The Land Doesn't Leave

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emburke207
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The Land Doesn't Leave

Post by emburke207 » June 14th, 2010, 2:04 pm

I've just joined this forum, and I have responded to one query for feedback. I do hope to spend more time reading other's queries and responding.

Here's my query: I've written a 70,000 word novel about a young woman Eva Thompson who returns to her Maine island home upon the death of her mother, to find herself now in an intensely sad and fraught relationship with her father, more complicated than when she fled for graduate school in marine biology. On top of it, the oil company King Resources has just bought the 300 acre former WWII Navy fuel depot on the island, hoping to create an even larger fuel depot. Eva's father believes he's the one person who can save the island from being ruined, and his focus on that problem exacerbates his already frail relationship with his daughter.

I hate the title of the novel, though it is highly pertinent. I've also started the novel from a point in Eva's youth, to give one a feel for why Eva flees. However, humph, I'm wondering about this. Nevertheless, I'd love feedback on the first 250 words.

Many thanks:

At one place on the seaward facing island ledge on a small nubble of land where the open ocean surf had smashed with a vengeance into the granite ledges since the island was formed, the rock had been worn into smooth shallow basins, like a series of large bird baths. When she was twelve, Eva Thompson, a lean girl with a wild mop of dark curly hair, scrambled over the rocks around there to the basins, stripped down and tried to lie in one while the ocean surged up, thinking it might be soothing. She crawled out on her knees, grabbing onto what dry ledge was around, when she realized the rocks were covered with very fine green algae that was more slippery than wet porcelain. She could have been swooshed into the surf and dashed against the rocks.

Earlier in the summer, she had trudged over a sandbar exposed at low tide to a small uninhabited island just offshore where she later found the baths. It was not someplace anyone went to except the lobstermen who yearly found their traps washed up on its easterly seaward facing shore. In the island’s center there was unexpectedly a freshwater pond at the base of an encircling embankment. The water was warm and clear, and she was totally hidden from any passing boat there and felt she’d found a private bath amidst an otherwise poison-ivy covered rock.

That sense of having disappeared was so lovely.

Ermo
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Re: The Land Doesn't Leave

Post by Ermo » June 14th, 2010, 3:58 pm

You have a clear talent for writing and for turning a few phrases. I do think that this beginning has a couple of things I'd change. First, it's a bit too "try hard-y" for lack of a better phrase. It's the kind of writing where you get the feeling the writer is really showing off their chops but maybe paying less attention to structure and story. Second, I'd start with action. This is a nice little snippet into the MC, but it doesn't pull you in. There's no real conflict. I like your writing - really pretty - but I'd like to see it more focused on getting the story off the ground at the beginning here. Good luck.

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Quill
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Re: The Land Doesn't Leave

Post by Quill » June 14th, 2010, 11:40 pm

I like your book's name. A lot. It's classic.
At one place on the seaward facing
seaward-facing
island ledge on a small nubble of land
Nubble. Did you make that up? I like it.
where the open ocean surf had smashed with a vengeance
Hmm. Not sure about personifying the surf here. Does surf do anything for vengeance?
into the granite ledges since the island was formed, the rock had been worn into smooth shallow basins, like a series of large bird baths.
Comma after smooth, but hey, gotta love the imagery here. I'm liking this beginning. Nothing wrong with setting the scene, especially if well done like this.
When she was twelve, Eva Thompson, a lean girl with a wild mop of dark curly hair, scrambled over the rocks around there to the basins, stripped down and tried to lie in one while the ocean surged up, thinking it might be soothing.
Good, albeit maybe a bit long with the "thinking about..." Could at least drop "around there"
She crawled out on her knees, grabbing onto what dry ledge was around, when she realized the rocks were covered with very fine green algae that was more slippery than wet porcelain. She could have been swooshed into the surf and dashed against the rocks.
Good stuff. Not sure about "porcelain" which stuck out as being incongruous. Would she know what that was? Seems you could more poignantly substitute something she's be familiar with, something more rustic, like your scene is, even something else from nature.
Earlier in the summer, she had trudged over a sandbar exposed at low tide to a small uninhabited island just offshore where she later found the baths.
"..to the small uninhabited..." or it's confusing, sounding like another island and other basins/baths.
It was not someplace anyone went to except the lobstermen who yearly found their traps
Yearly? Once a year? How about "often" instead, or something. Do you really mean they go there just once a year to retrieve traps?
washed up on its easterly seaward facing shore.
Being a big believer in word territory, I don't think it is wise to employ "seaward-facing" again so soon, unless you have a damn good reason.
In the island’s center there was unexpectedly a freshwater pond at the base of an encircling embankment. The water was warm and clear, and she was totally hidden from any passing boat there and felt she’d found a private bath amidst an otherwise poison-ivy covered rock.
Does poison-ivy grow on ocean rock? Thought it was a woods thing. Otherwise, kind of a creepy image, but okay, provides a quirky tension. Does she know it's poison ivy? Might want to say.
That sense of having disappeared was so lovely.
Nice.

