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1. Can you follow the timeline (picture the events as I have written them)?

2. Do you even care what happens next? Honestly, I want to get better so that reader really wants to turn the page (or swipe!)

Thank you in advance for all the growth you've catalyzed in me through your previous comments. 

Cp. 1 - Order & Chaos (first 2 paragraphes)

“K-H-E-N-T,” Magen paused, hoping the digital voice on the other end would get it right this time. Her name wasn’t even that hard to spell. Soft music. Not calming me down. More soft music. At least this meant she was in line to speak with the next available medical representative. Things had gotten out of control lately. After the incident yesterday, she knew she needed more help. It had happened around in late afternoon, the scorching August sun finally releasing its hot grip on the West Coast. Needing to get out of the house, Magen had announced, “I’m taking the dogs over to the school,” and then added because she knew it’s what a good mom would do, “if you want to come, let’s go.” And much to her dismay both her husband and daughter had decided that yes, a walk sounded like a great idea. You should’ve just gone yourself. Now you have to interact and try to be normal.  Before leaving the house, she grabbed a peach Fresca from the beverage fridge. In her other hand, she held Buttercup’s thin leash, the one she and Isaac had bought on their trip to Kauai’i back in March. Before the volcano. 

Once out the door, Isaac handed off Bisous’ (pronounced Bee-zoo) hibiscus patterned leash, to his step-daughter who was still deciding to walk or ride her bike. As Abby had a seventy-pound labrador at her dad’s house, handling Bisous, a seventeen-pound Maltese, was almost too easy. Maybe that’s why she decided to ride her bike this time; it was Magen’s old mountain bike, the one she had bought when she was first dating Abby’s dad almost twenty years ago. It fit Abby’s eleven-year-old frame perfectly, her long legs creating gentle circles as she rode slowly with her mom, step-dad and two dogs, a crowded awkward group ambling along. 

Yes, the walk had started alright. And then they had to cross the street. 

  • Hi Kelly,

    From a timeline perspective, the only bit that isn't clear is: You should’ve just gone yourself. Now you have to interact and try to be normal. I can't tell whether that's supposed to be in the present (on the back of the AAAAwesome Not calming me down), or within the flashback.

    (Given the flashback, I would split the first paragraph after the medical repesentative.)

    As to question 2… until that last line, no. There wasn't enough to grab be. A little curiosity about yesterday's incident and the repeated things out of control. Then you hit us, pretty much like an 18-wheeler - with "And then they had to cross the street." Now, yes. I want to know what those clues were leading up to.

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    • Thank you Rick. Super helpful. I was in a creative flurry last night and it typically comes out like juice concentrate: way too much too fast. Then, sugared out, no more interest. You are helping me find the right track. 



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    • Hi Kelly - I didn't manage to catch yours yesterday, so don't know what Davinia said but these are my thoughts.

      Your specific question about the time line - I had no problem following that we moved from present into a flashback. But, I do wonder if moving into a flashback so quickly after the start of a book is a good idea. Should you try doing this another way so the reader can fully orientate themselves first?  

      As to what happened next, I'm not hugely interested. The fact your MC is waiting on the end of the phone the next day in the opening paragraph, even though it's a medical representative (I get the impression she's in a phone queue for something like an insurance company rather than waiting to speak to a nurse at a hospital or similar), suggests nobody was killed or badly hurt, so there's not that much peril and not that much incentive to know what happened when they crossed the road that led to the phone call. I feel you need to sharpen your hook.

      The bigger issue I had with it was the huge amount of information you throw at me. Perhaps some of the tiny detail is leading somewhere, but I feel you should weed out the unimportant bits. Do we need to know the drink was a peach fresca, that Buttercups leash was thin and had been bought on a trip in March, and where does the volcano fit in? Hidden in among all that detail, I'm not sure if it's important and how it can impact on  crossing the road. Then you have the other dogs name and pronunciation, the colour of the lead, the fact Abby has a seventy pound Labrador at her Dad's so a seventeen pound Maltese shouldn't be a problem...

