Last week I wrote about the process of honing the first page and the angst of marrying a non-traditional narrative with a traditional narrative framework to hook the reader. I had been reviewing the opening page in preparation for submitting to Marcy Hatch and Dianne Salerni’s “First Impressions” and agonising over the fit. Wondering if Piper’s Reach was appealing to those outside of our existing fan base. Dreading feedback that said we’d got it all wrong. After reading the comments on both Marcy and Dianne’s blog I know now why I was so worried.
Kittie Howard commented: There’s no middle ground with epistolary writing. It either hits or misses.
So, are we a hit or a miss?
“What’s great about this first page is that it sets up lots of questions about the past between these two people but also suggests a question about the future. Why is the narrator writing to Jude now, twenty years later?” Marcy.
I never really thought about why the twenty year gap (I was thinking of all the other whys) or the inherent question regarding the future (even though we set up the original tagline as: When the past reaches into the present would you risk a second chance.)
There’s just the right amount of past and present mixed together, and enough places mentioned to provide a clear image of setting without being confusing. Dianne
Again, I hadn’t thought too much about the setting on the first page (too worried about character and voice and conflict), even though Adam and I had spoken during the editing process about properly locating both the towns early on, something missing from the original letters.
To follow finish off Kittie’s comment: There’s no middle ground with epistolary writing. It either hits or misses. This one hits!
Alex J Cavanaugh commented: That simple letter says a lot. The authors nailed so much in just a few paragraphs.
You can read the full critiques and all the comments on Marcy’s and Dianne’s blogs, or add your own there.
Some of the readers were slightly confounded by Australian colloquialisms such as ‘sea change’ (though apparently it was Shakespeare who first coined the phrase in The Tempest!) and ‘pashed’. Adam in true Adam style explained pash in the comments and added ‘pash rash’ – oh, I’d totally forgotten that! Chatting over dinner last night Dave and I agreed ‘pash’ really does belong (rather than snog) because it is one of those iconic 70’s and 80’s teenage Australian words – those all or nothing kinds of kisses at blue light discos and school socials that traded etiquette for raw momentum. If we want to keep true to the Australian voice of the characters we will need to be mindful to accommodate an international audience in the context of those words.
There were some punctuations glitches to fix and a small tweaking of one sentence regarding ‘stuff’, which is quite shameful given years ago I walked into my soul sister’s Year 8 English class where she had written ‘stuff’ and ‘things’ on the board and was running through ways of better articulating these generic terms!
So the worry was for nothing. Easy to say in retrospect! The project overall is unique enough to pique the interest of readers and there is enough in that first letter to hook the reader in. Now to worry over the next 321 pages!
Many thanks to Marcy, Dianne and their readers. Their comments and insights have fuelled the second stage editing rocket ready for launch next week.
If you have a manuscript and are interested in being part of Marcy and Dianne’s ‘First Impressions’ drop by either of their blogs for more information.
I am inclined to think that international readers should have to figure out colloquialisms or perhaps you could have a glossary – turn about is fair play and reading is about expanding your experience.
It makes me think of how The Castle had to be redone in parts so the American’s would understand it… which kinda defeats the purpose of movies like The Castle who are beautiful and perfect in their Australianess*. I think we can keep the original and provide enough context for the reader to work it out – and if they can’t – there is always google.
One of the UK guys at Dave’s work read “River of Bones” and emailed to say he’d learned two new words “Hills Hoist” and “willy-willy”. I totally agree that readers needs to be open to many different forms and approaches to language. It’s not like we’ve written a bogan epic nor in the ilk of Irvine Welsh!
*Many years ago we watched a french comedy, but it was a comedy based on a bunch of regional mispronunciations between the recently demoted postal worker and those in the new village. It was all totally lost of us as we were reading from the sub-titles.
But hey, good work 🙂
Merci beaucoup! And thanks for all your support. We need to stop second guessing all those who love Piper’s Reach and tell us its awesome.
This is really interesting. I shall head over and take a look! 🙂
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Thanks so much for mentioning First Impressions. I really enjoyed your first page and it wasn’t too hard to guess that pashing was the same as snogging, lol. And yes to keeping those singular Australian words and expressions!