Excerpt for Critique 004


We have another volunteer today with an excerpt from her WIP.  Thanks to Amanda Douglas for being brave enough to provide her work for us to look at. The scene she provided is from the latter part of her first chapter. It is a YA ghost story with romance.  The scene opens up with the heroine arriving at her new home.

For those interested, please place your feedback in the comments section.  If you have specific points, try to provide examples of what might work better.  Be gentle and let her know what she did right as well.  I will paste the story as I received it below.  After that will be my own critique.  I don’t expect anyone to be as thorough as I am, so don’t feel you need to take that kind of time.  Even a few lines describing your thoughts can be useful.  The greater the participation, the better overall idea Amanda will have of where she stands with her work.

——————————–

After leaving the motorway, they had driven for what seemed like years along narrow, twisted country lanes. Aimee hoped they’d drive forever – that would be preferable to arriving. But now she felt the car slow down, and halt. The engine continued to purr. Aimee kept her eyes resolutely closed.

‘This is it!’ Jake’s voice rang with pride. ‘Our new home. The Old Head Gardener’s House, Holmwood Hall Estate.’

She couldn’t not know any longer. Despite herself, Aimee opened her eyes.

‘Oh, my God, you cannot be serious!’ Aimee sat bolt upright in her seat, twisting her torso to take in the sight that met her horrified gaze.

In her imagination, Aimee had formed a vague picture of a twee cottage from the kind of birthday card she might choose for Granny. Thatched roof, masses of flowers, and happy cows in the field beside. Nothing she had accidentally overheard her parents say had prepared Aimee for this reality.

They had stopped outside a house that was clearly, even to idiots like her parents, unfit for human habitation. Aimee stared in disbelief at the waisthigh weedy garden, rotted window-frames and roof pocked with gaping holes.

‘That dump! It’s falling down… I can’t live there,’ she said.

‘For God’s sake, will you stop being such a drama queen.’

Poppy, Aimee’s mother, spoke curtly, without turning her head. Poppy wore tight white jeans and a strappy pink vest. Her hands still clasped the steering wheel, her thin shoulders were tense as wire.

Aimee opened her mouth to retort. But before the words formed on her lips, Poppy put the car back into gear. The vehicle rolled slowly past the horrible house.

‘That was a sick joke,’ Aimee said. Tears trembled in her voice. ‘I suppose you thought you’d make me grateful we’re not going to live in that creepy place. Well, it’s not going to work. I hate you both.’

Neither parent replied. Aimee slithered back into her former slump against the soft leather upholstery, and shut her eyes again.

But Poppy only drove a few metres more. This time, the engine stopped. In the sudden silence, Aimee heard the hand brake creak into position. Reluctantly, but unable to help herself, her eyes opened.

Poppy had parked in a layby beside a high brick wall. Double wrought iron gates – rusty, of course – allowed Aimee to see into another weedy wilderness.

Jake had his seatbelt off and was out of the car in an instant, like an over-excited little boy.

‘Come on, girls,’ he said, urging his family through the open door. ‘Don’t just sit there! We’ve arrived. The start of our new life.’

Jake bounded off, long-legged, down the lane towards the house.

‘Oh God.’ It came out as a croak. ‘I’m not going to live there. You can’t make me.’ Aimee clung to the seatbelt with white-knuckled fingers. ‘I feel sick,’ she moaned.

‘Come on, love.’ Poppy’s voice was soft. ‘I know it’s hard. But trust me. It’ll be OK. You’ll see.’

‘It’s not OK!’ Aimee shrieked. ‘It will never be OK. How can it, when I’ve left everything behind? My life is over. I might as well be dead.’

‘I’m sick of you acting like a child.’ Poppy’s mood changed again. ‘You’re sixteen years old, for God’s sake. You need to grow up and think of someone beside yourself for a change. Come in if you like, or stay. I don’t care.’

‘How dare you say that to me? When you and Dad never once consider me! You are so selfish, not me!  How can you, I …’

But Poppy didn’t bother to reply. Didn’t even look at Aimee. As if Aimee wasn’t there, her mother calmly unclipped her seatbelt, swung her legs out and rose to her feet gracefully, like the ballet dancer she had once been, long ago. With utmost precision, she shut the car door, and walked slowly, elegantly, after Jake.

