Just a quick update because I’m excited about something that happened recently. I also hope it might help other writers out there.
I’ve been working on staying focused on my writing lately and after deciding I’m not much of an outliner, I skipped the rest of the character biographies and detailed scene planning, and just started writing. I wrote six chapters, then decided I’d bite the bullet and send my first chapter in to my Facebook writing group for critique.
I’m a member of the Your Novel Blueprint group headed by Christian author Jerry Jenkins, most well-known for his Left Behind series, although he’s had over 190 books traditionally published in his 40 year career. Since there’s over 300 members in that group, there’s no guarantee he’ll see every post, but he does manage to catch most chapter or page submissions and he does a personal edit of them for us, with suggestions on how to make it better. Such a blessing!
A couple of other group members saw my submission and made comments that they liked it and were hooked or would read more, so that in itself was pleasing, but then Jerry also looked at it, so I was really happy about that (since he’s the expert😉).
When he reposted his edited version of my chapter, he apologized in advance for being so severe with his editing. Eek! 😬 Uh oh, that didn’t sound so good.
I prayed for a thick skin and a teachable spirit. 🙏🏼
But then he went on to say it’s “only because I see potential here.” (Happy dance! 😀) That’s promising! Another positive comment he made was “this is a big concept, futuristic, maybe even dystopian premise.” Coming up with a “big concept” is what every writer aims for when brainstorming story ideas, so I was tickled.
My chapter was only 582 words to begin with, but he chopped it down to 268! I left all his comments in so you can see them (in green).
Below, I’ve pasted my first chapter before editing, followed by the chapter with Jerry’s editing suggestions (just read the black and red to know what it would sound like without his comments). Remember when you read his revised version that he’s working with what I already wrote, not what he would’ve written himself.
Tell me what you think.
The Asylum Country of New Zealand, 2025
Fuming over the injustice of being excluded from the Deliverance Day roster, I scowled at Mum in the rearview mirror as she prattled on, but my vengeful thoughts focused on the mayor, the President, the secretive One World Order—whoever stamped my name ineligible.
“Give me a break! If I’m so special, why was my name the only one not on the list?” The fireworks from the stadium we’d just left tinted her blonde hair shades of pink and gold and blue.
“Indianna Grace Fletcher, how many times have I told you that everything happens for a reason? Your purpose will reveal itself when the time is right.” She only used my full name when she scolded me, but I didn’t care.
“Well, I’m tired of waiting! I’m going to make things happen the way I want for a change!”
T.J. covered his ears with his hands, bumping his forehead on the glass as he rocked back and forth, no doubt trying to escape the mounting tension the only way he knew how. Mum reached forward and touched his shoulder.
My twin brother, younger by the thirty minutes he got stuck in the birth canal, got the short end of the stick. Within the first few months of his life, specialists diagnosed him with a mild case of cerebral palsy, but by his third birthday, they changed the label to autistic. I squeezed his slender leg in apology.
“How on earth am I supposed to do anything great stuck in this little country the rest of the world’s forgotten about?” I said through gritted teeth.
Ruining our run of green lights, the signal at the last intersection out of town turned red, forcing the car to stop. I pouted. Big raindrops spattered across the windshield distorting the view. I knew I could override the autopilot if I wanted to. It couldn’t be that hard to drive manually—after all, people did it all the time years ago.
Tired of peering through smeared splatters as we sat at the empty intersection, I slapped the steering wheel with the heels of both hands, and gripped it till my knuckles turned white. “Come on!”
“Calm down, Indie. Everything will work out the way it’s supposed to. It always does.”
My rebellious streak kicked in. Maybe I can stow away. Or maybe I’ll just marry Hayden! He’s already got a scholarship to Stanford. Surely the stupid authorities can’t stop a wife from leaving with her husband.
“Don’t get any wild ideas now!”
I frowned. I hated when Mum read my mind.
“Destiny has a way of showing up when you least expect it. You’ll see.”
For some reason, her usual calming tone grated on my nerves tonight. It was the same spiel she’d been spoon-feeding me my whole life. I rolled my eyes. Give it a rest, woman!
Finally, the light turned green and the car accelerated forward.
I jumped, surprised to hear my brother’s thought loud and clear in my head for the first time in several years, but he echoed my sentiments exactly. Yeah, buddy, Mum needs to stop, doesn’t she?
I jumped again as T.J. smacked both hands flat against the window. Two huge headlights barreled towards us. I jerked the wheel to the right. The truck slammed into the left side, throwing us into a roll. The din of crumpling metal and shattering glass wasn’t enough to drown out our screams.
With Jerry’s editorial suggestions:
The Asylum Country of New Zealand, 2025
Fuming over [resist the urge to explain; if she’s fuming, we know she considers it an injustice] being excluded from the Deliverance Day roster, I [confusing; I would have assumed Mum was driving and the main character was seeing her from the back seat] [already established] vowed revenge on whoever in the One World Order deemed me ineligible.
[sorry, but this is a big concept, futuristic, maybe even dystopian premise that is diminished by this whole whining to Mum car scene; makes it sound like a typical coming of age tale—and it can be much bigger than that] Why was mine the only name not on the list? [not sure what this means; she’s literally the only one who won’t be delivered, or the only one in her family—including her CP brother?] [if this is that big a deal, it shouldn’t be rehearsed off stage after it’s over; maybe start there] [this has become one of the most overused clichés of this genre; editors see it as a lazy way to work in someone’s whole name, and it’s always in this context, an exasperated parent addressing an irrepressible son or daughter] [that quote may be realistic, but it’s so vapid it just slows the story].
I was tired of waiting, determined to make things happen the way I wanted for a change.
T.J. covered his ears, [what else would he cover his ears with? 🙂] bumping his forehead on the glass as he rocked[redundant; that’s what rocking is], no doubt trying to escape the mounting tension the only way he knew how. [your best bet is to leave Mum out of this; main character should be on the run with her brother; maybe even stole the family car]
My twin brother, younger by thirty minutes had been diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy, but by age three, he had been labeled autistic. I squeezed his slender leg in apology.
“How on earth am I supposed to do anything great stuck in this little country the rest of the world’s forgotten about?” I said.[let your choice of dialogue words do the work so you can resist the urge to explain]
Ruining our run of green lights, the signal at the last intersection out of town turned red,[we know 😉 ]. I pouted. Big raindrops spattered across the windshield. [ditto] [omit needless words] I could override the autopilot. [omit needless words] People drove manually all the time years ago.
[cliché] “Come on!”
Maybe I can stow away. Or maybe I’ll marry Hayden and follow him to Stanford. Surely the authorities couldn’t stop a wife from leaving with her husband.
[yes, please; this is the reason most editors want adults excised from YA books]
Finally, the light turned green and the car accelerated[assumed; give the reader credit] .
I jumped, surprised to hear my brother’s thought loud and clear for the first time in years. T.J. slammed both hands against the window. Two huge headlights barreled towards us. I jerked the wheel to the right. The truck slammed into our left side, throwing us into a roll. Crumpling metal, shattering glass, screams …
It clicked after I thanked him for saying I had potential that he wasn’t talking about my writing as much as he was the story, but that’s okay. I realized I still have a lot to learn and as Jerry says, “All writing is rewriting.”
And because of his comments, I started the story over beginning with my protagonist at the stadium during the big announcement. I’ve also decided to change it up so that my protagonist is not excluded from the list, but that the car accident will happen after a celebratory drink or two and her boyfriend or best friend will die, and so she has to live with survivor’s guilt. Then she finds out her mum and brother are missing…
©️ 2018, Mia Manumit, https://calledtobeawriter.wordpress.com