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First Page: Single Title Contemporary Romance

Welcome to First Page Saturday. Individual authors anonymously send a first page read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. You may comment anonymously.

Warning: This first page contains graphic sexual situations.

***

Teddy Wilson was in Man-Heaven.

The ex-world champion boxer-turned-music mogul was enjoying the most fantastic blowjob of his entire fifty-six years. Thankful and prayerful every step of the way, he headed toward his own sensual rapture.

"Oh Jesus," he groaned as she sucked and licked and sopped him up in a gorging of mindless pleasure. He was lost in a world of wetness and warmth -‘ like a scorching summer day in the middle of July, and he was her favorite freezer pop.

He looked down when her palm curled around and cupped his balls, and her tongue slithered down to meet it there. Before he could grasp the touch of that tease, she was moving again back up to his head. She impishly grazed him with her sharp-edged teeth. "SSSS-sweet Lord, be careful," he hissed out -‘ and then his eyes rolled up into his skull when her hands joined in the rhythmic delight of her swirling, nipping, and gaining in speed.

He heard her moaning now -‘ or maybe it was him, but coherent thought was not in this room. "Oh baby," he hummed, slipping mindlessly away from his faith.

The end in sight, she gave him no pause, and he was helpless now to slow it down, even if he wanted to. Stroke for stroke, she nudged him forward, and he was anxious and willing to go. His voice was guttural. "Oh-man, mmm-yessss."

He threw back his head and violently erupted as she drained him dry and left him for dead. "God," he huffed out. "Amen."

He sure was going to miss this girl.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

84 Comments

  1. Katie
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 04:23:01

    Wow. I would keep reading.

  2. JenD
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 04:49:45

    I’m not too fond of opening pages being sex. I don’t learn enough to keep me interested because most people are the same during ‘non-love’ sex. I need something to help me identify with the character and liking sex is a bit too broad.

    The word, sopping, makes me gag a little bit. I’m sure that’s just me though.

    Writing style is fine and crisp to me. Perhaps a little too much adjective use in a few sentences but nothing that can’t be tweaked a bit.

    I’m not sure how to put this- there were quite a few references to things I think of as ‘Church Feelings’ and gave me a little unease. I don’t know if that’s what you’re going for- and if it is then you’ve done a good job. I like books that make me look and interperet things a new way.

    I would read on a page or two to see if this is the hero or not. Depending on the next few pages I might read on from there and buy. I enjoyed the popsicle descriptor, it made me smile. I like how we’re shown inside his head and thinking, erm not-thinking, process. It definitely kept me reading!

    I do wonder why a girl and not a woman is giving him a blowjob though.

  3. Danielle
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 05:37:16

    WOW what an opening page!

  4. Tracey
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 05:58:32

    I’m not that fond of first pages that start with sex. That said, a lot of people are, and it would probably grab the attention of a lot of readers.

    I was surprised to find out that Teddy was getting a blowjob from a female and not a male. When the first line said that he was in Man-Heaven and that he was getting a blowjob, I drew the conclusion that Man-Heaven was the name of a gay bar and that Teddy was getting oral from a guy he’d met there.

    The use of the word “girl” strikes me as, if not politically correct, linguistically accurate; a man of fifty-six would have come of age during a time when men were called men and women were called girls.

  5. DS
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 07:39:57

    The word sopping did make me think a cockbib might be required for this one. I’m with the ones who usually doesn’t care for stories which begin with sex. And this, “The ex-world champion boxer-turned-music mogul ” just felt awkward. At that point I didn’t really care about his background.

    Finally, I just had this feeling that this was the the beginning of a suspense or thriller, not a romance. There was something ominous about that last line that suggested maybe he was going to break her neck or dispose of her in some other way.

  6. JF
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 08:23:34

    Well outside of the gag-factor (I’m imagining this is a young girl – enough to be this guy’s daughter) I could see your writing style being interesting, however I still wouldn’t read on. I am not a fan of books that start with sex. Sure, I’ve got a few exceptions but I doubt I’d make it for this one. All that slurping and describing of the act (but nothing of the girl doing it, or the man receiving) put me off.

    There was something ominous about that last line that suggested maybe he was going to break her neck or dispose of her in some other way.

    I agree- I didn’t think this felt contemp. romance as much as some sub-genre or not romance at all even.

  7. Fae Sutherland
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 08:30:44

    I liked the writing *very* much. Not so fond of the page itself, though. I can’t imagine why a contemporary romance needs to start with a 56 year old man (who is not the hero, I’m guessing, because I’m pretty sure a ST contemp romance would not have a pushing 60 hero ever) getting sucked off by a girl (makes me think she’s a hooker maybe or something). I don’t see either hero nor heroine in this scene (that better not be your heroine sucking the old guy off!!) and I generally expect my contemporary romances to have a first page that introduces me right off the bat to one or the other.

    So I’m a little curious as to why this needs to be the start of the book. Not curious enough to keep reading, though. I would, however, take note of the author’s name and look for other stuff by him/her, because I very much enjoyed the voice and the pacing of the writing. I’d just look for something more up my alley story wise.

  8. Bernita
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 09:10:55

    What they all said.

  9. Lori
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 09:16:59

    Well I thought this was hysterical!

    Seems to me that old Teddy the music mogel is getting blown by a singer he’s about to cut from his label.

    By defining him as you did I had a clear picture of him. I understood exactly what you were doing and was with you every step of the way.

    I didn’t enjoy sopped him up as a descriptor because that made no sense. Everything else did. And I felt clearly that Teddy is not the hero of the book but our young lady on her knees is about to find her world being changed.

    I’d read more. Hell, I’d buy the book from that page alone.

    You done good!

  10. Jill Sorenson
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 09:20:20

    This page reads like suspense. Or paranormal! I thought she was going to break out the fangs. Starting off with an edgy/distasteful scene is fine in those subgenres, but it seems a little out of place here. In a contemporary romance, I expect to be introduced to one of the main characters–usually the heroine.

    That said, it’s not boring! Kudos for submitting and good luck to you.

  11. theo
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 09:33:26

    Like Jill said, it’s not boring! And for the most part, it’s well written.

    That said, I’m stepping out on a limb here and saying, this scene might be appropriate as a lesser one in the middle of an erotic story, but no matter how well it’s written, there’s no way I’d classify this as romance or expect one from this first page. If this is your hero, he’s a sleaze, if it’s your heroine, no way am I going to have any sympathy for one who starts by giving me that impression.

    Mind you now, this is just me and I’m sure no one else will agree. That’s okay. But you have, to me, classified this incorrectly and should be erotica, not romance. Tell me it’s erotica, I’d probably read farther. Romance? Nope, back on the shelf for me. Sorry.

    Good for you putting it out there and good luck.

  12. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 09:52:43

    And the romance is where?
    Don’t get me wrong, I write erotic romance myself, but you have to start with a scene that engages. Despite the sex, this doesn’t.
    It also seems a bit halfway – it’s not erotic in technical terms (you need more graphic language) but it’s not exactly mainstream, either.
    If you’re starting in the pov of Teddy, you jump out of it to describe him – is he going to think of himself in those terms, “boxer turned” etc and his age? Not in these circumstances!
    It’s competently done, but it makes me think that Teddy is the protagonist, since you started in his pov. I’d really like to see more, and an indication of how the story develops.
    It reminds me a bit of the beginning of a CSI episode – you’re plunged into a scene, a shot rings out and the heroes arrive to clean up.

  13. maddie
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 10:17:18

    I agree with what was said by all of the posters above and would have to add that the “Sopped” thing made me think of when you take your bread and dredge in the gravy on your plate, not something I want to think of while reading a book where a man is getting a blow job ewwwww.

    Other than that I think I would read it.

  14. Sandy James
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 10:27:56

    @ Lynne Connelly

    And the romance is where?

    I agree wholeheartedly! This isn’t a romance.

  15. Bianca
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 10:54:14

    Love the writing style, and the opening paragraphs definitely caught my interest. I would keep reading. :)

  16. Susan/DC
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 10:57:03

    This is definitely one of the better written First Page submissions (with a few minor, easily fixed issues mentioned by others). That said, I doubt I’d read any further. I’m just not particularly into Teddy or the nameless, faceless girl, I don’t understand why I should care about them, and I’d probably put the book back on the shelf. Romance is definitely one of the more character-driven genres, and I need to have a sense of who and what these people are to the story. If this is RS, however, it might work, and this might be a case of needing not only the first page but the back blurb or just a bit more information to fill in some of those blanks.

  17. Joanna Bourne
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 11:19:38

    Not a Romance. I assume this is Erotica.
    I’m surprised to see an Erotic work start in the POV of someone who is 56, and thus probably (?) not the protagonist.