Aimee’s whole body vibrated with fury and frustration. She wanted to scream, to hurt someone, to pummel Poppy with her fists, to make her see, understand, care.

But she was trapped. Here, in the back of beyond, in the bloody car. She couldn’t get out. She couldn’t go into the house. She couldn’t live here.

‘I can’t,’ she whispered.

Tears welled in her eyes, pushed up in her throat. She slid sideways until her squashed nose snuffed the leather scent of the back seat. And then it came. A storm of crying burst from her body. Aimee lost herself in weeping, snot and tears pouring unchecked, uncomforted.

Eventually, as her tears slowed, Aimee became aware that she was boiling. She pressed the button to lower the car window, but nothing happened. Aimee ground her thumb angrily against the unyielding plastic before remembering that, with no key in the ignition, the power windows wouldn’t operate.

She wished Poppy would bring her a drink.

No-one came.

‘Selfish bastards,’ Aimee sobbed, but feebly, now.

Aimee tried to keep on crying. She wanted Poppy to see how upset she was. Surely, then her Mum would scoop her up and take her home. Back to London. Where she belonged. Aimee sniffed and forced a few more tears out.

But her traitor body had other ideas. It was done with weeping. It demanded a bathroom visit, a long drink, and then something delicious to eat. Aimee found herself with no choice but to get out of the car and go into the hated house. Or wee where she sat. That was a definite possibility. Aimee even smiled, as she imagined Jake’s face at the desecration of his precious car. But of course she couldn’t bring herself to actually do it. It would be beyond humiliation to wet herself like a baby.

Aimee winced as she peeled her bare back from the car seat, where her sweat had dried and stuck like glue. She opened the door, and slowly, like an old lady, manoeuvred her legs out one by one. Somehow, they seemed to have trebled in weight. Her head throbbed, and when she stood up, in the full glare of the sun, she swayed. Perhaps she was going to faint. That would show her parents. But her head cleared. And still, neither Jake nor Poppy came.

On legs wobbly as fresh spaghetti, Aimee walked down the lane until she reached the front gate – hanging off its hinges – to her new home.

——————————–

After leaving the motorway, they had driven for what seemed like years along narrow, twisted country lanes. Aimee hoped they’d drive forever – that would be preferable to arriving. But now she felt the car slow down, and halt. The engine continued to purr. Aimee kept her eyes resolutely closed. (The one thing I’m missing here may have been covered before this part, but I do wonder why she is so determined to hate this house.)

‘This is it!’ Jake’s voice rang with pride. ‘Our new home. The Old Head Gardener’s House, Holmwood Hall Estate.’

She couldn’t not know any longer. Despite herself, Aimee opened her eyes.

‘Oh, my God, you cannot be serious!’ Aimee sat bolt upright in her seat, twisting her torso to take in the sight that met her horrified gaze (good showing).

In her imagination, Aimee had formed a vague picture of a twee (had to look this word up) cottage from the kind of birthday card she might choose for Granny. Thatched roof, masses of flowers, and happy cows (How do you know the cows are happy?  They could be angry.  Maybe just describe what they’re doing.) in the field beside. Nothing she had accidentally overheard her parents say had prepared Aimee for this reality.

They had stopped outside a house that was clearly, even to idiots like her parents, unfit for human habitation. Aimee stared in disbelief at the waisthigh weedy garden, rotted window-frames and roof pocked with gaping holes.

‘That dump! It’s falling down… I can’t live there,’ she said.

‘For God’s sake, will you stop being such a drama queen.’

Poppy, Aimee’s mother, spoke curtly, without turning her head. Poppy wore tight white jeans and a strappy pink vest. Her hands still clasped the steering wheel, and her thin shoulders were tense as wire.

Aimee opened her mouth to retort, but before the words formed on her lips, Poppy put the car back into gear. The vehicle rolled slowly past the horrible house.

‘That was a sick joke,’ Aimee said. Tears trembled in her voice. ‘I suppose you thought you’d make me grateful we’re not going to live in that creepy place. Well, it’s not going to work. I hate you both.’

Neither parent replied. Aimee slithered back into her former slump (I like how you put a lot of effort into active description but take care not to go overboard with awkward phrasing) against the soft leather upholstery, and shut her eyes again.

But Poppy only drove a few metres more. This time, the engine stopped. In the sudden silence, Aimee heard the hand brake creak into position. Reluctantly, but unable to help herself, her eyes opened.

