[PLEASE READ FIRST POST] Post the First Three Sentences of your Novel

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Nuwanda

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 20, 2011
Messages
612
Reaction score
70
Website
abigailftaylor.wordpress.com
How about these first three sentences?

Back when big sister Masha was alive and Papa still lived at home, somebody knocked at the door. It wasn’t the rent man’s knock, so Raisel turned the doorknob, and two strange ladies breezed into the room, exclaiming to each other about how “well-swept” everything looked and how neat and tidy it was here. Mama didn’t understand English, but she did understand that, and she beamed with pride.
I feel like this could be a lot tighter but I'm a fan of short sentences, so...grain of salt! I love how it sets up the Raisel and Mama's personalities right off the get-go. I also like showing us the possible financial situations without much more than "not the rent man's knock".
 
  • Like
Reactions: TellMeAStory

Thecla

Imagine a story
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Dec 22, 2012
Messages
1,013
Reaction score
919
I don't generally write speculative fiction, so if/when I submit this, I'll be using a pen name. Anyway, here goes:

The minutes were hours and the hours were days, and they had no tally of their drifting passage but ticks on the wall of the final cabin they’d retreated to as the Fidele yielded by inches to the cold, unrelenting vacuum of space.

The expanse surrounding them was as boundless as the days. Yet time and distance had lost meaning; only survival had mattered.
No, not for me, I'm sorry. It's a matter of taste. To mine, sentence 1 is overwritten and the other two feel like something I've read many times before. It's all very general. I'd rather have something specific in an opening. That said, the same sentences might work very well later, once you've established who is who and where is where and what is going on, and I've formed a sympathetic bond with these characters.

(nitpick about 'inches'; I see it's used figuratively but the metric system might be more appropriate in space.)
 
  • Like
Reactions: Paul Lamb

Thecla

Imagine a story
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Dec 22, 2012
Messages
1,013
Reaction score
919
How about these first three sentences?

Back when big sister Masha was alive and Papa still lived at home, somebody knocked at the door. It wasn’t the rent man’s knock, so Raisel turned the doorknob, and two strange ladies breezed into the room, exclaiming to each other about how “well-swept” everything looked and how neat and tidy it was here. Mama didn’t understand English, but she did understand that, and she beamed with pride.
Yes, I like this. Very confident voice and phrasing to set up a specific scene in these three sentences. Good sense of character too. I like the foreboding element.

Would read on.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: TellMeAStory

Paul Lamb

Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 12, 2019
Messages
425
Reaction score
229
Location
American Midwest
Website
www.paullamb.wordpress.com
No, not for me, I'm sorry. It's a matter of taste. To mine, sentence 1 is overwritten and the other two feel like something I've read many times before. It's all very general. I'd rather have something specific in an opening. That said, the same sentences might work very well later, once you've established who is who and where is where and what is going on, and I've formed a sympathetic bond with these characters.

(nitpick about 'inches'; I see it's used figuratively but the metric system might be more appropriate in space.)
Good point about the "inches!" Thanks for the input.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Thecla

Nether

has a healthy fear of clowns
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 23, 2021
Messages
2,257
Reaction score
2,223
Location
New England
"It was well known that Skunk Lowery was a witch. So, it stood to reason that, eventually, he'd get run out of town. At the age of twenty, he had nothing but his name and the dead horse beside him."

I'm not super-keen on the prose ("It was well known that" and "So, it stood to reason that, eventually,"), but it's a good start. It's something where I'd probably keep reading to learn a little more, although I imagine the prose wouldn't be for me.

And while I didn't think the horse was a zombie, I can understand the conclusion given the reference to a dead horse and Skunk allegedly being a witch.

Back when big sister Masha was alive and Papa still lived at home, somebody knocked at the door. It wasn’t the rent man’s knock, so Raisel turned the doorknob, and two strange ladies breezed into the room, exclaiming to each other about how “well-swept” everything looked and how neat and tidy it was here. Mama didn’t understand English, but she did understand that, and she beamed with pride.

