Wednesday, March 18, 2009

26 Secret Agent

TITLE: Opposite Day
GENRE: YA Adventure

I had braced myself for another boring Monday.

What I got was just the opposite.

I had finished my paper route and was heading home for breakfast with my dad. I was a morning person, and it drove my parents crazy. Dad was a heavy sleeper who hit the snooze button at least three times before he even thought about getting up. And mom--when she was still with us--waited for dad to get her up, which explains why I started making my own lunches in fourth grade.

The paper route was my dad’s idea. Since you’re up anyway, why not make a buck, he said. It was pretty cool watching the sun rise on the job, and I had to admit, it was a better use of my time than watching cartoons, especially the kind of cartoons that came on at 6 a.m.

I delivered the Rockville Sentinel, one of the last local newspapers in the D.C. area. I would have made more money carrying The Washington Post, since it had a ton more subscribers, but I preferred the Sentinel, since it only came out on weekdays. One Sunday Post weighed more than my whole backpack.

It was the end of January, which meant collection time. Most other papers collected their subscribers’ money online, or at least in the mail, but the publisher of the Sentinel was in his eighties and liked things the old-fashioned way. His method definitely boosted my tips--it's much harder to stiff a kid face-to-face.


  1. Author, I think this has a lot of promise, but --in my opinion--- there is too much time between "What I got was just the opposite" and what you meant by that. You tease us along too long. And, too many 'was' sentences in the beginning. You can strengthen those verbs.

    Good luck with your story!

  2. This is fun! But I agree with Chris; take out most of the "was" and "had". Like in the first and third sentences, take out the "had" because it'll make the sentence structure stronger. You could also change phrases like "I had to admit" to "I admit." Same meaning, and it's a bit snappier.

    I like the part about the paper route, so I'm not sure you need all the explanation in the first big paragraph about why the MC's parents aren't morning people. I think most of us want to see some action as early as possible. Overall, though, good job :)

  3. I was hooked, and I liked the part about the author's parents--it gives some helpful information unobtrusively, and gives a sense of the mc's voice too.
    The only part that bugged me was the second line....the opposite of boring is easy enough to figure out, but my brain immediately jumped to the opposite of Monday and emerged distracted. This could just be my problem.

  4. The writing is clean here, but there's not much tension. I think most of the details on this page are backstory points that can be or will be revealed later.

    I want to know why this is the opposite of a boring Monday... so start getting to that, instead of telling us what the boring Mondays are usually like.

    If your story conflict starts when he goes to collect for the paper (as I suspect it does from what you've shown us), I would skip to the last paragraph here right after "just the opposite".

    That paragraph tells us the key points very succinctly, which are that a). your protagonist is a kid and b). (s)he is collecting for paper delivery door-to-door.

    That will hopefully let you get to the part of the story where the intrigue and conflict starts.

    Good luck!

  5. I agree with the other comments that this needs to set up the "opposite day" hook a lot faster.

    I like your writing, and I like the narrator, but H.L. Dyer is right - these are backstory points that don't belong here.

    I don't know if I'd keep reading, but I think you can easily perk up your opening. Your writing is polished and your narrator is appealing.

  6. I'm not sure what's not hooking me. I like the premise, and the title.

    Uhm... I think it might be there is just too much background info straight up here at the beginning. You can drop that in later, but you want to hook the reader first. I'm not exactly hooked by paper routes, and that dropped the bottom out of what I loved about the first two lines.

    That first big paragraph (I had finished...), could be tighter and more active, btw. Plus the first sentence reads as imcomplete.

  7. I actually liked the backstory, but I think the others are right that it can appear later in your novel. I'd keep reading -- good voice.

  8. I agree with the others. While I enjoyed this, I want to know what makes this day different than a boring Monday.

    But overall, very well written.

  9. I really like this, but it felt a little choppy in a way I can't quite pinpoint.

    Other than that, I like the character and the voice, and I don't think there's too much backstory. I'd read on.

  10. I like this a lot, starting w/ paragraph 3 (I had finished my paper route). The protagonist sounds like she may be a con-artist, which I like in a kid's story. I love the dad's quote (though I'd italicize and say 'he'd said') and the part about stiffing a kid face-to-face. That's my favorite line.

    As for the beginning, I don't like to be forewarned so obviously.

  11. I really like the tone of this, but it seems to be a bit waffly to me - I'd like to see the action getting started.

  12. Ditto on what chris eldin said about not getting into the main plot a bit quicker. But the voice is good and feels right for a YA novel. I'd probably read to the end of the paragraph to see where this was going.

  13. I like the voice of this but as mentioned before the backstory should be pushed back to a later chapter. Also it would be nice to know if the protag is a boy or a girl.

  14. I want to feel the boringness of the Monday, and then I want to revel in the excitement of it turning out differenly... all in one sentence haha!

  15. "much harder to stiff a kid face-to-face" sold me...might want to tighten the beginning to get to that line quicker.

  16. Sorry to pile on, but I also thought there was little tension in the beginning here. You need to get to an action scene (meaning something active, rather than thought--not meaning the kid needs to be on a bike chase) much faster, and not tell us about the different newspapers. You could simply say that the publisher of this particular paper was old fashioned and wanted the kids to collect etc...

    The words are nice, but the story needs work.


  17. I would like to have an idea of what this book is going to be about. The first page is a lot of telling that doesn't let me know that. I think most of this information can be brought in later, or maybe not at all. How about starting with a piece of action that lets us know he's a paper boy and it's early morning?

    You might like Dwight Swain's book, ON WRITING WELL. It's not the same old stuff.

  18. Hi. I goofed last night on the title of the book I recommened. It's not what I said at all, it's
    So sorry. I knew when I said it, it was wrong.

  19. I liked the backstory but having it come after the second sentence threw me. How about taking out the second sentence? I would have liked to know what made the day non-boring sooner too, but I would keep reading after that last great sentence. It could all be tightened a bit and still get the idea across. For example "It was collection time, and because the publisher was in his eighties, we collected the old fashioned way." That's a rough example, but it cuts the first two sentences (one very long) into one.