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Novel in Progress - Help Needed:

 26 Last Hussar, Wed, 20th Feb '13 12:25:24 PM from the place is here.
The time is now,
In FSG's defence, if you paste, it loses the line breaks- took me ages to find out about \
Do the job in front of you.
Terracotta Soldier Man
Yeah, forgot about that — if you're copying and pasting, you'll want to make sure you have double line breaks where the normal ones would go, because of the way this site formats word breaks.

 28 Wolf 1066, Wed, 20th Feb '13 2:44:52 PM from New Zealand Relationship Status: In my bunk
Wolf1066
Yeah, I've had to go through and edit screeds of copy-pasted text due to that quirk.
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
Sorry for the delay in replying to this. I've gone ahead and split the text into paragraphs, with comments placed in between where appropriate.

It all started at my Cousin Eddie's bar mitzvah.

Well, that's not quite true. It certainly HAPPENED at the bar mitzvah, but it didn't START there. I guess it would be more accurate to say it all started the day we got the invitation. I remember it so well, if only for the way Mum reacted. Of course, everyone who lived near us probably remembers it – after all, it’s not every day a 40-something woman starts screaming and jumping in the air like an idiot the minute she reads a piece of card. I swear, when I looked out of the window and saw her, I nearly died of embarrassment.

I’m going to second Specialist here: removing the “if only for the way Mum reacted” would make this flow a lot better. Also, putting words in all caps isn’t necessary; I would suggest avoiding this except possibly for dialogue.

I leaned against the table as she re-entered the caravan. “Anything good?”

I’m feeling rather disconnected from what is going on at the moment. It might be a good idea to describe the caravan briefly; this shouldn’t require many sentences, but should be enough to give the reader a vague idea as to how these people live.

She held up embossed and gilded piece of card. “We’ve been invited to attend Edward Blumenstein’s bar mitzvah!”

Sounds a bit formal at present, given how excited she appears to be. Removing the “attend” would make it sound a bit more spontaneous.

I tried to resist the urge to roll my eyes at that. I shouldn’t have been surprised – Mum’s always been a party person, although HOW she was planning to get boozed up at a bar mitzvah was beyond me. Then again, I probably wouldn’t be surprised at the result – she’s the sort of person who could turn a funeral wake into a proper blowout – heck, even if the world was coming to an end, she’d crank the music high, start swigging the vodka, and dance until the planet finally crumbled into little pieces.

I’m liking the sound of this character ;). This might be a good place to slip in a quick physical description of the main character’s mother; it would be nice to be able to picture her a bit better.

I, on the other hand, was trying to figure out how I could convince her not to go. It wasn't that I had anything against Eddie himself - he's ok as far as cousins go, I guess, even if he does have a habit of talking in his sleep (and I know this first hand, having been forced to share a room with him for 3 years of my life) - I'm just not a social person. In fact, if you gave me a choice of staying home curled up with a book and going out clubbing on a Friday night, I’d chose the former every single time. As for Facebook and Twitter, I wouldn’t know how to use them if my life depended on it, so I’m hoping it never does.

The final sentence felt slightly unnecessary to me. Unless you’re trying to foreshadow something, as Specialist said, I’d suggest removing it

I tried pointing out why we should stay at home - after all, we're not Jewish, and it’s not like we’re all that close to Uncle Jed and Aunt Eliza, (in fact, aside from the usual exchange of cards at birthdays and Christmas/Hanukkah, the last time we saw each other was at my grandmother's funeral 9 months ago) - but there was no deterring her.

"Vanessa, " she said, practically planning what we should wear even as she said it, "this is an important day for your cousin, and we should all be there to show our support. Besides, it will do you good to get out of the house and socialize. They’ll be other children there.”

“They’ll” should be changed to “There’ll”. Otherwise, nothing stands out.

This time I DID roll my eyes. “Yes there will, and they’ll all be people EDDIE knows, none of whom I’ll ever see again, so really, what’s the point? Anyway, I’ll probably just end up doing what I always do at parties – sit in a corner by my lonesome.”

