows. It’s conjuring, it has rules, and it is as real to my characters and my world as a blacksmith or a soldier. That might not appeal to all (and I understand that you’re not saying you don’t like the series — I’m just explaining), but it was what I wanted. As for the new and different, that will become clear pretty quickly. And actually, returning readers will find that the second book is quite different from the first, so that sense of “what’s new?” might actually be lessened by the fact that this will be the third volume and will follow two books that are not that much alike. Again, thank you.

    Emily, I agree about the first past perfect. That will be changed in revisions. I’ll think about the “feel,” too. Thanks. I think the second graph’s past perfect is more necessary, but I’ll think about it. And just for the record, Sephira doesn’t conjure — she has no “magick,” which was the term then, and which is a word I tend to avoid in the series except in very specific circumstances. Thanks very much for the feedback!

  • Chris Branch

    Oh yeah, and Mark, if _Sephora’s_ men catch him (rather than Sephira’s), who knows what could happen; Ethan might be forced to sample expensive cosmetics or something! Sorry, couldn’t resist. ;)

  • David, thanks for offering this up for us to critique! I did my own critique before reading the others, which was really educational in itself. Plus this was much more fun than reviewing student papers which is what I did most of the day. (Also, sorry if my comments sound too directive–I’m trying to take myself out of professor mode but I may not have been successful.)

    I understand what you are doing in the first 5 paragraphs but like some other commenters I felt that it’s a little confusing as it is now. Mostly what I did below is rearrange the paragraphs and change the wording just a bit to match up with the new paragraph order. This new order makes the events clearer to me, and also seems to get me into the story and Ethan’s POV a bit faster.

    ***********************
    Ethan Kaille knew he was being followed. Like a fox running before hounds, he could almost feel Sephira Pryce’s toughs bearing down on him, snarling like curs, determined to take what he had claimed for himself. [breaking this paragraph here seems more dramatic, more of a hook]

    Even as the men pursued him, Ethan pursued Peter Salter, who had stolen a pair of ivory-handled dueling pistols from a wealthy attorney in the South End. [this wording was clearer to me–of course, since I worded it this way :)] Salter had led him out along Boston’s Neck, the narrow strip of land that connected the city to the causeway across Roxbury Flats. The young thief had turned off of Orange Street to cut across the barren grasslands that fronted the flats so he could avoid the guard post established by British regulars at the then town gate. [changed the previous sentence a bit to make it more direct–if you want it direct] Ethan could see the pup ahead of him, wading through the grasses.

    The western horizon still glowed faintly with the dying light of another sweltering summer day, and a thin haze obscured all but the brightest stars in the darkening, moonless sky. Not a breath of wind stirred the humid air, heavy with the sour stink of tidal mud; even with the sun down, the heat remained, unabated. The city itself seemed to be in the throes of ague.

    Ethan’s sweat-soaked linen shirt clung to his skin, and his waistcoat, also darkened with sweat, felt leaden. His usual limp, a memento of years spent laboring as a prisoner on a sugar plantation in Barbados, grew more pronounced with each step he took, the pain radiating up his leg into his groin. He hoped that the sound of his uneven gait wouldn’t alert Salter to his pursuit, or allow Sephira’s men to locate him too soon.

    If not for the concealment spell Ethan had cast on himself, Salter would have needed only to glance back to see him, but with his conjuring in place, Ethan was invisible to all. Still, Pryce’s men followed, whether directed by Ethan’s tracks or simply by Sephira’s uncanny knowledge of all that he did, Ethan could not say.

  • quillet

    Wow, David, you are brave! Also generous to let us look at your rough stuff — or is that cunning? Getting the students to teach the teacher, making us walk a mile in your shoes? Wise you are, Yoda. :)

    I would agree with other commenters that paragraph 5 should come much sooner. It’s vivid and engages the senses, and drew me into the story far better than anything else. Ethan’s the POV character, so readers should experience the story from inside him, as it were. Not like a movie where the camera is on the outside looking at the scenery and then zooming in for close-ups, but starting from the character’s mind (and body) and looking outward through his eyes.

    Oh, and I agree with sagablessed about not putting in (yet) why Ethan limps. Established readers will know why and will feel in-the-know. New readers will wonder why, and will keep on reading to find out. (Also not sure it’s something Ethan would think about in that moment? Though of course, you would know the answer to that question better than I would.)

  • SiSi, thank you for the thoughtful reworking. Very instructive and helpful. And also insightful. You all are good at this stuff . . .

    Quillet, thanks for the feedback and the kind words. I’m not sure how wise I am, but I am certainly finding this a valuable exercise. As I think I already said, I liked the wording of these paragraphs and felt that they accomplished the things I laid out in my post. But it is obvious from reactions here that the order is off and that there is a clarity problem. Really good to know. Not necessarily fun to find out, but good to know.