Poppy had parked in a layby (had to look this up too!) beside a high brick wall. Double wrought iron gates – rusty, of course – allowed Aimee to see into another weedy wilderness.

Jake had his seatbelt off and was out of the car in an instant, like an over-excited little boy.

‘Come on, girls,’ he said, urging his family through the open door. ‘Don’t just sit there! We’ve arrived. The start of our new life.’

Jake bounded off, long-legged, down the lane towards the house.

‘Oh God.’ It came out as a croak. ‘I’m not going to live there. You can’t make me.’ Aimee clung to the seatbelt with white-knuckled fingers (good showing here). ‘I feel sick,’ she moaned.

‘Come on, love.’ Poppy’s voice was soft. ‘I know it’s hard. But trust me. It’ll be OK. You’ll see.’

‘It’s not OK!’ Aimee shrieked. ‘It will never be OK. How can it, when I’ve left everything behind? My life is over. I might as well be dead.’

‘I’m sick of you acting like a child.’ Poppy’s mood changed again (this is telling- we can see her mood changed). ‘You’re sixteen years old, for God’s sake. You need to grow up and think of someone beside yourself for a change. Come in if you like, or stay. I don’t care.’

‘How dare you say that to me? When you and Dad never once consider me! You are so selfish, not me!  How can you, I …’

But Poppy didn’t bother to reply. Didn’t even look at Aimee. As if Aimee wasn’t there, her mother calmly unclipped her seatbelt, swung her legs out and rose to her feet gracefully, like the ballet dancer she had once been, long ago. With utmost precision (not sure I’d describe closing a door this way), she shut the car door, and walked slowly, elegantly, after Jake.  (Description is great, but you want to be careful about going too far with it)

Aimee’s whole body vibrated with fury and frustration. She wanted to scream, to hurt someone, to pummel Poppy with her fists, to make her see, understand, care.

But she was trapped. Here, in the back of beyond, in the bloody car. She couldn’t get out. She couldn’t go into the house. She couldn’t live here.

‘I can’t,’ she whispered.

Tears welled in her eyes, pushed up in her throat. She slid sideways until her squashed nose snuffed the leather scent of the back seat. And then it came. A storm of crying burst from her body. Aimee lost herself in weeping, snot and tears pouring unchecked, uncomforted.

Eventually, as her tears slowed, Aimee became aware that she was boiling hot. She pressed the button to lower the car window, but nothing happened. Aimee ground her thumb angrily against the unyielding plastic before remembering that, with no key in the ignition, the power windows wouldn’t operate.

She wished Poppy would bring her a drink.

No-one came.

‘Selfish bastards,’ Aimee sobbed, but feebly, now.

Aimee tried to keep on crying. She wanted Poppy to see how upset she was. Surely, then her Mum would scoop her up and take her home. Back to London. Where she belonged. Aimee sniffed and forced a few more tears out.

But her traitorous body had other ideas. It was done with weeping. It demanded a bathroom visit, a long drink, and then something delicious to eat. Aimee found herself with no choice but to get out of the car and go into the hated house. Or wee where she sat (lol). That was a definite possibility. Aimee even smiled, as she imagined Jake’s face at the desecration of his precious car. But of course she couldn’t bring herself to actually do it. It would be beyond humiliation to wet herself like a baby (telling, we can ascertain that much).

Aimee winced as she peeled her bare back from the car seat, where her sweat had dried and stuck like glue. She opened the door, and slowly, like an old lady, manoeuvred her legs out one by one. Somehow, they seemed to have trebled (another word to look up!  You’re teaching me new ones) in weight. Her head throbbed, and when she stood up, in the full glare of the sun, she swayed. Perhaps she was going to faint. That would show her parents. But her head cleared. And still, neither Jake nor Poppy came.

On legs wobbly as fresh spaghetti, Aimee walked down the lane until she reached the front gate – hanging off its hinges – to her new home.

Amanda, you have an intriguing beginning.  From a reader’s perspective, I would certainly want to read on after this.  Aimee has a distinct voice and personality that came out in the scene.  You did a great job “showing” all her feelings about the house and her parents.  Other than a couple of spots I noted, you also did well at keeping your descriptions active.  The story shows a lot of promise.

