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First Page: Unpublished MS – Romantic Suspense

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Braking carefully, Katherine drove cautiously through the huge metal gates standing open on their heavy iron hinges, a large ‘Rome Trucking’ sign wired into the right hand gate. The dusty gravel stretched across the big yard, several buildings dotting the barren landscape, weeds sprouting along the fence line. An old grey stucco-clad bungalow stood to one side on what looked like its original foundation, with eight or ten vehicles, mostly pickups, parked in a staggered line near the doorway.

She was surprised how many vehicles were on site already. She checked her watch. They must start work very early. She parked carefully at the end of the line of vehicles, leaving lots of space between the nearest pickup and the unprotected side of her little car. Her car may be older but it was reliable and she was still making payments on it. Unsnapping the seatbelt, she gathered her business-like folder and purse, stepping out onto the gravel drive.

Katy drew a deep breath, straightened her shoulders and glanced curiously around. Bruno had talked about this yard, how enormous it was, how dusty, how busy and vital. It was certainly large enough, she guessed it had once been three or four city lots. Several older dump trucks were parked farther back against the fence on the other side, their behemoth shapes hulking, casting low early morning shadows across the ground. A huge metal-clad workshop ranged across the back of the property and the sound of hammer ringing on metal rose from its dim interior.

She glanced toward the house, where the front door stood open to the crisp morning air, one gnarled tree, ancient and gnarled, leaning protectively over it. That must be the office. She stood straighter, took a firmer grip on her folder, mentally braced herself and started forward. This shouldn’t be too difficult, she could do it. She could.

As she climbed the wooden steps, standing out sharply new against the exterior of the old chipped and faded stucco on the walls of the house, she could hear strident masculine voices coming from within. She paused, clutching the banister nervously in her fingers as the shouting escalated in volume. Goodness, maybe this was bad timing on her part. Should she have phoned first, made an appointment with the owner? She hovered, uncertain whether to go forward or retreat, one foot on the top step.

But Bruno had assured her it was a very informal kind of business, that people just dropped in to talk to the owner and order up work. No one made an appointment, they just arrived, talked with Mr. Rome or one of his staff, made their arrangements and got the job done. Bruno mentioned he had been here quite a few times, discussing things with Mr. Rome and finding out more about the business. He said it was casual, he would just walk in and when Mr. Rome was free, he would discuss his plans with him. Surely it would be the same for her.

She cautiously moved forward across the top step, peering around the cracked doorframe. She could see straight into what must have once been the living room of a modest family home. There were the remains of an old kitchen at one end, the dated cabinets still clinging to the walls, a line of countertop and cabinets beneath. There were ancient pieces of furniture, a small kitchen table, a few wooden chairs, a sofa and matching upholstered chair marking off one end of the large room. The rest of the main area held a couple of desks, one with a curious set of speakers on it, the other with a mishmash of papers strewn across its surface. And beyond that, a door into what was obviously now a separate office. She could see two figures standing in the doorway to the office.

That must be Mr. Rome, she thought. That had to be him. He was a shorter man, dressed in khaki pants and shirt neatly tucked in, heavy shouldered and thick with muscle, gone to fat a bit in the middle, maybe in his late fifties. He looked neatly put together and business-like in a rough sort of way. He stood squarely in his bulky steel-toed boots, his head thrust forward aggressively, his salt and pepper hair clipped short and brushed straight back from his strong featured face. He was speaking to a second taller man in the doorway who had his back to Katy. Rome held a stub of cigar in his hand, and as he spoke he jabbed it forward for emphasis.

‘We’re going to keep calm, now’, he said in a gravel voice. ‘No point in flying off the handle, I’ve told you that before. This will work out, these things always do.’ He gazed keen-eyed up at his companion. ‘You have to hold onto your temper, or we won’t be able to pull it together. You know that.’

