Friday, March 7, 2008


It's probably not de-rigeur, but I've decided to post the first chapter of my novel-in-progress (see link to the left, under my profile) for you to cast your beady eyes over. I know you've all got quite enough on your plates as it is, but if you feel up to passing comment (or wind, if you prefer, I don't mind) I'd appreciate it.

I value your opinions as sensible, straight-talking women who know a good tale when they read one, and if you think it's a big pile of trite, seen-it-all-before doggy-doo, or a total yawn-fest, or even badly-written tripe, then give it to me straight. I can take it. Honest.

I'll go and lie in a darkened room and wait for the axe to fall...


HelenMH said...

That's such a brilliant thing to do. I'll have a proper look at it next week once I've got over a few work-related streses in the next couple of days x

Maddie Moon said...

Karen - I love the scene you've set here. It certainly whetted my appetite and I would definitely want to read on to find out what's going to happen between Abbie and Miles, sharing a house and working together, ooh lots of possibilities there!

I love the way you've portrayed Miles Cornish(great name by the way). I could easily fall in love with this guy!

One minor crit and I know this is probably not important now, it's something you'd pick up on 2nd draft, but I found the different speech tags (bellowed, grumped, yelled) at the beginning a little distracting so I'd drop some of them.

Other than that, great! More please.

KAREN said...

helenmh - thank you, I appreciate it. Sounds like work's been a nightmare?

maddie - Thanks so much for your comments - it's going to be a tale about a community pulling together, in a roundabout way. With romance, of course! Fair comment, about the speech tags by the way :o)

Debs said...

I loved it and would definately read on. I agree with maddie moon as that's something I've been advised not to do too but otherwise I can't think of anything wrong with it. Damn shame I can't read the rest, I think it's great. Loved Miles too.

SpiralSkies said...

Ooh, scary putting your work up there, isn't it? I nearly died when I put the beginning of mine on t'blog.

It's good though - I agree with Maddie that you've already made Miles (great combo of names, I can already see him as the Colin Firth type!) irresistible.

I do wonder whether you could inject a bit more description? 'the air smelt pleasantly of spring', for example. What does Spring smell like? There are presumably villagey, Springy smells that she'd forgotten about in two years?

Generally, though, no cringing necessary. Love the title too. Bidwell's a great name for a village - you really have a knack in the naming department.

Now hurry up and write the rest so we can all read it!

Lily Sheehan said...

I wish I'd not read it now cuz I'm itching to see what happens next. Its a great hook! It reminded me of Maeve Binchey a little who I love. It was very clear and I felt like i was there myself. I found it easy to follow and would have happily read on if there were more.

KAREN said...

Debs - thanks so much - I've already worked on those dialogue tags! I'm glad you like Miles too :o)

spiralskies - It's very scary (gulp). Really helpful to read the feedback though. I'm so glad people want to read on. I've already addressed the descriptive 'spring int the air' bit. I've a tendency to be so worried about boring readers with too much description that I don't do enough! Thanks for your comments. Your novel taster is great :o)

lily - I'm SO pleased you'd want to know what happens next - that really makes me want to Get On With It! It's funny, a likeness to Maeve Binchy in my writing has been mentioned before, when I submitted a manuscript to the Romantic Novelists Association a couple of years ago! I'll take it as a great compliment :)

Tom Foolery said...

Right Clarkey,
My first impression, on reading the opening few paragraphs is that I could see this as a great opening scene for a film. I’m glad you have introduced your natural sense of humour in your writing. I for one will be interested in seeing how the storyline develops. Now get yourself out of that darkened room and write some more chapters :)TFX

Lane said...

This is vibrant and funny. I love how you've set the scene. Like TF says, it's very visual which is great. You've set up the story really well and given us a glimpse of back story too.
You've got a keen eye for little comic details which bring a scene to life.
Love the names and the title is really great!
I think you're onto something with this:-)

Teeny tiny nit picks -
'sarcastically' and 'sarcasm' used in the same sentence
Agree with Maddie re. the tags and I reflected/I mused.

Come out into the light Ms Clarke ... and keep going:-)

KAREN said...

lane - Thanks so much for those kind words, they mean a lot - the sarcasm/sarcastically thing was a silly typo error ... tut. Not checking properly. I've put it right now.
I wasn't sure about the title, but it's grown on me :o)

Caroline said...

I think that you're brave and also that the 'not being precious' is really important. You've taken a huge step - so yay!

I made myself a cuppa and read it. I loved it, felt really pulled in and wanted to read more.

I'm sure that from the comments left here you'll pick out what you feel needs focus, it'll give you a fresh view. For me, it was a smooth read and I wanted to know more.

Sarah Dunnakey said...

Really like this Karen. I love the characters, the setting and your the humour which sets just the right tone. I am intrigued by what will happen next and can't wait to read more.