      For me it's an overload of tiny details that I can't imagine are important. It's almost like standing in a room and having lots of different people shouting at me at the same time. I would suggest deciding what is important in this scene and streamlining it. What is the big event? Perhaps you need to drop us right in the middle of that rather than all this fussy information.

      On the positive side, I thought your writing was clean and easy to follow, and perhaps you are just trying too hard to cram this opening with information. Beginnings are notoriously hard to get right. Maybe you could sift through the opening chapter to see where the action really starts and adapt that to use as the opening?

      Hope some of the above will prove helpful. Good luck with it.

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      • Hi Kate!

        Thank you so much for your feedback; I totally agree: it went from too quiet to SHOUTING!! I love the idea of starting in the crosswalk. I also agree that there is too much information - the volcano comes up again as a major event later. I want to keep some of the frenetic energy to mirror Magen's mounting impatience but I need to do it more deliberately, less detail to lose the reader so fast. I really appreciate you taking the time to give me specific feedback. Let me know if you want me to read anything (1-2 pages); Rick created a pretty cool rubric that I'm using to comment on his work and now Benedict's. I find that the distance I have with other people's work helps me better see the problem areas in my own writing with a much more objective lens.

        With appreciation,



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        • Oh no, too quiet to too loud. Perhaps it’s not the detail you need to increase, but the motion.

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        • I just revised again. It's like a painting that I want to show the reader but I'm still figuring out the medium. How to make it punch, but also reflect the tone of the character.  Your comments are truly pushing me to the next level. Thank you so much.

          Kelly (it's 100 degrees in California today!)

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          • Hi Kelly,

            The version of paragraphs 1 & 2 (above) is the 'revised' revision of the original, I am presuming?

            If so, I can only comment on this version, and I really like it. The narrative voice is intriguing, and there are lots of elements to it that draw me in and offer me ways to empathise with your MC.

            To address your specific questions:

            1. Yes, although I think clarity would be enhanced if you inserted a paragraph break after "... next available medical representative."

            2. Yes! You have created questions in my mind such as, why does she want/need 'calming down'? What happened yesterday and why does she consider that things are getting 'out of control'? Why does the prospect of 'having to be normal' fill her with 'dismay'? And what does the remark "before the volcano" mean??

            Good stuff, Kelly! :-)


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            • I follow the time line fine.

              As things stand it's mildly piqued my interest and I would probably read on a little at this stage. 

              I rather like the apparently pointless pieces of information about the dog lead and the reference to the volcano and such. I thought the peach Fresca was overkill of information, though, unless it is of importance later on. I also was annoyed at being told how to pronounce Bisous.

              I think you could make more of the initial telephone conversation if you are going to keep it as the beginning. It's a tad matter of fact, apart from the "Not calming me down" which is majestic. But maybe experiment with making a seemingly mundane call being really difficult. Shaky fingers causing a misdial at the start. A really obtuse operator - you have hinted at it with the spelling of the name, but maybe you actually need to spin it out a bit more, so the revelation that she wants to speak to a medic comes after more of a build up. Maybe also try getting the comments about things getting out of control and so on before the reference to a medic. So you take us to that and then, just as we are curious as to her condition you whisk us away to the incident the day before.

              Kate is right that this is full of minutiae which at present don't grab all that much but I think they could be made to grab if you need them to. I'm getting an impression of a neurotic woman who is on the verge of being seriously unhinged but currently just about keeping up a veneer of happy domesticity. If that's vaguely right then you must be on the right track - but if that's hugely wrong then you may need to consider how to steer the reader down the right track.

              Good luck with this. The more I think about it, the more intriguing it is. Which is great in one way but of course I am here in order to think about it and critique, whereas a reader will take one look and decide at once whether or not to read the book.

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              • Hi Bella! I just read this all the way through. I want to thank you so much. The phone call is not an emergency. It is a check-in with her psychiatrist. Nothing happens in the crosswalk. Nobody gets hurt. You pinned it perfectly in your beautiful description, "'m getting an impression of a neurotic woman who is on the verge of being seriously unhinged but currently just about keeping up a veneer of happy domesticity. If that's vaguely right then you must be on the right track". I want to use this for the back summary!!!! 

                Thanks again,


                p.s. I would give you all the credit, don't worry!! :)

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