Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Woman's War


Well, it's been a while what with the madness of A-Z and all I can say is, whew! I am glad it's over. It was a lot of fun but a lot of work and I'm happy to get back to my regular blogging schedule. And since it's the first of the month, that means first impressions. Today we have  Mary O’Donnell with us and here's the first page from her YA dystopian/scifi, A WOMAN"S WAR. My comments will be in purple and I hope you'll pop over to see what Dianne Salerni had to say. And in case anyone saw my mis-post - I got my dates mixed up - sorry!

Lysa managed a comforting smile as she lay in the hospital bed with small tubes winding around her. Even as the world burned in war,(I want to know more about this) she was still only thinking of me. I looked away from Lysa and stared at the window. I was grateful to the tubes since they gave my sister needed nutrients. Mentally I knew that the tubes acted the same as roots do to for a tree.(Interesting analogy!) However, they made my skin crawl to see them hooked up to my sister.
    Instead, my eyes strayed to the other patients in the ward around us. There were a few wounded soldiers who moaned in their beds. One soldier had two bandaged stumps for legs with red blood painted edges.(I would use the word red or blood, mainly because it reads better and the extra word seems superfluous - but that's just my preference.Otherwise, great imagery.) An old woman stared ahead out the window, her eyes were glazed over, and complexion pale. Each new breath the old woman took was a small miracle.(How would the narrator know this?) Lysa, in contrast looked as if she could easily get up and walk out of the hospital. Her cheeks were rose colored and her breaths were still strong. The tubes that were connected to my sister, keeping her alive were the only signs I could see that Lysa’s strength was failing her.
  Lysa was always the strong one who never needed a man to carry a thing for her, or to make a living. Her strength was amazing to me. Lysa’s husband went missing in action in the war after she became pregnant. Since she refused to blubber or complain about her hardships, I was the only one who could tell that she had taken the news hard.(This seems like a huge understatement.) I understood, however, that some wounds were personal. When I asked her why she didn’t talk about her husband, my sister told me that true grief was done in silence. 


My first impression is that this feels older than YA, but this is only the first page so... The second thing is that there's a lot of passive 'to be' verbs. Now, since our first scene takes place in a hospital with sick people, there isn't much action except for our narrator watching her sister, but I wonder if there isn't a way to revise to make it sound more active, especially in the third paragraph. For example, maybe a memory of Lysa and her sister might serve better to show how strong Lysa was in comparison to how weak she seems now. Otherwise, I think this is a good beginning. 

What do you think? Does anyone have any suggestions or comments for Mary?

30 comments:

  1. Yeah, some of the imagery is very strong. Sounds older than young adult to me as well.

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  2. Thank you so much Marcy for reviewing, your suggestions are greatly appreciated. I had a hard time trying to think of what age this story is for. Good to know that it might be for an older group.

    Alex: Thank you! It's very nice to meet you.

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  3. Marcy had great comments/suggestions. My only additive is that the first sentence drew me in, but the second one confused me. I had to read it over a few times and I'm still unsure who is speaking. I'd work on that first paragraph; write what you mean, let the reader in your head.

    Best of luck with this!!

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    1. Thank you for your feedback and for reading!

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  4. greetings to Mary (and her lamb if she brought it with her) :)

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  5. My only suggestion (and this might be obvious from a back cover blurb or something) would be to get a little more specific about the setting, just to ground us in a time and place.

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  6. I already commented on Dianne's blog, but I'd like to mention to Mary that she might like to go to Miss Snark's First Victim's blog and skim the Secret Agent first 250 entries and comments there. It's a good way to judge what agents want in the beginning of a novel.

    (Marcy - you freaked me out! I stopped by early this morning and found PK's entry here, but when I went to comment, it was gone. The whole page was gone. Eek! Twilight zone time! lol)

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    1. sorry about that - I had my dates mixed up :(

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    2. Hey, ever since I retired I barely know what day of week it is! lol

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    3. Thank you Lexa I will check it out!

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  7. I agree. Some how add the girls' ages. Note too, their voice may be older b/c they're in a war which may make the girls older for their years.

    Hugs and chocolate,
    Shelly

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  8. All the to be's got me too. Also, a writer friend attended a conference recently, and one of the things she learned is that "smile" is overused. Maybe a rethink there?

    When you talk about your character seeing things: "my eyes strayed..." it actually distances the reader from the action because of instead of the reader seeing it directly, they see if through someone's eyes. Instead of saying "I saw, I heard," etc, try just describing what it is they saw. Ex: "Around the ward, wounded soldiers moaned in their beds."

    Intriguing story!

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    1. Thanks for reading and your suggestions! I will keep that in mind as I revise some more!

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  9. I liked it and was draw in, immediately, by the underlined sentence about the world burning.

    The only thing I might add is that, if it's wartime, I think the hospital could be 'busier'. Maybe it's just me, but I got the picture that things were more relaxed then a wartime hospital should be..

    Hope that makes sense...

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    1. That is a good point about the hospital I will have to think about that! Thanks for reading and giving suggestions, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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  10. I liked this! I was definitely curious to learn more about the world. Also, there are some great suggestions in the above comments. :)

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    1. Thank you so much for reading! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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  11. Intriguing start, with some very good imagery. Maybe the backdrop could be a little more clear, though. The world burning at war? Literally, or does it just seem that way to the young girl... and how young IS she? (I do realize there may be a good idea for waiting to reveal this info.)

    All in all, I think this could be the start of a very interesting story. Good job!

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    1. Thanks so much for reading and giving suggestions! I am so glad you enjoyed it.

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  12. I agree about the great imagery, and that line 'as the world burned in war' is a strong hook. I would suggest working it into the first sentence.

    I also agree that this seems a little too passive for the background being created. The suggestion to add more action, let us feel the pain and suffering of a war-time hospital ward rather than just speaking about it would set a better backdrop for 'a world burning at war'.

    Finally, inserting more clues to the MC's age and general circumstances seems to be imperative from the get go. I would also like some indication of the 'era' this war takes place. Is is historical, present day or futuristic? This should be easy to depict in a hospital ward.

    All that said, you have an interesting start. I would keep reading.

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    1. Thank you so much for reading and I will keeping your suggestions in mind as I revise!

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  13. In the first paragraph you refer to Lysa as Lysa, Lysa, my sister, my sister. Perhaps alternate or use another phrase.

    I agree that you need to give more information on the MC, although her use of the word "blubber" marked her a pre-teen/teen to me.

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    1. Thanks for reading and your suggestions! I will probably add a few phrases that will give the reader their ages and who is the main character.

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  14. Great suggestions, Marcy.

    ANd now I'm off to catch up on your XYZ posts. What'd I miss???

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  15. My first impression was also of a story aimed at an age group older than YA--but I could see it working in a dystopian setting. Interesting beginning!

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  16. I can imagine the relief at returning to a normal schedule.

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