Friday, November 29, 2013

(48) YA Contemporary: BLANK CANVAS

TITLE: Blank Canvas
GENRE: YA Contemporary

A young girl growing up in a family of tattoo artists desperate for a future all her own, uses her natural artistic ability in ways that if caught, could cost her more than just her future. She could lose everything.

“I need you to take your pants off.”

His dark eyebrows shoot up and his face heats with embarrassment but he doesn't move. Wheeling my stool closer, I lower my voice to avoid attracting any attention from the other room. “If you want me to do it, you’re going to have to drop them.” His hazel eyes narrow at me in challenge. I don’t know why, it’s not like this is our first time or anything, but then I see it.

“The hearts are a nice touch,” I snort, fingering the edge of his black boxer briefs.

“Just do it,” he grumbles.

“Shh, keep your voice down,” I say while tugging his waistband down and smoothing the stencil over his hipbone with the heel of my hand. I tighten the thumb screw to make sure the tip isn’t sticking out too far and flinch. Regardless of whether it’s a straight or curved tip like the fifteen magnum I’m staring down, the sight of a needle never fails to make my stomach flip. With my foot hovering over the pedal and my hand in place, I take a deep breath and lean forward. “Okay, here —“

The rings scraping along the metal rod make a trilling sound as the purple curtain flies open behind us. We jump apart.

“Hey, have you se—omigosh, what are y’all doing!” Abby whisper shouts, her blue eyes going wide as saucers when she sees the position we’re in.

“Um, nothing,” I say as calmly as I can over the blood rushing through my ears.


  1. I really enjoyed this opening scene. It shows us quite a bit about the main character while still diving right into the action of an interesting and humorous situation. The "Um, nothing" is a perfect teenage response.

    I would definitely read on. Best of luck!

  2. The opening line actually made me laugh. Nicely done.

    In fact, I thought this entire opening was well written. It raises all sorts of questions in my mind, but nothing distracted from the main thrust of the narrative and I get the sense we're in for some fun.

    I will say the logline struck me as overly vague. I think a few more specific details there would be good, e.g., what specifically could she lose ("everything" doesn't really tell me much)?

    Best of luck with it!

  3. I thought this was a strong opening! It certainly hooks my attention. I'm not usually a fan of starting with dialogue, but this one works for me. I would definitely keep reading because I want to find out what happens.

    I was a little unclear about where the hearts are placed (boxers? another tattoo? something else?)

    I also think the line "the rings scraping along the metal rod..." could be a little tighter, and maybe starting with "The purple curtain flies open..." might work better, if only because it took me a moment to realize what was moving.

    The ending, awesome. It really is a great beginning! You do a great job at capturing how whatever they're doing is supposed to be hidden.

    For the pitch, I wonder if you could be more specific with "she could lose everything."

    Good luck!

  4. On the whole, I like this opening. It's always fun to see a teen with an unusual job. I wish, though, that the male character had been named and that we had a clue who he is in relation to the MC -- friend, boyfriend, nervous customer?

    It would also be nice to have some clarity around whether this is the MC's job or whether she is using the tools without permission. It changes the tone of the scene if she's doing something she's not supposed to.

  5. Fantastic (and super unique) premise and hooking 250. I'd read this one in a heartbeat. My only suggestions are line edity/nitpicky things...

    The first line is super hooking, but then rather than ground me in the second line, I'm pulled out by the second character's reaction. The MC should be established first.

    So try this:
    “I need you to take your pants off.” Wheeling my stool closer, I lower my voice to avoid attracting any attention from the other room. “If you want me to do it, you’re going to have to drop them.”

    I'd also bulk up that second line with some grounding details: the other room where what is happening..?

    and is there anything that can be added about the MC so the reader can connect a little more? We don't know her name yet or her connection to this heart-wearing boxered boy. I think this should go in para 2 and 3.

    I'd also cut this line: I don’t know why, it’s not like this is our first time or anything, but then I see it. It's way stronger without it (the first time for what? and what does the MC see? the boxers?)

    Para 7: "the position we're in" show me the position. This is a great comical moment!

