Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Feedback: True-ly Hooked!

Rochester Teen Book Festival (my first book festival ever!) this May, as we said in high school, was a total blast, but perhaps the best thing about it for me was forging a friendship with Terry Trueman.*

After a glass of wine, I may have suggested we all go into the tiny hotel
bathroom together. It seemed funny at the time.
Yes, that is James Kennedy, Matt de la Pena, AS King, Terry and me!

Terry Trueman is not only a terrific writer, he's a bundle of humor, compassion and energy.

He's also a man with quite a personal story, and I was reading the highly fictionalized version of a piece of it, his stunning STUCK IN NEUTRAL, by the time I got in the car to go home from TBF. 

From Terry's website about Stuck In Neutral:

Shawn McDaniel's life is not what it may seem to anyone looking at him. He is glued to his wheelchair, unable to voluntarily move a muscle-he can't even move his eyes. for all Shawn's father knows, his son may be suffering. Shawn may want a release, and as long as he is unable to communicate his true feelings to his father, Shawn's life is in danger.

To the world, Shawn's senses seem dead. Within these pages, however, we meet a side of him that no one else has ssen-a spirit that is rich beyond imagining, breathing life.

 Suffice it to say, I didn't put it down until I finished.

You can read more about the book (and his many other works!) on Terry's awesome website HERE, including about the new extras** edition being released in conjunction with the release of the sequel!

I will tell you, it's a book not to be missed, and its sequel, LIFE HAPPENS NEXT, comes out August 21st!

In a minute, you're going to get a sneak peek at LIFE, because Terry's sharing the opening as guest host of this week's Friday Feedback. Rules are HERE if you're new.

Hook me, baby, hook me!

So, at the request of a few Teachers Write! campers, as summer wanes, I was asked to talk about hook a little more. So, I asked Terry if he would supply the first two paragraphs and last two paragraphs of LIFE's Chapter One.

Because, I got to thinking that a writer really needs to hook the reader (at least) twice: once at the very beginning of their novel, in the opening sentences, and again at the end of that first chapter. I'm coining it the "hook and hold." :) I just made that up.


But what is a hook anyway? What does it mean to hook a reader?

What is that certain thing that engages us immediately in a story, and makes us want to keep reading?

Like all things writing and creative process, there's no easy, single answer to what hook is or how to create one. What hooks you may be different than what hooks me. Like Voice, you just know it when you sees it. ;)

But as a general rule, hook means there's not only an intriguing voice to the piece (it's not bland, robotic or boring, but rather immediately engaging), but also an interesting character in an interesting or relatable situation is introduced, and, mostly, that a conflict is presented.

Internal or external, there has to be a sense of tension. A character has to want something (or, I suppose, not want it), and, we, the reader need to instantly care if he gets (or avoids) it.

So, today, we'll focus on hook. We'll post the first 3 - 5 paragraphs of our openings -- if you want to post the first two paragraphs and last two paragraphs of your WIP as Terry has done below, be my guest!

Are you hooked? If yes, why? If not why not?

If you've already posted your opening here earlier in the summer, take a minute now to (break my usual rule and) go back. Does it have a strong voice? Does your character want something? Is there an immediate sense of longing, desire or conflict?

Without further ado, here are the first two(ish) paragraphs and the last two paragraphs of Chapter One of Terry's LIFE HAPPENS NEXT:

Chapter 1

Night before last my dad tried to kill me. At least, I’m pretty sure that was his plan. For weeks and months I’d been worrying about it. I guess Dad had his reasons, but he didn’t do it. Obviously. Lucky me, huh? Sorry, sarcasm is one of the few weapons I possess. 

I heard this thing once on a TV program about a guy who had a recurring dream that he was a butterfly. One day he woke up and couldn’t tell for sure if he was a butterfly dreaming he was a guy, or a guy dreaming he was a butterfly. Lately, when I first wake up, I have the feeling that maybe my dream life is better than my real life. Dreaming is my favorite part of each day, dreaming, soaring, feeling free because of all the amazing possibilities it offers me.

But here’s the screwiest part: most of these possibilities spin around an impossible fact, the fact that I’m in love with Ally Williamson.

Damn, that’s crazy. Maybe not so crazy for anybody else but it sure is for me. . .

. . .

So now you get that my body doesn’t work. But my brain sure does. I’m almost fifteen years old and since thinking is about all I can do, I’ve done a lot of it in my day. The only thing I can do to keep myself from getting depressed is just staying cool. I once heard my sister say to Paul, “No situation is so bad that having a bad attitude can’t make it worse.” I love that. My situation is pretty bad, but I’ve got my hopes and dreams and firm belief that life is a pretty great thing. And thinking about Ally, fantasizing that we might somehow be together someday, is more than enough of a reason for me to live.

So back to my dad and how he planned to kill me a couple nights ago. He actually thought he’d be doing me a favor, ending my miserable existence. But because Dad didn’t do it, I guess in one way I’m like everybody else now, just trying to figure out what’s gonna happen next. I’m keeping my spirits up and enjoying a mental make-out here and there (hey, it’s better than no make-out at all!), and focusing on the good things in life. Yeah, I’ve got C.P. but I know that there’s always bad and good things coming at us that we can’t even see, much less control. So how different am I from everybody else? Maybe not so much as it looks like.
Terry (& gae)

p.s. Terry's on Pacific time, so he'll be here late morning my (EST) time. :)
* if you didn't click on that link for TERRY'S WEBSITE, do it now, <---- there. It's fancy and flashy and new, and uber cool. I'm jealous and want to live inside it. :)

** the extras edition of Stuck In Neutral includes two interviews with Terry including one where he answers the ten most frequent questions he's gotten about the book, a playlist, and some insider information about Shawn, the MC of Stuck! Sounds pretty cool to me!



  1. I am totally going to go get this book today. I love your hook. It makes me want to know more about him already and how he lives inside his world. Gae taught me how important it is to create a character with likeability from the beginning. You have clearly mastered that. Mine feels pale in comparison but it gives me something to work on. I just realized the only way to give you my hook involves a lot more paragraphs. I'll include them all here (sorry) but I think I need to work on shortening it up so others are hooked earlier on.

    1. Here goes...

      When Josh woke up that morning, he wasn’t that surprised that he didn’t recognize the room he was in. He had been in and out of the foster care system so much that sometimes the only thing he could keep track of was his DHS worker and it wasn’t Tuesday so she wouldn’t be around.

      He sat up and looked around. The last thing he remembered was leaving school and hopping on the bus. That’s it. He could not remember where he got off or what he had for dinner. If he could just find a phone, he could try Beaver, his best friend. A cell phone would be nice. That’s the trouble with having parents who never had any money (or cared about money, for that matter). They weren’t going to pay for a regular cell phone bill and he was never with a family long enough for them to want to help him out. Plus, he never had his own money either. DHS didn’t let foster kids work before they turned 15. He was a long three years from that.

