Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April Secret Agent Contest #33

GENRE: YA urban fantasy

Maya stared at the ceiling and counted. The affects of the dream were still too strong to move or think clearly. It wasn't the first night she had the dream--it was the seventh. She was shaking despite going to bed with an extra blanket and couldn't close her eyes because the flames still blazed in her mind taunting her.

Before a few months ago, Maya wouldn't have thought it was possible for a dream to be taunting, but now she knew better. When she reached fifty, her heart rate returned to a normal level and the chills stopped.

Her room was dark with the exception of the green glow from her alarm clock. She rolled over and looked at it--3:00. Maya deliberated--follow her careful plan and sneak out or go back to bed. When she closed her eyes, the dream replayed in her mind.

Standing in front of the library, Maya watched as the fire raged inside. The windows shattered--shards of glass pelted Maya like sleet. Clouds of dark smoke billowed out of the building and swallowed the stars in the sky. She lifted her hands to the sky and the fire stopped.

It was the same, but maybe she miscounted. If that was the case, she could go back to bed and worry about it tomorrow night. Maya counted on her fingers each night she had the dream--tonight made seven. She groaned and forced herself out of bed.


  1. I've heard it's not good to start waking up because too many manuscripts begin that way. Maybe if we know more about Maya, we'll care more about her dream and her predicament. When you get there, add more details about the dream.

    I'm interested, but not yet hooked.

  2. I think they say it's not good to make the entire begining of the book a dream, have them suddenly wake up from something interesting that's happened, but I don't think that applies here. I'm interested in the apparent signifigance of the number 7. I want to know why she's having these dreams, what started them/ As long as those questions are answered shortly after I think this begining works well. Great job.

  3. I like it, and I'm interested, but I'd be more interested if there were a reason (or at least if a reason was hinted at) why she took the dream seriously enough to actually get out of bed and sneak out. Because if I had a dream seven nights in a row, I might be a little freaked, but... sneaking out?
    You probably have that answered at some point in the next couple of pages. But there's a little bit of the "Why should I care?" feeling.
    However, I'm very curious.

  4. I am intrigued. I was a bit confused about the library- at first I didn't realize that was the dream. I thought she had decided to sneak out.

    Did anything else happen besides the fire stopping when Maya raised her hands to the sky? Did the dark smoke disappear and the stars re-appear? Did the broken glass repair itself as if it had never been broken?

    I think you did a nice job. I would be interested in reading on.

  5. Not hooked. The first paragraph reminded me too much of Lisa McMann's WAKE (which isn't a comparison you want anybody making unless you're absolutely BRILLIANT like she is), and then little things kept pulling me out of the story.

    For example, in the second paragraph, I was confused as to what the phrase "when she reached fifty" referred to. Her age? I figured out it was the counting, but I had to stop to think about it.

    Also, there were a lot of long dashes in this excerpt. I use too many long dashes myself, so I always have to go back and rework those sentences in later drafts. Just something you might want to think about.

  6. I agree with Krista -- at first I was like "Wow, this is a bit too reminiscent of Wake" and then I just got confused as to motivation.

    You repeated that she had had the dream seven times -- in the first and last paragraph, and that read as kind of clunky to me.

    Personally, I have no problem with dashes, but I know they throw others, and you did use a few in this little sample alone.

    I'd probably keep reading for a little bit, though :)

  7. The word 'affects' in the first sentence should be 'effects'. That pulled me out quite early in the story, though I was intrigued by the repeating dream, and why she thought the 7th dream was so important. I'd read on a little bit but if there was any more awkward writing I'd stop.

  8. I agree with Krista about reaching fifty. You might consider rewording that. I was also confused at first about the library part. You might consider a transition sentence there so we know it is a dream. I wasn't really hooked by this, but I do understand you only have 250 words. If you could tighten up a bit, I think it would be great.

  9. I wasn't hooked. It was a slow opening, and most of it is told to us. The effects of the dream were still too strong... show us those effects and how they affect her. Do her heart rate and her chills instantly stop at 50, or are they gradually slowing/fading away? The fire stopped. Is it still there, but frozen in time, or has it gone out.

    The premise itself is interesting I think, and a revision or two could make it stronger.

  10. I am not hooked because I don't care about her - I feel for her because she's having a scary dream and is freaked out but I don't have a sense of her. Dreams are tricky - and because you recount the dream, it feels passive. Maybe if you started the scene with her getting out bed and wrote from there, it would have more impact. I am curious about the significance of 7. Good luck.

  11. I don't find it terribly interesting to be told about people's dreams, I guess. (My dreams are of course FASCINATING - but other peoples? Meh.) And the first thing I thought of was Lisa McMann's book.

    I might give it another page or two, but I am not compelled at the moment.

  12. What is the significance to the counting (while looking at the ceiling, every night she has the dream, the #7)? If there isn't one, then there's too much focus on counting. If there is one, you need to hint at that fact.

    Sorry, not hooked, but I think there's something here.