Releasing your inner dragon

The publishing game: Learn to write a better first page!

March 22, 2024 Marie Mullany & Maxwell Alexander Drake Season 4 Episode 10
The publishing game: Learn to write a better first page!
Releasing your inner dragon
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Releasing your inner dragon
The publishing game: Learn to write a better first page!
Mar 22, 2024 Season 4 Episode 10
Marie Mullany & Maxwell Alexander Drake

Send us a Text Message.

Join Drake and Marie as they read first page submissions and say if they would have published them and why they would (or would not have) published them.

Writer's room (50% off for lifetime membership):

Membership for Just In Time Worlds:

Give us feedback at releasingyourinnerdragon(at)gmail(dot)com


Drake's Contact Details:
Starving Writer Studio:
Drake-U:  - Use RYID25 for 25% off!
Writer's Room:

Marie's contact details:
Just In Time Worlds:

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

Join Drake and Marie as they read first page submissions and say if they would have published them and why they would (or would not have) published them.

Writer's room (50% off for lifetime membership):

Membership for Just In Time Worlds:

Give us feedback at releasingyourinnerdragon(at)gmail(dot)com


Drake's Contact Details:
Starving Writer Studio:
Drake-U:  - Use RYID25 for 25% off!
Writer's Room:

Marie's contact details:
Just In Time Worlds:

It definitely suffers from Head Book. There's things in this scene that the writer can see, and they're taking it for granted that the reader can see it and we can't. It's not here.

Yeah, it's in your head book, if that doesn't make sense to you, if that's the first time you've heard that Drake ism, I have kind of coined a bunch of Drake isms. This one is you don't realize that when you're writing, you're actually writing two books simultaneously, one in your head and one on paper to you. They're the same book.

So when you read your paper book, you're also reading your head book at the same time, and you don't notice that there's two books, but you can only give.

Away the paper book.

So that's why when somebody says, You lost me here, this doesn't make sense. I'm confused here. Those are the most important critiques for you, because it means because what most writers will do is I.

Don't understand why you understand that. It's so obvious. Yeah, it's obvious because.

It's in your.

Head book.

Like, No, don't have that reaction. Go, I screwed up. I didn't put that information for you, did I? I have been a bad.

Steward of information because.

It's in my head book and I forgot to put it on the paper book.

Releasing your inner dragon.

So, Drake, how important is the first page of a book?

Make or break career? Important.

That. That's how important it is. Well, and it also.

Depends on what you're doing. We discussed this actually, this week in the writers room

if you're going for the industry,

it's vitally important. You know, it's so insane that people are like, you know, you've heard this before. Your first sentence.


You the first paragraph, the first paragraph buys you the first page. If you can get an agent or acquisition and read the first page, you've done.

You've you've crossed the.

The biggest hurdle. You know, now it's more of a where you're at long term.

So that's what we're going to do today.

We're going to you know, we've been asking for submissions and now we have quite a few of them. We're going to go through them, we're going to read them. We're going to basically say we're going to pretend as if we were agents or publishers, acquisitions editors. We're not, but we're going to pretend as if we are. And then we're going to say, you know, basically, you know, just say I'm out or whatever, but keep reading it till the now, like don't stop when the first one does.

So normally back in the day when I was at conventions, we do this a lot and I'd be like the only writer on the panel and there'd be two agents and two acquisitions editors and I'd be the writer dude up there. And it was always so funny because I would be the first one to go. I'm out every time, every time I'd be the first one.

And then when I would talk to them afterwards, they would go, Yeah, I would have been out when you said that, but I don't want to be a dick on stage, so I want to want to make it seem like I'm nicer than what I'm like. Yeah, but I don't. I don't have a dog in that fight. I'm not rejecting anybody, so I'm going to tell them the truth of when they actually would get rejected.

But every time they were like, Yeah, you were right. That's that's what I meant.

So that's what we're going to do. But as always, since I'm a.

Storyteller, I do want to I think this is kind of a.

And this was I've had a lot of.

Moments in my career was just these pivotal moments that impacted me and changed the.

Way I.

Thought about this industry. And I may have told this story on this podcast before, but it definitely is a part of what we're doing here. So one of the very first agents that I ever befriended, and it was early in my career, maybe only a couple of months into being a professional writer. He does not represent anything that I write, which is why we could be friends.

And so we were out to dinner.

And he said he had said something.

Earlier that had.

Really, really made me angry as an artist. And as a writer. And so I wanted to call him on because earlier we were in a panel and he had said, I only.

Need to read the first line of your manuscript to know what quality of.

Writer you are.

I can reject it based off of that. And when I heard that, I was furious.

I was like, No, there's no way you can read one line and no the quality of that writer, you are.

So full of crap. And so I called him on it and then we talked about and I of course I didn't believe him. It didn't matter what he said that night. I'm early in my career.

20 years later, I'm.

Like, Yeah, I know the quality of a writer. After I read their first opening line, that's that's really all I need.

So in, in like talking about this, I want to just tell a story of like when I say in the very first chapter, the very first draft of The Hidden Blade, one of those conventions, and it got rejected in the second paragraph because I was very young, very stupid writer at the time. It was my very first.

Book about stupid.

Inexperienced. I put in a

flashback, paragraph one. And the editor who rejected it said, If you have to flashback in your first chapter, you are starting your story in the wrong place. And it had a notable impact on me, obviously.

So for anyone who's listening, my guest Yeah.

So if if your story is up here and we reject it, I hope that it has the same level of impact on you and helps you see where you're going wrong.


Now I started by saying it does depend, so let's finish that up just before we start.

If you're going to the industry.

Here's the heartbreaking reality of submitting to the industry.

You love.

Your story. You think your story is awesome. But the big mistake that you make when you submit either a query letter.

Or first.

Chapter, first three chapters or whatever is.

You think you're sending it to a person who actually wants to read it. That's the biggest.

Heartbreaking thing to come to understand about the industry. They don't want to read your submission.

And that may sound weird.

Like like an agent, you know, we're like.

Wait a minute, what do you mean?

An agent doesn't want to read query letters? I thought their job is to look for new clients. Nope, that is not their job. Their job is to sell their current clients.

They do have to look for more clients, but that's not their job.

They make no money looking for clients. They it's a massive waste of time. They have.

To trudge through thousands of pieces of garbage to get one that is at least.

Less amount of garbage that they might be able to edit and help you get to the point where it's not.


Like it's not fun for them. There is nothing they want to do, so they want to reject those.

And also think about what you do.

For a living.

Let's say your boss comes.

Don't say you work hard 8 hours a day, every day, five days a week, and your boss comes in and says, Hey.

I need you to do something for.

Me every day. It's going to take you about an hour. It has nothing to do with your job. It doesn't impact your job in any way, shape or form. But you will do it every single day and it will take you an hour every single day, and you'll still do the 8 hours of work that you were doing and you're still only getting paid for 8 hours.

How excited are you going to be about that extra work?

How many shortcuts are you going to take to try and get it done before the hour so that you can get on to your 8 hours? That is query letters to agents. And that sounds cruel.


Harsh, but they're people and they have a job to do. And their job isn't those query letters.

And so that is.

Just that's why query letters are so hard, because you have to.

Write it in a way.

You have to understand you're you're sending it to somebody who hates you. You're sending a love letter to someone who despises you, but you want to ask them out on a date. That's what you're doing. And so if you think about it like that and you're like, Wow, okay, this girl hates me, she loathes me, she spits on me every time I see her.

But I really want to take her to the.

Prom this year.

So I need to craft a letter that's going to make her want to at least respond to me in a positive way.

That's what you got to think about. That's why query letters are so hard.

Because they're not easy. So we're going to act that role. We're going to be doing that the cruel.

Version of it. And based off of our experience, however, fans are much more lenient. Most fans will not reject you after one page. They will not reject you. I mean, unless you are doing something really egregious. If you there are things everybody has their pet peeves, every reader has something that really takes them off and they're just like, I'm out.

