Friday, April 20, 2012

Author-Editor Sue Viders Critiques The First 5 Pages

GFW Writer member Kimberly Packard won the Editor Critique contest for the first 5 pages of her manuscript, Pardon Falls, from Sue Viders.
Sue Viders offers writing classes and editing services, as well as co-authored The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines- Sixteen Master Archetypes, and Ten Steps to Creating Memorable Characters. She is also the author of twenty non-fiction books for artists on marketing and developed a helpful advice site for writers,

Please read along her comments below for the first 5 pages of Kimberly Packard's, Pardon Falls.


The acid shot up from David Stephen’s stomach so quickly he barely had time to pull his government-issued truck off the road and sprint across the hot asphalt. (Cut) As David heaved the last bits of tequila mixed with coffee and eggs on the side of the hot, asphalt road, he reminded himself not to reach out for the spindly ocotillo beside him. He made that mistake the first time he found himself hung-over in the desert and pulled thorns out of his palm for days. The coarse hair of his beard scraped against the back of his palm as he swiped away any remnants. (Cut) When the wave of nausea passed, David took a moment to walk the desert floor before getting back into his truck. Not that he really looked for drug runners, he wanted to look like he had a legitimate reason for the sudden stop and sprint from his truck in case another Border Patrol agent saw him. (Not sure why this is even here. It does nothing to move the story along.)“Shit,” he cursed as he walked back to his truck (cut). It wasn’t mid-morning yet and the heat rose from the ground in watery waves. David knew better than to blast his truck’s air conditioning. Being acclimated to the heat would prevent that all-too-familiar floaty, light-headed feeling the next time he stepped outside. But, he didn’t care and zipped the switch on his console to high (cut). Back in his truck, he took a swig of warm Gatorade, the syrupy liquid curdled in his stomach forcing David to swallow the rising acid. “I can’t do this anymore. It’s not worth it.” (He can't do what?)
He hoped saying those words aloud changed what he was thinking (Cut. We don't need this first sentence at all). It really is worth it, he thought (cut). He put his truck into drive and took off. It’s worth it to spend a few precious hours blissfully unaware that the last year happened. It’s worth the hangovers to not see her face when I go to sleep. It’s worth the blinding headaches to forget what I did to Shiloh. (Okay, but still I don't see any action... lots of background.) But it’s also the only way he can remember; remember the smell of her hair, the way her smile lit up her whole face and the feel of her body next to his. Drinking was the only way he could both forget Shiloh and remember Mandy. (Telling... you are telling us, the reader, how he feels. Show us or leave this out and put it in later. You've introduced two characters that we have no idea who they are, what their relationship to David might be. Are they dead, alive, his wife, his girlfriend, his sister, lover... are they both equally important to the story?)

David pulled back onto the highway without checking behind him. No one ever came down this stretch of road in far south Texas. Unaware tourists crashing through a herd of javelina at night, not other drivers, caused most car accidents. As he continued south, he tried to see his surroundings as the thousands of tourists who flock to the national park do. The pancake-flat ground swelled to a towering rock formation only to deflate back to the stark earth and then rise again to a mountain, like ocean waves coming in to shore.