The second man stood even straighter if possible, his large shoulders blocking the interior of the room from Katy’s gaze, his head nearly grazing the top of the door frame. He was dressed in a black tee shirt, ripped at the neck, sagging cargo shorts hanging low on his hips. His feet were thrust into a pair of heavy leather boots, scuffed and marked, the laces dragging on the floor. His head jerked back as if he’d been slapped and his voice started at a growl, rising steadily until it hit a roar. ‘I’m going to fucking kill him! Broke his leg, you say? I’ll break his other fucking leg for him. By God, I will! I told him, I told them all!’

Just then, Mr. Rome caught sight of Katy and turned his head slightly. ‘Who are you?’ he said. ‘What can I do for you?’ His manner was deceptively mild given the tone of the conversation she’d just heard. Katy was amazed. She wouldn’t have thought he would let one of his own employees talk to him like that and just take it, just keep his temper.

‘I don’t mean to interrupt, Mr. Rome’, she said. ‘I’ve come to see you about a matter of business, but I can wait until you’re free’. She cast a slightly disparaging look at his companion’s back, and folded her arms to indicate she was willing to be patient. He looked at her for a minute, then back at the other man, a slight smile now marking his face. ‘Mr. Rome?’ he said. Then he looked back at Katy. He indicated with his cold cigar, gesturing at the other, younger man. ‘This is Mr. Rome’.

The second man turned impatiently to look at her. His face was heavily flushed in anger, his jaw tight, muscles bulging in his thick neck. His arms flexed as he braced his hands low on his hips and glared in her direction. Glared with his good eye, that is. The other eye was black, with a gash above it running across his eyebrow, up his forehead. She could see a doctor’s stitches crawling along the cut like a caterpillar, the plastic ends bristling. The eye itself was blood red and badly bruised. His full mouth was discoloured and swollen on one side, the lip split.

Katy stared. Her mouth fell open and she took an involuntary horrified step backward, steadying herself shakily against the battered metal desk behind her. This was Mr. Rome? This was the man Bruno the rainmaker, Bruno the deal arranger, Bruno her friend, had loaned all her money to?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and 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


  1. Katie T.
    Feb 23, 2013 @ 04:49:04

    Too many descriptions of the scene right off the bat. There are some errors in spelling and syntax. “Business-like folder,” really? The speech between the characters doesn’t flow naturally and seems over dramatic and forced. If Mr. Rome is the main romantic interest, I would just stop reading. The way he dresses, the way he acts, the way he talks and looks…nope, run away.

  2. SAO
    Feb 23, 2013 @ 05:02:42

    You’ve painted Katy is a very careful, timid woman, which is not my favorite character, but I’d read on to see her grow. However, she’s timid, careful, cautious and she let her friend Bruno hand over her money to some guy she knows nothing about? And now, if I’m guessing correctly, Bruno’s left it to her to get the money back? This just isn’t sounding smart to me. I’d read on a few pages, but I’m starting with the suspicion she’s TSTL and that’s not good.

    Romantic suspense is my favorite genre. You have opportunities for increased tension here — Katy is “careful” “nervous” and “unsure,” but we don’t feel it. When she hears shouting, she thinks “my goodness, what bad timing,” not any threat. Even, “I’m going to f— kill him,” makes her think about manners, not any danger from a big, muscular guy who probably has anger issues. This is part of what drives my impression that Katy is a wimp. Convert more of this into a real sense of danger and you’ll have me hooked.

    Or maybe some GMC, even scene GMC. She clearly has a reason to be here (goal and motivation) and her timidity expresses conflict. Courage is facing your fears to reach your goal, which Katy might be doing, but as I don’t know what she is doing, it’s easier to see the wimpiness than the bravery. Without knowing what she’s doing, I was a little bored with all the details: the size of the yard, dustiness, unsnapping the seatbelt, the number of pick-ups, the stairs. I wanted to start the story:

    “Katy Lastname glanced around the large, dusty gravel yard. Several older dump trucks were parked farther back against the fence on the other side, their behemoth shapes hulking, casting low early morning shadows across the ground. A huge metal-clad workshop ranged across the back of the property and the sound of hammer ringing on metal rose from its dim interior. In front of it an old bungalow stood with it’s door open. That must be the office. She stood straighter, took a firmer grip on her folder of papers, mentally braced herself and started forward. This shouldn’t be too difficult, she could do it. She could.

