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The Beta Club: Makin' Love (YA) - Come Critique!


Thanks so much for all the well wishes yesterday!  You guys are the bestest!  My partial will officially be sent out today, so please send positive thoughts out into the universe for me.  :)

Now, on to the Beta Club!  

For newbies:  If you haven't been here on beta club day yet, don't be afraid to jump in with your comments.  All feedback is welcome as long as it's constructive.  And if anyone has an itch to be critiqued, the rules for submitting to the Beta Club are under the "Free Critiques" heading at the top of the page.


Alright, please read through the author's excerpt, then provide your feedback in the comments.  My detailed critique is below.
Author: Julie Cross (check out her blog)
Title: Makin' Love
Genre: Contemporary YA


I was locked in a room with a perfect guy, just not my perfect guy. Despite the fact that wewere not a scientific match, he was staring at me like he might kiss me anysecond. And not a sloppy first kiss, but a hot, passionate, blood boiling kiss.In the dim light, his brown hair and gorgeous face lit with excitement.
            Even as I reviewed my careful planknowing this wasn’t anywhere in it, my defenses crumbled to bits.
“Annie,” he whispered. “Haven’t you ever done anythingimpulsive?”
            I shook my head fiercely, unable tospeak. He leaned forward and my breath caught in my throat. The tip of his nosegrazed my cheek. 
            “You’re seventeen, everything you doshould be impulsive,” he whispered without lifting his head.
            “Kyle . . .please . . . don’t.”
            He laughed softly. “I’m not eventouching you, Annie.”
            Hewasn’t touching me, but I still felt so . . .
            Kyle lifted his head again and his brown eyessmoldered me.
            “We’re not compatible. I checked thetest myself,” I managed to spit out.
            “Can’t you turn off that big brainof yours for a few minutes? We’re stuck in here aren’t we? Might as will have alittle fun until someone lets us out.”
            I cracked a smile unwillingly and hemust have taken that as an invitation. His mouth pressed firmly to my neck. Iclosed my eyes and a sigh escaped my lips.
            This was just a physical response.Completely chemical.
Just get itout of your system, Annie. You need to focus on your science project.
            “You’re thinking so hard, I canalmost hear you,” he said.
            “I can’t do this. I already wrotethe probable conclusion.”
            His fingertips brushed my cheek. “Iwon’t tell anyone, I swear. You have my word.”
            My heart sped up in my chest. “It’snot like we’re getting married. Just normal adolescent hormones.”
            A slow lopsided grin spread acrosshis face. “Is that a yes?”
            I closed my eyes again and nodded. Iran my hands through his hair, something I’d dreamt about doing for a longtime. “If you don’t make a move in the next five seconds, there’s an eightypercent chance I’ll change my mind.”
            His touched the back of my neck,pulling me closer and every nerve in my body lit on fire. How was this possible? He hadn’t even kissed me.
            “What should I do?” he asked. “Areyou going to interview me?”
            I laughed with my eyes still closed.“Just kiss me, please.”
            He didn’t hesitate and when his lipspressed against mine, my entire insides turned to mush. 
Oh, God thiswas bad, very bad . . . and yet so good. My hands moved to hisface. Then he pulled away and smiled.
            “Is that all you wanted?” Kyleasked.
            I grabbed the front of his shirt andpulled him close again, then wrapped my arms around him. I ran my lips down hisneck, letting the last wall of defense crumble. 
I worked years to perfect every aspect of my life andnine months on a science project I might have completely screwed up, and all Icould think was how much I wanted him. Really wanted him.
            Ifthis was more than physical, my entire project would be invalid. NoHarvard. No Geneva Scholarship. No justification for what a bitch I’ve been toeveryone and anyone getting in my way. None of this was strong enough tosurface while the hot half-British teenager let his tongue dance around in mymouth. 
            His breathing grew heavier and myhands moved over his backside. “Annie, what are you doing?”
            “Everything,”I breathed.                                       
            Then I’ll forget it happened. Prove I’munattached to the incompatible subject.
            I un-tucked the bottom of his shirtand pulled it over his head. My fingers glided over his bare chest. Kyle’s eyesmet mine and he slowly unbuttoned my shirt, not looking away for a second. Hehesitated with the last button then finally let my shirt fall to the floor.
            “Have you done everything before?”he asked, softly touching my back.
            I nodded, letting his bare skinpress against mine.
            “With Trevor?”
            I nodded again feeling his fingerstense up around my arms. He didn’t like Trevor. “Only five times, each onecarefully planned with every precaution used.”
            “Oh, I can imagine the romanceinvolved in those perfectly calculated moments,” he whispered.

