Thursday, January 9, 2014

Friday Feedback: What Motivates You? (and Happy New Year!). A Post for Wendy.

Author photo courtesy Rick Kopstein,
turned into sepia tone courtesy of PicMonkey

So, about a week ago, I got this note from Teachers Write! camper, library media specialist, and writer, Wendy Watts Scalfaro, in my message box:

"Hi, Gae. I'm wondering what the schedule is like for Friday Feedback (if there is one)? I'm working on some writing goals, and would like to have Friday Feedback as one of my motivators for getting some writing done."

Maybe as Wendy typed out that note to me, she felt some trepidation: Is it okay to ask? Am I bugging her? Am I putting myself on the spot?

It brought me HUGE joy to see that note there in my message box.

I've talked about before how, as writers (or at least as a midlist writer), we do what we do, whether blogging or writing novels, so often in a vacuum, without a clue as to what (if any) effect we might have on our readers. Hearing directly that something we did matters, connects with someone on a meaningful level, or better yet inspires them in some small way, is such icing on the cake, you don't know.  

Wendy's note, together with the New Year, and an unexpected note from author Kate Messner  (which I will share in a moment), came for me at a most needed time. 

I have been waist-deep -- make that neck-deep -- slogging through a proverbial SLUMP. 

Distracted. 
Unfocused. 
Unproductive. 

I badly needed MOTIVATION.

Suddenly, those three things coupled together, brought it to me. Motivation. Knowing that someone was actually waiting for my words, wanting them, and appreciating them, for me, is the most amazing motivator in the world.

So, when Wendy asked me to get my ass in gear (yes, she did), I decided to blog on what motivates me, and others, most. I decided to ask many of my awesome writer friends, plus Wendy, to share what motivates them. For some it is deadlines, for others, fear, for still others, an encouraging word from a friend. Hope some of it might motivate you to get writing again. 

Wendy, this Friday Feedback is for you!

p.s. I don't know why Blogger has decided to put some of the below in white highlight and not others. Don't know how to fix it. Sorry for the glare. 


Happy New Year! Get cracking! Make some noise! Toss confetti!


WHAT MOTIVATES US MOST?

Gae: I am a big fan of New Year's resolutions, a fresh start, promises typed across a blank slate. For me, the New Year is always that shining beacon, a point at which I can reset, and start again. I needed it badly this year. Maybe self-doubt had crept in, or maybe it's the dog's fault and I can keep blaming him, but both the New Year and the very unexpected note from admired author friend, Kate Messner, who, unbeknownst to me, had just finished an Advance Reader Copy of THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO, set my heart ablaze with hope and motivation again. The whole note is below with Kate's permission, but the part that motivated me the most was this:

"It's funny - people ask me all the time if I miss teaching, and usually, I'm okay... 
I love what I do now and get to do so many writing workshops with the kids when I travel. 
But your book made me wish for a minute that I still had a 7th grade classroom 
so I could book-talk it and put it in kids' hands."

         


How could I not be inspired to get back to writing after that? 

I asked Wendy** if she might share what it is about Friday Feedback that was serving to motivate her too:

Wendy: I am motivated by That Wee Bit Heap in general, and Friday Feedback specifically, because you provide a no holds barred critique of participants’ writing, and because you're a real person with every day challenges (writing and personal) that I can relate to.

Challenges, indeed! ;) And, hooray!!

Here's what motivates some other awesome authors who were kind enough to participate:

Kate: The most honest answer I can give you isn’t all that sparkly. Usually, the thing that motivates me is just the writing – looking forward to it and feeling gratitude that I get to do this as my job. On the tougher days, when things aren’t going well, I’m very motivated by my deadlines and my desire to KEEP this as my full-time job. I understand and appreciate that being able to do this is a gift and a privilege, and I don’t take that lightly, so just that is usually plenty of motivation for me to settle down to work.

-- Kate Messner, WAKE UP MISSING (2013)


Caroline: This may sound silly, but writing down daily totals in my calendar (sometimes a word count, sometimes hours spent working) really is satisfying. I like seeing everything all lined up. I also have two friends I'm in regular contact with over email. We touch base throughout the week to check in on our writing. Various pep-talks ensue. My biggest motivation, though, is always a deadline!

-- Caroline Starr Rose, BLUE BIRDS (winter 2015)
www.carolinestarrrose.com


Nova Ren: There are many gaping moments when I find myself stuck during the writing of a novel, so to give myself the push of motivation, I return to my favorite piece of the manuscript, the spot that keeps the fire going, the spark. I stop what I'm doing and reread those paragraphs to myself, sometimes aloud, sometimes in my head, as many times as it takes until I remember why I need to write this and why I won't—can't—give up until it's done.

— Nova Ren Suma, 17 & GONE (Dutton, 2013)

Cat: This sounds strange, but I'm motivated by being busy. I love the occasional slow day, but in general, I like to keep my schedule pretty packed. When I'm doing activities like driving kids, exercising, or cleaning, I'm always thinking about my WIP: hashing things out, fitting the pieces together. Then, with a finite amount of time for the actual act of putting fingertips to keyboard, I'm forced to get serious and just...write. 

-- Cat Patrick, THE ORIGINALS, JUST LIKE FATE (Cat Patrick & Suzanne Young)


Tania: At first, I'll get an idea and I'll be convinced that this time, I've got a chance at writing something possibly terrific. That's huge motivation. I spend some time getting the idea down on the page, encountering a few problems but still excited, still chasing the idea. Later, with chapters out of place and characters dangling and the plot taking turns for the worse, the motivation becomes one of simple survival. Will I ever get out of this book alive? There's satisfaction in managing to fix problems and get the thing working but I'm basically I'm in damage control mode.  After a certain point, I just want to finish the thing. That's what keeps me going. Because inevitably, well before I've finished, a new idea is tugging at my mind. A new idea! An idea to end all other ideas....And so it goes on.

-- Tania Unsworth, THE ONE SAFE PLACE (Orion, UK, Jan 2014, AYR, April 2014)
twitter: @TaniaUnsworth1


Alissa: What motivates me to write, is the fact that I'm lucky enough to have some time to do it. I can remember a time when between jobs and other commitments, finding time to write was a struggle. So, when I have the time to write, I don't want to squander it - even if what I end up writing is stuff that will end up getting tossed when it comes time for revisions.

-- Alissa Grosso, SHALLOW POND 


Terry: Recently, trying not to lose a word sprint #30mdare for fear of getting a crazy avatar chosen by the winner. Fear works for me as a motivator. 

— Terry Lynn Johnson ICE DOGS



Matt: What motivates me to write -- and what especially motivated me to finish my latest MG novel, is the belief that someone out there is going through something pretty rotten, and that books have the power to help through humor, compassion, and realism.  The best compliment I've gotten from readers is that my book made them better or stronger or a bit lighter.


