Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Feedback - A Peek at a "Vomit Draft"

Welcome to Friday Feedback. Come on! Be brave. You know you want to... :)

If you do, you know the rules:

• Does the piece "hook" you enough to make you want to keep reading. If yes, why? If no, why not?

• What doesn’t work for you (if something doesn't) and why?

• What does work for you, and why?

• If you want the same feedback, post 3 -5 paragraphs in the comments and I (and maybe some of my writer or reader friends) will chime in.

If you want more rules than that, read HERE.

Today, I'm tossing up a piece of a vomit draft.

Sorry about the gross-out term, I learned it from my classy writer-friend James King (he really is way, gold-toe-socks classy, which is why it's funny that I learned it from him).

Btw, this is Jim's book (see what I did there? I dropped his name from James to Jim thereby showing off that he's my good friend): 

It won the second Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. It's not YA, but you can read it. There's a grouchy old guy who kidnaps his 15-yr old granddaughter for a road trip (read to see why), so you'll relate to it, even if you're still a YA. It's an excellent read. So, yeah, go buy that book, out in paperback now.

Anyway, according to the ever-reliable and eloquent Urban Dictionary, Jim didn't make the term up. A vomit draft is, "A very rough draft; Not much thought given to the full essay/article/story, the purpose is just to finish it, not judging what is being put into it. Just do a vomit draft, just get it done."

Yep. That's about right. In fact, the piece I'm putting up today is something I began a few months ago on a whim (triggered by combining some cool articles I had read) and am only about 30 pages in. Since this is the current opening, and I never allow myself to revise those till the end (*coughs*), it really is unedited. Whether this stays at all, whether it changes, or whether I even ever finish this particular manuscript, totally remains to be seen.  So far, it's narrated by a 16 year old kid named Kyle, who lives in Brooklyn, NY. The working title in my computer is Jumper, though I guarantee that will not stay the name.

So, give me some feedback, and then post yours.

Happy Friday, all.

1.     Jane Doe

The girl sits on my bed in my t-shirt and a pair of my plaid pajama pants – both way too big  – and stares at the floor. Her long brown hair, still damp, hangs over her vacant face. She’s pretty much been doing that since she got here.
I watch her from my bedroom door, unable to shake the way she looked when Dad first walked in with her, hair and clothes coated in a layer of grey-white dust as if she climbed in through a chimney.
“I’ll be right back,” I say, but she doesn’t answer.
She’s showered now, her clothes in the wash, except for the wings that hang from the back of my desk chair. Yeah, you heard me. Wings. The white costume kind, like little kids pull from a dress-up box, or wear for a play at church. 
“Okay, then,” I try again, but I seem to be talking to a ghost.
I leave her there, wordless, head back to the washer to move her stuff into the dryer. As I pass through the living room, I hear Dad, still on the phone in his office, talking in hushed voices.
Dad’s regular voice is anything but hushed. The whole world has been hushed for days now, the city blanketed in eerie quiet. Even, here, in the Heights, everything has changed. I stop and stare out a north-facing window. Nearly a week since the towers collapsed, and the burnt smell still clings to the wind, wafting across the East River, dragging its endless cloud of foggy ash.
- gae


  1. whoa. definitely hooked. the mystery of the silent, ashy girl and especially those wings, the heavy mood of 9/11, although subtly done. love this.

  2. Did the Urban Dictionary steal from me again? Sheesh. Thank you, Gae. I'm a big believer in vomit drafts. Helps you get the story out and meet the characters you'll be spending so much time with as you write, re-write, and re-write your story. And thanks for the book plug!

    Jim (to my close friends, like you)

  3. Christine, thanks. Jim, me too. Just wish I was better at them. At plowing thru Nanowrimo style without the constant desire to go back and pretty things up. Especially since I know for a fact it's a way of procrastinating, since so often those early parts will change once the story is really grounded. At least for me.