    Two thoughts. POV and ‘voice’.

    He looked down when her palm curled around and cupped his balls may not, technically, attempt to describe something he sees — but this description has a visual, rather than tactile, sensibility. And, of course, this hand cupping is something the POV character does not see.

    his eyes rolled up into his skull does not describe an experience from inside the POV character.

    So there may be some POV imprecision.

    Talking ‘voice’ …

    coherent thought was not in this room
    his own sensual rapture

    don’t sound all that much like a typical man, let alone a professional-athlete-typical man. I know this is a stereotype . . .

    One does not have to write stereotype, but if the first page of a story jars with my own experience and gives no explanation, I may shrug and put the book down because I figure it’s poor writing, rather than a challenge to my complacency.

    I’m not the intended market for this work, so I’m not qualified to speak, really . ..

    but I question whether a female audience would generally find this erotic. Is it meant to be erotic? Is it intended for a male audience?
    I join with JenD in finding religious overtones. To me they are strange and off-putting.

  18. Sherry Thomas
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 11:20:13

    Part of my romance coming of age included reading Susan Johnson’s books, many of which starts with the hero in bed with someone else. So starting a book with sex doesn’t bother me.

    However, those Susan Johnson hero-banging-someone-else scenes had a point. To show the hero as an amazing lover.

    A man on the receiving end of a blowjob is not shown to be that.

    Are you showcasing the girl’s skills, then?

    Another thing that strikes me as interesting/unexpected is the mentions of faith in this brief passage. Prayerful–not a word I have seen a lot in regular contemps. Slipping mindlessly away from his faith, another instance.

    If this is an inspirational romance, perhaps you could have labeled it as such. In that case, this opening of a man sinning despite knowing better makes more sense.

  19. DM
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 11:42:12

    Drama=Someone wants something badly and is having difficulty getting it. The fuel of storytelling is conflict. There’s none in this scene, which is why so many readers say they will not continue reading–they presume there will be no conflict in the rest of the book.

    Aspiring writers of popular fiction are usually advised to begin in action, but many do not understand the difference between action–what your protagonist does to achieve his goal–and business-what your protagonist does along the way to achieving his goal.

    You can usually spot business masquerading as action because it will have no conflict. The protagonist wants toast, so makes some. Difficult to sustain reader interest with the toast, because unless the bread is frozen and the toaster is broken, there’s no conflict. Every scene should be a miniature story. Protagonist wants toast, protagonist gets toast, is not a story. Protagonist wants toast, has difficulty getting toast, achieves toast, is a story.

    Your boring blowjob is the equivalent of a film with lots of explosions but no dramatic tension. Explosions and blowjobs both seem like they should be attention getting, so why is no one paying attention? Because without dramatic tension, both are just business.

    To fix: Teddy wants a blowjob, but the girl won’t give him one.

  20. joanne
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 12:02:50

    I had to go back twice to be sure this was labled ‘contemporary romance’. What I read in this scene was the set-up for Teddy to murder the er, sucktress. So, to me, it reads as suspense, possibly romantic suspense depending on the next few lines. If it’s contemp romance you’re aiming at then it missed for me.

    Nice flow — see, now I cracked myself up, so I’m easy — to the writing.

    Much good luck and thank you.

  21. Scarletti
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 12:18:07

    I never comment on these first pages because I am not a professional and have little to add other than I would or wouldn’t keep reading.
    I don’t see the contemporary classification.
    I like the writing. Yes, I do.
    I wouldn’t keep reading.
    I wouldn’t buy.
    I wouldn’t purposely look at/for the author’s books as a buy in the future.
    While I have nothing against erotica, I don’t buy it.
    I don’t mind graphic sex scenes once relationships have been established, but this seems nothing but a shock value, let-me-grab-your-attention piece of writing to me. It makes me feel used and angry.
    I don’t mind sex on the first page, but this is set up in such a way that I care nothing about anybody on the first page so why would I read on.

    Sorry, but I saw the description of “contemporary” and that made me happy. Then I read it and that made me unhappy and disappointed.

  22. MD
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 12:44:02

    I need to know who the characters are and what they mean to each other before I hop into bed with them. That’s romance.

    This would be erotica (or possibly porn, I don’t know). When a book begins on the first page with explicit sex, that’s a signal to me that it’s what the book is about. I don’t get a vibe from this that it is anything more than a throwaway sex romp.

    You’ll have tons of eager readers, I’m sure. I just won’t be one of them.

    You’re a good writer. If this book has more substance than appears on the first page, I applaud your start (well, not the start of this book – I mean your career start, assuming this is your first). Otherwise, hope to see you break away from the pack and branch out into more involving stories. Good luck with your work.

  23. none
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 13:13:19

    This first scene reads to me like the bad guy about to kill this girl. If this is RS, not contemporary suspense, and that element of him using her and then killing her were played up — it could be good. But as a straight contemporary single title romance, this beginning would not work for me. Not even in a straight contemporary erotic romance. Sex in the beginning can work in many cases but either as a way to show how nasty the bad guy is or as a way to show something about the hero or heroine. Hero in most cases. He’s hot in bed and the scene is him with a woman that bores him, thus setting him up to be blown away but the woman he is about to meet who is, perhaps, not blow away by him. Not sure I’d go with Blowjob for that. Something that shows his skill but ultimate boredom in that case.

    There is no reason this scene can’t work for a suspense, if this is the bad guy in the scene. It would just need a little more obvious framing and hopefully its foreshadowing something meaningful.

    Writing skill is obvious! :)

  24. Tamara Hogan
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 13:26:49

    joanne said:

    What I read in this scene was the set-up for Teddy to murder the er, sucktress.

    Yes. My take is that we’re in the villain’s POV, and that Teddy is about to commit a heinous act against the suckstress that catalyzes the rest of the action in the story. If my impression is correct, we’re not supposed to care about Teddy; we’re supposed to find his behavior squicky at the very least.

    If this is the set-up the author intended, to me this page reads more like the kickoff scene of a romantic suspense rather than a contemporary romance. Being that some commenters had rather strong negative reactions to this story, you might reconsider the genre.

  25. Elyssa Papa
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 13:38:28

    I agree with Jo Bourne—not a romance, an erotica.

    I don’t care about it opening up with sex, but Teddy, who I’m assuming is the hero, is not likeable at all. I’m not engaged nor do I care what happens to him. I was totally turned off by his POV, and if he’s not the hero, then why start in Teddy’s POv? Unless you are going to kill Teddy off?? I don’t know but regardless, I wouldn’t read on. I really did not like the character and many of the sentences read awkwardly to me.

  26. Lori
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 13:56:14

    I’m not the author and I don’t know the author but I’m agog at the responses on this.

    Teddy, in my view, is not the hero, the protagonist or the antagonist. He’s a middle aged black man getting a blow job from a younger woman. The younger woman is most likely a performer on his music label that he’s about to cut. (Not cut in a killing sense but rather a career sense.)

    It isn’t erotica, it’s a humorous contemporary. I read it and laughed. I would have bought the book immediately because I think the author set this up brilliantly.

    I’d love the author to whisper in my ear if I’m reading it right.

  27. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 14:02:09

    I liked it.

    It’s better than a lot of stuff I’ve read lately, or at least a lot more initially engaging.

    I’m intrigued and I’d keep reading.

    From the comments, it seems to me that the biggest disconnect is its labeling and I never put any stock in that, so I’m not a good judge.

    It doesn’t read like erotica to me. To me, it reads like (hardboiled) crime fiction and/or mainstream fiction. And even if it *is* contemporary romance, I (personally) am ready for a changeup like…this.

    Two points:

    1. I do get the idea that it’s m/m from the “man heaven” thing, so I was surprised it was a “she” on the giving end, but I went with it.

    2. I do get the idea that this is the villain, not the hero, so if that’s what you intended, good job. If you didn’t, I woulda gone with you anyway.

  28. From the author of this excerpt...
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 14:34:36

    I’m the author of this excerpt.

    Since I submitted this to Jane at Dear Author a while ago, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve labeled it incorrectly. This really is a novel with very strong romantic elements, rather than a straight contemporary romance, so it’s my fault that you’re confused.

    I’m very sorry about that. My mistake stems from knowing about the love story within this story that’s highly romantic. However, there’s much more going on, beyond my hero/heroine, too.

    My beta readers are almost all men: a straight guy from Cheshire, England, a gay man from Manchester, England, and two 30-something hunks from Milan and Brescia in Italy. They’ve allowed me to ask them anything about a man’s sexuality and have given me their opinions. Therefore, I’ve gotten very honest feedback from the male point of view on this scene.

