Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Secret Agent #10

TITLE: Nowhere to Belong
GENRE: YA Contemporary

My last best day.

I took the bus home since my two older brothers had left school early to go camping with my dad. Upon entering the house, the smell of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies drew my best friend Madison and me to the kitchen. We grabbed some hot cookies straight off the cookie sheet and plopped down at the kitchen table.

“Hi girls,” my mom said. “Want some milk with that?”

“Way to be cliché, Mom,” I mumbled with my mouth full of warm chocolaty goodness.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” My mom laughed and grabbed the carton out of the fridge.

After our clichéd snack, Madison and I escaped up to my room.

“Sleepover tonight or tomorrow night?” Madison asked.

“Tomorrow night, my house. Tonight’s my girls’ night with Mom since Dad’s taking the boys camping this weekend, remember? No obnoxious brothers for a whole weekend.”

“Your brothers aren’t that bad. I’m stuck alone with my parents all the time. Boring.”

“Never a dull moment over here.” I rolled my eyes, but my brothers weren’t so bad. I mean, they did let me ride with them to school most of the time, and family vacations would be pretty boring if it was just me and my parents.

Later that night, I made a big pot of popcorn while waiting for my mom to get home with our Chinese takeout. She walked in just as I was dumping the steaming popcorn into a bowl.


  1. My last best day does a great job of informing the reader of impending doom, so that was well done.

    I did find the heavy reliance on dialogue in the beginning a bit much, simply because we do not yet know these people and therefore it is difficult to connect. That said, we only have 250 words, so it's tough to gauge!

  2. Hey there. Thanks for sharing this. :)

    You have some sweet, warm dynamics, and I like stories where families are present and involved, so yay on that! :)

    What I'm struggling with is understanding where this story begins--the narrative hops from one thing to the next without a clear throughline. By the end of the section, I don't know what the "last best day" is--what has ended or changed for the narrator?

    Beyond that uncertainty, it feels like you're struggling to account for all events in the day the story starts rather than starting where the actual story starts. That's maybe vague feedback. What I mean: the narrative begins in the kitchen, though the girls are just there to eat cookies. Then we're in the bedroom, but we're only there to make sleepover plans. Then we're at girl's night, which unfortunately gets cut off, so I don't know whether that's really where the story begins. But if it is--we need to start there. Mom and daughter might mention the sleepover plans for the next night, but we don't need to see the cookies being eaten or see the sleepover plans being made to get there. Currently, I'm not clear on what this story is about nor who's telling it...but I think you can get there with some smart revising. :)

    I rewrote the beginning of my current MS a bajillion times, and a part of that process for me was hyper-analyzing the beginnings of books I loved. All of them start where they need to in order to set up the story (not the world or the characters--story, all the way). If you're not sure how to approach this differently, do a deep dive into the beginnings of books you love. What is revealed, and when? What is driving the character and the plot forward in each book's opening pages, and how soon can you see events set in motion? How and when are backstory and characterization woven in?

    Good luck with this!

  3. Great first line. But then what? That's a lot of dialogue that gives us background that we may (or may not) need later, but it doesn't get us into the story. Don't let that fabulous first line go to waste.

  4. I don't think you need "way to be cliche mom" AND "after our cliched snack". I think just once gets the point across.

    Also don't get the logic of making a big bowl of popcorn while waiting for takeout lol...I mean now the popcorn is steaming hot and they are going to eat Chinese. Why not make the popcorn later?

    However those nitpicks aside, I do like all the characters in this, including the unseen brothers and father. And that's unusual since people seem to often make the parents / family sound like jerks. So I would follow along to see what's going to happen here.

  5. A few comments:
    -I'm not sure I understand the opening line. Is this a flashback (like she's remembering this is her last best day?) If so, is the entire story a flashback or are we going to jump to present day at some point? It's odd to start in the past if the "now" story takes place at a different time.
    -my mom/my older brothers/my best friend -> these are all telling. She would call them what she calls them inside her own head (Mom, Bill, Madison etc...)
    -I think you're covering too many different points in time for 250 words. You're supposed to be grounding us in the setting and characters, but this is feeling like it's rushing without stopping to ground us in anything.
    -Be careful how much snark she's showing towards her mom and brothers this early on. You want us to like her not think she is a brat.

    Good luck!

  6. This is an interesting idea of the last best day, but I’m struggling to see how it ties into the story as a whole. You are also using the initial words describe a full day where nothing consequential happens—my guess is that you may be starting a little too early and that this can be cut. Get to the good stuff faster! You can find another way to weave in the few small details we get regarding her family and her friend’s family dynamics later.