Thursday, August 12, 2010

Red Pencil Thursday with Anne Stratton

Well, it's Red Pencil Thursday, and I'm happy to say we have a volunteer. Please welcome Anne Stratton. Unfortunately, I need to apologize to her right off the get-go. I didn't send her critique back early enough to give her time to send back responses. If they come in during the day, I will add them. But I didn't want to make everyone else wait any longer for this engaging beginning.
My comments are in red. If Anne sends in her comments today, they'll be in purple. Please feel free to add your comments at the end of the post.
For Love or Money
Titles are not subject to copyright. It's a good strategy to use a familiar phrase for a title, but I usually check to see if there is another book already using that phrase. I search it on Amazon and just see what's out there. If it's not being used for the same type of book I write, it's fair game.

Chapter One

January 2
Suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin
It's not unusual to see a date and setting for historicals, but I don't recall seeing it for contemporaries. I'd rather see you show us that it's the dead of winter in the upper midwest.

The summer night ten-year-old Kate Harvey got caught breaking into her neighbor’s home, she got off easy. Twenty years later, however, that wouldn’t be the case.
Great opening. In 2 sentences, we know a good deal about your heroine. She's got a history of troublemaking, she's 30 years old and still a risk taker.

Another truth came to Kate as she stood in snow up to her calves, inhaling air that made her lungs ache: it was not as much fun breaking into houses in the winter. Waiting for the man on the other side of the bay window to leave was screwing up her plan. Luckily, the guy couldn’t possibly see her huddled in the snow.
The first sentence in this paragraph is a little awkward. How about...
As she stood in snow up to her calves, inhaling air that m
ade her lungs ache, she realized it was not as much fun breaking into houses in the winter.
She knows this guy's name. Why not name him here?

Why hadn’t the jerk left yet?

She checked the time on her cell phone--ten of seven already. According to Jennifer the know-it-all at the office, Chesterton was supposed to meet his wife at the country club at six-thirty. A second later, as if he’d read her mind, he turned and disappeared from view.
I'd break the first sentence up into two. Put a period after phone and let Ten of seven already stand on its own. You can also tighten Jennifer the know-it-all at the office to Jennifer, the office know-it-all.

Time for her to move. A gust off Lake Michigan spit snow into her face as she edged around the patio. A light glowed from the kitchen windows and blinked off again.
Cut for her in the first sentence and you'll create a deeper POV, placing us firmly in Kate's head. If you cut A from the last sentence, it doesn't change the meaning and you won't have consecutive sentences beginning with A.
BRRRR! Love A gust off Lake Michigan. This gives me great sensory detail and a better sense of place than telling me Suburban Milwaukee at the beginning.

He must be entering the garage--good news. The instant she heard the car backing out, she bolted toward the rear porch and squatted against the wood siding. The car rumbled down the driveway, the overhead garage door hummed again and she nipped around a pillar to stick her foot beneath the descending door.
Again, ditch the -- for a period and separate those two thoughts. I'm a little confused about the layout of the place. Usually a garage door faces the street and she's in the rear of the structure. Wouldn't it make more sense for her to be in the side yard, pressed up against the garage? What keeps Chesterton from seeing her? I always watch to make sure my garage door goes down and stays down.

Her heart kicked up. The old rush of adrenalin made her smile. She’d almost forgotten the thrill of testing her courage.
I think you mean heartrate instead of heart. Is it testing her courage or breaking the rules that gets her going?
The door continued for a second and then bounced back up, revealing a sleek black Corvette. Kate sprinted to the kitchen door and punched the button to close the overhead door behind her. The door continued to what? Crush her foot? Making a whirring noise? Sleek black Corvette tells us Chesterton's got money and maybe a mid-life crisis. Good detail. She knows a lot about this house if she knows the door leading into the garage.

Her hand shook as she flipped open the security system box next to the back door. If she didn’t get the numbers right, the whole caper would be over and she’d have to figure out another way into that house.
She doesn't seem the type to have a shaking hand, or if she did, she'd at least mentally scold herself over it. Here's your chance to sneak in a hook about what she's after in the house. Not the whole story, just a tease. "The incriminating papers", "the jewelry that should have been hers" , "the evident to prove someone's innocence"--something to justify the risk otherwise we may stop identifying with her. Thrill seekers are interesting, but we also tend to judge them as not terribly bright. We want our heroine to be smart, so a good reason, or the hint of one, to justify her actions would be helpful here.

