Review Request: The Zone

I'm looking for someone to review my new webserial, The Zone. It's in the submission list, but here the website address.

The address will take you to the first post of The Zone.Tell me what you think. Any review is utterly precious to me.

Going to get to it since you asked and it's short.

Quick thing though, your chapters are out of order. It looks like you made 1.1 sticky and then the rest are in recent-first order. I'm fighting with this myself and have only gotten it to a stand still, but your order is just going to get more wonky as you post if you don't get it straight.

By the way, I don't recommend the approach I took as it requires a lot of manual BS.


Ok, I read the first chapter. In the comments you mentioned that you are 14 and if we are grading on a curve for that amount of experience, this is exceptional. However, being over three times older than you at 46, I saw a few things.

The biggest thing is that in the first chapter, nothing really happens. There is a lot of world building and set pieces and descriptions, but nothing that would go into a plot summary. It is extremely difficult to know when to start a story, but nothing that the character would find particularly compelling or noteworthy happened in the first chapter. It's a common trope that a story starts with a guy getting up and doing morning things and it's one that should probably be avoided. The first chapter needs to get the butts in the seats, as it were. Honestly, with just a touch of tweaking, you could have started with chapter 1.2 and maybe moved some of your world building back a bit.

There are other things and if I were to really take this apart, you'd find that discouraging and that's the last thing I'd want to do. It's also besides the point. This the work of an adept and motivated teenager and it may find an audience or it may not. There is nothing wrong with that and for you as the author, Zoner, it's a good piece of work to chew on. Now please write. I would advise you to try to write shorter stories than a long sprawling serial as it gives you practice at beginnings and endings, but it really doesn't matter. Refine your chops and write what you like. Every page is not only prose but practice.

I'm sorry if this is not the kind of review you were looking for, but it's what poked out at me. Now go forth and kick ass.

No, trust me, it's not discouraging at all

I'm trying to learn as I go, and that means making compromises. Could u elaborate on the sticky notes?

I had a well thought out response that died when I mistakenly switched the page. :(.

Anyway, Sticky posts are a way to permanently put a particular post up on top. It looks like your listing is recent first (wordpress default) but with 1.1 being sticky. In my head I can see you doing that when 1.2 was on top of 1.1 and you did that thinking you reversed the order, but whatever it is, your posts are ordered 1.1, 1.3, 1.2.

If you are not discouraged, I'll give you something else I found. This may be a bit of projection as I'm struggling with it in my own work, but you've got a bit of what I call "Scott Summers Syndrome." This is, essentially, an unengaging central character. They can be surrounded by awesome, but the audience needs to care about the characters. This is particularly a problem in the beginning of the story when you are trying to get butts into seats. This is also a reason not to start a story with someone getting up in the morning as that activity would not highlight anything engaging about that person. Everyone pretty much brushes their teeth the same way. You can fix this by showing the person doing something compelling early on, surrounding them with characters and have them interact (Scott summers needs wolverine, Harry Potter needs Ron and Hermione) or, I don't know, something.

You are also relying on the school setting to Tell rather than Show, and that's a problem. Given the perspective of youth, I can see how Tell vs. Show in writing is baffling. History, up to high school, is just a bunch of fact in books. Not to be condescending, but you only really get a feel for how history works when you see it happen to you personally. And every story is a history. It's people and situations and places tied up together with conflicts and things that happen and continue happening even after a milestone. So for instance, I lived in a place that gentrified around me. We went from hookers to hipsters in the space of a decade. I saw that change so it's a lot easier to envision what it must have been like to be, say a guy in New York in 1760 even with the driest of textbooks. BUT it's way easier still to have someone novelize that guy's life.

I'm getting off the subject here, but let's try this:

I can tell you that we had hookers. That's a fact.


I can tell you about the time I was parking my car on the street and a girl hopped in the passenger's side. She was in no way nervous and her body language reminded me of someone who I was taking to a seven-eleven. Friendly, but with a touch of purpose. I stared at my dashboard, unsure of what to do. I just said, "I'm just... I'm sorry, I'm just parking my car... " The woman was very apologetic and a bit horrified by her mistake. She jumped out of the car and walked quickly away, leaving me there to get over my shock. In her rush, she left behind the smell of menthol cigarettes and bad feelings. She could have hurt me - might have been armed. For all she knew, I might have been armed. Who on earth jumps into a car like that?

See what I mean? I could tell you the facts of my old neighborhood, but showing you a piece of that life is much more compelling. It also does double duty. It informs you about the two characters, the woman and myself. Later in the story I can tell you how I saw the same girl again and she asked me how my dog was (really happened) and you'd re-establish that connection.