  6. The opening line is great. I love the idea of an MC from a family of tattoo artists!

    The logline left me wanting a little more (the stakes felt a bit vague). Other than that, I enjoyed the first 250 words. Humorous start and I would keep reading to understand who the boy is (in relation to MC). Good luck!

  7. I thought this was a clever opening because the reader can take everything that happens in it in two ways, and because of that, I don't think you should explain exactly what they're doing or what position they're in.

    But once you make it evident, I do think you have to let the reader know if she's just giving him a tattoo, or if she's using her talent in a way that, if caught, could get her in trouble.

    Good luck!

  8. Compelling!

    Logline: The first sentence was good, but the second: "She could lose everything." Not so cliché? Your (excellent story, at least by the opening) deserves a bit better of a logline, but yes, distilling thousands of words into a couple sentences is a challenge. Perhaps start by answering what could she lose? Family fortune? Reputation? Respect?

    Opening: As I said above, it's awesome. Really, great voice, it's heading in a direction that makes me want to read on...

    And, the rings on the rod, I'd keep. It's a show not tell kind of thing, which your story sounds like it will lend itself well to description and artistry. Also, great title for a YA Contemp.

  9. Fun, original, and funny! Already like the MC, and the guy has lots of character. I would definitely read more! Good luck!

  10. Logline: I think it's actually a little too vague. Is there a way to be more specific without ruining the plot?

    I loved the voice on the first page and the authentic feel of the narration. The part about her using the heel of her palm just felt very real. There is also obvious tension.

    The only think I am left wondering is how the heck a teenager is allowed to tattoo people. I assume this is addressed early on - and might even be the source of her trouble hinted at in the logline - but as a reader I would want this addressed quickly for credibility reasons.

    Great entry and good luck!

  11. After reading your first page, I have so many questions - but good, intrigue-induced questions. I loved every bit of this. It was funny, yet dark, slightly smutty, and mysterious. I would definitely read on!

  12. Not my thing I guess, all the wink wink double meanings got to be a bit much, also the making fun of the heart covered boxer shorts seems like I've seen that many times before in sitcoms or something.
    If the logline was more specific in what was going on, it could change my mind though.

  13. I liked the premise--c'mon we need a tattoo artist genre!--and the tone of this. I wanted a bit more of who the guy was, and I was jarred a tad by the fact that needles make her stomach flip--because she came on as so self-assured at the beginning. I think a hint from the get-go that this might not be her ideal way of showcasing her artistic talents would stop me from dropping out of the story for a moment.

    All in all, this is a fine entry and I hope it gets some bids.

  14. I agree with Valerie Cole and I would add that a little clarification would go a long way in the 5th paragraph. She just pressed the stencil on, how'd she do that with a tattoo tool in her hand? If I hadn't read the logline I wouldn't know that the next line pertained to a tattooing tool. As it is I was confused by what she was tightening the thumb screw on. The needle or does the tool have a name? Is the "tip" the needle? And I question her needle phobia if she can do that. If she's experienced, wouldn't it be no big deal?

    Anyway, I really like the premise. This is a fun opening. Good luck with it!

  15. I agree with others that the logline could use more detail, but the first page is very well written! I love the crisp writing and the glimpses we get of the MC's character with enough humor to let us know we're in for a fun ride.

    Not being familiar with tattoo needles, I found the paragraph describing the equipment in her hand a little distracting. I reread twice before figuring out the fifteen magnum referred to the needle and not a gun (although I think that idea came from the MC staring it down). And I have no idea what the thumb screw is or does.

    But this is a really fun opening. I would definitely read on.

  16. First of all, let me say right up front that I loved this. Absolutely adored. Because of that, the problems that I do have with this excerpt seem magnified to me since they're holding back something that could be absolutely wonderful.

    Second, I can't agree with Valerie's comment more! The 'his dark eyebrows' line is in the way of a fantastic opening.

    Third, hearts on boxers in a scene like this made me laugh, and not with you. They're almost a cliche by now. I'd have preferred Hello, Kitty boxers or a pink thong with lace trim or Pokemon briefs; anything but hearts.

