Monday, June 29, 2020



Hey, if you know the drill, then you're prepared to have some fun today...

If you don't, here's the skinny:

Once in a while we have an Open Critique Day. It's a day for you to share a blurb of your story with us and we will descend en masse and tear it to shreds.

It's what we do.

But we'll do it NICELY, so you have to look beyond the "nice" and get to the nitty gritty of the advice, then pick what you want to use... and scrap the rest.

At least temporarily scrap it, you may find yourself coming right back to that bit of advice in a month or six months on 2021...

And a light bulb clicks on and you say OH MY STARS!!!! (or an equivalent thereof) and all of a sudden you remember that criticism and/or advice and you realize this...


Is what that author meant about organic roots or root canals or dangling modifiers or gerunds (listen, I don't know what half this stuff is, either, it's why I don't read craft books... I just write. And I read. And I copy smart people. Then I write some more.)

But that light bulb moment is huge.

So leave your opening or smidge or tagline below, whatever you'd like us to look at. Keep it to about a page... no whole chapters, please, darlings.

And let's chat how we polish, preen and persevere!


NOTE: The Seekers formed a group fifteen years ago, a group of fifteen authors who devoted themselves to writing and praying each other into publication and the current Seekers want to do the same for you... Publishing can be a rough business, but with love and support we can build one another into the writers we want to be!


  1. The cage feels so small.

    The walls close in on me and I desperately search for things to throw at the ceiling. I need to escape but everything just bounces back down and hits me. The bruises I entered with ache with each hit from my attempt to escape.

    Somewhere in the darkness inside me I feel a seed of something. I reach out for the small light and know I must rebuke the evil attacking me. I reach and reach, afraid to say the words that it might be true, satan is that powerful.

    “I rebuke you satan in the name of Jesus Christ,” I whisper into the darkness. “God is my rescuer and my protector, surround me lord with your warriors of light.”

    The pressure and darkness literally flows out of my body and my mind clears. Peace covers me and I can take in full breathes again. My tears fall because of shock and fear that it was all real.

    Satan is strong enough to torture me from inside myself, but my Lord is so much stronger.
    I am a wife, mother, missionary in Africa, doctor and patient with bipolar disorder for the last 11 years.

    1. Wow....

      Talk about compelling.

      This is not where I expected the opening sentences to go, and yet, it's absolutely amazingly well done and goes there effortlessly.

      Here are the few tiny things I might change:

      Opening sentence to delete feels and replace with "is". Second sentence, I'd replace "close in" with "are closing in" to bring more immediacy.

      And then on paragraph 5 I'd break that first sentence into two with a period after body. Keep "My mind clears" as its own sentence. And then I'd mention the weight on the chest, I'd play that up, and how the peace allows a deep breath again.

      And this made me want to read more. Absolutely.

      Thank you so much for posting this today!!!!! I hope you stop back and tell us more about yourself and this story.

    2. Well...its my story, about me and my mental health journey that made me into the christian family doctor that I am today.
      15 years ago, a diagnosis of Bipolar excluded you from serving on any mission field, domestic and especially international. Many people have told me over the years to write a book about my story, but I have never really felt called to do it. A psychiatrist friend has been bugging me to publish my testimony to help change the conversation about mental health and the mission field.
      I know I can make this opening into a great missionary magazine piece, but my dream is to turn it into a novel. Any suggestions?

    3. Yep.

      Keep writing.

      I love the opening. Then go back to the beginning. What led to the diagnosis, what rough things happened, but here's what I find with so many bipolar books, they leave little hope.... so I would suggest using those injections of hope, but not being afraid (if you can) to tell the raw story.

      Bipolar disorder is a tough go for so many and your words could be a marvelous help!

    4. Follow up question: What do you mean by “bipolar books?”

    5. Yes, this was very compelling. I think you could do an amazing job writing this, sharing this character in a novel. I'd suggest deciding the journey (character arc) you want your main character to take. Maybe pick some of your favorite novels and study them to see what types of genre or plot might work for your story and this main character. Brainstorm ideas until you hit on something that really resonates with you. Have you written other novels? If so, what genre are they?

    6. I wrote a Regency era Christian romance last year. I loved every minute of it. Not formally edited and definitely not published. Why? Interested in helping me get there? Haha.

    7. LOL! I wish it were that easy. :)

  2. Ruthy, awesome opportunity! Thank you so much! Here's my opening:

    A web of deceit tore them apart. Can a spider hunt reunite them?

