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Beta Readers Wanted for a Fantasy Story

Hello and thanks for clicking. I would really appreciate it if you can please read the first 3 chapters of my new story: The Chronicles of Magic, The League of Light. It is a fantasy/sci-fi/adventure for young adults, but just a warning that this book contains some dark themes such as suicide, depression, child murder along with plenty of violence. It is my first novel so it will be very helpful if you give me an honest review of what works well and what I can improve on.

Thanks again and I hope you enjoy.
Here's the blurb I made:
THE WORLD IS DYING
For seventeen years the Universal War has torn the worlds of humans and wizards, and the Black King is winning. The Magical Universe will soon fall and King Kerrasar will reign supreme in a world where no one is safe.
The only hope people have lives on the Capital, Planet Earth, unaware of who they truly are. But soon they will know. Soon each one will bear the curse and name of a Saviour. And the world's fate will hang on their shoulders.

Comments

  • Even before reading your sample I wonder if a book where the author has to warn readers that it contains "dark themes such as suicide, depression, child murder along with plenty of violence" is really appropriate for a young adult audience? "Young adult," I might add, is defined in the industry as being 14+.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • I took a look at your sample...

    First impression: too much far too fast. Don't be in such a great hurry to tell your story. You need to take your time and let things take their course a little more naturally.  
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    Even before reading your sample I wonder if a book where the author has to warn readers that it contains "dark themes such as suicide, depression, child murder along with plenty of violence" is really appropriate for a young adult audience? "Young adult," I might add, is defined in the industry as being 14+.
    Indeed. It's 18+ if anything.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    edited February 9
    I took a look at your sample...

    First impression: too much far too fast. Don't be in such a great hurry to tell your story. You need to take your time and let things take their course a little more naturally.  
    I don't mind that approach as long as it continues like that and does not burn out, but I do question this from right at the start >>  "It was a dream and he knew because he’d been in his dreams before, many times, seeing visions, memories and nightmares. Mostly nightmares ..."  has he been in other peoples' dreams then?
    The other comment I will make is, the story sounds nothing unusual.

  • Thanks for your help guys. And in answer to your question, Just Kevin, he can only be in his own dreams and the reason for that is in the sequel.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    edited February 9
    'Most' people can only be in their own dreams. The way you put it makes it sound as if he is able to be in other peoples'.
  • Also, I have tested the book with some of my friends who are in the age span of 13-16 and they said it was just okay so I guess teenagers today can swallow darker themes
  • Now, can anyone tell me how you think the opening chapters would sound better, I'm open to suggestions?
  • Also, I have tested the book with some of my friends who are in the age span of 13-16 and they said it was just okay so I guess teenagers today can swallow darker themes
    Then I wonder why you included a "warning" in the initial post?
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • So people who may be put off by these things know what they are letting themselves into as everyone has a unique taste
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited February 9
    Now, can anyone tell me how you think the opening chapters would sound better, I'm open to suggestions?
    I gave you a hint in my earlier post. I couldn't get past the first page because you were throwing so much at the reader so fast. My suggestion was that you slow down and take a little more time in telling your story. This is really especially true for the opening paragraphs of a novel where you need to engage the reader, not confuse them or overwhelm them.

    Here are a couple of examples where you gave the reader information directly rather than letting it come out of the story naturally (these are called "information dumps").

    ...hundreds of Space Stormers – giant, sword-shaped human starships, big enough for a hundred thousand people aboard. They were advancing, destroying rebel ships and dropping bombs on the city. Then Spartak saw how Stariots – human soldiers – chased a dozen wizards and other creatures of the Magical Universe.

    Twice you defined terms, "Space Stormers" and "Stariots", as asides to the reader directly from the author rather than letting this information come to the reader through the story itself. 

    For example, you could instead at some point say something like "Spartak saw one of the sword-shaped ships..." or "One of the Space Stormers was unloading its cargo of a hundred thousand humans." Conveying information this way, making it part of the story, is better than just listing things.

    Another example is almost the entirety of the third paragraph, with everything following "King Kerrasar" being an explanation directed to the reader:

    King Kerrasar, the ruler of Earth and leader of its armies. The one who had taken over Earth’s command when the rebels (as everyone called them these days) assassinated the president and most of America’s government, seventeen years ago.

