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View Full Version : Seeking Beta readers for upper MG Fantasy novel



Edwardian
06-16-2018, 06:47 PM
It's called The Wizarding Life. It's kind of a mix between Harry Potter and Terry Pratchett. It's 58000 words, but you can read as little or as much as you want. I am of course very happy to return the favor in word count either immediately or in the future as a credit. In return I don't mind reading any genre, but I lean towards science-fiction and fantasy, MG/YA and adult, but I'm flexible. I've started submitting it and had some okay feedback, but I've decided to stop submitting to see if I can get any advice on buffing the manuscript.

Here's the pitch:

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Eleven-year-old Alia and Arti want to be a great witch and wizard, but no one will teach them. In their drive to learn magic, they accidentally release hideous winged monsters called night-drakons who feed on magic, and they're starving! Alia and Arti recruit an army of magic-users to fight the beasts, but they are betrayed and abandoned to fight the drakons alone. Finally they discover the only magic worth knowing is the magic you learn yourself, and they must find it within themselves if they are to defeat the night-drakon menace.
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Here's the start:

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Bump, bump, bump.

Arti followed the strange sound across the main hall, dragging his mop and bucket behind him. The sound was coming from above the ceiling, from his master's attic chambers. Arti thought he knew all the sounds of the old palace--banging shutters, howling wind, hungry squealing mice--but this was something new.


Bump, bump. Bump.


Whatever it was, it had stopped near the hatch entrance in the ceiling, fifty feet above him. It was up there, in the attic, where his uncle Verus kept all the spells. And where Arti couldn't go.


Bump, bump, bump.


Arti couldn't get up into the attic because he couldn't fly. Which was bothersome because, according to his uncle, he had the innate power of flight; he just didn’t know how to use it. In fact, it was Arti's power of flight that was keeping the palace floating in the sky. Without him, the palace would drop like a very large stone. Arti wasn't even aware he was doing it; his uncle harnessed his power with a spell.


Arti wouldn't have minded if he got to do some magic. But no. His uncle kept all the spells locked away up in the attic, and Arti couldn't get up there because he didn't know how to fly...


Bump, bump. BUMP!


What was that noise? Suddenly a cylinder fell through the hatch. It fell, stopped just above the floor, hovered, then shot back up. It ricocheted off the ceiling and fell to the floor with a 'crack!'


How strange. Arti crept closer. The cylinder looked like an imp-jar, and was wrapped in a sheet of brown paper sealed at the top with a twist.
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Gillhoughly
06-16-2018, 08:45 PM
Top of the head, rename one of the characters. Both names have the same number of letters, letters in common, and start with the same letter.

Doesn't matter if they're siblings/twins, different genders, it happened in real life -- whatever reason, change one to avoid confusion. Different first letters and number of letters are a must. While the characters may be totally different in your mind, they won't be for the reader. Check the rest of the book to make sure all names begin with different letters and don't rhyme.

This is a common problem for many writers. I think it has to do with the subconscious making each character an extension of the writer, and they go with the familiar. I had a Jane and a June in one draft of a book and could NOT keep them straight. The problem vanished when one was renamed Emily.

Any editor (the on the ball ones) will say do the same.

Easy hack: divide a sheet of paper into 26 square grid, one letter of the alphabet in each. As you use up a name, put it in the right square and don't repeat.

"The sound was coming from..." > The sound came from... "was coming" is passive voice. :)

Edwardian
06-17-2018, 08:22 PM
Thanks for your comments. Yes, I appreciate the names are similar, and thanks for your emphasis. I'm just attached to them and cannot think of anything else I like as much. suppose I should change them :)



"The sound was coming from..." > The sound came from... "was coming" is passive voice. :)

It's the past continuous, not the passive voice. I note this in case anyone fears the manuscript is poorly written. I teach English for a living, and I hope the manuscript is well edited, at least from a grammatical perspective! I'm looking more for story level feedback.

Bufty
06-17-2018, 10:25 PM
For what it's worth, Edwardian, to me this is a far better opening than the original one with the 'message'.

Have to agree re the names -they're too similar. If you're attached to them it may be easiest to change both of them. You may be pleasantly surprised at the result. Horace and Cindy may start you off.

Not up to beta-ing anything just now, but good luck. :Hug2:

Patty
06-17-2018, 10:33 PM
Hello!

I had a fictional family whose members names all started with the letter C. I know so many families like that in real life so it seemed an authentic way to go. Plus I was trying to keep all my names in a give region within a certain 'feeling.'

