Re: First novel would love feedback!

#1
Hello everyone I am just starting to post my first novel and was wondering if anyone would like to give me feedback.  It is a Flintlock Fantasy novel which mixes muskets and magic, there is a unique magic system that’s requires reagents to cast spells and besides the powder mage novels (which btw are amazing) the setting is in my opinion unique.

I did the cover art myself and would just really love some feed back on both it and the book so far...

Here is the link for the book: https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/22548/song-of-helheim-reparations

And here is the cover art:https%3A%2F%2Fi.imgur.com%2FB1BDyRB.jpg

Thanks in advance for any feedback!

Re: First novel would love feedback!

#2
First impressions- you paint a vivid picture and I enjoy the construction of your prose. Unfortunately, did not get very far into the first chapter because I had to pause and respond to this immediately as I feel it's something that will read as offensive to diverse audiences...


Dark milk chocolate skin

I know you probably didn't mean any harm in it, and you did it because you've seen it done before, but this is really falling out of vogue, fast. Avoid describing minority/ethnic characters through food metaphors. I say this as a fellow author trying to incorporate diverse characters into my story. I constantly worry about making sure I give fair treatment in the descriptions of my characters of color. We tend to white wash characters, only taking the time to point out the skin of non-white characters, as it has become the custom to assume white skin as the default.

Writing with Color wrote a great article about this: http://writingwithcolor.tumblr.com/post/95955707903/skin-writing-with-color-has-received-several and a follow up article on how to use real colors to describe skin tone: http://writingwithcolor.tumblr.com/post/96830966357/writing-with-color-description-guide-words-for

I hope this was helpful. I plan to give your story another look when I'm not planning on going to bed in ten minutes (lol), especially since both our stories blend magic and some technology.

Re: First novel would love feedback!

#3
RebekkaSLeber Wrote: First impressions- you paint a vivid picture and I enjoy the construction of your prose. Unfortunately, did not get very far into the first chapter because I had to pause and respond to this immediately as I feel it's something that will read as offensive to diverse audiences...


Dark milk chocolate skin

I know you probably didn't mean any harm in it, and you did it because you've seen it done before, but this is really falling out of vogue, fast. Avoid describing minority/ethnic characters through food metaphors. I say this as a fellow author trying to incorporate diverse characters into my story. I constantly worry about making sure I give fair treatment in the descriptions of my characters of color. We tend to white wash characters, only taking the time to point out the skin of non-white characters, as it has become the custom to assume white skin as the default.

Writing with Color wrote a great article about this: http://writingwithcolor.tumblr.com/post/95955707903/skin-writing-with-color-has-received-several and a follow up article on how to use real colors to describe skin tone: http://writingwithcolor.tumblr.com/post/96830966357/writing-with-color-description-guide-words-for

I hope this was helpful. I plan to give your story another look when I'm not planning on going to bed in ten minutes (lol), especially since both our stories blend magic and some technology.


Hmm, well racism is a part of the story seeing as Isi comes from a people that the majority of the world concider to be savages due to the tribal way in which they live and a lot of misinformation on her people exists. However I didn’t think people would take it offensively seeing as she is a main character, the love interest of the other main character, and  an extremely powerful sorceress.

Adrian the other mc sees her as an equal and treats her as such but a lot of other characters will not do so, the time period is around the 1700 or 1800s so Adrian is in the minority as most people in the Helheim empire will see her as a dark skinned savage.

Adrian himself while treating her like an equal even calls her a savage which some might find offinsive but was done because it make sense to the character seeing as he was raised in Helheim and it’s culture. In the end it would be completely unrealistic in my opinion for there not to be racism in this world due to the setting(even if it is fantasy it should have some grounds in reality if you ask me) I use it not to be offinsive but to portray the world in a realistic and unidiolized light, Helheim is not perfect, no character in this book is a shining white knight of virtue everyone is shades of grey even the villain and the main character, everyone is flawed in one way or another.

