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MILLLICENT G. DILLON, represented by Harold Ober Associates, is the world’s expert on authors Jane and Paul Bowles. She has won five O. Henry Awards and been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner. I worked with Dillon on her memoir, The Absolute Elsewhere, in which she describes in luminous prose her private meeting with Albert Einstein to discuss the ethics of the atomic bomb. Read more. . .

SASHA TROYAN is a Professor of English at Montclair University and author of the critically-acclaimed novels Angels in the Morning and The Forgotten Island, both Booksense Selections, beautiful stories based upon her childhood in France. I worked with Troyan to develop her new novels, Marriage A Trois and Semester. Read more. . .

LUCIA ORTH is the author of the debut novel, Baby Jesus Pawn Shop, which received critical acclaim from Publisher’s Weekly, NPR, Booklist, Library Journal and Small Press Reviews. I have edited a number of essays and articles for Orth. Read more. . .

BHAICHAND PATEL, retired after an illustrious career with the United Nations, is now a journalist based out of New Dehli and Bombay, an expert on Bollywood, and author of three non-fiction books published by Penguin. I edited Patel’s best-selling debut novel, Mothers, Lovers, and Other Strangers, published by Pan Macmillan. Read more. . .

SCOTT WILBANKS, represented by Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, is the author of the debut novel, The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster, published by Sourcebooks in August, 2015. I’m working with Wilbanks on his sophomore novel, Easy Pickens, the story of the world’s only medically-diagnosed case of chronic naiveté. Read more. . .

SCOTT WARRENDER is a professional musician and Annie Award-nominated lyricist specializing in musical theater. I work with Warrender regularly on his short stories and debut novel, Putaway. Read more. . .

M. TERRY GREEN enjoys a successful self-publishing career with multiple sci-fi/fantasy series set in the Multiverse, based upon her expertise in anthropology and technology. I worked with Green to develop a new speculative fiction series. Read more. . .

ANIA VESENNY, represented by Beverly Slopen Literary Agency, is a recipient of the Evelyn Sullivan Gilbertson Award for Emerging Artist in Literature and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I edited Vesenny’s debut novel, Swearing in Russian at the Northern Lights, and her second novel, Sandara. Read more. . .

STUART WAKEFIELD is the #1 Kindle Best Selling author of Body of Water, the first novel in his Orcadian Trilogy. Body of Water was 1 of 10 books long-listed for the Polari First Book Prize. I edited Wakefield’s second novel, Memory of Water, and look forward to editing the final novel of his Orcadian Trilogy, Spirit of Water. Read more. . .

GERALDINE EVANS is a best-selling British author. Her historical novel, Reluctant Queen, is a Category No 1 Best Seller on Amazon UK. I edited Death Dues, #11 in Evans’ fifteen popular Rafferty and Llewellyn cozy police procedurals, which received a glowing review from the Midwest Book Review. Read more. . .

JUDY LEE DUNN is an award-winning marketing blogger. I am working with Dunn to develop and line edit her memoir of reconciling liberal activism with her emotional difficulty accepting the lesbianism of her beloved daughter, Tonight Show comedienne Kellye Rowland. Read more. . .

JEFF RUSSELL is the author of the debut novel, The Rules of Love and Law, based upon Jeff’s abiding passions for legal history and justice. Read more. . .

LEN JOY is the author of the debut novel, American Past Time. I worked with Len to develop his novel from its core: a short story about the self-destructive ambitions of a Minor League baseball star. Read more. . .

ALEX KENDZIORSKI is an American physician working in South Africa on community health education and wildlife conservation. I edited Kendziorski’s debut novel Wait a Season for Their Names about the endangered African painted wolf, for which he is donating the profits to wildlife conservation. Read more. . .

ALEXANDRA GODFREY blogs for the New England Journal of Medicine. I work with Godfrey on her short fiction and narrative nonfiction, including a profile of the doctor who helped save her son’s life, “Mending Broken Hearts.” Read more. . .

In addition, I work with scores of aspiring writers in their apprenticeship to this wonderful literary art and craft.

  • By Victoria Mixon

    Red letters flew into John’s vision, projected from his Eyespy. Maps and instructions flooded the Wallscapes. Warnings wailed in his Earbug.

    Full evacuation? They can’t be serious. This is the third major drill since June.

    John glanced up at the skylight of the observation lounge where he had escaped to catch up on technical documents. The blue and white orb of the Earth sparkled in the mid-day luminescence of the Sun. The sight, while beautiful in calmer moments, suddenly chilled him to the bone. The normally laser-straight and hair-thin cable that anchored his world to the Earth bowed and shimmied. The implication coalesced in his mind like a driver whose car was careening off a bridge.

    The cable. They said this could never happen. They said it was unbreakable.

    His heart thundered and his breath shuddered in ragged gasps.

    “Evacuation,” he cried out, “evacuation! It’s no drill! We gotta get off!”
    —Andrew Rosenberg

    Developmental Edit

    I like the progression from John’s casual, confident tone to sudden panic. That’s a nice little character arc right there!

    Tense? check
    Detailed? check
    Raises a question? check What’s the warning for?
    Drop-kicks us off the end? check Holy cow—the cable broke!

    What does this paragraph tell us about the book we’re starting? John is on some type of space station anchored to the Earth by a single cable. He works with technical documents, likes to be alone to focus, is equipped with a whole smorgasbord of technical gadgetry, and has been here at least since June.

    Do I want to follow this character through a whole novel? Sure. He seems intelligent, well aware of his surroundings, and able to interpret a situation in the blink of an eye. Those are excellent qualities in a protagonist.