  4. LOVE this! I love how it starts with almost sexual imagery (MY bed, MY shirt, MY pajama pants -- those things don't just happen. Even the damp hair fits in here), and then just a few short paragraphs later, that's completely flipped on us and now that vapid stare (wait, what'd you say -- vacant face? Wow, that's strong. How'd I miss that the first time through?), her placement on the bed, her wearing the narrator's pajama pants all take on a new meaning.

    So yeah, I guess you could say I'm hooked. What's this girl's story? Who is she? Who did she lose? Whose are the wings?

    Sign me up. I'll take two.

    Oh, wait, I should have some sort of criticism to temper the gushing, right? This line doesn't quite work for me: "She’s pretty much been doing that since she got here." I think this is because I'm so lost in the imagery of the paragraph, that I miss the action of her staring at the floor. I had a hard time figuring out what it was she had been doing upon first or even second glance.

    Then again, I also missed the "towers collapsed" line, so maybe that's just my ADD reader brain.

    Of course, that line also does a great job getting the reader thinking "wait, since she got here? Like, since the night before? Or is there something else happening here?" I do like having to think just a paragraph in.

    Overall, this is great. Thank you for sharing, and KEEP ON GOING!

  5. I like stories that make us think from the beginning, too. There is a lot to infer and brains naturally want to fill in blanks and figure things out so, of course, we'll want to read on! I'm reading and thinking about how my interpretation or questions are different from wyzreads above me. I totally thought they were the girl's wings, not that she was with someone else who had the wings. The wings have me more curious about who is this funky girl who would walk around wearing wings. I love her already. What strikes me as odd is that even after her shower she's still zoned out. Showers always help me wake up and bring clarity to me so it seems strange that she would still be lost after a shower. I mean, you kind of have to pay attention to what you are doing in a shower. Although, I've never seen someone so traumatized that they can't feel better after a shower...I'm sure it can happen, it just seems foreign to me.

    I like that even though there are a ton of questions that need to be answered, we do at least find out that this is all happening after the towers collapsed. We at least get one little bit of clarification. When I read that part I said to myself, "Ah...."

  6. Okay, you twisted my's my uber-raw excerpt for your feedbacking. Same story as last time, but this is at the very beginning when I'm introducing the characters.

    Sarah’s smile matched mine as we waved to her mom and I backed out of her driveway. Sarah and I can be so similar it’s scary sometimes. We’ve known each other since we were cookie-selling Girl Scouts. Our moms became friends when I had an allergic reaction to strawberries at one of our overnight campouts and Sarah’s mom, being the troop leader, had to keep my mom calm when she got lost trying to drive to Camp Middle-of-Nowhere to pick me up, her duck-billed daughter. Luckily, my swollen lips went back to normal with the basic over-the-counter allergy medicine.
    We cranked the radio as we made our way to the pier on that beautiful, sun-shining, summer day. Sarah and I got jobs working at the pier this year. If you ask me, being able to work outside in the summer was a major plus. Being stuck inside all school year is no fun, so I didn’t want some office job with my uncle all summer poring over filing cabinets. The pier is one of my favorite parts of Lake Louisa, where I have lived all my life. We’re a pretty small town built around a quiet lake. Our downtown area consists of one main drive lined with trendy shops. The end of the street turns into the pier that extends out into the lake. The pier is home to kiosks and street entertainers, caricaturists and boat rides.

  7. Brian, thanks! As I told you earlier, I agree about that sentence -- that it's worthy of some thought, maybe a rewriting. Glad you feel hooked. :)

    Jen, yay, you're back! Since it's uber raw, I just decided to enjoy it (no edits!), and enjoy it, I did! You set a great mood, with lots of information about the characters and their surroundings, and the brink of summer and that edge of independence. Would love to see the (current) opening scene of the whole story, having seen two more middles (though I get this is early on), since this is Sarah and her (best?) friend and the last scene was Sarah and her boyfriend. Curious where the initial focus of the story is. :) Thanks so much for participating.

