TITLE: Truth in the Treetops
GENRE: YA Contemporary
For Gabby, a dedicated, but sometimes obsessive cross-country runner, junior year is her time to shine. College recruiters. Scholarships. Besting her impossibly skinny rivals. But eerie encounters in the woods the summer before school starts and CJ, a cute guy with the same quirky taste in music—just might put a wrench in her plans. See, CJ has a secret and it’s connected to what’s going on in the woods. And to Gabby.
GOOD: IMMEDIATELY UNDERSTAND GABBY, USE OF 3 EXAMPLES, TASTE IN MUSIC AS A CONNECTION, VERY COMPACT AND CLEAR
IF THERE’S A SIMPLE/EASY WAY TO GIVE AN EXAMPLE OR ELEMENT OF THE EERIE ENCOUNTERS, THAT WOULD BE MORE INTRIGUING.
I’M NOT USUALLY A CONTEMPORARY PERSON, BUT AS A PARENT AND AS A FORMER TEEN, I’VE BEEN IN THE THICK OF CROSS-COUNTRY AND COLLEGE STUFF, SO IT GOT ME.
Sweltering heat bakes my skin as I shuffle along the narrow path, the hot breeze offering no relief. BIT OF ADJECTIVE OVERLOAD I uncap my water bottle and chug the last drop of tepid liquid. SMALL THING, BUT YOU CAN’T CHUG A DROP OF WATER. Eight miles at cross-country practice and now this. DOES “THIS” REFER TO THE HEAT OR THE WATER? Ugh!
Through the bushes and tall, leafy oaks, I follow the slight descent of the hill, my throat dry, sweat trickling down my back. Would someone please dump a bucket of ice water on my head already?
“Hey, what’s the rush, Gabs?” Asha asks, jogging to keep up DO YOU MEAN CATCH UP? SHUFFLING TO ME DOESN’T MEAN FAST “Slow down.”
“Sorry, it’s just so freakin hot. The A/C in my house is calling us.”
Asha exhales a loud sigh. A SIGH IS AN EXHALATION SO PICK ONE TO DESCRIBE “Yeah, I hear it.”
I keep moving, the tall prickly grass clawing at my bare legs and leaves from low-hanging oaks clutching my ponytail. WAIT, IS SHE IN THE WOODS? I HAD ASSUMED THAT BASED ON THE PITCH AND THE PATH BUT SUDDENLY THERE’S GRASS, WHICH I DON’T ASSOCIATE WITH A FOREST I WE, BECAUSE ASHA IS WITH GABBY AND YOU ALSO BEGAN THE LAST SENTENCE WITH I reach the clearing, the forest widening before me and that’s when it hits. A bone-rattling chill that skitters down my spine and settles in my gut. Okay, that’s weird. Really weird.
Shivering, I stop in my tracks. I THINK HER STOPPING SHOULD COME BEFORE THE “WEIRD” THOUGHT A blistering August day in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and out of nowhere, it’s like I have the flu.
I glance skyward, expecting what, I don’t know. But there’s only a thatched canopy of leaves fluttering in the breeze. The hot August breeze. YOU JUST SAID THAT IT WAS AUGUST ABOVE
Asha stops STOPS IS REPEATED VERB, BUT ASHA PAUSING CAN BE DEDUCTED BY READER, reaches out and touches my arm. “REACHING” IS A FILTER VERB AND UNNECESSARY, PLUS IF TOUCH IS THE FIRST AND ONLY VERB, THE ACTION IS MORE SUDDEN, WHICH IS PROBABLY WHAT YOU WANT IF IT STARTLES GABBY “Gabs, you okay? Geez, you have goosebumps all over.”
“Yeah, no. I’m freezing,” I say, my teeth chattering. “I got this crazy chill out of nowhere.” REPEAT OF “OUT OF NOWHERE” I sigh. NOT SURE SIGHING IS THE RIGHT THING HERE “It must be the heat. I’m delirious.” THE MOM IN ME JUST SCREAMED “HEAT STROKE!!!” LOL
HELLO SUSAN! THANKS FOR LETTING ME READ THIS. I DON’T NORMALLY CRITIQUE THIS WAY AND WITH ALL CAPS SO IT LOOKS LIKE I’M YELLING EVERY FEW WORDS HERE, BUT I’M NOT, REALLY.
-OKAY, SO I’M BIG ON SEEKING AND DESTROYING REPETITION WHEN IT COMES TO WORDS USED. TRY NOT TO HAVE PEOPLE SIGH OR STOP, ETC., MORE THAN ONCE PER PAGE (“SAID” IS AN EXCEPTION BECAUSE IT’S INVISIBLE). NORMALLY I WOULD JUST HIGHLIGHT REPEATED WORDS OR PHRASES RATHER THAN SHOUT AT THEM IN-LINE.
-PAY ATTENTION WORDS AND PHRASES THAT SLOW DOWN OR DILUTE THE ACTION.
-I KNOW THIS IS ONLY 250 WORDS AND THAT’S SO, SO LITTLE TO GET ANYTHING IN, AND YOU WANT TO HIT ME WITH SOMETHING ACTUALLY HAPPENING, BUT I’D LIKE TO HAVE BETTER/CLEARER DESCRIPTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND ALSO OF GABBY AND ASHA. THEY ARE COMPLETELY BLANK SO FAR AND THEY NEED TO HAVE IMMEDIATE FEATURES- GIVE ME COLORS OF HAIR AND EYES, MENTION CLOTHING, BUT DON’T OVERLOAD, EITHER (DON’T WORRY, I STRUGGLE WITH THIS A LOT). IT FEELS A BIT RUSHED OVERALL. SET THE SCENE AND THE CHARACTERS BEFORE THE BIG SHIVER- WE WANT IT SOON, BUT IT DOESN’T NEED TO BE ON THE FIRST OR EVEN SECOND PAGE. EASE THE READER INTO THE WORLD AND MAKE THEM COMFORTABLE AND CONNECTED TO THE SCENE, THEN THE BANG HAS MUCH MORE OF AN IMPACT.
-I GET THAT GABBY IS WALKING TO HER HOUSE FROM SCHOOL, BUT GOING THROUGH WOODS TO GET HOME IS NOT SOMETHING THAT IS THAT COMMON FOR A HIGH SCHOOLER (AT LEAST IN MOST PLACES I’VE LIVED), SO YOU MIGHT WANT TO EXPLAIN THE FOREST IN RELATION TO HER HOUSE AND WHY SHE’S CUTTING THROUGH THE WOODS INSTEAD OF DRIVING HOME OR SOMETHING. HOPEFULLY MUCH OF THAT INFO IS COMING SHORTLY, THOUGH.
-IN PLACES WHERE YOU HAVE 3 OR MORE ADJECTIVES IN A SENTENCE, STRIVE TO FIND NOUNS THAT ENCOMPASS THE ADJECTIVE. SAME WITH COMBINING ADVERB-VERB PAIRING WITH A STRONGER VERB (THIS IS JUST GENERAL ADVICE, YOU AREN’T ADJECTIVE CRAZY)
NIT-PICKY STUFF, THOUGH. OVERALL, THIS SEEMS LIKE A GOOD SCENE TO BEGIN YOUR STORY WITH. GABBY HAS IMMEDIATE VOICE, AND ADDING DESCRIPTIONS AS SHE WOULD SEE AND EXPERIENCE THEM WILL MAKE IT EVEN STRONGER. I’M STILL VERY CURIOUS ABOUT THE PREMISE OF THE STORY. BEST OF LUCK!