On that note there is also some sexism due to the time and place of the book’s setting, which could be compared to the 1800s industrial revolution era, there will be examples of strong women in the story like Isi but as a fantasy period piece it is more the exception than the rule, though if you ask me that simply makes those women all the more exceptional seeing as they didn’t simply lay down and take there assigned role passively.

Don’t get me wrong that is not to say racism or sexism are good because they clearly are not. I hope people don’t get to offended by it but if they do I worry that they will really not like this book as that is not going to be the worst thing said about Isi as both a dark skinned person and as a woman. Once again I am not doing it to promote racism or sexism but rather to make the world more realistic, seeing as it is a part of our world even today and much more so back then not a good part mind you but a part nonetheless...

Thanks for the feedback!

P.s. when I get a chance I am going to look into reading your book, I love a good mix of tech and magic in novels(I’m really looking forward to it!)

Re: First novel would love feedback!

#4
Some things I noticed in ch1: 
- You infodump a bit in your first chapter. That's a tendency most writers have at first, but it takes the speed out of your story. Your MC hears horsemen, is obviously scared and then continues to think about the past for quite some paragraphs? The reader won't know what to think. He's also been with Isi for a while, obviously - why is he describing her as if he's never seen her? You could also state something like "her amethyst eyes widened in surprise, stepping back into the mud, which had the same foul colour as her patched dress". Same info, more action, less thinking about the past right when something is about to happen.
- Chocolate - does this man know what that is? If so, is it his first thought when he sees brown skin? You say he's a slave - where did he pick that up? It's an immersion thing, too, besides what Rebekka above me pointed out..
- otherwise, nice descriptions
- Adrian thinks the men could still do something to him, and then is surprised when they do?
-  "he pointed, his long finger pointing out the proper bend," you say the same thing twice, happens a few times
- "He used his good hand to flip the man the coin, the hand that still had all the fingers…" See, that's good exposition. No infodumping, you imply something has happened, the reader can imagine aalll the lovely gory details for themselves
- your grammar/spelling and such is mostly fine, although you do have some run on sentences you might consider splitting.
- age wise... he's been away for at least seven years, so he's what, late twenties? She's sixteen and "laid claim on me long ago"? That's... quite the gap. I mean, I have a 6 year gap with my boyfriend,  but I didn't claim him at 12, y'know.

All in all, interesting beginning. I'd not have revealed where he's been yet, keep that mystery going for a bit to keep the readers on their toes, might be personal tho. Keep those repeats in mind when writing/editing (tools like prowritingaid can help you out on that, I tend to read over them in my own writing). Again, I like your cover a lot and I'm curious where you're going with the magic system, and about Isi's past. I've only read ch 1, so maybe some of this is resolved in the others - shoot me a message if you want me to do the same for those. I'm sorry if I sound harsh, it's  not my intention. Good luck writing, keep it up!


Re: First novel would love feedback!

#5
Wrote: Some things I noticed in ch1: 
- You infodump a bit in your first chapter. That's a tendency most writers have at first, but it takes the speed out of your story. Your MC hears horsemen, is obviously scared and then continues to think about the past for quite some paragraphs? The reader won't know what to think. He's also been with Isi for a while, obviously - why is he describing her as if he's never seen her? You could also state something like "her amethyst eyes widened in surprise, stepping back into the mud, which had the same foul colour as her patched dress". Same info, more action, less thinking about the past right when something is about to happen.
- Chocolate - does this man know what that is? If so, is it his first thought when he sees brown skin? You say he's a slave - where did he pick that up? It's an immersion thing, too, besides what Rebekka above me pointed out..
- otherwise, nice descriptions
- Adrian thinks the men could still do something to him, and then is surprised when they do?
-  "he pointed, his long finger pointing out the proper bend," you say the same thing twice, happens a few times
- "He used his good hand to flip the man the coin, the hand that still had all the fingers…" See, that's good exposition. No infodumping, you imply something has happened, the reader can imagine aalll the lovely gory details for themselves
- your grammar/spelling and such is mostly fine, although you do have some run on sentences you might consider splitting.
- age wise... he's been away for at least seven years, so he's what, late twenties? She's sixteen and "laid claim on me long ago"? That's... quite the gap. I mean, I have a 6 year gap with my boyfriend,  but I didn't claim him at 12, y'know.

