Thursday, March 1, 2012

Friday Feedback Rides Again! :)

After a brief hiatus *coughs, shut up* I've decided to bring back Friday Feedback.

I'll wait. Let me know when you're done jumping up and down. :)

For those of you who never participated in Friday Feedback, I'll tell you the rules, and, then, in this first return post, I'll (sort of) break them. Hey, it's my blog. I'll do what I want to. You do what you want on YOUR blog.

Seriously, though, if you’re here, reading, and, moreso, chiming in, I’m happy and grateful, so thank you. Especially if you’re a teen or young adult, since that’s what I post and write about here -- young adult fiction.

So, what is the point of Friday Feedback? To get and give feedback (with some rules).

Sometimes, I’ll invite you to critique a piece of my writing (and offer the opportunity for you to post your own excerpt in the comments and receive critique from me or any of my writer or non-writer friends who might stop by), and sometimes, I’ll have a guest author host the spot, posting their work and giving feedback (though I'll usually chime in. :)).

Why do I love this feature? Writers often write in a vacuum.


As such, you’ll often hear us commenting that we have no idea if something we’ve written is great, or if it’s crap. I mean, you’d think we’d know, but sometimes, honestly, we just don’t. Sometimes, the chasm of doubt we stare down is just that gaping and wide.

If you don’t believe me, here’s a quote I love from an interview with one of my all-time favorite (and hugely prolific) authors, William Goldman (his novels include Marathon Man, The Color of Light, The Princess Bride, and more movie screenplays than we can count on our combined fingers including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – don’t tell me if you’re too young to know it, it will break my heart), and IMHO, one of the greatest writers and storytellers of all time:

“One of the things I love to do when I work with young writers is to disabuse them of the notion that I know what I'm doing. I don't know what I'm doing. . . as we are speaking, I am looking at my computer, tearing out my hair, thinking, well, is this horrible, or is this going to work? I don't know. Storytelling is always tricky."


Isn't that awesome?

Okay, having said that, let’s get started. Together. In the dark. Friday Feedback.

Here are the RULES:


I would like the following feedback (and will offer the same to you between Friday and Monday if you post an excerpt for me to read in the comments -- see further rules regarding that below):

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

• What else works for you, and why?

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


See? Simple. :)

Now, here's how you can also get some feedback: If you are working on something, and would like the same feedback, please post your excerpt after your feedback (in the same comment or a new one).

Please post between 3 -5 paragraphs, and no more. If there's more, I may only read the first 3 -5 paragraphs (5 if they're short, 3 if they're long). If the comment gets too long, feel free to reply in two separate comments. If you are a student from a particular class, please identify yourself as such. If not, let me know how you found me.

And, remember, we are all trying to be constructive here. So be honest, but be kind, and expect the same in return.

Okay?

Yay!

So, without further ado, *deep breath* (er, the deep breathing was for me…), thanks for participating!

Here we go!

Oh, and remember I told you I was going to break my own rules a little bit today? Today I'm going to post two excerpts, because I was looking over old Friday Feedbacks and saw how much the opening to Frankie Sky -- my novel out on submission now -- has changed since the last time I posted it here. I thought it might be kind of cool to see. Feel free to compare and contrast what you like or don't like from the switch from the old to the new.

Thanks for reading and commenting. Look forward to see YOUR stuff!

- gae


Frankie Sky, current opening:

          It’s not even noon in not even July, yet already the sun bakes down hot and steady making the air in front of me waffle like an oily mirage. I hate summer, and it only makes it worse that I’m here at the Lawrenceville Country Club pool on some crazy whim, and without Lisette because, since school ended, she’s never around.

I sit up and adjust my bikini top, trying to stretch it across the spots it barely covers. It’s snug only because it’s one of Lisette’s old hand-me-downs – and not for better reasons. Lisette lent it to me last spring for a school carwash, and I grabbed what I could this morning. It’s not like I have a fresh supply of bathing suits.