Matt Blackstone, SORRY YOU'RE LOST (January 21, 2015)


Carole: Writing is a lonely business, and years pass between the spark of an idea and words reaching readers. What keeps me motivated is the fellowship of other writers, perhaps thousands of miles away but together in spirit. Knowing that other writers are also facing a blank screen every day, tossing most of what they do write, waiting to hear from agents or editors, inspires me to write on. Love you guys!

-- Carole Estby Dagg, THE YEAR WE WERE FAMOUS
www.CaroleEstbyDagg.com


Amy: I schedule weekly or monthly deadlines with critique partners. Knowing I need finished chapters to exchange always keeps me writing even when I’d rather not. 


Amy Fellner Dominy, A MATTER OF HEART (Spring 2015)


Megan: I have two big things I turn to for motivators when I'm stuck, and they go hand in hand: A good walk with a brilliant soundtrack on my iPod, mostly of the indie variety. Meaningful music, nature, and peoplewatching always light a fire under my muse's ass and get me back to work.

-- Megan Bostic, DISSECTED
http://www.meganbosticauthor.com/


So, with all that said, it's a New Year, and it's Friday Feedback time. YOU KNOW THE RULES! 

I'm putting my "Brave is as brave does" motto to the test today, by posting a REALLY ROUGH, may not even stay, new opening to the manuscript I'm working on. I'm not telling you much about it. But have at it. Does it hook you? What works? What doesn't? Then post your own excerpt for feedback if you want. And, include a sentence about what motivates you!

xox gae

The boy, Kyle, stares at me where I sit on the bed in his T-shirt and a pair of his plaid pajama pants, both way too big. He’s average height, taller than me, solid, with reddish blond hair.
He doesn’t look familiar.
The apartment I’m in (where the man brought me) is nice. Comfortable, but not fancy. Brooklyn Heights, he said. A borough of New York City.
It’s not the boy’s room I’m in, but his sister’s. It’s pink and sparkly and makes me need to squirm. I’m Goldilocks in The Three Bears.
I shift on the bed, and try not to see the boy band poster on the wall: headache yellow with three long-haired boys that look too much like girls. “Hanson, mmmbop” it reads across their heads.
“What?” I say, finally, because the boy – Kyle -- is making me feel stranger than I already feel. Everything’s a fog. I don’t want to talk. I don’t know what I should say.
I look away, but things – images, voices, names – swim in, just off the periphery of my brain. Eye floaters I blink at to keep them at bay.
I look back at the boy – Kyle -- instead. Focus on him.

If I’m not careful, they’ll come back to me.


** Wendy Watts Scalfaro is part-time writer with the best full-time job in the world. As a high school librarian, she is constantly surrounded by great books that serve to entertain, inspire, and motivate her to write. Her current Work-in-Progress is a historical MG/YA novel based on her grandmother’s adolescent years spent in a Catholic orphanage.

PS: If you are new to Friday Feedback, teach and write, check out and join our Teachers Write! facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/311160185635267/

64 comments:

  1. Hi, Gae.
    Let me start by saying Thank You! Thank you for this post and being willing to extend yourself for TW campers such as myself, for creating your beautiful writing, for sharing your every day struggles with readers, and for and for persevering through illness and Charlie's antics! Let me add, You're Welcome. That's for doing my small part to help you get your ass in gear! :)

    Here's my excerpt (having used your deadline as my motivation!). Have fun people, and thank you for reading.

    *************

    Lily looked at Sister Mary Rosanna lying on the ground. Neighbors gathered around the woman’s prone body, as the firemen worked to make her comfortable. Lily glanced around. The other sisters ushered the rest of the children away from the orphanage, but no one was paying any attention to her. “Just like always,” she thought. She could leave and they wouldn’t know. No one would miss her. She could slip quietly through the crowd like the smoke under the hallway door.

    Lily eased away from the gathering and walked behind the fire wagons, out of sight. Then she ran. She ran as fast as she could, but without direction, her arms swinging and her legs pumping harder than they ever had. She ran down Dodge Street until a stitch in her side made her stop, and she doubled over in pain. Grabbing her side and gasping for breath, she realized she was in her stocking feet. The children were just getting ready for bed when Sister alerted them to the fire.

    Lily was instantly aware of the cold. As her breathing eased, and her heart returned to its normal beat, she felt the cold take over her body. It crept up her legs as it also grabbed her hands. Soon she wasn’t just cold all over, she was the cold itself. Even her breath seemed like icy whisps.

    She gained her bearings and headed toward Humboldt Park. The cold wind lashed against her already frozen skin. She had to get to the Iroquois Hotel. She had to find her mother.

    “Lily!”

    She stopped, afraid that she’d been followed.

    “Lily! Over here!”

    The voiced sounded familiar, but it wasn’t one of the sisters.

    Relieved, she turned toward the voice. “Sam!”

    “What are you doing, Lily?” Sam emerged from the shadows, his brown eyes large and bright. His, black, kinky hair exposed to the weather. He was hardly wearing anything more than Lily, his tan coat threadbare and two sizes too big. The youngest of five brothers, he got all the hand-me-downs, regardless of condition. His mama barely had the time or energy to mend the holes in the elbows of the shirts or the knees of the pants before passing them along.

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    Replies
    1. Wendy, I really like Sam's character even though he has just entered the scene.
      I also like how you described Lily 'easing away' from the scene. She is clearly bothered by this - was she close to Sister Mary Rosana?

      I have a suggestion for the third paragraph.To really feel that cold taking over try shortening some of the sentences. Let the cold do the work for you. It will be more intense.
      Ex.It crept up her legs and grabbed at her hands/ or grabbed her hands.She wasn't just cold all over, she was cold herself.
      Dropping one or two words will tighten it right up.

      Thank-you for sharing. I look forward to reading more!
      -Kimberly Mach

      Delete
    2. I'm reading, Wendy! And this: "She could slip quietly through the crowd like the smoke under the hallway door." is a FABULOUS sentence. I'll be back soon. ;)

      Delete
    3. Okay, now I've read it all. First of all, Wendy, GREAT work! I already am invested, want to know why Lily is running and why Sam knows to find her, or has he run too! Want to know all that is going on. Meaning, the writing is compelling. I think Kimberly gives GREAT advice re: the cold paragraph. Voila! She basically did a Superspeed flash edit on it, and it's spot on! The only thing I might add there is that this: "Lily was instantly aware of the cold. As her breathing eased, and her heart returned to its normal beat, she felt the cold take over her body..." I wouldn't have her breathing ease or heart return to normal... if anything the cold and fear that suddenly comes with it would stilt it more. "Lily was instantly aware of the cold. She could feel it take over her body. . ." But these are all things to be tightened on revision (more revision) and what you have here is glorious. Happy New Year! Keep going! :)

      Delete
    4. I'm so glad to see these characters again--I haven't forgotten Sister Mary Rosanna from this summer's excerpts. This is compelling and has great description. I definitely want to read more about all three characters.