    I did write this blowjob scene on my own before I had them critique it, though.

    They asssured me that men think like this when someone is pleasuring them with their tongue and mouth. Men love to watch, and they don’t have pretty, romantic words rolling around in their heads when it’s happening. (By the way, they laughingly confirmed it does feel like their eyes roll back in their heads when they climax.)

    Since I was in my male character’s mind for this scene, I used his earthy words and feelings. My guys all told me that there’s nothing better than a woman who enjoys them so much, they feel like they’re the most delicious popsicle she’s ever tasted. And the teeth bit – they even liked that, though they…uh, winced when they told me.

    Regarding: Man-Heaven

    Once again, my male beta readers all told me that’s exactly where they feel like they are when they’re receiving oral sex. They told me that yes, the inside of a woman’s mouth is absolute heaven. My gay friend agreed, too. Just not with a woman, of course. They got my meaning immediately. According to them, Man-Heaven is a real place for all men – gay or straight – and it begins on the tip of their penis. That’s why I kept this scene as it is.

    And yes, the juxtaposition of religious symbolism and sensual imagery is absolutely intentional. Maybe it’s my inner Madonna coming out. Actually, I built on the very first line of Teddy being in heaven. I used normally religiously-inclined words to describe his approach to orgasm. If I’d said he was in Man Paradise, I would have still kept the religious references because, in my mind, they would have worked. My goal was to intertwine the spiritually sublime with the purely physical.

    Teddy is not the main hero of my story – though he is the impetus to this entire storyline – and the girl exits on the next page.

    But, a comment about Teddy. he represents to me what fascinates us about some men. It explains the popularity of TV characters such as Dexter and House: multi-layered, flawed males who repel even while they interest us.

    I do redeem him in the end. I wouldn’t have kept him in the story – or used him at all – if he’d stayed as much of a bonehead as he appears to be at first.

    About my usage of the word sopped:
    I used it in addition to suck and chose it to emphasize that it’s done with much enthusiastic spit and enjoyment. It worked for my beta readers because they easily felt the girl’s delight and pleasure in the taste of Teddy. Your comments might make me reconsider, though.

    I’m not sure how much I’m supposed to share about the storyline, so I’ll just end it here.

    Thank you so much for your honest feedback. It’s everything I could wish for!

  29. Anion
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 14:53:51

    I’m sorry, where do we discover Teddy is black?

    I have to agree with DM here. There’s no tension or interest in this scene. No sense of who the characters are or what their purpose is here. As an opening page designed to entice me to keep reading, it fails.

    And I have to disagree with everyone else and say I didn’t find this to be sexy or particularly good writing.

    The ex-world champion boxer-turned-music mogul was enjoying the most fantastic blowjob of his entire fifty-six years. Thankful and prayerful every step of the way, he headed toward his own sensual rapture.

    The “ex-world-champion-etc.” is telling, not showing. And “Thankful and prayerful every step of the way, he headed toward his own sensual rapture”? Are you alluding to the Rapture? Because that’s a proper noun. Again, this is all tell, and he’s not stepping anywhere nor are there steps involved. I get what you’re trying to say, but it frankly doesn’t work for me; it’s redundant (you’ve just told us he was enjoying this great blowjob) and doesn’t flow.

    “Oh Jesus,” he groaned as she sucked and licked and sopped him up in a gorging of mindless pleasure.

    You sop things up with something else, like sopping up water with a towel or gravy with a biscuit. The imagery is confusing. And “in a gorging of mindless pleasure” is awkward and purple-y. Is it her feeling the mindless pleasure, as she is the subject? How does he know that? “Gorging” isn’t a noun.

    He was lost in a world of wetness and warmth -‘ like a scorching summer day in the middle of July, and he was her favorite freezer pop.

    I’ve read this sentence a dozen times and can’t figure out why it doesn’t work for me, but it doesn’t. Perhaps the redundancy in “a scorching summer day in the middle of July” (a scorching summer day would hardly be in the middle of January, at least not in this hemisphere) or the contrast with warmth being compared to scorching heat, and then ice pops?

    Before he could grasp the touch of that tease, she was moving again back up to his head.

    “The touch of that tease,” doesn’t make sense. Perhaps had you said “the tease of that touch,” or, better, “that teasing touch.”

    She impishly grazed him with her sharp-edged teeth.

    I’m not an adverb-obsessive; -ly words don’t bug me. But this is so tell-y. How do we know she does it impishly? Why not have her look up at him with mischief in her eyes? Why not have her scrape him with her teeth and then grin, or something?

    “SSSS…sweet Lord, be careful,” he hissed out -‘

    Sure, he can hiss “Sssss…” (Why all caps? He’s not shouting “SSSS,” it’s a sound he’s making through his teeth.) I’m not even a nitpicker about hissing only dialogue with S sounds. But “hissed out”? And does he really need to tell her to be careful? If she scraped him “impishly” she obviously knows what she’s doing.

    and then his eyes rolled up into his skull when her hands joined in the rhythmic delight of her swirling, nipping, and gaining in speed.

    Now she’s nipping and he finds it delightful, when he just hissed at her to be careful? “Nipping” really doesn’t feel like part of a swirling, stroking rhythm, either, and “Gaining in speed” isn’t the same sort of thing as swirling and nipping. I assume you mean it as in “She sped her movements, finding a rhythm with her hands and mouth, swirling, nipping, and stroking”? That sort of thing? Because as written “gaining in speed” doesn’t feel like the same tense as the others.

    He heard her moaning now -‘ or maybe it was him, but coherent thought was not in this room.

    This may be a good time to mention that this scene feels extremely disconnected. You keep telling us what he hears and feels (nothing of what he sees, which I find interesting, as most men like to watch while they’re being given head) but all the “felt/heard” words are actually disconnecting us from the action. I feel like I’m watching Teddy get head, not like I’m inside Teddy’s head experiencing what he’s experiencing. I don’t have any sense of where this is happening; it could be his office or outer space. There’s no real sensory detail, no smell of her skin, no warmth from her hands, no tickling of the ends of her hair on his thighs.

    Also, it’s quite difficult to moan with any volume while your mouth is full of cock.

    “Oh baby,” he hummed, slipping mindlessly away from his faith.

    I’ll give hissing of non-sibilant words a pass, but you cannot hum “Oh, baby.” Humming by definition is wordless.

    I also–and this is personal preference, sure–find all this “Oh baby, yes, ssssss, Jesus,” dialogue irritating and a bit silly. It’s pointless dialogue. It’s fine to have some of it, but we don’t need him to keep repeating the same sort of thing. Again, that could be just me; I dislike talky sex scenes.

    What faith is he slipping away from? What was the faith in? What does the faith have to do with blowjobs? He wasn’t thinking anything about faith before.

    The end in sight, she gave him no pause, and he was helpless now to slow it down, even if he wanted to. Stroke for stroke, she nudged him forward, and he was anxious and willing to go.

    Redundancy; these two sentences say exactly the same thing. You don’t need the comma after “slow it down.”

    His voice was guttural. “Oh…man, mmm…yessss.”

    Again with the dramatic sound-effect dialogue. Wouldn’t it be better to show us how his voice is hoarse or low? “His dry throat ached. When his voice emerged he hardly recognized it. He had to fight to get the words out of his tight throat.” Something like that?

    He threw back his head and violently erupted as she drained him dry and left him for dead.

    Left him for dead? Did she finish, clock him, and run away? I get what effect you’re going for, but “left him for dead” is jarring.

    “God,” he huffed out. “Amen.”

    He “huffed out.” I picture him with a bag full of Carbona.

    Showy dialogue tags jar the reader. They’re telling, not showing. When you tell us he “huffed out” a word, you use a lazy shortcut when you could be showing us how short of breath he is, how he could barely get the words out, how relaxed he felt, how stars spun before his eyes, or whatever. Even using “gasped” would be better than “huffed out,” which sounds made up, and which I believe would actually just be “huffed,” as by definition when you speak the words come out.

    In short, I apologize, but I didn’t find this to be well-written sex at all.

    I had no sense of what Teddy was actually feeling or thinking or experiencing; I felt no connection to him or to the scene. I don’t even know where he is or what the girl looks like. Is she blonde? Brunette? Black? White? Is she naked? Is he, or are his pants pooled around his ankles? Is she on her knees before him, is he sitting or standing or laying down? If he is partially clothed, is his collar tight? Do his legs shake as he gets closer to orgasm? What is he doing with his hands; is he bracing himself or touching her hair or what? Are his eyes closed the whole time? Where are her hands before she starts cupping his balls, and then stroking him (I guess at one point she starts stroking him)? I don’t even get the sense, aside from his sound-effect dialogue and the one line about wetness and warmth, that he feels particularly good and that good feeling is spreading through his body.