      But first, he had to find a bathroom. He stood up and noticed that he was wearing his favorite plaid boxers and Red Sox t-shirt. Good, at least they let him stop and get some of his own clothes this time. He hoped they were normal; man he got sick of the weirdo places he had to stay in. As he peed, he wondered what his parents had done this time. Had they just left again or did they get caught stealing? He straightened up to finish and looked at the picture on the wall above the toilet.

      He felt a wave of tingly heat go from his chest to the top of his head. What the? He felt like he couldn’t breathe for a minute. In some ways, he felt like he’d done something wrong, but no that was just habit from taking on the stuff his parents had done. He stopped thinking about himself for a minute and leaned in closer to the picture. It was. It definitely was. The picture above the toilet was one of him at about three years old playing on an old rowboat in someone’s backyard. No. it couldn’t be. I mean why the heck would these people have his baby picture?

      Josh didn’t have any idea what to say to this woman. Who was Alex and why did she insist on calling him that? Just go with it. That was his mantra and had been since he was four. Foster parents are a nutty bunch. They mean well. None of them ever did anything bad or mean or inappropriate. He didn’t know what happened to other kids when they went into the system, but he figured it wasn’t great because the DHS workers asked him constantly about how he was feeling and if anyone did anything inappropriate. Nope. They were super nice, but very quirky. He remembered one couple who insisted on calling him Bob after their child who had died 15 years before. Hey, wait, maybe that was what was happening! Maybe Alex was their dead son and he just happened to look like him. Those pictures were Alex, not him. Yes, that could be it. That made a lot more sense. He told himself again to go with it.

    2. Wow Kimberly. They have his picture. I definitely want to know what's going on.

      You hint at so much in those few paragraphs. I'd love to read more.


    3. Kimberley,
      I would like to see what you could do with this in first person. Somehow it's so much more personal and you can really delve deeply into the character.
      You have set up a hook here with the picture. Personally, I'd rather not imagine him actually peeing, though. Maybe he could just stand in front of the mirror looking at his reflection (a good place to put in some physical description) then he sees the picture.
      I also want to tell you that you use that an awful lot in your first paragraph. Do a Find in word and it'll jump out. Try to vary sentences so you use that less. (In my writing group, I was dubbed "the it police." So you could call me the that police. Keep writing!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. There's so many different hooks in the opening of this book: the dad wanting to kill his kid, the kid's body not working but mind so alive, and his interesting and positive attitude towards life. It definitely makes me want to read this!

    Here's my opening. It's just the first draft of my middle grade story. I can't remember if I posted before, I don't think so!

    You see them everywhere--those signs with the missing cats. I know some of those kitties turn up, but how about those that never do? Not in the shelter, not at a neighbor’s house, not even picked up in the street by the animal control guy. They had to be somewhere. But I just never imagined in a million years that they would end up on that island. It seems beyond belief, but I’m telling you, it’s true. I got mixed up in this whole thing before I even knew what was happening. Not to mention that I pulled Melvin into it, too. Now he’s ruined for life. If I knew it would turn out the way it did, I would have never followed that yellow van.

  4. Here's the last part of the first chapter. I bit more than 3-5 paragraphs, but mostly dialogue, hope that's ok:

    Well, truth is, I thought I was going to forget about that cat and what happened, but I didn’t. That night in bed, I kept running through my mind trying to figure out which part didn’t quite fit. By morning, I thought for sure I had it all behind me. That is until I saw Melvin at school. If I just hadn’t talked to Melvin. The crazy thing is I hardly ever talk to him. Nobody does. It’s the kiss of death to talk to him, he is such a dweeb. You talk to Melvin, then you are a dweeb, too. But he looked so messed up that morning, and I couldn’t help it, I felt sorry for him and couldn’t stop the part of me that is always trying to help out.

    Melvin was all teary eyed, his head hanging down. It wasn’t even the official start of the week, and there Melvin is, getting picked on and crying his eyes out.

    “Hey, Melvin,” I said. “What’s going on?”

    He could barely talk. “Ra-ra-raymond!!” Then he really couldn’t talk, the tears pouring down his face. I figured Raymond must be some big, bad 5th grader I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting yet.

    “What did he do to you, Melvin? You can’t let these guys pick on you. Don’t let this stupid Raymond get away with it. Stand up to him, give him what he deserves. .” I chopped the air with one of my special karate moves to demonstrate. Why was I telling Melvin this? If he wasn’t so clueless, he should already know this.

    “He’s go-go-gone!!!” Melvin whimpered.

    I couldn’t believe this guy. “So, that’s great! Good riddance! What are you crying for if the jerk is gone, you should be happy!”

    Suddenly Melvin stood up and looked like he was about to punch me.

    “Raymond is not a jerk!” he yelled, wiping his tears. “He was my best friend! And now he’s g-gone.” He sat down and put his head in his hands.

    “I don’t get it, why would you want to be friends with some nutcase...I mean…some guy who tries to hurt you? That doesn’t make sense.”

    Melvin started crying and glaring at me all at the same time. “Yes it does!! Raymond isn’t a nutcase, Raymond’s my cat! And someone kidnapped him!!” He really started sobbing now. He snatched at his backpack and started dragging it towards his class.

    My jaw dropped. Wait just a darn second. Did he just say something about a kidnapped cat? The words I’d been tossing around in my brain all night long? I started running after him.

    “Wait, Melvin!! Wait up!!”

    “Don’t talk to me. I hate you!! Don’t ever call my cat a nutcase!!” He opened the door to Room 19 and slammed it as hard as he could.

  5. Lira stood in the shade of the upper deck as she looked out over the wide river. The landscape was dull and desolate, everything coated in a uniform brown muck after the spring flooding. Idly flicking a paper fan to stir the breeze, she sighed as the heat of the day penetrated her being. A glance towards the sun confirmed she had a long wait before it slipped below the horizon and the cool night breeze could once again offer relief.

    Something tickled at her senses. The deserted deck showed little activity as the other passengers kept to the coolness in the boat’s luxurious parlor. The edge of her consciousness was aware of that something approached. Lira felt magic in the air like a spiraling projectile.

    Nothing was visible other than a clear blue sky above and the muddy river beneath. The boat creaked as if some unseen monster, hiding in the depths of the river, was tearing it apart. Screams from within the confines of the boat jolted Lira into action. Fearful that someone might be able to sense her magical ability and blame the attack on her, Lira sought escape. Spying one of the small craft that sometimes took passengers to the shore, Lira clambered into it ignoring the shouts behind her.