      Delete
    5. Thank you for your comments and suggestions Kimberly, Gae, and janes1. This "fire scene" is intended to be near the end of the novel (probably very near the climax), but I'm writing it first because it's the one that speaks to me the most. This is a very rough draft, so I am very happy to have recommendations from readers! I'm so glad that I have the Friday Feedback monthly deadline as motivation to write every day.

      Now, for Gae's excerpt. Upon first reading, I assumed the MC was a girl. Now I'm not so sure. The description of the girl's bedroom being "pink and sparkly" makes me think it's a boy. I'm picturing this scenario as a kidnapping, so I'm anxious to find out what's going on. I'm looking forward to reading more!

      Delete
    6. I love the description in this! It makes me want to know more of the story, what came before, what exactly happened but I think that's because it's out of context. That aside, I think the description is great here! Go, Wendy!

      Delete
    7. I'll just leave my 2 cents here. Well, maybe it's only about one cent. Maybe just a ha'penny.

      I love how you used "fire wagon." To me, it's what really gives us clues as to when this whole scene takes place. Sure, orphanages aren't really a thing anymore (are they?), but "fire wagon" was really what did it for me. I love the subtlety of that.

      ...unless, of course, fire wagons are still things in use somewhere and I'm completely unaware of that.

      Delete
    8. Thank you for your input, Brian. The time period is 1918-1919, an era I'm still researching, but mostly still included the use of fire wagons.

      Delete
  2. Thank-you, Gae, for being here. A TW camper last summer, I read many of your blog postings, but never took the leap to post.
    You guessed it, New Year's res.

    Not entirely sure how this works, so I will comment on the passage first.

    Gae - thanks for sharing a rough copy - that's how I learn!
    I am thinking there is some type of brain trauma and memory loss - the 'eye floater' are a great clue.
    I am not entirely sure if the main character is a boy or a girl right now, but I kind of like that. It is clear that he/she does not belong. As a reader I was squirming a bit. I am waiting for the moment when the character can be alone and figure this out. I'm also wondering where the sister is? Did she get kicked to another room? And who is the man who deposited our poor character in this unfamiliar place? (I already like the character - personality is there with the comments about the boy band and 'pink, glittery' items.)
    These are the questions I would have as a reader if this stays as the opening chapter/ scene. I would keep reading to find those answers.
    -Kimberly Mach

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    Replies
    1. Considering adding this scene to my story - very rough copy!
      The goal here is to show the relationship between the mother and daughter.
      “Irene, would you please sit still?” She was gripping the wheel tight, leaning forward, her back a good inch from the seat. It wasn’t our car. Momma had borrowed from Glen’s family. We didn’t have one, and gas was rationed anyway, but Momma wasn’t all that used to driving.
      We were sitting at a light, one block from the train station. One block from my daddy.
      “I can’t Momma. There’s something itchin’ me in the back.”
      “Itchin’?” Her eyes cut from the side just as the light turned green. There’s a grinding of gears as Momma starts us forward again. The car bucks once then lurches forward. Momma’s grip tightens on the wheel.
      “Itiching, ma’am. Something God-awful fierce.” She didn’t have time to cut her eyes at me again, or swat me with her right hand, which was well within striking distance. Almost there. She down-shifts, slows the car, and puts on the blinker. If we hopped the curb we could be in the lot now.
      The cluck-cluck-cluck of the indicator signal filled the silence. Waiting, waiting, waiting.
      The car is hot, even with the windows rolled down. I pull at the neck of my dress. Momma made me wear it. She wanted the fancy Easter one, but when I put it on it was a “less-than-respectable” distance above the knee, so we had to settle for a regular school cotton one that at least brushed my knees.
      “Irene, you’re growing faster than I can sew.” I didn’t look any different to me, didn’t see what all the fuss was about.
      Finally we’re moving again. Momma eases the car up one row and down the other. She settles for a spot at the end of a long row, far from other cars, passing up several other perfectly suitable – and close – spots.
      “Momma, why are we parking way down here?”
      She pushes the air through her teeth, “Because it is not our car and I want to be careful with it.”
      I look around. We are our own little island in the parking lot. Yup. No danger of hitting anything here.
      I open my door and get out. The old metal groans. I stretch my arms out like I do before I pitch and walk around to Momma’s side. Momma leans toward the mirror, checks her hat pins and reflection one more time. Her hands shake a bit. I’m excited, but she seems almost nervous. She pinches her cheeks with her thumbs and forefingers ‘til she’s pleased with the color. Finally, she opens her door, swings both legs out, and the car begins to roll forward.
      “Momma!”
      Her eyes pop wide and her mouth opens. The car is slowly rolling away with her in it, her feet dragging along on the ground. She clutches the door frame like she wants to jump out.
      “Momma, the car! Stop it! Pull the brake!”
      She snaps back to reality, swings her legs back in, stomps on the brake and pulls up the emergency at the same time. The car stops neatly on the next parking space. Maybe it is a good thing we parked so far away.

      Delete
    2. Sorry about the formatting - all lost in cut and paste. Hope it still makes sense!

      Delete
    3. YAY for "leaping in," Kimberly! Aren't new year's grand!?! And thanks for your feedback. I'm glad the rough beginning is intriguing so far. The reader gets information right after this section, so hopefully that off balance squirming won't last too long. So excited you're joining in! Great comments on Wendy's awesome excerpt. Off to read your excerpt now.

      Delete
    4. Okay, Kimberly, I've read! First of all YAY for you jumping in, being brave, putting your stuff out here for "feedback." :) You have some really great authentic details and dialogue here, and do so much in a short span to really, as you hoped, establish the relationship between mother and daughter. Now, here's the thing. Speaking of "itchin'" I'm itchin to do a superspeed flash edit on this piece... small things that would make it shine and pop more (or so I think...? What do I know) BUT, the biggest issue I have is that, starting here, you start switching tenses -- you start the piece in past and switch to present:

      We were sitting at a light, one block from the train station. One block from my daddy.
      “I can’t Momma. There’s something itchin’ me in the back.”
      “Itchin’?” Her eyes cut from the side just as the light turned green. There’s a grinding of gears as Momma starts us forward again. The car bucks once then lurches forward. Momma’s grip tightens on the wheel."