    Genre? Sci fi. Space sci fi.

    Do we need to know who the character is, how they got here, where they were before? We have plenty of information to know what he’s doing and how he needs to react.

    Do we need to know what he’s going to do next? We already know—he’s going to try like heck to evacuate! As would I, in his shoes.

    Does this paragraph drop us right smack in a specific moment in this character’s story? You betcha. And it’s an excellent moment, one in which he is facing unexpected mortal danger.

    So let’s talk about the structure of it. It’s got good, concrete details and high tension. I’m slightly distracted by the verbs “flew” and “wailed,” and this is one situation in which I’d add a couple of words to keep the reader from stumbling over what to think of John’s vision. I would also expect John’s physical reaction to be slightly more instantaneous than it is, and there’s a metaphor at the climax of the scene that distracts us from the tension of the moment. Can this be made shorter and snappier, avoiding repetition, while streamlining the tension and jolting us exactly the way John’s jolted?

    Copy & Line Edit

    Red letters ran across John’s line of vision, projected from his Eyespy. Maps and instructions flooded the Wallscapes, and warnings sounded in his Earbug.

    Full evacuation? They can’t be serious. This is the third major drill since June.

    John glanced from his technical documents to the skylight of the observation lounge. The blue and white orb of the Earth sparkled in the luminescence of the Sun, a sight that suddenly chilled him to the bone. Normally laser-straight and hair-thin, the cable that anchored his world to the Earth bowed and shimmied.

    His heart thundered.

    They said this could never happen. That cable is unbreakable.

    His breath came in ragged gasps.

    “Evacuation!” He jumped up. “Evacuation! It’s no drill—we gotta get off!”


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No Responses to “Free HOOK Edit: Red letters flew into John's vision—”

  1. I like this! It’s a story that I would want to read, with an opener that would make me pick it up off the shelf and take home.

  2. Sold!
    Oh wait, this is my submission.
    Thanks for the edit!

  3. Yikes. How about this for sit up and pay attention? I can visualize his face changing as he realizes what is happening. Pretty neat!

  4. Quick question…why are the italics reversed from my submission? Don’t know if that was intentional or just an HTML issue.

    Another thing I’m thinking about is the June reference. I wanted him to say “third one this year” but then I realized it was mid January so that made no sense. So I picked June as a reference time, but I don’t want that to imply that he’s been there just since June. The point is that he treats it like most office works treat a fire drill: “okay, who burned toast in the kitchen?”
    This is a total aside but the last place I worked at was evacuated twice. Once for someone burning popcorn in the microwave, once for a chef heating hot wings under a smoke detector. In neither case was anyone in any remote danger.
    So I can imagine that no matter how much wailing is going on, most people are jaded to these things, even if they smell smoke. That is, until they look out the window…

  5. Oh, the italics thing is just my formatting to differentiate between the hook and my commentary. It’s the same differentiation I use between an epigram and a post. The only problem with this formatting is that if there are italics in the thing I’m italicizing, I have to un-italicize them to differentiate them from the italics.

    And for my next trick, I will turn a hat into a pony.

    I think you’re fine with the reference to June. The little summary I use is intended to be purely factual: this is what we know. It’s not intended to include implications: this is what we can assume. I think we can assume John’s been on this space station since before June because he thinks of it as a trivial date rather than the event of his arrival.

    You want total aside? About a month ago I started heating oil on the stove for popcorn and went in the other room and forgot about it. I arrived back in the kitchen as the smoke alarm went off, just in time to see the oil ignite. I had to get a pan leaping with foot-high flames out of the house while preventing my fire-ophobic son from running downstairs on his way outside to safety and seeing what I’d done.

    You know what I learned from that? If you’re going to make popcorn JUST MAKE IT.


  6. I don’t read a lot of sci-fi anymore, but I’d keep reading after this hook. I need to know what the cable is for, how people move on/in it, and what happens when they (inevitably) get stuck out there in space!

  7. One time I started a grease fire. . . .

    I love the tension in the opening paragraphs, Andrew!

  8. Now you have to tell us about the grease fire, Jordan. . .


  9. The problem with the way novels are written nowadays is you get plopped into the middle of the action and feel disoriented. But that’s what the publishers want.

    Luckily you give enough clues that a person quickly gets an idea of what’s going on. The very first sentence suggests futuristic technology and a bad situtation. We get more hints that this is above the Earth and all hell’s broke loose–everyone is endanger due to some malfunction.

    Okay, I want to know what happens next!

  10. Jeannette, as much as I would like to blame publishers for everything wrong with books nowadays, the only reason they prefer any particular technique is because it works. They get their idea of what works from what readers buy. They are, after all, businesspeople.

    You might want to check out Competing in the writers’ aristocracy.


  11. I like the idea of being connected to something so vital that you can’t live without by such a tenuous connection. Knowing this vital connection could potentially break at any moment conveys a real sense of panic.

  12. Stephanie St.Clair said on

    I liked how it drew me in. I would definitely keep reading to find out what happens.

  13. I like the urgency in this scene. I also like how you build the anticipation and fear of the cable giving way without explicitly saying “the cable broke.” And great use of simile!

  14. aimeestates said on

    Good job, Andrew!

  15. Suggestions made the read flow much better. It certainly grabbed my interest. I would continue reading to learn more about the characters, the emergency, and whether they make it off in time!

  16. I’m really not into space sci-fi, but this is a good hook! Beautiful descriptions, and you make sure to establish the setting right away.