It's interesting, although something about how the sentences flow together feels a little jarring. I *think* it might be a POV thing. The first sentence feels like it's first-person, but the fact the second feels like it's in Raisel's head gives the impression of third-person.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Nuwanda

ladyofthecastle

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 15, 2022
Messages
62
Reaction score
11
First three sentences of my first draft:

The ATV sputtered as she pulled up to the abandoned house. It needed a tune up, but that was not surprising it was made from the scavenged parts of at least four other ATVs. Poochy jumped from the ATV trailer and barked happily.
 

Nether

has a healthy fear of clowns
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 23, 2021
Messages
2,257
Reaction score
2,223
Location
New England
The ATV sputtered as she pulled up to the abandoned house. It needed a tune up, but that was not surprising it was made from the scavenged parts of at least four other ATVs. Poochy jumped from the ATV trailer and barked happily.

That's a lot of references to a ATV in a single paragraph. I feel like you could *probably* use another word in some of those cases.

The second sentence sounds awkward.

And I had to look up ATV trailer because I wasn't sure what that actually looked like... and the images I googled weren't the kind of things I'd want to transfer a dog on :censored:

And this might just be a foible on my part, but how does she know the house is abandoned? If she's going back to someplace she's used before, it's kinda not abandoned because she took it over already. And if she's never been there before, how would she know? I also have idea of setting because abandoned house doesn't really tell me anything, although I'm assuming the ATV means it's off the beaten track?

It doesn't feel like the strongest introduction to a novel.
 

ladyofthecastle

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 15, 2022
Messages
62
Reaction score
11
That's a lot of references to a ATV in a single paragraph. I feel like you could *probably* use another word in some of those cases.

The second sentence sounds awkward.

And I had to look up ATV trailer because I wasn't sure what that actually looked like... and the images I googled weren't the kind of things I'd want to transfer a dog on :censored:

And this might just be a foible on my part, but how does she know the house is abandoned? If she's going back to someplace she's used before, it's kinda not abandoned because she took it over already. And if she's never been there before, how would she know? I also have idea of setting because abandoned house doesn't really tell me anything, although I'm assuming the ATV means it's off the beaten track?

It doesn't feel like the strongest introduction to a novel.
I agree with the ATV thing but I am having a hard time coming up with another way to refer to an all terrain vehicle. As for the house in the next few sentences we find out the house is over grown and part of the roof has caved in so, I feel that is a pretty good indication it has been abandoned.
 

Nether

has a healthy fear of clowns
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 23, 2021
Messages
2,257
Reaction score
2,223
Location
New England
I feel like you should probably lead with something like that, since it also sets the tone right away. As it is right now, the first sentence is short enough to incorporate some of those details.
 

Unimportant

I got a Sisyphus point!!!!!
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 8, 2005
Messages
10,234
Reaction score
6,884
Location
Aotearoa
I agree with the ATV thing but I am having a hard time coming up with another way to refer to an all terrain vehicle. As for the house in the next few sentences we find out the house is over grown and part of the roof has caved in so, I feel that is a pretty good indication it has been abandoned.
You could rephrase, and also add in the name of the character to help ground the reader, by switching things round a bit, such as:

Anita's cobbled-together ATV sputtered as she pulled into the driveway of the abandoned house. Something something something descriptive (e.g. Vines clambered up the clapboard walls and disappeared into the jagged holes that spatchcocked the sagging roof). Poochy jumped from the trailer, barking.
 
  • Like
Reactions: ladyofthecastle

Nuwanda

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 20, 2011
Messages
612
Reaction score
70
Website
abigailftaylor.wordpress.com
I agree with the above from Unimportant. Otherwise, readers might think Poochy is the 'she' driving the ATV. Unless she is. Then, she is a very good girl!

you can save describing the ATV is made out of 4 parts for later in the book. Like if she's looking for a new gear, you can say something along the lines of "She was searching for a new gear that needed replacing years ago and should have taken the part off the 4th ATV when she had a chance." but unless the abandoned house is going to be directly related in her need to look for car parts, you can definitely hold it off.

I like the idea of a woman, her dog, and a junky car sputtering to a stop in front of a spooky, abandoned house. It's got the promise of adventure just waiting!
 
  • Like
Reactions: ladyofthecastle

ladyofthecastle

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 15, 2022
Messages
62
Reaction score
11
Ok lets give this another go.