      I thought it might just be a slip there, but it actually continues through the rest of the piece. SO, here's an invite, I want to read the excerpt without that problem distracting me. So, if you want to, go back and fix the tense switches and repost the excerpt. Because I think some of the things that I think may be distracting me will disappear when you make the tense consistent! Can't wait to see! Keep going!

      gae

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    5. I really liked this. It is very vivid--I could hear the car and feel the tension. I was definitely hooked and wanted to read more. The characters are compelling, too. The only small change I'd suggest would be to take out the explanation about the rationing. For me, it's enough to say they're borrowing the car. Great!

      Delete
    6. Thank-you!
      I will go back and send it to you again. The tense switching is my common problem. When drafting I tend to start in the past, and then as I get into the groove it goes present. Bizarre.
      Thanks again!

      Delete
    7. I get it! MY natural voice is present too! So, the same things happens to me. I kind of liked this in past... maybe because it's old fashioned in its time/place setting, but at any rate, yeah, it will help me to read it the right way to have it consistent. Love so much about it, so yay!

      Delete
    8. Thanks, Jane. I was wondering about that line. The story is set in WWII, but maybe the explanation of the car is not necessary. It's the people in it, not the car, that is the story!

      Delete
    9. Gae,
      Here is the quick tense fix.
      “Irene, would you please sit still?” Momma grips the wheel tight, leaning forward, her back a good inch from the seat. It isn’t our car. Momma borrowed from Glen’s family. We don’t have one, and gas is rationed anyway, so what’s the point? Her hands clench and her lips press tight. Momma isn’t all that used to driving.
      We are sitting at a light, one block from the train station. One block from my daddy.
      Even though she’s already warned me I wiggle again, trying to scratch my spine against the seat. “I can’t sit still, Momma. There’s something itchin’ me in the back.”
      “Itchin’?” Her eyes cut from the side just as the light turns green. There’s a grinding of gears as Momma starts us forward again. The car bucks once then lurches. Momma’s grip tightens on the wheel and I grab the dash.
      “Itiching, ma’am. Something God-awful fierce.” She doesn’t have time to cut her eyes at me again, or swat me with her right hand, which is well within striking distance. Almost there. She down-shifts, slows the car, and puts on the blinker. We are so close! If we hop the curb we could be in the lot now.
      The slow cluck-cluck-cluck of the indicator signal fills the silence saying, ‘Wait, wait, wait.’
      The car is hot, even with the windows rolled down. I pull at the neck of my dress. Momma made me wear it. She wanted the fancy Easter one, but when I put it on it was a “less-than-respectable” distance above the knee, so we had to settle for a regular school cotton one that at least brushed my knees.
      “Irene, you’re growing faster than I can sew.” I don’t look any different to me, don’t see what all the fuss was about.
      Finally we’re moving again. Momma eases the car up one row and down the other. She settles for a spot at the end of a long row, far from other cars, passing up several other perfectly suitable – and close – spots.
      “Momma, why are we parking way down here?”
      She pushes the air through her teeth, “Because it is not our car and I want to be careful with it.”
      I look around. We are our own little island in the parking lot. No danger of hitting anything here.
      I open my door and get out. The old metal groans. I stretch my arms out like I do before I pitch and walk around to Momma’s side. Momma leans toward the mirror, checks her hat pins and reflection one more time. Her hands shake a bit. I’m excited, but she seems almost nervous. She pinches her cheeks with her thumbs and forefingers ‘til she’s pleased with the color. Finally, she opens her door, swings both legs out, and the car begins to roll forward.
      “Momma!”
      Her eyes pop wide and her mouth opens. The car is slowly rolling away with her in it, her feet dragging along on the ground. She clutches the door frame like she wants to jump out.
      “Momma, the car! Stop it! Pull the brake!”

      Thanks for taking the time to view it again!
      -Kimberly

      Delete
    10. Yay! As suspected, fixing the tense took a lot of the other distractions away. I did a minimal Superspeed Flash Edit (tm) (okay, lie, no tm), so minimal that nobody but you would likely notice. If you don't know why I did something, ask. If you don't agree, chuck it! The piece is wonderful as is, and the last part BOTH times I read made me chuckle out loud. A personal, subjective preference that I didn't change in my edit, and leave up to you or others to chime in: I don't like the "cluck, cluck, cluck" for the turn indicator, found it jarring. It's too chickeny. ;) I wonder if old indicators made a different noise and that's why you chose it, but for me, a simple "click, click" would do the trick? Here you go:
      “Irene, would you please sit still?” Momma grips the wheel tight, leaning forward, her back a good inch from the seat. It isn’t our car. Momma borrowed from Glen’s family. We don’t have one, and gas is rationed anyway, so what’s the point? Her hands clench and her lips press tight. Momma isn’t all that used to driving.
      We are sitting at a light, one block from the train station. One block from my daddy.
      Even though she’s already warned me I wiggle again, trying to scratch my spine against the seat. “I can’t sit still, Momma. There’s something itchin’ me in the back.”
      “Itchin’?” Her eyes cut from the side just as the light turns green. There’s a grinding of gears as Momma starts us forward again. The car bucks once then lurches, and I grab the dash.
      “Itiching, ma’am. Something God-awful fierce.” She doesn’t have time to cut her eyes at me again, or swat me with her right hand, which is well within striking distance.
      Almost there. She down-shifts, slows the car, and puts on the blinker. The slow cluck-cluck-cluck of the indicator signal fills the silence saying, ‘Wait, wait, wait.’ We are so close! If we hop the curb we could be in the lot now.

      The car is hot, even with the windows rolled down. I pull at the neck of my dress. Momma made me wear it. She wanted the fancy Easter one, but when I put it on it was a “less-than-respectable” distance above the knee, so we had to settle for a regular school cotton one.
      “Irene, you’re growing faster than I can sew,” but I don’t look any different to me, don’t see what all the fuss is about.

      Finally we’re moving again. Momma eases the car into the lot, up one row and down the other. She settles for a spot at the end of a long, empty row, passing up several perfectly suitable spots that are closer.
      Momma, why are we parking way down here?”

      She pushes the air through her teeth, “Because it is not our car and I want to be careful with it.”
      I look around. We are our own little island. No danger of hitting anything here.
      I open my door and get out. The old metal groans. I stretch my arms out like I do before I pitch and walk around to Momma’s side. Momma leans toward the mirror, checks her hat pins and reflection one more time. Her hands shake a bit. I’m excited, but she seems almost nervous. She pinches her cheeks with her thumbs and forefingers ‘til she’s pleased with the color. Finally, she opens her door and swings both legs out. The car begins to roll forward.
      “Momma!”
      Her eyes pop wide and her mouth opens. The car is slowly rolling away with her in it, her feet dragging along on the ground. She clutches the door frame like she wants to jump out.
      “Momma, the car! Stop it! Pull the brake!”

      Delete
    11. Kimberly, I definitely got WWII, picking up soldier dad at the station after maybe not seeing him for a long time--the tension at the reunion, the borrowed car, the pinched cheeks--it's all there, even without the explanation. You do a great job of showing without telling.