    Moments later, she had the strap of a floating cushion in her grasp. It was then that an explosion, which destroyed the towering riverboat, tossed her into the murky depths of the river.

    - - - - - - -

    (Lira meets two guys after the shipwreck)

    - - - - - - -

    “We'll let her think she has a choice. If we need to, lie. Once we get her out of here, then we can talk about real choices.” Barth spoke easily as he made plans for the girl. “The first thing I want is to ensure her safety. You give me the impression she is naïve enough that we can manipulate her. If I’m wrong, then we will resort to force or intimidation. I am willing to bet her strength has a purpose. We need to get her to Anderen. I have a feeling about this. One I dare not ignore.”

    1. The edge of her consciousness was aware <<>> that something approached. Lira felt magic in the air like a spiraling projectile.

      Where is that damned edit button...

      Oh, and this is my "expanded opening" I also have a version that starts about 30 minutes later.

    2. Nanette, I'm gonna superspeed flash edit yours too only as food for thought and only because I *think* (but could always be wrong) that with the removal of just a few words, you'd have much more tension/drama/foreboding sseeping through to hook the reader. Always curious if my readers agree or disagree (it's okay to disagree with me! :)) Also, I'm really not liking the simile of magic as a spiraling projectile. I'm not sure why. It feels too pointed and vomit-like or war-like for magic, but that could be just me?! I'm leaving it, because it's yours, but could you just say, Lira felt magic spiral in? I dont know. I love the way you describe the setting to open, but you need to be careful to keep it compact and moving or risk watering the tension...

      Lira stood in the shade of the upper deck as she looked out over the wide river. The landscape was dull and desolate, everything coated in a uniform brown muck after the spring flooding. She flicked her paper fan to stir the breeze, but the day's heat penetrated. A glance towards the high sun confirmed she had a long wait before it slipped below the horizon and the cool night could once again offer relief.

      Something tickled her senses. Though the deck was deserted,the edge of her consciousness was aware that something approached. Lira felt magic in the air like a spiraling projectile.

      ??? gae

    3. Nice ... I probably could leave a few things out.

      As for the "spiraling projectile"... I'm picturing a swirling mass of energy heading toward the boat. Of course as a non-English major I'd have to look up a fancy word like "simile". Either way I should probably reword it so that it comes across as more literal, not a comparison.

      Oh... I'll think about the word projectile too. It may be my "physics teacher" persona leaking out again.

      War-like however fits... Lira will ultimately be a battle mage and the evil yoda like creature that is sending the magical attack is pretty nasty too.

      Thanks for the suggestions!

    4. Ooh, Nanette, your response actually helped me to put my finger on it -- I don't mind the warlikeness, it's the solidness of a projectile. Magic is like those sparkly bits and swirls of spinart oil... the projectile maybe feels too solid? I don't know. It might totally just be me!!! :)

    5. Yeah, but it does destroy the riverboat:=)
      I don't know enough about magic to see how that happened (I'm not much of world builder). But I imagine some bomb like magical attack... Hmmm...

    6. Nanette -
      What about :
      Lira felt magic in the air like a spiraling shadow. (The shadow would be less tangible than a projectile, and it would evoke a sense of foreboding in light of subsequent events.). Just a thought

    7. or what about missile? Now why does missile sound less solid to me? Maybe it is that I think of vomiting. Look what I've started here. Gah, I should have just left you with your projectile. :)

  6. My shopping cart grows again. I have learned about so many great young adult and middle grade books this summer and have had the awesome opportunity to meet them, virtually.

    This opening hooks me. I am mostly curious about how a story that takes place in someone's head moves along. I am intrigued...

    Gae announced the theme of today's feedback on Facebook, so I posted about this on my blog:

    I will also post my beginning paragraphs and endings here:

    First part:

    Sunshine flutters her feathers on my cheek. She doesn’t wriggle or cackle. She’s still and calm, letting me hold her close and feel the warmth of her down. And on her nest, shining like a diamond in the dust is a light blue egg, soft as the clouds above my head on this new day.

    According to my momma, chickens don’t like to be held.

    “Why you carry your chicken around like that all day, Blessen? Don’t you know chickens are born to roam, not be carried around like a baby doll?”

    Last part

    A.J. reaches down to gather up my hen. Surveying her like a sculpture, he turns her all the way around.

    “This is a fine chicken you have. Guess who knows how to pick ‘em?”

    I smile and say, “You have good taste in chicks.” A.J. lets out a loud laugh at the double meaning. Then he crows like a rooster.

    “Have you met Tux?” I ask.

    “Don’t know that I have. Who’s Tux?”

    “Mae Mae’s stray kitty she rescued. He and Sunshine are working on becoming friends.”
    “A chicken and a kitten, that’s an unlikely pair.”

    I have a few questions about this. The theme of the book is going to be about healing. There will also be an unlikely friendship between the MC and a new character. I am worried that my opening hook does not have enough conflict, enough exposition of what is to come. But I don't want to force it in, so to speak. I want the story to read smoothly. Such a struggle, how much to reveal in the beginning, how much to leave to the story itself.

    Thanks for reading.

    1. I'm not sure how to answer your question about when to put things in as I am learning myself, but I stopped in the middle of the hook and ordered Blessen on Amazon. You got me there. I just love to read what you write. It's so gentle and different. Your voice is fantastic.

    2. Kimberley, Thanks for ordering Blessen. After meeting so many authors this summer, my cart is overflowing. I appreciate all the encouragement to keep writing.

    3. This is lovely. The conflict is there, if you need it, in the fact that she's able to with that beautiful chicken what folks don't do, if that makes any sense. Your descriptive language puts me firmly in that place, at that moment, and I don't think you could hook me any more firmly if you tried, because it's the place to be.

    4. I tried to tweet back to you, Margaret, but twitter's been a bitch to me lately. :)

      I loved your lovely "mirror" blog post and I love, as always, your writing here. I also think this is a good example of when having a strong voice and lovely writing IS the hook. There's little conflict here, yet I would keep reading.

      It's why I believe voice is king. Voice is everything. AS King could write the alphabet on a napkin and I'm reading. You know? :)

  7. Hey, all! Already ROCKING here on Friday Feedback! I love you guys. :)

    I have to get a kid ready for a baseball tourney and get my almost done revisions *coughs* to my agent. . .

    I'll be back mid-afternoon to poke and gush (does that sound filthy?!) and Mr. Trueman should be along shortly. Keep hooking! We need more hookers!


    p.s. Terry, you mean "do I need to keep my responses tame?" like that? ;)

  8. Hello folks,
    First off, Gae, thanks so much for inviting me to join you all on this cool site. If Nanete and Kimberly's back and forth is any indication of the quality of discussion on this site, I'm in for a fun day. And yes, Gae, you know perfectly well what I meant by tame . . .maybe houseborken would have been a more appropriate metaphor LOL.