    Sorry, author, but this didn’t work for me at all.

  30. Ros
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 16:07:33

    @Sherry Thomas: I would love to see the faces of the editors at an ‘inspirational romance’ publishers when they receive this!

  31. hapax
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 17:10:13

    Left him for dead? Did she finish, clock him, and run away?

    Actually, that’s what I assumed at first. And frankly, is the only thing that would have had me keep reading.

    Hearing that “the girl” disappears from the story and that we’re stuck with Teddy makes me much less interested.

    Sorry. It just didn’t work for me.

  32. From the author of this excerpt...
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 17:22:17

    Lori,

    I had to come back here and tell you that yes, you have caught the humorous aspect of this whole thing. Everything about Teddy in this manuscript is funny. I mean, come on. He’s an ex-boxer from Brooklyn who makes it BIG in the music world, despite the fact there’s nothing delicate or socially acceptable about him.

    (Think Simon Cowell with a broken nose.)

    He’s blessed by Fate and impeccable instincts when it comes to making money and discovering talent. By the way, he’s white. Still, thank you for “getting” it.

    And the thought of a roomful of inspirational editors stumbling on to this manuscript makes me laugh out loud! I highly doubt their own “Rapture” is what they’d feel.

    Please note I capitalized that word. Thanks for pointing that out, Anion.

    The girl is nobody of importance. That’s why she’s gone very shortly.

    The Author

  33. A
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 17:31:09

    @hapax:

    Actually, that's what I assumed at first. And frankly, is the only thing that would have had me keep reading.

    Hearing that “the girl” disappears from the story and that we're stuck with Teddy makes me much less interested.

    Sorry. It just didn't work for me.

    I have to agree with you. The author claims Teddy’s supposed to be unlikeable but still fascinating. I realize it’s early in the read, but so far I’m perceiving him as unlikeable, simple-minded, and uninteresting. If he’d ended up dead (or maybe severely damaged or injured by his dismissed live sex toy) that would have been sort of fun.

    To the author: I’m “hearing” your “take” but your “take” isn’t coming out in the excerpt at all. Teddy’s not likeable. He’s not interesting. He’s not fascinating. Despite your description of him as a former boxing champ, there’s nothing “champion” about him. In my mind’s eye, he came across as unattractive because his actions and thoughts are so ugly.

  34. Scarletti
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 17:32:58

    It may be my own prejudices/likes/dislikes/self-centeredness, but I don’t necessarily enjoy reading sex/romance from the male point of view.
    If your intended audience is a primarily male audience, then your beta readers are great.
    If your intended audience is a primarily female audience, then you may need to look for a primarily female group of beta readers.

    Knowing that Teddy is not the protagonist and the girl has nothing to do with the story after the first page makes me like it even less.

    I also didn’t see Teddy as African-American. If he is, I think I would change his name. That just doesn’t work for me with his ex-boxer background and even less with this music mogul present.

    From your grouping of beta readers it seems as if you are in Great Britain. It may just be me and it may just be the timing, but when I read this I envisioned Teddy Kennedy and maybe that is why I really didn’t like it. Nothing sexy to me about that picture in my brain at all that I have been trying to erase all day with cute puppy videos on YouTube.

  35. theo
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 18:00:49

    I’m sorry, but I have to mention this;

    Absolutely nothing against Lori, since I don’t know her and she was obviously able to see something in here that I missed, but out of 30+ comments here, she’s the only one who found this humorous. If humor is what you’re going for, and your percentage is that minuscule, I really think you need to rethink this whole thing or be prepared for an extremely limited reader base.

    Also, after reading Anion’s comments and re-reading this entry, I have to say, she’s dead on. At least to me and judging from the other comments, most of the people who looked at this.

    What I’m trying to say and am failing miserably at doing it in a “nice” way is, as authors, we know what our story is trying to say since we’re the ones telling it. But if the majority of our readers see the exact opposite of what we know *in our own head* the story says, then it’s time to rethink the whole thing and approach it from an entirely different angle because frankly, as something humorous, it just doesn’t work for most of the people here who probably reflect a close to accurate base of the people (since it’s labeled as contemporary romance) who will be picking it up as a possible read. They might not, but I found Teddy, from this first page, to carry a heavy ‘squick’ factor and am definitely not interested in reading until he isn’t. Squicky.

    Sorry. I know how hard it is to put your work out there. I did. It wasn’t the most pleasant experience, but the critiques were invaluable and taught me a great deal.

    **edited to add that I see you feel you labeled this incorrectly. It doesn’t change Teddy’s ugh factor. You might be getting what you consider great feedback from your male beta readers, but if the audience you’re shooting for are female, then you need to rethink who you want valuable feedback from. Few of the women here liked this from a female reader’s POV.

  36. DS
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 18:18:54

    Ah, I was going to say that humor is subjective.

  37. Anion
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 18:58:00

    @From the author of this excerpt…:

    Everything about Teddy in this manuscript is funny.

    Um…like the part where he selfishly uses some nameless girl for sex then boots her out of his office and his life? Or berates her while she’s doing it? Or thinks of her as just another interchangeable girl, not even really human, and he’ll only miss her because she gives great head?

    Sleazy, sure. But funny? Not so much.

    I mean, come on. He's an ex-boxer from Brooklyn who makes it BIG in the music world, despite the fact there's nothing delicate or socially acceptable about him.

    See, this is where the veracity issue comes in, and whether or not the story and characters have the ring of truth. When I think of people in the music world, delicacy and social acceptability are really the least of the qualities I’d expect to find. I don’t see any inherent humor in a music mogul being sort of scummy and gross and stupid; to me that’s stereotypical, actually. I think most adults would agree.

    It would be funny if he were delicate and highbrow, having to pretend he isn’t in order to fit in. As it is, though, the idea that we’re supposed to expect him to be classy and delicate because he’s in the music industry makes me think the setting will read completely false all the way through; a fantasy of the music industry rather than the actual thing, if you know what I mean.

    I don’t mean to pick on you, author. But yeah, I highly recommend you follow Theo’s suggestion and get some female beta readers, if you’re going for a female audience, because there’s nothing likable or amusing about Teddy as written here. (You also didn’t say whether or not your beta readers were writers too or just pals; I’d recommend you get some betas who also write, to help with some of the technical issues like putting the reader into the characters’ heads and into the actual scene. It’s very hard when it’s your own work, because your mind fills in the missing details.) He’s just a jerk, and I would have a very hard time being interested in him, or getting over his creepy religious fixation and scuzzy behavior in this opening.

  38. A
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 19:01:54

    I don't mean to pick on you, author. But yeah, I highly recommend you follow Theo's suggestion and get some female beta readers, if you're going for a female audience, because there's nothing likable or amusing about Teddy as written here. He's just a jerk, and I would have a very hard time being interested in him, or getting over his creepy religious fixation and scuzzy behavior in this opening.

    *sighs* The above rings harsh, but I’m afraid I agree.

  39. Anion
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 19:40:43

    Do you think I was too harsh, A?

    If so, I really apologize. It wasn’t at all my intent to be harsh, author. But writing an anti-hero type character (you mentioned Dexter as an example), flawed and perhaps even unlikable but still interesting and entertaining, is a difficult thing to do. It requires being able to really make the reader empathize with the character and see things from the character’s POV, which is why the lack of “grounding” in this piece is, I feel, such a problem.

  40. A
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 19:46:30

    @Anion:

    Do you think I was too harsh, A?

    Our opinions on the writing sample are pretty comparable. I typed up my own critique on it. I think my choice of words are a bit different, but I don’t think it “passed inspection.” Jane moderates me since every few posts I manage to perturb her.

  41. Sherry Thomas
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 19:52:04

    @Ros:

    Surely the greater the sin, the greater the redemption. :-)

  42. Pamela Turner
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 20:17:49

    Response to Comment #29

    “Rapture” is a proper noun, “rapture” is not.

    Link from M-W

    Main Entry: 1rap·ture
    Pronunciation: ˈrap-chər
    Function: noun
    Etymology: Latin raptus
    Date: 1594
    1 : an expression or manifestation of ecstasy or passion
    2 a : a state or experience of being carried away by overwhelming emotion b : a mystical experience in which the spirit is exalted to a knowledge of divine things
    3 often capitalized : the final assumption of Christians into heaven during the end-time according to Christian theology

  43. Hero Material
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 20:19:10

    As (possibly) the only man to comment here, I’ll say the following:

    1. The sex is most definitely right on from the male POV. Your eyes do kinda roll back into your head and all the rest. Author, you have good beta readers. Keep following their advice.