Below is my critique, click on FULL SCREEN, then once the document opens, RIGHT CLICK to zoom so you can see the comments.


Alright, so what do you think?  Are you hooked?  What did the author do well?  What things could be improved?  Thanks ahead of time for offering your feedback!


*Today's Theme Song (Author's Choice)**
"Beast of Burden" - Rolling Stones
(player in sidebar--go ahead, take a listen)


Reader Comments (32)

I agree with all of the comments, especially the repetitve words. Once I find alternate choices my writing gets so much more descriptive.

Julie-awesome teen voice. I love this story.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAubrie

Julie- I love her voice. She is such a teenager. I agree with Roni on letting us in one where they are. Maybe describe the background a little. I really want to know where this goes and what her project is all about.
Great job!

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristine Danek

Great voice! Really like the premise. :)

I agree with Roni's comments. Just a few things to add. I only skimmed Roni's crit, so some of these are probably repeats of what she noted.

I was a little confused about the setting, getting the same impression at first as Roni did--that they were doing a 7 minutes in Heaven kind of thing.

Be careful of "was". It's not possible to eliminate all of them but when there is a "was verb-ing" combination it can usually be changed to a more active verb. Ex. from first paragraph: "was staring" change to "stared".

The last sentence of the first paragraph made me picture his hair glowing. :)

You use whispered a lot. I think most of them can be cut. Maybe it's just me, but you've given the impression they're in a small, dark space, which makes me think they would be speaking softly automatically.

"...his brown eyes smoldered me." sounds strange to me.

"...I managed to spit out." I'm not sure what it is, but there's something that feels off about this. I think it would be stronger if you cut this line or replaced it with an action beat.

Starting with "His fingertips brushed my cheek..." you have three paragraphs in a row with the very similar structures. Not necessarily a bad thing, but watch for this as it can create a monotonous tone to your prose.

"He touched the back of my neck..." This could be stronger. What does he specifically do? Curl his fingers around the back of her neck? Tangle his fingers in her hair? "Touched" is too vague.

Be careful of "then". You have a couple of paragraphs in a row using this word. Again, not necessarily a bad thing, but I think the prose would be stronger is you can eliminate most instances of "then".

Lots of nodding going on. :)

And I definitely agree with Roni about the last dialogue tag. It felt like the dialogue lost something by adding "he whispered." I think the tone is very clear and no dialogue tag is necessary.

These are just the things that stood out to me. Please take them as what they are--just suggestions. Overall, I enjoyed the voice and the excerpt. And as I said before, I really like the premise. I would definitely keep reading. Great job!

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAbby Annis

I'm getting the impression that Annie is not your average teenager, which is very cool for a change. Love how this comes across very plainly in her thoughts and dialogue.

Everyone else already covered the nits I saw, mostly I'd like more setting, and I thought it was weird that she'd refer to Kyle as a "teenager" if she's one, too.

Other than that, you do a great job of building interest in this world from just a few pages, so well done!

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTere Kirkland

I thought the writing flowed very well. I was a bit confused when Kyle said: 'You're seventeen...'
It made me think he was older than Annie, which put what followed in a creepy context. Still, that's easy enough to fix.

I enjoyed it and I'd certainly read more

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTalli Roland

You know I LOVE Annie, and you already read my crit. I just came to support you. Love this story...mmmm!!!!

