Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Best of Seekerville from the Archives and First Five Pages Critique

Word Pictures by Mary Connealy

This is the cover of Deep Trouble, my May release.

Find out more here.

The cover has nothing to do with this days blog it is just pasted in here as part of a totally shameless plug for my May release. Did I mention it's titled Deep Trouble?

I've been playing around with this as an exercise in writing. See what you can do with it.

Take the first sentence (or the last) and shine it up. It actually can take a surprisingly long time, this revision thing, but it is absolutely WORTH IT.

In an action scene, to really make things MOVE it needs to be polished and mangled and reworded, cut, add, cut again.

Comedy may actually take MORE work than action.

This line below, the first one, could go funny, it could go furious, I picked my own way and it kind of surprised me the way I picked.

So go for it, if you've got the time.

1) It's my birthday," he said. "You should have brought me a card!

2)The boy was angry at the mailman. He said, It's my birthday. You should have brought me a card!

3) The ten-year-old boy shook his fist at the disappearing mailman. It's my birthday. You should have brought me a card.

4) It's my birthday! The ten year old boy saw the empty mail box. Disappointed, he covered his sadness with anger and turned toward the disappearing pickup. Shaking his fist, he yelled at the mailman, You should have brought me a card!

5) Excited as he raced down his sloping front lawn, Jeffrey's white blonde hair blew across his eyes in the cold fall breeze. He left behind the mouth watering scent of the chocolate birthday cake his mom always baked for him. Leaves scattered and crunched under his ragged white Nike's.

He got to the road only seconds after Mr. Sampson had driven away with the spitting sound of wheels on gravel. Jimmy slapped the front of his new blue jeans and red Cornhusker sweatshirt, now coated with dust. He'd put on his best play clothes because of the special day.

With a sharp creak of its rusty hinges, he pulled open the cold metal door of the mail box that was shaped like a green tractor and peeked in at nothing empty. Dad had forgotten again.
He turned toward the disappearing black pickup. Tears bit at his eyes but he told himself it was the blowing dirt. His big brother would never let him forget it if he cried. Instead he narrowed his eyes and shook his fist at that nice old man.

It's my birthday! His voice faded to a whisper as he walked toward the house, his shoulders slumped, his feet dragging. You should have brought me a card.

Describe using the five senses:






Feeling words in body language not in words. 'He was angry' is boring to a reader. Instead, his teeth clamped together and he glared.

Set the scene:

What's his lawn look like?

His mail box?

What time of year is it?

Is he inside or outside?

Alone or with someone?

How does he feel? If you do it right, the reader will not only KNOW how he feels, they'll feel it too. They won't just know he's sad, they'll BE sad

Mary Connealy writes fun and lively romantic comedy with cowboys for the inspirational market. She is the author of the successful Lassoed in Texas, Montana Marriages, and Sophie's Daughters series. She is a Rita Award and Christy Award finalist and a two time Carol Award winner. She lives on a ranch in Nebraska with her husband and has four grown daughters and two spectacular grandchildren (pictures available upon request).

My Blog
My Website
Petticoats & Pistols

This post first appeared in Seekerville October 7, 2008.

Don't forget...

Today is the last day to be considered for our weekly critique.
More info here.


  1. Wow, I'm FIRST?? Yay! Timer on the coffeepot is set for the early crew (just in case Helen decides to sleep in!)

    Mary, that was fun to see how you kept layering from that first simple sentence to the angst of the boy when he discovers his Dad didn't send a card.


  2. I'm in Deep Trouble right now, haha.
    Seriously, I'm reading Mary's book right now, but also polishing and layering the WIP which is going well but KILLING ME on word count. It's tough to find balance, but I'm hoping that improves with experience.
    Any thoughts from the pros?

  3. I'm reading Deep Trouble for review on Net Galley. I love it!

    Thanks for this post. I'm going through the dreaded self-editing part on a book I'm querying. Keeping your process in mind will help me. Thanks!

    Please enter me in the drawing for the first five pages.
    teaching by writing at yahoo dot com

  4. Good morning SEEKERVILLE!!

    Saying hello from rainy western New York. But boy is it GREEN!!

    Tina Radcliffe

  5. Hey Tina, been missing you....keep safe!
    Love Mary's books!!

  6. What a great post - love watching the layers develop. NEEDED this. Thanks!

  7. I would love, LOVE to win the 5 page critique! How neat. :-D

    ~ Katy

  8. Pam, I'm with you! And that ties in so beautifully with Barbara's post yesterday about using children effectively.

    I'm sure that was planned, right Connealy????


    Is there food? Must scan...

    No food, but we have TEEEEEENSTER!

    With a name, at last! No more Ms. Anonymity, 2011

    Okay, leaving Saturday breakfast. Bagels. Cream cheese. Tiny American Flag patriotic candies. Some of Lenora's white chocolate bread pudding....

    Had bread pudding in NYC. Delish!

    Wait. Was I just channeling Rachel Ray??? I'm a Paula Deen girl: the more butter, the better.

    And cream?

    Never enough! ;)

    I love kids in books. And animals. And Mare, you're the best at planting them seamlessly, a lovely story integration.

    Family humor is great in Connealy world or Ray Romano. Love 'em both!

    Back to painting the Yankee Room.

    Yes, you read that right. An attic bedroom dedicated to pinstripes.