I yank the strings around my neck for maximum boost and re-tie them, letting my eyes dart to where Peter Pintero towers across from me like King of Summer atop his LCC lifeguard throne. His eyes catch mine and he squints funny, like he wants to know what the heck I’m doing here.

Well, it’s none of his business what I’m doing here. Besides, I’m not sure I even know.  
***


And, here's the original opening (they're way different, eh?):


          The first time I see Frankie Schyler, he's diving into the Lawrenceville Country Club pool, which is only the first of many coincidences that will make me question everything I know about life, death, and the nature of our existence during the short eight weeks of summer.

          It’s not so much coincidence as stupidity that Frankie marches to the edge of the coping, arms raised above his mop of blond curls, and purposefully plunges himself headfirst into the water, but rather the coincidence is that I am here, too, staring at the very same water, wondering if I might walk over and slip myself in, then sink to the bottom and disappear.

          Or, maybe that’s not a coincidence either, since I’ve spent much of the past four years thinking about ways to disappear.

***

21 comments:

  1. Your new version pulls me right into the scene with sensory detail and narrator action - love it!

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  2. The new first sentence is gorgeous - visceral and evocative. The original had a nice philosophical flavor, but wasn't nearly as magnetic. Also, there's a certain distance in the old version that you've completely erased in the new. The POV is much deeper and more dynamic.

    I'd totally buy this book. (But then, you already know that!)

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  3. Ooh, so glad you both like the new one better. :) Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. I liked them both, because they reveal different aspects of the narrator - which I guess shows what a talented writer you are!

    What I like about the current opening is the visual sense we get of this girl as well as her conflicted emotions about being at the pool. Well done!

    What I like about the old opening is that we see Frankie Sky (the title) right off - we know who he is now. I also like that we get the sense that the narrator is conflicted (Frankie's stupidity) but also that she wants to "disappear" which suggests some serious conflict yet to be revealed.

    DEFINITELY want to read on! Good luck on your submissions!

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  5. I like your current opening better. It drew me in, and now I want to know who Lisette is and why the narrator is so unsure of herself. I like how the narrator describes the heat, her bikini top, and "The King of Summer". It makes her sound spunky and different without being superficial. My only problem with it is when she says, "I sit up and adjust my bikini top, trying to stretch it across the spots it barely covers." It sounds a little bit awkward.

    Here's something I'm working on. I'm an 8th grader from Gainesville, Florida.

    I saw them for the first time as I was walking to school. It was the first day back from summer vacation, and even though it was well over 100 degrees, they both wore jeans and leather jackets. As I walked behind them on the sidewalk, I tried to figure out if they were boys or girls, or one of each. By the way other pedestrians were staring, it was clear they couldn't tell either.
    I could relate. I was no stranger to being stared at myself. After all, I was probably the only girl in history who chose to wear basketball shorts and a Peyton Manning Colts jersey as a back-to-school outfit. Two of my old friends I've known since second grade had invited me over yesterday to plan outfits. I knew their plan would involve a solid two hours of harassing me about skinny jeans and lip gloss, so I decided to go with my own plan.
    Sometimes I wonder how I get along with my old friends. When we met, we all liked to play basketball, and collect state quarters, and so on. Since then, I have grown up to have exactly nothing in common with them. The only things they ever wanted to talk about were nail polish and boy punk bands. Over the summer, I realized that I didn't want to call them my friends anymore. And as I walked onto the school grounds that day, I thought that maybe I had found two people that were different like me, even if I still didn't know their gender.

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  6. Gae...I'm torn! I like both! The now-version seems to make me think about the girl and the lifeguard while the then-version makes me wonder about the boy and the girl. With the now-version, I kind of like the second paragraph as the first paragraph and the first as the second. With them flipped, I feel like I get an image of her and then it would slow down and let me think about where she is and what it's like and how she got there.

    I have to say, I do like how the then-version there's this big dark idea of her wanting to disappear and it makes me curious - just what exactly is so bad about her life that she wants to disappear. That has me really curious.

