Saturday, August 22, 2009

This Blog Is On Hiatus

But I'm keeping it up in case I want to do anything else secretive or clinic-y. And so people can read the back posts.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

PLEASE READ: 1st pages clinic

I am beginning to despair of maintaining two blogs. Keeping up with the Editorial Anonymous one is tough enough right now. Do you guys want me to keep posting 1st pages, and just let you all comment? (And I'll chip in in the comments if I have a chance?)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

First Pages: YA / French Braid

As I run the silver-backed brush through my hair, I study the large gray eyes reflected in my mirror. They are somber now, veiled with fog, as though they have seen a hundred years instead of just nineteen. My face is young, but my eyes are old.
Too many adjectives.
This afternoon, I’ll attend the dress rehearsal of my father’s latest play.
And she's already a drama queen.
We’ll sit side by side in the empty theatre, and instead of watching the actors he’ll be glancing at me, brows knitted, as though wondering who I am, and where his little girl has gone. I will nod and smile and complement his direction, then speak of other unimportant things. Later, he’ll grin and present me with some small gift, as though a sketch pad or stick of charcoal will somehow bridge this gulf between us. He doesn’t understand. I do not try to explain. I am still my father’s daughter, but I’m not a child any longer.

I remember the day that everything began to change.
There are some nice touches here, but it's feeling overwritten to me. And the 'day everything changed' thing is overused--I'd suggest losing that.

First Pages: MG / Twelfth of Never

Elvis, please, leave the building. I’ll listen to Jailhouse Rock later -- at home, with Mom. Promise. She can dance in front of the window, and I won’t hide when she waves at the neighbors. I’ll even thumbs-up when she shouts over the music how this song inspired my name! Just not now, I’m begging. No warden, no party, no county jail.

It’s torture enough hearing the PA speakers crumple The King every morning in homeroom. Here in the empty cafeteria, the sound rattles off the walls like spoons banging pots.

My stomach’s queasy. It’s 7:50 a.m., and the air is ninety-nine percent Snickerdoodle exhaust from the lunch ladies baking. Plus the Most Popular kids dart in and out of view through the far, far double doorway like hungry sharks in a holding tank.

If I were lucky they’d never come in from the hall. But when they do decide to waltz through the doors -- could I possibly be more visible than I am? Standing in the middle of the stage, next to Mrs. Beemer? Surrounded by a circle of chairs?

Mrs. Beemer bends to unzip her backpack, so the neckline of her dress sags, exposing her wrinkly chest in a giant bra.

Elvis crash-boom-bangs as she cranes her red face at me. “Presley, sweetheart, be a dear and go round everyone up.”

Round everyone up, d-e-n-o-p-r-u-v-y…

Most people’s brains kick into fight-or-flight when they get scared. Mine alphabetizes. Really fast. Without being asked.
The beginning paragraph struck me as out of pace with the rest of this-- a bit stilted. But the rest is better on track, and people are often intrigued by brain quirks like the above. I'd keep reading.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

First Pages: YA / Landon Gilbreath Thompson

“C’mon, Dad. This is total BS.” I slammed my fist into the leather arm of his office chair.
I'm not crazy about this as a beginning.
Also: the timing of gestures is very important for believability. The truly genuine fist-slam would happen at the same time as the speech--making it sound like it happens after the speech, like an afterthought, makes your character sound like he's faking.
Cy Thompson swiveled in his chair and looked across the desk at me, his only son. “Hey buddy, if you’re dumb enough to get caught, prepare to pay the consequences. It would be one thing if this had stayed out of the newspapers, but your last couple of months was reckless. In the newspapers? Twice? Ever considered the embarrassment you’re causing your mother and me?”
The father character's speech feels a bit stilted, but possibly in a believeable way... some real blow-hards do speak this way because they are essentially acting/bluffing their way through life.
Anger bubbled up. This conversation was probably the first Cy and I entertained since Christmas.
Bubbled? Entertained? These word choices are distracting me. Are you sure these are the words the MC would use if he stopped to describe the situation?
And now that school was over, Cy’s sole purpose in calling me into his office—to inform me I’d spend the summer with freakin’ missionaries in the Dominican Republic.
“What about me? I’m sorry I got caught. Jeez. But sending me to a third world country? With missionaries? What kind of a punishment is that? That’s BS and you know it.”
Cy laughed. “The kind that keeps you out of the papers for three months. Besides I may not be a big fan of Joe Abram but you’ll be safe with that family. Bored too. Just don’t go getting religion on me and turning into some sort of fanatic. This conversation is finished.”
Most of this was all right, but the last sentence feels rushed. Maybe you're just not giving us enough other clues about these characters-- body language, tone of voice, pauses, looks, gestures.
Stale air blew out the vent above me, Landon Gilbreath Thompson, and the overweight businessman next to me snored. In fact, he had been snoring ever since inhaling dinner and downing two glasses of wine. Not a drop left over an underaged guy could swipe. I shifted in my cushy first class seat and peered down at the royal blue water. If a first class plane trip to my personal version of hell was supposed to make up for the forthcoming summer of boredom, my father had another think coming. I gritted my teeth and flicked my thumb off my pointer finger as I remembered the last conversation my dad. My mom couldn’t be bothered with the details. She had charity work to do.
This is starting to sound more natural, and I might give it a couple more pages. I'm wondering if you just have a case of first-page-itis (ie, too much stress about writing the first page, thus a rocky beginning) or if you have consistent trouble with dialogue.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

