WIPpet Wednesday: Falling in love again with an old story

This is one of those stories that’s come a long way. “Made of Shadows” is the first paranormal romance I ever attempted, and it’s currently on its fourth draft. I will always have a special place in my heart for these characters and their story, which is why I’ve returned to it this year, determined to revise it and begin another round of submissions. I got amazing feedback from two editors a couple years ago, feedback that helped me to identify a few key issues with the story and to grow as a writer. I’ve learned a lot from the stories I’ve written since, and I’m ready to take another pass at this one.

For those who aren’t familiar, WIPpet Wednesday offers writers a chance to share excerpts from their works in progress. The only stipulation is that it must have something to do with the date. It’s also a blog hop, so click here to see other WIPpeteers’ work.

I’d love to get some feedback on the newly revised opening of this WIP. Today is the 28th, so here are ten paragraphs (2+8=10) from the first chapter of “Made of Shadows.” Thanks for reading!

Zoe Donovan cradled the golf-ball-sized crystal sphere in her hand. Either she’d gone mental from years of overwork, or her baby brother was playing the world’s cruelest practical joke.

Ever since she’d read his letter, the world around her seemed to stop, standing still as a photograph.

Hey sis, his letter began, handwritten on the ivory stationery she’d bought him last Christmas.

I wanted to write, to say I’m sorry for the things I said. I hadn’t meant to leave things between us that way. If I haven’t already called and made nice with you, then you should keep reading.

Zoe snorted, but it wasn’t out of amusement. Demetri’s apologies were usually less direct—a gift from this place or that, Lima or Athens or Glasgow. Her brother was the king of asking forgiveness later rather than permission first—like the time he’d decided to spend a summer in Italy and hadn’t bothered to tell her until the bank called her to confirm a string of overseas purchases on the credit card she’d co-signed—the one for groceries and books and normal college-student stuff.

Guilt momentarily flooded her as she thought of their last conversation. She wasn’t particularly good at giving permission, was she? Still, he was the one who’d ambushed her in her office in Boston. She’d given in to so many of his whims—and he’d thanked her by dropping out of Harvard with only the vaguest explanation. To finish mom and dad’s work, he’d said. But hadn’t the whole point of his time there been to follow in their parents’ footsteps and become a world-renowned archeologist?

The last sliver of daylight trailed over the hills stretching out beyond Donovan manor, shadow and sun spilling through the tall windows and French doors of the dining room. The table’s dark wood shown freshly polished, its surface now strewn with unopened mail and the contents of the package her brother had left her.

When he’d told her, Zoe had lost her temper. He was an adult, he’d reminded her, although she’d been quick to point out a host of immature acts and ill-planned schemes that often ended with a panicked phone call asking his big sister to send money, and fast.

If Demetri were a different person, Zoe would’ve thought his letter was a joke, meant to teach her a lesson or exact revenge. But however immature Demetri could be, revenge was never his style. He never meant to cause her pain; he always attempted, however clumsily, to make nice after he’d screwed up.

That was what she’d thought the package was—another gift meant to deflect his sister’s wrath. Instead, she’d opened the box to find a letter and the crystal sphere.

Lastly, a midweek ROW80 check-in…

Writing goals

1.) Make measurable progress on one of my WIPs. Wrote 2,295 words in “The Phoenix Feather.”

2.) Read two books on the craft/business of writing. 2/2. Finished reading “How to Market a Book” by Joanna Penn. Started reading “Beginnings, Middles, and Ends” by Nancy Kress. Planning to increase this goal to four books, since there’s still plenty of time left in this round.

Social media goals

1.) Check in on Twitter or Facebook daily. On track to meet this goal.

2.) Blog twice a week. On track to meet this goal.

3.) Comment on three-five blog posts daily, Monday-Thursday. On track to meet this goal.

Life goals

1.) Do yoga or tai chi or meditate three times per week. 1/3.

2.) Do morning pages in journal Monday-Friday. On track to meet this goal.


A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop! Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

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Fantasy & paranormal romance author. Witch. Tarot reader. Possibly a woodland sprite. Debut release TANGLED ROOTS now available. Magic awaits at www.denisedyoungbooks.com.