The main things I saw were a heavy use of adverbs and adjectives.  You want to keep your description simple and try not to force it (I noted where this happened).  Also, cut most of the adverbs.  My recommendation would be no more than one to two a page.  As you may have noticed, I highlighted yours in yellow and they were a lot.  Try to find alternatives that can mean the same thing, but in a more vivid way.  

This is a line from your script:

-‘Selfish bastards,’ Aimee sobbed, but feebly, now.

Perhaps try this alternative:

-‘Selfish bastards,’ Aimee sobbed, gulping in air to catch her breath.

You often have to play with it, but there are some great ways to trade an adverb for something better.  Reserve your adverbs for when there is nothing else that fits.

As for the terms you used that I didn’t know, those are no big deal if your target market is the UK.  They will understand and that’s all that matters.  Should you want to sell the story in the US, you might want to cut out any lingo Americans aren’t familiar with.  Some American readers have a tendency to disregard books where terms and vocabulary aren’t understandable for them.  I realize this is a pain in the “arse”, but just something I want to point out for your consideration.  I believe if you go through traditional publishers they will help you with this, but if you go indie it will be up to you.

Those are the only points I have.  This excerpt was a good show of your writing.  I’m not a YA reader myself, but you had me interested!  Thanks for submitting 🙂

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To everyone else– If you have an excerpt (up to 1000 words) that you would like to submit, please go to this page for further details.  I’ll be happy to schedule your critique for a future blog post!

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~ by Suzie on June 17, 2012.

18 Responses to “Excerpt for Critique 004”

  1. Hi Susan.

    This is a great critique, thank you. I haven’t shown anyone this WIP yet, not even nearest and dearest, so it was a big deal for me. You have given me a new perspective with your insightful comments.

    I had no idea I used adverbs so often, despite having revised this piece several times. When you highlight them it is ‘ouch’! and obvious, but I’d never have seen on my own. (I don’t agree with the ‘adverb fascists’ but I have far, far, too many…. ) It’s also great feedback where you didn’t understand what I intended. Re happy cows, in the UK birthday cards have a whole genre of sentimentalised, historical, scenes of the English countryside where peasants and farm animals are unrealistically cheerful and clean. Anyway, Aimee has no idea what the countryside is like, she’s an urban girl, so she thinks of ‘happy cows’. I need to make myself clearer here, or cut. Thank you.

    Thanks for the points about language – I hadn’t thought about the idea of selling across the pond, but yes, that would be amazing, so perhaps I’ll keep out the Brit slang. I do read and love a lot of US YA. I agree with your point about ‘slithering … slump’, I had hesitated over that, but it was a baby I didn’t want to cut. Out it goes now. Useful in general about my descriptions.

    I hope I have conveyed how grateful I am, because your time and thoughtfulness on my work are so appreciated.

    Best wishes, will continue to support your great site, Amanda.

    • Wow, you were especially brave to provide your excerpt if you hadn’t shown anyone yet. Thanks for letting me be the first one!

      About the adverbs, I’ll admit I use adverbs about as much as you do in early drafts. In those I just let my writing fly free because thinking of alternatives all the time tends to stall my creative juices. Easier to go back later and fix them. There is a great post that just went up this morning that covers adverbs as well as showing/telling. It basically gives a short and sweet explanation of when to do both. She explains it better than I do. You might check it out:

      http://suehealy.org/2012/06/18/let-the-show-flow/

      It’s also easy to get lost in regional/cultural terms. My husband wasn’t born in the US and has only been in the country since 2008. I asked him today about American lingo and how it worked for him. He knew a lot before coming here, but I still have to explain the occasional phrase to him. I guess he picked up most of what he knew through American movies before arrival, but lingo from other English speaking countries is still pretty tough for him. At least your teaching me new terms. I enjoy expanding my vocabulary, but it is good to be aware there are some folks out there (let’s face it, some Americans are lazy) who are resistant to reading stories where they have to stop too often and look words up. It has come up a lot on Amazon reviews for Indie books where the writer wasn’t from the US. I’ve felt bad for some of the authors who have been criticized for this.

      Thanks for the explanation on the cows. I seem to vaguely recall something about it now that you bring the subject up. It went right over my head when looking at your excerpt though, lol.

      Do know that I actually loved a lot of the ways you handled your description. I rarely mention when someone puts a great line in that gives excellent visuals, but you had some good ones. It was just a few others where they went a bit too far. Simplify those and you will be in great shape.