    Even the final paragraph on page one is largely explanation:

    She was feared and envied by many, including Spartak. After the first few victories against the Magical Universe rebels were taken as hostages, their powers were extracted and then given to army commanders and soldiers. Only they were allowed this privilege, and that is why so many signed up for the army, willingly, full of enthusiasm. With these powers and the technology humans already possessed, combined with the strategic mastermind of King Kerrasar, the people of the Magical Universe were easily defeated.

    Your story really does pick up and become engaging after this, at least from what I could tell from what I read of the second page....but a reader would have to slog through a lot of details, names and mini-lectures to get there. Instead of dumping all of this on the reader at the very outset, let it come instead from the story as it unfolds.

    (I would also introduce your character's name sooner. Perhaps "It was a dream and Spartak Anderson knew because he’d been in his dreams before, many times, seeing visions, memories and nightmares.")

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Thank you
  • Here's the new opening:

    “Run!” shouted a desperate voice from somewhere. “They’re coming!”

    It looked like a battlefield, a city, a burning city. The sky was filled with hundreds of giant, sword-shaped starships that were advancing and raining down laserfire on the city – Earth’s Space Stormers were tearing down another rebel hideout. Then came the soldiers with Planet Earth’s black crown emblem stamped on their white breastplates, firing lasers everywhere, chasing a dozen people; by the cloaks and the bullets of light that their wands fired, it was instantly obvious that the chased were rebels, trying to escape the human Stariots down a collapsed street.  But even their spells couldn’t match the number of enemies as the Stariots finally brought most of them down with the red jets of light from their blasters and the others surrendered. The  brought them to the city square, leaving behind the fresh corpses.

    There were thousands of rebels there, rounded up by Stariots and being separated into two lines: soldiers in their steel armour and civilians in their fantastical clothes and the eyes that weren’t trained well-enough to hold the tears. The acidic smell accompanied the smoke as it rose into the heavens that slowly turned black. When the people of the Magical Universe were sorted, someone came. Between the lines was a tall woman with black braided hair and cat-like grey eyes. She had a serious and fierce look that made everyone feel like tiny mice, which were looking into the eyes of a giant cat, which was hungrily staring them down, yet remaining emotionless. Sinera Black, one of the highest-ranking generals and Planet Earth’s most ruthless warrior. 

    Her black lips and her malicious face perfectly came with her armour to complete the image of a battle-hardened, ruthless warrior. She was dressed in a sleek black battle dress with leather cuirass, faux mail sleeve and long black skirt – the uniform of the Hunters. She walked slowly, inspecting the lines of wizards and other creatures of magic. The air of a feared woman was following her like a shadow. She just passed a few people when something attracted her attention – a baby’s cry. A rebel woman was clutching her baby tightly, desperately trying to make it quiet. Sinera approached the woman.

    “What is its name?” she asked, looking into the eyes of the trembling woman.

    “A-Alen,” the woman answered. Her voice was so small as if it had to be squeezed from the deepest depths. The baby stopped crying as Sinera looked into his eyes.

    “Why is he crying?”

    “He’s cold, my lady. And I think he’s afraid,” the woman mumbled.

    “Then he’s wiser than most,” the general said, leaning over to the woman. “I am the reason children are afraid of the dark. Many fear it but I cannot stand the light. I hate it; it must be snuffed out of the world.”

    Sinera turned away, looking at her army and emotionlessly said, “They fought against us and we are not ones famous for forgiveness. Kill them all.” The Stariots instantly started a slaughter. Thousands of lasers were fired from the silver blasters, each one meeting its target. People’s screams filled the air and the woman ran towards Sinera, baby in her left hand, dagger in the other.

    But Sinera proved too quick and in an instant, she was holding the woman by the neck. The Stariots ceased fire and looked at the scary scene along with the remaining rebels. They saw it; everyone saw how a dagger manifested from Sinera Black’s hand and dug its tip inside the woman’s throat, while a wicked thing resembling a smile consumed the general’s face. Sinera Black rarely smiled. In public or in the news she didn’t as much as move her facial muscles a centimetre. Sinera was enjoying this, and the cries of the baby somehow made her smile even broader.