  9. When I hit my 'reply' button, so far nothing happens, but I'm sure I'll get that straightened out soon enough. My computer is old and grumpy and tired, just like me LOL so I may need to just reboot. I read Kimberly's Josh start and feel it is a good start; I find it much more difficult to write in 3rd person, as she does about Josh, than in first person from Josh's pov.

    1. Are you saying I should try it out in 1st person? For some reason I have a hard time doing that, isn't that funny. I feel like it doesn't sound as real.

  10. Hey Diane, the Island of missing cats is a clever idea and full of possiblities--I think in this paragraph you're hitting one or maybe even two beats too many. Melvin? the yellow van? These feel too obvious to me to be important and signficant parts of the story to come, so why not slow down a tiny bit and let us get to know, that is get to care about your narrator?

    1. Thanks, Terry--I really appreciate your honesty. I'll give it some thought.

    2. Actually, can you tell me a bit more what you mean when you say it feels too obvious to be important, etc.? I'm not getting your point here. Thanks!

  11. I'm not saying you shouild try it out in first person. You have to find the pov and voice that works for you. I'm saying that the intervention of an observing pov distances us from the main character; I don't know whether to feel sorry for this kid or turn my back on him. Yer job is to make me care, not just pity him.

    1. First, apologies to you guys and Terry - because for some reason he can't "reply" directly to these posts so much as add his comment to the bottom of the list, so I know it makes it a bit hard to follow. Hang in there. I remember one other guest having this issue, but I dont know what causes it or how to fix it. :( If you look at the list of accolades after Terry's books, I guess, it's a small price to pay for his feedback. :)

      So, here's the thing with your excerpt, Kimberly (and, you know I've given you positive feedback elsewhere and think there's a great "plot hook" here!), whether it's in first or third, I think the issue for me and what Terry's trying to say, is there isn't something here that is making me immediately root for the kid the way you do for Shawn up there in Terry's excerpt. Of course, Shawn has it "easy" because we instantly care about him because of the drama of his situation, but I think if you gave us some little insight into this kid's vulnerability, that's what is missing. It doesnt need to be much and certainly shouldn't be overdone, but he's snarky and seems tough and so we're not really concerned for him so much as curiously watching. That could be enough, but wouldnt it be so much more if we sympathized with him?


  12. Diane, that was awkwardly worded; what I meant to say was that the yellow van and Melvin's life being ruined sound like very important parts of the story and that as such we should meet those moments during the course of the story, SHOWN their importance rather than being told about it early. Hook me with caring about the narrator and the cats and SHOW me these other important elements as they come up. Have you ever had somebody introduce you to a joke he's about the tell by excalioming how funny it is? When that happens to me I almost always say to myself (never to him) "Why don't you let me decide for myself by just telling me the damn joke, and I'll decide how hilarious it is'. :):)

    1. I'm gonna veer from Terry on this one, partly. I like the opening paras. and feel they're pretty strong and like that yellow van hook - it's always bad news when you follow a yellow van, right?

      But I think things really slow down in the second part and that might be adding to the feeling that the pace is too slow to hook the reader. Also, I think you missed your end of chapter hook, so I'm gonna honor you with one of my superspeed flash edits. You know the rules: take what you like, leave what you don't. I'll post it in the next comment. :)

    2. Well, truth is, I thought I was going to forget about that cat and what happened, but I didn’t. That night in bed, I kept running through my mind trying to figure out which part didn’t quite fit. By morning, I thought for sure I had it all behind me. That is until I saw Melvin at school. If I just hadn’t talked to Melvin.

      The crazy thing is I hardly ever talk to him. Nobody does. It’s the kiss of death, he is such a dweeb. You talk to Melvin, you're a dweeb, too. But he looked so messed up that morning, I felt sorry for him, and couldn’t stop the part of me that is always trying to help out.

      “Hey, Melvin,” I said. “What’s going on?”

      He was wet-eyed, could barely talk. “Ra-ra-raymond!!” Tears poured down his face. I figured Raymond must be some big, bad 5th grader I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting yet.

      “What did he do to you, Melvin? Don’t let this stupid Raymond get away with it. Stand up to him, give him what he deserves. . .” I chopped the air with one of my special karate moves to demonstrate.

      “He’s go-go-gone!!!” Melvin whimpered.

      I couldn’t believe this guy. “So, that’s great! Good riddance! If the jerk is gone, you should be happy!”

      Melvin stood up and looked like he was about to punch me.

      “Raymond is not a jerk!” He swiped at his tears. “He was my best friend! And now he’s g-gone.” He sat down and put his head in his hands.

      “I don’t get it, why would you want to be friends with some nutcase...?.”

      Melvin glared at me. “Raymond isn’t a nutcase, Raymond’s my cat! And someone kidnapped him!!” He started sobbing again, snatched at his backpack and started dragging it towards his class.

      My jaw dropped, and I chased after him.

      Did he just say something about a kidnapped cat?

      ??? you get the gist. - gae :)

    3. btw, Terry, when I do this, I never rewrite, just take out and move their words. ;)

      Whatdya think? Hookier?

    4. Oh, and p.s. to Diane and all my other lovely Friday Feedbackers, remember these? **** (my 10-step writing bible? ;)) and the "No Suddenly" rule? I took Diane's out. Do you miss it? No, you don't. You rarely do. Suddenly is a crutch, rarely needed (though I'm sure once in a blue moon it is and once in a blue moon the word I'm sure appears in my manuscripts). But 9/10 times it means you're not sure youre creating the "suddenly" feeling with your words and if you have and go back and take it out -- as I did here-- you will never miss it :)

    5. Nope... first time I've seen them. Many I've heard before. Suddenly doesn't surprise me. I'm learning that adverb are not a writer's best friend. :(

    6. Lol, Nanette. No, they are not. But of course, ALL rules are meant to be broken, if you're aware of them and intend to be breaking. :)

    7. Thank you so much, Terry and Gae! I'm glad I got both your opinions on this. I know about "suddenly" and try to avoid it, but guess it got in there without me thinking... I'm going to print out your version, Gae, and compare to mine to see what exactly you are deleting or adding. Thanks again!

    8. Diane, as per my own rules to myself on my flash edits, I don't think I added anything. All your words. I mostly took a bunch out, moreso because it's an opening and pacing is key. I think pacing has everything to do with conflict. There are places later you can give them more of their wordy kidspeak, but here we need to understand the drama/conflict of the story. I may have moved a word or deleted some, but rarely add one of my own. :)

  13. Hi, Terry, I have to say Stuck in Neutral was one of the first teen books I read as a school librarian which I felt I could sell to my students with real excitement - it hooked me on YA as great reading. I can't wait for the next one! It's so great to have you join in.

