Saturday, May 28, 2011

First Page Contest and the Blahggy Blog Blows

Shelley Watters is hosting this amazeballs contest of awesome over on her blog. In a nutshell, contestants post the first 250 words (first page) of their novel on Tuesday May 31 for a chance to win a 10-page critique by the fabulous Judith Engracia of Liza Dawson and Associates. Want to enter? Hop on over to her blog and check it out!

Anyhoo - in the next three days, contestants can post their first pages on their blogs for critiquing opportunities. I'm usually averse to posting pieces of my ms on my blog, but I can use all the help I can get. So here goes. Feel free to be constructively brutal.

PS - my first page is actually 295 words. I cut it to 250 for a different first page contest, but I'm interested to see what my blogging friends think in terms of cutting. Happy reading!

My excerpt from Envious, a YA Paranormal complete at 73,000 words.

Mookie’s suicide hit like a sledgehammer to my chest.

He didn’t leave a note. No call. Not even a farewell text. Not a single clue as to why he jumped off the top of our bleachers—over fifty feet up.

They found his body early Sunday morning.
They being a well-intentioned jogger off to start the New Year on the right track. Mr. Graham, my tenth grade Geometry teacher with a pug nose and a body to match, arrived at our school around six for a pre-dawn run. While huffing through lap number two, he spotted Mookie’s sneaker sticking out of the new fallen snow. Then a frostbitten hand nearby it. Then the pool of blood.

A police car arrived shortly after, then an ambulance. Even a fire engine although I wasn’t sure what that was for. A fire had already been put out—a burning heat that used to fuel my existence was long gone.

Mookie lay on his stomach at the bottom of the bleachers, a short rusty stake the claim to his demise. With no footprints aside from Graham’s and no evidence of foul play, the local police concluded he killed himself. Said he must’ve taken a long fall and the stake gouged his heart when he fell on it. Tox reports would take at least a week, but I knew Mookie’s system contained a combination of weed and booze—how much remained the question. Enough to delude my previously carefree best friend into thinking he should jump, ending what had seemed to be a great life with a bright future.

That’s right. Mookie was my best friend. Most of the time—my only friend. And on January 3 he took his life.

This is where his story ends.

And mine begins.


So there 'tis. Disclaimer: I've been told it reads like a prologue. And it should. It used to be one.

Happy commenting!

Oh - and speaking of commenting - I haven't been able to do much lately. Apparently a few other bloggers are experiencing similar issues. Bu-ut I found this neato nifty shortcut on a couple of blogs. And it works! The suggested solution was to UNCLICK the "Stay signed in" box. Hmmmm. I love google.

Thanks for reading. And commenting. Don't forget to be constructively brutal! You're all fabulous!

28 comments:

  1. I liked your piece whether prologue or not.

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  2. Just a few things from me...
    They found his body but it was only one man.
    I think this whole paragraph might need some touch up perhaps like...
    Mr. Graham my tenth grade Geometry teacher had a pug nose and a body to match. After huffing his way through a second lap he found the body. That was a sunday he won't forget for some time... (continue)
    This is of course only my opinion based on how I write. Either way it's a good start and I would be interested to read on a bit more.
    Http://jamieheppner.blogspot.com for my attempt.

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  3. i'm confused about how the narrator knows all of this information--was he or she there watching the teacher find the body? i'm also not sure how i'm supposed to know who the mc is, or if i should like him/her... what their name is, gender.

    i almost feel like i'm reading someone's diary. i would've liked a scene in realtime when the mc finds out his/her best friend commited suicide.

    but i like the writing and the voice quite a bit :)

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  4. I loved it. It was engaging and the character's voice and the primary conflict are clear. Well done.

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  5. I like this, but I wonder why they jumped to the suicide conclusion. Couldn't he have fallen? If he was drunk and high, it seems even more possible than suicide, imo.

    I'd watch the use of the word 'then' in the third and fourth paragraphs.

    Interesting start. I would read on.

    Good luck!

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  6. Well done - as far as cutting, I think you could lose the last 2 sentences of paragraph 3 (frostbit hand and pool of blood) and all of the next paragraph about the police car, without losing any of the impact.

    And I don't feel like I need real-time for this as another critter suggested. I feel like your MC is talking to me.

