Thursday, September 16, 2010

Battle of the Betas

It's that time again! Time for ...

Super thanks to Alicia for "donating" the first page of her ms - PHOENIX RISING, an urban fantasy, to the cause!

And in case you're new to Battle of the Betas, here's the quick deets: 9 writers (listed at the bottom!) have come together in this little monthly experiment to show you how we crit. Hopefully, if you're out there looking for a beta/crit partner, this will help remind you that everyone crits a little differently and no matter what, everyone's experience and styles are a bit different. :)

Keep in mind, this is just one page of a manuscript, so there may be things out of context and what not. My comments are in the italics.

20 Years Ago

Ianos [I hate when I don’t know how to pronounce a character’s name. just my personal thing :)] studied the chimera pride that roamed the foothills outside Timmons for months in search of the runt. [good tension in this opening line] With a pair of large males and several females, it took him longer than he wanted, [ok, I’m confused – maybe just me, but does that mean those chimera were in his way? It can read that way or it can read a little like they were helping him but sometimes get in the way (like those hunting dogs?).] but once discovered, he kept his eye on it. [this sentence ender feels a bit anti-climactic after his super long-many months search. Just saying.] In a final attempt of self-preservation, they [you mean the pride right? Sugg: clarifying that as you flip between talking about the pride and then the runt and then Ianos] abandoned it weeks ago. Each day it grew weaker, languishing without the companionship of the pride. On the fourteenth day [14th day after finding the runt? Sugg: clarify timeline, could cause confusion. Also, why does he wait for 14 days after finding it?], Ianos executed his oh so easy [should this be hyphenated?] plan. [see, if his plan is so easy, I’m not sure I understand his motivation for tracking for another 2 weeks …]

Armed with nothing other than his knowledge of spells, he made his final trek to the foothills. He was much closer than he’d been in his previous visits to the chimera grounds and never seen anything like the beast before. [but isn’t it just another chimera? What makes this one so different from the others that he’s seen before? –show me what makes this one special please :)] It lay in the sun, with only one head awake, but not alert. The lion head mewled [does this mean it has other type of heads? Like, if this is the lion head-does it also have a tiger head, duck head, horse head?], mourning its fate. Its paper lantern thin wings [great visual!] stretched on the ground while the dragon and goat heads slept. [ok, never mind. You answered my other question.]

It was awing. [this sentence reads weird to me. sugg word choice maybe? It doesn’t feel strong enough to be on its own line. May just be me …]

The lion head despondently watched Ianos’ approach but roared to awaken the other two heads when Ianos crossed some unknown border. [the pacing of this sentence throws off the action sequence. Sugg ending sentence @ approach. Then new sentence beginning with “When Ianos cross… the lion head roared.”] The beast rose to its full height, stretched its wings wide, and bellowed—all three heads created a cacophony [the 2 hard “c” sounds made this line lose some strength for me. sugg: word choice –change one of the c words] of rage.

Ianos snarled and crouched, ready to strike. [is Ianos not human or humanoid? It’s not stated before this and those actions are very animalistic.] Electricity spurted from his palms towards the chimera. It dodged at the last second and ran head-on towards the sorcerer. [Maybe let the reader know that Ianos is a sorcerer before this?] He [the sorcerer or the chimera?] ran into a cave to his right; he’d have better luck surviving the fight if he was able to corner the animal. The beast skidded, turned, and charged again. Ianos leapt onto its back. He held tightly onto the lion’s neck scruff and struggled to pull a lasso out of his jeans. [the way this last line is phrased makes it almost sound like the lasso is in the chimera’s jeans :)]

I really like the tension right at the beginning, how the hunt is what draws us in, but the transition into the action is a bit abrupt. I wanted more tension, more details around the hunt and what was going on with the rest of the pride before the MC discovered the runt.

I wasn’t able to picture where everything is happening. Yes, foothills, but that’s very vague. Maybe some more description of the setting, you could probably weave that in if you showed a bit more of the MC’s search. Also, I had no idea, really what a chimera looked like in your world. The description didn’t come until toward the end and so I didn’t really know what he was searching for until he’d already found it, even though, obviously, he was dealing with the rest of the pride.

Overall, good action, some good descriptions, I just could’ve used a little more … descriptions, tension and setting. Oh, and I had no idea sorcerers wore jeans! I was totally picturing something Merlin or Albus Dumbledore-esque ;)

Thanks again, Alicia, for braving the group and letting us crit your page! It takes guts! J

Take a look at these other beta perspectives on Alicia's manuscript page:

Kate Hart

Meredith Primeau

Sarah Enni

Cory Jackson

Raven Ashley


Kate Hart said...

So interesting to see what we all agree on and what we don't!

Meredith said...

Great comments! We picked up on a lot of the same things, but you added a lot that I definitely agree but didn't see the first read-through.

Cory Jackson said...

Another great beta. I wanted more description, too! :)

Carolyn V. said...

Windy! What a fabulous idea! =)

Karen Strong said...

I love seeing how other writers critique. Thanks for sharing.

Off to see the other posts for the Battle of the Betas! :)quiq

WindyA said...

Kate - It's eerie, sometimes, the similar things people pick up on.

Meredith - I noticed we had a few same comments too!

Cory - Please describe what you mean ;)

WindyA said...

Karen - the differences and similarities are really interesting to compare! Have some good visits :)

Anonymous said...

This is a a fabulous exercise! Thanks for sharing! :D

WindyA said...

lbdiamond - thanks for stopping by! it's always fun to see other people's perspectives on the same piece of work!

Wicked-Sassy said...

I agree that the first word of a book should be a word the reader knows how to pronounce :)

WindyA said...

Wicked-Sassy - it totally takes me back to the Hermione days.

Alicia Gregoire said...

This was great. You and the rest of the girls made some great points.

lotusgirl said...

A good beta reader is invaluable. It's nice to see your approach. I've learned so much about beta reading by having critiques done of my own stuff. Every person has a different approach.

Elana Johnson said...

Excellent series! You guys are fab.

Raven said...

I agree with Kate, it is interesting to see what we all agree on and what we don't!

"Oh, and I had no idea sorcerers wore jeans! I was totally picturing something Merlin or Albus Dumbledore-esque ;)"

LOL! Me too!