Very First Attempt!

Hello everyone! I’ve long held a passion to write a novel and have a good idea for a crime story.
However, I’ve never tried to get anything down on paper before and don’t have a great deal of spare time and so learning the craft has been something that I’ve struggled to get going with.

However, the urge to write has suddenly become quite strong and so I thought I’d have a go.
Here’s the very first draft of something I’ve written this morning…a short opening to my (hopefully) first novel. Yes, it’s raw and needs padding out, so please give me some brutal criticism in how I can improve.

            Jane Morrison thought that life simply could not get any better. As she strolled, arm-in-arm through Annesley Wood with her fiance, she thought excitedly about the day in April when they were to be married. Although there was still so much to do before then, Jane enjoyed the little butterflies that fluttered around her tummy when she thought about saying "I will" at the alter in eight months time. Now, it was late August and the sun shone through the green canopy of the wood, bathing the ground in a soft yellow glow. The air was still a tad cold, however and so Jane pressed herself into Josh to gain some small bit of warmth from his body, enjoying the closeness between them.

As they both strolled along the narrow, dirt path that wound through the forest, the couple's German Shepherd dog, Blade came trotting towards them, a long stick clamped gently between his powerful jaws. As Blade reached them, he dropped the stick at their feet and for a moment, Jane was annoyed as Josh broke free of their embrace, reached down and picked the stick up from the dusty ground.
"Sit!", he commanded and Blade obeyed without question, sitting down on his hind legs, eyes fixed upon the makeshift toy in his masters hand. A small excited yelp escaped from the powerful dog, as Josh moved his hand back to throw the stick along the path once more for Blade to chase. Blade bounded off in pursuit as Josh launched the stick ahead, barking loudly as he disappeared down the far side of a small hill up ahead.
"You know that you can get real toys for Blade to chase don't you Josh?" Jane informed him. "That stick could inflict a serious injury." 
"He loves it!", complained Josh. "Why pay for a silly plastic toy, when I can just pick one up off of the ground here? Anyway, think of the money I'm saving. You can have an extra guest at the wedding."
"Or we'll have to cancel the wedding altogether when the vets bill comes in," Jane countered, a small grin forming as she quickly manoeuvred herself in front of Josh so that he had to stop abruptly. Jane snaked her arms up around the back of Josh's head and pulled him close to her, kissing him passionately. Jane didn't mind public shows of affection and anyway, there was nobody else around. Josh returned her sponateneous act with equal measure, moving his strong arms around her back. Jane felt the passion within her increase as Josh moved a hand to her bottom and squeezed a buttock gently. Life could not be better.

From behind her, Jane was aware of Blade returning from his short stick-chase. Although her eyes were closed, enjoying the intensity of the moment she'd initiated, she sensed Blade at their side and heard the soft thump of the retrieved stick hitting the ground as Blade dropped it at their feet. Josh released his grip, breaking away from their kiss gently, causing Jane to open her eyes once more, the sudden transition between darkness and light dazzling for a second or two. When the haziness had cleared, she looked once more upon Josh's face. As she refocused, Jane became aware that something wasn't right. Blade was barking excitedly at their side, expectantly waiting for Josh to throw the stick once more. But Josh was stood still, staring down, his eyes wide open, unwavering, his face suddenly pale.
Jane followed his gaze down to where the stick lay on the dust-covered ground and as she did so, a piercing, uncontrollable scream escaped from her mouth. Blade barked more fiercely now. But on the ground at their feet, instead of the nondescript stick there lay a decomposing, severed human arm.

Dear LeeSalter999,
A belated welcome to, Scrivener! the bottom of the Abyss. Or would be if it weren’t afloat. For 'tis a rudderless pirate ship, literarily, metaphorically and literally. Drifting aimlessly, its sails teased with nothing more blusterous than inertia.

Contact with other members of the crew, denizens of the Abyss, steeped in moral turpitude, and aspiring to standards no more taxing than, abysmal and nihilistic, should, wherever practicable, be avoided. Ask of them no favours, make no promises and commit to nothing on their behalf,
and…never!..never!..ever!..ask, “… so please give me some brutal criticism…”
Those words, are as a bucket of blood thrown overboard, into a shark infested sea.

Nothing remains, but to inform you, that once you’ve signed your soul away to the L&L pseudo developers/Take the money and run merchants, there is no escape.

