Wednesday, January 29, 2014

First Two (YA Fiction) #14

TITLE: The Yes Girl
GENRE: YA Romance

January. Boston, Massachusetts.

Marin stood at the center of the ice, facing the judge’s table. She took in a deep breath and let the crisp, optimistic atmosphere fill her lungs. She smiled.

Her music began. Her favorite piece Coach Wiggins had played for her. She knew it so well it was a part of her blood.


On the third note, she pushed off and skated down the center of the ice alternating feet and edges into the required footwork, then she made a deep knee bend and lifted herself up into her first combination jump, a Double Axel-Double Toe Loop.

High and fast and fluid she catapulted herself across the ice, turning two and a half revolutions before a quick touch down on the ice before heaving herself back up with ready arms and legs for two more revolutions, until finally her right outside edge touches down slicing into the ice, as if part of the music.

She nailed the landing, showing the world how jumping had become her superpower. The crowd applauded—of course they did—but Marin paid no attention, with the music under her skin, the lift and stretch of her muscles, the sharp balance of her skates, she was nowhere near finished.

Every spin with grace and ability.

Every jump strong and clean.

And the footwork fast and methodical.

Only one move left. Her pulse started to pull away from the beat of the music, and she tried to push away the sliver of doubt, to feel nothing but the ice. Had she given her all or had she held back and played it too safe for fear of repeating the last two years with no medal? That was her last chance to make the Olympic team. Pyeongchang, South Korea, or bust.

Should she slide in another Double Axel? Such a fine line between playing it safe and playing to win.

But winning superseded everything. Skating ended here if she didn’t deliver. She was going for it, adding another Double Axel to seal the deal.

Twenty seconds left.

Marin shortened the last footwork sequence and lifted up right into the Double Axel, turning two rotations in the air. She went high and far as she always did.

Everything felt right at first. Until it didn’t.

The wall.

Too high.

Too far.

Her hip slammed against the hard plastic barrier and she fell to the ice.

The crowd gasped. The music played on. Get up! She popped up like only champions could, listening to where the music told her she should be. Stay focused, fall apart later. She skated across the rink and raised her back leg to finish the routine with a long, beautiful Camel—her leg extended behind her, coming to a stop only when her music did.

She forged a winning smile for the TV cameras. For the world. As if nothing had gone wrong. Only true champions could do that; erase time and make you forget their mistakes. As if they alone controlled fate.


  1. I may not be able to properly critique this one. Marin is on my baby name list (Yes I have one of those). Also I watched the Cutting Edge about a million times as a kid. So I was instantly attached to your character and 100% down for a figure skating romance story.
    Let me try to critique now... Descriptions were good overall.
    I got lost in the paragraph that started "High and fast and fluid..." That one could use some tightening it felt way too long for one sentence.
    Like that you added little asides to show the characters cockiness like "The crowd applauded - of course they did"
    "That was her last chance to make the Olympic team". Should it say "This"?
    I loved that she crashed and burned but held it together. I think we'll find out a lot about her when she "falls apart later".
    Also from the jump I wanted to know how good Marin was. Is she America's Sweetheart or the Underdog? Is she making a comeback? I wasn’t sure. These were just my curiosities and I could probably hold on to find out for sure so you can take that one with a grain of salt.
    Would definitely read on.

  2. I have always appreciated figure skating so I found being inside the skater's head to be interesting. However, I wonder if the detail is too much too soon for the average reader. It might be stronger if it came after a more humanizing introduction to Marin - rather than seeing the intensity of the competitive moment. Two complete pages of figure skating to begin might be off-putting to some. But, over all, I liked the flow and the insight into Marin.

    This one sentence needs editing I think:

    "High and fast and fluid she catapulted herself across the ice, turning two and a half revolutions before a quick touch down on the ice before heaving herself back up with ready arms and legs for two more revolutions, until finally her right outside edge touches down slicing into the ice, as if part of the music."

    It is a long and should be broken up. Also, watch how you repeat the word 'before' twice in close proximity. One of them should probably go.

    Nice job. I would read on.

  3. There was at least one switch from the past tense to the present tense ("until finally her right outside-edge touches down"). I recommend fixing that for consistency. That same sentence also used "before" twice and then "until," which all seemed excessively repetitive to me. The weird structure of that paragraph pulled me out of the story.

    I did like getting a glimpse into the thoughts of a figure skater. This is something I don't see often (if ever?).

    What struck me as odd, though, was Marin's last-second decision to add another double axel. For competitions like this, I'm almost positive that the judges receive a list of every single jump and turn in every competitor's routine before they even start. Scores are then partially calculated based on the difficulty of the attempted moves. Thus, Marin might even face disqualification for changing the routine at the last second--and believe me, the judges would notice. It might be a good idea to research how competitions like this work.

    Good job!

  4. Let me start by saying I don't know anything about figure skating. With that, I thought this was very good. I could follow along with the action and I got a small sense of the character right away.
    But, it was a bit long. I kept wondering if something was going to happen. I would read on just to find out how your MC dealt with what happened.