    Here are the first and last few paragraph of chapter one of my WIP, a middle grade historical fiction set around the time of WWI.

    She flinched when the whistle blew.
    "Almira! Next stop, Almira, Washington!" The conductor had passed down the aisle some time before, but still the sudden sound startled her.
    The train slowed a short time later; Kate sat perched on the edge of her seat until it finally jerked to a stop. She stood, weaving a bit as she gained her balance, and moved stiffly into the aisle, stepping toward the end of the car.
    She stepped into searing heat. The air, dry and still, was laden with dust. The train had been dusty, too, for the past twelve hours or so, since they left the green of cedar forests behind. The sun beat down onto the yellow dirt as she looked around, taking in her surroundings. Mercy, how glad she was to be off that rumbling beast! Most of two days it had taken, riding across the state from Seattle, stopping at every single station they passed along the way. The green trees of Burley and the waters of the Puget Sound rose to her mind as she turned from train tracks flashing in the the bright afternoon sun to walk toward the station.


    Kate followed Mrs. Wyatt through the entry of the house and down a close, dim hall. As she passed a room on her right, she glimpsed a parlor through the door, which had been left ajar. The furnishings were lovely and looked well-cared for. Kate felt more comfortable with each step she took; this home was run with competence and pride. She could feel a stirring of excitement rising in her as they continued toward the back of the house. A room of her own, a place well-kept, a place to build a life. Yes, this would do nicely.

  14. Hi Valerie, very nicely done and a story set in moe or less my neck of the woods (Spokane WA) where I live during the summer months. I have very little to suggest to make this better; your attention to landscape and external environment is, as you know from your kind remakrs about my novel STUCK IN NEUTRAL very different from where I focus, internally with little attention to setting. But you match your protagonist's mood and the figure you paint of her nicely to the setting--I'd read on even though this seems a bit like a woman's book/story more than a man's, Jane Austin and you Bronte sisters, look out. :):)

    1. Terry, thank you so much for the complimentary comment! I seem to struggle with the timing of the hook in my work somehow, but have worked on it here, so maybe that paid off and I can now apply it better elsewhere after today's posts. I live in the Puget Sound, but was raised in central Oregon so both landscapes are familiar to me. I think you are probably right, and that it will end up being of more appeal to women/girls; that just seems to be the book that's coming out of me... Thanks again. You've made my day.

    2. Valerie, I wholeheartedly agree with Terry on all fronts, including that my focus is different in my books and I admire yours here! I did have one strong thought that I loved the immediacy of this being the FIRST line:

      Kate sat perched on the edge of her seat until it finally jerked to a stop.

      Of course you'd have to clarify it -- the train -- and move some stuff:

      Kate sat perched on the edge of her seat until it finally jerked to a stop, and flinched again when the whistle blew.

      "Almira! Next stop, Almira, Washington!"

      She stood, weaving a bit as she gained her balance, and moved stiffly into the aisle, stepping toward the end of the car.

      etc., but I dunno, just wondering. The way it starts now is lovely but sleepier -- we're learning what already just happend on the train. I feel like that first sentence has such an immediate strong sense of Kate and a impending adventure -- literally on the edge of her seat! :) Food for thought. LOVE this! Keep going.

    3. Hmmm. That is a connection to the imagery, a sort of foreshadowing I didn't think of, Gae. Thanks. I'll have to play with that idea. WOW, I love getting the perspectives of others.

    4. me, too, Valerie, even when the sting (but moreso when they don't! ;))

    5. Haha, right! I don't always agree with my editor, but I do appreciate the difference of opinion, even as I am BURNING - nicest when it's a pat on the back, but... 8-)

  15. Nanette, strong start with Lira too. Her intuitions re the boat etc suggest much about her that we readers will want to discover. Good character and that means everything!

    1. Thanks Terry.

      This is definitely a character driven novel. Lira flat out refused to do the things I had planned for her. I blame it on the Guardian (one of the Gods) since he seems to be the main one who interfered with my plot.

      I was shocked when I met the guy, never even knew he existed.

    2. It never fails to surprise me when characters pop up I never thought would be in the book, let alone in my head... Best writing listens to the work and honors what's waiting in there, eh? Good for you.

  16. Have Terry or I missed anyone so far? Given the bit of haphazardness in the comment order, it's possible. Please shout out if we have (unless you wanted *me* to miss you, that is ;))

    xox gae

  17. Okay, I'll put my money where my mouth is and share the first and last paragraphs of the new first chapter of Frankie Sky (name to change -- the book that just sold to Algonquin). Some of you have a modified version of the first paras, but not the last. Have at it. Have I fallen short of my own definition of hook, or eked by?

    It’s not even noon in not even July, yet already the sun bakes down hot and steady making the air waffle like an oily mirage.

    Lisette walks ahead of me, her blond pony tail bobbing happily, the stray, static strands lit gold by the sunshine that spills down through the fresh green canopy of leaves.

    Bradley holds tight to her hand, ducks to avoid the low-hanging branches. Prickles of sweat appear between his shoulder blades, dark gray spots against the pale blue cotton of his t-shirt that mesmerize me.

    I shift my gaze to my lime green, no-lace Converse, wondering for the millionth time what it would feel like to have my hand in his.

    . . .

    What if it was my father in Mrs. Merrill’s house? If it was him, don’t I need to know? If it was him, and I don’t put a stop to it, there will be no hope left for my parents. I’m not naïve. My parent’s marriage has been teetering on the verge of destruction for years. They fight, or worse, they don’t talk at all.
    It’s not Dad’s fault. Mom isn’t herself anymore, and hasn’t been one bit since Simon died.

    Still, she’s my mother, and she needs him.

    She can’t take more destruction.

    She can’t take one more person she loves being swept out to sea.

    1. To be honest I like the last bit better than the first.

      Some of it is me (you do not have static strands of hair in the heat of July... too much humidity. Instead you have frizzy hair.)

      I also had to read the no-lace Converse comment three times because I kept wondering why Converse not having frilly lace on them was note worthy... I was literally trying to figure out if Lisette was wearing lace.

      I'm probably showing my age with how long it took me to figure out you meant shoelaces.

      I am interested in figuring out how she is going to get him to hold her hand. At least I'm hoping he'll be holding her hand soon!

    2. The second part makes me want to find out more about the mom and how she has handled Simon's death. I want to find out if she does fall apart with all that is going on around her.

      The first part is very sly/sexy, so kept me reading because of this!