    2. “Man-heaven” worked for me…but may I suggest “Man-chantment”?

    3. Honestly, I was put off a little by the word “sopping”. Just a personal prejudice, of course, but I think you could get rid of it without damaging the scene at all and eliminate the potential alienation of a certain percentage of your readers.

    4. I would probably read for another couple of pages. (I didn’t think that Teddy was going to kill the girl, just that he was going to break up with her.) The writing was good enough to make me want to spend another few minutes to see whether the story develops or not. So if the first page’s job is to get the reader to the second page, then you’ve succeeded.

    Overall, nice job.

  44. Fae Sutherland
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 22:35:25

    To the author:

    If Teddy’s not the hero and the girl disappears on the next page, and this scene has nothing to do with anything….why on earth are you starting your book here?

    I’ve said it a hundred times on these first pages and I’ll say it again: Start your story at the moment everything changes. This is not, from what you’ve said and what we’ve read, the moment anything changes.

    I will disagree with Anion (respectfully of course :D) and stand by my impression that the writing skill is there, but this is *not* a good first page, in any case. I strongly suggest taking a step back and really thinking about why you chose to start your book here and if it’s the best place to do so. I’m highly inclined to say no.

  45. Amy
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 23:06:15

    @Anion:
    I agree with your comments and I really like your suggestions. I like your edits so much that I’m wondering if you are an author; if so, I’d like to read one of your books (if I haven’t already).

  46. Anion
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 03:08:02

    @Pamela Turner:

    Yeah…that was my point.

    @Fae

    I still love you anyway. :-)

    @Amy

    Thanks! I am an author, yes, and who knows, you might have read one of my books. Unfortunately since I’m pseudonymous here I can’t give you any titles; I use the pseudonym so I can’t be accused of “sucking up” to readers or having some sort of secret agenda with my comments. But I really appreciate the compliment!

    I should add here that it isn’t that I think the author of this piece is untalented. I just think this needs work. I encourage her to keep going.

  47. Nadia Lee
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 07:10:19

    I think it’s very well-written, and I may read the second page just to see who Teddy is and if he’s the hero or not, but to be honest, I’m not too crazy about Teddy or the blow-jobber.

  48. Pamela Turner
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 08:13:32

    @ anion

    Okay.
    Sorry if I upset you.

  49. theo
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 09:03:09

    We’d all like to know who anion really is. Someday, we’re going to throw a sack over her and take her out to the barn, then read her very, very bad prose until she can’t stand it anymore and admits her identity!

    ;)

  50. From the author of this excerpt...
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 09:44:00

    First of all, I’m very grateful for not just the positive feedback I’m receiving, but also the other responses, too. This story is the first in a 4-book series I’ve written. I gave Jane the option of choosing which of the four first pages she wanted to post.

    I’m a very controlled writer, and I’m older, so I know exactly who I am and what my ultimate goal is here. I don’t throw something in unless I have a good reason. Teddy is at the very epicenter of these books. It’s his vision and his talent and his money and power that gives life to the whole thing. And he weaves in and out of all four books. He grows a little. He slides backwards. He takes a few more steps toward enlightenment. He regresses. He ultimately surrenders to becoming his best self. He is the beginning. I started this book right where I should have.

    This scene really is where he starts to grow and make decisions that affect not just his life, but all those around him – my four heroes and heroines. My goal was in creating a complex, volatile character with many layers – mainly because I’ve read so much in my life, I wanted to be challenged as a reader and a writer to make someone who’s not immediately likeable, and then having him become a shining human being.

    This scene is not a love scene. It’s a sex scene. That’s why I wrote it fast with no more sensory output than was absolutely necessary and no regard to anyone else but the selfish satisfaction of the one in charge. You weren’t supposed to be shocked, but you were supposed to sit up straighter and go, “What the f -?”

    I was curious to see if he pushed different buttons. I guess if he stuck with someone here so much they had to seek diversion from puppies on YouTube, I received an answer of sorts. Plus, I can see how passionate everyone is in their opinions of him. It’s that passion he evoked that makes me smile, believe it or not.

    And the stories you made up about him only shows me he grabbed hold and touched you, even if it was negatively for some of you. Remember, this is just the first page, and already he was so real, you were readily willing to form opinions on his personality and heart. Whether or not they had any resemblance to the real man. I’m actually thrilled at the different responses. I crafted him to drive you in different directions.

    So, I know exactly what I’m doing with him, and why I’m doing it. The reader will have to decide if they want to know more. I can see some of you aren’t interested in what in the heck he’s up to. I can only tell you he’s not what he appears to be.

    I want to really thank the one lone man who posted here. You gave me the highest compliment. You reaffirmed Teddy reacted just like a real man would.

    And I’d also like to address the matter of the girl. She’s not the first 20-something female to service a powerful, charismatic leader while he sits at his desk, and she won’t be the last.

    Thank you all so much for reading my little scene. I’ve tweaked and made slight revisions of it since I submitted it to Dear Author, so it’s interesting to see where you all have offered suggestions of stuff I’ve changed all by myself.

  51. A
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 10:11:23

    And I'd also like to address the matter of the girl. She's not the first 20-something female to service a powerful, charismatic leader while he sits at his desk, and she won't be the last.

    For that matter, she wouldn’t be the first 20-something female to service an amoral loser at his desk–my perception of Teddy at this point– and she won’t be the last.

    Let’s face it, powerful, charismatic leaders don’t use people. Losers do. Insecure people do. Sick people do.

    My first perception of Teddy isn’t that he’s powerful and charismatic — or even passably good-looking. My first perception of Teddy is he is a loser.

    I suppose that’s good in a sense, since Teddy’s got “nowhere to go but up,” but it’s bad in a sense because I don’t like Teddy, don’t care about Teddy, and have no interest in reading more about Teddy.

    If you really want Teddy to interest readers — if you’re marketing this work as romance, ANY genre of romance — he needs to exhibit some hint of likeability, some indication of potential beyond his, er, religious adoration of fellatio via some kid bimbo.

  52. Fae Sutherland
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 10:16:18

    I see that you’re very focused on your why’s and reasons, so good luck with this. I will say that while it pleases you that Teddy has invoked such strong reactions, you might want to consider that the majority of those reactions have resulted in readers who would choose to not read on. It’s fine if we’re not supposed to like him (cause we don’t), but we *are* supposed to keep reading, aren’t we?

    If the majority of people who read this first page (using this post as anecdotal evidence) put the book back down and never buy it…I don’t know, that wouldn’t really make me happy.

    But again, you seem set, so best of luck with it! :)

  53. Lori S.
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 12:13:21

    Sorry, but I wouldn’t read on. I haven’t been given any reason to care about the characters, which (for me) makes the sex scene rather blah.

    Also, I’m curious as to why the author submitted this, since I’m getting the distinct impression she has no interest in any feedback other than praise.

  54. From the author of this excerpt...
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 12:26:27

    Also, I'm curious as to why the author submitted this, since I'm getting the distinct impression she has no interest in any feedback other than praise.

    Hi Lori,

    I’m really sorry if you thought I came across as a snotty twit. I started out post #50 thanking both those who liked it and those who felt differently. Would it help to know that I’m always open to suggestions and opinions?

    In fact, at the urging of a top NY editor, after I completed the fourth book, I went back and gutted this first book this past summer and revised way over 100 pages.

    It’s a fine line, isn’t it, between knowing when to listen to others and following your gut instinct?

    I apologize if I’m sounding ungrateful for this wonderful opportunity.

  55. A
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 12:56:35

    @From the author of this excerpt…:

    I don’t consider you “coming across as a snotty twit.” However, I am interpreting from your comments that critique really does not interest you.

    As an author, I understand it’s very hard to invest time, creative energy, and other personal expense into one’s writing. It’s a challenge to adopt professional objectivity requisite to success in the writing profession.

    Four books and a top NY editor… I can tell you’re very serious and dedicated to your story and your characters. Taste is subjective and not everybody has to like your book, just as you’re not obligated to take everybody’s critique.

    For my part, this page — both the quality of writing and the story itself — doesn’t “work” for me. That doesn’t mean it won’t “work” for someone else.

  56. A
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 13:07:42

    And the stories you made up about (Ted) only shows me he grabbed hold and touched you, even if it was negatively for some of you.

    Something is getting lost in translation.

    “Ted” did not “grab hold and touch” me. He disgusted me. He’s depicted as a stereotypical middle-aged adolescent getting his jollies off his young, dumb employee, and viewing it as a holy experience even as he contemplates getting rid of her.

    I am not going to debate with you how wonderful/fascinating Ted actually is; I am communicating to you as politely as I can that he is not “wonderful” or “fascinating” to me. There is nothing exceptional or noteworthy about Ted (so far) that makes me care to know more about him.