She pointed her gloved finger at the first digit of what she hoped was the pass code. The address of the house was 6950. Since she knew the code had four digits. She was betting on the address. If that didn’t work, she’d try the date of the Chestertons’ wedding, October 15.

See? I knew she was smart. I just want to know there's a valid reason for her breaking and entering.

She inhaled and punched in the six, then the nine, the five and the zero, and pressed “off.”

Nothing happened. Had she guessed wrong? “Six, nine, five, zero.” Her whimper echoed off the concrete floor. She tried the four numbers again, pressed off. Silently the red light faded. She took a breath.

I'd cut "Had she guessed wrong?" It smacks of author intrusion, telling the reader what might have happened when we could have figured that one out. Since she hits the same numbers, you might have her wonder if she didn't punch them hard enough, tug off her glove with her teeth and jab the numbers again with her bare knuckle to avoid leaving a fingerprint. Also, she doesn't strike me as the whimpering type.

Now all Kate needed was for the entrance door to be unlocked. The knob turned. She was in! She pulled her flashlight from her coat pocket, turned it on, placed it on the floor, shed her leather gloves and shoved them into one pocket. From her other coat pocket she pulled out her shoe covers and slipped them over her boots.
Instead of entrance door, would it be interior door that leads from the garage into the house? Also, if she's so careful about covering her shoes, I think she'd leave the gloves on (or put them back on if you take my previous suggestion) to avoid leaving fingerprints.

You've definitely got me wondering what's going to happen, Anne. Good job! Thanks for letting me take a look at your work.

A. Y. Stratton Bio

Free-lance columnist Anne Youngclaus Stratton, also known as A. Y. Stratton, had been writing for Milwaukee-area magazines and newspapers for more than fifteen years, when she finally accomplished her life-long goal. Buried Heart, a romantic suspense novel set in Milwaukee and in Mayan ruins deep in the rain forest, was published by The Wild Rose Press in October, 2009.

A. Y. and her husband live in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The idea for her debut novel occurred to her when she and her husband were on a tour of Mayan ruins.

For more information about A. Y. Stratton, please visit her web site, You can also by her BURIED HEART at Amazon.


Edie Ramer said...

Anne, terrific page! Kate sounds like she's going to be a fun character!

EmilyBryan said...

Edie--She does, doesn't she? Kate is a prime example of a heroine who lives large. She does things the rest of us might not dare.

Stacy McKitrick said...

Hi Anne!

I agree with Emily that the reader would want to know the reason behind what Kate is doing. I want to like (or dislike) the character off the bat. Even if she's just a thief, she's got to have a good reason for doing what she's doing, and I'd want to know that sooner than later or else you've lost me as a reader.

I think once that little bit was fixed, I could get hooked onto this story easy enough. I just need to know how I'm supposed to react to the character - whether she's the heroine or the villain.

EmilyBryan said...

Stacy--I didn't sense malevolent intent in Kate's B & E. She's obviously going for something specific. Like you, I'd like to know more about what it might be before I throw my support behind her.

Sandy said...

Anne, I like the sound of this story. I would buy it in a minute. I, also, agree with everything Emily said but one thing.

I'm an avid reader of mystery romance and just plain mysteries, and I've seen dates in both genres. I can't remember the authors off-hand, and I don't have time to go through my library. lol It was because of these authors that I used dates in my trilogy.

I love Red Pencil Thursday, and I never miss it even if I'm a day or two late.

Thanks to both of you.

EmilyBryan said...

Sandy--I bow to your greater knowledge of the sub-genre.

A.Y. Stratton said...

Thank you and the others who commented on your critique!
I will use your Great suggestions immediately.
What a wonderful service!
I tried to comment, but I was out of town and couldn't manage it from my cell phone.
Muchas gracias, mi amigas!
A. Y. Stratton
PS The reason my protagonist Kate must break into the house is to help her granny retrieve some vital papers... From then on her life changes. Stay tuned!