      Delete
    12. Perfect, Gae. Thank-you.
      I was trying to capture the sound of an older car - may have to go to an antique car rally and get the sound. Cluck wasn't sitting right with me either!
      You helped me see this in a whole new light!

      Thanks to you, too, Janes1 - that sentence will be coming out now.

      Delete
    13. KImberly,
      I love the setting of this story (historical fiction being my favorite genre). The dialogue and characterization seems authentic to me. I really love the run away car part. Very funny! I did get hung up on the clucking sound. You definitely need some research to help figure that out. (I'm struggling with a train situation myself). Good luck, and keep going!

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  3. Gae, I am intrigued and want to know who the narrator is and why he's in an apartment in Brooklyn Heights. And who will come back to him? You've raised many questions and I want answers!

    What motivates me? Often, it's an image from nature, either something I've seen outside or a photograph. Because I don't have a good writing routine for working on much other than my blog during the school year, the only new writing I have to share today is this poem, which I wrote for Poetry Friday and was inspired by the hope of seeing northern lights last night.

    "Aurora Borealis"

    Do you remember

    that spring night, long ago,

    when we stood on the lawn,

    transfixed?

    We gazed up in awe

    as curtains of shimmering light

    danced across the sky,

    wrapping the big dipper

    in veils of glowing green.

    Your eyes grew wide

    when a burst of red

    flared and rippled,

    casting an eerie glow

    over the countryside.

    “What is it, Mommy?”

    you wanted to know.

    “Magic,” I replied.

    I played with the placement of the lines to mimic the effect of the lights in the sky, but it shows up better on my blog. (http://readingtothecore.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/poetry-friday-aurora-borealis/)

    I have been thinking about something I started working on a couple of years ago. Knowing Friday Feedback will be here next month, maybe I'll pull it out and work over the next few weeks.

    By the way, I loaned my copy of The Summer of Letting Go to my niece, who lives in Ronkonkama, and she LOVED it! I told her about your date at the Book Revue, and hopefully we'll be there. Thanks, as always, for being such an inspiration!
    Catherine

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    1. Catherine, first of all, this poem is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! The only thing for me is that to me (and this may be purely personal - wondering if others might chime in -) green is eerie and red is something else (I guess red eyes glowing in the dark could (would) be eerie, but red across the sky would be something else. That's totally SUBJECTIVE. Wonder if there's another word for the red glow. Does anyone agree with me? I want you to submit this poem somewhere (I don't know where). I just love it. It would make a cool picture book, wouldn't it... ?

      As for my excerpt, am curious what makes you think the opening excerpt is a boy... would be helpful to know, as I'm still trying (unsuccessfully so far) to hone this character's voice. At the moment, the MS is told in two voices.

      As for your niece, that would be wonderful. If she does come, let me know her name and tell her to remind me that she "belongs" to you. <3

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    2. Gae, As always, thank you for your enthusiasm! After rereading, I agree with you about rethinking the red casting an eerie glow. I didn't even realize I was repeating the word "glow." Will work on this.

      Now on to your opening. I thought the speaker was a boy because of the clothes and the aversion to the Hanson poster--haven't thought of them in years!
      Stereotypical assumptions, I know, but without any other information, that's how I interpreted the details.
      After reading this again, I'm even more curious about this character. Why doesn't s/he know where s/he is or have clothes of her own? Has s/he been injured? Can't wait to learn more about this character!

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    3. Hah, yes, the Hanson poster is a clue to the time setting. They are current when the book takes place. ;)

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    4. I love this poem. I can picture the red glow being eerie, for what it's worth. The red itself might not be eerie, but if the sky was green and everything else was cast in that faint greenish glow (which, yes, itself might be a little eerie or even creepy), a change in that to red might be...

      ...okay, maybe not eerie. Maybe that would be something that would put me a bit more on alert. Hmm. Gae may be on to something here (as she often is).

      What really struck me as I read the poem was the shape. Here, it's not very strong, but there's a definite curve to the poem that is reminiscent of the northern lights themselves. On your blog, you emphasize this even further, but I actually like it more this way. I think it comes across as stronger because you're not just being fancy with where you place the lines -- the lines themselves create the shape. Then again, I think I'm just in a subtle mood this morning.

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    5. Thanks, Brian! I do agree with you and Gae about the description of the red light. And I see what you mean about the way the lines curve with the margin flush left. I thought the curved placement of the lines describing the light contrasted to the lines about us standing on the lawn, but maybe not. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  4. Gosh, I love the word veil - it suggests so much.
    Curtain and veil also seem to suggest breathing and movement - like the lights are alive. I have only seen them on screen. Does it look that way in person, too?

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    1. Kimberly, I loved that line too: Wrapping the big dipper in veils of glowing green.

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    2. Thanks, Kim! They do look like they're alive. It's an incredible sight.

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  5. Gae, you are just an all-around generous person. I'm honored to be included here today and be a part of this larger writing community. I'm very curious about your new manuscript. Immediately I'm thinking of a kidnapping...

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    1. Thanks, Caroline! I love it here! Everyone is so enthusiastic and supportive. I love when my readers did in to help others "see" what we can't see ourselves.

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  6. Gae,
    I assume this is the same WIP you've posted from recently, and I really like this beginning--the feelings of disconnection, loss, being lost, and confusion are all there. It raises so many questions the reader wants to know the answers to, so it's a great hook. I love the last line, but on the first read, the "them" was a little muddied by the sentence "Focus on him." I get it, I know why there's the intervening sentence, so I don't know how to fix it. I think this character is a girl, but it is definitely obscured, which I like. Please keep writing this story. I think it's going to be really powerful, though I imagine it must be especially challenging.

    Okay, working on my post.

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    1. Thanks, Jane! I'm with you on the word "them" and in fact debated taking it out and/or finding a new word, but hadn't yet... will keep working on it. Off to read more stuff!

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  7. What motivates me? Friday Feedback--it has been such a source of inspiration and motivation, and I am very grateful for the comments and support. My other motivation is finishing--I've always wanted to do this, and if not now, when? Thank you again!

    They left before dawn, moving quietly through a thick veil of fog that had descended in the night. Miranda and Aren assiduously avoided each other. Aches shot through her arms whenever she thought of what had passed. His note stabbed at her; everything was ruined.

    In front of her, Stephen clung so tightly to Bandit’s saddle that his little fingers turned white. Miranda patted his back to reassure him and felt the sharp ridges of his spine poking through his tattered shirt. Stephen was the only thing she’d done right. She had to make sure he got to safety, whatever it cost her.

    They continued into deeper fog, trusting the road to continue. Miranda hardly cared if it did. Nothing she said had come out right, everything got twisted. Aren said he hadn’t changed his mind, but now he hated her, and there was no way to fix it.