    I do feel like they seem like the beginning of very different stories. Thanks for letting us get a glimpse of what you are writing! Very fun! :)

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  7. Here's a bit of what I'm working on:

    When I was settled on the ratty mustard-seed-colored couch in the basement, Theo did several demonstrations so I could hear how the sound was different depending on how he set up the speakers. At one point he was behind the TV maneuvering wires and talking to himself for twenty minutes while I studied the random mix of music posters on his wall. Apparently the music I listen to has nothing in common with the music Theo listens to. He played me songs that I had never heard before and so loudly that I couldn’t even figure out what the songs were even about. I nodded my head with the music and tried to morph my confused face into a I’m-deep-in-thought appreciative face. But it was way hard to appreciate that kind of music.

    Finally, after I assured Theo that his speakers definitely sounded different from the speaker system at my house, he sat down next to me with the remote. I had finished my water so leaned forward to set it on the coffee table in front of us. When I leaned back again, Theo had put his arm around the back of the couch and then he moved it effortlessly around my shoulders. I had to fight every instinct inside of me that wanted to go stiff. I was so lost in my confusion over the loud, supposed music that I wasn’t prepared! And now, before I even had a chance to think about it, Theo had his arm around me.

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  8. Anonymous (who I know from Goodreads! ;)),

    Your piece is so strong and intriguing. I can feel the narrator's curiosity, ambivalence, and desire to fit in seeping right through the screen. The leather jackets on such a hot day is an intriguing detail. To tighten the writing, I would find a way to eliminate the repetition of "first" from both of the first two sentences, something like, "I saw them as I was walking to school. It was the first day back from summer vacation, and even though it was well over 100 degrees, they both wore jeans and leather jackets." You could even combine the two. Brings you right into it faster without the slow down of the repetition?

    Meanwhile, as I told you on Goodreads, your writing seems sophisticated for an 8th grader (I have one of those too -- a boy). Really good work! Thanks for your feedback! Keep going!

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  9. Jen, thanks for your feedback and your brave (!! yay!!) participation. As for your feedback, if it makes you feel any better, the part about her wanting to disappear comes soon after in the new version... ;)

    As for your piece, I really love the mood it sets and the dynamic between your protag and Theo. I love the funny moments with the music stuff and can relate both now and my teenage self. I had the desire, as I was reading, to eliminate some words so that that stuff could really stand out and shine. So, um, I did. Mostly as a pure exercise. I'm curious what you'll think. I didn't change a fabulous word of yours, just took some out (in fact, this edited scene goes from 252 words to 218). A lot of what I did was took out some of the shifts between past tense and (perfect?) past tense, and it may turn out that there was a reason you had that. Also, I took out some motions or directions that I think can be read inherently in, because to me, it allows the real action to shine more. So, I took the LIBERTY to tighten it and hope that's okay with you: DISREGARD anything you disagree with! As always, these things are totally subjective.

    I settled on the ratty mustard-seed-colored couch in the basement, as Theo demonstrated how the sound was different depending on where he set up the speakers. While he was behind the TV maneuvering wires and talking to himself, I studied the random mix of music posters on his wall. Apparently, the music I listen to has nothing in common with the music Theo listens to. He played songs for me I’d never heard before, and so loudly that I couldn’t even figure out what they were about. I nodded my head with the music, trying to morph my confused face into an I’m-deep-in-thought, appreciative one, but it was way hard to appreciate that kind of music.

    Finally, after I assured Theo that his speakers definitely sounded different from the speaker system at my house, he sat down next to me with the remote. I leaned forward to set my water glass on the coffee table. When I leaned back again, Theo put his arm around the back of the couch and then moved it effortlessly around my shoulders. I had to fight every instinct to go stiff. I was so lost in my confusion over the music that I wasn’t prepared! And now, before I had a chance to think about it, Theo had his arm around me.

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  10. So, I just want to take a moment to point out why I, as a writer, like some of these edits, and I'll use this one in particular:

    "I leaned forward to set my water glass on the coffee table. When I leaned back again..."