    Rogue Cluster

    The linoleum kitchen floor shifted under Sheriff Drake Coontz’s feet. His soapy hands flew out to hold onto the sink where he’d been washing dishes. The late afternoon sun glinted through the dusty window. The high grass he needed to mow swayed in the wind. The peaceful feeling he’d had since devotion time that morning flew out the window at the rumbling that caught Drake’s ears. He glanced over his shoulder. Pots and pans shook where they hung from the ceiling over the kitchen island. A loud crack and shattering made him whirl around toward the sink. Branches, long overdue to be cut, crashed through the window and the frilly white curtains, scratching his cheek. Sadie screamed from upstairs. Drake flung suds from his hands as he raced from the kitchen into the living room and pounded toward the stairs. “Come here!”

    Drake looked up. Sadie clutched the wooden handrail as she bolted down the stairs. When she reached the bottom step, she launched into his arms, and he half-carried her to the doorway between the living room and dining room. They fell to the floor. Drake lay on top of her with his arms draped over her head, his body surrounding hers.

    “I’m scared, Daddy.” Sadie shook under him, her hands clasped around him.

    “I know. Me, too.” The rumbling increased as the house shook around them. He wrapped his arms tighter around her. Today had been a perfect summer day, but it sure flew south fast. Now, early afternoon, Drake lay on the floor waiting for the earthquake to pass.

    1. Sally, this is a wonderful glimpse into this story! I'm so glad you stopped by, kiddo, and there's not a lot that needs attention here... but what I would do is chop some of the descriptors as unneeded, or minimize them... like kitchen before linoleum (he's doing dishes, so we'll know this).... Dusty window, unmowed grass, tree branches left too long... that all makes me wonder why he had a peaceful devotional if he's got work piling up? Because I think it would drive most folks bonkers when that happens, so you might want to consider that.... but honestly, this is solid and well done!!!!

    2. Thank you so much for your feedback, Ruthy!! I greatly appreciate it!

    3. Great scene, Sally! I did have one quick thought (and it may be silly). But I thought he would take off with his daughter and try to get outside. I figured the stairs were near the front door. Then again, I've always heard to get under a doorframe in an earthquake. So just ignore me if my question doesn't make sense. :)

      Nice work!

  3. I'm so glad you are doing this again. This is a flash fiction I posted last time. I received great advice and went back to re-work it. This is my re-worked piece. I'm excited to hear your thoughts:
    I watch the candle twinkle across the table linen, much like the guests feeling the beat of the music.

    “Josie let’s go.” Sophie tugs my arm as Pretty Woman starts playing.

    “Such a fun song.” I put on a smile while bobbing to the music.

    I look at Sophie, the bride, in her mermaid flair, lace dress. It’s as stunning as the day she tried it on and as when she walked down the aisle. I let them think my tears were tears of happiness. While I knew she had found a good man, I also knew we'd never be that close again.

    “I’m going to take a breather,” I say walking to our table. My boyfriend, Luke, was sitting there twirling his fork in his leftover salad.

    I never thought I’d feel such a hollow loneliness at a wedding, where so much happiness abounds. All I can think about is who will Sophie tell her good news to first? Who will she have breakfast with on a Saturday morning? Who will she share her secrets with? It’s not me, I'm not first anymore, it's her husband.

    Will this be the last time we have fun together?

    I sip my soda and glance at Luke. “Come on. I spent too much on this dress to sit all night.”

    “You know dancing at weddings isn’t my thing.” He says picking up his phone.

    I don’t think he’ll ever be ready for marriage.

    I scoot back onto the dance floor with Sophie. The music changes and girls begin to line up. I want to hightail it out of here, I always hate this part.

    “Get over there.” Sophie bosses me. “I’m the bride and you’re the maid of honor, you have to.”

    I take my spot while others clamber into position hoping they are going to catch the bouquet.

    Sophie turns around and counts, “One, two, three.” She tosses her flowers over her head.

    As I hear girls squealing, I feel a clunk on my face. I look down and see the bouquet at my feet.

    “Josie!” Sophie stomps her foot and puts her hands on her hips.

    I bend down and pick up the yellow and purple calla lilies tied with white ribbon. We spent hours debating color choice. I look at them and know we made the right decision.

    As I lift my eyes, I see the sharp, shiny point of a man's shoe. I follow the line up to the blue eyes of Luke. He’s on one knee, holding an open box with a sparkling cushion cut diamond.

    He reaches for my hand.

    I gasp.

    “Will you marry me?”

    Everyone cheers and tears fill my eyes.

    “This is a change I can embrace.”

    1. Tonya, this is so much stronger! Well done.... Very well done!

      I have one serious problem with it, though, and this could be that it's very difficult to make this happen in flash fiction, but it can be done... why should we care? What makes us want to be in her corner? Josie still seems a little stuck on herself, so instead of wanting her to succeed, I'm still leaning toward smacking both of them... not in a bad way, but a Scarlet O'Hara kind of way. BUT... there is a huge audience for Scarlet-type characters! Let's see what others think.... I just feel that she's pouting and all of a sudden we've got a proposal...