I don't even want to give this.

Person a time of mind at all, but you still have to do something. There's so much out there.

The white noise, the competition that you are dealing with. I mean.

There's a million new books get.

Published, fiction books get published every year.

Now over over a million.

No one could read that many.

It's impossible. So they're going it.

Is a buyer's.

Market. And if they hit and readers.

Are becoming more and more and more picky about what they're doing and some genres, I mean, every genre is different. And, you know, some genres are way more and we've talked about that before. But, you know, just understand if you if you're going to indie press.

You still want.

To do your best to try and hook them in that first page. You want to make sure you're not doing any of the.

Big grievances.

That the vast majority of audience is as its subjective, So you're not going to you're never going to please everybody. I think I've told the story where I had that one guy come up to me and he's like, Man, I really like your writing style and this is a really good story. I will never read you again because you use Nyx instead of No.

And that really bothered me.

Like, really like that's why you actually, like you found an author you like. And because I use Nyx.

Instead of no in this one saga, you're.


Have now put me on the.

Blacklist. You have banned me like that.

Seems pretty petty. So yeah, never, never underestimate how petty a reader can be. So yeah, so that's what we're going to do. Hopefully you guys will enjoy it. Hopefully the authors that were that have sent stuff and you didn't do any prep work for this one, did you? You didn't read.

It? No.

I have read a single page.

We're literally both going into this blind. We have no preconceived we have no idea what we're about to open up. We did that on purpose to make sure that we were not biased in any way. This is.

Just true reaction.

In the moment. As it.


I am going to share my screen.

So those that are on YouTube.

You'll be able to see what is being sent to us. Those that are on podcast, you're just have to listen and use your imagination.

All right. I'm going to start with Story, one of strip names and story titles and set one.

Out, of course.

But you didn't change Prologs or anything, did you?

No. Okay. Yeah. The boy could only run and nothing else came to mind.

I'm out of it.

You can go on to. You're out. But I'm out on it. Sends one.

The boy could only run. Nothing else came to mind to scream or fight or anything. But from the sound of it, his pursuer was close behind. I'm out. I'll finish reading the page and then we can discuss why.


Got the boy could only run. Nothing else came to mind. Scream or fight to anything but. But from the sound of it, his pursuer was close behind a leaping running step kept the steady beat as he tried to flee. But the beat behind him was faster. And some are more dedicated. It was midday and the fields were empty.

Everyone having finished their work before the heat kicked in, nobody was there to witness his flight or attempt to intervene, and before he knew it, Pierre was knocked to the ground, the blow banishing any crime he could have made as the beast straddled his back, pinning him down and laughing the beast certainly didn't look like the savage creature he was.

He and Pierre were both children of the nearby town. Pierre, a little older with the same brown hair and eyes as most locals had. It would be easy to mistake the beast for any other boy. Words finally welled in his throat and began to scream, Get off me! But it was cut off by a blow to the head.

The beast laughed, a rasp and haughty noise unbefitting a child and rammed a hand against the back of his head, forcing his face into the dry dirt. From his peripheral vision, he saw the glint of something in the sand and tried to scream, but the sound came out only as a strangled cry as the blade stabbed between his ribs.

The world, in his view, suddenly shrank everything falling away to contain only the agonizing pain of the assault as the beast stabbed him again and again, he was going to die. He realized the monster was going to kill him, and an odd piece settled over him. Over him at the thought as even the pain faded. I think that's a fair read because I can see where the hook is.

It's just buried. Yeah. So why are you out on sentence one?

Alright, so really, two reasons. One.

It's a tell.

It's there's nothing engaging about it. There's nothing that makes me want to be a part of it. But the big reason is, is that it starts off with a vague the.

Boy we get, we get the boy's.

Name in paragraph.

Three. Pierre Why there? Since there's no payoff for hiding.

Who the narrator is, the only time I would ever hide who the narrator is.

Is if there's a payoff for. If I'm going to. If if it is Actually, once the reader figures.

Out why they don't understand who the pov is, they go, my.

God, that was cool, then great.

But there's no payoff for it. It's just a boy. And then it's Pierre.


You know, again, I talk about this all the time. You want to do things very, very quickly. Brown them in whose head they're in. Ground them where we're at and give me some type of conflict. The bad thing is, is that a reader is going to give them at least what you read.

And there's a lot of.

Interesting in here, there's a lot of potential in here. And so.

While the industry would be.

Done after the first sentence, no one's getting past that person, not an unknown agent on acquisition out of there. They're going to be completely out. There's a lot of potential here.

Which is a.

Shame that.

That. Yeah.

So I'll tell you why I reject it on sentence two. I reject that sentence two because it was from the sound of it, his pursuer was close behind. There's nothing immersive about right.

It's all tell.

Just yeah, it's all tell.

And the thing is process.

Yeah. And this thing is there is a lot as you said like it's very interesting that there's a child that Pierre thinks of as a beast. But is it a child? The whole thing is interesting. There's a great hook here, but because the beginning is very generalized and very telly you, you would lose, as you say, you would lose the industry.

But the the the hook down there is that he's being chased by another kid. Establish that faster and you have a way better chance.

Also, in medias res. In the moment.

We want it we want it to be visceral. You're you're you're you're obviously.

Trying this author's obviously trying to write in a limited.

P.O.V. and so therefore be limited.

There's a lot of times where he slips into a very omniscient kind of

way of writing, like nobody was there to witness his flight or attempt to intervene. Like he's definitely not thinking about that at this moment.

There was one about this hair,

You know, there's a there's a kind of omniscience going on, but at the same time, there's a kind of limited ness going with stick to the limited, especially for this kind of scene.


So if we started off in something more visceral.

Like so there's two ways you.

Could start this. You could start it with the visceral ness of running in blind panic, or you could even start it off down where, you know, so like, and before he knew it.

Like talk about pushing the reader.

To arm's length.

Yeah. With that.


As opposed to.

You know, the air.


From his lungs as he was slammed to the ground. That's the other thing is is if words are just so important. So when we have stuff like he was knocked, you know, the beast straddle his bag, it pinned him down.

These are just all M&Ms.

He pansy verbs that every single one of them we could replace with much more visceral, much stronger verbiage that's going.

To force the reader to.

Be engaged as opposed to, you know, it was midday in the fields were empty. Everyone had, you know, having finished that, we have a weird ing verb that we don't need. So there's just a lot of passion. And again, the funny thing is, is this is the perfect example of like, if you would listen to me at the beginning of this and you were like, Well, I think you're wrong to drag you.

There's no way you're going to tell a person's writing from the first sentence. That first sentence tells me this writer is going to be always pushing the reader at arm's length, going to be a very telling writer, a very unengaged writer, a very unemotional writer. And then we go through the first page and that rings true every single paragraph that we continue reading.


Like I said, I disagree with the agent as well when he when he said.

That, but it really is that writer's your fingerprint.

You can get stronger as you improve, especially if you're in something like the writer's room or whatever, where you're you're engaging with people that are forcing you to get better, week after week, and I mean, and and it never stops.

I'm working on a short story to use as a marketing piece. I've got the chapter as good as I can get it.

I'm very, very happy with it.

However, I know.

That I want to do more with it because while my fan base is going to be ecstatic with it and I proven that with the beta readers, I've got other people that are almost fans of mine that are like, Man, this hooked me. But it took me two pages, it took me three pages.

And so I'm reading and I'm like, I just can't I'm too close to this.

So I sent it to.


And I was like.

Do your worst cut.

Everything you think is cut. And then you sat down with me and went like, You teach this in this other stuff. Why aren't you doing it with this? And it was such.

A this morning, an hour ago. It's like, this isn't this isn't Drake five years ago, it was such a I can't believe that I literally do what you're telling me to do in these other aspects of writing and don't do it. And this like, you're so frickin right. Like, why did I. Why have I never been able to pierce that veil?