    “You are brave. . . but that is not enough.”

  • I think this is much better! Let's see what some of the others have to say...
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • If the first pages are a bit bad try to get past them and get to the part where Spartak wakes up because that is when the action starts picking up 
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    So people who may be put off by these things know what they are letting themselves into as everyone has a unique taste

    But there are conventions and even laws used by publishers that state what can be and is aimed at certain age groups, and what you warn of is normally classed as over 18, regardless of what your young friends say. They no doubt think it is also ok to look at porn, but would they tell their parents?
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    I gave you a hint in my earlier post. I couldn't get past the first page because you were throwing so much at the reader so fast.

    But some readers have fast minds :)  but I suspect that the OP is a young player of PC and console games (they have a larger $ turnover than the film and music industry combined nowadays) and that is just how many of them are. Right in, shooting at people and being shot at.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    BTW. The story reminds me of pre-1970s pulp SF. No harm in that if that's the intention.
  • I realize that I overuse this phrase, but you started In media res, or in the middle of things, which is very, very good. And your story moves well. Clearly, you have thought out the plot and imagined the scenes in your mind.

    What follows now is to accurately translate those mental images into words. That's the tough part of writing.

    As an example: In the scene with Sinera and the woman with the baby, I am completely baffled as to how the dagger "manifests" in Sinera's hand while she's holding the woman by the throat. So you might look for a way to still keep the action high and tight -- in other words, don't spend a paragraph on the knife manifestation -- but make it clear where exactly the knife is located with respect to Sinera's hand and the woman's throat.

    Also, you've got some good lines in that passage -- some real gems, such as "I am the reason children are afraid of the dark." -- that establishes right off that Sinera is evil and that she knows it -- and likes it. On the other hand, "...we are not ones famous for forgiveness. Kill them all." seems a bit cliched and perhaps tinny in tone. It's kind of a wasted eloquence. There's no need to be poetic when telling a soldier to kill the prisoners: Neither the soldier nor the prisoners will truly appreciate it.

     I'd like to see that line polished up a bit. For example, Sinera might simply say, "Proceed" and from the Stariots' response (firing into the crowd) we (the readers) might assume she meant "Proceed with killing those on whom we are not known for having mercy."

    By the way, I would use "fired into the crowd" instead of "started a slaughter" but that might just be me.

    Alternatively, Sinera might say, "Kill them all" or "Kill all those who fought against us" or anything along those lines. She might even just nod to the Stariots.

    I would entirely omit "...a wicked thing resembling a smile consumed the general’s face. Sinera Black rarely smiled. In public or in the news she didn’t as much as move her facial muscles a centimetre. Sinera was enjoying this, and..." because it obstructs the flow of the scene. All those details can be blended into the action and given to us as dialog or by demonstration.

    It's a good start and has great potential. I see a few technical things that need work, as above, but in all a worthy beginning. Keep at it and lets see where it goes.
  • Now that I have rewritten it, you can read the new First Chapter here and if it intrigues you, please go to the top of the page where the link to the other two is. Hope you enjoy!

  • Hello, I will really appreciate it if someone gave me their opinion in the next few days before I have to give away my computer for repair
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    Oh dear. I have just built two!

    OK, the actual formatting, just in case you keep the settings you have.
    Use the Justify setting.
    Use a First Line Indent (around .25".)
    Avoid all that white space between your very short paragraphs etc. You seem to have a carriage return setting that adds at least an extra line.
    Your margins a bit large.

    There's really far too much to read as a forum sample, but it's not badly written as it goes, it's fast paced, and I like that, as long as it continues mostly like that, but, it is highly cliched (I have read a lot of SF and F!) It's very hard to write anything new these days, I myself know that, but one should try to do so, even if  it takes a long time!


  • Hello, I will really appreciate it if someone gave me their opinion in the next few days before I have to give away my computer for repair
    Second page, last paragraph, info about Uretz is a "data dump." Spread this and blend it into the story.

    Either indent first lines of paragraphs or have a blank line between them.
  • Thanks. I will be offline for a few days but if anyone has something to say feel free to do so because I'm sure it will help me in the future. Again, thank you all for the help.
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