  57. none
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 13:08:54

    I find myself wishing more and more I had a blurb for this book to feel like I had something to relate this scene to. Who are the hero and heroine and how does this scene tie to them? IF this is romance, that is important. And sex with a non-hero would be villain sex to me. Which is fine if we get in his head and he’s a threat to hero and/or heroine and that becomes clear very shortly after this. IF say the heroine works for him and he has his eye on her next or something to that wave. Even then…I’d say the storyline and setup would matter.

  58. Anion
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 13:52:01

    @From the author of this excerpt…:

    This scene is not a love scene. It's a sex scene. That's why I wrote it fast with no more sensory output than was absolutely necessary and no regard to anyone else but the selfish satisfaction of the one in charge. You weren't supposed to be shocked, but you were supposed to sit up straighter and go, “What the f -?”

    And a sex scene, as opposed to a love scene, yes, will focus on physical sensation rather than combining physical and emotional.

    A love scene, frex, will delve more deeply into the emotions/feelings of the POV character, and will have stronger connections between inner and outer sensations (i.e. “His strong hands slid over her skin, warm and hard, a living barrier between her and the cold world outside. Those hands would always keep her safe.” vs. “His strong hands slid over her skin, warm and hard, exploring the curves of her body, making her tingle. Those hands knew exactly where to go.”)

    But just because it’s purely a sex scene doesn’t mean it shouldn’t still have a setting, and that the reader shouldn’t still be in the moment and the POV character’s head. The reason this scene feels disconnected isn’t because Teddy isn’t thinking about luuurve, it’s because there is no interaction with the environment (again, we don’t even know where they are or in what position) and no real sense of what Teddy is feeling, thinking, or experiencing. All the “Mmmmm, Jesus, yesss,” dialogue in the world doesn’t change the fact that while you tell us Teddy is getting a great blow job, and you tell us a little bit about what the girl is doing to him, we’re not experiencing any of that and have no inkling of what he’s actually feeling. We’re just observing.

    Let me show you what I mean:

    “Oh Jesus,” he groaned as she sucked and licked and sopped him up in a gorging of mindless pleasure. He was lost in a world of wetness and warmth -‘ like a scorching summer day in the middle of July, and he was her favorite freezer pop.

    He looked down when her palm curled around and cupped his balls, and her tongue slithered down to meet it there. Before he could grasp the touch of that tease, she was moving again back up to his head. She impishly grazed him with her sharp-edged teeth. “SSSS…sweet Lord, be careful,” he hissed out -‘ and then his eyes rolled up into his skull when her hands joined in the rhythmic delight of her swirling, nipping, and gaining in speed.

    vs.

    “Oh, Jesus.” The sharp edge of his glass-topped desk dug into his palms. He barely felt it. Every nerve ending in his body tingled and sizzled with pleasure as the girl sucked harder, letting her tongue play over his skin in soft, smooth swirls. His legs shook. Watching her head move, watching as she pulled back–cool air hit his wet, sensitive skin, another sensation to add to the overwhelming load of them–and then, her red mouth opening wider, pulled him back into the delightful depths of her talented mouth… Damn. Whatever issues she had as a person, the girl gave great head, and obviously loved doing it; twenty minutes she’d been playing and teasing, drawing it out like his cock was the last ice pop available on a scorching summer day. Her soft moans vibrated against him.

    Her palm brushed against his balls, eliciting another series of sharp tingles and making him look down again. His breath hissed in his throat. She looked up at him, but he barely noticed. Her eyes didn’t interest him. What he couldn’t look away from were her pink-tipped breasts, hard nipples almost brushing his thighs. Her dark hair formed a cloud around her pale face, made paler by the moonlight pouring in through the window behind his desk. The contrast between that milky skin and his own reddish flesh, swollen from her enthusiasm, made his entire body jerk. He tangled his fingers in the hair at her nape and tugged it, encouraging her to get back to work. So close, he was so close.

    She winked, scraped him lightly with her teeth. He tugged her hair again, harder this time. “Be careful.”

    Her lips closed around him again. Satisfied, he let his head fall back. The ivory ceiling swirled above him for an instant before he closed his eyes; red lights flashed before them after he did. His body tightened. Sweat broke out on his forehead. His tailored short began to constrict his chest and throat as his breath came in quick, sharp gasps. His hips jerked, pushing himself deeper into the heat of her mouth. &c

    Do you see the difference? There’s still no emotional connection in this scene; it’s obvious Teddy doesn’t care about the girl save as a willing, talented mouth. But from this we know where they are, and what position they’re in. We know the girl is at least topless and a bit about what she looks like–and that Teddy really doesn’t care but gets more aroused by looking at her body. He won’t even meet her eyes. We know that this is all about him and that he’s totally focused on himself and his own pleasure. We know he wears custom shirts and that he’s the sort of man who has a glass-topped desk in his office and that it’s nighttime, and that he has a window, which shows us that he has a position of at least some importance even if the fact that he gets to bring random girls in there to blow him doesn’t give us a clue already.

    I’m not claiming this is a great rewrite, at all, or that I’m so wonderful and expert or anything like that. It took me a few minutes to do and isn’t edited. But if I’ve done it right, you should see the difference between the two, and this scene should feel much more solid and real; it should show you what sort of man Teddy is, what his relationship is to/with the girl, and where they are, and it should make you feel as though you’re actually IN the moment rather than just watching it from a distance.

    See what you think. And of course, feel free to take my advice or not; it is your story.

    Good luck!

  59. Joanna Bourne
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 14:14:26

    First pages serve a number of functions.
    Let me talk about five of them.

    .
    1) The first page tells the reader whether the author knows how to write.

    If the first page does not stay in POV, if the voice of the character is inconsistent, if the author does not understand the meaning of some of his words, potential readers will decide this author is not technically skilled. This loses a tranche of possible readership.

    .
    2) The first page tells the reader what the book is ‘about’.

    The boredly sexing Regency rake on page one says the book is ‘about’ sexy Regency hijinks. The sullen, vibrantly alive race driver, rounding the curve at Indianapolis, says the book is about a bad-boy on the racing circuit. An opening of boxing, the music industry, a middle-aged man, impersonal sex, and religion tells the reader this book is about an over-the-hill athlete finding God in the music industry.

    Readers who are not interested in sexy Regency romps, race drivers, or middle-aged men finding religion now put the book down.

    .
    3) The first page sets the sexual tone of the book.

    Aunt Minnie presiding over the teapot tells us this is likely to be a cool, GP read. Explicit sexuality that holds no appeal to women marks this as male Erotica.

    Everyone not looking for this type or level of sexuality lays the book down. Type and level of sexuality is going to put most books back on the shelf, right here.

    .
    4) In Romance genre, the first POV character introduced is generally an important character . . . usually one of the protagonists.

    Writers do this ‘starting with a major character’ schtick for the same reason shoe stores put … well … shoes in the shop window, rather than aprons or hedge trimmers. They are showing off the merchandise they plan to sell.

    This ‘starting with a major character’ is so common the reader assumes it. She then asks herself if she wants to spend the next 357 pages with this guy. The reader does not ask the same question about a character met in Chapter Three.

    If the character does not meet the ‘let’s get close for 357 pages’ standard, that is another tranche of readership lost.

    .
    5) The first page gives us the flavor of the story.

    Page One is the first taste of the soup.
    If page one is droll and witty, philosophical, explicitly sexual, filled with suspense, or packed with action . . . the reader expects to find this everywhere in the book.

    Jalapeño peppers in the first spoonful should mean jalapeño peppers everywhere. If readers find blood and guts festooning the entry portal, they’re justified in assuming this is a horror story. If Page One does not deliver on its promise in the rest of the story, you’re going to loose both the readers who catfoot away from all that gore, and the horror fans who end up disappointed when nobody pulls out an ax in Chapter Three.

    When one writes explicit, impersonal sex on Page One, this is selling the book to those who want explicit, impersonal sex everywhere. Which is good, if that is what you’re writing.

  60. From the author of this excerpt...
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 14:23:03

    anion,

    With this, I see your point.

    Yes, you make a very valid point. Like I said, I’m not stupid. When I hear something logical, I listen.

    This is very simple to remedy, if that’s all you’re asking of me. My main love scenes are very much like your example, only more so. It would be interesting to embellish this non-romantic one.

    Thank you for being so clear with your message.

  61. Anion
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 15:39:37

    @From the author of this excerpt…:

    Hey, I’m really very, very sorry if you felt like I thought you were stupid, or if you felt I was speaking to you as if you’re stupid. That wasn’t my intention at all, and I don’t think that. The thought honestly never crossed my mind.