  5. I find this really interesting, and I really like it overall. I'm also a big fan of The Cutting Edge, and I loved watching figure skating when I was a kid. You've pulled me in immediately.

    I would break ALL of the action up into short sentences to convey a sense of urgency and really bring readers into the action. I feel like I got bogged down in the "ands" and the commas. There are things you could take out like "as she always did" right before the crash and "at first" during the crash to tighten it up a little.

  6. Not a figure skater, but I've watched enough competitions to know that skaters sometimes change their routines at the last moment and that this is allowable, even admired, especially when the skater sticks that extra axel/toe loop/whatever.

    The tense shift that previous commenters have mentioned threw me, as did the mention of the “optimistic atmosphere.” I'd use another word there, it just struck me as slightly off.

    I like Marin. She's clearly competitive and a perfectionist and I adore characters with those traits. Maybe streamline the opening and give us less detail about the action and give us more insight into what Marin is feeling while she is doing those things. I think then she will be a much more accessible character and that readers will be much more engaged. I want to root for this girl!


  7. You might cut this down for faster pacing. Skating is quick and fast and explanations slow down that feeling. Suggested cuts follow.

    Cut "her favorite piece....

    In the below excerpt, cut what's in parentheses and add capitalized words.

    High and fast and fluid she catapulted (herself) across the ice,PERIOD (turning) two and a half revolutions COMMA (before) a quick touch down (on the ice before heaving herself)AND back up with ready arms and legs for two more revolutions, until (finally) her right outside edge (touches) TOUCHED down slicing into the ice, (as if part of the music.)

    Cut "Only one more left parg. It's all explanation and stops the action.

    Cut "She was going for it, adding another Double Axel to seal the deal." Again, the explanation slows the pace, and decisions in real life would be made in seconds.

    Cut "Twenty seconds left." for the same reasons as above.

    Optimistic air doesn't work. You might choose a different word there.

  8. I was so excited to see this was about figure skating. It must be from years of watching Olympic figure skating and practicing the moves in socks on the kitchen floor (I can't be the only one).

    I loved the immediate detail of the skating. What I think will help this to read easier is to break up long sentences and cut out the "then" to make what follows its own sentence. For example, the fourth paragraph could be:
    "On the third note, she pushed off and skated down the center of the ice alternating feet and edges into the required footwork. She bent at the knee and lifted into her first combination jump, a Double Axel-Double Toe Loop."
    I took out some filler words so the detail doesn't get bogged down by too many connecting words.

    So, I'm going to nitpick, but please take it as a compliment since I would love to read a YA figure skating romance. I want this to be awesome! The line "She took a deep breath," I'm wondering if you can push further; filling air with lungs is a little generic. You have an opportunity to show her internal emotions, perhaps with a more visceral reaction. And what time of smile? Practiced? Is she careful not to show too much teeth like pageant girls practice? Something that gives a glimpse of how ingrained skating is to her life.

    The next line says her favorite piece the coach "played for her." This is her routine, so the song would be one she practiced for endless hours, right? The description makes it sound like she heard it once. Maybe you could say the piece Coach Wiggins "chose" for. I like the sentiment that it's part of her blood, but I think you can tweak this sentence to make it shine with a more descriptive verb. Something relating to blood pumping or how a heart works.

    The "Wait Wait" doesn't feel necessary and reads a little odd. I get the intent, but I suggest cutting it.

    For the "high and fast and fluid" line people mentioned, perhaps:
    "In a fluid motion, she catapulted herself..." The word catapulted is great, so you don't need high and fast before it. I would break up these actions too; maybe end the first line after "revolutions." then, "She had one beat on the ice before heaving herself back up..." something like that. Watch the verb tenses: touches should be touched. The "as if part of the music" could be it's own separate thought, perhaps weaving back the idea of the song rushing through her blood/veins using similar descriptive words.

    I am totally an armchair expert on figure skating (meaning not really an expert but I watch a lot). Is it realistic to think she has no idea if she can add in another jump? I've seen skaters do a single when there was a planned double, etc. I would figure she has a plan A, the "safe" choice she and coach practiced, or plan B, an amped-up combo. I can't imagine a trained skater at the Olympic trials deciding to add in a random jump. I think she would know exactly which jump she wanted to do and that she is on purpose defying her coach's advice to go with the safer, practiced-successfully routine. This is me butting into your story, so take this with a nice sprinkling of salt :) If she knows she has a plan B, isn't supposed to go there but does anyway, it makes the choice more believable. Otherwise, her crash into the wall is just unacceptable. I've seen lots of falls, but at a competition, slamming into the wall? I cannot recall ever seeing that.

    When it says "she went high and far as she always did," I wondered, then why is she hitting the wall? Maybe show that she put too much force into the jump and went too far rather than she performed it like always.

    OK last nitpick. I think the "Get up!" is not necessary. The line that follows shows this better; she is a champion and knows the show goes on.

    Overall, I really liked this! I wish you lots of luck with your story.

  9. So almost 2 weeks after writing my freakishly long response, I have to note that figure skater Jeremy Abbott totally crashed into wall during his performance. I have now seen this! Then he got up and made the rest of his routine happen. Crazy.

    Again, good luck with your story!!