It's because we're too close to our own work. You must be critiqued to grow as a writer. Now.

I've won awards. I've got hundreds of thousands of fans. I've got. You know, I make a living at this.

Could I. Could I just say, screw it, I'm fine.

And I'm there.

Sure. But that's not the type.

Of person I am because, you know, like in that discussion, I had to basically brand new beta readers had never read me before. That's why I want to take advantage of this. And one of them, you know, after I read it both and were like, you know, the first one was like, man, I'm a huge Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan fan And you are 100% right

there in league with them. And then the girl was like, yes, I understand. I agree with that. And then the guy was like, And I love them. So 100%, I'm your fan. And the girl was like, You know, I actually don't love them. I find it very hard to read Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, and then in the background, her husband screamed Brandon

Sanderson's the best. And so like I knew.

And so when the guy said that, I knew I had him as a fan, because if somebody tells me they like Briana Sanderson and or and Robert Jordan, all I could do is get him read a page or two of my work and they're my fan. Like, I just got to get you to read. You're done. But she said something that made me the reason why I sent it to Marie was she said.

I really like this. It's just that there was just a little bit like.

She was like, You don't go anywhere near the level of detail and worldbuilding and info dumping that anyone else does. It was actually.


Bad at.

All, which is, which means that it didn't kick me out.

And once I stayed with it for a couple of pages, I was 100% hooked. She's like, But depending on what mood I was in, I might not have given you those two pages.

So the reason why I'm more focused on her is because she's an almost fan. If I if I could just figure out how to tweak a couple little things.

I wouldn't.


You know, the first guy, I would still keep him, but I would gain her. And so that's why I sent it to Marie and was like, I know it's there. I know I'm missing something. Show me. Take the blinders off my eyes and give it to me. And so.

Yeah, it's you have to be critiqued.

And so it everybody.

It doesn't stop. But yeah, your, your fingerprint will grow.

As you go through here. But you've got to understand that you're writing for other people, not for yourself. And so and then this has some other problems.

It definitely suffers from Head Book. There's things in this scene that the writer can see, and they're taking it for granted that the reader can see it and we can't. It's not here.

Yeah, it's in your head book, if that doesn't make sense to you, if that's the first time you've heard that Drake ism, I have kind of coined a bunch of Drake isms. This one is you don't realize that when you're writing, you're actually writing two books simultaneously, one in your head and one on paper to you. They're the same book.

So when you read your paper book, you're also reading your head book at the same time, and you don't notice that there's two books, but you can only give.

Away the paper book.

So that's why when somebody says, You lost me here, this doesn't make sense. I'm confused here. Those are the most important critiques for you, because it means because what most writers will do is I.

Don't understand why you understand that. It's so obvious. Yeah, it's obvious because.

It's in your.

Head book.

Like, No, don't have that reaction. Go, I screwed up. I didn't put that information for you, did I? I have been a bad.

Steward of information because.

It's in my head book and I forgot to put it on the paper book.

Like, it's that simple.

So yeah, there's there.

There's a lot. But it's going to be yeah, this is going to be a very telling read. And you know, again, as we went through it to just get the stories really interesting, I'm actually kind of like, Ooh, that's kind of cool what's going on here?

Because you say it's a boy. The way he describes it.

He said.

Other people.

Would recognize it as a boy.

Yeah, but not that it was a boy.


Or a child or whatever it was. Yeah. Yeah, I think it was child, not boy, but anyway.

So that, that got me.

Like, ooh, okay, so it's not a child, some weird.

You know, demon creature or.

Whatever that can look like a child or whatever. And then there was, there was a really interesting dichotomies of.

Like there was.

There was a chapter, there was a paragraph. I was like, okay, they're just playing. And then it was like, And then he stabbed him. What?

They're not playing because it it almost felt like like what it felt like, which was really cool.

The author was like, I'm just going to describe these two kids playing as if it's way more serious than what it is. And so when he took me down that that emotional downgrade and then went immediately up to 11 with the he stabbed him in the ribs, it was nice. Now, the only thing I'm worried about now and again, we haven't read passes.

I'm really worried if this is a dream, because if it is, then it would ruin it would literally take everything away from what we've done so well.

We won't find out because we're stopping. If this is a dream, then I really hope that you reconsider.

Do you have anything else to add to any of this one?

No, I think we're done with this one. Let's move on to story number two. Yeah. So this opens with a little flavor text quote, I met an Orchelian once, Beautiful Feathers. He was walking across my field bold as day only the short lived races believe in dreams. This is their greatest danger to themselves and us. That's what he said.

Never even told them. I was tired and cataloged. Up, up Afro was how you pronounce that word. Aphorisms, Afro isms and recollection. Dry skin gold.


Lavender screamed, lavender, scream, but the cloying heat of her trapped breath and the scratchy blank that swallowed the words. She threw back the cover and the brittle night settled against her like a ball. The nightmare still lingered at the edge of memory, fading, but not fast enough. She closed her eyes and the images flared again. Flames licking and curling up the family, portraits devouring the generations.

The two moons sliding together. They glow, warming her pony skin, Lavender stayed up into the dark. It was a dream, just a dream.

the sight to the gray wedding proved it with the conjunction of the moon still almost a year away, cold rattled lavender bones and left her trembling. A forgotten moment burst back to the surface.

It all lay, lying sprawled, should red with blood standing over her brother had being the pale man, the walking nightmare face like an empty scratch, a ragged blank space. I might be out of that colon.

Yeah, yeah.

I. I am not a fan of colons in prose.

I'm sorry to say a punctuation might throw me out, but I might be out at that.

I didn't hear you say the colon.

I'm that parrot.

So the funny thing is, technically, most agents and actually editors would actually have been out. Just go back to the top.


The second paragraph, the nightmare still lingered at the edge of her memory. I think it's.

Stupid. I have. I have. I definitely have started a story this way, but the industry.

Is so gun shy of starting.

There's two things.

That that.

They arbitrarily.

Reject, and I think they're dumb for doing it.

One is.

If you start in a dream now, 99% of all dreams are done poorly and so therefore they deserve to be rejected.

But what I can see.

An argument for it working. But the other one and the one that I think is really petty is just waking up. They still have this very big prejudice against.

If you start a.

Story where the character is waking up, I'm out.

And that's why I didn't say.

Anything when you were going, because I definitely would not. But I do know because I know so many agents and editors now, I do know there's a more than 50% of them that for literally no other reason than just bigotry of waking, you know, starting a story with a character, waking up. They will reject it. And like I said, I don't care.

I've had stories that start with characters waking up. I don't see anything wrong with it, especially if you have the hook. And I think the hook was here. The reason.


But so the paragraph with the colon that you were like, colon.

So the reason why I.

Would this.

Is where I'm leaning toward. I mean, everything.

Was so well written. There's a lot of like really powerful.

Verbs in here. There is some good imagery.

That that frickin.

Opening line with the scream and the blanket, you know, swallowing it or whatever it was like. That was very, very nice. Really enjoyed that. The mistake that's made in this paragraph is.

I don't.

Care about lavender, so I definitely don't care about Earl or Errol. She does and the author does. And so the author is.

Trying is assuming that because.


Is now.

Trembling, overseeing whoever this Errol is dead, that I'm going to care that Errol is dead. But you haven't connected me to Lavender yet. And so this isn't egregious. It's it's, you know, couple of lines and it doesn't look like it's there again. So that's why I said, I don't know if I'm out or not.

Well, let me let me keep reading. I'll explain about the I'll explain about the colon later. So let me keep.

Reading because I don't know if I'm outright.

Here yet or not.

Okay. The walking nightmare feels like an empty scratch, a ragged blank space, a dream half remembered terror clawed back to the surface, urging her up, she jerked, rolling with her blankets, the edge of the bed slid away, leaving lavender, sucked in cold air and cried out to get in. And she fell. Stars burst as her head struck, but she clung to her pillow, trapping it tight against her chest.