    I’ve taken the time to get into such detail with you because, as I said above, while your page didn’t work for me I do think you have talent. (Plus, sex scenes are a subject on which I tend to get a little evangelical, heh.) My intention was only to help you, to provide some constructive criticism, and to give you an example because I for one learn better that way. I will never, ever forget when someone did that to me, four or five years ago, and the “Ohhh, NOW I get it!!” light bulb that snapped on over my head, and how great that felt. My writing improved 100% at that moment, and that’s when I started actually selling stories and books; first to very small houses, then to slightly bigger ones, then to NY and other major houses around the world. I wouldn’t have a career right now if someone hadn’t rewritten a piece of my work, much the way I did yours, so I knew exactly what the issue was. (Not that my career is such a huge huge deal–not yet anyway–but it is still a career, with four books under contract at the moment and two others on bookstore shelves, and I’m proud of it.)

    I just wanted to show you the difference between showing/telling, and being IN a scene and the POV character’s head as opposed to being told what the scene is and being a step outside of it. Yes, that’s all I’m asking, although I didn’t mean to imply I was asking for anything. Setting, sensory detail, and connection with the characters and action is hugely important, and it’s what editors look for. How those details and that connection are integrated into the story is a huge part of what makes writing professional quality. You can’t neglect all those senses or allowing the reader to connect with your characters in that way.

    If I came off as harsh, overly critical, or like I thought you were stupid I genuinely apologize. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, and if I did I am so sorry.

  62. From the author of this excerpt...
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 16:10:51

    Anion,

    Please do not feel the need to apologize. I didn’t mean that you made me feel stupid.

    I’ve discovered something writing my stories. At a certain point, you fall in love with your characters. I mean, heartstoppingly THUD.

    They almost become real to you – friends, lovers, soulmates.

    You realize it’s no longer about you, but about giving these entities only the best that you can. You start to feel a great protectiveness and a responsibility. Sort of like that love and commitment you feel for your children.

    Ego disappears then, and what’s left is this fierce desire to go the distance – whatever it takes becomes what’s important.

    As I see it after analyzing this whole thing for a while, there are two issues here.

    1. Whether to start with this scene in the first place.
    2. What form to give it, if I do.

    My gut instinct is to leave it where it is. My same gut instinct tells me your suggestions will only improve it. I’ll go with the first and follow through on the second. I have to let it roll around in my head a bit and wait for the words to surface.

    Thank you for becoming a blessing of mine.

  63. Lori S.
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 17:11:02

    I'm really sorry if you thought I came across as a snotty twit.

    That’s not what I said. I stated that I thought you had no interest in feedback other than praise. Still do. Please do not misrepresent my words.

    I started out post #50 thanking both those who liked it and those who felt differently. Would it help to know that I'm always open to suggestions and opinions?

    It would help if you acted accordingly. My apologies, but with so many authors submitting First Pages, I get annoyed when I see a First Page wasted on an author who doesn’t appear (at least to me) open to honest critique.

  64. Jody W.
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 18:26:24

    While I’m happy for the author that he or she has supportive beta readers and feedback from a New York editor, this just doesn’t seem like it’s aimed at the readership who tends to congregate here at DA, ie mostly female romance / women’s fic / sf/f readers. If this is indeed intended for the DA segment of the reading public, this introduction is offputting, no matter how much 4 dudes love it and no matter how much the author loves her Teddy.

    Kill your darlings. Definitely kill Teddy *laugh*. Ok, not really, but sort of.

  65. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 20:14:38

    This scene is not a love scene. It's a sex scene. That's why I wrote it fast with no more sensory output than was absolutely necessary and no regard to anyone else but the selfish satisfaction of the one in charge. You weren't supposed to be shocked, but you were supposed to sit up straighter and go, “What the f -?”

    There might be a difference in cultural expectations here. You could see a mainstream story starting like this in the UK, sometimes with a character so unlikeable you don’t know if the author can redeem him and part of the enjoyment of the story is to see if she can do it.
    But these stories aren’t romances.

    I should say that I am British and I write romances for the American market. Some of them are erotic romances, and this excerpt wouldn’t cut it as erotic. Not enough graphic language, too “romantic” in tone.

    I have started a book with a sex scene before, but under different circumstances. The readers would already know the male character from a previous book, and a few paragraphs in, the hero gets a phone call that is the incentive to action. It’s where the story starts. The women he is having sex with in that first scene also have a part in that story, and in the next one. It was as much a character scene as anything else.

    Faceless women who appear and reappear are lazy, unless they’re there for a reason, and this doesn’t seem strong enough. You haven’t characterised Teddy enough, you’ve just shown a pretty generic blow-job scene. Have them doing it on a bus, or maybe he’s in a line of men she’s blowing, or something. But before the end of the first page, get the story going.

  66. Julia Sullivan
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 21:32:21

    Best of luck with your book. It’s not going to work for everyone, as others have already said; for instance, I got the impression from page 1 that Teddy was a tacky misogynist loser, and I can’t imagine wanting to read to page 2. He didn’t “reach out and grab me” at all.

    But this is why they print more than one book every year; different people have different tastes.

    Your punctuation and capitalization choices are, I guess, idiosyncratic. You might want to think about adopting more standard choices, because idiosyncratic choices in those arenas are often indistinguishable from errors.

  67. Anion
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 23:49:30

    You’re welcome, author. I know what it is to fall in love with one’s characters, and I know what it is to create a character who is at first repelling and then appealing; my new upcoming series has one such character and I admit s/he is my very favorite person I’ve ever written, in part because s/he was such a challenge for me. (The character isn’t a transexual, I’m just trying to be cagey. Not that there’s anything wrong with transexual characters, of course.) Luckily those who’ve read the book also fell in love with him/her, but I’m sure that reaction won’t be universal, because no reaction ever can be, really. All we can do is the best we can, right?

    Like I said, keep going and good luck!

  68. kete
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 05:06:52

    Hi, first timer here.

    Dear author, what I get from most replies to your first page offering is, “Don’t do it this way (your way), because it’s always done that way (our way).” To which I – definitely not a romance reader, but a voracious reader nonetheless, who mostly comes here for general news on eBooks – say: absolutely do it your way! Go with your instinct. Don’t write another exchangeable romance novel, read today, forgotten tomorrow. I’m not a romance reader, as I said, and I don’t care much about explicit sex. But I won’t let a bit of romance or sex stop me reading an otherwise enjoyable story and what you tell us about Teddy sounds intriguing and like just such a charismatic character I love to read about. So go on and don’t get distracted by the above critiques, written by people who probably aren’t in your target group anyway.

  69. Anon Y. Mouse
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 10:27:15

    @kete:

    So go on and don't get distracted by the above critiques, written by people who probably aren't in your target group anyway.

    Mmm, yes, pay no attention to all the published authors giving valuable advice. What do they know, anyway? Also, pay no attention to the opinion of all these romance readers, they’re not the target audience for her *romance* anyway.

    Have you completely missed the point of First Page Saturdays? To get opinions and critique and advice? But yes, by all means, it’s best the author ignore all that. Why, you’d think her first page was posted *publicly* with the sole purpose to invite comment on it. Jeesh, the nerve of these people, right?

  70. Anion
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 10:46:33

    Kete, I’m not a romance author. :-)

    My critique wasn’t given from a romance writer’s perspective; just from a writer’s perspective.

  71. A
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 11:20:55

    @Anon Y. Mouse:

    Mmm, yes, pay no attention to all the published authors giving valuable advice. What do they know, anyway? Also, pay no attention to the opinion of all these romance readers, they're not the target audience for her *romance* anyway.

    Have you completely missed the point of First Page Saturdays? To get opinions and critique and advice? But yes, by all means, it's best the author ignore all that. Why, you'd think her first page was posted *publicly* with the sole purpose to invite comment on it. Jeesh, the nerve of these people, right?

    I agree this particular story is likely not a true “romance” and it may or may not redeem itself farther into the read. I read the excerpt again and it gave me flashbacks to Jackie Collins’ popular novels in the 1980’s, except Collins had a better grasp on technical writing.

    On the one hand, I don’t blame this week’s First Page Author for dismissing criticism offered by romance readers. I do question FPA’s motives in placing the excerpt with DA since criticism from romance readers doesn’t interest her.

    I agree with Anion’s assessment of the excerpt. Not only is it unromantic; the technical writing needs work. The “non-romance factor” doesn’t bother me — unless this is marketed and sold as a romance — but the substandard writing does bother me. A responsible author owes himself/herself, publishers, editors, and the reading public the best product s/he can create.

    *shrugs* That said, the market’s full of poorly written books that do well. Who’s to say this one won’t?