      I’m really glad you found this helpful. That was certainly my intention. Wishing you the best of luck in your writing. I’ll look forward to seeing you stop by the blog!

  2. PS. What do Americans say for ‘layby’? Parking space? 🙂

    • In the case you used it, Americans would call it “driveway”. The definition I found for layby is “designated paved area beside a main road where cars can stop temporarily”. For that, we would call it a “shoulder”.

    • There is no real named equivalent of layby in the US. Some houses, particularly in rural areas of the US have a cleared piece of ground at the top of their driveways. This is to cater for foul weather, which makes it unsafe to drive up, or down, to the house. These specially cleared parking areas are not the road’s shoulder, although they are directly alongside the road.

      Embrace the challenge of words and things that you deem mundane suddenly becoming exotic, and bringing excitement with them.

  3. […] https://mistressofthedarkpath.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/excerpt-for-critique-004/comment-page-1/#comme… […]

  4. Trying to accommodate US meanings is going to be interesting! The geography here is an extremely narrow lane, only room for one vehicle, all built before the advent of the car. The place to park isn’t a driveway, it’s where the horse-drawn wagons used to pull in to the walled kitchen garden (a very English feature of historic houses). I will bear all this in mind, thanks!

  5. Reading the excerpt, your main character comes off as unlikable. Obviously, I don’t know why she hates the house so much, nor do I know much of her relationship between Poppy and Jake from this excerpt beyond her hatred. She might be a very likable character if I read the entire first chapter, but from this: no. You need to be careful when creating an angry, angsty teen who may or may not change at the end of the book because if a character comes off as too unlikable, it tends to turn readers off. Readers like to connect to your main character and like them and it’s hard to like a 16-year-old character that acts like a child (like her bawling in the car). If Aimee has this much angst in the entire chapter, I would suggest to tone down some of that angst and allow the reader to connect to her by giving a little bit of why she’s so angry with Poppy and Jake.

    In this paragraph here: “In her imagination, Aimee had formed a vague picture of a twee cottage from the kind of birthday card she might choose for Granny. Thatched roof, masses of flowers, and happy cows in the field beside. Nothing she had accidentally overheard her parents say had prepared Aimee for this reality.” I would suggest combining the first two sentences since they go together with either a em dash or colon.

    And here in this paragraph: “Poppy, Aimee’s mother, spoke curtly, without turning her head. Poppy wore tight white jeans and a strappy pink vest. Her hands still clasped the steering wheel, her thin shoulders were tense as wire.” I don’t know if you added the explanation that Poppy is Aimee’s mother for the sake of the excerpt, but if you didn’t, I would suggest making it known earlier in the chapter that Poppy is Aimee’s mother. And you could actually incorporate her clothes within the narrative instead of breaking the scene to describe what she’s wearing. Sort of like this, “Poppy spoke curtly, without turning her head. Her hands still clasped the steering wheel, and her thin shoulders were tense as wire beneath her strappy pink vest.”

    Overall, I love the way that Aimee’s personality really shows through in your writing and your imagery is absolutely beautiful. Best of luck to you! I was really hoping to see some of the paranormal aspect of your novel, but I guess I’ll have to wait until it’s published. 🙂

    • Hello – this is my first time commenting, so I apologize if I just sort of popped in out-of-the blue. I’ve been reading the site for a few weeks now; I’m just not a big commenter. 😉

      I hate to say it, but I do agree with Sheenah a little bit on the protagonist. Because the opening is so abrupt (we have no context other than her eyes are closed and, when she opens them, she immediately throws a teenage tantrum) it’s hard to relate to. One suggestion would be to back the opening up a little bit. Take us through the scenery and her thoughts a little more — show the landscape transforming from a city (or wherever Aimee is from), which is where the protag’s friends and comfort zone is, and let it turn rural. At the same time, Aimee’s fears worsen. If we open this up by focusing on Aimee’s fears of change, starting over, etc., the audience would have an easier time relating to this. By focusing on material things (she hates this dumpy house) she comes across as shallow. You could then adapt the tone of her dialogue to fit whatever her mood is: sad, disappointed, shocked, whatever.

