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  • Sara's Best
    A freelance writer works on her first novel.

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January 18, 2009



Hi Sara,
Glad you're back blogging. Thanks for sharing your first chapter. Since I'm working on a MS in writing, I've learned to read everything critically, and have a few suggestions. First of all, its good. Jolene is an interesting character that I want to learn more about. The intro about the eels seems too long to me, and there are a few minor gramatical errors. Since this will likely be what a potential publisher reads first, it is important that it be the best you can do. Have fun at your writers meeting. Often others will point out things that you don't notice or haven't thought of. I've gotten many useful suggestions from others in my classes. Anyway, having published articles before, I'm sure you know all this already. Good luck!


Wow. What an honor! I was so excited to learn you might share, and then to find it, wahoo. Bummer that I missed the first round, though I am sure you are happier having taken a chance to refine and edit. Aren't we all? Takes a long time to let it grow and find it's true voice.

I really love it, and I am not saying that because I am crazy about the author.

When I go into a book store, I pick up a book because of the cover art; you know the color, design, text font and title. Paper quailty infuences me too. I love books that have pages like silk; they make a wonderful sound when your flip them. And the smell of a new book is, well intoxicating.

So, I open it up and read the first couple of pages. If the writer draws me in, I buy it. If he/she doesn't I put it back. Sometimes I return on other visits, see the book again, and again pick it up to see if it moves me. This method has surely lost me the opportunity to get to know some writers, but it rarely delivers one I don't like and enjoy. This piece being the equivalent of the first few pages, I will tell you, I would buy it!

OK, now about the cover art.....

I think the way you begin the story is part of the reason I was drawn in. I love it when stories start in one time then move to "the present" and give the reader a window into something fundamental and important about the character, and where the author plans to take you. those first few paragraphs tell a lot about both.

There is only one line I don't understand: "At fourteen Jolene had never wanted anything that badly in her life, she couldn’t imagine, but this morning, sitting in the cool, latte-colored waiting room on the 12th floor of New York’s Gramercy Hospital, about to walk into her third and final interview a spot on Dr. Anderson’s pediatric surgical residency team, she understood the Eel Man." It's the "she couldn't imagine" piece. Don't know if you meant she couldn't imagine it? Small perhaps unimportant criticism.

You ahve a very natural wrtiing voice. It is always evident in your blog and published articles. That voice is in perfect tune here. Very well done, Ms Best.

Sara Best

Danaus and Cat - thank you guys so much for your honest and thoughtful feedback, that's exactly what I'm looking for.

Danaus, just so you don't think that I made the grammatical errors by accident, they were included intentionally to try and make the voice of that story from the memory of a 14-year-old girl sound more authentic. I was trying to write the way I thought 14-year-old would speak. Perhaps I didn't hit the mark though if they came across as simple errors. A good thing for me to think about. Thanks.

I'm thrilled to hear that you both like what you've read so far - especially that you want to know what happens next.

I'm making notes of each of your points and I SO appreciate the support and carefully considered feedback.


I can't wait to read it tonight at home--thanks for sharing, Sara! And what reaction/help/advise does your mom have?

Sara Best

Thanks Cathy, I hope you enjoy it.

I was serious when I said that you guys are the first people in the world that I'm showing it to. My mom hasn't read it yet.

She does full-blown critiques for authors so, when I feel like I have a full first draft that has been taken as far as I can take it, that's when I'm going to give it to her so that she can do a full critique for me. Her advice will be invaluable.


Nice Sara...I'll have to read it at home tonight though...we are actually fairly busy at work today!

But a quick note: anybody ELSE see the G final-season opener on Friday night? Holy CATS!! Thats all I will say on that for now.

And Cathy...hows things with the team Down Under? I can't seem to find much news on the race...even on Velo News...whats up with THAT?? Didn't the race start yesterday??


OOPS...that is supposed to be "the BG final-season opener".