Make the most of it, by treading warily and learning to survive.
For what it’s worth, once again, Welcome aboard Scrivener, LeeSalter999.
I shall call you Lee.
Take care


As my politer cousin says, welcome to Scriv.

I relish the opportunity to apply my own brand of uneducated, uninformed… well I call it opinion, but if you want to use the word “brutality” I can oblige.

I’m worried about two things given that this is an opener.

  1. You might be mis-selling your story with the opening paragraphs. As a fan of primarily black ops stories I would be unlikely to pick up a book that leads off with lots of talk about how great weddings are and how much planning there is to do. A story that starts straight away with some sort of crime and trouble, however… That I’d be likely to read on.

  2. You kind of telegraphed the punch on this one. The long lead up gave us plenty of time to think about what might go wrong. When the arm dropped on the floor, it was an ‘oh yeah, there you go’ moment.

So consider switching things round a bit and go for a ‘hot’ open that doesn’t give readers (who are usually an imaginative bunch) chance to second guess.

Something like:

When you throw a stick for your dog you don’t expect it to come back with a severed human arm gripped tightly in its jaws. The sight of the dog standing proudly over the limb, which appeared to be in an advanced state of decomposition, snapped Jane away from what had been happy thoughts of wedding plans and honeymoons…

Thank you both for your very kind welcome, I’m so looking forward to the journey (is the J word allowed here?), through the trials and, no doubt many, tribulations along the rocky road of creating my first novel. I promise to not succumb to any more cliche-ridden text than those I have just used!

Thanks for the comments. I certainly take your point about the opener and will re-write it to be a more punch, grab your attention kind of prologue. It was a first draft and worthy of some brutal criticism. :slight_smile:

I’ll post back when it’s done.
Looking forward to conversing with everyone.

Or better still… “…from what had been happy thoughts of a quick honky-tonk, right there on the soft moss cushioned, forest floor.” :smiling_imp:

Ah, if only it were that easy…


No it wasn’t. If these were the first words written for the first draft of your first attempt, then you should be really encouraged.

Thank you pigfender. I am encouraged and have ploughed on to write a couple of scenes of chapter one. I think that I’m going to be a “get it all down on paper and edit it afterward”, kind of writer more than a meticulous planner or snowflaker. I will need to get some of the plot down in Scriv, but I think that I’m just going to see where this story takes me for the most part.

I do take the comments from Floss on-board however and will make some edits accordingly. As well as a more punchy beginning, I’ve also re-used a copule of words in quick succession…

…could be changed to…

…for instance.
The most important thing though? I’m really enjoying writing it! :slight_smile:

Ok, here’s another excerpt from my novel…Working title: Severence Pay.

            Thorne and Brookes gathered behind the small desk in Dr Mountjoy’s office and waited with anticipation as the professor held the DVD between the thumb and forefinger of a latex-gloved hand and slid it into the DVD-ROM drive of her desktop computer. Thorne felt this mouth turn dry as they waited for the image to pop up on the screen, his heartbeat increasing with every second that passed. This case was not even nine hours old and yet here they were with contact from the killer already. On day one. It was unheard of. 

            None of them spoke as the sound of the cogs whirring away inside the computer seemed to amplify in the nervous atmosphere. Thorne gathered his thoughts as they waited. How did Mountjoy know that this DVD was from the killer? How did she know it had anything to do with their case? Thorne wasn’t sure that he wanted to know the answers to those questions as the DVD playback software launched itself on the computer screen.

The monitor flickered a little and then came into focus. As it did the image that was displayed across the screen made Brookes involuntarily raise  her hand to her mouth to stifle a gasp. A grainy image of a figure wearing a black balaclava enveloped the screen as the camera was switched to record. Thorne noticed that the eyes that peered back at them were red in colour, either some clever computer effect added after the recording had been made or coloured contact lenses. He suspected the latter. 

            To Brookes they looked like the devil’s own eyes, she thought, even in that brief moment when they had appeared on the monitor screen, that they were filled with hate and with loathing. The pupils could not be seen, just two pools of rounded red venom. 

            The figure on screen seemed to take a moment or two to decide that the camera was indeed recording, before stepping back into a darkened room so that his full length was portrayed to the watching, fixated audience. Thorne decided from the build of the person that they were looking at a man and as he watched, folded his arms, and began to stroke his chin as he always did when concentrating. 