      Maybe if we took Sophie out of the equation altogether, except as the bride and made the flash fiction totally centered on her and Luke?

      So we have a reason to cheer for them? Something to ponder here....

    2. Thanks, Ruth! I'm so thankful you have seen an improvement:) That's what I was hoping for.

      I can see what you are saying. I may put it aside a short time & come back to see if I can fix it more. If not, it may be time to move on. I know that does happen at times, I'm not too attached to it. I'll just have to have something brand new next time ;)

    3. Tonya, I love this version! I'm so glad you came back and posted again. :)

      If you wanted to address Ruthy's comment, I think you could allow her to think those feelings about how her friendship will change so much, but then she could move on and think that the most important thing is that her friend is happy.

      Good luck with the story!

    4. I'm so glad you like it, Missy. The last critique got me thinking more and I couldn't wait to try and improve it. I may test oit Ruthy's ideas as practice as well. It may creaye a whole new story, too.

  4. Don't have the energy for this myself right now but appreciate what you are doing. One more tool for the new or not-so-new writer along with crit partner and contest feedback. It really helps to have a second pair of eyes, or third or fourth.
    Did first Twitter pitch over the weekend. Can you imagine this glorious cocktail of misplaced metaphors, rambling and general hokum compressed into 280 characters.
    Going off today to get my COVID test. Finally. May be back later.
    Going in many directions in New Hampshire

    1. Kaybee, the world is so odd right now, that even at a stand-still we feel like we're in fractals. And those Twitter pitches, good for you! I deleted my Twitter account two weeks ago... couldn't handle all those negatives. I don't like mean people. I find it offensive.... and there were so many that I thought hmmm.... this is the time for the Ruthinator to leave Twitter to it's masses.... and I'll just write beautiful stories. :)

      And I honestly love that I'm gone from there.

      So glad you stopped by!

  5. Kimberly BurkhardtJune 29, 2020 at 8:21 AM

    Hello everyone! This is the beginning of my new WIP.

    Just a little higher. They won't be able to see her so high up. One more branch. There, that should be enough! Laura Shinning let out a sigh as she hunkered down on the thick maple branch.

    She watched from her perch as the wagons continued to pull into the church yard. Men, women, and children dressed in their Sunday best. But it wasn't for church, for it was only Saturday. The whole town must have been invited to come to the wedding of the wealthy schoolmarm and handsome carpenter.

    It had been the all anyone talked about this past month. And because of that, she hid in this tree. Hoping to get a glimpse of the happy couple. Because everyone had been invited except for her.

    1. What a great concept for a story, Kimberly!!!!! And I like that we're in her frame of mind.... you know what I'd like, though?

      Is the emotion of the moment.

      Her emotion, bleeding across that page. Anger or disappointment, frustration, the torn dress or mended skirt, the scuffed up boots, too tight and no money to buy a new pair until harvest or until Daddy robs a train... whatever it is, I want that rawness to drag me into her climb.... That's what I'd suggest on this.

    2. Kimberly, I really felt her pain at the end of that excerpt! Poor thing. I loved this. It made me feel for your character and want to keep reading.

    3. Kimberly BurkhardtJune 29, 2020 at 7:21 PM

      Thank you ladies!

  6. Thanks for the opportunity to hear advice and critiques. Here's a short scene from early in my WIP. I'm not great a description, so I'd love to hear what you think. Thanks!

    Inside the place was about as she’d expected: not completely gone, but well on its way. The large kitchen, with its commercial stove, long counters, and large island, were worn and outdated. Dust covered all the surfaces and cobwebs hung from every possible corner. She wasn’t ready to open the cabinets and find any creatures, so she just flipped on the lights and ran water in the sink. At least those worked.

    She made her way through the bedrooms—there were eight guest rooms and one, she could only assume, master suite that she could already see herself taking over. It was a corner room with windows facing both south and east. She had read that this part of the country gets some of the most sunshine of anywhere and she could already see indoor plants flourishing in an indoor garden, just for her.

    Corinne was already starting to see themes for each room and envision the possibilities, embracing the beauty of the surroundings, but light on the kitschy western stuff. She would bring herself, her East Coast childhood to it and see what sort of fusion she could create.

    Energized, she clapped her hands together and ran down the stairs, Indigo right on her heels. As she rounded the landing, she stopped, so abruptly that Indigo bumped her ankle and kept on trotting down the rest of the stairs.

    Sunshine streamed through the glass windows that made up almost the full length and width of the front great room. Only a giant stone and wood fireplace broke up the view from one horizon to the other. Pine trees, hills, and still a little snow on the very highest peaks were all she could see illuminated by the setting sun. The sky was just beginning to show a navy color over the flash of orange brightness.