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  7. well,
    i think i actually had mr. graham as a teacher back in high school so that worked for me :) i don't think you need this scene real time as some suggested. yes, it sort of comes off like a prologue, but it's all about where you go from here that will really showcase if this way works or not. One question i had was about word use..if the MC is a teenager/young adult would they say "tox screen"? it made me pause to wonder if MC was older than i expected..

    good stuff i would keep reading

    douglas esper

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  8. GREAT submit, Alison!

    Good flow, great voice, solid scene building.

    As well, I don't think it's confusing at all, as to why the narrator knows all of what happened. This is obviously back story, considering where you ended it - and where it's about to pick up from. No need to change this to real-time, IMHO.

    My only teeny-tiny crit is how you listed out how his body was found at the end of paragraph 3, then started another list of how everyone started to arrive on the scene:

    "While huffing through lap number two, he spotted Mookie’s sneaker sticking out of the new fallen snow. Then a frostbitten hand nearby it. Then the pool of blood.

    A police car arrived shortly after, then an ambulance. Even a fire engine although I wasn’t sure what that was for."

    I like paragraph 3 as is, so maybe just change the first sentence in paragraph 4:

    "A police car arrived shortly after, followed by an ambulance..."

    Cuts out one of the "then..." moments.

    Teeny-tiny, like I said!

    Otherwise, I really enjoyed this submit and would definitely read on (in fact, I may stalk you about that! :)).

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  9. Great Start! I would totally love to read this book based on this first page. And prologue, smologue, write it how you want. I think this start is a great hook.

    I made minor changes to the story below and also put some comments in brackets. Hope this helps. Good luck!

    Mookie’s suicide hit like a sledgehammer to my chest. (Good start)

    He didn’t leave a note. No call. Not even a farewell text. Not a single clue as to why he jumped off the fifty foot tall bleachers.

    They found his body early Sunday morning. They being a well-intentioned jogger off to start the New Year on the right track. Mr. Graham, my tenth grade Geometry teacher with a pug nose and a body to match arrived at our school around six for a pre-dawn run. While huffing through lap number two, he spotted Mookie’s sneaker sticking out of the new fallen snow, a frostbitten hand not far from it, and the pool of blood. (This paragraph tripped me up for a second. At first I thought the well-intentioned jogger and Mr. Graham were two separate people because you said They in the beginning. Not sure how to change it.)

    A police car arrived shortly after, followed by an ambulance. Even a fire engine made an appearance, although I wasn’t sure what that was for. A fire had already been put out—a burning heat that used to fuel my existence was long gone. (I love the last sentence)

    Mookie lay on his stomach at the bottom of the bleachers, a short rusty stake the claim to his demise. With no footprints aside from Graham’s and no evidence of foul play, the local police concluded he killed himself. Said he must’ve taken a long fall and the stake gouged his heart when he fell on it. Tox reports would take at least a week, but I knew Mookie’s system contained a combination of weed and booze—how much remained was the question. Enough to delude my previously carefree best friend into thinking he should jump, ending what had seemed to be a great life with a bright future. (Okay, I cringed with the hole stake gouging his heart. Great descriptions)

    That’s right. Mookie was my best friend. Most of the time—my only friend. And on January 3 he took his life.

    This is where his story ends.

    And mine begins

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  10. I was swept up and wanted to keep reading to find out if it really was suicide..or an accident...or murder!

    I liked this. Good voice and tone. Well done!

    P.S. Thx for your hint above about blogger. Ugh, I had issues with that yesterday.

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  11. This does read like a prologue, which I generally despise, but this is good! I would go ahead and label it that because I think first chapters should be about the main character and getting to know them. I like the prologue here because it seem crucial in helping define who your MC is. Great job!

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  12. Here's my 2 cents (if it's worth even that). You could probably cut the first sentence...as "sledgehammer" similes are pretty common, and you don't want to start with common. Plus, the second para is more powerful, and the first sentence takes away from that.

    Also, it does read like a prologue turned chap one since there are things in there a close first person narrator probably wouldn't know. It could be considered a strong prologue, but not a strong chap one since it's so info heavy and not in-scene with your POV character.

    I'd still advise against using it as a prologue as that could turn off some agents. I'd suggest putting the last two sentences of this sample after "pool of blood." and having the other info come out little by little during scenes with the main character.

