Can I have some blunt feedback on my first chapter please?(25 Posts)
I'm trying to write a book and to be honest I don't know if it's a bit crap. Can I ask for blunt feedback please, on absolutely any element? A couple of friends have read but I think anonymous strangers might be more honest. It's "chick lit" I suppose. It's a bit sweary so maybe don't read on if you're not keen on that! Thank you.
Chapter 1 - A Regrettable Sunday Morning
Sunday 10 December - marks/10: 2 (I would say 1, but I am aware that people are dying in the world and it would be a little self-indulgent to put my shit-awful day on a par with theirs).
I woke to a warmth on my right thigh, the sun beaming down on my bare leg through a gap in the curtains. My throat was dry, my mouth tasted of stale tobacco and I was sore, throbbing, between my legs. Stuffy-headed, my eyelids tore themselves apart against yesterday's mascara which seemed determined to keep them sealed shut. As I propped myself up on to my elbow, I suddenly realised that I was not in my own bedroom. I tried to make sense of my surroundings through my bleary eyes. Fuck, my head was pounding. Where am I? Then it dawned on me. Oh, shit. Oh fucking shit. I quickly lay back down and closed my eyes, hoping I hadn't disturbed him. This, Emma, THIS is why alcohol and second dates do not mix. The second date in question had been with a wannabe Made In Chelsea star, who had been adamant he'd only ever slept with girls he'd been in committed relationships with. .. Urgh. Right, how could I escape?
I scanned the floor through a half-opened eyelid to check whether all my possessions were in view. Handbag, bra, dress, jacket, were all in sight, strewn across the floor. Okay, I told myself, giving myself a mental pep-talk, I'll get up and make a quiet exit as quickly as possible. He snored loudly next to me. As I gingerly sat up, as slowly as I could manage, both in the name of slipping away unnoticed and in kindness to my thundering head, the bed creaked loudly and I heard him inhale deeply from behind me, and turn over in the bed.
"Morning" came his deep, sleepy voice.
"Morning!" I replied, my voice portraying a cheeriness that belied the sinking feeling in my stomach. I sat still for a moment, acutely aware that I was stark naked, breasts exposed, tummy bloated from far too many cocktails the night before, and I needed to decide whether to continue my ascent, exposing my not-as-toned-as-I'd-like body further, or to turn towards him and make awkward eye contact, which would be exacerbated by the fact that I no doubt looked like Marilyn Manson with last night's make up smeared across my face. Before my drink-addled brain had decided, he asked "Busy day?", and, not waiting for my reply, continued "I've got to be up and out by eleven."
He didn't elaborate as to what his pressing plans were, but I noticed from the Spurs clock mounted on the bedroom wall that it was ten thirty-five now. A frigging Spurs clock. A grown man with a bloody football clock on his bedroom wall. Nice one Emma, you do choose the good ones. Despite the fact I'd been planning to exit before he awoke, I couldn't help but feel stung by the fact he obviously wanted me gone pronto. I awkwardly started to get myself dressed, trying to turn away from him and shield my body from his eyes. He left the bedroom and telephoned a taxi to collect me, and I hurriedly dressed myself then lay on the bed, eyes closed, trying to remember the sex. I remembered falling through his front door together, kissing forcefully and tearing at each other's clothes as we went up the stairs. Other than that, not a lot. Odd flashes of hot, intertwined skin, me on top of him, grabbing his hands and using them to tug hard at my nipples.
The taxi beeped its horn outside, awakening me sharply from my daydream. I followed him to the front door, neither of us saying a word. I glanced into the living room on the way past, but quickly wished I hadn't when I made eye contact with his housemate who was sat on the sofa with a cup of tea, smirking at me as he gave me a knowing look. I cringed and quickly forced a tight-lipped smile, feeling like a cheap prostitute, and wondered whether it would be physically possible to die of embarrassment. I opened the front door, said a brief goodbye, positioning myself so that a) I wouldn’t have to give wannabe Made in Chelsea boy a kiss on the cheek, lips, or otherwise, and b) so the taxi driver wouldn't be witness to any such uncomfortable exchange.