    She couldn’t look away. Corinne stood on that landing until the sun had completely gone behind the hills and the sky had succumbed to stars and velvet.

    “Thank you,” she whispered, to the Universe, God, herself or Nicholas, she wasn’t exactly sure, but possibly all of them.

    She just knew that was a sign. She was exactly where she was supposed to be.

    1. Great job, Glynis! I can picture this in my head and I can't wait to see what Corinne is going to do with this place. The first line didn't really grab my attention, though, nor did it give me a sense of place. Instead of the word place, house or home might be better. When it's followed by commercial stove and long counters I'm envisioning a restaurant. Also, hyphenate stone-and-wood fireplace. I had to read it several times before I realized that the fireplace was stone and wood. I was wondering why the view was broke up by a giant stone. :D Silly me. Also, who or what is Indigo? Keep up the good work!

    2. Glynis, thanks for jumping in and asking for feedback on description in this excerpt! I think you did a good job with the description. I can see the place well. But I still don't really feel much from reading about it (except for right at the end where Corinne feels thankful). I would suggest adding some emotion to it. Add some short thoughts or memories. What's at stake here? What is she longing for by coming to look at this place (I'm assuming it's to be an inn or B&B)? Is this the career she's always wanted? The sense of home that has been missing? Maybe it's not any of those things, but just think what it is about.

      Some spots maybe you can toss in a bit of emotion:
      --When she mentions taking over the master bedroom, could she think how she feels about that (why does she love plants or need more light? Has she craved independence? What is driving her to want this room for herself? Not necessarily those things, but just think along those lines for emotion you can add.)
      --You do have some emotion when she is energized. Maybe build on that. Is this a normal state for her and she's just getting it back? Or is this something new she's never felt before?
      --When she's watching the stunning sunset, this would be the perfect time to add some inner reflection. How does it make her feel? She can't look away because...? Does she have a physical reaction, ie. warming inside or ache or longing for something specific?

      I think the ending is good with her thankfulness and deciding she's where she's supposed to be. That's good emotion.

      I hope this helps. Great job!


    3. Glynis, I really liked this. I'm happy for her and I see all the work she needs to do. The thing that came to mind, as far as setting a scene, is you should include smell and sound. Dust has a smell. Stairs creak. Did she go upstairs to see the bedrooms, that's not here, and a creaky stairway or a wobbly (or conversely...rock solid) stair could help us see the place needs to be cleaned and updated but it's a good, solid, well made building. That could also lift her spirits.

    4. Thank you ladies for your suggestions. I appreciate your time and sharing your insignts. That was exactly what I was looking for!

      And Indigo is a little gray poodle :)

  7. My teal dress lay spread across the chair in the corner, the sequins twinkling in the light.

      "I'm fine." I groan at the maid.

      "It's not worth the chance, Elle. There will be other balls."

      "It was a freak accident." I retorted remembering the dizzy and weak feeling that came over me.

     "You didn't eat your snack or drink your juice." The maid said wringing out a cloth before dipping it in more water to put on my forehead.

      "It wasn't from not eating." I cross my arms.

      "Girls starve themselves to fit into their dress all the time. Then they don't have the energy when the ball comes."

      "I was managing fine."

      "If you want to go, eat your snack." She instructed.

      I sighed, “Then can I finish my makeup?"

      "We'll see."

      I nibbled on an apple slice, not wanting the fat in the peanut butter. Nor the chance of having peanut butter breath in front of a prince.

      The maid told me to sit up slowly. I stood and felt the floor wobble and my stomach turn. It looked like bugs were flying all over and I became hot. Then everything went black.

      The sheets on the bed were soft and my vision crept back. The maid was back with a cool cloth on my forehead.

      "You're not going anywhere tonight, young lady."

      My heart sunk. I spent weeks searching for my dress, planning my hair, and practicing my curtsy.

    I can’t believe this.

      Tears built up in my eyes and I squeezed them not wanting to ruin what makeup I had.

      I drifted into a light sleep wishing this night would go away when there was a faint knock at the door.

      The maid set down the cloth and went to open it.

      "Hello," She said.

      "I heard someone was missing from the group tonight." A tall man in a tux stepped into the room.

     I blinked my eyes to see if I was imagining things. When he didn't go away my light voice rasped, "Hello."

      I felt like a fool at the sound I made. I started feeling around to see what my hair was like and what I was wearing. My hair half pinned up and half hanging down while I was in nothing but a robe.

     "Stay there." He motioned for me to lie down. " I wanted to see if you were ok and spend a few minutes with you like I did the others."

      My own one on one time, without interuption. I swallowed hard in amazement. Could this be the beginning of my own, unique fairytale?