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTina Lynn

I love the sexual tension, it has that whole "guilty pleasure" sort of aspect that I don't always admit that I like. Really like the girl's uptight character, but am not sure about the guy. What makes him perfect (maybe it's described later)? And half-British? If he has an accent, mention that instead...explain his background later. I like the banter of the dialogue, but some of your descriptions aren't clear enough for me. Kyle is gorgeous, well let me be the judge of that--describe him to me.
oooh and the Trevor thing...that's interesting. I'd like to read more.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterfoldingfields

I like the premise and would love to see you work the voice a little more. This is a smart and very analytical girl and I'd like to hear her analyzing her sensations in a more scientific manner. The one line where she does that is wonderful and fresh. I'd like more! Perhaps it would help if we knew more about the criteria by which Kyle is incompatible?

Oh, and a little grounding in time and place, as Roni mentioned, would help a lot.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlaurel

I'm assuming this was pulled out of the manuscript and not the opening scene. I really liked it but it lacked something, more of her voice perhaps, or the set-up. Maybe that's all it was missing.

Other than that I agree with Roni's crit. And if this IS the opening scene it definately does need more of a set-up to where they are, what they're stuck in.

I really liked her voice, cute, sassy, analytical, smart until she meets "him" and of course she turns to mush. great really great.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPiedmont Writer

Loved it! I was totally hooked and wanted more. I enjoyed this girl's snarky inner monologue and I'm very curious about the boy. Bringing the past in (Trevor) adds some nice conflict. The sexual tension is hot and I think if the minor changes were made from the previous comments it will be great!

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne Brothwell

I agree with everyone else. I thought it was very good. Just take out/replace those repetitive words and ground us more in the scene and it'll be fabulous =D

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie Murphy

Just a little thing but you said "Might as will have a little fun" instead of "might as well" and there might have been another one like that, but I don't remember.

It's an interesting piece. I'm intrigued by the MC and her scientific nature.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKayeleen

I've had to work all morning and I was sooo nervous to come and look at this but you guys have been wonderful so far! Thank you and love all the suggestions.

BTW - she's locked in the audio visual room on a Sunday when no one is at the school, with two hours before the janitor comes.

Being the devoted student that is, she's reviewing interview tapes for her potential boyfriends (one aspect of her science project)

Its mentioned in the very next line following this piece but I could easily slip it in earlier.

One of my betas suggested I start with right before she's locked in the room but this is the beg. as of now because everything in the book revolves around Annie's one moment of impulse.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

I liked that a lot! I am definitely hooked.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPalindrome

Hooked me in from the first sentence. The MC's voice was really enjoyable. "No justification for what a bitch I’ve been to everyone and anyone getting in my way" made me laugh so hard because it's so true! Other than that I couldn't find anything that has not been pointed out already - some repetition of words, the setting is not very clear and a couple of phrases that didn't read too well (especially, her describing him as a teenager, that immediately made me feel like she was way older than him). Otherwise, really good job! I actually didn't even notice some of the repetitive words the first time I read through because the story pulled me in so well and my analyzing skills went out the window : D

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPlamena

I'm definitely hooked -- the last line left me wanting more.

Yes, there were a few repetitions, but this scene was so stinkin' hot that I didn't even mind!

I do agree that it would be nice to have a firmer grasp of the setting from the beginning, especially since it did come across as a "seven minutes in heaven" type of make-out sesh.

Great work, though! I love Annie's smarts -- and her voice really shines in your writing.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmber Tidd Murphy

I'm not commenting on words, or line edit stuff, because there's already plenty of that. I just want to say I couldn't stop reading. I loved the sexual tension. I'd def love to read more of this story ;)

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Amanda Hooper

You guys have all been so awesome! Thanks for the great feedback and thanks to Ronni for doing this. What a fantastic idea this is.

I'm going to plug away at those revisions and apply all the great suggestions. I'm always up for a crit exchange if anybody wants to read more. email me at


March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

I am late, but I really did like this!

I think overall it was very good and only a few things stood out to me. Mainly, I am wondering where they are? At first it seemed like they were doing a 7 minutes in heaven thing, but then when they started getting nekked I figured that may not be the case. :)

I really love Annie, she is someone I would love to read more of. I love how she is being so scientific about the whole thing!