Once in the taxi, I felt the need to construct a story to the driver about how a group of us had had a girls' night (with extra emphasis placed on the "girls") and that all my FEMALE friends were inside the house I was leaving; I was leaving early to crack on with some Christmas shopping. Why I felt the need to convince a taxi driver I will likely never encounter again that I certainly wasn't leaving a man's house still in last night's clothes, I'm not too sure, but it seemed important at the time. Pulling up at my house, I shoved a ten pound note into the cabbie's hand, and hurried out of the cab as quickly as I could in my tottering 5 inch heels, dreading being seen by any of the neighbours in our middle-class neighbourhood, full of Ford Mondeos and neatly pruned gardens and people with such shit-boring lives that they loved anything which would provide them with something to gossip over for the next few days. "Ooh that Emma at number 41, did you see her the other morning?". I could just imagine it now.
I had a long bath and scrubbed myself hard, trying to wash away the alcohol, the sex, and the dirt that was somehow all over my feet. I sat my phone on the edge of the bath, hoping he'd text me. In fact, I spent the day never too far from the phone, occasionally pressing the button on top to light up the screen, just in case my phone had broken and hadn't beeped to tell me I'd received a message. I wasn't even that into him, I really wasn't, but at least if I went on a couple more dates with him, it wouldn't be a one night stand. At least if he wanted to see me again, I hadn't let myself be used, I wouldn't be that girl that got hideously drunk and put out after only two dates.
Once out of the bath, I put my pyjamas on, shoved a cheap frozen pizza into the oven, and opened the box of Celebrations I'd been intending to take into the office for everyone in the run-up to Christmas. Sunday 10 December was spent eating my own weight in junk food, napping, and oscillating between hating myself and feeling sorry for myself, under a blanket in front of the TV.
Well I really enjoyed that. I want to read the next chapter now! I do like typical chick lit, some I can't get into straight away but that was a nice easy start to draw you in. I can usually tell if I like the style from the first chapter or two and I did really like that. Good luck! Have you written any more?
I think it's overwritten. The sentences are too long and convoluted, it's full of cliches and my mind kept wandering as I read it. Sorry!
It seems a bit too try hard with the language but was good despite it. I can't get the teacher out of me when reading I'd read more.
@Tiredmum100 I've written about seven chapters, but am really unsure of it all!
@StoatofDisarray please don't apologise, I really want honest feedback so I can try to improve it and not make the same mistakes throughout.
Thank you @floraloctopus I think that's one of things I was a bit worried about - quite tough to edit though but I'll try.
I liked it, perhaps editing a few words as previously mentioned, long sentences. Sort of book to take on holiday
I like it because it reminds me of my youth, it is light, bright, not pretending to be something it isn't. I like the language, and my only comment would be break up the paras as it makes it easier and quicker to read. And take out the word nipple. I would have bought it for a holiday in my life before DC. Obviously a holiday with DC is mainly to do with keeping everyone alive and so not so easy to lose a few hours with a book.
But these comments are just as a beta reader and to getting it published seems to be a whole other ball game requiring a mammoth re write to get it into The Mould. I am hoping another poster will tell you that that just isn't true. But I fear it is.
I'd get it finished before getting more feedback or you might find yourself pulled into too many directions to get it finished.
I enjoyed the story, just a few pointers I hope will help with the language:
Your tone of voice is occasionally quite formal for the content. Obviously it’s a style choice, but it was something I noticed and I found it a little jarring. For example, you say, ‘a frigging Spurs clock’ and in the next breath ‘telephoned for a taxi’. If your narrator is a sweary, haphazard type (I get the impression she is from her internal voice!), and you want to stick to the first person POV, then I would consider writing in more of a conversational way. So more like ‘he called a taxi’, if that makes sense? I think the first person narrator is absolutely right for the genre, you just have to remember that when you write in first person, you’re the character’s voice, not your own. How would she speak?
Agree with the long sentences which have already been mentioned.