           Brookes took in the view of the room that the man was stood in. From the darkened images that she could make out, it looked like some sort of disused factory. The walls were of bare brick, not rendered in any way, not plastered or painted, A single light bulb hung from a tall ceiling, shining a dull glow on proceedings but not enough to make viewing easy. 

           The man in the video stood, now with his hands on his hips. He was wearing a boiler suit of some description, his hands were gloved and apart from the red eyes and the lips that protruded from the slits in the balaclava, there was nothing else to give them anything to go on, no clues as to the identity of the man that they were watching. 

            As they watched, Thorne noticed that there was no sound on the recording, just an eerie, foreboding silence emanating from the screen. The timer on the playback software ticked over to one minute thirty seconds as the man moved forward once more towards the camera. The image jerked and moved as he picked the camera up and the view panned around. Brookes noticed that there were no windows in the room, or if there were, any light from them was extinguished by the heavy black curtains that she could just make out in the background. 

            As the camera moved and jolted around, it slowly brought into focus another image that made Brookes flinch. As the man set the camera down, the image revealed the sight of a naked woman. She was bound and gagged and there was upon her face a look of sheer and utter terror. Both her hands and feet were tied together with rope and as the man moved back into shot, her eyes widened in a terrified frenzy. She writhed and struggled to break free of the bonds that held her to what looked like a surgeons table. The exact kind of table that could be found downstairs from where they were stood in Mountjoy’s office. The tables that the post mortems were carried out on.

            They could only see the back of the man now, as he moved menacingly towards his captive. Thorne squinted at the screen and made out the shape of a syringe, clasped in the assailant’s right hand. As the man moved across and in front of the camera, the woman’s face was covered by the silhouette of his frame. They could only see her legs jerk and kick to be free, but to no avail as the man plunged the syringe into her body. Two minutes, twelve seconds into the recording. 

             By two minutes and twenty seconds, the woman had stopped moving, her feet turned out as the fight went out of her. The man turned once more to face the camera and the red eyes were wide now, the mouth curled into a sadistic smile. He moved back behind the camera once more, out of shot and the scene was left to the victim. She looked lifeless, injected with something that had done its work quickly. As she lay there, her head had slumped over to the side so that her eyes looked directly into the camera. 

              Neither Thorne nor Brookes could look away from the screen, but returned the victim’s lifeless stare with a sense of revulsion about what they had already watched and dread about what might follow. As they stood in silence looking at the screen, the figure re-appeared, walking backwards towards the victim, playing up to the camera. He held his hands up to show them a large axe and they all knew in that instant what was about to happen. Thorne knew that he should have stopped the DVD from playing there and then. But something inside him knew that if they stood any chance of catching this sick fuck, then they must watch it in its entirety. The killer might give them something, a mistake. 

           Even though there was no sound on the recording, Thorne could hear every thump of the axe as the killer raised it above his head and brought it crashing down with immense force against the woman’s throat, severing her head in one clean swing. They watched in horror, as one by one the killer removed his victims arms with the axe. Brookes found herself thanking the God that she’d never believed in that the killers aim was true as the dismemberment progressed with savage brutality. When it was over, the scene was one of carnage. Dark blood stained the table, sprayed the exposed brickwork, pooled in a lake upon the concrete floor. The maniac that had carried out the act, back still to the camera dropped the axe to the floor, no sound confirming its fall. His shoulders heaved up and down as exhaustion overtook him. Six minutes and forty two seconds on the clock.

Finally, the figure bent down to the ground. Thorne thought that he was picking up the axe, but Brookes noticed that he was in fact soaking his gloved hand in the blood that had collected there. He rose again after a moment or two and moved off to the left, once more out of shot. Seven minutes and twelve seconds on the clock. 

            At eight minutes and thirty two seconds, the camera jerked and moved as the killer picked it up and panned it around to the left. As the mutilated body left the picture to the right of the screen, the camera focused on a wall to the left. Written in tall blood red letters was one word. As he read it the colour drained out of Thorne’s face. Brookes spun around to look at her Detective Inspector, and then back to the screen again to confirm that what she had read was indeed the word spelt out in the victim’s blood. She read it again and she’d been correct. It said THORNE!