Meant to be a sneak peek into a Carina editor’s brain, and critiqued by a different editor each time, these posts will give insight into how we might look at a manuscript as it comes across our desks on submission. We’ll strive to be critical but not mean. Because we have only about 600 words, two pages at the most, the amount of feedback is necessarily limited—we don’t have access to more than a couple of pages!
We asked authors to submit one of four types of scenes: an action scene, a sex scene, the black moment or the first meeting between protagonists. This opportunity was still limited to 400-800 words, but it provides both authors and those following these critiques with an opportunity to see editorial feedback deeper into a book.
It’s important to note that this manuscript was submitted specifically for the purpose of critique on the blog, we do not/will not use random submissions so no worries we’re going to pull your piece out of our submissions inbox and critique it.
The next opportunity to submit a piece for critique will be open soon, so please watch the blog or our newsletter for more.
This month’s editor providing critique is Associate Editor Stephanie Doig.
The First Meet
This is a paranormal romance scene, so I’m going to give a bit more context than usual: our heroine has been placed in something called the Witches’ Protection Program, and her memory was wiped for her protection. From the author: “She was given a fake life and boyfriend. He was suppose to keep her safe, not fall in love. When she gets her memories back to save her homeland, he fears she won’t love him anymore. In this scene, it is their first meet. Caden has been pretending to be her boyfriend for 11 months. When her magic starts slipping through she sees him for the first time, without the memory potion in the way.”
And with that, let’s dive into the scene!
The light in his eyes grew stronger as if slowly transforming him. Of course, Harmony knew there was no actual light, yet she saw something. A change was taking over him. It was as if the fog that had been surrounding him was being lifted.
He was attractive before; there was no denying that. But now, she no longer saw him as a slightly geeky tech guy. His muscles rippled through his shirt as he tensed. The logo of the tech shop he worked at looked odd under his bulging chest muscles.
The intensity in his eyes made him look like a fierce warrior. He stood there staring at her, as if angry with her. His fists clenched.
A heat rose inside her. Strong desires moving through her body, pulled her toward him. She took a step forward without realizing it. She had to be close to him.
Caden grabbed her, pulling her into him. Yes, this is what she wanted. All of him.
“You did what?” anger laced his question.
Confusion bored into her. She thought the fire that was ignited, was between both of them. She hoped he was going to kiss her and they would finally have their night of passion. Until now, she hadn’t put much thought into it. She was waiting till they were married. But something changed in him.
“Harmony, answer me.” He growled in her ear.
The sensation of his lips so close to her ear sent shivers down her spine. She wanted his lips on her ears, his tongue to make a path down her neck. On impulse, her hips flexed forward.
He took one hand and placed it on her hip. Then he pushed her away from him, still close but their hips were no longer touching. A fleck of doubt ripped through Harmony, never had she tried rubbing against him in such a forceful way.
“I shouldn’t have.” She said barely audible.
“Woman, I just can’t think with your heat so close to mine. Tell me what happen, I need details.” he kept his hand on her hip.
“Oh, I thought it was the. Nevermind. What does it matter about today?” She placed her hand on his chest and meant to push him away.
Instead, her hand ran up his chest. Her fingers traveled to the back of his neck and into his hair. Something was different about him, and she liked it. Harmony pulled Caden’s lips to hers.
She felt a slight resistance as if he was fighting the need to kiss her. Once her lips grazed his, she felt a quiver run through him.
His hand that was still on her hip shook as he pulled her into him. Forcefully, his hips grinded into hers; warmth pooled between her legs.
A moan escaped her lips as she kissed him. He opened his mouth to allow her tongue entrance. Her hand wrapped into his hair to keep him steady, she kissed him harder.
Their tongues intertwined, dancing against each other. She rubbed her tongue against his. His bottom lip was large and begged to be bitten. Harmony grabbed his bottom lip and pulled it into her mouth.
Without warning, he pulled away from her. A cold chill ran through her body. She felt like part of her was ripped away.
“What the hell?” She barked.
“You can’t kiss me like that,” he touched his hand to his lips. “And stop distracting me. The dog! Tell me what happened.”
“What does like that mean? I have kissed you plenty of times.” Even as she said it, she knew what Caden meant. There was a fire between that kiss that was new to them. “Whatever. So, the dog thing was weird. Some woman came in with an injured dog. Then he was fine.”
“Harmony, explain the ‘then he was fine part.’ How? And don’t leave a single detail out. This is very important.” His hand moved as if to pull her in again; then he dropped his hand to his side.
“I don’t know. Dr. Barker made me hold Mrs. Who down. My hands burned, and she was better. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s like I did that.”
“Let’s go.” He grabbed her wrist, this time all sexual tension, gone.
This is a bit of a tough one to critique because it is not truly a first meet scene; they have met before, and are familiar with each other. There’s a new dynamic as her memory returns, but essentially, this is a scene between two people who have clearly spent a lot of time together.
I like the tension, where she is feeling pulled toward him but doesn’t quite know why. You also do a good job of conveying the push/pull of his desire–it’s clear that he feels conflicted, but she isn’t sure why.
I’d recommend working on getting deeper into her point of view by reducing author intrustion. Author intrusion refers to moments in the story where the words are coming from the author rather than the character. For example, the sentence “But now, she no longer saw him as a slightly geeky tech guy” reads as something you, the author, are saying, instead of a thought coming directly from the heroine. Rephrasing to include more specifics–maybe she notices something about him she had never noticed before, something that implies she’s viewing him with more attention and attraction than she did earlier in the book–would help anchor us in her point of view.
I’m also not entirely sure where the veil lifting/memory returning storyline is headed; this is a short scene, so it doesn’t conclude here. I’m intrigued by that, and wouldn’t want it to get lost in the more immediate issue of her healing powers.
On a technical note, I’m seeing a lot of grammar and punctuation errors in this excerpt; while we always encourage authors to focus on the story first, grammar and punctuation are part of craft, and too many errors can affect the reading experience and pull people out of the story. I’d recommend looking specifically at your dialogue tags (capitalization and the punctuation that precedes them), and comma splices. There are a lot of great resources online (Grammar Girl is the one that comes to mind first) that can help you as you polish your story.
Do you have questions about my feedback or the critique program? Your turn to add constructive feedback for the author in the comments section! Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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