WS 30: Caleb Warnock 3 first page critique part 2

This is our last interview with Caleb Warnock and again we hear Caleb’s eagle eye for critiquing first pages. Ava, and Alice go next (Lillian was sick this night and feels bad she missed out on the harsh critiques) Ava and Caleb have an interesting discussion on using a youths voice in an adult novel- and how not to make it a middle grade book. Caleb goes right for Alice’s first line and calls it boring. Find out why…

Thanks for coming on the podcast, Caleb. We look forward to a rematch (bring your first page next time, lol)

He will give four free online writing lessons to everyone who sends him an email to by July 31 2011. And also, leave a comment to be entered to win a signed copy of his book! Just as before, each comment counts towards one entry- so comment often. Also, if you post on other websites, facebook, twitter or blog about us that also gives you extra entries.

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14 responses to “WS 30: Caleb Warnock 3 first page critique part 2

  • Dan

    Greetings to the Gang, and thier bravery as their confrontation of Caleb and his audible red pen goes to work. Thanks much for all the info and i think i have a good handle on narrative voice and know i need to change a few things regarding my queries for sure. At least it makes more sense as to the why i recieved so many of those treasured form notices of thanks but no thanks.
    Cheers Dan

  • John D. Payne

    Wow. This series has been really amazing. It makes me both terrified to hear what Caleb would say about my stories and also very curious.

  • Alice

    Yah, we all had to give each other a pep talk afterwards and pick ourselves up off the ground and tell ourselves to keep writing and not give up, but . . . we, um, had to admit he’s right.

  • M.L. Forman

    I’m afraid I have to disagree with Caleb on some points. Maybe I just don’t understand what he means by 2nd person voice vs. 3rd person voice. My understanding is that second person is more like an older version of the main character talking to his/her younger self. 3rd person is the narrative voice, the storyteller, either all knowing or not.

    I would also disagree with the 12 year old’s “voice” in Ava’s story making it a middle grade book, and I’m going to point to the classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird”. It has been a long time since I’ve read the book, but wasn’t that story told in the “voice” of the little girl, Scout? Not a middle grade book is it?

    Hmmm… maybe I’m a bit confused by what he means by middle-grad, YA, and contemporary adult. And I honestly don’t think all “YA” is romance, that would just be silly; or it possibly means that no guys read YA books.

    Great work as always, and I am considering your challenge about a first page podcast. Maybe you should think about a first page contest for the site.


    • John D. Payne

      I understand what Caleb means by 2nd person. He means that the narrator is speaking in first person, but speaking very directly to the reader, even breaking the fourth wall. I would probably call that like first-person-immediate (or something), but Caleb seems pretty well plugged in to the industry and maybe that’s what all the publishers and editors call it.

      • John D. Payne

        Just for total clarity, here are the narrative voices I am most familiar with:

        3rd person limited – “John walked into the room, lost in thought.”

        3rd person omniscient – “John walked into the room, completely unaware that a man with a knife lurked behind the door.”

        1st person – “I walked into the room, and as soon as I went to shut the door, this goon jumped out of nowhere with a knife.”

        And this is what I have always thought of as 2nd person – “You walk into the room. You are lost in thought, and so you are caught by surprise when a man springs out from behind the door.”

        Of course, a 2nd person narrative like this seems almost impossible to write a whole novel with. Although it makes for a good campfire story or role-playing session.

        And I’m not sure how Caleb would rewrite this in what he calls 2nd person. Maybe he will read this and show us how? (Pretty please?)

  • Alice

    Thanks Mark.It’s interesting to know your ideas of second person and MG voice. According to my understanding of Caleb’s explanation of second person, and I may be wrong, it’s when you address the audience directly using the word you as in, “You know,” or “You’d be surprised to hear that …” etc.

    Also, if a character is telling the story about themselves from an adult perspective looking back to when they were 12 and adding insights they now have as an adult, then I think that would be considered an adult novel, but if they are telling it from the perspective of a 12 year old, it’s MG. Does that make sense?

  • Cara

    I have to admit I’m a little lost with this first, second, and third person voice thing. I’ve read a lot of YA books in third person, unless it wasn’t really third person they were in.

    Anyway, I can tell everyone that the stuff that was said about choreography and emotion is true because the publisher I sent my manuscript to said to revise and resubmit because there wasn’t enough emotion. Hopefully after hearing these interviews and maybe doing some research I can fix it.

  • J Scott Savage

    For the most part, Caleb is correct. Most YA is written in first person, with a big trend lately of first person present tense, I stand up. I say, etc. And most MG is written in third person. You could do a whole podcast on why that is, but there are very valid reasons.

    However, it is far from universal. Just off the top of my head, I can think of several YA series I have read in the last year or two that were third person: Maze Runner trilogy, Incarceron,Uglies, Vladamir Todd, and that’s without even doing a search. So I wouldn’t say it is a universal truth.

    I would also argue that just addressing the reader directly does not put your book in second person. You can have a first person narrator say, Have you ever woken up on the wrong side of the bed only to realize it was the right side of the bed, but the wrong side of you? That is not 2nd person IMO.

    Second person is where YOU are the main character. You wake up and scratch your head. “Wow,” you say, checking the alarm clock. I must have overslept. I’ve read several books with chapters written in 2nd person, but the only novel I can think of off the top of my head written in 2nd is predictably titled, “You.” It’s a fun read.

    Other than that, I agree with pretty much everything Caleb said. he nailed voice perfectly. Another great podcast.

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