    Fourth, I too was thrown by the paragraph with the needles. Here's why: You've got this incredible setup that could still go anywhere (for all we know at this point, it could be anything from a sex act to a pose for model art to something else...) and you're primed the pump perfectly to reveal what's going on. Unfortunately, the language you use and the structure is just a touch too confusing and that touch really halts the flow.

    I don't know if simply changing the order of lines 2 and 3 ( I tighten the thumb screw to make sure the tip isn’t sticking out too far and flinch. Regardless of whether it’s a straight or curved tip like the fifteen magnum I’m staring down, the sight of a needle never fails to make my stomach flip.) or if another line is needed; there are a number of fixes but I think it needs some type of fixing.

    Also, with the first line (“Shh, keep your voice down,” I say while tugging his waistband down and smoothing the stencil over his hipbone with the heel of my hand.) the 'reveal' happens in the middle of this line so I almost want this line to be bigger somehow. Maybe by breaking it in two and adding some more detail in the middle: “Shh, keep your voice down,” I say while tugging his waistband down. (add something about what she sees at this moment maybe) and smoothing the stencil over his hipbone with the heel of my hand.' I think just that one extra beat delaying the reveal might help.

    Fifth, as she's about to start tattooing it appears that the curtain behind her is opened. But for those of us who don't know tattoo lingo for all we know 'the rings scraping along the metal rod making a trilling sound' is what a fifteen magnum sounds like when you tattoo someone. That line must absolutely start with 'the purple curtain flies open...' in order to keep the reader in the scene.

    Six, the first name we get is 'Abby' who isn't, I'm assuming, the main character. It might be helpful to name the MC first, just so the reader knows who we're here to read about.

    Seventh, I LOVED this, loved the voice, loved the setup, loved the humor, loved it loved it loved it. Keep at it, this is something I want to read.

  17. I'll do 50

  18. Need to get to 150 first before going to full?

  19. I want this, so if the 150 rule stands. Consider this a bid for 150.

  20. And then this the bid for FULL.

  21. I want it too, so if the rule stands - consider me just trumping 150 and asking for the FULL!

  22. oh wait, I guess I'd have to bit 200 and then the full...

  23. EVERYBODY IS THE WORST!!! (mainly me for being too slow)

  24. Let's leave this to Authoress!

  25. I look away for one second and this is what happens? You're all vicious.

  26. My fangs are beared!

  27. I only just came back to check on this because someone tweeted about hoping I win this one. I don't know, guys. I checked the rules. I think we dropped the 150 page rule this year since we felt that 5 bids and 20 page increments was enough to keep it lively. I stand by my win here. Back me up, Authoress!! Tattoo Girl will be mine, right????

  28. I think Marini has this one.

  29. I think Michelle is the winner here. Rules say a total of 5 Bids, and there were 7 before she claimed Full.

  30. Every agent who placed a bid on this one will kindly send me a pound of organic chocolate.


    The full goes to Michelle Wolfson!

    (There were 5 legal bids prior to her full bid.)

    (And 1 illegal one. *casts slitty-eyes at Josh*)

  32. This is so amazing! I'm not surprised it got so much attention. :D

  33. Hi there!

    I'm so intrigued--how could using her talent potentially cost her more than her future? I *have* to know more. I would love to see the full of this sometime!

    This was a great excerpt to choose. You really hooked your reader into immediately being immersed in the story. I love the feeling that your protagonist shouldn't immediately be there--yet she is. She has gumption--and the intimacy of the scene is appealing.

    You really began to capture the character getting the tattoo's nervousness and trepidation--but take me deeper into what he's feeling. Really paint a picture of what it is like to get a tattoo by drawing out the subtle nuances. I want to hear about the sweat beading on his brow, the slight wince your protagonist notices when she pulls out the needle, the deep breath he takes when he gather his courage to pull down his pants. Make every scene feel real--that's how you'll encapture your readers so thoroughly that they will feel that they cannot put your manuscript down.

    Good job! Kudos. You have something here.