Venessa’s final sentence felt a bit stilted. I’d suggest something like “Anyway, I’ll probably just end up sitting on my own – that’s what I normally do.”

“You will do no such thing! I may not be smart, but I know there’s more to a bar mitzvah than sitting around. And you might find someone nice to talk to, like at your grandmother’s wake.”

“Mum, the guy was 70 years old AND a pervert! He spent half the day staring down the front of my dress!”

“Well, maybe if you’d worn something less revealing…”

“It wasn’t revealing! And another thing –”

But she’d already left the room. Typical – whenever she’s in the wrong, she walks out.

But that wasn’t the worst part, oh no – she insisted on dragging me around the shops to find something to wear; something other than “the tatty Gothic stuff you insist on wearing”. She just can’t seem to get it into her head that it’s not a phase I’m going through.

We havn’t actually seen what Vanessa wears yet; elaborating in this paragraph (or earlier) would allow the audience to get a better idea about her.

If there’s anything I hate more than socializing, it’s shopping, which is why I ended up sitting on a stool in a changing room wearing only my underwear while she browsed for some stupid outfit she expected me to wear at this whole shenanigan. Right on cue, she walked in carrying a lime-green dress with a frilly collar. I swear, I’m not joking. Don’t ask me where she got a lime-green dress, because for the life of me I couldn’t tell you.

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“And just what’s wrong with this dress?”

“Besides the fact it’s hideous?”

“It is not.”

“Mum, it’s lime-green. LIME-GREEN.”

“Nothing wrong with green.”

“That’s not the –” The third and fourth line could be removed here in order to shorten this a little. His is only a minor point, mind.

Before I could say anything else, she shoved it over my head, forcing me to wear it.

Your writing is definitely getting better. If you have some idea of the plot by now I would suggest simply ploughing on with the first draft rather spending too much time on revisions. If you still don’t know the plot, then it might be worth trying to plan it out a little before proceeding…or you could just plough straight in anyway to see where you end up. Either way, I wish you the best of luck :D

edited 1st Mar '13 1:25:09 AM by subspace5000

It might be a good idea to describe the caravan briefly; this shouldn’t require many sentences, but should be enough to give the reader a vague idea as to how these people live.

You mean, like this?

I leaned against the table as she re-entered the small caravan stuffed with nick-knacks. “Anything good?”

And as to providing descriptions of the characters, well, I'm not quite sure how to go about that. To quote you:

  • This might be a good place to slip in a quick physical description of the main character’s mother; it would be nice to be able to picture her a bit better.
  • We haven't actually seen what Vanessa wears yet; elaborating in this paragraph (or earlier) would allow the audience to get a better idea about her.

But...how do I do that? I'd probably be able to write a description if the in-story characters met another character, but other than that...so, can I have an example, please?
 
Hey everybody, it's me.

Yeah, I know, it's been months since this forum was updated, but I've been working on my novel. And as you can see...well, I haven't made much progress at all.

Here's what I have so far:

It all started at my Cousin Eddie's bar mitzvah.

Well, that's not quite true. It certainly happened at the bar mitzvah, but it didn't start there. I guess it would be more accurate to say it all started the day we got the invitation.

I remember that day well. So does everyone else who lived near us, probably – after all, it’s not every day a 40-something woman starts screaming and jumping in the air like an idiot the minute she reads a piece of card. I swear, when I looked out of the window and saw her, I nearly died of embarrassment. But that’s my mother for you – always happy to make a spectacle of herself.

Up until then, it had been a fairly normal morning. The caravan was much as it always was: various plates, bowls, utensils and knick-knacks covered both the table and the counter. It was as though both me and Mum were in a contest to see who would tidy it first; as of yet, neither one of us had backed down. When I heard her, I had been eating a bowl of cereal in what little space was available. I swear, when I looked out of the window and saw her, I nearly died of embarrassment.

She held up embossed and gilded piece of card. She was panting a little, her ruby red hair all over her face. As usual, she was dressed in her ghastly pink and purple sweater; complete with trousers which I’m sure were several sizes too small for her. “We’ve been invited to attend Edward Blumenstein’s bar mitzvah!” she gasped out, her Australian accent sounding thicker than usual.