Getting long winded again. You may have heard that you should use action verbs and restrict the use of I for first person or He/she in third person narratives. That's a concrete way to limit the amount of telling you do. Never say someone is funny, show them making a joke. Don't say someone is smart, show them having insight. Is and was assign an attribute to a person which you shouldn't do as the narrator.

I do not have writing figured out. I have, however, written a bunch of garbage and have learned a few things, mostly by doing them wrong. Keep going, try things, and don't accept advice without questioning the why of things.

And most of all, keep writing.

Again, sorry if this is less about your particular story. If you can't tell, I get side-tracked.

Thanks, its a bit hard trying to figure out what the hell I'm doing wrong, since I know 0 people who r authors, and all my friends are useless when it comes to this. Can you email me, and help me fix my story? That would be real helpful and would not go unnoticed.

I fixed the issue with the sticky notes. The first chapter, was actually written around a month ago, so I have a buffer just in case, but the chapters I'm currently writing have a few improvements. Also, the first chapter has a relevance to the plot, it's just not known early on.

Well, I could email you but I can't figure out the email and it's slightly creepy for a 46 year old to email a 14 year old. Just saying.

And I'm not so great a writer myself. If you were writing technical documentation or a proposal, I'd feel comfortable coaching you, but with fiction I'm the junior member of the Legion of N00bs.

But, and this is probably contrary to the spirit of web fiction with its emphasis on long continuing stories, I've already given you my best piece of guidance. Keep writing and try writing short. And as harsh as it is to say, if YOU think there are problems with this story - ditch it. Nothing is perfect. I've had a life full of failure and abandoned projects and I'll tell you that it won't kill you and you might even feel better about it. Heck, I'm releasing "The Strange" right now not because I think it's the best thing in the world, but to finally push it out and say that it's done and I'm not working on it any more. It was a coin flip as to whether to publish or just hit delete and that's a project that has a work-in-progress of over 200,000 words.

You are at the beginning of a very long path. Don't worry about individual stories - worry about the writer. I fear that if you spent a lot of time trying to "fix" this story, it will detract from what would be most helpful to you in the long run, learning how to write. Fixing stories is editing, not writing. It's a good skill to have, but not one you need to sharpen first, in my opinion.

Another thing that's a waste of time is putting too much of an emphasis on feedback/collaboration/advice/anything else about writing that is not writing. These things are helpful in small doses and feedback is super fun, but the VAST majority of this work is BICHOK - Butt in chair, hands on keys.

So... I'm not going to fix this story. Sorry. Kinda taking my own advice here because I could spend forever on this and I just don't have that kind of time. Besides, I always go hard R on stuff and I don't think that's your style. Gotta go. Keep writing.

As far as reviews go, I personally haven't put in the proper effort yet to figuring out how to write those properly (it's one of the reasons I don't do review swaps)... but that said, I wanted to mention something here, Zoner. There's no way someone else can really "fix" a story (barring continuity edits), because everyone has different preferences. It's like the old story of one reader complaining in a comment "There wasn't enough action in that part, do a fight scene" followed by the very next comment (on the very same part) being "People were arguing a lot, do a scene where they don't fight so much". Even at a basic narrative level, some like first person writing, some don't... you can't please everyone.

To that end, here's something different from what ScreamingCandle said - even if you think there's problems, keep going with it. Maybe see if you can fix issues as you go. Part of the reason for that is you don't want to get the reputation of someone who leaves a lot of unfinished serial stories out there. (People may not start a story that they fear will be eternally "unfinished".) But part of that is, sometimes a writer has certain ideas that stick with them. Me, I'm not the "deleting" type. Perhaps because I don't have the "infinite well" of ideas that some writers do - the tradeoff being I'm bad at keeping stories short, what few ideas I choose tend to spiral out into long, epic storylines. (I'm working on curbing that tendency.)

For reference (qualifications?), I have been personifying mathematics for over 5 years now. I've "quit" 3 times. (Once was medical related, once was for over a year because I thought no one's reading who cares, and once was because I wanted time to focus elsewhere.) I'm still going with the idea, now as a webcomic. (Is anyone reading it regularly? Maybe a half dozen people.) Also, I started writing a time travel story nearly 20 years ago, in University. (Yup, that gives away my age a bit.) I revised the story four years ago. I've been putting it out as a serial for the last 2 years. (Is anyone reading it? See above. It's become more therapy and enjoyment of routine at this point. ^_^ )

ScreamingCandle was right though (not that they were wrong before) in that it's a long path. Much like drawing, writing is something you get better at the more you do it. (Reading also helps.) And the fact that you've signed up here, posted, and prepared a buffer, is a sign you're serious about it. You've also got better grammar than some other stories I've seen out there (I did have a quick look at the site). And you're responding to comments, which is good. (Those tend to trail off over time, in my limited experience, try not to get discouraged.) So... keep at it!