    Right here in the scene is where the excitement is building, right?! She's about to be kissed, maybe, by this boy. By elimating a few unneeded words (it used to say "on the coffee table in front of us..."), the speed of the scene picks up and so does, IMHO, the excitement and drama. In essence, the word speed matches the speed of the reader's beating heart... and when you read lean forward and coffee table, the reader knows exactly what the set up is anyway. The coffee table is always right there in front of us in such situations, yes?

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  11. Btw, I realize that I just broke my own rules by doing that edit (*invokes the it's my blog rule!*) and I think I've done that before on FF! Jen, I hope it was okay! FYI, if I were to pick up The Pull of Gravity now, or Frankie Sky or any of my work, I would endlessly find words to eliminate. I'm a real fan of making the writing as tight as possible, but I may have gone overboard up there because it was a great oppty to do an exercise that is helpful for ME TOO as a writer. So, thank you. *runs to eliminate words from her ms* :)

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    1. I've taught this elimination tactic for so many years to middle school students that now I just naturally start editing in my head no matter what I'm reading. So, I think I'm good at it, until I read my own work. So hard to let go! I enjoyed your explanation too of that one sentence.

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  12. I like the new version better. Grabs me. I do like what Jen has to say about switching the paragraphs. I was thinking the same thing. Just speaking as the resident reader. Heidi

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  13. Hmmm. If two or more people think the same thing, I always consider it. But it's weird, to me, the second paragraph does not flow from the former second one if I flip them... will keep thinking on it.

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  14. I like the current opening much more. The voice sounds considerably more authentic, and the flow of the sentences draws me into the character and the setting more quickly. I'd read the second one with impatience, waiting for the story to start.

    ***

    Here's my submission for critique, with an explanation: I write a micro-fiction blog in which every entry is exactly 100 words. Here's one that I haven't published yet.

    Callie sees the hitchhiker in the distance and thinks I shouldn’t pick him up. But when she nears him, he stops walking and turns to her, then climbs in the car.

    “Where you headed?” she says.

    “East.” He nods in that direction. “Mind if I smoke?”

    “Uh. I’d rather you didn’t.”

    He puts the cigarettes in his pocket, but after a few miles, he takes them out again. “You’d rather I didn’t, but kin I smoke?”

    She shrugs. “Oh. I guess.”

    He rolls down the window, flicks ashes outside. When he finishes his cigarette, he lights another, then a third.

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  16. Hey, Linda, thanks for popping in to tell me I've actually done something helpful (not always the case ;))! And Jan, thanks. Glad you do. Of course that opening morphed yet again... amazing how often the beginning isn't really the beginning until they print the book and take it out of our hands. ;)

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  17. I do like the part about disappearing in the original version. It pulls me in and makes me want to know why she has spent so much time trying to disappear.

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  19. Sorry about deleting the first comment but I realized I got the openings mixed up in my comment. Here it goes again.

    The new opening grabs me because of the character's voice. There is a lot to visualize here and it's full of movement. Clearly something is going on in her life - Lisette, the life guard, even the bathing suit - but we don't know what it is and we want to find out. Whereas the first version is also written from the character's point of view it doesn't have the kind of lively voice that we find in the second version; the second version is full of voice! I love the character already and I don't know why but I'm going to keep reading to find out. In fact, I'm going to reread because I feel like there's so much in that beginning that foreshadows what's going to happen later; I want to make predictions and start thinking about the rest of the book before I get there. This is the kind of lead that pulls me in to a book. When is this due to come out, again?

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  20. Thanks for those from #TeachersWrite commenting here... and please don't think I ignored Jan -- she posted again on my most recent Friday Feedback and I fed back there. :)

    Diane, if it helps any, that disappear line is still there, just a little further along, and anyway, this beginning has morphed yet again. There's a whole new chapter 1 (if that stays) and this new 1 has become chapter 2... ah, revisions!

    Elisa, thanks for the nice words... Frankie comes out "soon" or more like "soon-ish" from Algonquin Books. It's a bit of a wait because Algonquin is just starting a brand shiny new YA division and my work will be part of that. In the interim, stay tuned on my blog for some writing news that may provide sooner glimpses into another Gae manuscript/story. xo

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