      The other advantage of opening with a shortened description of their journey is that you’d have time to describe the parents. In the current arrangement, I feel like you’re trying hard to squeeze in things about each person in awkward places (like the mother being a previous ballet dancer). The information you’re providing is terrific and I love where you’re going with it, but a lot of it feels out of place. Rather than do double-duty in this opening scene, give us some context and Aimee’s observations about everything, then hit us with your awesome scene. 🙂

      One more thought – when Aimee starts into a bit of melodrama (feeling sick) I actually laughed. I honestly thought it was cute. But then her overall antics straddle the line between funny melodramatic teen and someone who needs a severe attitude change. This might just be me. Obviously these are things you’ll have to decide for yourself.

      Overall, I think this is a wonderful start; I really enjoyed what I read. Hats off for sharing this with everyone!

  6. I quite like how Aimee comes off as what I would consider to be a typical sixteen year old – a.k.a utterly self involved. It is a quite “real” bit of writing. My only real suggestion, after the great ones already made, is that you drastically reduce mention of her name – these are her thoughts, frame them as she would think them.

  7. Thanks again for the really helpful comments. This is a great experience.

    I have thought about Aimee being unlikeable (at the start) and it is a difficult one. I originally had an opening chapter that shows Aimee at school and in her London home, with her friends and sister, where she’s more fun and bubbly. Then she finds out about the move …. But I thought it was best to open diving in with the action? What do you all think?

    Jen, I appreciate your points about describing the journey etc. This is the second half of a chapter, which I think has caused some confusion. The earlier part of the journey isn’t posted. However, it is still quite short, so I am wondering about loosening up and describing more, as I’ve obviously not explained enough (I tend to be verbose so have probably over-compensated…)

    For info, as Sheenah and Susan wondered about the move. Aimee hates the house, despite not having seen it, because it isn’t in London, which she loves, and where all her friends live. Because Jake (who is having a mid-life crisis) is dragging her there without consultation, because it is deeply rural and uncool, and worst of all, has no public transport, thus she is stranded, miles from anywhere. (Teens can’t begin learning to drive until 17 in the UK). Even her sister is about to abandon her for university… So she has cause for her sulks, imo.

    Re: ‘Poppy, Aimee’s mother’ – this is the first time Poppy is mentioned! But that wasn’t clear from only 1,000 words.

    Thanks, C G Ayling – that’s a really interesting point about the use of her name. I am going to have to think about that one. I’m glad you like Aimee, I do, as well. Though I am going to have to consider whether I have overdone the stroppy, self-involved stuff.

    Thank you again everyone.

  8. Jen – thanks also for your note about Aimee tipping into melodrama and making you laugh!! I didn’t intend that at all, so it’s further food for thought!

  9. PS – In chapter two, there is a gorgeous and thoroughly likeable boy, who I hope will really pull the reader in to rooting for the forthcoming romance between the two protagonists, who alternate povs.

  10. Hi Amanda- My name is Linell Jeppsen. I really hate to make comments on such short bits- I feel either like I am uninformed or out of context with what I am reading, but I’ll try to be as honest, and helpful as possible with what I see so far.
    Perhaps you explain in the chapter opening why Aimee is so upset with the move—after all, many young people would be horrified with leaving the big city and all of their friends. Honestly though, at this point she is coming off as a brat….hopefully her better qualities will come through as the story progresses. (She actually reminds me a little bit of Elena in the written version of The Vampire Diaries. At first I just hated that character, and almost stopped reading the novel(s) but, in the end she turned out to be pretty cool.)
    I agree with Susan on the use of adverbs— As Stephen King says- “Beware the evil adverb…” It’s harder to do but far more effective to finish a sentence, or a descriptive without using any adverbs.

    You have a nice start and the gift of storytelling. Keep writing and be ready to use the “red pen” on yourself as much and as brutally as possible! In the end you will end up with a polished and classy piece of work! Thanks for sharing with us.
    Humbly, Nel

  11. BTW- Just wait until you see what I post…er, talk about not knowing what’s going on! LOL! Most of you guys will be mystified!

  12. Hi Nel. Thank you for your very kind and helpful comments. ‘the gift of storytelling’ made me very happy! 🙂 As I said – I will consider what I do about Aimee being a brat; she is meant to be, and does change – but I don’t want people not to read on, especially in a first novel. I will try to use my own red pen, but this exercise showed me how very important it is to get fresh, impartial eyes, to have a look as well.

    Best wishes, Amanda.

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