First Impact: The Eyelet Dove by Lindsay Kitson

— August 08, 2012 (7 comments)
Time for another First Impact critique. Remember you are eligible to win a 10-page critique from Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary Agency, if you share your thoughts in the comments. Your critique doesn't have to be long, just useful!

If you want your material critiqued, send it to Details here.

Thank you to Lindsay for submitting the back cover copy of her Dieselpunk novel, The Eyelet Dove.

Keep in mind all this is just my opinion. If it doesn't feel right to you, ignore it. Any in-line comments are to the right, overall thoughts at the end.

Back Cover Copy
I love the elements here, but I feel
like this opening could be trimmed.
Avalice’s impoverished middle class grows restless with the indulgences and warmongering of their King and nobles in their flying fortresses and chateaus in the sky.

This feels like backstory, so I'm now
wondering if all these details really
have to be here.
Ten years ago, Etienne formed the Machinists union, and wrote a book, The Manifesto Machina, about the equality of all people. When the King ordered the disbandment of his union, they refused and the king had them slaughtered, Etienne thrown in prison, and every known copy of The Manifesto Machina burned.

Now Etienne is on a conditional release, serving in the military as an engineer. But when cheaply printed copies of The Manifesto Machina are distributed in the capitol, he’s the first one everyone suspects. The Admiral tries to keep him from the firing squad, but by the time Etienne finds out who reprinted his book, he realizes he can’t turn his back on his beliefs, and joins them.

I know these will connect (I can see
it down there), but this feels like a
whole new story to me. It's a little
Meanwhile, on the Dreadnaught Omnipotent, a flying aircraft carrier, Claire dreams of being Avalice’s first female fighter pilot. But when her dream comes true, she finds herself embroiled in intrigue surrounding the Admiral’s prodigal bastard son, ace pilot Michel. When Michel is suspected of murdering a nobleman, Claire is caught in the middle, trying to uncover Michel’s true motives.

Here it feels like it unravels a bit.
It's good and exciting, but I think it
loses focus a little.
While Etienne stirs up a revolution, the King gets word of a saboteur planted on the Omnipotent, known only as the Eyelet Dove, with a mission to cripple the military when Etienne’s rebels attack. The Admiral must find and arrest the Eyelet Dove before he has a chance to act, and when Avalines take up arms against Avalines, Claire's loyalty will be tested.

Adam's Thoughts
I have a confession. When you said, "the Dreadnaught Omnipotent, a flying aircraft carrier," I said, "Oh HECK yes!"

Yeah, so, I'm easy.

There is a lot of cool stuff here. It sounds like a really solid story that I absolutely would read. I think the only thing it really needs is a little trimming and a little focus.

The trimming comes in deciding which plot points to talk about and which to summarize. For example, the entire 2nd paragraph could be summarized by introducing Etienne in the 3rd paragraph as "former revolutionary Etienne." The trick is deciding what's important enough to stick in here. It's hard to say without having read your story, but as a guideline: (1) Get to the main plot as soon as possible (no backstory, if you can help it) and (2) no history of characters who are not the main character.

Which brings me to the focus. Claire's sadistic choice is the one we're left with at the end, which makes me feel like she's the main character. If Etienne is also a main character, then sure: he can have a full paragraph (though I'd like it if they were connected more). But if his revolution is just the foil for Claire's story, then Etienne doesn't need to be mentioned at all.

Finally, I felt like that last paragraph lost focus a little. To be more specific, it talked about what "the Admiral" must do, for example, when the Admiral is not a character we care about. And it doesn't tell us why Claire's loyalty will be tested, which lessens the impact of the choice.

But as I said, if I had read this as-is, I probably would've peeked at the opening pages. This really does sound like something I'd enjoy.

What's your opinion, guys? How could this be improved?

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  1. This definitely sounds like a book I would read: revolution, difficult choices, Dreadnought Ompnipotent!
    To strengthen this copy, I would definitely shorten it. I think you can stick to the basic hooks and most essential plot points; that will intrigue your audience without confusing them.
    I also wondered who the main character was here. In addition, I had a few questions about character motivation; the jump from Etienne being falsely accused to jumping on the bandwagon seemed forced--so I might leave off the framing and just stick with his ultimate choice for the sake of the story.
    Good luck! I hope I get to read the whole thing someday!