    3. Nanette, I wonder, now that you've pointed it out, if i even need that word static. It's why I love doing this. stray works without it, doesn't it? I was wanting to describe those strands that fly upward, but it really doesn't change anything. As for the no-lace Converse, I'll watch for my agent/editor's feedback on this and give it more thought. It's an interesting point, though right now no-lace sneakers are a big thing, so . . . ? :)

      Diane, thanks for the feedback too. Glad it hooked you. :)

    4. Gae, I am hooked in here. Not sure you need the word static, but I like the alliteration of it. I really relate to this girl wanting to hold the boy's hand. But where are you going with the father? Is he a bad guy? Is Mom crazy with grief? I want to know! You could tighten up the end part unless you want to drag it out for effect.

    5. Gae-
      I'm hooked! Loved swept out to sea imagery. I do have a question about the fresh green canopy. I was with your characters, hot and sweaty in the heat of summer and the relationship, but fresh green canopy threw me. I lost the heat. Was that intentional-the wishing it was her hand in his cooling the relationship- or was there some other reason to leave the sweatiness?
      Terry &Gae-Both of your hooks make me wish I worked with older readers....perhaps I will just have to enjoy, relish, and devour your books in my own bibliogluttony!

      BTW- for some reason iPad does not play well with this site. I keep having a locked keyboard and the folks at the Apple Genius Bar suggested I let you know :-(. They thought I should let you know.

    6. Thanks, Mary, never hear of that complaint before?! I'll ask someone.

      In fact, anyone here know?

      Terry, are you on an iPad?

  18. The tension set-up in the first segment, a girl's simple envy over a boy she likes being with someone else, set's us up for a story much simpler than the one w'ere obviously going to get when we hear about marital infidelity (maybe), parental/marital/familial brokenness, and that horrifyingly beautiful phrase, 'swept out to sea'. Such a great metaphor for tragic loss, the enormity of it, the terror above all terrors of losing a child. We have tone, voice, drama, and, of course that powerful hook.When you walk into a room, there should always be a surprise; that lamp, that painting, that bedspread--same with a chapter in a novel, nice surpires here Gae. :):)

    1. Terry, I love that you've gotten that... the point to start with her -- my MC's relatable longing self and move from that very understandable emotion to some of the bigger things she's grappling with. Especially because this is a brand new beginning -- the original plopped you right into the action that we now wait for until chapter 2 -- I'm glad it feels enough for you, to hook and intrigue you. That swept out to sea is completely relevant to everything that's come before as well. :) xox

  19. Re Nanette's reaction to Gae's piece. When you get a chance Nanette, look at a photo of me and you'll see why I have zero issues with the hair considerations; also, for what it's worth, I knew instantly it was shoe laces but hey, I grew up wearing Chuck Taylor converse high top 'tennis shoes' when they were stae of the art . .admitedly we always had laces in ours. :)

  20. thanks for defending my static, and my lace, Terry. :) Glad to know it didn't "pop you out" of the story. But maybe that static isn't necessary... maybe strands are enough. :)

  21. Oh, and btw, I just realized that even though I have to come down here to post every comment that some of the reactions to me comments are back earlier i the thread, back where the initial part upon which I commented is located. Sorry for not seeing that earlier; I thought once I'd read earlier I was done and that comments about my comments would be below my comments . . .sorry to get kinda techncial here, but all's well now. :):)
    Sooo, yer welcome Nanette and Valerie.

  22. Gae and all, I'm not sure you really needed me to defend yer static hair versus etc . . .again, hair in not my strongest suit. LOL But I also just spoke to Gae on the phone and she gave me permission to put my personal emailhere, so it Allow me to be clear I don't have time to read asnyone's collected works, nor probably even an entire novel, but if you have a specific issue/problem and you'd like my opinion I'll be happy to try and oblige. I travel a lot, am gone a lot and write a lot of my time so please forgive a a slow re to yerz and don't hesitate to remind me with a follow-up if I'm too slow in getting back to you. This has been fun and you writers all have promise--hang in there!

  23. LOL Did anyone notice that my typing sucks too?! LOL

  24. nope! Nobody noticed! *coughs*

    *Tattooes Terry's email on her chest*

    (is that how you spell tattooes?(

  25. Hi everyone! I'm so late, today, and I have to run and drop off kiddos soon, so I'm just popping in for a bit to share. I am feeling like such a novice, and being quite abstract/random at heart, I hadn't considered my first chapter until last night when I saw Gae's post on Facebook. Looking through my rambling writing, I think that the section below would work for a first chapter. I'd love to get your thoughts, because I honestly feel like I'm all over the place with my WIP (which is pretty consistent with my life... hah!)
    Thanks, and happy Friday!

    I can still picture her eyes as she said goodbye. The crinkle in the corners as she leaned in for a kiss before getting in her car. A smile that was meant to convey comfort and love, counteracted by her exit down the driveway, her, “See you soon,” negated by one last look. The look of relief glancing back at our empty house and its memories. I could see it through the slight swell of a tear building in the cool blue of her gaze. At the time, I imagined that she was sad to leave, but deep down I knew better. She had been gone for some time. Now it’s just physical.
    Earlier, I helped her pack the things from her bedroom. Jade necklaces, blue topaz earrings, silver bracelets sparkling as her eyes once had done. I carefully packed them in black velvet bags to protect them from damage during the move. Long before that day, I envisioned her packing herself in black velvet to buffer her own crystal edges and diamond cuts, protecting her soul by muting her smile, her laugh no longer glittering as it had before.
    It was not like she didn’t try. I know she and Dad tried. They tried in a big way, but it didn’t quite turn out as expected. When Will ran away, I think she broke, shattered like glass inside her black velvet casing, her faux finish scratched and tarnished, and she vanished inside.
    When Will ran away, he didn’t know any better. He saw something outside our back yard and wanted to explore. No-one blamed her for it. Will didn’t even understand the magnitude of his act. Finding him in the middle of the woods, muddy and scraped, he held up a shiny rock for the police officer and said, “Look!” beaming with pride at his discovery. Without shoes on his feet, his soft little legs took him farther than the search party anticipated he could go. His trek exceeded our expectations, but her focus instead was on her own failure. Her perfect, shiny surface was again chipped by his big adventure.
    Thank God he was found safe, I don’t mean to diminish the event. It was a terrifying 76 minutes for our family, but for Will it was just another Tuesday afternoon. For her, it was the final affront on her multiple failed attempts to maintain normalcy in her life. Her definition of normal, anyway.
    Now Mom is running away, but in the grown up world it is called a separation. Perhaps she sees it as her own little adventure. She and Dad said it was a trial, but as she looked at me one last time, I could see a tiny sparkle in her eyes. The damage had been done. We were broken as a family, but I could see in her eyes a hint of hope.
    That’s why I didn’t cry when she left. When I looked in her eyes, I saw hope reflecting back. Now that she left, we can all search for our shiny rocks in the woods. We can start again.