    As she climbed the wooden steps, she could hear strident masculine voices coming from within. She hovered, uncertain whether to go forward or retreat, as the shouting escalated in volume. Her fingers clutched the folder nervously and she knew she couldn’t go back. (Motivation with reference to papers in folder here). She took a deep breath and walked in, heading beyond an ancient desk with a jumble of papers towards what looked like an office with two men standing in the doorway. ”

    I’ve condensed 7 paras of detail to two and no one is going to miss the number of pick-ups in the yard or and gnarled tree, ancient and gnarled. In the mean time, mentions of nervousness, cautiousness, carefulness, and uncertain hovering have been vastly reduced.

    While in general your writing is good, you could pay a bit more attention to odd fragments stuck in your sentences. “She drove through the gates, a sign wired into . . .” Instead of, “She drove through the gates, which had a sign wired. .” (Although simplicity suggests, “She drove past gates with sign saying . ..) “As she climbed the steps, standing out sharply” which is confusing because the verbs don’t quite agree: climbed/standing, which made me have to read twice to figure out she was standing out (to whom? what POV?) not the steps standing out compared to the stucco. But in general, if you stop larding up your sentences with way too much detail, this will probably go away.

    It may be you have a great story to tell. Cut out the fat and tell it to us!

  3. Willa
    Feb 23, 2013 @ 05:22:16

    I like your voice but agree, way too many descriptions – of the place, the furniture, the layout, character build, clothing etc . It makes my eyes glaze and my brain cell buzz trying to imagine it all and take it all in . . I want to be drawn in to a story not hit with descriptive overload.

    Katy/Katherine is carrying a folder and I was jerked out of the story trying to figure out how she crossed her arms whilst holding it. The tree outside was ‘gnarled’ twice.

    I liked the hook at the end about her friend Bruno lending Mr Rome her money. That did catch my interest and I would be tempted to read on but with big reservations – if things didn’t tighten up I would be putting it back on the virtual shelf.

    Good luck!

  4. Meri
    Feb 23, 2013 @ 05:23:08

    I’m really glad to see an RS first page, it’s not a sub-genre we see often here and probably not most popular one at the moment in general. So it’s great that you’re giving it a shot.

    That said, this first page does nothing to get my attention. There’s too much description, but it’s not the kind that really provides a sense of atmosphere or enriches the story; it’s just there and serves no purpose. I agree with Katie that the interaction between the characters seems forced and their speech doesn’t flow naturally. If this is where you want to start your story, you need to make it more focused and more natural, and to lose some of the details. If it doesn’t contribute to the story or to the characterization, it shouldn’t be there.

    I would also suggest a different opening sentence. ‘Braking carefully, Katherine drove cautiously…” has at least one adverb too many and is not the most exciting way to begin.

    Finally, if you’re going to refer to the heroine is Katy, do so from the start.

    I hope you can find a way to make your story shine. Good luck!

  5. Marianne McA
    Feb 23, 2013 @ 06:34:30

    @Willa – you know, I never even noticed that she folded her arms while carrying the folder – but I did have to mentally rearrange things when she clutched the banister, because I had her doing both with her right hand. Odd how tiny details derail you.