First Pages: MG / Stone's Nest

The problem with a castle carved from a stone monolith was that the plumbing was notoriously unreliable. All he wanted was a hot bath. Was that too much to ask? But the spigots sputtered at him, spitting cold water on his hands, and then vomiting huge quantities of the icy stuff into the sunken bath. Also carved from stone.
Interesting... but "vomiting"? Is that the right word?
Stefan had gone to school in the north, where it was cold and castles were built from timber and there was movable furniture. He’d had the hardest time explaining how…organic his home was. The furniture was part of the room, carved into the dark black stone the way the stairs and toilets and beds and bathtubs were.
His grandmother had spent her lifetime making the stone castle less dreary. Every wall hung with colored fabrics, raw satins dyed the colors of rich jewels,
Rich jewels? As compared to the colors of cheap jewels?
or soft, cool cottons tie-dyed in whimsical patterns. While the bed and bedposts were carved from rock, they’d been intricately designed with mythological creatures and personified virtues. (Ten years later when gryphons were discovered to have returned to the land, a hasty amendment was made in the architectural books about the idealization of gryphons in early decoration. “Hmph,” Zac had said. “As if they could apologize for making my beak look that big.” Zac was slightly vain about his beak.)
You had me up until the gryphon speaks. Feels out of place here.
Magic-handlers had figured out a way to make decent mattresses from sea foam – for a rather exorbitant price. The castle boasted no fewer than 500 of the mattresses within its walls.
“But food?” Stefan’s friends had asked. “Do you cook? Or is everything roasted over an open spit?” They’d laughed as though he were the butt of a joke, but he didn’t get it. He’d explained about the great bread ovens, warmed underneath by a fire that never needed to be put out. Breads, cakes, muffins, all cooked as well as any roast.
“Although we don’t eat much meat,” he went on. “Serafina made the decree when she was first made queen.”
Of course, Sera had been made queen when she was three, and her vegetarian declaration was made when, at age five, her favorite chicken found its way into the dumplings. By the time the advisors could figure out what to do, Sera had outlawed the killing and eating of chickens, rabbits, pigs and cows. It was Stefan who had convinced her to allow the eating of deer and fish, and he’d always thought he had an easier time of it because Sera had never been let out of the castle long enough to meet a deer.
I'm definitely curious enough to continue. Could be a promising fantasy.

Monday, June 15, 2009

First Pages: MG / Manna Bend

I didn’t want to sit in the front seat of our car – that’s where Mum always sat – but Dad was begging.
‘Please, Sasha,’ he said. His voice caught and he cleared his throat. ‘We promised. A new start.’
His face was so creased with sadness that I couldn’t say no. I forced my foot and then my leg into the car, and slid onto the dusty blue seat, yanking at the seatbelt. My hatred for Mum burned through me all over again.
Hmm. Interesting.
‘Bye, house,’ Nicky said, waving out the back window at the familiar cream weatherboard we’d lived in all our lives. I refused to look back.
All the way to Manna Bend,
(Sorry to interrupt, but: mum? manna bend? is this Australia?)
I hunched down in the seat and listened to my iPod. Nicky sat in the back seat, clutching his box of magic tricks, staring out the window. Every now and then he’d go, ‘Wow’ and point, but it was only something dumb like a cow or a sheep. I hated how enthusiastic he was, and knew it was mean, but meanness seemed to have replaced blood in my veins.
I'm... cautiously hopeful.
The removal van followed us like a lame dog that was scared it’d get lost before we made it to our new house. New old house. I’d already seen a photo of it, and it was beyond renovation. It needed demolition.
'Manna Bend hasn’t had a policeman for six months,’ Dad had told us. ‘This is a golden opportunity to put the dirty, nasty city behind us and make a new life.’ I’d blocked him out – I didn’t want to leave the city. But I’d lost my vote when I’d got into trouble and ended up in the Children’s Court. If moving to the back of nowhere and becoming a country cop would make Dad happy again, I’d have to give it a try. I owed him that.
‘Here we are,’ Dad announced, trying to sound cheerful. ‘Looking good, kids.’ A big sign flashed past that said 'Manna Bend.'
‘Watch out!’ I screeched, my feet digging into the floor.
No immediate issues, and I'm interested to read more. (Goodness, have I had too much wine? I would want to have a look at the manuscript at the office next morning, in the clearer light of my hangover.)
(Yes, Australian, hence the Mum and the cop, rather than Mom and sheriff.)
Aha! I was right!