    1. Kris, I agree with everything Terry said about your piece. Clearly rough and and short of polished, but some stunning writing in there... the whole jewelry/velvet bag thing. What about starting with the sentence, "Earlier, I had helped her pack her things from the bedroom." I don't know why, but I find the "urgency" there. Food for thought.

    2. Wow. You are absolutely right. I like that much better. Thank you - for everything!

    3. :)

      for now, for now. . . a temporary starting place. Maybe it stays, maybe not, but sometimes it frees us to move forward. :)

  26. Hey Margaret, I missed yerz earlier. Simply, I think it's great and chicken lovers everywhere, and there are many of them, will be delighted, as am I by this weird (in a GOOD way weird) story. I have no ider where yer going with it, but you have a grand start, voice, pov, characters, the whole enchilada . . make that a pollo enchilada. :):)

    1. I wish I could "LIKE" this comment of Terry's to Margaret! Start to finish, hah!

    2. It took a bit of searching for me to find this comment. No matter, great reading. Thanks for the kudos. I guess I'm going to stick with this idea. The plot thickens with a homeless girl and some more chicken drama. Not sure where it will all lead, but I will trust somewhere. Thanks, coaches!

  27. Wow, there's a lot of good writing here.
    I'm posting the first section of the first scene of my short story, and then the last 2 paragraphs.

  28. I didn’t see Stephen’s car when I pulled into the driveway. I stared for a moment at the empty space where his BMW should be before finally turning off my headlights and killing the ignition.
    Something was not right. I racked my brain trying to remember if he had mentioned going out of town again. I couldn’t come up with anything. My stomach tensed as I grabbed my purse off the passenger seat and opened the door.
    The chilly late autumn air hit me in the face. I quickly retrieved the three canvas bags of groceries from the back of my SUV and headed toward the side door. I wished I’d remembered to grab my gloves before leaving this afternoon. Now the damp cold seeped into my bones and chaffed my skin. My wedding rings slid up and down and nearly over my knuckle as I fiddled with the key in the lock.
    Slamming the kitchen door against the intruding cold air, I lugged the bags to the table. Suddenly, I glanced something out of the corner of my eye that grabbed my attention.
    An envelope sat on the island counter.


    I craved sleep because sleep meant escape. If I could sleep then I didn’t have to think about this, any of this, past or present. My mind was numb. My body ached from the stress and cold. I crept back into the bedroom and slipped under the covers and the duvet of the queen-sized bed and pulled them up to my chin. My shivering subsided and as the medicine took over, I prayed I wouldn’t dream tonight.
    Please, God, no dreams. I quietly whispered. And no more memories.

  29. Hey WS, I like this. Great tension and an icky feeling under the surface, like your protagonist knew something was coming even though she consciously wasn't letting herself recognize this; one minor point; while queensized bed might be okay because she's alone in it (but why not king size if that's the intended affect?) but her cloth grocery bags, his bmw, and her SUV annoy me, she's rich, she's a tree hugger maybe, no wonder her old man dumped her. I'm not saying this is fair or right or even that anyone else would react this way--but her apparent affluence makes her less sympathetic to me and you're looking for ways to make her as sympathetic as possible, right? These are just my opinions and are maybe, probably, wrong. :)Bottom line, would I read more of her story, maybe, but I'd be more likely to care if she weren't quite so well off seeming. . .

    1. It's interesting what Terry is saying... and the thing is, what we might be okay with later in a novel, may alienate us if it's offered up too soon? We may have or lack immediate sympathy with a character because they are different than we are in a "strong" way . . . I'm not sure I felt as strongly as Terry in terms of it bothering me, but I do think it's good food for thought. For all of us (Man, I learn so much by doing this!!!). Especially since, as I commented on Nannette's edit of mine, some of those details are just not needed now/yet, so why risk it? On the other hand, there are times when I dont want sympathy for my characters... so that may be. But usually at the outset, you want your reader to relate. Anyway, I love the emotion in this piece. I *Feel* it with a capital F as she tries to come in that door knowing what's she's facing... good work. Keep going.

    2. Thank you to both of you for your feedback. This scene was really bothering me, and now I have a place to start with revisions.

  30. okay krisbis, Yer remarks about being a bit 'all over the place' are actually somewhat justified but your narrators sensativity, caring, voice etc make her sympathetic enough to care about her and to build our interest in what he mom is going to do and what kind of shiny rock she's going to find. Good start and with a good edotir this could really go somewhere--btw I write off the wall alot too, editing/revising is for fine tuning, first/rough drafts are for trying to prove to yerself and maybe later the rest of the world that yer a stinkin' genius. :):)

    1. Well, I wouldn't say genius- but thanks for the praise. I appreciate your encouragement, and agree that I really need to get a second and third pair of eyes on my writing to help me clean it up and focus. Thank you!

  31. Terry,

    Your first paragraphs definitely hook the reader! I mean...his dad tried to kill him! That's pretty griping! The ending paragraphs elicit a lot emotion and make me want to find out what happens to this kid.

    Here's some of mine. Thanks for the opportunity and feedback!

    On the first day of sixth grade, I cracked open the door and looked outside. The bus stop was empty. So far, so good. I’d figured Harold’s mom would drive him this year like she did when he was in kindergarten. Harold has trouble when it comes to new things. Well, that’s one of his problems.

    I walked toward the stop a free man. Then from behind I heard, “Hey Jake! Jake! Wait up, Jake! It’s 8:03. Bus Number 6 will be here at 8:07.”

    I walked faster and called over my shoulder, “Thanks for the update, Harold. I didn’t know I was so early. Tomorrow, I’ll sleep in a whole 4 minutes.”

    Harold caught up with me and said, “I woke up at 6:32, but Mom said I couldn’t come out until I saw you.”


    “Hey, Jake, have you ever heard of Harvey Haddix?” he asked while he rummaged through his bookbag.

    I knew what he was looking for. Each year before school started, Harold added one green composition notebook to his school supply list and in that notebook he kept track of the times he beat me at anything—Texas Hold’em, NCAA 12, checkers. He’d write down the date, the game, and the score. He also wrote down baseball stats.

    “Yeah, Harold, I know all about Harvey.”

    I didn’t have a clue but I thought just this once, Harold wouldn’t go into his never-ending monologue about one more Major League ballplayer I’d never heard of.


    I turned to find Harold and I saw him sitting in his same spot from this morning reading his favorite book, The World Series of Baseball Trivia: Stats, Facts, and Fun. He’d gotten it for his seventh birthday. I know, because I gave it to him. It was Mom’s idea. She knew how much he loved baseball and how he could remember things from every game he’d ever watched. That kind of thing impressed a seven-year-old. But a twelve-year-old? Not so much.