  • Pea beat me to the punch on the past perfect of the first line (and the rest of her comments were taken off my fingertips, too). I also agree that the sequence of events could be reworked to draw the reader in quicker and have them beginning to invest emotion in Ethan’s plight.
    That said, here’s my thoughts: The use of Peter Salter’s name jarred me, being used right off the bat. Is he going to be Someone To Remember, or is he just the thief Ethan’s after? Part of my mind was trying to figure out how Ethan knew his name and how Ethan knew he was the thief. Maybe if you said, “…the thief, Salter, who stole…”? I also think you’ve tried to squeeze in a bit too much of the backstory in places. The “British regulars, who had occupied Boston since the previous autumn, had established a guard post at the town gate,” doesn’t really need the “since the previous autumn,” and the “…a memento of years spent laboring as a prisoner on a sugar plantation in Barbados,” is a bit info dumpy. Both of these instances took me out of the immediacy of the chase.

  • and (doggonnit, I always forget) thanks for letting us take shots at you. It was a lot of fun!

  • I loaded this very early this morning (and then promptly fell asleep), so I’m going to comment without reading anyone else’s first. I hope this is okay and not too harsh:

    Paragraph 1: Something just feels a tiny bit off about the toughs. Possibly too much, especially for the opening paragraph? Also, a repetition of “like” and the “almost” reduce the urgency. What about cutting it down to “Like a fox running before hounds, he could feel Sephira Pryce’s snarling toughs bear down on him, determined to take what he had claimed for himself.”

    Paragaph 2: “barren grasslands” and “wading through the grasses”: I see a repetition of “grass”. Can one of them be changed?

    Paragraph 3: “But with his conjuring in place” – remove the “but”.

    Paragraph 4: Love the description here.

    Paragraph 5: Love the description here, too, but the line, “His usual limp …” feels like it could be more efficient, too. “Pain radiated up his leg to his groin. His usual limp, the price of years of labour as a prisoner on a Barbados sugar plantation, grew more pronounced with each step he took.”

    Just my two cents, anyway. Hope this helps. Please feel free to ignore. Thanks for the opportunity, David!

  • I think what I want from these paragraphs is more of a sense of being in Ethan’s POV. Some phrases read like a narrator and a few read more like something Ethan would actually be thinking. IMHO anyway. It’s been several months since I read the first book in the series, and I seem to recall that you used a narrator there. I remember thinking that I would really like to read a whole novel in Ethan’s deep third POV. He’s a complex character; you clearly know him very well; but that doesn’t come out so well with a narrator. For me, I think I’d be more fully swept into his world if I saw it 100% through his eyes.

    My own WIP is in deep third so maybe I’m just stuck on that, but them’s my two cents.

  • And yes, thanks so much for showing us those paragraphs. It’s a privilege to be able to see them at this stage :D

  • Lyn, thanks very much for the suggestions. This being the third book, I am still trying to figure out how much to tell my readers about background stuff they should know, and how much to leave for later or not tell at all. I’ll work this out in greater detail as I revise, which is another reason this feedback is so helpful. And you’re welcome! :)

    Laura, I appreciate the comments — not too harsh at all. And I’m glad so many folks are enjoying the chance to see this early passage. I’m grateful to you for the feedback.

    Owl, actually all the Thieftaker books and stories are written in close third person. If by “a narrator” you mean an omniscient narrator, then no, I have never used one (not in anything I’ve written, actually). As I say it’s all in Ethan’s POV. It’s not first person, but it is close third (or as you call it, deep third). Now, it may be that I’m explaining too much here and so putting too much distance between reader and character. I’ll certainly give that some thought.

  • You are going to give us the revised first five, right?

  • Thanks for this David. You are very brave throwing this out to us. I’m not going to make any comment as I think everyone has provided lots for you to chew on. But I will say I’m glad to see a seasoned pro doesn’t necessarily turn out perfect prose on the first dash through.
    I’m at the stage where I’m trying to get a query letter together because I’ve gone over my work so much I’m sure I’m just pushing it around now and no longer polishing it. So I’m heartened to think maybe I’ve done as much as I can without professional editing.

  • Lyn, I will be following my own advice (more on this in a future post) and will not be doing any revision until the entire manuscript is done, which will not be until April. But at some point, yes, I will certainly let you all see how your comments and suggestions and my own need to revise and tweak, has shaped the passage. Thanks again for the input.

    John, thanks very much for the kind comment. There are very few writers at any level who turn out perfect prose in a first draft. I will say that there are phrases that come out just they way I want them to (that line about the city being in the throes of ague will not be changed at all) but over the course of an entire paragraph, not to mention 5 of them or more, it’s almost never just right. So yes, send out your query. You’ve done what you can. Time to let the world have a look! Best of luck.

  • I wasn’t confused about the content, got to wondering what’s with this follow-and-be-followed thing, so that much is good. What annoyed me was redundancy: show us something, then explain it again. Frex:

    If not for the concealment spell Ethan had cast on himself, Salter would have needed only to glance back to see him as well. But with his conjuring in place, Ethan was invisible to all.

    I know what it was meant to do, but this sort of thing slowed down what should be an urgent scene.