    @the author, I agree with everyone else. The descriptions are evocative, but there’s just too much description. And some of it just slows the passage down – she hovers on the doorstep for two paragraphs of information, when the reader just wants to see what the shouting is about.
    Also, I’d trust the reader more. For example, when she parks her car overly carefully, that presumably is to show the reader one of her character traits, and it works – but the next sentence that underscores her motivations – I don’t think it adds anything to the story. (Unless, of course, it’s a plot point and a lorry is about the flatten the thing.) And again where she mentally braces herself and starts forward – that tells the reader enough, I don’t think you need to underscore it with her inner thoughts.

    On the bright side, I really liked the heroine, and I think that sort of very visual writing does well: it’s just a matter of getting the proportions right. Good luck.

  6. Marie
    Feb 23, 2013 @ 07:34:31

    How on earth do necks get muscles? One of those weird romance novel trope that I never seem to understand. Everytime I read that I am reminded of a steroid pumped junkie about to have an internal combustion. That and muscular thighs. Geez, do the writers even research what they write? I have never met with such phenomenon in real life. *sigh*

  7. Patricia
    Feb 23, 2013 @ 08:22:55

    It takes far too long for the interesting interactions to start in this story. In the first paragraph, the only thing that happens is the heroine driving through a gate. In the second, she parks. In the third, she looks around the yard. By the seventh paragraph she finally looks through the door and sees the other characters, but it’s not until the eighth that they actually do anything. Please, pick up the pace.

    You have obviously put a lot of effort into descriptions. The problem is that you are describing things that don’t really matter and are therefore boring. A bare sketch of the scene would serve better — let the reader fill in the details. Your audience has almost certainly walked past enough constructions sites to summon up a mental image without multiple paragraphs of details.

    Once you finally let the characters interact, I became interested. Focus the reader’s attention there. That is where the real story is.

    I do think there may be the seed of a good story here. Clearing out all of the unnecessary minutiae will give that seed room to grow. Good luck.

  8. jch
    Feb 23, 2013 @ 08:53:50

    I agree with those who have already commented — far too much description. I found myself anxious for the actual story to begin. I would suggest starting with her knocking on the door, maybe. She could describe a bit of the scene around her as she waits, maybe a few sentences. Definitely not a few paragraphs, though! SAO’s example of a rewrite would be a great start. Readers want something to happen on a first page, something that will pull them in quickly. Most won’t have the patience to wade through several paragraphs of description and back story.

    The Real Mr. Rome wasn’t very articulate. If this is your hero, you might want to calm him down enough to interest your readers. His anger may be justified, but the way he expresses it sounds too much like a stereotypical mafia thug.

    I was confused by “business-like folder” as well. Maybe simply “folder” or “leather folder” or “manila folder.”

    My overall impression was that the author is trying hard to set his/her scene perfectly and descriptively, which is fine, but it’s just a bit much here. Focus on the story and characters, and the rest of it will weave its way in where it belongs. While the first few paragraphs started to lose me, you got me back when you started with the character interaction. There’s a story there that readers may be interested in, so just get them there a bit quicker and I think it will draw them in. Best of luck with this, and thanks for sharing. :)

    @Marie, I am just curious — what do you mean about neck muscles? I think that when it’s described as it is here, it is just meant to give an impression of a very muscular man, one who works out to the point that the cords of his neck are very prominent.
    And I personally know many men with very muscular thighs — my hockey player son, for one. I didn’t think it an odd phenomenon, but maybe that’s just because I see it every day! :)

  9. Jill Sorenson
    Feb 23, 2013 @ 10:35:31

    Here are a couple of specific problems with the first few paragraphs:

    1.Adverbs. Carefully and cautiously in the opening sentence, two words that mean the same thing and don’t need to be there. Carefully is repeated in the second paragraph, and then cautiously again later. Get rid of all of these adverbs and your prose will zip along at a faster pace.

    2. Adjectives. Huge metal gates and heavy iron hinges; dusty gravel, big yard, barren landscape. When you use adjectives in the same way (two + noun, one + noun) it can sound repetitive and clunky. Less is more here, as well. Too much clutter slows down the reader without helping her visualize the scene.