“Really? I thought it was something important, from the way you were acting.”

She just gave me a Look. “This IS important, Vanessa. I haven’t heard from my brother and his wife since Christmas. I can’t wait to go.”

I tried to resist the urge to roll my eyes at that. I shouldn’t have been surprised – Mum’s always been a party person, although HOW she was planning to get boozed up at a bar mitzvah was beyond me. She’s the sort of person who could turn a funeral wake into a proper blowout – heck, even if the world was coming to an end, she’d crank the music high, start swigging the vodka, and dance until the planet finally crumbled into little pieces.

I, on the other hand, was trying to figure out how I could convince her not to go. It wasn't that I had anything against Eddie himself - he's ok as far as cousins go, I guess, even if he does have a habit of talking in his sleep (and I know this first hand, having been forced to share a room with him for 3 years of my life) - I'm just not a social person. In fact, if you gave me a choice of staying home curled up with a book and going out clubbing on a Friday night, I’d chose the former every single time.

I tried pointing out why we should stay at home - after all, we're not Jewish, and it’s not like we’re all that close to Uncle Jed and Aunt Eliza, (in fact, aside from the usual exchange of cards at birthdays and Christmas/Hanukkah, the last time we saw each other was at my grandmother's funeral 9 months ago) - but there was no deterring her. "Vanessa, " she said, practically planning what we should wear even as she said it, "this is an important day for your cousin, and we should all be there to show our support. Besides, it will do you good to get out of the house and socialize. There’ll be other children there.”

This time I DID roll my eyes. “Yes there will, and they’ll all be people EDDIE knows, none of whom I’ll ever see again, so really, what’s the point? Anyway, I’ll probably just end up sitting on my own – that’s what I normally do.”

“You will do no such thing! I may not be smart, but I know there’s more to a bar mitzvah than sitting around. And you might find someone nice to talk to, like at your grandmother’s wake.”

“Mum, the guy was 70 years old AND a pervert! He spent half the day staring down the front of my dress!”

“Well, maybe if you’d worn something less revealing…”

“It wasn’t revealing! And another thing –” But she’d already left the room. Typical – whenever she’s in the wrong, she walks out. …

But that wasn’t the worst part, oh no – she insisted on dragging me around the shops to find something to wear; something other than “the tatty Gothic stuff you insist on wearing”. She just can’t seem to get it into her head that it’s not a phase I’m going through.

Mum’s hair is not a natural shade, despite her frequent claims to the contrary. Underneath all of the dye, it is coloured much like mine: brown, but dark enough to almost appear black at a glance. I thought it went nicely with my clothes which, whatever Mum’s opinion might have been, were not “tatty” in the slightest. When we left the caravan, I had one of my favourite outfits on: an elegant black dress which ran down to just above my knees.

If there’s anything I hate more than socializing, it’s shopping.

I ended up sitting on a stool in a changing room wearing only my underwear. While she browsed for an outfit for me to wear, I started wondering how stupid it would look - and how stupid I would look wearing it throughout this whole shenanigan.

Right on cue, she walked in carrying a lime-green dress with a frilly collar. I swear, I’m not joking. Don’t ask me where she got a lime-green dress, because for the life of me I couldn’t tell you. “You have got to be kidding me.”

“And just what’s wrong with this dress?”

“Mum, it’s lime-green. LIME-GREEN.”

“Nothing wrong with green.”

“That’s not the –” Before I could say anything else, she shoved it over my head, forcing me to wear it.

I know, not impressive, huh? Well, here's what I've been working on in the meantime. Basically, I've just been writing down whatever comes into my head:

It was clear there was no point arguing.

Scrubbing at my head as if she could scrub the pink streak off.

Then she suggested I should dye it black.

Glaring at my now-electric blue hair as though it had insulted her. What? Electric-blue’s close to black.

You’d think she’d be a little more grateful, considering Aunt Eliza had so kindly let us move in with her family when we got evicted for failing to pay the rent.

