Steve Holness

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Hello everyone. My concern is that the opening chapter of my novel, The Sodality of Beauticians, is …
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  •  · No problem! Drip feeding backstory throughout does take longer to figure out and to edit but the res…
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Hello all. I'm going back many years, but when I was at school I was taught to omit the closing quot…
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  •  · Thanks, Blakeney. I did as you suggest when I rewrote the passages. Because it is less formal, the a…
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Hello everyone. Advice please.I have a German character, Wilhelm, who speaks "excellent English with…
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  •  · Thanks Sarita. I'll take a look.
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Hello everyone. I have read some of the posts and the critiques offered and have been impressed by t…
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  •  · Sure. I sent you a PM

Do you mean the panel with Menu, Club, Account, and Cart buttons? Or am I missing something else?

You are both doing better than I am. I log in on the new website, try to access members' material and it will not let me until I join Jericho Writers! Teething problems I guess, but irritating none the less.

Hi again, Andrew. Thank you for sharing the opening of your book and I hope you don't feel that I have presurised you into posting. 

Beginnings are always difficult and so crucial to get right. I think you need to consider your story arc and ask if the decapitation is the inciting incident. I would guess that it almost certainly is and so it should be at, or very near to, the beginning. Thus far the structure is fine but towards the end of the piece you give us what amounts to a preamble - "It has often been thought ..." I think, as you have suggested, this fits better (after a bit of tinkering) at the beginning; to lead the reader's thoughts towards what is coming. It doesn't need to be a prologue as such, just an opening paragraph and then follow it with the date to indicate that the real action us about to start.

I felt that you didn't introduce the characters well. You refer to Daniel at the beginning then we discover he is Cross which is a bit confusing. The assassin, does he have a name? Perhaps have Daniel say "So you found me then, XXXXXXX". His first introduction is as a "young man"

Also, using bold when the assassin speaks is a bit of a ripoff from Terry Pratchet's capitalisation of Death's remarks. 

Much of the extract is telling rather than showing. Increasing the amount of dialogue would help and some of the description need tightening - do you need to mention the mild electric shock for example. 

You start in Daniel's POV. This has to change after his decapitation - obviously (or, thinking mischievously, perhaps not! Bring a whole new meaning to a 'talking head'). Maybe have the assassin watching Daniel by the harbour wall and then approaching him. The rest then follows from the assassin's POV and you avoid the awkward change part way through.

Lastly, I felt there were too many adverbs. Taking words ending with ly, in 841 words, there were 12; 3 in the first paragraph. Try to strengthen verbs to avoid the need to qualify with an adverb. For example, in the first paragraph, try "the waves susurrated against the harbour wall", and omit suddenly and briefly - they add nothing.

Now for the good bit; I want to know more. There are so many questions at the end that I want to turn the page and find out the answers. This is the start of an intriguing tale and I wish you the very best of luck with it.


Hi Andrew,

You may have reasons for not doing so, but posting your first chapter would help everyone resolve the problem for you. I know it is a bit daunting but you will get understanding, encouragement and good ideas.

Thanks, Rick. That's a useful post.

Hi Libby,

Thanks for reading the excerpts. Your comment of less is more almost invariably is correct. I've taken a look at the link that Rick suggested and it gives many useful pointers so I will take a look at dialogue in general.

Thanks for the tip-off about home births; should have known as Call the Midwife has been on TV recently. You can tell I didn't watch it!

Hello L.

Sorry I've taken a couple of days to reply. You are quite right, as others have commented, that the inciting incident is Oscar's funeral and chapter 1 is backstory. My problem has been inserting essential information elsewhere in the story. There is no logical point or points. I will have to set about inventing opportunities which will take a bit of rewriting but it is what is needed. And whilst about it, add some more details to give more of a flavour of the era - a good point. 

I, too, have questioned my use of the word "erection". Cynthia is middle class from a well off family and I don't think a slang term would ring true. So I think I may be stuck with it.

Thanks for your ideas and suggestions; they are a great help.


Hi Sarah,

Thanks for your encouraging comments. Until a day ago, I thought I had a pretty much complete MS; apparently not. I will be rewriting the first section of my book taking into account your comments and everyone else's. After that, I will post the opening again. Once I've tidied up the beginning, I would be very happy to share more with you.

Hi Iren,

Thanks for the feedback. The funeral was my original starting point for the book but the information in the first chapter is essential. So... some reworking of the first section of the book is needed to slot this in appropriately. Also, as you say, Cynthia's emotional and physical reactions to the tragedy need to be shown more strongly. Emphasise the darkness! 

Added a forum 

Hello everyone. My concern is that the opening chapter of my novel, The Sodality of Beauticians, is not engaging enough and I don't know how or where to improve it. Alternatively, you may think it works well enough. Either way, I'd love to know.

I have taken the liberty of attaching the first three chapters; the material that an agent would likely request. It's a big ask, but if anyone has the time (and inclination) to read on I would appreciate it. The total word count is 5300.

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