    3. Repetition. In addition to repeat adverbs, which really stand out, I see several uses of straight, glance, stand, forward, etc. Repetition is jarring, I think because it tricks the reader into thinking she already read that part or lost her place.

    Good luck. :)

  10. theo
    Feb 23, 2013 @ 10:56:15

    I agree that it just took way too long to get to any kind of interesting content. Because of the descriptions, I found myself skimming. Though you might have a great story here, I wouldn’t read on. I was once very involved with a series that, as time went on, lost track of the main characters for lots of other things. I no longer read it. I want the main characters first and foremost. It’s the same idea. Description should add to the story, not take center stage in it and your first few paragraphs do just that.

    Also, what I know of your Hn…you repeatedly tell us she’s careful twice, cautious and surprised all within the first two paragraphs. I don’t need her to be kick-ass, but she comes across (as someone else said) as very timid. Also, reading through, I’m not even sure if you’ve introduced the hero, but beside the fact that she appears timid, she’s also not too bright in her choice of friends. This does not bode well.

    Analyze SAO’s rewrite and go from there. Trust your readers to fill in the blanks. Less can often be more to draw the reader’s imagination into the story. Cut the timid descriptions and just go with her straightening her back a bit more. We’ll all get the idea.

    Good luck to you and kudos for putting your story out there.

  11. Shy
    Feb 23, 2013 @ 11:47:00

    It’s pretty good. Very competent writing, though I agree with the others here when they say it could use some trimming.

  12. Mary
    Feb 23, 2013 @ 15:03:34

    I agree with most of the other comments-a lot of description here. Most of it is well-written, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it is a little boring-as a first page. I think that some of your good descriptions could be pushed away for later, and focus mainly on the action at first.
    The only major problem I have here is with the repetition. The first sentence uses both carefully and cautiously, and cautiously appears later on as well. Pick one to use in the first sentence, then make sure that the rest of the descriptions aren’t so similar.
    Then, this might just be a pet peeve, but sentences like this really annoy me: “This shouldn’t be too difficult, she could do it. She could.” This phrasing adds a lot of emphasis, and it makes sense in really difficult or dangerous situations. It doesn’t even bother me when she does it later on saying “This was Mr. Rome?”, because that’s a situation where I can see being freaked out enough to put that kind of emphasis on your words. But from what we know at this point, she’s just walking across a parking lot, into an office. It makes the situation seem really dramatic, but at the same time it also sounds silly to me. I don’t know, this could definitely be a personal thing and it might not bother anyone else.
    The other time it bothers me is this “That must be Mr. Rome, she thought. That had to be him.” I think you only need must or had, not both.

    I will add the disclaimer that I don’t read a lot of romantic suspense, and it’s entirely possible that your writing style works well within that genre. Overall, it sounds like you have an interesting premise (unlike some of the commenters, I am intrigued by a hero like Mr. Rome), but it gets weighed down here. Not saying that description is bad, it’s nice to know the setting, but there is a lot of it here.

    Good luck, and kudos for sending it in to get reader critique! (:

  13. C.J.
    Feb 23, 2013 @ 23:44:01

    I’m not going to cover the things everyone else did other than to say you’ll have to save the lush descriptions for another genre. RS needs a faster pace and greater tension. I do have a few prose-related comments.

    First, get rid of your “she coulds.” She could see… She could hear… Let’s take the 2nd to last paragraph as an example. “She could see a doctor’s stitches crawling along the cut like a caterpillar…” This is creative prose, but your strongest nouns and verbs are getting buried in the middle of the sentence. Just write, “Stitches crawled along the cut like a caterpillar…”

    Second, in paragraph 10 (is this really just one page??), you hit on one of my pet peeves: telling us how the voice sounded the guy actually spoke. Look at the order of these two sentences: His head jerked back as if he’d been slapped and his voice started at a growl, rising steadily until it hit a roar. ‘I’m going to fucking kill him!…” How does she know his voice started at a growl and rose to a roar before he spoke?