  8. DEEP BREATH. Okay. Here we go. I was looking at this tonight, and there's a lot I want to change, but there's at least this for now. There's not a lot written for this yet -- a beginning, an end, and a general story arc, but very little meat as of now. I won't say much else, because it doesn't matter. Here's what I have as the beginning:

    “The choice is yours, Tim.”

    The oracle’s smooth voice echoes through my head as I run another lap around the Loop. The day’s early rain feels like bullets of ice against my hot skin, but I need to keep pushing. That Outsider Badge is as good as mine, but only if I keep with my training. This morning, though, that’s not my biggest concern. That honor belongs to this damn voice piercing my thoughts.

    “Choose wisely.”

    I take another turn, running full speed. Cool, wet air fills my lungs, probably the only thing keeping them from bursting into flame. Rain, sweat, and tears flow back from my face as I hurtle towards the goal.

    Crossing the line, I know that was better than last time. More weight, too, I think, as I remove the Heavy Jacket from my shoulders. Nobody can beat me. I know it. Not only will I be Top Five – I’ll be first.

    Of course, this is just a step along the way. Top Fifty Hunter – check. Top Twenty Camouflager – check. Top Ten Vision – check, but barely. Just two more to go: Top Five Runner and Top City Navigator. My best skills. Then, the Outsider Badge is mine.

    Then I can finally find out what the Oracle’s words – my earliest memory – really mean. I must be face-to-face with the girl. I must make the choice. I’ve seen it a million times. I already know what I’m going to do.

    “May your choice bring you peace.”

  9. Brian, this is not even my genre of choice (meaning I'm not a skilled commenter) but I think it's terrific! You do a great job with setting an exciting mood, building tension, and creating interesting questions. When is this? Who is the boy? Who is the Oracle? And what will he be Top Five -- or first -- of? Ah, and who is the girl and what choice must he make? All of it. Keep going! Thanks for being brave! :)

  10. Thanks, Gae! Erg, I'm not happy at all with my beginning. I liked it at first but since then, when I think about it, I don't like it. I only kind of know where it's going. I know one storyline but I feel like I need another storyline - and that I haven't figured out yet. Can you tell I have no idea what I'm doing? I haven't officially come to terms with writing the book I am writing. Maybe I want it to be more than it actually is. But then again, maybe if I just write it I'll surprise myself and figure it out...which means I have to actually write it. Confusing much?

  11. I get this, Jen! It's why I try not to spend time trying to make my beginnings pretty. Because they often arent the right beginning or the beginning at all. Sometimes they are, but sometimes not. As for the book, I say just write it. Often our first manuscripts are just practice tools anyway (as unbearable as that sounds and, trust me, feels!). Just write it. Plow forward. Sometimes, the story starts to take you where it wants to go. But it's funny, there are manuscripts that just come, and others that die in their tracks. #natureofthebeastIguess.

  12. Oooh, I would be so mad at the oracle. Talk about being vague. At the same time I totally want to know if he can do it. Two things that stick out to me, the Loop throws me for a loop b/c I'm "from" Chicago and I just think about downtown in the city and then why is it okay to be top 50 in one area but needs to be top 5 in a different area? Maybe make it more universal? This sounds like a kind of book that could maybe have a prologue that gave some background knowledge of when he met w the oracle - readers could have a little peak into what that first memory is and then try to fill things in as you go.

    Write more!

  13. Jen, your piece was great to read as the sun is streaming in my windows and I open up the house for the first time all year. It just hits the spot with setting the scene and the tone. I love how you pack in information that may come in handy later (strawberry allergy) in a short little anecdote.

  14. Oh my gosh!!!! I hadn't really thought about how the strawberry allergy could fit in later but now that I read your response i totally see how it can fit in perfectly with the plot later!!!! You just made my writing world and I actually want to go work on this now!