  2. I do not feel qualified to give critical feedback on jacket copy, because while I know what strikes my interest and what doesn't when I pick up a book in the store, I don't really know much more than that.

    So all I'm going to say here is that I would definitely read this book. You pretty much had me at Dieselpunk, before you even got to the actual post. So I guess I'm easy too.

    I do agree with Adam that this sounds mostly like Claire's story, more so than the admiral or Etienne. If that's the case, it might be best to focus on the two guys less.

  3. Thanks for all the comments so far, that's really helpful. I'm going to be starting to query this one in the next month or so, so hopefully you will indeed be able to read it sooner than later :)

    The trouble I've had writing this is it's written in an epic fantasy style with multiple POV characters. While the subplots of each character are tightly woven - actions of one character affect the others as the story goes along, it's hard to get that into a short synopsis.

    Etienne and Claire are the main POV characters, and Roland is a minor one, and there's a second minor one who I didn't manage to get in. Michel isn't one of the POV characters, but he's central to the plot, and a character that links most of the others.

    I may just have to try a version that focuses on Etienne though, since the revolution is the most central of the subplots, and the climax of the story.

  4. There's so much here, it's almost like a synopsis of the chapters. If I was reading that in a bookstore, I wouldn't make it all the way through, even though I liked the parts.

    I'm far from an expert on back cover copy, but I think you need to pull back and give it like a voiceover in a movie trailer would - just the essence, in bold strokes.

    Also, King shouldn't be capitalized unless you name the king, and the saboteur doesn't need to be named. And this phrase, "he’s the first one everyone suspects" could be shortened to "he's the first suspect."

    You got all the good stuff in there, just focus less on the plot and more on luring us in to find out more.

    P.S. About multiple viewpoints, GRRM came to mind, and I was curious what they did there, so I looked up the back cover copy of his first book in the series.

  5. Here are my thoughts on this:
    1. I would cut the whole first paragraph; the information is all stated or implied in the rest of the paragraphs.
    2. I like the back story of paragraph 2, but I would tighten up the writing and shorten it. I would cut “When the King ordered the disbandment of his union, they refused” and just write about the outcomes of murder, prison and book burning.
    3. The Dreadnaught Omnipotent is a great name.
    4. “The Admiral must find and arrest the Eyelet Dove before he has a chance to act” seems like an odd line as I would think that the Eyelet Dove would be one of the protagonist of the story (and most likely one of the people named on the back cover,)so we wouldn’t want them arrested. Also, by calling them a him are you giving away info on them?
    5. Overall, good job.

  6. I must admit up front, I'm a sucker for steampunk. So the subgenre snagged me right away. However, I read through this the first time and found myself wondering if we were dealing with two very different stories. The second time, I think I got the gist of where things connect.

    It appears the Eyelet Dove is the dickens for this book, the saboteur that must be stopped. But this person doesn't have to be stopped by Etienne, the first character detailed in the first few paragraphs. This person must be stopped by the Admiral, according to what is mentioned. Yet the Admiral feels like a secondary character and that this is Claire's story, her story of (maybe) rising from the middle class of Avalice, the disenfranchised peoples stirred to revolution by a forbidden Machina Manifesto. Claire's pursuit to become Avalice's first female pilot and the fallout of making this dream come true seems the focal point of the story and the "viva revolucion!" that is going on with Etienne is the backdrop for whatever pageantry unfolds as the stakes increase for Claire and she reaches her final test of her loyalty.

    Looking at things this way can trim a good two tho three paragraphs, along with some of the back story and express the heart of the tale.

    I hope something mentioned here helps :-0

  7. There are some wonderful elements here and it's reminiscent of portions of Leviathan, which can't hurt. However, there are too many characters. I got the king and admiral mixed up while reading. Not good, as I think the admiral sounds like a reasonable fellow now that I've read it twice. Keep with your main character and main villain. Doing so will allow you to flesh out the details of Claire's true decision, which are fuzzy right now. You can add Michel into the mix, but remember, less is more. Good luck!