    Shadowy trees appeared and disappeared. Miranda was aware that she, too, was perpetually disappearing into the gray curtain. Somewhere behind her in the haze was Aren. The distance between them was unpassable. Now, in the fog, it was as if both of them had simply vanished.

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    1. Jane, wish I had some constructive criticism, but it's pretty much perfect. Always happy to see more glimpses of Miranda - and, oh, what has happened with Aren? The last paragraph, I just want to frame it. Perfection.

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    2. Wow, Jane! The gray haze and fog make Miranda's despair palpable. I agree with Gae: don't change a thing.

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    3. Gae, Catherine, and Kimberly, Thank you so much for your feedback. It means a lot, and it is just what I needed in the midst of a revision morass. xo

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  8. Ok, I'm in. I'd follow these characters. There are a few things here that really grab at me as a reader.
    1. Stephen and the fact he is small and unduly thin - love Miranda's maternal instinct here and her need to protect him.
    2. The parallel of the surroundings and Miranda's emotional state.The last line is strong and I found myself rereading it and sitting with it. These two characters, in a literal and figurative fog, cannot see everything before them. With the misunderstandings they are only getting a piece of the story. Nice tension for me!

    One question I have is what is the temperature? Is this a muggy fog or one that is almost cold? You may not need it in the text, but think of the feel of the shirt - damp from fear, exertion, or the moisture? (I think my hair is curling as I imagine it!) Again, you may not even need to reference in the text, but it could add to the tension.

    I enjoyed reading this, thank-you for sharing!

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  9. I'll be back later this evening everyone! Keep posting! <3

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  10. Gae, thanks so much for the motivation! I was definitely hooked by your piece. Your details make the scene recognizable while staying unexpected. It has a sense of being 'off balance,' adding to the suspense.

    I'll take a chance at sharing a piece I drafted last week as a new POV on an opening scene. Not sure if it will stay in this POV.
    ***
    His mother’s shoulder was warm against Liam’s back, the water glittering beneath the sink-light as she sudsed his hands. He clapped them so bubbles sprayed and he tracked them, her voice murmuring in his ear as each iridescent orb floated up and sideways and down, each at its own rate so that his eyes measured them as if racers toward a finish line. Plik! Hope. Plik! Each popped, in its own path, no matter he’d resisted the urge to touch them. Each, in its own path, flicked a mini explosion of its membrane and ceased to exist in the vacant spans of light.
    Her voice reached a pitch – his feet had kicked dishes stacked in the sink – then gone silent, replaced by the constant curt voice of men and women from the television playing in the next room. News. Always the news, and he hated it.
    He patted suds onto her cheek. She took it as a joke, laughing, her eyes smiling at his. He hit her again, wanting it to stop: the man chopping news into his head. An airport. A warning. A plane stopped along a runway. Heads talking. The plane. More heads. A fire truck. She would look: study the stream of words at the bottom. Flip three channels forward, pausing on each. Each, more news. Then back. Even she didn’t care: he could tell. She took in what was happening the same way she studied the noise of trash men arriving for the blue bins or the neighbor's garage door motor starting: look to the noise, see it for what it was, and disregard it as not affecting them. But most hours of the day, he could not make her change the channel. “Just let me see what’s happening overseas,” she would tell him, “Then we’ll change it.”
    She corrects him now, “We don’t hit!” gripping his hands together in her own as if for prayer. He twists his head away and pulls his hands. “Hands are not for hitting,” she recites.
    He says very quietly, as if to an unseeable friend, “I hate the news.”
    She lets go, relieved. It makes sense now, the smack, as it hadn’t a second ago. He leans into her shoulder, his dried hand reaching along the back of her neck to where her hair is softest, her baby again.
    “I hate it, too,” she says.
    She will change the channel, this time, but he doesn’t believe she hates it. The firemen spraying foam on the plane by the runway did not interest her, but other times she has watched the same repeating footage, over and over. A black uniformed policeman being interviewed in a mist of rain, dark clouds rising behind him. A white SUV driving between sand-colored buildings in a cloud of sand with a reporter cloaked with a checkered scarf. Over and over, she might watch these. Study the images to the corners of the screen. Study faces blurred in the background. Over and over. Then flip channels in hope to see the same scene from another angle. Not notice the stack he’d made of his cars: three tall, now four, his eyes widening, willing them not to topple. His mother not seeing: frozen silent, remote clenched in her hand. Sometimes tears. He hated it as she did not. So easily, she could have flipped to another channel. Thomas the Train. Even Dora.
    “I hate the men,” he said once.
    She had turned away from him like she did when he broke something and she was mad even though she said she wasn’t.
    “Never hate the men,” she said. She left the room, crying and trying to hide it from him, as if these men were her own friends, her family, as the empty house of the two of them showed no sign of.

    ***
    Hmm... there are parts I like and... well, you know how it is with drafts! Any feedback is appreciated. Thanks!

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    1. Hi, Elissa, there ARE indeed beautiful pieces of writing in here, especially the bubbles... but you know that. ;) Just lovely to read from that perspective! I'm a little hardpressed to give you substantive feedback because I feel like the piece is so out of context. I'm not sure how I feel about this sort of omniscient voice of a toddler (?) It's interesting... there's so much I don't know that's throwing me off balance from the age of the child to what has happened that the news is so central, but the writing is so lovely it compels me. I'm not going to talk about edit or revision because I know it's a new piece, but the one food-for-thought thing I'll say is that sometimes less is more and maybe some of the repetition is needed and maybe it's not. For you to pay attention to as you go. Am very curious to read more. I have a feeling this feedback wasn't that helpful. Am hoping others chime in with more coherent thought, but this may be a piece that just stands on lovely writing until there's more context involved. :)

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    2. Gae, it was completely helpful! I had the same thought about repetition as I was posting it. (One of my favorite revision strategies is moving text from one format to another, because, for example, the repetition became obvious when I read it here in a way that it wasn't when re-reading in Word.) The missing context that a reader of the fuller passage would know is that the child was just pulled out of the garden where the mom caught him burying a dead animal. There has already been a hint that the child's father has always been absent and this is in the transition where the mystery is set about a political event where he went missing. I don't completely like this in the child's voice, but keep rewriting sections from his POV in order to "see" things from his perspective that may seem flatter to me from his mother's POV. Since it's adult fic, I'm assuming the final version would be more successful from her POV, but keep working on her voice since it carries the weight of being the opening. You're welcome to let me know it that provokes more comments from you -- but really, you were more helpful than you know. :) Thanks!

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    3. Gae's comments are right on target. I especially agree with her "less is more" suggestion. But we don't have the whole picture. The attention paid to the bubbles was distracting to me at first, but maybe in the bigger picture they make sense. I'm definitely curious to know more!