All in all, interesting beginning. I'd not have revealed where he's been yet, keep that mystery going for a bit to keep the readers on their toes, might be personal tho. Keep those repeats in mind when writing/editing (tools like prowritingaid can help you out on that, I tend to read over them in my own writing). Again, I like your cover a lot and I'm curious where you're going with the magic system, and about Isi's past. I've only read ch 1, so maybe some of this is resolved in the others - shoot me a message if you want me to do the same for those. I'm sorry if I sound harsh, it's  not my intention. Good luck writing, keep it up!

Thanks for the feedback!

Yeah I was worried about info dumping I’ll have to rework it thank you very much for the examples I might use them.

And yes chocolate is a thing in this world, and it was from his prospective seeing as she was one of the first scraeling he ever saw seeing as the scraeling tribes stay in their territory and never tend to leave them.

As for the age gap he is 24, he went to war at the age of 17 and Isi is 16 or 17 she never really told him, in today’s society that would indeed be a large gap being what 8 years or so? But in the 1800s that was concidered normal from what history I remember(not to say it’s  good simply that it’s a thing that used to happen) she was thrown into the camp at around the age of 14 or 15 and was terrified of Adrian for almost over a year even after he protected her, she didn’t “claim” him until she was 16ish which is still super young but somewhat more realistic it was about a year or so before the story began.

Adrian is not a perfect character, I don’t want him to be I’m shooting for realistic and relatable.

Once again thank you for the feedback I’ll look into fixing those info dumps and other issues and would love to hear what you think about the other chapters.

Re: First novel would love feedback!

#6
I appreciate the world building, Zachary, and the cover is lovely :) Scaerling reminds me of something I had read before, I just do not remember what & the pistols in fantasy is my kind of speed :)

 What I am posting here is just something for you to think about when you are writing. I just want to suggest a few ideas on making your text a bit easier to read on the web. I noticed that for me your sentences are a bit crowded. Sometimes, you do not have a clear subject and verb in each sentence. 

When reading on the web, I prefer simpler structures that do not require re-reading to understand Who is Doing What and Where.

Here, as an example, is your first sentence:

Adrian heard the mounted horsemen before he saw them, he glanced over his shoulder the well-worn gravel track behind him pitted with ruts and washouts where hundreds or even thousands of wagons had driven over, grinding away at the small grey stones that lined the road, creating a depression that now held water and mud. 

My notes: Your first sentence is: Adrian heard the mounted horsemen before he saw them. It misses a period at the end (or a semi-colon).

he glanced over his shoulder the well-worn gravel track behind him pitted with ruts and washouts where hundreds or even thousands of wagons had driven over, grinding away at the small grey stones that lined the road, creating a depression that now held water and mud. 

My notes: You are missing "at" before 'the well-worn track' . Because you had already told me that 'he glanced over his shoulder' the 'behind him' can be safely omitted, making the rest of the sentence flow easier. 

The sentence this long takes away from the urgency of his observation. What I want to know is what he saw behind him. So, perhaps, leaving the second sentence at "He glanced over his shoulder and saw nothing but the well-worn wagon track.

Now, if it is important to estimate how far behind him the other riders are, you can work some description in there, but, again, he gets that image in a glimpse, while racing headlong down the road. 

Good luck with your story!

Re: First novel would love feedback!

#7
Wrote: I appreciate the world building, Zachary, and the cover is lovely :) Scaerling reminds me of something I had read before, I just do not remember what & the pistols in fantasy is my kind of speed :)

 What I am posting here is just something for you to think about when you are writing. I just want to suggest a few ideas on making your text a bit easier to read on the web. I noticed that for me your sentences are a bit crowded. Sometimes, you do not have a clear subject and verb in each sentence. 