Kera didn’t have a lot of hope for this one, part of the roof had caved in, but being the fourth abandon house she was scavenging today maybe it could round off her haul. Poochy jumped off the ATV’s trailer and started barking happily. “Hush boy, settle down, we have work to do.”
 
Last edited:

Yzjdriel

forgetful elephant
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Apr 5, 2017
Messages
317
Reaction score
140
Location
Flint or Flint-adjacent
Ok lets give this another go.

Kera didn’t have a lot of hope for this one, part of the roof had caved in, but being the fourth abandon house she was scavenging today maybe it could round off her haul. Poochy jumped off the ATV’s trailer and started barking happily. “Hush boy, settle down, we have work to do.”
Even though you've explicitly described the setting only by mentioning an abandoned house and an ATV, you've managed to set up the expectation of said setting being some manner of post-modern (maybe post-apocalyptic) area, in what I would guess to be the suburbs of somewhere. Furthermore, I would assume that Kera and Poochy are the only living things of note for a moderately significant distance (at least within earshot of the barking), or at least that anything capable of hearing them doesn't mind that they're there.

That said, I was pulled out of the story by the very first comma - you need a different punctuation mark there, and I would probably use a period, though a colon would also work. Given that I'm something of a stickler for mechanics in the things that I read, this happens fairly frequently, so I'm not about to count that against you: I'd read on.

Try something like this:
Kera didn’t have a lot of hope for this one[. P]art of the roof had caved in, but [this] being the fourth abandon[ed] house she was scavenging today[,] maybe it could round off her haul. Poochy jumped off the ATV’s trailer and started barking happily. “Hush[,] boy[. S]ettle down, we have work to do.”
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: ladyofthecastle

neandermagnon

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 25, 2014
Messages
5,415
Reaction score
2,646
Location
Dorset, UK
Website
cavepeopleandstuff.wordpress.com
Ok lets give this another go.

Kera didn’t have a lot of hope for this one, part of the roof had caved in, but being the fourth abandon house she was scavenging today maybe it could round off her haul. Poochy jumped off the ATV’s trailer and started barking happily. “Hush boy, settle down, we have work to do.”

At a word level this flows nicely and I didn't notice the comma splice that the previous person mentioned. While the comma splice is technically not correct, overall I feel the punctuation aids smooth reading. (Fixing the comma splice: I think it should be a semi-colon because what follows is elaborating on the first clause - but a full stop would also work. Some people unfairly frown upon semicolons and might not like on in an opening sentence but I think they're useful for joining closely related independent clauses.)

I didn't know what an ATV was. I only f0und out by reading through the posts. You could afford more words to describe it, for clarity and worldbuilding. You could call it "all terrain vehicle" or you could give it a bit more, e.g. "Poochy jumped off the trailer of the vehicle Kera had cobbled together from four different all terrain vehicles she'd found abandoned... (hint at her situation here kinda thing)" (just to give you the idea of what I mean - this is not a suggestion for rewriting anything)

What I'm finding is I'm not getting into this as much as I should be. I think you're perhaps not focusing on the right details or not starting in the best place.

A previous critique mentions post-apocalypse, however this reads to me more like a suburban property developer scoping out potential investment properties, other than the word "scavenging". The tone comes across as very jovial and everyday. Like everything is normal and they're doing this for fun. "Didn't have a lot of hope" is vague without knowing what she's hoping for. A property developer would be hoping to make a profit. A survivor of an apocalypse would be hoping to survive. A burglar would be hoping to find something valuable. "Scavenging" tells me a little - but I don't know why she's scavenging. Survival? Career criminal? Trying to make a profit out of restoring abandoned valuables?

There's not much here to indicate she's struggling to survive. Presumably she's got a home to go to and petrol to put in the vehicle and Poochy's happy.

Basically, I need to know what's at stake here - at least a hint of it. What does she need to do? What dangers does she face? What happens if she can't get a decent haul from this property? If something's happened to disrupt her ordinary life, show me hints of that.
 
  • Like
Reactions: BlackMoth

CWNitz

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 22, 2021
Messages
448
Reaction score
509
How about these first three sentences?