You start a lot of your sentences with ‘I’. Not necessarily wrong, but it was something which stood out to me. ‘I did this’, ‘I did that’. I’d mix it up a bit so it doesn’t read like a list.
Also watch out for repetition. For example, you say ‘Once in the taxi’ and then later ‘Once out of the bath’. I would consider changing one of them. Repetition is by far the thing I change most from my first drafts, so I know how easy it is to do, just try to be aware of it.
Hope that helps. And good luck! Keep on writing
I think the tone wobbles a bit — if it wasn’t for the jokey ‘2 out of ten’ diary entry heading, I’d have thought your character was as likely to be coming round after a sexual assault as she was to be waking up groggily in someone else’s bed in the first paragraph. (Why start here? What is new/ unusual/interesting about this regrettable Sunday morning compared to other ONS?)
It’s not immediately clear to me what kind of novel this is — cheery, comical Bridget Jones-style takes on dysfunctional dating or something more genuinely self-loathing and messy?
Agree with pps on very long sentences — the one beginning ‘ I sat still for a moment’ is a monster! — and a disjunction between your character’s internal monologue and her pure narration. ‘My voice portraying a cheeriness that belied etc etc’ is very formal and prim compared to the ‘frigging Spurs clock’.
I am the judgiest of judgy people, especially about books... and I really liked it! You can obviously write and it was a very easy read.
I did notice there was no dialogue, though. Why's that?
And the action tailed off a bit towards the end. I think I'd add more action to the end of Chapter 1 to make everyone want to read Chapter 2. I'm not sure if wanting to know if you finished the box of Celebrations would be considered a cliffhanger.
Good luck with it! Hopefully I'll see you at a book signing soon as you take the chick-literary scene by storm.
I echo a lot of what everyone else said, and agree it’s compelling to read!
One addition, it’s all written in past tense except when she asks “where am I?” And I would change that to “where was I?” Good luck!
I liked it too! If you want to send more I will happily read it.
I'm also judgy and when I saw the "fuck" I thought you were just being lazy and also a bit 50 shades, or was that "crap" she kept saying, I can't remember.
Anyway, it made me laugh and I thought you write really well.
@CakeRage and @Reenascreena thank you so much for taking the time to give such detailed feedback. Everything you say makes perfect sense and it's handy to have exact examples so I can work on those parts.
Thanks for spotting that @wheresmyliveship - will get that changed.
@secondaccount I'll try to sort the swearing. Very, very kind of you to offer to read more and I'll take you up on that if that's ok! Thank you.
And thank you all for the encouraging comments, they've really given me a boost and spurred me on to keep writing. I'll keep your comments about sentence length, tone and language in mind.
I. Want. More.
I really loved that! I hope its published so I can read it all!
I hate the name Emma though but that's a personal thing I suppose. What age is she?
Your outer narrative voice doesn’t match the internal narrative voice, and the first sentence is almost a wholesale lift from Bridget Jones, but it’s very readable.
I loved it! It reminds me of a Sophie Kinsella sort of vibe (secret dreamworld of a shopaholic)
I liked it but agree it's too wordy.
Also scrubbing herself clean in the bath sounds a bit like she's been assaulted - not sure that's what you're going for.
Maybe relaxed in the bubbles trying to erase the inevitable regret etc
I read this on my phone and then opened my laptop up to give you some feedback. I liked it, it's a good start,
"I woke to a warmth on my right thigh, the sun beaming down on my bare leg through a gap in the curtains. My throat was dry, my mouth tasted of stale tobacco and I was sore, throbbing, between my legs."
You need to break down what she is feeling instead of what is happening. My first returning sense was taste. Dry and hot, my mouth could have been used as last weeks ashtray. I knew my breath would be 98% proof alcohol but my attention was swiftly diverted to the heat pulsating from my groin.
This shows the reader, doesn't tell them, about the events of the previous night. You haven't STATED anything but the reader knows what has happened. If you condense each paragraph and edit brutally then you will find that you can reduce the repetition and keep the interest high. What you have written could probably be reduced by half at least.