  9. Oh, MARE, I LOVE progressive teaching examples like this -- SOOO fun!! And you did a GREAT job, girl ... both with the examples AND the shameless plug ... :)



  10. Mary,

    GREAT post. I don't remember reading it it was new to me!

    Is that a new picture of you?

  11. Good morning ladies. Hope you've got great plans to kick off the first summer weekend.
    I've got my grandkids coming up so I may end up truly IGNORING YOU ALL.

    Sorry, they're pretty interesting. LOL

  12. ROSE!!! I've been needing to talk to you. I will email you. I haven't talked to you forever and we need to get together one of these days.

  13. Hi Nancy. Thanks for reading my book. Good luck with the word count. If you mean the wip is getting too long, well, cutting is always hard.

  14. Hey Mary, I love your writing. I've read some of your books and they are great! Can't wait to read Deep Trouble.

  15. This is a pretty fundamental post so most of you already know this stuff. But when we use the senses as touchstones it draws the reader into your work in a really deep way.
    When I say ... he smelled chocolate cake... that's something everyone can relate to. We all know what chocolate cake smells like. Suddenly we're smelling chocolate cake.
    We all know what the sound of tires scratching on gravel sounds like. We can HEAR that. So, the senses, used correctly, are the most powerful (imo) tool to get your reader right into the pages, draw them into the story.
    Senses make this happen.
    Use them well.

  16. Senses backdrop emotion lots of times. Same with setting.

    The way an author 'spins' the senses and the setting helps layer the emotions of the characters.

    And I'm not seeing grandchildren til tomorrow, so this is a writing/painting day for me. And hanging my new flag.

    Tomorrow: writing, planting flowers in the mud. Seeing grandbabies.

    Monday: writing, beautiful little Memorial Day parade that inspired next year's possible Christmas book... Our tiny town, shortest Main St. in America, but a poignant parade. God bless America...Smack us upside the head and remind us to pray unceasingly.

    We can be such dorks.

    And planting in the mud. Maybe curtains for Yankee room.

    I love writing weekends!

  17. Pinstripes?

    I am not the least surprised.

    I'm reading through Stealing Jake again today so that I'll be ready for revisions. They're coming soon, I'm sure! Ack!

    And worked on my bio last night too.

    Next, the huge acknowledgements page!!!!

  18. Hi Mary:

    You always inspire me. I think I’ll give your challenge a try this morning before I have to cut the grass.

    It's my birthday," he said. "You should have brought me a card!


    Nature was screaming in pain. The cracking thunder of the river ice breaking up kept him awake all night. No big deal. The shooting agony in his legs would have kept him awake anyway. Growing pains. Change. He wouldn’t do it this year. He wouldn’t look. He’d show strength. Kill hope. Hope is pain. Hope is for fools. He’d just go outside in the morning to smell the pine trees and feel the icy air slap some sense into him.

    “Man-up” his coach would say. “The man’s a jailbird, forget him.”

    The bile rose up into his mouth and he spit it out forming the image of a hanging tree in the crisp white snow. The mail truck was coming, chains biting into the road, exhaust fumes stinging his eyes. But he wouldn’t look this year.

    He opened the mailbox. The birthday card was there. He tore it into a million pieces throwing them into the air making his own snow storm.

    “Thanks” he shouted to the disappearing mail truck.

    “But I’d rather have my anger”.


    You know, if you do this for every sentence, your book will be thousands of pages long and the reader an emotional wreck. That just might get you into deep trouble with your editor. But that would be a good thing, wouldn’t it?


  19. I can't believe its Saturday already. Mary, great exercise. Sometimes I forget to incorporate all five senses which makes for a much more one dimensional scene. Incorporating all the senses puts life into a scene.

    TINA, I’m jealous. It’s beautiful down here in the Deep South, but I do miss that Yankee green. We have a lot of… sand. And brown grass. Even though the Mississippi is totally flooded along with a lot of Louisiana. Hope you’re enjoying your trip!

    MARY, great picture at the bottom of your post. Is it new, or was it original to the 2008 post? Enjoy your day with grand kiddies!


  20. Vince, great scene. Wow.
    We should write a light hearted one now. You'd think I would have, but that was what came out as I wrote, then rewrote.

    Whitney, it's a new picture.
    I was going for a western look. Where oh where is my Stetson!?

  21. Thanks for a great post, Mary--I cannot be reminded enough about using all the senses *sigh* - - so I KNOW I'll be re-reading this post again and again. (missed it the first time it was posted) ~ Happy Memorial Day weekend everyone--I've brought cupcakes with red, white, and blue icing. Hugs from Georgia (where we are having a BEAUTIFUL day!), Patti Jo

  22. Yep, Pam, I slept in this morning. Went to bed early last night, too. It's called crashing!

    The day's getting late, so here's a fresh pot of coffee, and some tea.

    I like these repeat articles because they reinforce excellent points.


  23. Some of the comments I'm seeing in some judged entries of mine is for me to be sure that I use all the senses.

    And I'm sensing that I need to mention that I'm up for a critique. :-)

  24. Outstanding, Mary.

    Thanks for an excellent lesson, will put to use in book 2!!! YAY!

    Seekerville is da bestest!!!

    Thank you to all our honored veterans and families.

  25. Just getting a chance to open up your post, Mary! I thought it was great. I've heard "use the five senses" but it definitely helps to see it done step by step. Hope you have a great time with your grandkids! :) Stacey