    1. Okay, I love this guy already, Felicity. The fact that he would search her out. The only thing I would suggest is to play up her reaction to his statement. Show her disbelief then morph it into thrilling acceptance. I must be seeing things. This can't be real. I squeeze my eyes shut, yet when I open them, he's still there. This prince of a man wants one on one time with me? I swallow hard in amazement... You get the picture. Explode the moment and put us right into Felicity's head. Now hurry and finish this story, because I can't wait to find out what happens!

    2. Good job, Felicity! I'm curious of the time period of this story. It feels mostly historical (with the maid and a ball), but the sequins and peanut butter made me think it could be more contemporary. :)

      I agree with Mindy on really playing up the ending. I was very curious whether we'd find out if it was real or if she was dreaming. So maybe have her do more to confirm she's not dreaming. Also, I assume in an historical that it would be inappropriate for a man to be in her bedroom, but I guess a prince could do anything he wanted. So if that would be on her mind, be sure to include that in her thoughts. Also, show the maid's reaction. Would she curtsey? Those details could all add to the exciting ending to the scene!

    3. I like those ideas, I hadn't thought of them! Thank you!

    4. Missy, what would be the contemporary equivalent to a maid and a ball? A nurse? Im not sure about a ball but I think we should still have them! I'd love a reason to wear a fancy dress :)

    5. Felicity, the television show The Bachelor actually crossed my mind. Like Missy, I wasn't sure if this was an historical or a contemporary. I think the makeup, the peanut butter, his tux and her robe made it feel more contemporary to me. What made me think of The Bachelor, though, was when he asked if he could spend a little time with her like he had the others.

    6. Felicity, I think if it's contemporary, you could make her be young enough to have a chaperone. Or if she's wealthy and young, maybe she could have a tutor or even a nanny?? Or maybe an older sister or even her mom could be there with her to help.

      And yes, I think you could still have a ball, especially if he's royalty. :)

  8. This is a YA I've started:

    When I opened the door, I could hardly believe what I saw. A block of ice sat on my front porch. On the side was a pick with a note attached "pick me".

    I picked it up as my best friend, Bella, arrived.

    “I have no idea who it’s from,”

    I said closing the door and setting it on the table.

    “There’s one way to find out.“ Bella grabbed the pick and started chipping away.

    Buried in the bottom was a heart-shaped paper covered in plastic. As I read, I smiled, " Katelyn, now that we've broken the ice, will you go to prom with me? 555-7428.”

    “Call him now.” Bella was nearly jumping up and down.

    “What if I don’t like him?”

    “What if you do?” Bella grinned.

    “Can you imagine if it’s Ryan?” My stomach fluttered at the thought.

    Bella grabbed the phone and dialed.

    “Hello.” I heard a guy's voice on the other end and I froze.

    “I see you left an awesome ice block on the porch.“ Bella answered and pushed the phone to my ear.

    “I was hoping you’d like it.” The voice on the other end said.

    I don’t know what was scarier not knowing who he was or thinking that he could be who I wanted him to be.

    “So will you go to prom with me?" He asked.

    “You have to tell me who you are first.” My legs were ready to collapse.

    “Go to the window,” he said.

    “What?” Bella and I said in unison.

    “If you want your answer, go to the window.”

    There was a tiny sparkler lighting up followed by a few more next to it. As the sparklers lit up, there was an outline of a guy.

    Bella held the phone down, covered the speaker, and whispered to me, “It's got to be Ryan. Who else is this creative?”

    “Who are you?”

    The shadowy figure took a few steps forward towards the light. My heart flipped when I saw his face.

    “Kaitlyn,” he said, “will you go to prom with me?”

    “Can you believe it?” Bella whispered.

    It was from Owen. Not Ryan. Not the worst but not what I was hoping for. Owen is somewhat quiet and quirky. He's friends with everyone and more into fixing cars than playing sports. I never thought he would be one to ask me to the prom.

    As my mind rushed, he waited for an answer.

    “I’m flattered.” I said trying to buy myself time.

    “Well?” Owen’s voice quivered.

    My initial instinct is no, it’s not Ryan.

    “Why not?” He went to a lot of trouble and he’s not that bad. Plus, it’s only one night and it could be fun.

    “I can’t wait,” Owen said and lit another sparkler.

    1. I can't wait either, Savannah! Augh! You're killing me here.

      Oh, the angst of young love. I'm not that familiar with YA, but this is a good story. My only recommendation would be to add more emotion and internal dialog. Put us into Katelyn's head so we know what she's thinking and feeling. The mind is usually where the greatest push and pull takes place and that draws the reader in and connects us to the character. Now, get to work because I can't wait to read more. ;)

    2. Savannah, I love reading YA and rally enjoyed this! I think you have a great story ahead. :) I just have a few little suggestions.