    Third, watch your to be verbs (was, were, had been, etc.). Sometimes they indicate passive tense (was surprised, were parked, was dressed, were thrust, etc). Often, they just suck some of the life from your writing. Let me show you two examples from your work. In the very first paragraph, you have “…bungelow stood…” You could have said “the bungelow was on its original foundation” but you chose to give it a little personification so we’d have a more descriptive picture of the bungelow. But notice how you describe the interior. “There were the remains of an old kitchen…” “There were ancient pieces of furniture…” Do you see how the first one is more vivid? There is (ahem) nothing inherently wrong with using was/were and they have their place, but whenever you see them, take a second look. You might be able to use a stronger, more descriptive verb. Remember, it’s better to use a strong verb than to use a weak verb + adjective or adverb.

    You have some good stuff here. Just tighten up so the prose is sharper and the pacing is faster.

  14. Becky Black
    Feb 24, 2013 @ 07:26:29

    I agree that there’s too much description, which is slowing everything down too much. Do we need to know that large metal gates have large metal hinges? I’d take that as a given.

    I’d suggest maybe changing the name of the business to Rome’s Trucking, because Rome Trucking just made me think we were in a place called Rome (though probably not the one in Italy.) Rome is far more strongly associated with a place name rather than a person’s name, so it made me have to do a mental adjustment.

    A couple of times you use comparison words with nothing to compare them to. Her car is “older”. Older than what? The truck it’s parked beside? The not-Mr. Rome guy is shorter – but shorter than who? Can’t he just be short?

    There is a lot of repetition. Not just in the words used, but ideas expressed. The paragraph about the informality of the business says the same thing twice. The second half of it could be cut entirely.

    The whole mistaken identity thing seems a bit contrived. Okay, so she could certainly assume the short guy is Mr. Rome, but wouldn’t she ask to confirm it, before she started addressing him as such? I’m sure that’s what most people would do. Even just a “Mr. Rome?” and then when she finds out it’s the other man she has to mentally switch gears would work without it seeming as contrived.

    I personally wouldn’t read on, because the heroine is coming over as almost pathologically anxious and insecure. So much so that I find it unconvincing she’s come here on her own at all. She’s not just nervous to a normal amount, but to the point she has “issues”. If that’s deliberate, then fine, but I’m currently off insecure characters who constantly second guess themselves, assume they’re at fault, etc. So that might be just a personal thing.

  15. Angela Booth
    Feb 24, 2013 @ 17:35:36

    Your writing is fine. After you get rid of the adverbs and adjectives, you’ll have a smooth writing style.

    However, you’re thinking too much, rather than getting into the character, and FEELING.

    You lost me at “Braking carefully, Katherine drove cautiously”. There’s one reason I’d stop reading here (other than the character driving and braking at the same time) — I’m assuming that this is the heroine, and I don’t want to read about a TSTL woman in a romantic suspense.

    If she’s not the heroine, and she’s going to be slaughtered in Janet Leigh Psycho style, you’ve got to find a way to show that.

    Give us her full name, age and occupation. That distances the reader.

    By the end of the page, you get to the point. She’s there to collect money. Shouldn’t she be thinking about that rather than eyeballing the scenery?

    If she’s nervous, fine — make us feel her nerves. Give us the reason she MUST GET the money. If she’s in a situation like this, where no matter what, she’s going to confront a construction boss to get him to hand over her cash, there is NO WAY she’d worry about what the place looked like.

    Granted, if she gets into a confrontation, she might be looking for somewhere close to the office to park her car so that she can get to it, and get away. She might also be thinking about what Rome could sell, so he could pay up.

    Stop thinking so much, and FEEL what’s happening.

    Imagine yourself in the character’s shoes. Why did she lend all her money? Why hasn’t it been repaid? How does she intend to get the money? What leverage does she have? Will she use threats, sex, what?