All in all, stupendous.

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Gina Frost
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Re: The Land Doesn't Leave

Post by Gina Frost » June 15th, 2010, 9:58 am

I love the title! The story was a bit too wordy for me though or maybe it was because the sentences were just too long. If you could keep some of that description and shorten the sentences, I think it would be a great read.

Emily J
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Re: The Land Doesn't Leave

Post by Emily J » June 15th, 2010, 11:02 am

emburke207 wrote:I've just joined this forum, and I have responded to one query for feedback. I do hope to spend more time reading other's queries and responding.

Here's my query: I've written a 70,000 word novel about a young woman Eva Thompson who returns to her Maine island home upon the death of her mother, to find herself now in an intensely sad and fraught relationship with her father, more complicated than when she fled for graduate school in marine biology. On top of it, the oil company King Resources has just bought the 300 acre former WWII Navy fuel depot on the island, hoping to create an even larger fuel depot. Eva's father believes he's the one person who can save the island from being ruined, and his focus on that problem exacerbates his already frail relationship with his daughter.

I hate the title of the novel, though it is highly pertinent. I've also started the novel from a point in Eva's youth, to give one a feel for why Eva flees. However, humph, I'm wondering about this. Nevertheless, I'd love feedback on the first 250 words.

Many thanks:

At one place on the seaward facing think you need a hyphen seaward-facing island ledge on a small nubble of land where the open ocean surf had smashed with a vengeance into the granite ledges since the island was formed, the rock had been worn into smooth shallow basins, like a series of large bird baths. for an opener, this sentence is very long, also off the bat I would say you have far too many modifiers, oftentimes in writing less is more When she was twelve, Eva Thompson, a lean girl with a wild mop of dark curly hair, this is unclear, is this a description of her when she was twelve or is this a description of a girl, and then when she was twelve... scrambled over the rocks around there to the basins, stripped down and tried to lie in one while the ocean surged up, thinking it might be soothing. She crawled out on her knees, grabbing onto what dry ledge was around, when she realized the rocks were covered with very fine green algae that was more slippery than wet porcelain. She could have been swooshed odd verb choice into the surf and dashed against the rocks.

Earlier in the summer, so is this our second flashback already? she had trudged over a sandbar exposed at low tide to a small uninhabited island just offshore where she later found the baths. It was not someplace anyone went to except the lobstermen who yearly found their traps washed up on its easterly seaward facing shore. seaward facing (still think you need a hyphen) is a description we have already had once before, plus given the sentence it seems implied In the island’s center there was unexpectedly a freshwater pond at the base of an encircling embankment. The water was warm and clear, and she was totally hidden from any passing boat there and felt she’d found a private bath amidst an otherwise poison-ivy covered rock.

That sense of having disappeared was so lovely.
I think you could really cut out a lot of adjectives and prepositions here. The language feels a bit overly elaborate and could benefit from a few simpler more declarative statements. The number of prepositions (i mean there are a LOT of prepositions) and the flashbacks make it harder to stay in the scene.

Generally though, I wonder what the purpose of this passage is? I mean it's pretty but it may be an example of style over substance. Focus on what is important in this passage, what about the character is revealed here that is necessary to the story moving forward.

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khanes
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Re: The Land Doesn't Leave

Post by khanes » June 15th, 2010, 12:56 pm

I agree with the other posters that you do have some beautiful descriptions, but descriptions won't get you anywhere if you don't have conflict, or something to draw us in. I want to know who this girl is, what sort of drama is going on in her life. Also, I do think the sentences were too long. When I read in my head, I read like I talk, and I wouldn't be able to read those sentences out loud. Maybe shorten them up, add a little spice and drama? Or, you could totally change the opening scene to something thats happening in her current life, which shows us the drama she is facing, then when we know here a little more, you could add a flashback to her youth. Good luck!