Now come on, get changed. You certainly don't intend to go in THAT? I looked down at my black fingerless gloves, black miniskirt, black spiky wristbands and black off-the-shoulder top.

I should’ve known she’d never let me stay home on my own.

What, did your mother down too many tequilas or something?

How can you party at a bar mitzvah?

Mum dropped me off at the dentist.

I am Princess Rosebud

I'm the sort of person who'd wear all black

A pair of glittery fairy wings

Ok, maybe I shouldn't have insulted the old guy, but he was driving me crazy!

So I'm stuck in a dopey tights-and-tutu ensemble and waving a glittery wand until I can get this curse lifted.

Oi! Just because I'm an anti-social goth, it doesn't make me a freak!

Who asked your opinion, Pollyanna?

Listen, Stefania, I'm not happy about this either.

Ok, fine. But I get to decide what I wear.

I’m pretty much devoted to my art.

Pervert. I am NOT a pervert! What’s with all the pictures of naked people? It’s artistic nudity, ok?!

Could be worse. HOW? How could this be any worse? You could be stuck on Tooth Fairy duty.

Fairies only ever eat sweet things, so it's a good thing we don't get cavities.

Old man? "Old man"? THAT was no old man! THAT - here she paused for effect - THAT was the king of the fairies, Oberon himself!

Well, I thought, better get this over with. Hello, little broken-heart. I am your fairy godmother, and - Vanessa?! Stefania?!

Mum, we've been through this. I'm a Goth. That's all. It's not a phrase; it's not a religion; it's not a fashion statement; it's a lifestyle choice. Y'know, like quitting college to be the banjo player in a mildly successful band; or marrying a one-eyed cowboy and settling down to start a koala farm.

Annnd there goes my appetite.

Happily chomping on a piece of cupcake.

Sitting on the window ledge of the narrowboat cafe, eating cake crumbs.

What I'd give for a toasted cheese and pickle sandwich.

Dragged me around several shops.

She was the sort of woman who was always baking.

I can’t believe it! You’re drunk?!

I’m not staying here while you’re wasted!

You don’t get it, do you? Get what? “Well –” he suddenly looked uncomfortable. “By doing that – well…we’re now engaged to be married.”

What are you, anyway? Some sort of mermaid? Oh, no – I’m a kelpie.

What are you, nuts? I HATE pears!

I haven’t been this embarrassed since the time I was passing notes in class and Mr Mcreedy made me stand up and read out what was on it – unfortunately, I’d written that I thought he was really handsome, and I wanted to date him. I don’t know who was more embarrassed – especially since he was happily married.

Well, on the plus side, at least I’ll miss that big maths test.

Ever hear of Carrie? No, I can’t say I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her. No, the movie…basically, a girl who gets picked on all the time is crowned queen of the homecoming – or prom, I forget which – and a bunch of jerks decide to dump pig’s blood on her, but unbeknownst to them, she possesses telekinetic powers, and ends up killing them all.

“Suppose I should be grateful she allowed this one concession.” I muttered, checking my dark blue lipstick.

Aunt Eliza must have spent hours making these, I mused as I inspected the cupcake in my hand.

I just stood, stock still, trying not to whimper and cursing my torn wing. I’ve always been terrified of bees, so seeing a giant one approaching was enough to nearly make me wet myself.

Stay. To my surprise, the bee obeyed.

I want to see my mother, please.

I peeked in through the caravan window. “Mum?”

She lifted her head. “Vanessa?”

I wish Tommy would fall in love with me. Ok, were you even listening to me? I can’t interfere with free will, and I can’t make people fall in love with each other.

Sitting in the shade of a Busy Lizzie

Jonquil’s right, this is a waste of time!

That’s not helping, Caleb.

What about my mother?

Sure – into the woods to Granny’s house, and home before it’s dark.

Happily chewing on a teacake Mrs Mc Ginty had left out.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m glad she DOES believe in fairies.

I have to admit, the whole concept of Galaxy Stars (a soap opera set 300 years into the future, with robots and aliens and other sci-fi stuff, and focusing on a laundromat owned by a human-alien hybrid who worked alongside a sarcastic robot) sounded pretty stupid. And yet, it was one of the highest-rated shows on TV.

