Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May Secret Agent #40

GENRE: YA Contemporary

Logarithms and differential equations were sucking the marrow out of my social life.

What sort of scheduling sadist thought to make Mr. Wilson's AP Calculus my last class? It was boot camp painful. He even barked orders like a drill sergeant: "Rachel Hunt, you will write the homework on the white board before frittering off to the plethora of after school activities that keep you from doing the extra credit problems for my class."

Geez, weren't extra credit problems supposed to be extra? And to top it off, he asked me to mentor one of the struggling kids in the class. I couldnâ't say no even if it did add another thing to my massive pile of commitments.

So I was late. Again.

I had to walk past three couples making out to get to my locker so I was pretty annoyed by the time I stood before the door of the Menagerie office. I smoothed down my once-curly-now-fuzzy hair and put on my most serene face.

Menagerie was Springdale High's literary magazine and honestly, the best part of my day. I stepped into the room, slightly out of breath, and scanned the twenty or so people milling about. They sat on old desk chairs or perched on throw pillows scattered about the threadbare rug on the floor. As usual, the overhead lights had been switched off in favor of the four mismatched lamps resting on desks throughout the room.


  1. Loses impetus when you stop to describe the contents of the room - when she steps into the room, something needs to happen.

  2. Opening line made me LOL, and drew me right in. Great voice, then, and throughout. I felt as if I were right back in my own high school. Just enough detail to put me there, just enough attitude for me to like the Narrator.

  3. Love this one too. I'd drop the "I had to walk past" for "I walked past". I lost the rhythm right there. Good job!

  4. Great voice! Good humor! Very tight, you definitely know how to write!

    I would definitely keep reading, although I'm not hooked yet--I'm sure the hook happens soon... hard with only 250 words :)

  5. What I'm getting is that your character has a heavy workload and a lot of stress. Pretty typical for a high school student in this day and age.

    I think what's missing is her motivation.

    Is she on the verge of a breakdown? Is she going to write an article about over-stressed teenagers?

    I like the voice and I think the writing is good, but there isn't quite enough insight into your MC to get me hooked.

  6. I like the writing in this one. I'm hooked.

    Best of luck!


  7. I also liked the first sentence and kept reading! I enjoyed your voice for the character as well.
    The only thing I want to know immediately, is...Why is the Menagerie the best part of her day? I guess you could add a quick sentence to let me get closer to the character. Other than that tiny thing, it was great : ) Good Luck!

  8. I love the way this entry starts - great hook! I like the voice. But the last 2 paragraphs are explaining, which slows the pacing almost to a stop. Maybe tighten the writing here and move on to the action/dialogue. I do want to read more.

  9. For me I needed something more to happen. I liked the voice, but I needed more. The sentence below, wow...just a bit breathless. Try saying it. I couldn't. Bit snappier, shorter maybe with that one.
    "Rachel Hunt, you will write the homework on the white board before frittering off to the plethora of after school activities that keep you from doing the extra credit problems for my class."
    Also, I think I would have brought in the Menagerie around the mention of calculus being the last class. Maybe when she speaks about all her commitments, she might mention, there's only one that counts. The menagerie.
    And she's late. Again.
    So I'm cutting around too many bodies.....
    Loose the "I had to walk around..."
    Lead me in to the Menagerie, the magic of that environment for her. I'm assuming it's 'her' place to be.
    Hope that helps. Well done and good luck!

  10. I really liked the first paragraph and the overall tone. Where I got distracted was with the dialogue from the AP Calculus teacher, since it didn't sound like dialogue. Even if you're trying to make him sound pompous, he needs to use words that are realistic.

    I also need a little more of a specific anchor. If the lit mag is the best part of Rachel's day, then you should use that instead of the vague "social life" as where she is trying to get to after calculus.

    And as someone else pointed out, the description of the room is too much. You've conveyed a huge amount in the previous paragraphs without using much description; no need to start now.

    Great job!

  11. I wouldn't read more because nothing happened. The first five pargs are the MC talking to me and the last one is a description of a room.

    Perhaps actually show your MC in class and have the teacher actually say what she tells us he said. Show her walking through the halls. Let us see the couples kissing. Put us there.

  12. I'm not hooked. Busy teen leaves calculus and goes to school lit magazine. The writing is promising and I liked the line about having to walk past three couples making out, but I don't feel there's any focus. If we leave calculus class so quickly, why mention it all? Start when something changes in your MC's life and show us what is happening rather than telling us. I would recommend either taking Barbara's advice and showing your MC in class, or start when she walks into the magazine office.

  13. I quite liked the first sentence, but then nothing happened for the rest of the page. And until I got to the bit about couples making out I thought the tone sounded younger than YA. I think there's a better place to start this story, at the moment I'm not hooked.

  14. I love the voice here! The voice alone is good enough to get me to keep reading- for a little bit. But I have to say, nothing actually happens here. At least a hint at a problem would get readers interested to continue reading.

  15. What I liked: The voice.

    What needed work: The sample felt pretty erratic. We have the introduction to the drill sergeant teacher, whose dialogue feels completely inauthentic, and then we’re whisked away to the room with the literary magazine. It’s hard to figure out what’s worth paying attention to, and I found myself not particularly engaged.

    Would I keep reading based on this sample? No.