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February
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Re: The Land Doesn't Leave

Post by February » June 16th, 2010, 11:48 am

Okay, I purposely didn't read other comments before writing this because I don't want to be at all swayed by them (I plan to do that for all I read/reply to in this forum) so please forgive me if I'm repeating the sentiments of others. These are my impressions only and everybody has an opinion so take what you want (if anything) and leave the rest. :)

First of all- I actually love the title. It immediately caught my interest in the subject line of the thread and I wanted to click on it. Then reading your description, I wanted to read on. Good things, both :) Now, my impressions:

At one place on the seaward facing island ledge on a small nubble of land where the open ocean surf had smashed with a vengeance into the granite ledges since the island was formed, the rock had been worn into smooth shallow basins, like a series of large bird baths.

Nubble? I've heard nubbin but not nubble before. When I read that sentence I thought simply 'nub' worked. This is just a taste thing though.

Biggest thing is that the sentence was difficult to read aloud (they say you should read your work aloud again and again- I know it's caused me to realize that I tend to write long sentences too. Working on it in my own stuff.)

How about breaking it up a little? Your imagery is gorgeous, I'd love to see the words pared down a little to let your voice truly shine through. Changes as simple as (and please ignore this if you want to- it's merely the words that jumped out at me from what you wrote) "Facing the sea was a nub of land, its granite ledges worn away over time by the vengeance of the surf. The rock now formed smooth, shallow basins, like a series of large bird baths..." I think that retains most of the images and would be easier for me personally to follow (please again forgive me if offering the example was too much- I'm still pretty new to this critiqueing thing I don't mean to overstep on your baby).

When she was twelve, Eva Thompson, a lean girl with a wild mop of dark curly hair, scrambled over the rocks around there to the basins, stripped down and tried to lie in one while the ocean surged up, thinking it might be soothing. She crawled out on her knees, grabbing onto what dry ledge was around, when she realized the rocks were covered with very fine green algae that was more slippery than wet porcelain. She could have been swooshed into the surf and dashed against the rocks.

The insertion there of the description of her hair felt a little awkward to me. The description of the rocks and the experience she had, the danger she was in without realizing it at the time is interesting-- is there a way to ramp up the tension? Perhaps move the description of her to another location or if you want to keep it here smooth it out a little so that is more in tune with the overall flow of the paragraph? I'd recommend too once more reading it out loud to yourself- you may begin to see that to a reader after that third comma or so a sentence can be difficult to follow.

Earlier in the summer, she had trudged over a sandbar exposed at low tide to a small uninhabited island just offshore where she later found the baths. It was not someplace anyone went to except the lobstermen who yearly found their traps washed up on its easterly seaward facing shore. In the island’s center there was unexpectedly a freshwater pond at the base of an encircling embankment. The water was warm and clear, and she was totally hidden from any passing boat there and felt she’d found a private bath amidst an otherwise poison-ivy covered rock.

That sense of having disappeared was so lovely.


Again I find the imagery to be quite engaging. It's easy to picture in my mind when I read it as a writer. When I read it as a reader, I think what went for the first paragraph applies here too- just polish up those sentences, throw in a few pauses (when you read aloud you'll see quickly where they would naturally fall, allowing you to take a breath) and then the story will really stand out.

I have to give you a lot of credit for your detail in your images, again, I can picture that island so clearly in my mind and the lean little girl scrambling as she tried to hold onto the slippery green rocks. It's a wonderful beginning. I'd love to see where the story goes from there.

respectfully,
bru

ddelano
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Re: The Land Doesn't Leave

Post by ddelano » June 16th, 2010, 1:13 pm

First, I really like the title.
I think this opening shows a lot of promise, but needs a bit of streamlining. I like your initial description, but the first sentence was so long I had to read it a few times over to get it. I would break it up or cut it some.
Also, I found the description of the girl a bit jarring. I think it was because you had me already experiencing the scene, and the physical description of the girl took me completely out of the experience. I think it would be stronger if you described what she was doing/thinking, but left the physical description of her for later. That way the reader can simply step into her shoes and experience what she is experiencing.
I am OK with the slow descriptive begining as long as some conflict or purpose emerges soon (like in the next paragraph). Overall, I think this could be a very strong work and I'd be interested to read more. Good Luck!

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Quill
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Re: The Land Doesn't Leave

Post by Quill » June 16th, 2010, 8:18 pm

In general I like the long sentences. They meander like the story. They coil us into that world. Of course crafting long sentences effectively is an art. And some of the sample piece could use a bit more editing. But it's got music. I just hope that the lyrical baby isn't thrown out with the critical bathwater. I'd hate to see the mood of the piece change through any stylistic change. Just some smoothing out. Nothing time and another draft or two couldn't tweak into total bliss.

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