  72. From the author of this excerpt...
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 20:05:58

    I want to thank you all for every one of your comments.

    I have some of my own now.

    If you think the negativity I’ve been subjected to here is going to stop me from continuing my writing and believing in my work, you’ll be sorely disappointed. I’ve spent the last four years down in my little room writing these four books, and with very little personal encouragement and support in my life. This is nothing compared to that.

    Some of you have come on here and judged me personally. You don’t even know me! Yet, somehow you just know I didn’t care what you thought, and when I said I did, one of you wrote and said you didn’t believe me.

    I hope that vitriol (pertaining to the personal, not about the work) that’s been aimed at me somehow makes you feel better inside. Surprisingly, I guess I’m to the point now that I truly understand what my goal is. It isn’t about me. It’s all about the stories, so while I don’t like some of what’s happened here, it hasn’t affected me as much as it might have a couple years ago. I suppose that’s progress, too.

    I don’t know where some of you got the idea that I wasn’t interested in and wasn’t listening to your critiques and suggestions. Dismissing you? I took my time and thought about what you all said. There have been a lot of posts here for my excerpt and a lot to digest. It’s not in my nature to immediately lash back, reply off the cuff, and spew out premature comebacks.

    But the truth is – and I don’t care if you believe me or not – I’ve re-written a major chunk of the excerpt and I really do like it much better now. A lot of what you guys said made sense, so I listened to it. It’s also sparked some new ideas on the rest of the first chapter, which really was the last one out of all four books I wasn’t happy with, anyway.

    So, thank you. I mean it.

    Believe me or not.

    And Jane: Thanks for choosing this first page to put on here. You’ve been great.

  73. kete
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 01:08:57

    @Anon Y. Mouse:

    Hm, well, as I said, I’m not a romance reader and so I’m sorry I don’t consider authors published by outfits like Harlequin, Ellora’s Cave and such as “real writers”. To me it seems all pretty formulaic -the little I know of it – and your advice sounded like you expect her to follow the formula that works for you for what I consider cheap stuff sold at the supermarket right next to the yellow press mags.

    PM on the other hands seems to write what I consider a “real novel” hopefully to be published with a serious publisher and I’m quite excited to read more of her story when it comes out.

    Perhaps this blog isn’t the right outlet for her writing and to me most comments sounded as if they were coming from what I think of as the typical prissy and self-righteous American housewife.

    If it’s not done to open a story with a sex scene in the romance genre, I’d say great, go for it because it’ll stand out and if it’s not meant to be a romance (hopefully) anyway, so what? PM says she knows what she’s doing and is doing it for a purpose and I believe her.

  74. JenD
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 07:02:50

    @kete: You just made me giggle over my morning coffee. You hit every stereotypical Romance Sucks argument that people use. It was cute, thanks.

  75. Lynne Connolly
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 07:18:55

    Hm, well, as I said, I'm not a romance reader and so I'm sorry I don't consider authors published by outfits like Harlequin, Ellora's Cave and such as “real writers”. To me it seems all pretty formulaic -the little I know of it – and your advice sounded like you expect her to follow the formula that works for you for what I consider cheap stuff sold at the supermarket right next to the yellow press mags.

    Then you probably don’t belong on this blog. It’s definitely trollish – going on a blog devoted to romance and making such comments is bound to elicit response. I urge DA commenters not to respond to a cheap shot like this one. Not worth the effort and definitely not worth filling my Google Reader with impassioned responses.

    PM on the other hands seems to write what I consider a “real novel” hopefully to be published with a serious publisher and I'm quite excited to read more of her story when it comes out.

    I’m sure she’ll let you know. Fans like you are hard to find. Or maybe perchance you know her? Random House, Penguin, MacMillian et al are also large romance publishers, or maybe you didn’t know that, either?

    Perhaps this blog isn't the right outlet for her writing and to me most comments sounded as if they were coming from what I think of as the typical prissy and self-righteous American housewife.

    Again, not worth responding to. I’m wondering if all housewives are American and self-righteous, or all self-righteous people American housewives, or all three? Not in my experience, but YMMV.

    If it's not done to open a story with a sex scene in the romance genre, I'd say great, go for it because it'll stand out and if it's not meant to be a romance (hopefully) anyway, so what? PM says she knows what she's doing and is doing it for a purpose and I believe her.

    See my comment above. I cited one of my books (published, not by name since this isn’t my thread) that starts with a sex scene. Certainly not unusual. Comprehension doesn’t appear to be your strongest suit, but I could well be wrong in that. Maybe something else is. Wildly thrown insults, maybe?

    Author PM – I thought the piece was fairly well written technically, but it did nothing to establish the character of an interesting person or start the story off, it was just a sleazeball having a blowjob with an anonymous woman. Unless the story starts there, it’s a “sequel” and not a “scene” in Dwight Swain’s terminology. You should start the story at the inciting incident. That’s why I said I would have liked to see more. I would have read this far, and maybe another page or two, but if nothing had occurred by then to hook me in, I’d probably be on to the next book.
    I thought Joanna Bourne’s comments were outstanding, and I’d really take notice of them.
    I think most of the adverse comments were from and about posters rather than you, so best to pass them by.

  76. Julia Sullivan
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 10:56:56

    If you think the negativity I've been subjected to here is going to stop me from continuing my writing and believing in my work….I hope that vitriol (pertaining to the personal, not about the work) that's been aimed at me

    Unless you’re talking about comments that have been deleted, I have no idea where you’re getting this. I see no personal attacks or suggestions that anyone wants you to stop writing.

    If you choose to take criticism of your characters and your writing as personal attacks, you are going to find the experience of being a published writer a miserable one at best. Learning to separate feedback, even the most hostile and dismissive feedback, on your work from your own self-esteem is probably the most important skill a writer ever learns.

  77. Julia Sullivan
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 11:00:05

    PM on the other hands seems to write what I consider a “real novel” hopefully to be published with a serious publisher and I'm quite excited to read more of her story when it comes out.

    Perhaps this blog isn't the right outlet for her writing

    Dear kete,

    In future, when you come on a blog to support your friend, the fiction that you are an anonymous passerby will be better sustained if you don’t refer to her by initials she hasn’t shared on the blog.

    !

  78. kete
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 11:01:49

    @JenD:

    You just made me giggle over my morning coffee. You hit every stereotypical Romance Sucks argument that people use. It was cute, thanks.

    Glad to be of service. :-) I’m not saying “romance generally sucks” – you people obviously like it. It’s just not my cup of tea and different things suck for different people. I happen to like writing in PM’s style.

  79. kete
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 11:09:42

    @Lynne Connolly:

    Then you probably don't belong on this blog. It's definitely trollish – going on a blog devoted to romance and making such comments is bound to elicit response. I urge DA commenters not to respond to a cheap shot like this one. Not worth the effort and definitely not worth filling my Google Reader with impassioned responses.

    Well, I said I came here via googling Kindle articles, otherwise I wouldn’t visit a romance blog. Unfortunately I skimmed the first page entry, found all the hen picking going on and it didn’t leave a favourable impression with me. Are you Jane? Is this your blog? And if not, don’t you think you’re a bit presumptuous telling people who is allowed to come here and who isn’t?

    Again, not worth responding to.

    Which undoubtedly is the reason why you do respond to my post at length.

  80. From the author of this excerpt...
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 11:10:59

    Dear kete,

    In future, when you come on a blog to support your friend, the fiction that you are an anonymous passerby will be better sustained if you don't refer to her by initials she hasn't shared on the blog.

    Ladies,

    Please, this is going from bizarre to surreal. I don’t know any of you here personally. I don’t know who kete is at all.

    The only one I do know is Sherry Thomas, and that’s only as a reader of her work, which I admire very much.

    And there have been posts that have been deleted???

    Really?

    I didn’t know that, either.

    ~ Phyllis Merriweather

  81. kete
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 11:16:07

    @Julia Sullivan:

    In future, when you come on a blog to support your friend, the fiction that you are an anonymous passerby will be better sustained if you don't refer to her by initials she hasn't shared on the blog.

    Sorry, I have no idea who she is, but didn’t someone refer to her as PM? I took it from there, maybe I got it wrong. I’m German and don’t have any unromantic romance writing friends in the US or elsewhere.

  82. Jane
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 11:31:32

    I can either close the comments or the commenters can return to the critique/comment of the piece itself.

  83. Sue T
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 11:37:49

    @kete

    If you don’t read romance, you can’t and shouldn’t speak of it and you have no value here. I agree with whoever called you trollish to come on here and dis what WE love. Go away.

  84. Jane
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 11:39:00

    So…closing the comments.

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