Matt, the criterium starter was on Sunday and Versus has a 30 min highlights reel every day. Crit was won by McEwen. Lots of info on the team site and cyclingnews has full reports including live's all there. The team did great, the comeback has officially begun!


I'm actually following the race on live ticker now, but I won't be able to stay up for the finish, so I am setting my VCR for the VS show tomorrow. (yep, VCR, too cheap to spring for digital cable).

Sara, I like the beginning of the chapter too; it was intriguing--& leaves me wondering if it ties in somewhere later--and I like the way that you put words together. Already I am wondering about this character's emotional life. But, the long sequence of the sister's conversation, although well written, didn't seem to take me anywhere in the end or give me a hook into the next chapter. (except to introduce a little family background). Maybe just a little tweak for the last two sentences is what it needs. Thus sayeth the one who only writes technical papers and hath no literary imagination.


Sara, I'm so honored that you decided to give us a peek into your very first novel!

First of all -- I would also *absolutely* buy the book after reading a few pages. That's how I usually browse around at book stores, as well. I really love the use of an incident from the past to put the present in perspective as seen through the eyes of a character. Very effective.

I agree with what others have already said. The very first thing that I noticed were the small grammatical errors that you already addressed. I'm not sure that they are obvious enough to make the reader understand that they're intended to represent the voice of a younger girl. Also, that sentence that Cat mentioned caused me to reread it a few times when I first read the chapter and I wasn't sure if I wasn't putting pauses in correctly -- or not understanding the point.

One of my favorite parts is the exchange between Jolene and the doctor, in which we begin to understand just how much Jolene idolizes her professionally. The doctor's description of Joshua and his family actually started to bring tears to my eyes. I DEFINITELY want to read more of the story and find out what is happening with Georgia and what Jolene's role in both her profession and her niece's life will be!

Bravo!!! Best of luck at the writers' group tomorrow!


Thanks - I didn't realize that there was any VS coverage of the TDU at all! I'll look for it!


Sara, I liked it!! It's good. I don't know nothing about writing, except what I like to read. I loved the eel story (poor guy).

I didn't know about VS coverage on the race either!
Thanks Cathy.


Yo Sara...NICE!! Read Chapt. 1 last night...LOVED IT! Ready for Chapt. 2! I'm with Theresa...I'm a reader, not a critiquer (is that a word?) I'd be a lousy editor I think. So not much constructive critisim to be had from me. I agree with the rest that you have sucessfully drawn me in. We have the basic cast now...though we have yet to be introduced to the novel's namesake...dying to know more there!

And the eel tank...where on earth did you come up with THAT? (and people say I have a creative imagination!) Not sure if you've seen a Moray eel before...(I've seen plenty diving in Hawaii, various types and sizes). You learn right away NOT to go sticking your hand in any 'pukas' after lobster without first making SURE there is no eel in there. Their teeth are curved in so when they bit something it can't get away (fish being their normal target)...I can't verify this, but have heard from other divers that if an eel bites you, you might have to cut the head off to get it to release (one of the reasons I carry a large dive knife). I've seen a few REALLY LARGE ones...body as big around as my thigh...the mouth is always open much like a barracuda, like they are smiling or something... and they look very sinister and scary!) Hopefully this tank is full of SMALL eels!! (the thought of sicking my arm in makes my skin crawl! Kind of a Fear Factor event of the worst kind! It would only be worse if it were a tank full of large spiders!)

And Cathy, thanks for the heads up on VS...for some reason I didn't set up my new HD DVR for cycling! But got it going now...(we got a widescreen TV just after Thanksgiving...along with the Direct TV HD DVR and HD service...all I can tell you all on that score is you have no idea what you are missing! The diff between an HD show and standard is like going from B&W to color. I am so spoiled now that I pretty much won't watch anything thats not in HD. Bike races in HD...ahhhh! How SWEET IT IS!!!

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