Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March Secret Agent #46

TITLE:  Fiáin
GENRE: YA Fantasy/Romance

The sharp intake of breath burned like icy razors scraping down my throat. I shot up in bed gasping for air and fought the scream dying to break free. It vibrated under the surface like an itch I couldn’t reach. The blankets hugged my body claustrophobically and my surroundings were unfamiliar in the dim light. I fought with legs flailing before my brain clicked to ‘rational mode.’ The old green wingback housing a multitude of sock monkeys greeted me. I was in my room, I was safe.

My heart pummeled my chest as if trying to break loose. The frantic thump-thump pulsed in my ears and forehead. My sweat-damp sleep tank clung to me and goose flesh tingled along my skin.

I untangled G-ma’s colorful quilt from my legs and wrapped it around my shoulders. Shaking from head to toe, I pressed the heels of my hands to my eyes, squeezing out remnants of the horrible dream. The same dream that had begun six months ago. Get a grip, girl.

The digital clock on my nightstand read 6:12am. I reached into the nightstand drawer and pulled out my composition book while trying to slow my breathing. After the third occurrence I started documenting. Without opening the book, I knew I would be logging entry number forty-two.

The first time had been just after Christmas break. It had scared the crap out of me. Still did. Nightmares were not my thing. This dream was different.


  1. I think this beginning is suffering from a severe case of overwriting, especially since it's in first person. Re-read it and really think about it, how you would describe things. If you woke up from a nightmare, gasping, would you really think "the sharp intake of breath burned like icy razors?" The last few sentences fall right into a perfect YA voice. Shoot to make the rest of your piece more like that. Also, starting your book with waking up is frowned upon. Can you try something else first? Good luck!

  2. The first two paragraphs seem overwritten and have a different tone from the last three, where the voice starts to creep in.

    I'm interested to know why this dream scares the crap out of her if it's not a nightmare, though!

  3. Agreed that this is over-written -- way too much super precise description that feels in conflict with the POV. IMO first person POV calls for more simplified, yet vivid, description. Her throat can burn from the breath (though I'm not sure it actually would), but the icy razors, etc. is a bit much. I would reverse it so we have the action -- she kicks her legs in panic because the sheets are twisted around her -- rather than the description of the blankets followed by her reaction to them.

    As soon as you get to "The digital clock on my nightstand read 6:12 am" -- that graph starts to interest me. I want to know about the nightmares she's been cataloging, and how this dream is different.

    My suggestion: start IN the dream, then have her waking up. As someone else suggested, starting with the waking is frowned upon.

    My only other note is that I have no idea how to pronounce your title, nor does it mean anything to me. Something to think about when querying agents who are looking for a title grab.

  4. This submission has so many things going on at once that I can’t focus on the story.

    Try simplifying. Use nouns and verbs and skip the adverbs/adjectives. Example: I gasped for air and felt as if razors were scraping down my throat.

    Say something once then back off. Notice the physical descriptions in the second paragraph. Give the reader a taste of what you are seeing in your mind then stop. Example: The thump-thump of my heart felt as if it would break out of my chest.

    Look how many times you give the MC’s reactions to waking up abruptly. Usually one description is good enough.

    Beginning a novel with a dream is a bad idea, btw. It makes some agents frown.

    Good luck :)

  5. I agree with previous comments that the voice gets much clearer toward the end. One question I have: you say this is YA fantasy, but there's nothing in this intro that leads me to suggest that we're in a fantastical world. I'd like a few hints--and if those hints are in the dream, then I think (as others have suggested) we need a little more of the dream here.

  6. Have to agree wth the previous comments. It's hard to find the balance of enough descrition and too much. Also there's advice out to use action verbs. You have done this but cut back a bit. Think of these like spices - a dash is good but if you pour in the whole bottle it doesn't taste good.

    Thank you for sharing and best of luck.

  7. I'd read on, even though I agree with the other commentors that it's over written.

  8. I like the deep POV towards the second half.

    A lot of metaphors are packed into the first lines. These take me out of what's really happening, I think. Also, I stopped on "claustrophobically." It was a bit awkward to read.

    Another stopping place for me was "G-ma" and I'm not sure if that's a particular term used frequently by the MC or if it is simply a shortening of grandma.

    Waking up from a dream or nightmare isn't a hook for me. I probably wouldn't read more.

  9. Form rejection. While I like the idea that the MC is fully cognizant of and is journaling her nightmares, it's not enough to make it stand apart from the hundreds of other YA novels I see that begin with the MC waking up from a dream. There's a lot of action in the opening but I don't know why I should care just yet that these terrible things are happening to this MC.