The impassive wooden planks of the floor fold her vision and the blanket knotted around her legs. Lavender glared at the floor, fighting the urge to so much as blink while a girl in the black stayed back. She lifted her cheek away from the gritty floorboards of her room and pulled the her rough blanket tight. Even in the chill air, the memory of searing heat still clawed at her throat.

Now the autumn air reasserted its presence, pushing past the memory. She wrapped her arms over her head, blocking out the world. Clammy sweat clung to her face and soaked her hair line from the top of her neck, all the way to the sharp peaks of her is Errol Milo. She lay still and listened to the silence snared in the bedclothes.


Okay. You sound like you're in all the way to the end.

So, I mean, yes.

There's some things that need to be worked on. There's some definite opportunities to strengthen this piece.

But I think because.

Of how much garbage agents and acquisitions just have to burn through, that they would look at this and go, okay, this is something I can edit. This is something that was just a little bit of polishing. This could be a really good piece. This is a solid piece. Great.

For me, it would be very petty to reject it on the column, but I'll explain why, so that people understand why I'm being petty on this colon. It to me, I read a lot of nonfiction documents. I absorb a lot of documents as part of my day to day job. Right. And a colon is something you see in nonfiction lists, which is followed by a bullet pointed list.

But so you've got that into the colon. I need you to achieve the following tasks. Then there's a colon and then there's a task right in bullet points. So for me, that's a punctuation mark that serves a nonfiction purpose followed by a bullet point list. And I promise you, I don't want to see bullet points in my prose, right?

I don't even.

Think it's used correctly here. I don't my rule is never use a colon in fiction.

It just.

There's no reason for.


But I'm not even sure it's grammatically correct the way it's used. But again, I don't I'm not going to make a judgment call on that because I don't I don't even study what colons should be used for because I you know, I just arbitrarily it's like, nope, they just don't need to be there. It definitely wouldn't be a semicolon because the next sentence is not a complete sentence.

Earl Lane I think you.

Just have a comma, like I think you can just have a comma there, right?

Right. That's what, that's what I was getting to. But I wanted to step down to the semicolon so it wouldn't be a semicolon because the next one isn't a complete sentence. There's no subject. I'm sorry. There's no action or zone or subject.

One of the other.

Errol lengths sprawling shirt rate with blood. Yeah. There's no subject.

Yeah, there's.

Errol is lying and he is sprawled the right.

So anyway, grammar hard like it's solid. A couple of things that I would do. So like going back to to the I've started waking up so there's that one chapter in my current work in progress where the kid, the farm boy wakes up and it's it's really similar to this. He wakes up from a nightmare and he's like, Holy crap.

Now I do not go into the nightmare or anything like this to like of what it was. But it does say while the nightmares differed from, from dream dream, the results did not. And each the tears the seers attested him. And then it goes an inner monologue where he says, and I've failed. So the reason why I'm fine with that is it's personal.

It is a thing that that you're we're focusing on the character. So since in here there's nothing that makes me that connects me between lavender and Arrow, other than the fact that for whatever reason, him being dead makes her tremble. But there's no connection there. Like, why so? Because there's nothing personal, and I don't care about anything yet.

You haven't earned my desire to care about these ancillary pieces, if that makes sense. So if you are going to start, you know, and again, this doesn't start in a dream, it starts with the character being woken by a dream, which, again, that's what I've done at least once. I don't know if I've ever done it other than that, but I definitely have done it once.

It still needs to be about lavender.

You need to.

Connect me to lavender first. Don't worry about connecting me to anything else because I don't care about lavender. I don't care about anything else. And you haven't connected me to lavender yet. Then the only thing other thing I can say is her getting out of bed became confusing. I don't understand. She lost me or he. I don't. I'm just assuming this author's a female.

But the author lost me through here. I don't. It wasn't painted well enough for me to follow the action. And so it seems weird that you're getting out of your bed, that you've gotten out of dozens, if not hundreds of times, and somehow you fall and slam your face into the floorboards.

If I'm reading this correctly, what the author's trying to say is that lavender roll, she's she's she's rolling in her blankets and she gets her feet tangled in her blankets. She's like, it's all so shaken up from the nightmare and she falls over the edge.

I followed that too.

But I can only when I'm reading, I'm only going to give credit to what is on the page. I don't want to. I don't have to guess. And so that's what I feel like I'm doing through here. And that's why I'm saying I'm lost because I can't see it. You did not paint Exactly. And I think it could be fixed with literally a line or a couple of even extra words in some of these just like what you just said, you know, even if it was and I hate right now my mouth.

But, you know, she moved to kick the the blankets off of her. But as she, you know, swung her feet to the floor, the blanket came with them or something, whatever. Just something to paint a little bit better of a okay, yeah. No, yeah, I'm being taken out by this blanket because right now I'm just guessing that it's the blanket.


Which I could be wrong. And it also means that I'm now thinking about what tripped her. And that's not what you want me thinking about when I'm going this you want me to think.

About this other stuff?

And so that's the other danger. When you don't paint things, you run the risk of the reader starting to now wonder about things that you don't that don't matter.

To the story.

But I think that long story short, if you are the author of this piece, congratulations. We made it all the way through to the end. Barring my pettiness about the color.

So you know, very, very, very well done.


All right. Let's move on to story number three. Rain fell heavily upon the riches of the cathedral's many pinnacles, draining the waters through the carved pathways out of the manifold mouths of the gargoyles that adorned them. The night was cold and dark.

I'm probably out after the first sentence.

Of the night was cold and dark. And inside the cathedral, the noise of the downpour was clearly audible. Father John, however, was praying no heat to the constant static rain. Constant static. The rain produced narrowly escaping. He's okay. I'm out. So I'm out on the sentence that should have hooked me. Okay, I'm going to read a little bit longer so we can see where this is going and then offer some meaningful commentary.

Narrowly escaping. He's a silent as he had exit did one of the radiating chapels. The attack had left him with a jagged cut across his right arm, staining his robes with a dark crimson. He made his way down.

Yeah, and not a second time.


All right.

Okay, so I'm going to I. I know. I know that we've go on, on and on and on about flashbacks, but this story is clearly being started to light, right? Because the exciting stuff is here.

But it happened in the past.

It and it happened in the past. It's all had it's all in both perfect, which means it's not what's happening to us now. It happened to us 5 minutes ago and it was exciting. And we don't get to see it.

But you don't get to see that. You get to listen to a disembodied spirit describing rain.

Yeah, that that the P.O.V. can't even.

Hear, like, he's not even paying attention to it. So wait, if the.


Doesn't know notice the rain, then how does the narration notice the rain? If the narration is coming from the P.O.V.? So and that's the biggest reason why. So there's two reasons why the first lens is going to throw me. One, it's a long run on sentence with a ton of information. And so that's going to again, that lets me know this is a writer who's going to write in a disembodied way, a very omniscient way, with a bunch of long wrong sentences that are going to, you know, build into nothing because that's usually what run on sentences end up doing.


And yeah, and I just want to build on, onto what you said there. If you're looking at the sentence count the amount of pieces of information that's in the sentence, we learn that there's rain. It's falling heavily on the richest. So there's a cathedral with ridges that has many pinnacles and it drains the water through carved path ways out of the manifold mounds of gargoyles that adorns the cathedral.

That is nine pieces of information in one sentence. That is a lot to put into a reader in the first sentence.

And not only that.

None of it is about the character. This is about an exterior shot. Like a movie shot. Yeah.

Yeah, yeah. There's nothing. There's nothing that makes me go.

So there's another thing I push in the writers room all the time. There's only two ways that a story is going to affect the reader. The reader is either going to go, All right, let me read the next paragraph. All right. Let me read the next paragraph. All right, Let me read the next paragraph.

Or the.

Paragraph is going to go. I dare you to not read me. You must read me. And the readers may be like, my God, I cannot wait to read next paragraph. my God, I cannot wait to. my goodness. I can't wait to get the next paragraph.