    Reading, especially about baseball, always seemed to calm Harold down. If he was feeling stressed or anxious over something—which was often—he’d read a book and it seemed to snap him out of whatever was bugging him.

    I turned back around, hoping he hadn’t seen me looking. He was fine. I was great. And this was going to be one fantastic year.

    1. sorry - I meant to say this and wanted some feedback about it...

      I'm wondering if there is enough tension in the first few paragraphs. On the third page, I have more tension where they see the bus driver (who appears to be really mean) and Harold (who is autistic) can't figure out which seat to sit in and some 8th graders laugh at him. Jake has to decide if he's going to help him (when he really wants to ditch him.) I just feel the need to help the reader get to know the characters a bit more before getting into that scene later in the chapter. But, if no one wants to read further it won't matter much. Thanks for the help!

  32. Dana,
    I remember this, and I like it. The voices of each character are really strong. I want to know more about these two. What will they go through together? Will Jake be a hero? I think this book could have the potential to be an important message about autism.

  33. I think it's strong too, dana, and I love both these characters. Sometimes that's enough of a hook, at least to get to the third page! ;) You could do here what I did with Diane's excerpt up there (Melvin, etc) and really minimalize the dialogue and tighten the action, even if eventually you want the boys to talk more, so you have that early quick pacing and get to the hookier action... certainly worth playing with on revision. But I continue to think you've got a great voice here and great characters. Keep going!

    p.s. one thing that did pop out at me, is even at 12, I know lots of boys that would think it was cool for someone to be an encyclopedia of baseball facts. That's not really Jake's issue, though is it... just Harold's need to spout it. So maybe worth bearing in mind.

    1. Thanks, Margaret and Gae!

      I appreciate your feedback. I think I use dialogue because it's an easier way to "show" instead of "tell." It seems a lot harder to show without it.

      I get your PS comment - I will definitely change that up a bit.

      I think Melvin and Harold could be great friends. :)

  34. thanks for the feedback and participation all! Today was a really great FF day. At least for me. :)

  35. Terry,

    Your opening paragraphs hooked me! You have a dad that wants to kill his son (thinking he is doing him a favor - at least it sounds that way), dreams, and a crush (young love - so innocent and new). Nothing is better than those elements. I will be reading the book. It is sad (not really) that I like young adult books better than adult books. I teach sixth grade, so I read a ton of middle grade stuff, but I also read a ton of YA. At least I get to pass the titles along to past students.

    Your writing flows with details and emotion - both things I am trying to do in my own writing (and not succeeding:). I love the question at the end of the last paragraph - so many teens, disabled or not, ask that question. Thank you for sharing.

    I checked out the website when I saw that you were going to be a guest today - awesome site! I have added some of your books to my summer reading list - thank goodness I have a few weeks before the school year begins.:)

  36. I'm a little late to Friday Feedback today. Over the last two weeks, I have packed for a camping trip, a trip to visit my sister's family, and a trip to the beach. Today, after an awesome day on the beach, I am packing to go home.:( I am happy that I was able to post my excerpts before the end of Friday.:)
    I know many of you read the first few paragraphs earlier in the summer, but I am going to put a few paragraphs from the end as well:

    “Finally, we’re out of here. No more jocks, cheerleaders, cool guys, and stuck-up rich girls until September,” says Jamie as we walk down the front stairs of the middle school. It is the last day of school, a half day, and the morning sun is already hot. Summer vacation has begun!

    Jamie and I walk straight through the front of the campus towards the parent pick-up parking lot. As we walk by the bus loop, Jamie is still belittling the other students, “Steve, you know why I hate this place so much?”

    He never waits for me to answer. “It’s because all of the jocks and rich girls walk by us like we’re invisible. They think they’re better than us. They have no idea my dad makes way more money than both their mom and dad’s salary put together.”

    As we pull away, Jamie says, “Steve, keep in touch. I know you will because you may even be more bored than I am. Have fun with your crazy grandma.” Dad smiles, but I’m not sure if it is because of Jamie’s comments or the text that he just received on his phone.

    We take a right out of the parking lot, and I am thinking that this is going to be a very long four weeks of summer. I feel like I am going to get sick. What am I going to do for entertainment for the next four weeks? Is Grandma even going to talk to me at all for the next four weeks? I almost wish that I had to go to summer school.

    Thanks for reading!

  37. Andy, you bring some great points of tension here to this opening... there's tension between Jamie and Steve (like their friends but there's a discomfort?), the two of them and the rest of their school/schoolmates, and the fact that Steve is going to be spending a summer with his grandma. There are bits of intrigue. I'm now curious what Steve's dad does and why the other kids don't know that they're the same in that regard. Having said that, I'm still wanting to shake more looseness into your writing. For you not to worry about whether you have the action down right, or the dialogue right, and just allow yourself to feel and vomit out these characters. Who is Steve? What does he want? Why do I like him and care about him? I want to feel these things as I read. And I really want the answers to those questions -- meaning they're not rhetoric -- if you want to email me them, if you plan to keep working on this piece.

    Looking forward to seeing where you take this and your writing! It's always such a smile to see you here. :)

  38. First of all Dana. I like yer start and I don't feel lack of tension is the major issue. The major issue is that you have a lot of competition in the telling of a story about a kid with autism etc. It's a powerful, important signficant subject that must be given full respect and total honesty and realism; yer on the right track here,but your protagonist is kind of cruel and selfish and negative so why should we care about him--give him some little bit of sympathy/empathy towards Harold instead of his total immersion in himself, even a single line or two showing that he 'gets' that Harold can't help himself would take us miles towards caring about yer main character. Don't give up; what yer doing has the potential to be VERY important!

    1. Thanks, Terry! I appreciate your feedback. In about three more paragraphs my MC is going to show some kindness to Harold. I may need to make that happen sooner.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read it!

  39. Andy, nice to have a guy pitching in here, all that femail yin energy was making me wanna start quilting . . . sorry, slight exaggeration there and no meanness intended as all the women have been brave and cool. As for your writing. I like yer choppy setnence; again a masculinity there, a guys way of talking/thinking/looking and feeling. But you need to slow down a bit, b\get into the senses of your protagonist ( I LOVE that yer putting him in present tense first person, my fav pov by far). Have him tell us about his stomach, the sweat under his arms, the dry mouth as he contemplates granny for 4 weeks. Keep at it amigo, slow down a little and move beyond yer beginning. Remember that the way you make the reader see/feel very narrowly and specifically what you want them to feel is be being very specific in your characters experences, esepcailly his sensual (sensory) experiences. Good start. Keep hitting the type an hour day, minimal! :):)