Okay, so I did a no-no in the writing world. I turned in a first draft of my first chapter to an agent for review. But, I had a reason. I didn't have time to revise it because I was working on the SF North and East Bay conference. Actually, that's partially true. I think mostly I was just tired, and I actually wanted to see if my first draft got any good feedback. It did. It also got a lot of feedback on what I need to work on.
In the long run, I think this works out. I know I have to revise this chapter anyway. Why not revise it according to a top agent? It might have saved me some time? Or am I just trying to give myself excuses for not working on it and hitting that dead line? Shame on me!
Her notes are below. I have re-typed them exactly how she wrote them....but I did omit her name.
- Your first scene is a really great start! It sets the mood perfectly and introduces and interesting character, with an intriguing problem.
- Native American / Alaskan lore has so much rich history and fascinating background information that it's a great element to set your story around. And then adding Egyptian lore adds another layer of intrigue and elements.
- PLOT: Watch out for taking your plot in too many directions. It seem alike you have a lot of material here for one novel. The setup of the first few pages feels entirely Alaskan and Native American. I understand that this is a summary, but it feels overly simplified to have her make the leap to Egypt to quickly. These are three fascinating places on the globe, but make sure that your connections and threads of plausibility remain strong as you write the story.
- VOICE: You've done a nice job setting up Seit's voice, but watch out for cliched phrases and contemporary dialogue. It's hard to know what sort of slang teens will be using in a few years and if you want your novel to have staying power in the marketplace, it will need to transcend generations so that teens can be reading it for years to come! Some expressions, like "What the hay?" are already a little outdated and illicit an immediate reaction while reading (hint: it's not a good reaction).
- CHARACTER: While Seit is obviously annoyed at her having to follow her uncle - and that is totally understandable - watch out for her sounding too annoyed and falling into the "teen pissed off at adult" start to novels is so common these days. If she appears too negative from the start, it may be hard for readers to relate to her. you don't want her to seem unlikeable from the start.
- ATMOSPHERE/SETTING: You have set up such a creepy scene - locked in the woods! With a bear! It would be great to get even more descriptive language in these first pages to really paint the scene. I know writers are always cautioned about using too much description, but since the location of your scene is playing such a huge role in the start of your story, it would be great to highlight it as much as possible.
- Great suspenseful ending to your first chapter!
Okay - so this isn't bad for a critique by an agent on a first draft. I think the first time I read it, I was a little stung. We writers are so close to our material that any lack of love stabs deep. But, her points are great points.
- I may have too much here for one novel: Maybe I can have two? End where she leaps to Egypt? I'm thinking a lot about this...
- Yes, Seit is a little annoyed - I do have to tone her down a bit, and I think I will do it with humor
- And absolutely need to paint my scene more. I am always lacking on description --- but I see it.
- I love these two cultures, and having them linked is the main plot of the story --- but how to do it with greatness --- I'm working on it -- it needs to flow easily, yet be surprising....hmm
I hope this critique of my novel can help you with revising yours. Check your own 1st chapter for all the ideas, hints, and issues mine has....and go revise!
And as always,