Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July Secret Agent #16

TITLE: Life Set Sail
GENRE: YA Time Travel

I shut my eyes and inhale the moist Florida air. Nothing beats the aroma of rain and freshly cut grass. It’s earthy, sultry, and smells nothing of the stuffy portable classrooms I’ve been stuck in all day.

"Are you sure you don’t want a ride?" Levin asks, sneaking up from behind and wrapping his arms around my waist.

I look up at him through my lashes, “No, my Mom’s already on her way.”

He kisses the tip of my nose and whirls me around so we’re face to face. I suppress a giggle and grab the straps of his backpack. Pulling him closer, I stand on my tip-toes and reach my lips to his. “But, thanks for the offer,” I say. He kisses the freckles on my cheek. “Anytime.”

“Hey, bitches, get a room!” Heather exclaims as she walks by. I groan and swat at her with my free arm. She chuckles and pulls me away from my boyfriend. Shoving a finger in my face she mimics our homeroom teacher from this morning, “Now remember, kids. Sex can wait…mas-ter-bate.”

I roll my eyes and grab Levin’s face firmly with both hands. “Oh, really?” I say, and plant a long drawn-out slobbery french kiss on him. She shakes her head in disgust. “Ew. I really didn’t need to see that, Mae.”

Levin smirks and laces his fingers through mine. “Feel free to do that anytime,” he whispers. My cheeks flush scarlet the second his warm breath touches my skin.


  1. The writing is pretty solid, but what I don't get from any of this is a sense of what's at stake. So far, it's just a couple of kids making out and cracking dirty jokes (and, for my personal taste, that would be enough to make me put the book down). I think to hook the reader, you need to use your first 250 to introduce the story problem in some way. Maybe something big is about to happen and you just need to hint at it a bit sooner, or maybe you need to start the story a little later.

  2. I really like the imagery that you open with. I am actually from Florida and you really nailed the feelings. I could imagine that I was back at my old school by the portable classrooms.

    The characters all have pretty authentic teen voices, so I liked that as well. I don't know why, but I like when the MC already has established relationships (bff, boyfriend) so I liked that she has a normal teen life (so far). I can imagine that it won't really stay this way since your genre is speculative.

    I can see what EmilyW is saying about not seeing where the story is going. I do think that it's hard to establish that in only 250 words. What you did do well was give a sense of setting and character, so I personally would still read on to find the plot.

  3. There are a few technical things I want to mention. The boy comes up from behind her, somehow kisses her nose, then turns her around to face him and kisses her cheek. How did he kiss her nose from behind?

    When she's face-to-face, she reaches out with her one free arm. But I didn't get a sense that her arms were tangled with him. From what I can see, both arms are free. These are minor points, but will take me out of a story right away. If you have two of these visual disconnects in 250 words, an agent might suspect they are riddled throughout your story. Best to have someone else read with fresh eyes who can picture the scene in their head and point out when something doesn't add up.

    otherwise, sounds authentic for the age and characters, so good job there. I would read on for a bit to see what happens.

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  5. This is fun. I can feel the voice right away, and it's an easy read.

    A few comments:

    Don't think you need "through my lashes" because that's implied if she's looking up at him.

    Par. 4: Not sure how Levin kisses her nose when he is behind her. Also, I think it would serve you well to delete "I say" to make it tighter, and then make "He kisses..." a new paragraph.

    Par. 5: You could delete "away from my boyfriend" because that is implied. The quote from the teacher is great.

    Par. 6: You can make it "I plant a long, drawn-out, slobbery French kiss on him." to tighten it up (delete "say, and" and add commas and capital F). Then "Heather" shakes her head should be a separate paragraph.

    Great job, and good luck!

  6. The placement of body parts threw me too but I stopped reading quite as closely, you know, to give them privacy.

    Not sure what the tension is yet, though I'm assuming since it begins with Mae having an amorous boyfriend and teasing best friend, something bad is soon going to happen to one or both. Or Mae.

    Why is Mae blushing when he breathes on her but she's cool when she gives him a slobbery French kiss?

  7. I like the tone of the writing. It sets a good visual of teens joking and flirting. I wonder if there could be more tension--even if it's something small that doesn't seem right, just to get a sense of what you want the reader to feel. As a opening, I just know that she and her boyfriend are hot and heavy and her friend finds it annoying. I would still read more, to find out what the story is and if their world changes in the first chapter.

  8. The first four paragraphs moved along at a nice clip, but this got bogged down in the exchange with Heather – I’m not sure why this is there, as we already know that these Mae and Levin are very affectionate, and I didn’t learn anything new about the characters. I also wasn’t sure why the last part makes Mae blush, as it doesn’t seem different than what’s already occurred. I’d trim this so we can get to what this character wants a little more quickly.

  9. There's a saying I really like: The beginning of your story is the promise you make to your reader.

    If I picked up this book because the cover blurb said it was about time travel (and I like time travel stories) - then I opened it to read the first page and got this, I'd think I had the wrong book. There's some teen flirting, a full tongue french kiss, and get a room bitches It's not that the writing is bad -it's just that it doesn't have anything to do with time. Or travel.

  10. Thank you for taking the time to comment everybody. I appreciate all the feedback. I love the "tighten" it up suggestions. I also understand the "not feeling Heather" bit. I will revise and make the stakes more clear. Heather plays a very important role in getting Mae to Titanic and perhaps I need to hint at the sooner in order to hook the reader.

    Thanks again! :)