Where's the next that?

So the reader is either going to have to push through the story.

Or they're going to be pulled through the story. Yeah.

And this opening paragraph, I am definitely pushing through this story. There's nothing in it that makes me go. There's no open ended question. There's no conflict, there's no personality. And I don't mean personality is in somebody's personality. What's the word I'm looking for? There's nothing personal to the characters. What I mean by that person ality, like I guess I'm making up a word here.

Is nothing that makes me go,

This is somebody that I want to follow because it's just it's a dude who's not paying attention to the brain for some reason that I just read about and something exciting happened to him.

In the past.

That I don't get to experience.

Right? Yeah. So yeah.

So yeah, I think that the lesson on this story is 45 minutes earlier I think as silent.

Well, and we're.

Taking liberties here. I do want to push back on that. The story may have nothing to do.


Father John being attacked in nearly escaping.

If it.

Doesn't, then this is a very weird thing to bring up in the first.

Paragraph. So you're probably.

Right. I mean, 99% chance this did just happen 5 minutes ago and it actually does have relevance. Otherwise it's even worse. But we didn't read further.

So yeah, I just want to at least say.

That when we say if this happened 5 minutes ago, then yeah, that may be the hook, but it also may not even.

Be the hook. We have no idea what this story is. Could be so. But yes, gut gut check your you have more.

Chance of being right on what the information we have than you have been wrong. I'm just saying I don't want to.

Yeah. I won't take the chance.

Of the writer.

Going. Well, that has nothing to do what I was writing. If you would read the next paragraph, you would have known that.

Yeah, but I'm not going to read the next paragraph, so I will never know that.

All right, Let's move on to story number four, then. Wake up, man. You're going to miss it. Stirring from his resting place atop the atmo processor, Dan remained lazily, moving his head in the direction of the disembodied voice of Charlie, keeping his eyes closed as if to ward off the outside world for a moment longer. Now, Yeah, that is a long sentence.

Yeah. I'm going to read a little further. We get a sense of it, but I think I'll start on this paragraph most. What then? Sneered the biggest trillion dollar fuckup in the history of humanity. Not that shit again, man. We've been over this, Charlie sighed. Just enjoy the damn show already. It's all we got now. Opening his eyes, then looked up at the muddy brown haze filling the sky.

It had gotten progressively worse over the last couple of weeks, so much so that the sands had begun clogging up the atmospheric processes. They were now babysitting for the workers down in the mine. It was all too surprising to what degree the human race can fuck up a good thing, Dan mused. Alright, let's see this thing then, Dan said, grunting while he struggled to get up in the £50 exosuit he needed to protect himself.

A layer of thick, gray brown dust fell off them before being swept off by the winds. Again, that suit always getting in the way, he thought to himself.

Just in case you were worried.

That he was thinking to Charlie.

Yeah. Charlie was hunched over in his suit. The poor man's exercise suit was hastily put together. Was I to put together mishmash of protective gear and showed funny dental craning his neck and his suit used to be that we only need those suits there. And now there's only our another. There's bear, only our hope. Okay, so I'm going to stop here because I would definitely be out in the spyglass.

But there is actually a lot of interesting things here. So let's talk about why we're out. Why were you out.

For punctuation, long.

Run on sentence? Nothing's connecting me to the scene. Nothing's going to bring me to the character that I'm in. And so I feel like and again, remember when we were.

Talking about when.

We were out, we're talking about from the industry perspective, not Drake personally. Drake personally might not of of of ended then.

But this is.

Again it's going to let me know what type of writer this person is and just by this opening paragraph, it means that I'm going to have to work my butt off to edit this piece to get it sellable if I'm an agent or if I'm an acquisition editor, I'm going to have to work my butt off to edit it up to the point where I'm going to be willing to put my company's brand on it to get it out there and sell it.


So again, if we look at the amount of information in that sentence, somebody called Dan presumably is resting on top of an ATMO processor, which is a new word. He remains prone. He lazily, lazily moves his head because of two pieces of information in the direction of the disembodied voice. Now we learn the name of Charlie and somebody.

Some he is keeping his eyes closed. Could be either Dan or Charlie. It points back at Charlie, but I have a feeling it's meant to be done right to ward off the outside world for a moment longer. Again, it's a massive amount of information to jam into a reader in one sentence.


The reason I was half half on it. The reason why this after the the reason why this paragraph threw me out, which is Charlie hunched over in his suit, the poor man's ex. That comma has no reason to be a comma. It it is it should be a period or something like that. The sentence is way long, it's poorly punctuated.

There's two of them.

What are you talking about?

So here this.

Fellow's hunched over his suit.

The poor man's ex. yeah. No, it's. That's another sentence.

Yeah, that's a completely another sentence. I have no, Why, that's a comma.

Well, but.

I mean there's a lot of common mistakes and.

You know, commas suck because.

Well, actually, comments are very easily in the English language. It says I always use commas here except for in these cases. And then don't use them at all.

Except for in these cases where you.

Could use it or not use it except for in these cases.

Where it really is your call, you can use them or not like it's commas.

Are the most confusing. They're not the most obvious because the English gets really confusing on a lot of so bangs, but.


Are hard. They just are.

But then we.

Go down the last part of that paragraph.

Now out there's our.

Only hope as in possessive. There's our own like so. Ah, actually, no. Sorry. Not. Not possessive.

Contracted things moving now they are our only hope.


But it says now out there is our only hope. So again.

So the publisher that published me first.

They're out of business now, but they used to have a wall of shame and they're out of business. So I can, you know, I can. I don't think I'll get in trouble for saying this, but when query letters would come in the best of the best that they rejected, they were put on a wall. Now, they would never say this to an author.

It was all internal and it wasn't something that that that they rubbed in enormous faces or whatever. But one of my favorites was the query letter started off with I know I've never been published, and that's where they rejected them because first of all, don't start with a negative. Don't, don't be like, I'm a terrible writer, but this is why I want you to publish me.

But also it was I know I've never been published. I in I have never been published.


If the second word of your query letter is a typo.

Yeah. Sending it to professional writers whose entire life is writing.

That's going to get you hung every.

Time like.

It just is.

You've got to have a little bit more push.

To not make the very common mean a comma out of place. I'll let go whatever. But when it's, you know, using the wrong there and I'm dyslexic.

I use the wrong there time. I write the stupid words.

But then I go back and reread what I've done and I go, Is that the right word? Wait, let me go through my memory. And no, that's not the right one. Like, and I definitely wouldn't put it in something that was published. So you just have to I mean, again, it doesn't take much to a sentence is all it takes.

If you've if you've done this long enough and go, I know how this person writes, I know what they're their mistakes are going to be through the entire thing. I know it's already going to be there. And then again, if you go through it, it's like, yep.

Yep, yep, yep.

Here's your proof. Here's your proof, here's your proof, here's your proof. So you do that long enough and you realize, yeah, I only need the first sentence and then.

I pretty much got 90% of what this.

You know, what the quality of this writing is going to be.


This also suffers.

Heavily from head book. The author can 100% see where they're at when they're writing this thing. I guarantee it. They see the planet. They see the the whatever's around them, which I have no idea because we don't know anything better. But a suit, some wind and some gray dust, they can see all of it.

We can't.

We can see nothing.


again, I said this earlier.

As quickly.

As possible. This is in every scene, not just in your opening chapter, in.

Every new scene.

Every new scene.

You want.

To ground the.

Reader in whose head they're.

In and.

Where they're at.

And something that hooks them as.

Fast as humanly possible. Here's how stupid I.

Am with it. And no one notices this. So you know, it's going to sound really stupid when I call it out.

Almost every chapter that I write starts off the first word is the character's name. Almost every night, like 80% of the time our daire went and got a cup of water, like literally. And it just it's something I did as a dumb little writer 30 years ago.

Because someone is like, ground.