      I'd suggest they make the call to Owen on speaker phone. I was confused about who was holding the phone and how they could both hear, that type thing. Or if you don't want speaker phone, then maybe indicate they're sitting with their heads together so they can both hear.

      Maybe add a physical reaction when she discovers it's Owen and not Ryan. (stomach drops or heart flutters or something like that to indicate her disappointment or surprise). I'd also suggest a slight word change. When she thinks "it was from Owen," I would suggest that instead, she think "It was Owen." Because at that point she's no longer thinking who the block of ice is from. She's thinking about who this guy is who's standing outside her house. :)

      Maybe also add a quick reaction to the fact that Owen's voice quivers. Does it make her feel a bit excited that he seems nervous? Does it make her feel compassion for him? Does it make her feel they're kindred spirits? I think it could be a good opportunity to show her character right there.

      And I'd suggest a dialogue tag where she says, "Why not?" It took me a second to figure out who said it.

      Great job! Thanks for sharing!

    3. Thank you! These are awesome ideas. So, you're talking about adding more into it in yerms of a book scene, right? They'd be longer & need more than what I'd post here.

    4. Savannah, my scenes (for a book of about 55k words) are usually a minimum of about 4 pages. Of course, shorter stories will have shorter scenes. And longer books will have longer scenes. So when you're writing a scene for book (as opposed to a novella or short story) you have plenty of room to fill out the scene. But even in shorter works, you want to fill the scene with emotion that makes the reader bond with the character. A reader who really likes your character will want to keep reading to see what happens to him or her. :)

      That may not answer your question. If not, can you tell me if you're writing a novel or something shorter?

    5. Thanks, Missy! I'm working on a shorter novel. I'm aiming to get 45-50k. I'm still learning basics. I've been thinking about your comments & am understanding than better than I did at first. I think you're saying to add more emotional layers, not just extra words or description. I initially cut down the scene to fit here but I look at the entire scene & see it still lacks the layers you are describing. This is something I'm going to take note of and work on.

    6. Yes, exactly! Layers (not a word increase). And that's something that might come later in the process. You may just be working on your first or second draft right now. The emotions can be beefed up as you re-work a story and add things in to polish it and as you get to know your characters better.

      Wishing you the best on your story!

    7. Savannah, like Missy, I write 55K word books. I try to make each scene between 1200-2000 words. My average tends to be 1800 per scene, but it's okay if they vary.

  9. Thank you so much for this opportunity!
    Here's a section from my WIP:

    “Home sweet home.” Henry flicked on the lights in his cinder block box of a dorm room and let Jason inside.
    “Cool” Jason smiled and nodded politely.
    It wasn’t much. A bed with sheets and an old quilt, a shelf full of textbooks, a Shady Springs High School Class of ‘90 coffee mug full of pens and pencils, and a hand-me-down typewriter on the built-in desk against the wall.
    “Nice curtains.” Jason gestured to the dusty blue valances hanging from the two windows in the room.
    “Frank’s mom bought those.” Henry’s roommate had been embarrassed by his parents and all the fuss they made. Frank’s dad had carried several boxes up their two flights of stairs. Frank’s mom had made up his bed with extra decorative pillows and added the hand-sewn curtains with a couple of tension rods.
    Henry brushed off Frank’s embarrassment nonchalantly, but not before he’d charmed Mr. and Mrs. Thomas into taking them both out for dinner.
    “Let’s see what’s in this thing.” Jason plopped the package onto Henry’s bed and swiped his keys across the tape on top. “Oooh.” He grabbed something small from inside.
    “It’s … very … pink.” Henry gaped in confusion at the contents of the box. Pink tissue paper was wrapped around several small parcels. A pink card rested at the top of the pile. And pink confetti was sprinkled over the top.
    Jason rummaged through. “There’s candy and cookies. Some pencils. Here’s a card.” He opened the bubble gum colored card. “Uh-oh.”
    Henry yanked the note from Jason’s hands. “Let me see that.” His stomach dropped. Henry swiveled the package around and looked at the name on the top. He groaned. “This isn’t my mail.”

    1. Sarah, you have me really curious! I imagine we'll have a fun next scene when he takes the package to the rightful owner. :)

      I did have a question. I'm assuming they thought the package was intended for Henry. It made me wonder why Jason would say, "Let's see what's in this thing," and open it. That threw me off a bit and made it harder for me to be anchored in Henry's POV. If there wasn't a reason for that, then maybe have Henry open it with Jason watching and commenting.

      Overall, though, I really liked it and would love to read more!