After much feedback that people couldn't keep all the "C names" straight I finally changed all but one of them. Truth be told I still prefer the old "C" names, BUT I have heard from many new sets of eyes that they can easily keep everyone's name straight. So in the end, this is better.

I wanted to share that so you'd know that the advice you got here is something I've experienced as well. :) I feel your pain.

I like your opening. I remember your query letter and think this is a good opening. I can't beta right now either, and I don't read MG so would be a weak fit anyway. But I do think you are opening well.

Edwardian
06-18-2018, 03:18 PM
Thanks Bufty, Patty and Gillhoughy! I am changing Alia's name to Liya :flag:

Bufty
06-18-2018, 05:24 PM
Arti and Liya.

Your choice, but re-read Gillhoughly's post. Not sure these names are far enough apart yet, Edwardian. And pronunciation of Liya could be 'Liar' or 'Leeya'.

Edwardian
06-18-2018, 07:19 PM
Arti and Liya.

Your choice, but re-read Gillhoughly's post. Not sure these names are far enough apart yet, Edwardian. And pronunciation of Liya could be 'Liar' or 'Leeya'.

How about Leeya then? It's longer and I think the pronunciation is clear (and what I intended, which is basically an abbreviation of Aliya).

Patty
06-18-2018, 07:33 PM
It would work for me.

It is helpful that they are introduced separately in the story. Readers will have a firm sense of Arti before the girl appears.

Bufty
06-18-2018, 09:51 PM
You like it- go for it. :snoopy:



ETA- But I have to agree with Gillhoughly below.

Gillhoughly
06-18-2018, 11:18 PM
Thanks Bufty, Patty and Gillhoughy! I am changing Alia's name to Liya :flag:

You're almost there.

Still have the same number of letters, letters in common, ending in vowels. It is visually confusing.

For all a cold reader knows from skimming the page, Arti could be female.

It also sounds in my head like "Leia" as in space princess icon Leia. You do not need the competition. Or it's one letter short of being the country, Libya.

I can speculate that this is your subconscious keeping grim hold of the names in some form or another. They look different to your conscious eye, but the subconscious is hanging on to what's familiar.

When that happens you take a look at their history. Are they twins, siblings of different ages, which parent named them? In some cultures the fathers name the sons, mothers the daughters. Are they orphans? Raised in the same place, given names by the nurses? Were the names geographical? Family names? Flower or gemstone names? What's the main custom for naming babies in the world you're creating? Figure it out.

One writer friend had a character, a musician, named Abby Rhodes. On purpose. The character's mother was a free spirit, commune-to-the-core, hippy-dippy fan of recreational herbs, and thought it was hilarious. This kind of childhood had a major effect on the character, giving her a unique narrative voice.

A tap point for Neil Gaiman's Coraline was correcting people calling her Caroline. I can identify, having a name I constantly correct to strangers.

As for a middle grade kid book, one of my favorite series is The Genius Files by Dan Gutman. The kids go by nicknames, Coke and Pepsi McDonald. All three names tie to fast food or beverages, memorable and funny. But throughout the books you don't mix up the characters, and they had a catchphrase, "Let's blow this pop stand!" when it's time to run.

Please find names of different letters and different letter counts that suit the characters and their history.

Edwardian
06-20-2018, 06:29 PM
Okay, thanks! Noted!

rachel0d
06-23-2018, 07:41 AM
(This is my first time critiquing someone else's writing, so sorry if I do it wrong)

- I find the language used is easy to read, but the wording makes it difficult to follow, and a little bit straight forward.
- The character names are nice but are the same length and both start with A. Re-naming or adding another letter to it would make it easier to read. Like D(Alia)/ Alistar or M(Arti)/ Morticia for example.
- It really feels like Bump Bump Bump is being over-used. Try finding another way to describe the sounds from the scene.

Your first paragraph you wrote

"The sound was coming from above the ceiling, from his master's attic chambers. Arti thought he knew all the sounds of the old palace--banging shutters, howling wind, hungry squealing mice--but this was something new."

I would word it in this way, to add more suspense, as neither the reader or character is aware of the danger.

"The ceiling above him creaked, particles of dust escaping through the cracks of his master's chambers overhead. Arti was familiar with the haunting feelings the palace could place on someone, from the skittering of mice to the furious rattling of the shutters."


I might be able to read about 10 pages every day or so, if you'd like.