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    4. This piece reminds me of ROOM by Emma Donohue, where the child's POV narrates the story. I'm not sure it's the best approach for your story though. With ROOM, the reader pretty much knows what's going on, and the compelling part is seeing it from the child's perspective. I would love to read your story, Elissa, from the mom's POV. I think the scene you wrote is wonderful, but maybe we can get the boy's feelings through dialogue instead. I love the part where he pats his hands against her cheeks. There's sweetness, as well as Liams' frustration in that gesture. I want to read more, so keep going.

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    5. So, in my stuffed ear/nose/throat stupor, I tried to think more eloquently about this. Let me reiterate first that, as you know, your writing is so beautiful in a vacuum, and of course, beautiful writing is a thing that cannot be taught, really. Or maybe it can, but it's a big thing to just be able to do it. You clearly can "just do it." So, the issue here is whether this beautiful writing works HERE in CONTEXT and the short answer is that none of us know enough from a few paragraphs to know. Your kid in this scene is SO young. He seems barely a toddler, so his thoughts are so sophisticated for that age. I know some writers have pulled it off (in fact, many love how Emma Donohue did it in ROOM -- I actually was one who didn't always find her child character's "voice" authentic... but maybe some will say that about my boy in SUMMER OF LETTING GO. So much has to do with the people of that age each of us has come in contact with, and since people are like snowflakes... BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, the boy is NOT really your narrator but an omniscient third person narrator looking down on the boy, so I'm not sure it's not COMPLETELY okay and compelling to be in that more sophisticated voice. I say keep playing with it for a while if it's what's calling to you. Sometimes it's writing like this that leads us exactly to the right place (or, away from the wrong one). Keep going! gae

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    6. Thanks, Gae, and to the other 2 who commented. It's such an unexpected opportunity to get some feedback this week -- I'm really grateful you hosted Friday Feedback. Your comments have been really helpful. I think I'm a couple revisions away from finalizing how I'll use voice in the novel, but I'm glad to be stretching to understand the preschooler's POV. There are elements of the novel's whole internal conflict that center on his need for a dad, and they came out so flat when I was only expressing it from the mother's POV. Your last comment, Gae, is exactly why I keep playing with it. Thanks!

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  11. Hooray for Friday Feedback! Love it! Im excited to see that we get to see the girl's POV now! I remember reading some from the perspective of the boy from what you shared. I'm still curious to know what her story is! :)

    I don't think I've shared this here before! Curious what you think! <3

    *****

    I hate how things ended with Hayden. The last night of summer, we walked along the beach and finally decided to sit on a ratty old bench. We were remembering when we were kids and we had the best water balloon fight ever. We spent all morning making water balloons, filling a giant garbage can full of them, restraining ourselves from throwing them at each other. Tired from talking and laughing, Hayden leaned. He threw his arms out, one landing on the bench to his right and the other resting gently on my shoulders. Looking out at the water, he said, “Good times.”
    The energy of our conversation rolled out with the gentle waves and we sat there quietly. Suddenly, I was aware of the contrast between the cool on one side of my body and Hayden’s warmth on the other. I looked at my hands and caught a glimpse of the side pocket on his cargo shorts. Strings hung all over the place and I had a sudden urge to tie the pocket strings up. So I did.
    I could feel Hayden watching me. When I finished, I looked at him. He smiled a sleepy, dreamy kind of smile I had never seen him smile before.
    I smiled back.
    Hayden leaned forward, keeping his eyes on mine. Then he looked at my lips, I looked at his lips. And he leaned closer. His eyes looked at mine again. And then he closed his eyes. And that’s when I turned my head.

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    1. Jen, what I love about your stuff AS ALWAYS is how consistent and YOU the voice is and the rhythm... which for me is part of voice. I always feel like you nail the teen feel with a minimal amount of effort (which is great since I know, know, know it is NOT effortless! ;)).

      Shame on you for the two suddenly/suddens in a row. Do you even pay attention to me (or Elmore Leonard, God rest his soul?) ;)

      The energy of our conversation rolled out with the gentle waves and we sat there quietly. Suddenly, I was aware of the contrast between the cool on one side of my body and Hayden’s warmth on the other. I looked at my hands and caught a glimpse of the side pocket on his cargo shorts. Strings hung all over the place and I had a sudden urge to tie the pocket strings up.

      Let's at least take that first one out, my preference:

      The energy of our conversation rolled out with the gentle waves and, as, we sat there quietly, I was aware of the contrast between the cool on one side of my body and Hayden’s warmth on the other. I looked at my hands and caught a glimpse of the side pocket on his cargo shorts. Strings hung all over the place and I had a sudden urge to tie the pocket strings up.
      So I did.

      Yay! See? :)

      Also I'm wondering about a quick edit on the last paragraph. I know you're building tension, but I'm wondering if the punchline of her turned head is stronger if it unfolds more quickly - I'm a little tripped up otherwise by the "and"s and "then"s "and "and then"s. Food for thought.

      But you know, both me being picky and letting you know I am reading. I love it, and her and Hayden. Keep going. :)

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    2. Oops, forgot to cut and paste the potential edit... food for thought... here you go:

      Hayden leaned forward, keeping his eyes on mine. Then he looked at my lips, I looked at his lips, and he leaned closer and closed his eyes. That’s when I turned my head.

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    3. Jen,

      I know we've already maquizga'd this a bit, so I want to publicly apologize for missing that "suddenly" "sudden" thing Gae pointed out. I guess that's why she has had two full-length books published and I have, oh, about 30 pages written.

      But after I say how right Gae was with that, I'm going to contradict her about that last paragraph. I like that it's kind of choppy and stilted. This is clearly a vital moment to your narrator, and she's probably not going to be recalling this in beautiful prose. As it's formatted here, though, it is a little distracting. I wonder if you could take each sentence and make it its own line on the page.

      Hayden leaned forward, keeping his eyes on mine. Then he looked at my lips, I looked at his lips.
      And he leaned closer.
      His eyes looked at mine again.
      And then he closed his eyes.

      And that’s when I turned my head.

      There might still be too many "ands" in there, but it's something to consider.

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    4. Thanks Gae and Brian! Honestly, I have learned about repeating words! I promise I notice it A LOT of the time...just not all the time. But really, I do notice it a ton. Thanks for the feedback. I'm taking it as a giant win that at least the voice is there. :) I love that you are continuing this. I miss it!

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    5. Jen,
      This piece really draws me in. The characters are real, the emotions are true, and the setting is perfect. I'm going to risk being unpopular and say that I hate it when a character turns his or her head against a kiss. It seems cliche to me. To avoid the kiss, could Hayden instead tilt her head down, or say something distracting, or anything different? Just a thought. Gae yelled at me last summer for using "suddenly" so now I catch myself every time I got to write it (or at least I catch it on revision). I look forward to reading more. Thanks for sharing.