He pulled (repetitive) onto an unmarked dirt road and parked in a makeshift lot on a bluff overlooking the Rio Grande. The hazy layer cake of the Sierra de Carmen mountain range blocked his view too far into Mexico. Movement on the far side of the riverbank caught his eye. Getting out of the truck, he began to make his way down a rocky footpath.
“Hola Fernando,” David called out (cut) to a man on horseback who led a small herd of cattle down to the river for a drink. “Como esta?”
“Good morning, Dah-veed,” the man answered in heavily accented English. He walked his horse to the opposite bank and reached down to shake David’s hand. (So let me get this straight... Fernando is on the Mexican side of the border and David is on this side, and they are separated by a river, yet they shake hands. So do they wade into the water?? Exactly why would the man cross the river? This doesn't make sense.) The horse wanted to come out of the water, (telling... show us) but Fernando held him steady, keeping him from crossing into Texas. (but he had crossed??) “I’m good, friend, how are you?”
David nodded his answer (cut). “Not bad. Going to be another hot one today.” The late summer heat wave dotted his shirt with perspiration before the sun barely made it over the mountains in the east. (More telling)
Fernando laughed. “My friend, it’s going to be a hot one for many more months.”
“How are things? Quiet?” Since joining the U.S. Border Patrol nearly a year ago he threw himself into his job often working six or seven days straight. Most of the violence was along the border to the west or further to the east, but David knew it was only a matter of time before it spilled into his little corner of the state. His job was to protect the U.S. citizens from the Mexican drug lords, but he also felt a responsibility to his Mexican neighbors, those trying to get by in the harsh environment, both political and natural. (Although this is also an info dump, it's not too bad as it gives us insight into what David does. But I think it could be shortened a bit.)
“Yes, quiet,” Fernando glanced behind him. David wondered if the man consciously made that gesture or if it was from years of having to look over his shoulder for the drug lords. (Another bit of telling. Perhaps 'David searched the landscape. No one. Just restless cattle.')
David nodded, torn between relief and disappointment. When he took the job (cut), He'd requested to be stationed in El Paso, just north of the epicenter of much of the conflict between the U.S. Border Patrol and the drug cartels and where he thought he would find Mandy. (A perfect place to drop a few words on who Mandy is and why he's looking for her) But, despite his years as a police officer, a degree in criminal justice, and a glowing, if not overdone, recommendation from the Phoenix Police Chief, he was assigned to Brewster County, his supervisor citing his lack of experience in border relations and the fact that an old football injury rendered him incapable of running without a heavy knee brace. (Now this info dump works.) If I was in El Paso, I would have a better chance of finding Mandy, or getting shot. Or, both. (Once again, a few words about who Mandy is and why he's looking for her.)
“You haven’t asked about the girl,” Fernando said, shaking David from his thoughts (cut). “Did you find her?”
“No, not yet,” David's jaw tightened as if he sucked on a post-tequila shot lime.
“You give up on her? Because, we have many pretty senoritas in my village.”
David smiled at the thought of Fernando setting up a blind date for him. “How’s Carlos?”
Fernando’s eyes lit up at the sound of his son’s name. “He’s good. This week he announced he is going to become un doctór when he grows up.”
A whirring engine overhead interrupted their conversation. Both men looked up at the cloudless blue sky, but knew they wouldn’t be able to see the drone above them (cut). Nothing. David knew the drone was overhead, but so small it was invisible. Fernando backed up the horse (ah, so he is in the middle of the river) and a whistle indicated to the dogs to get the cattle back to the Mexican shore. (so they were either still in the water, or in Texas... unclear) The man had nothing to worry about since he was with a Border Patrol agent, (so are you telling us that Fernando is also a Border Agent but in Mexico??) but David knew his friend took every precaution to keep himself out of trouble. (what kind of trouble?)
“I must move on, my friend,” Fernando said and turned his horse around in the water (cut- You've already told us this). “You call me if you need anything, you hear,” David shouted to the man’s back.
Fernando answered with a wave. ~~~
 Overall thoughts, the writing is great, however way too much background stuff crammed into these first few pages. We call it an “info dump”... and most of this can be weaved into the story later on. Let’s get to the action, the reason for the story, the PROBLEM that our hero is going to have to face...the PROBLEM that will change his life... I don’t see it.
He’s trying to forget someone...a woman...So what? How is that going to change the direction of his life? Has she been murdered? Is he trying to find her killer... maybe she is still alive... and she has run off, but why?
Also I have a problem with him throwing up. If he has been with the Border Control group, he is well aware of the heat, the food, etc. By now, if we are to believe he has been there for a bit, he would know better. However he may have been poisoned... that would be interesting.
Be careful of the word “said” when used with a tag. Usually you don’t need both.
The biggest problem that I see is way too much telling... show us.
Thanks so much for your valuable critique, Sue!
Sue Viders and Becky Martinez
 In addition to being the co-author of The Complete Writer’s Guide to HEROES AND HEROINES -Sixteen Master Archetypes and Ten Steps to CREATING MEMORABLE CHARACTERS, she  developed and created Deal A Story card game. She is also author  of twenty non-fiction books for artists on marketing, several audio tapes and charts, former columnist for The Artist’s Magazine, ‘Strictly Business’, a column on marketing, former columnist for a newspaper, The Voice, reviewing movies with a column called His and Hers (co-authored with husband) Sue Viders can be contacted at the following: and

Kimberly also received a critique from , Becky Martinez.. We'll post  it next week. Becky Martinez is an award-winning former broadcast journalist and published author writing as Rebecca Grace.. Her latest work, Shadows from the Past, is a gothic novella being published by The Wild Rose Press in early 2012. Her romantic suspense, Deadly Messages, was an Aspen Gold finalist and received 4 stars from RT Book Reviews. She has also had several romance novels and short stories published, including “Trouble in the Rockies,” which appeared in the anthology, The Trouble with Romance, a New Mexico Award finalist. Contact her at 


Caroline Clemmons said...

Sue, your comments made total sense, but I realized I am guilty of too much background info before the action. Thanks for sharing your expertise.

Ruby Johnson said...

I was in one of your classes years ago on Creating Memorable Characters. The class was invaluable. Thank you so much for visiting our blog.

Thorne said...

At what point is telling in a story okay? I noticed you kept pointing this out in the above critique.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Sue! I really appreciate you taking the time to review my work.

Tom said...

What a thorough critique. Wish I had the opportunity for something like this. This was a great learning tool.Looking forward to the next one.

Link Within

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...