I feel I should play the game and add some constructive criticism, so, my contribution is - I would expect Miles to be more surprised at her walking into the house, he was a bit too ready to suggest that they share without giving her chance to explain herself. It sort of made me suspicious of him - but maybe I should be!

Hope that's useful.

Great title by the way - I have a bit of a thing for marzipan.

Leigh said...

Well, you've got me snagged! Great hooks, both at the start and the end - you won't need to do any cringing over this.

I love Abby! She's just my kind of woman - she's so real! (Talk about identifying with a character!) You give a great sense of place too. I can see Bidwell as though I'm walking down the street beside her. I feel for the place, already.

The only jags I had were:
a) punctuation (misplaced commas in particular)
b) you could probably lose a few adjectives and adverbs (not all of them, but some of them do jag, e.g. "I said unoriginally")
c) ditto what Maddie and Lane said about tags in general.
d) I found the conversation with Miles a bit unlikely. Some of their responses seemed a little convenient.

Otherwise, you had me laughing out loud from the start. You're onto a winner!

KAREN said...

caroline - I really appreciate your comments and I'm so pleased you were pulled in - this has really fired me up and made me believe in myself a bit more :o)

sarah - thanks so much for your constructive comments - there is a reason why Miles isn't more surprised, otherwise you'd be dead right, but I think I might have him 'pretending' to be more shocked to fool the reader!

leigh - Wonderful comments, I'm thrilled you like Abby - I can picture her so well already in my own mind!

Bit gutted I've gone wrong with comma usage as I'm normally paranoid about that sort of thing -must remedy immediately!

Overall this exercise has been priceless...I'm powering forward feeling totally charged up :o)

Poetess said...

Hi Karen

Now why can't I come home to find a man in my kitchen in his dressing gown asking to share the home with me. When I come home all I find is dishes and even the cats want to flee.

I really enjoyed your chapter one. I loved the characters. Did think they were wasting no time in deciding to share.

My only constructive criticism is that the speech was hard to separate from the rest of the narrative. On the course I am doing at the moment we are told to indent speech and a separate line for each new line of speech. if that makes sense. This is nit picking and you probs not got around to it. If I am wrong however please tell me.

Good Luck with the rest. we are all waiting with baited breath.


HelenMH said...

Having rejoined the real world - sort of! Here are my comments.

Main thing is I loved it. I would definitely read on and you've made the two characters really likeable which is a great start.

It poses lots of questions which is important.

Particularly loved - 'Freshly laundered air', 'Habitual stoop of a man used to banging his head', the last sentence. 'Well it was almost true'

Only things that didn't work for me - 'American dream had turned sour' followed by 'receding like a dream' and the bit about the pensioner with the bad back and the suitcase didn't quite read smoothly.

Other than that - brilliant!

Faye said...

Chapter 2 please! First, will there be great watercolor illustrations for each chapter? Sigh--I guess not, but I knew exactly where I was from it. "Freshly laundered air"--how descriptive for a girl who's just left the big city and its not so laundered smells. "Your dough balls are the best" made me laugh out loud.

Characters are very interesting and liked the way you described them. That first meeting in the cottage has a lot of suspense--it could be good or go very bad fast. I think Miles may be a bit laid back and that's going to cause trouble for Abbie. Good!

I think this idea of coming home to live and work sets the stage for some great drama--Abbie is probably not the same girl who left for the big city. How will friends and neighbors react? Will she have trouble living under the village microscope? Is the chef's job a cover for something more sinister? Your readers have questions and it's only Chapter 1.

P.S. deliberately didn't read your fellow writers' comments before making mine, but now I can say that I thought of Maeve Binchey as well--and that's a good thing.

KAREN said...

poetess - I think the man/dressing gown/kitchen thing is wishful thinking!

I keep revising and changing, based on the helpful comments here, but the indents and paragraphs are something I couldn't seem to translate into blogger. They're fine in Word though - honest :o)

helenmh - I'm so pleased you enjoyed it, and thanks for taking the time to comment! I'll definitely take on board your comments.

Faye - Thanks for your lovely comments - I do take the Maeve Binchy comments as a compliment! And yes, the chef job is a cover-up :o)
Illustrations are a lovely idea - maybe I could do them myself?!

KAREN said...

Overall, I've used the word 'comments' far too many times!!

FPDuck said...

Woah... I almost missed this one.

I liked it. I'm afraid I can't offer any critique, as I can't anything wrong with it, except for maddie moon's comment about the speech tags.

Although when you write- "and that's when I lost my rag.", she doesn't actually lose her rag.

It certainly made me want to read more.


KAREN said...

Mike - thanks for that, I hope it wasn't too painful! You're so right about 'losing her rag.' It doesn't even make sense when you put it like that :o)

Fiona said...

Been going mad for half and hour trying to find this. Please don't tell me you've taken it off? I was going to print it out and read it with my toast and marmalade - well it is Sunday. Now I might have to make do with 'good for me' mus lei cos I should be dressed by now.

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