Monday, September 30, 2019

Introducing First 50 Word Critiques!

Happy Monday all you awesome OA readers!  We're gonna try something new.
First 50 word critiques!

Here's how we envision this working, but if you have suggestions for changes, please let us know!

Step one – we post someone's first 50 words [approximately, don't stop in the middle of a sentence].

Step two – folks like you, yes YOU, leave a critique in the comments.  Be nice, but be honest.  [Comments that are not polite/respectful will be deleted.]  What would YOU like to know if this was YOUR first 50 words?  Do you think it's a good opening line for the category/genre?  Does it have a hook?  Does it pull you into the story?  Do you want to read more?  Why or why not?  Be specific, so your critique helps the person who wrote the entry.

Step three – anyone who leaves a comment can email us their own first 50 words IN THAT CATEGORY/GENRE.

Step four – depending on how many emails we get, we'll post 1-2 each Monday over the next several Mondays for critiques.

Step five – once we either run out of entries OR we decide to move on [haven't figured this part out yet], we'll post a new category/genre for the following series.  If you've posted a nice/honest/helpful critique on at least TWO previous entries, we'll consider your first 50 words for inclusion.  This means that even if you don't write in the category/genre that's currently on the blog, you still need to comment if you might want to submit an entry in the future.

Our first category/genre is middle grade [MG] [because that's what I write, and I'm using my first 50 words to start this].  Since this is our first round, you obviously can't comment on at least two previous entries.  So if you write MG and you want to submit your first 50 words for critique, you MUST comment and critique my first 50 in the comment section of THIS blog post.  For future rounds, you'll need to post a critique on at least TWO previous entries before you'll be able to submit.  [And don't wait until the day you email us and go back and post a critique on an entry from several months ago.  We'll notice.]  This will only work if everyone plays fair.

Then send us an email formatted as follows [if this idea works out, we'll probably make a google form, but for now let's do it this way]:

The subject of the email MUST say “First 50 Critique – MG”.  Otherwise it will get lost in all the emails we receive.

The FIRST sentence in your email must state “The following 50 words are my own work and I give OA permission to post it on the OA blog for the life of the blog.”

Next, write “I commented on the entries posted on [date] and [date] as [your online ID].”

Then copy/paste your first 50 words into the email.

We will NOT include your name or other identifying information in the post.  Just your first 50 words.

So here's how the email will look for this first round:

Subject:  First 50 Critique – MG

The following 50 words are my own work and I give OA permission to post it on the OA blog for the life of the blog.

I commented on the entry posted on Monday September 30, 2019 as [your online ID].

My first 50 words:

[Copy/paste your first 50 words here.]

UPDATE: Two of the First 50 Critique entries we received by email last week were misdirected and finally forwarded to us by the person who accidentally received them [hi Michelle, and thanks!]  We're not entirely sure how that happened, but we want to try to prevent that happening in the future.  So, when you send us an entry by email, please be sure to open a brand new email and address it to our gmail account at OperationAwesome6.  Click here for more info on contacting us.  Also, the entry window will probably close on a Wednesday, and we will send a confirming email to everyone who enters.  If you do NOT receive a confirming email by that following Friday, please contact us by Twitter DM and we'll track it down and/or give you an alternate email address to use.

That's it!  Entries will be accepted until end of day on Wednesday October 2.  So leave a comment on THIS blog post on my first 50 words [see below] and send your MG entries now!

Reminder:  Be nice, but be honest.  [Comments that are not polite/respectful will be deleted.]  What would YOU like to know if this was YOUR first 50 words?  Do you think it's a good opening line for the category/genre?  Does it have a hook?  Does it pull you into the story?  Do you want to read more?  Why or why not?  Be specific, so your critique helps the person who wrote the entry.

First 50 Words - MG Entry #1:

Her father never gave her a name. "You're nothing but a smudge," he'd said, with extra emphasis on the word smudge. “A smudge does not have a name.”

He'd flashed the thought at her with so much force, she staggered back as if he'd slapped her.

That was the day, several years ago, when she'd asked to go to school.


  1. I love the first line, it's intriguing and definitely makes me want to read more. I feel like her father hates her and I want to know why. Something so simple as going to school shouldn't be denied to any child so I'm wondering is it an alternate reality or different timeline, where school isn't available to everyone. I'm hooked and would really love to hear more.

  2. The father's labeling of his daughter in this way is a great reveal. If he'd said it, how can he"flash the thgout"? I think you can leave that part out and just go to "she staggered...
    The last line is the hook that makes me want to read more: Why couldn't she go to school? Where is her mother in this situation? What had made her ask this question? Great start!

  3. This is an intriguing opening, really makes me wonder what happens next!

    I'm not sure "flashed" fits your sentence. Maybe snapped? Also, although I enjoyed the reveal about her not going to school, I'm not sure why he answered a question about school by telling her why she doesn't have a name.

  4. I feel her father's hatred, which makes me empathetic to 'her' straight up. 'Nothing but a smudge' sounds original to me. His 'flashing' a thought makes me wonder if they're vampires or something supernatural where thoughts are often read/transported...if not, suggest you change 'flashed'.

    That said, your beginning caught my eye and intrigued me to read on.

  5. Your first sentence pulls me right in since I need to know why this poor child has no name and it's a great hook for MG. Then the next two lines tug at my heart even more because this dad is a jerk to his daughter and I want to shield her even more. I sympathize with her character.

    The next line did throw me with the word "flashed" but after reading one of the other comments I have to agree that this might mean he telepathically sent it her way. If so, this is cool and appealing enough for me to want to read more.

    The last line has me wondering if the character asked to go to school after this exchange with her dad or the conversation came because she asked to go to school. My first thought was that this convo is because she asked to go to school so if this was your intent, then you're good. Otherwise, you want to clear this up.

    Great sample that makes me want to know more...

  6. Excellent hook. I am interested in what happens to the character, and if we'll find out anything about the mother character. I might change all the "he'd" to just "he" though.

  7. It's a good hook. Makes me want to know if she'll get a name and go to school. I'm curious where the journey will go.

    Flashed a thought is a peculiar turn of phrase. Not necessarily bad, just not something one sees all the time.

  8. Thank you all for your critiques! Lots of great information and suggestions for me.

    To clear up what appears to be the main "question", this is an urban fantasy that starts on another planet [and eventually moves to Earth]. On that planet, the people speak telepathically, which factors in hugely in the story. Presumably by reading the back cover copy, readers will know to expect a non-Earth setting at first, but I'll consider your other ideas too, for clarity.

    And thank you to those of you who sent us emails. You'll see your entries on the blog over the next few weeks.

    You're all awesome!

    1. Dena...good to know about this being an urban fantasy. As least your words made us think along these lines.

      I often have the thought as I write and rewrite my beginning words that hopefully my potential reading audience will read my back cover blurb before they read the inside.

      I also think this when I send a query to an agent...that they will have my short query synopsis as a reference for when they read the first lines, especially since my story is a fantasy. :)

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  10. Hi. I like the first line as well, and the premise of a troubled father/daughter relationship. I question the use of the word smudge, though. Was it commonly used in a certain period? And if so, does it hint at this possibly being an historical tale? Because I'd be hooked, I love historical fiction. And the line in the second paragraph that says, “He'd flashed the thought at her...” This may need clarifying. Did he flash her through mental telepathy, making this paranormal? Or did the expression on his face flash with intensity? An exclamation point could be added too, for extra emphasis. Also, in the last sentence, maybe the time frame can be established later to make the statement more succinct and read stronger: “That was the day when she'd asked to go to school.”


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