17 thoughts on “WIPpet Wednesday: Falling in love again with an old story

  1. Feedback? Erg. Okay, but only because I like you, and this is obviously just personal opinion.

    Is this the opening to the entire book? I like it, but it feels like there’s a page missing at the beginning when she opened the package and reacted to it, or that the opening paragraph is at least missing a sentence or two saying more about this sphere you want to hook us with. I feel disoriented rather than intrigued, but again, that’s just my personal reaction. I’d like to get more into what she’s feeling. If it seems like a cruel practical joke (and I assume we’ll find out why that is), is she angry? Panicked? Indignant? Bemused? It says the world around her seemed to stop, but she’s clear-headed enough to be doing a lot of thinking about the past and her relationship with her brother, and that makes me forget about that sphere, or think it’s not the focus of the scene. The family stuff is all great, and a nice way of building her character and his. I’d just like to get hooked on the idea of this crystal and maybe find out what’s in the letter before she starts musing on the past. Otherwise, I’ll skim to get to the good stuff and probably miss something important. 🙂

    Hope that helps… I think this is all great stuff. I’d just like a little less backstory, a little more action on the first page.

    1. Thanks, Kate. This is exactly the kind of feedback I was looking for. Technically there’s a prologue before this chapter, so that should give the reader some clues about the world, but I think you’re right that there needs to be a little more to hook the reader. And yes, the trouble with this character is that she gets drawn into thinking about the past a lot. I could definitely trim down the backstory to get into the action more quickly. Great feedback! Thanks! 🙂

  2. This definitely piqued my interest. The one thing I personally would change is the second one-sentence paragraph. I think it’s probably not necessary. Otherwise, this sounds like a fine beginning. I was a little confused at first because I thought maybe something had happened to him. But the rest is good set-up for why he’s not exactly the most trustworthy person. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes.

  3. Hmmm, so many way to go. I am interested, especially with the build up of the relationship between Zoe and Demetri. Nice! Has me at least curious… 🙂

    Have a great rest of the week Denise!!

  4. Ahhhh you don’t know me BUT you asked for feedback, so here goes! (Standard disclaimer: It’s a personal opinion, take or leave as you wish!)

    There are two bits that don’t really feel like they belong. The first is the one-line second paragraph. It’s additional, unnecessary. Presumably, you’re going to show us this, as you’ve already begun to do just that in this excerpt. It doesn’t need to be told.

    The second bit that feels out of place is the descriptive paragraph (The last sliver of daylight). It doesn’t fit the flow. She’s thinking about her brother, the letter, and then suddenly it’s a stop for description. It’s a lovely description, but as an introduction to the setting I think it might be better placed in a later part of the narrative. You have a good character narrative going – don’t interrupt it!

    HELLO, BTW! Nice to meet you! Interesting premise, I hope you post more! 😀

    1. These are good points. I worry that the bit of description you mention slows the story down, so I think you’re right about moving it further into the story. And the consensus seems to be that the second paragraph can go. Good to know!

      Nice meeting you, too, and thanks for sharing your feedback! 🙂

  5. It’s got my interest, that’s for sure. I think something terrible has happened to her brother, and I wonder what it is. That being said, I’m more of a toss-me-right-into-the-action type so I want to immediately know more about this letter and why she feels it may be a cruel joke. You toss that out there, and then we’re given quite a bit of description about her brother, etc. That pushed me out of the story a bit. I’m still curious, but you better rehook me fast or I’m skipping ahead.

    1. Yes, I’m still trying to find ways to trim down the backstory in this chapter and get right to the action while still keeping the reader grounded. I’ll keep chipping away at it as I revise. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  6. Very interesting excerpt. Wanted to know more about the ball and what’s behind the letter. Great beginning. Great progress as well on all your goals.

  7. Erg. I’ve known people who were like Demetri and I can’t say they come up on my list of folks I prefer to hang out with. Nicely done. I’m not sure I’m having the reaction you are going for with this passage, but I’m not likely to forget Demetri and the crystal sphere anytime soon. 🙂

    1. ReGi, I’m glad you found the passage memorable. I want Demetri to be someone you like by the end of the book, even if you’re not in love with him at the beginning. Maybe I need to strike more of a balance with his character. Thanks for commenting!

  8. This is great! I love the commentary on their relationship and how it’s mixed in with a bit of action. It doesn’t quite feel like an info dump, although any more information and it might start to feel like that. Great job. I’m definitely intrigued to find out what he knows that she doesn’t know.

  9. Interesting. I definitely want to know more! But I second Kate, if this is the beginning of the story, it feels like there should be something more at the beginning. Maybe her walking in to find the box on her desk? Or someone delivering the package?

    1. Good point. I’m thinking I’ll have to add the prologue back in and ground the reader in this scene a little more before diving in to the sphere and letter. Thanks for commenting! I appreciate the feedback. 🙂

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