Back when big sister Masha was alive and Papa still lived at home, somebody knocked at the door. It wasn’t the rent man’s knock, so Raisel turned the doorknob, and two strange ladies breezed into the room, exclaiming to each other about how “well-swept” everything looked and how neat and tidy it was here. Mama didn’t understand English, but she did understand that, and she beamed with pride.
I really like this. The characters are immediately likeable, even with such a short excerpt.
 

CWNitz

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 22, 2021
Messages
448
Reaction score
509
Ok lets give this another go.

Kera didn’t have a lot of hope for this one, part of the roof had caved in, but being the fourth abandon house she was scavenging today maybe it could round off her haul. Poochy jumped off the ATV’s trailer and started barking happily. “Hush boy, settle down, we have work to do.”
This is much better than the previous one. The comma splice bothered me too, but I assumed you had simply forgotten a word ("as part of the roof had caved in") and I thought it was simply a typo.

I like it better because it gives me the character's motivation (find abandoned houses to scavenge) and some interaction between the protagonist and her dog.
 

ladyofthecastle

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 15, 2022
Messages
62
Reaction score
11
Off roader is another common name for ATV is that more descriptive?

Kera is second generations post apocalypse so for her scavenging and salvaging is just Tuesday. I was trying to bring across a post apocalyptic feel but also a sense of normalcy.
 

Unimportant

I got a Sisyphus point!!!!!
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 8, 2005
Messages
10,234
Reaction score
6,884
Location
Aotearoa
Off roader is another common name for ATV is that more descriptive?

Kera is second generations post apocalypse so for her scavenging and salvaging is just Tuesday. I was trying to bring across a post apocalyptic feel but also a sense of normalcy.
I guess it depends on where this is located geographically. Here in Aotearoa they're called quad bikes.

Depending on your story, your character, and your voice, you may be able to project the story a different way, saying things exactly the way Kera would say/think them.

If she's prissy and resentful, it might be:

Kera turned off the engine of her ATV and donned a pair of gloves to protect her skin from dirt and mould. This was her fourth abandoned house of the day, and so far she'd found nothing but cheap costume jewellery, off-the-rack clothing, and packets of nasty Ramen noodles. She still hoarded the diamonds and gold and Dior gowns her grandmother had worn to countless red-carpet affairs, before the bombs had been launched.

If she's gritty and determinedly optimistic, it might be:

Kera killed the engine. Yet another house nearly as decrepit as her ancient road-buggy; but maybe this one would contain some post-nuke items worth salvaging. "C'mon, Poochy, let's see what we can liberate."
 
Last edited:

Unimportant

I got a Sisyphus point!!!!!
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 8, 2005
Messages
10,234
Reaction score
6,884
Location
Aotearoa
Off roader is another common name for ATV is that more descriptive?
IMO!:

If, in your futuristic world, you have bicycles and motorbikes and two wheel drive sedans and four wheel drive Jeeps and ATVs and mid-life-crisis Corvettes and dune buggies and all that, like we do now, then ATV or off-roader would be a suitable term to specify a particular type of vehicle. If the world has been munted and there are no proper roads and travel is limited to walking, horse/mule riding, and ATVs and tractors fuelled by precious petrol/gasoline/something, then ATV is an anachronism because it's one of only two petrol-fuelled vehicle types in existence and both are, technically speaking, all terrain, with ATVs being on-road/fast and tractors being field/slow.

Frex, Model Ts weren't designated as being two wheel drive or X horsepower engines or four-door sedans or whatever; they were automobiles, period, because there was only one kind.

So, in your world of X hundred years from now, two generations after the nuclear war or whatever it was, what would they call this kind of vehicle your character is driving?
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Thecla

Nether

has a healthy fear of clowns
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 23, 2021
Messages
2,257
Reaction score
2,223
Location
New England
Off roader is another common name for ATV is that more descriptive?

FWIW, I'm familiar with ATV, but -- without the context of ATV being previously mentioned -- I'm not sure I'd figure out what an off roader is. I guess if you used both you might be covered either way?
 

Thecla

Imagine a story
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Dec 22, 2012
Messages
1,013
Reaction score
919
Ok lets give this another go.

Kera didn’t have a lot of hope for this one, [should there be an 'as' here?) part of the roof had caved in, but comma it] being the fourth abandon[ed] house she was scavenging today [comma] maybe it could round off her haul. Poochy jumped off the ATV’s trailer and started barking happily. “Hush boy, settle down, [try to avoid comma splices, even in dialogue] we have work to do.”
Is this the most recent version?