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    6. Jen, I was only teasing you! I have "suddenly"s all through my manuscripts until I go through with a fine toothed comb. I also see them in published manuscripts all the time. Like I always say, the point is ultimately to write with intention, to use things because you intend to. But there is also a natural flow to voice and you always nail yours, so no worries. And, Wendy, I never yell! <3

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    7. It's true, Gae, you don't yell. You're very kind. That was me yelling at myself for using "suddenly" in my MS again! :)

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  12. Btw, there are a lot of comments here today... so if I missed your excerpt for any reason, please flag me down. I would never not comment! xox

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  13. Gae,

    I'll post some of my own stuff in a moment, but first, I'll give you some feedback.

    The beginning of the scene left me slightly confused (why is she referring to someone whose bed she is on and whose clothes she is wearing as "the boy"?), but then I realized that this isn't a sexual thing, it's more of a...rescue thing? So that cleared that up. I just wanted to share those thoughts because why not.

    I think I'd prefer the description of the room not to start with "it's not the boy's room I'm in, but his sister's." Does she know this right away? Or does she figure it out through the elements that are there (the walls, the poster, the sparkles). Could you let the reader figure it out with her?

    I love that there is only one word spoken in this scene. Clearly, the narrator has way too much on her mind to think about words.

    And the eye floater metaphor. That's great. Something that I wish I could do is find that perfect metaphor that everyone knows, but nobody really talks about. We all know what eye floaters are, but who actually talks about them? And the way you use it here is beautiful.

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    1. Thank you BW for all the great and thoughtful feedback to mine and others' excerpts! You're the bomb. Is that still a good thing? Off to read yours now!

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  14. The scene I'm posting below slightly violates the 3-5 paragraphs rule, so feel free to only read the first 3-5 paragraphs. But they're dialogue paragraphs, and my hope is that you'll all enjoy the exchange enough to finish all 7 of them.

    This is the end of the first conversation we see between my MC and his father. If you feel like giving feedback, here's what I'm wondering: what does this scene tell you, if anything, about the relationship he has with his dad? Other input is, of course, welcome and appreciated, but that's what I'm using this scene for, so I'm wondering if it accomplishes what I'm hoping it does. Thanks!

    ---

    “Look,” he continued, “I know we’ve talked about this before, but I just want to remind you: being young and in love is fun, but it can lead to a lot of trouble. Sex might seem like the right thing to do, but often times, it’s just not worth it. I’m confident you’re smart enough to use a condom if you do it, but I hope you consider not having sex instead.”

    If his intention was to turn my face from a slight pink to a deep red, he was pretty close to succeeding. “Look, Dad, I’m not having sex. There was one kiss, that’s it!”

    “Got you again! An old standby of mine: go way over the top with something embarrassing, and you kids will offer up the considerably lighter truth just to shut me up. I guess it’s time to pass that trick on to you. After all, if you’re not careful, you might need to use it pretty soon yourself.”

    Damn. Not only did he get me – twice – but he also snuck in the best safe sex line I’d probably ever hear before 10 AM. I had to hand it to him: he was good.

    “Okay, son. I gotta get going. Hank needs some help cleaning out his gutters. If you need me, that’s where I’ll be.” He got up, grabbing his keys, and headed for the garage door.

    “Sounds good, Dad. Thanks for the coffee,” I said, toasting him with my mug.

    “Not a problem. Just don’t go stealing my title anytime soon, okay?” he said, pointing at the mug in my hands. I turned the mug towards me, so I could see what he was talking about. “World’s Greatest Dad” stared back at me. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he planned that. And truthfully, I didn’t know better. Apparently “good” doesn’t begin to describe my dad’s skills.

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  15. I like it, Brian! And I think it shows a sort of good, typical rapport between Dad and son, but one that's close enough to even be having such discussions. There's a nice comfortable humor to it, even in an embarrassing moment and a level of respect for the Dad's ability to do what he has to do. Does that make sense? Like even in his humiliation, the son respects the Dad's parenting. I tweaked the Dad's dialogue in the below ridiculously minimal Superspeed flash edit to take the colloquial "gotta" out, and am curious about changing 'condom' to protection. A little less squirm-worthy which you might be going for, but so often parents use the vaguest terms they can find... ? Either way, you want his voice to be distinct from a teen's. A lot of times something like that will do the trick. Not that adults don't use slang, but you don't want him to sound the same as your MC. Also, I changed "pretty close to succeeding" to succeeded in the blush sentence, because why not? Makes the blurting all the more realistic. It doesn't take that long to go from pink to red after all, does it? ;)

    As always, merely bites of food for thought. It's a great scene. Nice that you're writing! Keep going.

    “Look,” he continued, “I know we’ve talked about this before, but I just want to remind you: being young and in love is fun, but it can lead to a lot of trouble. Sex might seem like the right thing to do, but often times, it’s just not worth it. I’m confident you’re smart enough to use protection if you do it, but I hope you consider not having sex instead.”

    If his intention was to turn my face from a slight pink to a deep red, he succeeded. “Look, Dad, I’m not having sex. There was one kiss, that’s it!”

    “Got you again! An old standby of mine: go way over the top with something embarrassing, and you kids will offer up the considerably lighter truth to shut you up. I guess it’s time to pass that trick on to you. After all, if you’re not careful, you might need to use it pretty soon yourself.”

    Damn. Not only did he get me – twice – but he also snuck in the best safe sex line I’d probably ever hear before 10 AM. I had to hand it to him: he was good.

    “Okay, son. I’ve got to get going. Hank needs some help cleaning out his gutters. If you need me, that’s where I’ll be.” He grabbed his keys, and headed for the garage door.

    “Sounds good, Dad. Thanks for the coffee,” I said, toasting him with my mug.

    “Not a problem. Just don’t go stealing my title anytime soon, okay?” He pointed at the mug in my hands. I turned it towards me, so I could see what he was talking about. “World’s Greatest Dad” stared back at me. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he planned that. And truthfully, I didn’t know better. Apparently “good” didn’t begin to describe my dad’s skills.

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  16. I enjoyed reading this--you manage to craft a pretty awkward conversation with a light hand and genuine tone. I liked the son's admiration for his dad. You can tell they're close, and that the son looks up to his dad, whether he'd admit it or not. I was struck by how confident the dad is in what many parents might consider a tricky conversation. Is that the case, or does the dad have some squirmy feelings himself (and if so, is there a subtle way to reveal or hint at that in this passage through a gesture, dropping his keys or something else)? I also think you might be able to do without the last line.

    I liked these characters and was definitely intrigued to want to know more about them and the situation. Great job.

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