To be honest, I’ve never really liked Stefania Rabinovich. Maybe it’s because she thinks she’s so much better than everyone else. I mean, ok, so she speaks 4 languages – so what? After all, if I had a father who was a Russian oligarch and a mother who was a German model, not to mention a French au pair who looked after me for about half my life, then I’d be able to speak their languages as well as English. And so what if she gets all those fancy presents – I mean, come on, a locket made from a whole emerald for her birthday?! I am not joking; last year, she turned up at school with this golden chain around her neck. When one of the members of her stupid girl posse asked what it was, she pulled out this heart-shaped locket made from an emerald as big as a nectarine, embossed with gold.

“The bar mitzvah is on Monday at 12 – luckily, it’s the school holidays, so I won’t have to drag you out of class.” “Monday? But what about your job?” Mum works 5 nights a week as a barmaid in the local pub, and moonlights as a belly dancer in the same place 3 evenings a week. She says it makes her feel ‘exotic’, but I highly doubt that, considering she’s Australian. “Gar will find someone to cover for me. Honestly, Vanessa, it’s only for one day.” I’ve never liked Mum’s boss, Gar. Maybe it’s the string vest and tattoos.

Monday dawned bright and sunny, with not a cloud in the sky.

Good thing Grandma left us some money, and the caravan.

Lying on my bed, eating coffee creams and drawing away to my heart’s content.

Yeah, probably not what you wanted to read (most of it's probably too beige and amateur-writerish for a novel), but if you would please read it and give me some feedback, I'd really appreciate it. All's I know for certain is the stuff I've written down is going to appear in the book, in one form or another.
 
Terracotta Soldier Man
The bit we've already been over seems to be coming along quite nicely cool

The new lines definitely look more like "idea seeds" than anything coherent, but the fact that you're writing them down as they come to you is a major step up from not writing at all. Since you're writing in a somewhat piecemeal fashion already, I'd recommend taking one of those snippets (or a few of them that would go well together) at a time and expanding that into a full, independent scene, then figure out where those scenes fit in the overall context of the story once you have enough to start assembling them into a definite narrative.

At the same time, I'd also keep recording those little idea seeds as you go, although I'd record them in a separate document from the story itself just to keep some semblance of organization.

 33 Wolf 1066, Tue, 4th Jun '13 7:17:17 PM from New Zealand Relationship Status: In my bunk
Wolf1066
Looking good, now.

I don't know if you've noticed, or if it was intentional, but "I swear, when I looked out of the window and saw her, I nearly died of embarrassment." was mentioned in the third paragraph and then repeated pretty much verbatim in the fourth.

Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
If anyone's still following this thread, I've given the beginning of my novel a bit of a re-write:

It all started at my Cousin Eddie's bar mitzvah.

Well, that's not quite true. It certainly happened at the bar mitzvah, but it didn't start there. I guess it would be more accurate to say it all started the day we got the invitation.

I remember that day well. So does everyone else who lived near us, probably – after all, it’s not every day a 40-something woman starts screaming and jumping in the air like an idiot the minute she reads a piece of card. I swear, when I looked out of the window and saw her, I nearly died of embarrassment. But that’s my mother for you – always happy to make a spectacle of herself.

Looking back, I probably should have suspected it wasn’t a normal morning, if only for the fact that I was actually up early. Normally, the only thing that sleeps more than I do is a cat – at least, that’s what Mum always says. But that morning, I woke up at about 7, and no matter what I did, I just couldn’t fall asleep again. So, after about an hour of tossing and turning, I gave up and decided to do some sketching.

So, what do we think?
 
Terracotta Soldier Man
Looking good. I think the "Looking back, I probably should have suspected..." bit is a nice bit of foreshadowing, myself.

 36 Wolf 1066, Fri, 19th Jul '13 3:41:41 PM from New Zealand Relationship Status: In my bunk
Wolf1066
It's looking a lot tighter and more refined. [tup]
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
The system doesn't know you right now, so no post button for you.
You need to Get Known to get one of those.
Total posts: 36
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