And as long as I did have a look - what ScreamingCandle said about the first part, I can see why it makes sense for you to start there (new student, new chapter of this person's life). The issue of engaging with the character is (in my personal opinion), partly due to how they're treating the events as rather routine. Which in some sense is fine (jetpacks being ordinary in your world, even though it's unusual for us), but that's where you could add a personal (rather than situational) investment. Some concern about fitting in, or getting lost, or being found out or the like. Sort of like the main character's concern about being late, which occurs later on. But hey, after five years I STILL have days with zero views, so what do I know! Find what works for you. All the best.

Well, zero IS actually a number and one with which I am extremely familiar at this point. :)

I don't see any shame in ditching if it's for the right reason. I've ditched more stories that I've finished, but I learned something from all of them. Then again, anything I'm ditching doesn't see the light of day.

Aside from that I pretty much agree with Mathtans.

Keep writing, Zoner.

I think I gave the wrong vibe when I said fix. What I really meant was, I wanted to edit and improve where I could, I want this to be a grand story. I am not going to quit anytime soon, I love this story and I'm going to finish it. I want this story to strike the same chord that interstellar and Tomorrowland did with me.

Why did you think I was going to ditch this story anyway?

And mathtans, I did put some of the things you said, but I found they didn't fit, or gave too much away. If you have any tips about how to put them in without giving stuff away, I would be very grateful

I'd like to offer a somewhat different perspective - first serials definitely can be fixed, if you want to fix them hard enough. Reader tastes vary, sure, but all early stories tend to suffer from certain general flaws that you'll learn to fix as you become a more experienced writer. Showing vs telling, unengaging characters, beginnings that aren't hooky enough... all of these are typical beginner flaws.


In most cases, 'fixing' a first serial probably isn't worth it. I did it - it took 2 different editors, a proofreader, two years of my life, and a lot of money to pay those editors with. I mean... a LOT of money. A typical 14 year old isn't going to have that kind of money. And I'm STILL not done - so far, only the first 250K words or so have been 'fixed'. And now I kind of want to fix them again because, again, I'm a better writer now than I was when I started editing.

I did it because Anathema was steadily in the top 10 / top 15 on TWF for years and years and has hundreds of thousands of views. I also did it because I wanted to become the best writer I could possibly be in the shortest amount of time possible. I consider the whole experience a crash course in writing that cost me about... I don't know. Six thousand dollars, all in all? But one that was far more effective than any other writing course you could pay for. Because the whole journey was specifically about me and my story.

It was worth it for me because now my first drafts are miles, leagues, GALAXIES ahead of what I wrote two and a half years ago. I also made decent money off the books, and will continue to make money once I finish the next book and pick marketing back up. I also finally have an okay chance of future first drafts being picked up by agents and publishers (my editor keeps doing recommendations but I'm not ready for trad publishing yet). But... I'm in my thirties, and if I decide to only eat soup and sandwiches for a few months so I can pay a professional editor, no one's going to stop me.

@Zoner: Didn't think you were going to ditch the story, it's more as a math teacher (in my day job) my default mode is "keep at it, you can do it!". :) (Actually, kind of amusing that you being up "Interstellar" and "Tomorrowland", as I've described my serial as a cross between those too. More for the time travel aspects than the futuristic setting though. Point being, epic is good.)

As for trying to put in things and finding they don't fit - yeah, don't use them then, I was just thinking off the top of my head. It's good that you can recognize when things are working out or not... and you're probably the best one to diagnose, since you know your setting and intent. Sorry that my advice is kind of vague, but even if we assume my years of unprofessional writing somehow qualifies me, I don't have tons of experience with first person perspective. Though more than that, I'm one of those people who won't commit to something unless they feel they can do it right, and I don't feel I'm able to be "properly helpful" to you right now.

As to the rest of this thread, well, all have our own individual motivations for doing what we do!

So, guys, thank you for providing your insights. Since I had only released 2 chapters when I started this thread, I don't think I gave you much info to go on. Not like I released a bundle of chapters b/e the start of this thread to now, so far , i 'm still in 1.6 and going to release 1.7 tomorrow. But I wonder if you could tell me

What do you think now?