"Stuffy-headed, my eyelids tore themselves apart against yesterday's mascara
which seemed determined to keep them sealed shut. Gingerly propping myself up on to my elbow, I realised that I wasn't at home. Fuck, my head was pounding. Where ...? Then it dawned on me. Oh, shit. Oh fucking shit. I slumped back down and closed my eyes. This, Emma, THIS is why alcohol and second dates don't mix. The second date in question had been with a wannabe Made In Chelsea star, who had been adamant he'd only ever slept with girls he'd been in committed relationships with. Urgh. Right, escape route.
I scanned the floor . Handbag, bra, dress, jacket, were all in sight, if rumpled. Okay, I'll get up and make a quiet exit as quickly as possible. A grunt next to me spurred on my movement. I gingerly sat up, the room spun and my stomach lurched. A moan slipped out from between my lips and I heard him stir beside me."
I have made some tweaks, removed the repetitive parts and condensed it. You need to be aware of what tense you are using and keep the tone consistent. Be very careful that you dont state and restate. If you say " I walked slowly across the cereal covered floor. It was crunchy underfoot, my feet were cold and I passed a few door ways before I made it to the red door at the end of the corridor" you can reduce it right down to "Cereal crunched like glass under my bare feet as I hesitantly made my way to the ominous looking red door at the far end of the chilly corridor" - the second sentence is far more enjoyable for the reader as it builds tension and does not just state fact or info dump.
I wouldn't read a book that started with that rejigged first sentence.
Sorry, Missing. Your points about showing, not telling, are brilliant and you worked miracles on that middle section. But the OP has a good voice and a readable style of her own. Those rewritten sentences lose all their charm and feel quite corny.
Now you can reveal that you are JK Rowling and that I'm a twat.
@HasThis not quite but yes, published author :grin:
I do get what you say about own style and voice. Some of the most popular authors use conventions that would never be taught in a writing class but they just work , I am a massive fan of using text changes and blending dialogue into information . And I feel I should be clear that I was not suggesting that the OP use my writing, just using it as a way to illustrate how it can change and be rejigged and pass along more info with less words.
Sentences seem awkwardly constructed in quite a lot of places - over described and too many descriptions of the same thing, where the same effect could be achieved more succinctly with far fewer words!
I would read more of it, and the swearing is not an issue imo
I like it a lot! It reminds me a bit of my own writing style - people sometimes tell me my sentences are too long too, but that's honestly the way my internal thought processes sound and I find short snappy sentences much more obtrusive.
I like the sound of this character too. She's nothing like me, but I like the way she analyses her own behaviour and motives, especially the logic of "at least if I went on a couple more dates with him, it wouldn't be a one night stand." She sounds as if she's at a turning point where she would like to become a bit more settled and have some direction in her life. That's actually the position both of the main characters in my unfinished novel are in too (though they handle it slightly differently), and I would love to read on to see how Emma's story develops, and whether the man she slept with turns out to have unexpected strengths!
The voice is good and I read the whole thing.
It could do with a good edit and a proper look at things others have commented on: repetition, sentence length, use of adverbs and adjectives. If you have not read it aloud to yourself then do - it is amazing how that can help pick up on what works and what doesn't.
The swearing was fine by me. Her remembering any of the sex is probably a mistake. I'm no prude but it jarred a little. Maybe have her remember the kiss and then give us her reaction to not remembering any of the mechanics. Is she glad not to remember what was probably a substandard shag? Or annoyed that she got herself into a position where she had such a bad one? Or does she know it was great and is annoyed she can't relive it in her memory?
I think the throbbing nether regions and the careful bath are a bit too reminiscent of violence. Unless she or he is into violent sex and this is important for the story later on it might be wise to steer clear.
I would read on, but I would want there to be a better hook in fairly short order. The voice carries this part through and makes me like her just enough to read on, but it's borderline and I'd be looking for more story/jeopardy/tension coming up.
Good luck with this - I think it's a promising start.
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