    A minor annoyance — character names. At the top of the page she’s Katherine, then she’s Katy at the end of the snippet. Stick to one or the other.

    Delete anything like this: “She glanced toward the house, where the front door stood open to the crisp morning air, one gnarled tree, ancient and gnarled, leaning protectively over it.” She’s there to collect money. Would she really SEE this?

    In short: give us what the character’s thinking and feeling.

  16. Irish Lass
    Feb 24, 2013 @ 20:03:04

    Hi! Kudos to you for posting your opening. It takes a lot of courage to post something on the Internet, and it’s far easier to be a critic than a creator. Takes guts to write a book and put part of your soul out there.

    I don’t have a problem with your lead being nervous or insecure. The indomitable Scarlett O’Hara had a few TSTL moments. Jane Eyre had a TSTL moment or two. Most every great literary character does. Perfect heroes and heroines become tedious and predictable.

    If we understand your female lead a little more, if we your readers understand what’s made her insecure, that could help. As Twain said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” Have her act in spite of her fear, and we’ll be on her side.

    Your post seems a bit long, I thought there was a 600 word limit on First Pages. That’s okay, it provides us with a little more insight on your writing style.

    You’ve got a goldmine of suggestions here already, I’m not sure how much more I can add… and the consensus is, there is too much description.

    If you consider paring it down, all these wonderful descriptions won’t “compete” with each other. There will be less clutter and we can “see” what is happening more clearly. Think of a museum wall, for example. They don’t crowd or stack paintings on top of each other, but place them side-by-side, with plenty of white space. This allows the viewer to appreciate every painting on its own merit. Your descriptions will create even more of a mood and attitude if you trim them down.

    Go for suspenseful, creepy and edgy, since this is a romantic suspense, and go for action.

    I’d suggest you come up with a grabber opening line like the great pro’s do – Linda Howard, Sandra Brown, suspense authors like Dennis Lehane, etc.

    It’s what I call a “shirt-collar line.” My father used to grouse, “I’d like to grab that guy by the shirt-collar,” when he was frustrated. A great opening line grabs the reader by the shirt-collar and pulls ‘em in. Like other say – a great hook.

    You can condense a lot of what you have here, I’d say you can even condense what you’ve posted by 50% — meaning, you can cut at least 50%. I might focus on what the setting is doing to your female lead – the heat, for example, contributing to her nerves. Establish her GMC right away, she’s here to get her money / investment back, right? Maybe that’s part of your opening line or paragraph.

    I’ve condensed a few of your paragraphs (below) and hope this is food for thought.

    Best of luck to you, keep writing. You’re very talented, stay with it.

    [come up with opening line]

    [Suggested cuts / rewrites / tweaks]

    Katherine drove cautiously through the huge gates, past the large ‘Rome Trucking’ sign in red letters. How enormous the yard was, three or four city lots in size. In back was a row of rusted dump trucks, their behemoth shapes casting eerie shadows.

    Katy swerved in a half-circle, her car tires chewing into dust. There. She’d park over there, next to the ten or so pickups across from the old grey bungalow. She squinted in the morning glare. Likely Rome’s house at one time, and now doubling as an office. The Rome Trucking business was family-owned and went from a fax machine in a bedroom to a multi-million dollar empire. Her friend Bruno said the best time to catch Mr. Rome was in the morning, after he’d had two cups of java and something cinnamon and glazed.

    She gathered her business folder and purse and stepped out of her car, the polish of her heels clouding with dust. The sound of a hammer ringing rose from somewhere. Probably a welder at work. The metal pinging had the rhythm of bullets hitting steel and grated on her last nerve. Sweat had collected along her back and she pulled her suit jacket free from her perspiring skin.

    Katy drew a deep breath. It was now or never. Showtime.

    As she climbed the front wooden steps, she stopped. Angry male voices ricocheted inside the bungalow.

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