Hmm. I'd read on to find out what the setting is. It's not dramatic or tense, nor does it tell me what Kera is after. She's relaxed and likes her dog (? dog) is all I can determine. I'd like a bit more to clue me in. I'm not hooked yet, but would give it the benefit of the doubt and read another line or two from sheer curiosity.

It could do with a read-through for punctuation. I think there are more than three sentences here. The language too could be focussed more tightly (for instance, consider swapping over 'this one' and 'abandoned house' to ground your reader).

I read the commentary on ATVs. I'd been picturing something entirely different from everyone else, something bigger and with caterpillar tracks, not wheels. More army, less farmer. Ah, well. It's interesting seeing what things are called in different places. Unimportant, as usual, makes a lot of good points about terminology and mood. Listen to the wise wind-up bird.
 

jjmacdonald

Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 17, 2022
Messages
160
Reaction score
100
Location
Earth on my days off
Website
johnjmacdonald.com
Alexa shivered as she crouched in the shadows. The late summer rain had been falling off and on for several hours and she was soaked. Her red eyes shone brightly in contrast to her long wavy black hair that hung heavily around her pale, hollow face.
Here's a rework of my first three lines. After the feedback, I looked at the first paragraph and saw that it jumped around and didn't flow very well. I was trying to describe the MC and the scene at the same time. Which didn't work. So instead of rushing, I tried to slow it down, which changed the pacing of the next several pages.

The cold late summer rain had been falling on and off all night and left Alexa shivering as she crouched in the shadows. The old sixties-themed diner had been busier than she expected at this time of night, and she shifted uncomfortably as time ticked by. She'd been hiding there for over an hour, waiting for the last few customers to leave.

Thoughts?
 

jjmacdonald

Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 17, 2022
Messages
160
Reaction score
100
Location
Earth on my days off
Website
johnjmacdonald.com
How about these first three sentences?

Back when big sister Masha was alive and Papa still lived at home, somebody knocked at the door. It wasn’t the rent man’s knock, so Raisel turned the doorknob, and two strange ladies breezed into the room, exclaiming to each other about how “well-swept” everything looked and how neat and tidy it was here. Mama didn’t understand English, but she did understand that, and she beamed with pride.
I am really feeling a child's point of view or retelling. Is the child doing the retelling or a teen? I think that a child would speak in short sentences, and they'd jump around a bit. "Back when Masha and Papa were home. She's my big sister but is in heaven now. And Papa lived with us..." I feel a child would throw the facts around at random times.

If they are a bit older, I'm not sure if they'd mention the part about their father not living at home. "A few years ago, before Masha died, Papa answered the door..." or something.

If this is from an old lady and she's trying to remember, then you could go back to the child's randomness of facts, and they tried to remember what happened but in a more refined fashion.

So far, I'm interested
 

neandermagnon

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 25, 2014
Messages
5,415
Reaction score
2,646
Location
Dorset, UK
Website
cavepeopleandstuff.wordpress.com
The cold late summer rain had been falling on and off all night and left Alexa shivering as she crouched in the shadows. The old sixties-themed diner had been busier than she expected at this time of night, and she shifted uncomfortably as time ticked by. She'd been hiding there for over an hour, waiting for the last few customers to leave.

Thoughts?

This does flow better and I'm getting a better idea of what's going on than the previous version. It's a little bit confusing because sentence two made it seem like Alexa is inside the diner, but the other sentences it seems like she's outside. Commenting that the diner's been busier than expected reads like she's inside the diner. "Busier than expected" is like how a staff member or customer might describe it. Maybe if you want to focus on an external perspective you might want to consider something like "more people going in and out than expected"?

Also (a nitpick), cold late summer rain is a lot of adjectives for an opening clause. Is it important to know the season right now? We don't know what geographical location it is yet, so late summer doesn't mean anything much in terms of how cold the rain is. So maybe a different word to describe the temperature of the rain and you could indicate that it's late summer a bit later on?

I'm interested in Alexa - some hint of why she's hiding or what's at stake might help to draw me in more.
 

Elizabeth George's book Write Away