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGeorgia

I don't have too many issues with the writing, but the subject is making my skin crawl. I'm sorry, but this just really bothers me.

Teenagers having sex for a science project? Is this really accepted in society now? Is it happening in public schools? My son is only seven. Should I be worried about future Annie's?

I'm freaking out. Please tell me this is sci-fi or something futuristic.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristine H

Christine - totally valid argument. She's not having sex for a science project. Though not revealed in the first 700 words, she's doing a science project on human compatibility.

Annie is one of those girls who is afraid to dive in and give herself emotionally to someone and then later find out they cheated (which happened with her parents and then her boyfriend of two years).

It reflects other aspects of her life as well. She's using the data she's collected from happily married and divorced couples to find common dedominators in their compatibility.

Annie's trying to remove the trial an error aspect of relationships to keep herself from getting hurt again.

What this scene does is show Annie with Kyle (someone who took her test and ended up in the no pile. At this moment in the scene her biggest fear is having an emotional connection with Kyle because it means she was wrong and her test and her project are all wrong.

The sex part is an impulsive mistake and she justifies it as that and hormones rather than real feelings. Then she doesn't have to be wrong.

I hope that makes sense without having to be too long. There's a lot of depth to her character and some pretty serious fears she has to overcome.

This scene is Annie's one and only moment of impulse and vulnerability in a very long time, this is the ending line for the chapter:

"For the first time since I was ten-years-old, I didn’t have a plan and it scared the hell out of me. But it felt so good."

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

Well, that helps a little. But depending on their ages, this still could be statutory rape. Kyle could be a registered sex offender for the rest of his life. Even if it isn't, it still seems to be encouraging promiscuity, especially in light of what you just posted. Letting go of her inhibitions, "It felt so good," etc.

I think what also shocked me is the callous attitude they both have towards sex. "Have you done everything?" sounds like "Have you done the last step in coloring your hair?" She says yes without hesitation or fear, making her seem as experienced as a 30-yr-old party girl. So I guess that attitude of complete acceptance towards casual sex is also really shocking to me. I know that kids are having sex, but I didn't think it had quite reached that level of commonness. Has it?

Finally, I find it hard to believe that if she turned in a project detailing her sexual exploits, her teacher wouldn't call a conference with her parents and a counselor and try to get her some help. That's what I meant by it being acceptable in school. This really wouldn't be allowed to go by unnoticed, would it?

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristine H

I know I'm being paranoid here, so I apologize if I'm just totally naive.

My husband was doing some electrical work in a public school a few years ago, and he said that there was a large self-portrait hanging in the cafeteria that one of the students had done of herself. Totally naked.

I don't want to become a grandmother when my son is in junior high. So I'm a little freaked out right now!

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristine H

both kids are 17 so nothing illegal. Its not casual for Annie at all.

She's trying to brush it off that way but its not working.

And she's not a virgin but she had a boyfriend for two years then made the careful descison to take things all the way and being the science girl that she is, everything was very careful and planned.

So this would only be her 2nd sexual partner and will essentially be her last. Not too bad in my opinion. She's a very moral girl overall.

Personally, I don't think it was a good idea for her to have sex like this but it happened and now she has to deal with those after effects and it really shakes her up.

Her project has nothing to do with sex infact its quite the opposite. She has dates with boys that are compatible (according to the test)and she's trying to get to know them without the physical aspect. She believes it clouds judgement - people think they're in love because of physical attraction when infact it just goes bad after a while.

So she's trying her hardest not to have sex or kiss or anything really.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

I've been following the comments, and I just have to say...

Julie, although I know a lot of people may have an issue with your 17 year old MC having sex with 2 guys before she's 18 (which is a perfectly reasonable issue), I think the way you did it works. The fact that she's scientific etc... makes this work. So if you are worrying about it, I say don't worry too much =) Like I said before, I loved the piece and if the rest of your story is anything like this (the voice, not the sex ;) than I would probably devour the book.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie Murphy

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