    2. I agree with Missy, Sarah.... make it clear whose POV we're in... and I'd suggest making the curtains dusky blue not dusty blue so that the ready doesn't read it as dust-covered blue curtains, you know? .... Now I'm going to hurt your feelings, and I want you to forgive me right off because I think this scene is unnecessary... Pick the friend, Frank or Jason (and Frank's an unusual name for a current Y.A.) and have him open the box... without the room description. And I'd actually make sure it was like a couple of guys around, up the embarrassment quotient. Make the scene dance with emotion, pink emotion! So I love the idea, but I'm putting on my meany-pants hat and telling you I'd zing right into the box opening part and ax the rest.

      Do not send me hate mail.

      It's not nice, darling. :)

    3. Of course I would never send you hate mail!
      This chapter takes place in 1990, although I'm not married to the idea of Frank. Thank you for the help!

    4. I was kidding about the hate mail.... and 1990, hmm? That's an interesting time period, Sarah! So these guys are nearly 50 now? I am intrigued!

  10. Thanks for doing this, Ruthy! I love your critiques. Also, it was hard to decide which manuscript to send a snippet in, but this is the one I'm writing now, so we'll go with it. I'm calling it "Maid in Love" right now. ;-)

    Laundry first.
    Tracy mentally went through her checklist for Mr. Bartholomew’s vacation house. It was her favorite property to clean, with its green paint, white trim, and mountain view. She hated the drive up to it, but often stole a few extra minutes as she finished to stare out the picture window at the peaks and rolling ridges.
    She’d need to gather towels and strip the two beds. A honey-mooning couple had stayed there the week before and she refused to think about what that meant. Especially when she’d probably never get to enjoy one of her own.
    Around the last hairpin turn and up the steep driveway, she pushed the gas pedal of her little sedan as far as she dared. She was always aware of how far a fall it would be if she missed by even an inch of the narrow road. But the panorama was worth it.
    She entered the code and let herself in, plugging in earphones as she went. Her latest podcast going, she climbed up to the loft and entered the bathroom with a frown. Steam covered the mirror, but the last guests should have been gone for two days now. The towel was damp, too, as if used this morning.
    She checked her phone to make sure she hadn’t missed any messages regarding last-minute guests, but there was nothing. And she would have noticed another vehicle in the small drive. Strange. She shrugged it off and moved to her next task, making a mental note to send a message to Mr. Bartholomew that his honeymooners might have stayed longer than they paid for.
    The towels gave a satisfying thump as they hit the floor below. She always dropped them over the balcony to make it easier to on herself instead of trying to lug it all down the steep staircase and risk losing her balance. The doorknob to the bedroom turned easily, but she didn’t push it all the way when she noticed the lights on. The rumpled sheets she was used to. But farther in was something completely unexpected.
    A man pulled on his jeans, his back to her.
    At her gasp, he turned.
    Eyes wide, she darted, her feet taking the stairs much quicker than was safe.
    A vice-like grip around her bicep stopped her as she reached the front door. She spun around, hand raised to defend herself against whoever this squatter was, but his other hand caught her feeble attempt at a punch and quelled that, too. What was she going to do now?
    All the scary movies her brother had convinced her to watch through the years came back to bite her. Scenarios of who this man might be and what he could do flashed through her mind. No. She wasn’t going down without a fight. If he was going to do something dreadful, she would at least make sure to have DNA under her nails so the police could apprehend him.
    She flailed and kicked, knocking one of her earphones loose. It whipped around and smacked her in the lips, but she wouldn’t stop at something so small. His grip shifted and he wedged her against the door, his arms wrapping around her so tightly she couldn’t draw a full breath.
    “Let me go!” She huffed, her face pressed against his chest. His bare, slightly-damp chest which smelled of something tangy and masculine. Pine? Why was she noticing something like that at a time like this?

    1. Oh I just love this. I love the emotion of it. the set up is believable that she'd not just flat out run...the honeymooners might've stayed longer than they paid for.

    2. Amy, I love this setup! Great excitement!

      I do have a little suggestion. I assume he thinks she's an intruder, too, so that's why he's going after her. But I'd suggest he let go of her when she starts flailing and kicking. Or maybe once her earbud falls out, she could hear him say something (asking who she is and what she's doing there, or whatever). I know it does let down some of the tension, but I think for her to truly think about why she's noticing his smell right then, she needs to have some of the acute fear eased just a fraction (maybe it's starting to penetrate her brain that he's accusing her of being an intruder). I love the funny things she's thinking! But I think for her to think them, she can't be in a truly run for your life mode. :) Just my opinion, though!

      Great writing!

    3. Thanks Missy. The very next line is actually him asking what she's doing in his cabin (he's the owner -- spoiler alert!), but I can probably go back and tweak it a bit to rearrange the lines.

    4. Oh, good. That may take care of my worry with that next line. :)

    5. Oh my stars, this is way too much fun!!!!!

      Okay, I love it... The speed, the word choices, the set-up to make it believable but here's where I furrowed my brow, and you don't want me to furrow my brow for a variety of reasons, one of which is that anti-wrinkle cream is pricey and I shouldn't have to spend money on it....