Them in the head as quickly as possible. Like, well, if I put the narrator's name first, like I understand the jargon quicker than the first word.

And so no one notices it. No one is like, my goodness, he's.

So baby with his thing. And so I still do it because it it just I know it sounds silly, but it does.

But the character's name is always and if it's not the first word, it's in the first sentence was not in the first sentence in the first paragraph.

If it's not in the first paragraph, it's because the character doesn't know who they are.

And so therefore, I'm not going to let the reader know who they are. So I'm actually doing it on purpose. But those are very few and far between, and only because it specifically needs to happen that way. Other than that, almost every chapter starts, every scene starts with the character's name.

But the readers need.

To know where they're at and who they're in.

Otherwise they're floating. And the problem with this is you as the writer, when you type that first letter, you know whose head.

You're in.

And you know where you're at, but that's in your head book. You must get that to the readers.

Unless, again, there's a reason for not getting it to them because there's going to be this huge payoff. So we start off.

With the boy and then a page later when I learn what the boy is, I'm like, my goodness, that's amazing. Because it was there was a payoff to the.

Fact that you gave me this.

Generic of the boy.

At the beginning.

Of it.

So that's the big thing with this. It really just suffers from from head book and not not getting that information to the reader.

Yep. Okay. Story number five. Mommy, Mommy! Mommy, Are we there yet? Sebastina cried. Not yet, Malin replied. What are we going to do when we get to Grandma Sheila's house? Her brother Hunter asked. You'll see when we get there. Mom said Sebastina loved the feeling of the red dirt on our pools in the Australian outback. She and her brother Hunter got to go to Grandma Sheila's house in Alice Springs every day in the winter, while their mom helped with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Hunter was sad that there weren't any flies in winter time.

They were his favorite. I'm out.

Probably me too.

But the only time.

I'm saying I'm not is This sounds very middle.

Grade ish. It is still.

Yeah, not great for middle grade.

But middle grade is.

Very different and has a very different criteria than what me and you normally talk about because it's what we I mean, I.

Are a very, very.

Little middle grade.


Let me, let me read a couple more paragraphs and we'll see where this goes. Grandma Sheila was lying on her doggy hammock basking in the outback sun when her daughter and grandpa puppies ran up one ear, perked up, then the other, and just as she opened her eyes, her granddaughter Sebastian, pounced on her to start licking her face.

The doggy hammock nearly toppled over as the Australian cattle dogs all their dog while greeting each other with glee. Okay, I'm definitely not. I'm. I understand that. It's middle grade. I get it. But this would have to be like four. And what is middle grade? What age group?

That would be sixth.

Grade to ninth grade. So 11.

To 14. Yeah. Really?

Middle grade these days. Middle grade these days have dropped to probably about eight, seven, eight.

Is where it starts.

Yeah, I would I would at most say that this is for like eight year olds, maybe nine year olds.


And the reason why I say that is because not just is it simply written, but I'm not grounded in Sebastian up because I'm jumping from head to head in the dog park.


Also where the last author used commas where they weren't needed. There's a whole bunch of commas needed and it also hides. I mean, it's a lot of run on sentences. I mean, look at the first big sentence in the first big paragraph. Sebastian loved the fleeing of the red dirt on her or the feeling sorry of the red dirt on her paws.

no, sorry. That is a period there. It's the next one. That's really long. She and her brother Hunter got to go to grandma's house in Alice Springs every day in the winter while their mom helped with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. And it's a long run. Their sentence.

Yeah. Yeah. So? So. That's right. And and I mean, the thing is also with middle grade, you really can't have sentences, right? As far as I know. Like, your sentences need to be much tighter.

Much shorter. Yeah.


Yeah. Because you're dealing with kids who you know, or perhaps that confident in their reading, yet you can't give them something they're going to struggle to pass, right?

Yeah. I mean, it isn't as bad.

As chapter books. So the step before middle grade would be chapter books. And you know, now you're talking about people that are reading for the first time books. So like the Magic Treehouse series is a chapter book series that's for your five, six, seven year olds that, you know, they're they're moving away from the picture books that mom and dad are reading to them, the doctor sentences and stuff like that.

And they're moving into.

Read on my own.

And so those are even you know, obviously this wouldn't be.

As simplistic.

As those sentences need to be. But we are still we still want to avoid I mean, you want to avoid running sentences at all grade levels, including adult. But it's also slipping between in media, in media stories and not so we start off in the moment, but then we are not in the moment with the whole.


Story and Flying Royal Flying Doctor Service and all this other stuff. And then we're in the moment and, you know, so yeah, it's it's a lot of back and forth. There's nothing, there's no hook, there's nothing that makes me go, my goodness. Again, we talked about earlier, do I have to read the next.


Or does it does it force me.

To not.

Be able to read the next paragraph? And there's nothing in here that makes me go, I cannot wait for that next paragraph because we don't have an open ended question. We don't really have a good solid head that we're in. And even in middle grade, you still want to hold a good tight P.O.V.. You can you can definitely be more in the free, indirect discourse.


You're slipping between your and Sanderson hates when I explain it this way because he does teach the MFA course at BYU, but I like to teach 400 discourse. As you have two narrators, you have the character narrator Who's your limited narrator? And then you do have a disembodied narrator that is.

Only a camera.

Is not has no opinion, has no emotions, has no feelings, has no anything. It is literally.

Just a visual camera that technically.

Could smell something occasionally or whatever. But that's still no opinions with it. No, no intelligence to it or anything like that. And so middle grade is a lot more.

Lenient with that.

Because we want to because those become telly. But that's okay, because we're still we want to make sure we don't lose our reader in, you know, if they're, if they're 8 to 12 year olds, which is your normal middle grade kind of range, I screwed up because I don't know why I started, but I started with the what is actual middle grade in America.

But that's not middle grade as the genre. So I wanted to correct that. Middle grade for genres is eight, 9 to 12, 13. You know, in that range you get into 14, that's when you're getting into your way early. Why? A And then why so? And then chapter books are your, you know, 5 to 7, eight year olds in that range.


you know, middle.

Grade is a lot more lenient for the look, we're going to we're going to do this telly moment where I'm going to do a paragraph of of showing them the farm and showing them the, the whatever. But still there's not, it's not here. I can't see anything. And so your child reader is definitely not going to know where anything is at.

I mean I, I the other day reread one of my favorite middle grade books for Don't ask Why, but I did. I wanted to take some world building elements and even though like some of it still holds, like it still has a type of EU which is nice and so on, they are, by their nature, mortality. So there was, there was big telly chunks in it and that's fine for the genre and you know, you must bear in mind your genre, but the head popping was too egregious for me.

So as we've talked about before, and maybe not on the podcast, but I know you know this I divide everything that I've ever consumed entertainment wise into two halves pre Drake, and there's post Drake. So there are things that I.

Loved before I.

Became professional writer that I literally cannot even look at.

Now. And so this was Red Pre Drake. However.

I have used it now a couple times in the writers room as an example. So I've only read the first opening.

Paragraph or two.

But it is post Drake. Awesome. So this is a middle grade book.

It's called By Nicola A Rabbit Tale of Mystery. And it was I, I loved it.

Because we, we had the audio book when we were on trips with the young boys when they were like three and four and five. But the opening I just read the first two.

Paragraphs to show.

The middle grade kind of mentality. I really think this is is about the top level of that. So chapter one The Arrival. I shall never forget. The first time

I laid these now tired old eyes on our visitor.

I had been left.

Home by the family with the

admonition to take care of the house until they returned. That's something they always say to me when they go out, take care of the house. Harold, you're the watchdog. I think it's their way of making up for not taking me with them as if I wanted to go. Anyway. You can't lie down at the movies and still see the screen and people think you're being impolite if you fall asleep and start to snore or scratch yourself in public.

No, thank you. I'd rather be stretched out on my favorite rug in front of a nice

whistling radiator.

But I digress.