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  13. I like the voice even though it does feel like a prologue. I guess the one thing that's really missing here is how all this makes the MC feel. Mookie's his/her best friend - only friend and dies without leaving a note or anything. How does that make the MC feel? The whole passage is a dry recitation of facts about the death - who, where, how - but there's so reaction from the narrator. What happened when he/she heard the news?

    I'd read on. I'm intrigued...

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  14. Wow! Thanks, blogger peeps! There's some excellent advice here, and definitely helps in terms of narrowing down to 250. Fabulous, fabulous! Keep the crits coming!

    PS - I'm in between beach and pool right now (I know - I suck), but I plan to visit more of you tonight!

    Thanks again!

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  15. I have to admit I'm not fond of 'storyteller' type narrative. I prefer concrete description of actual events. However, you have an intriguing idea and a nice writing style. I agree with Jamie's correction of para three. Take her advice.
    Good luck!

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  16. I love the way you describe Graham's finding of the body because I think that is how it would happen. Your brain is so spazzed you never see a body you just sort of pick up pieces, especially in the snow. I really want to know more about what happened to Mookie and the MC so you have me hooked, I would keep reading. I might tweak the opening sentence to say Mookie's suicide hit me like a sledgehammer to the chest. But that is extremely nit-picky. It really is excellent and I feel like your MC and I are having coffee and I am trying to think of what the hell to say to her (because I am awful at consoling people.) Good luck in the contest!

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  17. I'm not a huge fan of prologues, but I like the way you tied this one in with the last two lines. It might just be me, but when you talk about Graham's footprints, I thought "who the heck is Graham?" so maybe you could just put the Mr. back there?

    One other question - even though the police say it's a suicide, it seems like your mc doesn't believe it. Maybe he/she (I'm thinking she) should voice that here. Something like "Why would my normally carefree best friend want to end his life? Maybe he got drunk and fell." ??

    Good job and good luck!! (and I'm wondering why this is paranormal, hmmm...)
    erica

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  18. The pool of blood would have frozen in the snow, right? I mean, I've only ever experienced one true winter, but I'm pretty damned sure the warmth from the heat of the blood would have melted some snow, then it would have refrozen into ice, or at least slush.
    I understand perfectly how the MC is telling this story. No questions about whether he or she was present or not. This reporting serves as a great introduction. I really like this approach. I'm sure we'll find out the MC's emotional response later on.
    I loved the fire engine line so much. And I simply adore the last three paragraphs.

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  19. What can I say? It sounds great to me. =)

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  20. I can't say anything the others haven't said. I thought this was a good opening. I definitely think you got great suggestions that can help you improve the entry, but you know the flow of your ms, and some might not work. I think this sounds like a great story. Good Luck

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  21. I like the narration here. The MC's voice is distinct and it makes the story compelling to read. it just moves everything forward.

    One thing that stood out as odd to me:
    That’s right. Mookie was my best friend.

    It felt off because it feels like a rebuttal to something the reader wouldn't be questioning. I loved what came after that, though. Great job ^_^

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  22. Hi, Alison,

    This beginning is one of the most compelling of the contest to me. Good job! You received many good comments and suggestions for improvement; if you can make many of those, it'll be really great.

    I also wondered why she assumes it was suicide and not a slip on slippery bleachers, even if he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. There has to be some other reference to support her conclusion that it was suicide, since she even tells us that he was normally carefree.

    Very compelling and well done. I'd keep reading! Thanks for sharing and good luck!

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  23. I was pulled in right away and want to find out what happens (and why, of course). Great voice, good luck!

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  24. Ohhhh fabulously eerie. Fantastic, fill with tension. Very gripping.

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  25. Great beginning! I love the descriptions and the mystery!!!

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  26. Thanks again, everyone! You all had so many good, constructive things to say. Thank you. I submitted today. Good luck to everyone!

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  27. Wow, that's powerful stuff, looks like the start to an interesting yet angsty story.


    By the way, I'm running a poll for what book I should read and share my thoughts about next on the Kelworth Files, and I really need book lovers, (particularly science fiction and fantasy) to give me their opinion. So, come by http://kelworthfiles.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/a-wizard-of-mars-chapter-fifteen/ and check out the poll options!

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