      If he's the owner, he knows there's a housekeeper.... He may not know when she's coming, but he has the upper hand in the knowledge dept., right? So then his grabbing her goes way over the top for me. It's a typical romance set-up, but I'd rather see him dart in front of her outside, hands up, something to waylay her without the physical stuff... Even if it's a PG or more rated romance, and I'll tell you why....

      Because it builds the sexual tension even more if it's done with no touch/struggle, etc..... unless that's what you want, of course. :) I love the fun set up, the frankness of it, but I would change that up to be more believable because what boss/owner grabs the maid he hired, especially if she doesn't know him?

      Of course I am the old FUDDY DUDDY Seeker.... :)

      And I wear that hat proudly!!!!!

    6. We all need a fuddy-duddy in our life, Ruthy. :-)
      He is the owner, but his decision to come was last-minute and he completely forgot the maid was coming that day because he was focused on his family problems. I imagined his reaction to be instinctual to turning around and finding someone he has never met in person in his cabin. But I can probably tone it down just a bit. I figured he grabbed her to stop her and then had to hold tighter when she fought back.

    7. Haha Yeah, I, too, had a little of Ruthy's fuddy duddy discomfort about him grabbing her. :)

    8. I am not the only fuddy duddy SEEKER!!!!!!!!! :)

      You know we've come a long way from what romance was 30 years ago.... and not that straight-line romance is wrong, but I think we're more aware of the way our work (in ABA and CBA) affects people and their perceptions. So I'm trying to be more aware and I get reminded by editors that we need to be more sensitive to how something appears/reads and its effect.

      And always, in the end, it comes down to you, Amy.... and the story you want to tell because you're a great story teller.

      And I love that! :)

    9. Thanks so much, girls!

  11. Dying for a Living

    The first time I died, I was actually glad to have it all over with. They don't tell you this in medical school but at some point in your life the scales tip and the balance changes making non-existence seem more a heaven than heaven itself. Besides the view now-a-days is a whole lot better.

    Of course, some called it a miracle. I was dead for 29 minutes. Really dead. Not clinically dead. Not in a state of suspended animation. I was dead by every test science had come up with.

    The believers preached that I was saved for an important reason. That my life would now take on a profound meaning. That God would not waste His miracles. The believers never stopped asking if I'd seen the light, heard the Lord, or spoke to deceased loved ones waiting on the other side. I kept telling them that when you are dead there is no 'you' or 'mind' to have any such experiences.

    "There's the soul and that's all you need," they'd tell me. If that is true, then I didn't have a soul.

    I must admit, however, that all this 'greater purpose' conjecture would have meant a lot more to me if I'd been killed in an auto accident, had normal health at the time, and was in my twenties. But that wasn't the case. I was in my eighties, terminally ill, and had four months already on hospice.

    What 'greater purpose' could there be for me?

    The scientists wanted me to die again. They had to learn why I came back to life. There had to be a reason and it wasn't a miracle. Something physical in me was different and they were determined to use every relevant medical instrument available to find what it was. I just had to die again.

    The second time I died it was more annoying than anything else. After that death, forty-four minutes this time, I insisted that I be moved to a location that offered me one of the world's most beautiful views. They gave me a choice of seven spectacular venues. I chose all seven. After those deaths I wanted more.

    "I want to die on the space station with a sensational view of the entire earth."

    At first the scientists were horrified by this request but they soon became ecstatic. All the tests could be done with telemetry and the results under weightlessness might prove even more revealing. Cost was no object. Every politician loved the idea of coming back to life.

    I was chosen to be an astronaut.

    1. Vince, what a unique story!! Is this the opening? It does make a very intriguing opening.

    2. Vince, what a fun idea to explore! It's got the threads of faith, hope and snark.... and immortality.

      I love stories about inadvertent immortals!

      Like folks born without an "off" switch, but I'd like to be held steady at like early forties... young enough to enjoy life, but old enough to leave my know-it-all jerkiness aside!!!

    3. Hi Ruth:

      You and Jack Benny make a fine pair. Jack was 39 forever after he reached that age.

    4. Hi Missy:
      Yes, that was the opening. The real story is about each of the seven deaths in the world's most beautiful locations and how the cause of death in each case mirrors the eventual outcome of the story in its own unique way. Yes, if we live by the sword we may die by the sword but what if we die in other ways? What does that show as to how we lived prior to those deaths? What if we really had nine lives like a cat? My hero is the first human to find this out.

  12. Vince, LOL this is wild. Very intriguing. I would read on.

    1. Hi Mary:
      To learn more about the story please check my comment to Missy above. Very happy you were intrigued. Thanks.


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