I was talking about the that first night.


Now this gets telly. And that's a shame, but still.

Well, it was cold. The rain was.

Pelting the windows, the wind was howling and it felt pretty good to be indoors. I was lying on the rug with my head on my paws, just.


Absently at the front door. My friend Chester was curled up on the brown velvet armchair, which years ago he'd staked out as his own. I saw that once again. He'd covered the whole seat with cat hair, and I chuckled to myself, picturing the scene tomorrow. So, you know. And then it goes on.

But like.

But. But it stays in the pit of V of the dog.


Yeah. And then we literally get the we meet the family next and then we, we get to see the terrifying

monster rabbit that, that they think is a vampire rabbit. And that's kind of the the whole story is them trying to figure out what this rabbit actually is. So but yeah, so we get connected. The character now it's in it is in first person.

So that is a lot of people don't realize how hard first person is. First person. One of the biggest things you need to concentrate on is a.

Character voice.

Of the narration. The narration.

Itself needs to have a.

Unique voice, and this one has a very unique voice. I mean.

Harold, his voice is wise, but a little sarcastic, a.

Little snarky, but but also.


Kind of. He's an older.

Dog, and so.

You get that through his.


And so.

Notice we're in the moment. We're only getting details that are pertinent to us at the moment. We're getting characterizations like, you know, we meet Chester, but then we find out that, you know, Chester's being a naughty kitty because he's got his hair all over everything. And you all know what that's going to mean when when the family finds out about it.

We we get that there.

With little things like, you know, years ago, he had staked out as his own. We know. Okay, so these two have been together for a while.

So I just I.

Really do love this. And again, that's as far as I've ever read.

How straight. Yeah, I read the.

Whole thing pre Drake, but post Drake, that's all I've ever done. But it's a great example of pulling reader in and it's like now, like I get through that, I'm like, no, I can't wait to read the next paragraph. what's going to happen in the next paragraph? Ooh, what's going to happen in the next paragraph?

It's pulling me through the story as.

Opposed to me having to go.

I find I'll read one more paragraph.

Even middle grade fiction has to ground you in the play. Yeah.

Yeah. We don't get to see the reading yet, but we.

We see enough of the room to know.

All right, We're in a house.

We're in a family house. There's a radiator.

There's rug. This chairs, like. Okay, cool. As the.

Story goes on, the house.


I mean, that's honestly enough middle grade, You know, like you set your genre up. As you know, there are genre expectations, especially when it's as specific as middle grade fiction.


All right. We're ready for story number six.



Raven date smiled at the news scrawled on the chalkboard. Miracle scheduled until sunset outside desert winds buffeted against the metal building highlighting the surrounding chaos.

but inside the makeshift clinic, fragile hope survived. Raven elbowed, the lion shifted next to her and tipped her head to challenge his gaze.

See plenty of time token hoofed and held his ribs in mock indignation. But not for the boy, I wager. Three ginger candies. Number 972 will scurry back to the dump before his allotted appointment. His name is Hasan and not going to happen. In fact, I'll raise you three lemon drops. You cannot save one who refuses. Raven threw her weight against the antechamber door and winked at her best friend Watchmen, except the stubborn, stubborn hinges refused to yield so much for the dramatic exit.

Wisely, Tyler pushed the door open in silence and remained quiet through the ozone blast, cleaning and grabbing lift first. Despite the willing kicking literal sand in her face, nothing would mar this joyful moment, certainly not a grumpy lion or a scary human boy from behind her glasses. Raven Squint turned against the sun's glare. The nearby barbed wire fence exuded despair, but she knew better.

The clinic compound of pale blue shifting containers modified for desert living. The linea enacted a corner of healing, a place of significance Beyond the barrier, an endless expanse of beige tents overflowed with Syrian refugees scraping out the marginal existence. Raven secured her head scarf around her pointed years and searched the compound for the forgotten one who needed her.

The shadow of a certain lion's shift a dogged her every twist and turn wisely. She kept that metaphor to herself. The first two places failed beyond blanketing her in a new layer of dust, the never ending dust, clothes, skin, tongue, not even magic was immune to the infernal dust. She ignored the trio of werewolf nurses huddled in the shade between two storage containers.

Here's hoping they would return the courtesy, but no, the shortest one started. Hey, tell, tell your fight Changeling to stop wasting your time searching for strays and slaying their dragons. They'll come crawling back when they're truly desperate. He merely grunted and continued to cover her. Six.

I think we've probably gone.

Where are you? Out.

So the industry I think would be there's.


There's no scene setting at all. You don't really know where you're.


and I.

So that's what I would, you know, if this piece was put in front of me for critiquing, that's what I would want. I, you know, again you need to ground the reader in what's around us. Love the opening line. There's one of your colons.


And that's actually used correctly.

Yes, that is used correctly. I could tolerate that vaguely. I would still prefer something else, but I could tolerate better.

I mean, it's used correctly.


You know.

For me, the problem was I didn't understand what was going on. Right. I think that this author suffers a lot from head book problems. They they have a heap of head book problems.

Yep. And that's why I.

Think the industry would have been out sooner.


But the writing was good. Yeah, the grammar is good. You know, a few little things like the banter between the two shows. Friendship. So the she wait that her best friend is a little gratuitous. Little things like that can tighten it up but solid writing, you know solid character interaction with with the dialog.

No internal emotion.

Interesting. Like I did like this first line of miracle scheduled until sunset. That is it. That is a fun line. Yep. It's a nice opening line of.

The opening line.

Yeah, great opening line. And then the the shifters being apparently part of this refugee camp. It's interesting, but I don't get enough of what is going on. And so I'm feeling confused.

Yeah. Yeah. And I thought is in the industry would.

Have been out somewhere in paragraph four or five but like little things. There was such a long way. So Raven elbowed the lion shifter next to her and tipped her head back to challenge his gaze. See plenty of time.

Then we have his reaction, which is great. But like

I want to see the.


Right? This is that moment.

Where it's like, you know, you could right Maybe.

Over the wounded boy tell Oeufs.

As he held his ribs, whatever. I mean, I'm just saying there's.

These little one liners, half.

Liners that you add in that start to build what the scene looks like, as we talked about on an earlier podcast. How do you organically scene set? You have.


Scene interact with the character or the character, interact with the scene.

The characters are.

Interacting with the.

Characters, but that leaves the scene out.

Yeah, there's no, you know, yeah, we know that there's dust because you know, it, it, the sand hits her in the face and all of that. I think it even literally hits in the face. Yeah. So little superfluous there. Yeah.


Does anything.

That does the infernal dust the wind kicking literal sand in our face.


I mean it, it so like with this one, is there a difference between literal sand kicking literal sand in your face versus kicking sand in your face? If I say it, kicking sand in your face, are you going to be thinking, Yeah, but is it.

Real sand or is.

It, you know, are you just lying to me? And it's some type of weird fake scene and it's I mean, the literal doesn't do anything there, but those are those are very minor little errors and edits. Nothing, nothing that's going to it's it's a solid piece. There's there's no internal emotions, so there's nothing to connect me to.

Raven It's all external. So So long time.

Ago there was a there's a.

I don't usually read published.

Authors that I become friends with.


I'm weird. And if they let me down writing wise, I do sometimes hold that against them and I shouldn't. So I'm it's I'm a snob when it comes to writing, so I just try not to. But there was a friend of mine who'd been a friend for a couple of years and I did not hold this against I still love the man to death.

But a couple of years.

I mean, probably five years into us knowing he's like, you know, I've never read anything yours. I don't think you've read anything of mine. I'm like, No, I haven't.

You know, you want to trade books. And so.

I'm, you know, inside I'm like.

A but I said, Yeah, sure, let's do.

That outside. I'm all smiles.

And I read it. I read I got.

About five chapters it and it just didn't do anything for me at all. Nothing bad. It wasn't it was good writing. It was.

Exactly like that right.