When reading on the web, I prefer simpler structures that do not require re-reading to understand Who is Doing What and Where.

Here, as an example, is your first sentence:

Adrian heard the mounted horsemen before he saw them, he glanced over his shoulder the well-worn gravel track behind him pitted with ruts and washouts where hundreds or even thousands of wagons had driven over, grinding away at the small grey stones that lined the road, creating a depression that now held water and mud. 

My notes: Your first sentence is: Adrian heard the mounted horsemen before he saw them. It misses a period at the end (or a semi-colon).

he glanced over his shoulder the well-worn gravel track behind him pitted with ruts and washouts where hundreds or even thousands of wagons had driven over, grinding away at the small grey stones that lined the road, creating a depression that now held water and mud. 

My notes: You are missing "at" before 'the well-worn track' . Because you had already told me that 'he glanced over his shoulder' the 'behind him' can be safely omitted, making the rest of the sentence flow easier. 

The sentence this long takes away from the urgency of his observation. What I want to know is what he saw behind him. So, perhaps, leaving the second sentence at "He glanced over his shoulder and saw nothing but the well-worn wagon track.

Now, if it is important to estimate how far behind him the other riders are, you can work some description in there, but, again, he gets that image in a glimpse, while racing headlong down the road. 

Good luck with your story!


Your probably thinking of the word Skraeling which was what the Vikings called Native Americans when they showed up around 400 years before Columbus, I kind of took it and twisted it, same with other things like to word Helheim which is also a Viking word for a place, as well as Irkstead and LeifsBurdur and several other words.

Isi for example is Choctaw for deer-like and the language she speaks is loosely biased on Choctaw.

Also thank you for the feedback! That sentence does need some work... 

I’ll have to comb over it with a fine toothed pick lol any other pointers you can give me would be most appreciated.

Re: First novel would love feedback!

#9
In reply to your world containing prejudice-- that's fine to do for social commentary. I totally get that. But, you're writing for readers in this world, not yours. If a character described her as "chocolate skinned" that would be one thing. That would serve to express that it's a racist term, or whatever your intention is. But, unless you're going to describe all your characters with food metaphors, it comes off as derogatory b/c, and I hope, you the writer, are not racist. And, since you did not establish who the narrator is or that they are racist... maybe just change it to a color, b/c it's not that hard to do?

Re: First novel would love feedback!

#10

RebekkaSLeber Wrote: In reply to your world containing prejudice-- that's fine to do for social commentary. I totally get that. But, you're writing for readers in this world, not yours. If a character described her as "chocolate skinned" that would be one thing. That would serve to express that it's a racist term, or whatever your intention is. But, unless you're going to describe all your characters with food metaphors, it comes off as derogatory b/c, and I hope, you the writer, are not racist. And, since you did not establish who the narrator is or that they are racist... maybe just change it to a color, b/c it's not that hard to do?

That is a reasonable request, I am almost done writing chapter four after I finish it I will go back and change that.

Re: First novel would love feedback!

#11

RebekkaSLeber Wrote: In reply to your world containing prejudice-- that's fine to do for social commentary. I totally get that. But, you're writing for readers in this world, not yours. If a character described her as "chocolate skinned" that would be one thing. That would serve to express that it's a racist term, or whatever your intention is. But, unless you're going to describe all your characters with food metaphors, it comes off as derogatory b/c, and I hope, you the writer, are not racist. And, since you did not establish who the narrator is or that they are racist... maybe just change it to a color, b/c it's not that hard to do?


Thanks I think it came out even better like this...

She might have passed for just some other street beggar if not for her coloring. Her golden brown skin, a shade of which always reminded Adrian the sunset on a summer day, made all the darker by the mud and dirt and grime on it as well as a lifetime spent outdoors marked her as a foreigner here in Helheim
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