There that we just read. That's why this remind me of it. It's fine. But four or five chapters into it, I was just like, man. And I put it on my shelf and I forgot about it. And then about a month later, he wrote me an email. He said something to me that no human has ever said to me about my writing.

And so it piqued my interest.

He said, So I read your book.

You're a really good storyteller.

But you're very telling you need to learn to be more showy. And so I was like, okay, interested?

And I wrote him back and I said.

I obviously do not see what you're seeing. Could you give.

Me some could.

You point.

Out some things and show.

Me what.

You mean by tell? Because I obviously don't understand this. You know, I always put the onus on me. It's if I'm the one that's dumb, teach me what I'm doing wrong. And so he wrote me back and he literally said.

Your talent or your telling when you show anything, the camera can't see. You can only show what a.

Camera can see in your.

Prose. And I went, That's why I never got hooked in a story. It was all external visual. There was literally nothing that connected me internally to anything. And I so of course I wrote it back. I was like, man, thank you so much.

I really I'm not going to argue. And that's the other reason why I mean, publish published authors, you know, whatever they have their thing, they have their fan base, they, they make their living. I'm not going to, you know, rain on their parade.

Who says I'm right? So that's what this.

Encounter the author on Critic circle who told me you can only have internal thoughts on a character if you're writing in first person. And I was like, okay, that's interesting.


And I do take their critiques. Well, of course, because I'm not going to argue with you, but you're wrong.

Right? So that's what this one.

Read to me. It's all external.

It's all so.

You know, I write movie scripts. That's what you get in a movie script. You can never write anything a camera can't see.

Because the actors can't do it. Like, yeah, you know, he felt really.

Bad for having left his wife, but one day he would make up.

For like, okay, how is the actor going to show that on screen? Good luck with that. So yeah, when you write in a movie script, it's a.

Completely different.

Animal. But there's a reason why people say, Yeah, well, the movie was.

Good, but man, the book.

Was better.

Why was the book better?

Because you are literally inside the character where you can't be with a movie. And so when there's there's a lot of people.

That write prose.

Where they truly believe that you're telling. And that's what he that was the word he use.

He said.

You were telling you can only show you're a showy writer, only if you show what.

Cameras can see.

I do want to say, talking of books and movies that I do think the Twilight movies were about as good as the book.

that was rude. That was just mean.

I was not the target audience for Twilight.

You know that.

Neither was I.

Yeah. Yeah, that. That's not that Twilight that that book's long gone. But so with this.

Last story that we just.

Read, there's nothing wrong.

With the writing. And actually the character interaction was great. The dialog is really engaging. It's organic.

The situation seems really interesting, but you're relying.



Elements like,

Look, there are werewolf nurses and you're going nudge, nudge, wink, wink reader. Doesn't that make you really connected to this story? No, I think it's cool.

But why do I want to keep reading? Because there's werewolf.

Nurses and what do they do.

Again? And this is I teach it in in my writing classes. I say, look.

It's not about the how.

And the what. We have to write, the how, how does the character do this and what do they do next? We have to write that. They have to see the werewolf nurses, blah, blah, blah. The how in the what you got to write it. But no one cares about the how in the.

What they care about the why and the effect. And so every time you write a how and a what, you must.

Include the why in the.


Because the why and the effect of what is going to.

Grab the.

Reader and make them care about what they're reading. Always focus on the why. In the end, the the effect.

The why are why.

Is the character doing this or why is it important to the.

Character or.

You know, why does it matter to the character? And what effect does it have on the character in the world around them? Like that's what the reader cares about. That's what's going to hook the reader, that's going to that. Those are the two things that make them go, I can't wait to read that next paragraph. If you just have like this last author had, if you just have the how in the what's, then they have to go.

Well, I mean werewolf nurses, I'll read the next paragraph.

But what do I care.

Yeah, right. I'll read it but, but I'm now I'm.

Now making the decision to read that next paragraph as opposed to, you know, if I got hit with werewolf nurses and then I find this.

Affect or this, this thing that matters.

To this character them in head, I'm like, okay, I cannot wait to read the next paragraph to figure out what's going on here. Because again, why effect Those are the two things that are going to pull that reader through the story, the how in the what has to happen.

You cannot not write how one would otherwise know we would be able to see the scene. It's sort of like that.

The bed, the bed scene with the blankets. There wasn't enough. How and what. So we kind of got lost, or at least I did in that moment. So we need that. We need the how in the what?

What. That's not I don't care. I don't care.

That the blankets got wrapped around the girl's thing and she slammed her face into the to the floor.

That I just.

Need that so that I'm not lost.

It's it's.

Always the why in the effect.

I think for me the biggest thing with the last piece that we read was simply that I could not visualize what was going on and I didn't understand where the boy fit in or where the clinic fit in or anything like that. And there was just not enough scene sitting. Aslan So.

So that's the.

Last thing about that piece, and I hate this word and I'm trying to come up with a new word. And then once I come up with it, I'll try to figure out how to force the industry to use it. But there was no conflict. And the reason why I hate that word is everyone immediately goes to, there's no punching people in the face.

That's not No, it's just that's not conflict. It's a hook. It's anything that.

It's an open ended question. It's a it's a unique situation.

It's a dire situation. It's a it's a it's a anxiety. It's it's anything that makes me go all right. No, I want to I want to find out what happens with that. Where's this going?

And so and again, you get that from the why and the effect and not the how in the way. So yeah, nothing.

Wrong with like it was actually well written. Just, you know, it needs more.

Especially in your opening chapter. You have to have something early on to grab my attention. You have to convince me to at least keep going to the bottom of the page, because then you've bought enough loyalty that I'll I'll flip through a few pages and check it out and see how it goes, you know. But if you lose me in that first few paragraph because I get confused or because I don't understand what's going on or because I don't feel connected to the pov, I'm just going to put the book down.

Because at this point I've invested nothing. There is no I lose nothing about putting book right.

So like last night, in the end, my critique group, one of the guys read a piece where it was very front loaded with worldbuilding like this is because and you know, I understand he was like, but if they don't understand this giant war between, you know, these two things, they're not going to understand anything. I'm like, But do I need to understand the war, to understand this moment of this character's life?

And he was like.

No, not at all.

But then then again at the I was out on the very first word because the very first word was Prolog. And So I was like, and there was this magical thing that they found in this thing, and I was like, But see, you need this because so I'm going, I've heard you say the Prolog thing, but you're wrong and this proves it.

And I was like, Really? So when do they use this magical thing? And he was like in the back to like, yeah, I will have forgotten it by then. This prolog doesn't do what you think it does.

I like it. I don't like you're giving.

People the reason to write the Prolog. Never ever ever write worldbuilding as a prolog.


You Are absolutely using the prolog wrong. I will die on the seal.

Yeah. 100%.

Pretty much as in your opening book. I've never seen a prolog done correctly.

Second book. Third book. Great.

There's plenty of things to use it for. But again, as we've talked about many times, you've.

Now earned the loyalty.

Of the reader. So like I used Prologs and I think you do it for the same thing where you were. I will use the Prolog to get you into the villain's head for one scene because you're never going to be in the villains head. And so here you go. You going.

But now you're like, Ooh, I'm, I'm, I'm invested. And so, yeah, let me get a little.

Glimpse into what this person's, you know, world is like that I'm trying to hate and want to see die and, you know, want to see defeated whatever.

You've earned that they want it not because it's.

Good information.

But because now.

They're invested. Now they have a desire to learn this.


As opposed to when you did it at the beginning of your first book, when it's very, very important to you and it's very, very exciting to you and it's very, very, you know.

It matters a lot to your.

Story because you know, the.


Waiting And we I said this earlier with that one story, you know, that character from the very first letter that you you know, the scene, you know, everything. Your job is to understand that as a storyteller, you must give that.

To the reader.

And you must do it quickly.

And I think that that is a good note on which to end this podcast. And we will see you soon for another bye.

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