Friday, December 2, 2011

#46 YA Contemporary: Chasing the Taillights

TITLE: Chasing the Taillights
GENRE: YA Contemporary

After a car accident kills her parents, Lucy is forced to rely on a brother she has never been close to. She can’t tell Tony what she knows about the accident for fear of destroying the tentative bond between them. Yet, if she doesn’t confess, she might lose her mind. If she does, she might lose the only person she has left who loves her.

The darkness is absolute. I’m not sure if my eyes are open or closed. I strain to push the lids up, but they’re already wide. Something covers my mouth and nose, making breathing difficult. My lungs burn for air, but I can only suck in tiny mouthfuls through whatever smothers my face.

I turn my head, crying out as a savage bolt of pain shoots through it. Wavy grey lines waft across the blank space before my eyes. I can’t think, can’t make sense of the darkness threatening to drown me. Certain now I won’t pass out, I gasp for breath. There’s nothing covering my face. It was the ground my nose and mouth were pressed into.

The ground? Wet. Greasy. Reeking of something that reminds me of… gas? Reaching out my left hand, I try to find something to hold onto. My fingers scrabble over small objects, pebbles perhaps, that skitter away beneath my touch. I reach further, wrapping my fist around them. Pain prickles my fingertips. Not pebbles. Glass. Small, sharp shards of glass.

Using my torn hand, I drag myself forward, an inch, maybe two. I can’t move my legs, can’t even feel them. Raising my head, I see light. Not a lot of light, but light. Red light, bright at one end, dull at the other. I know what this is. I do. My heart thumps at the side of my head and I can almost hear the gears of my brain creaking to make sense of this weird red glow.


  1. This is fantastic, and full of tension. I love it as an opener, and I can tell you've polished it. I only had the tinest of nitpicks about your logline:

    Yet, if she doesn’t confess, she might lose her mind. If she does, she might lose the only person she has left who loves her.

    I'd remove the word 'yet'. I think it makes the meaning you want to convey stronger.

    So fantastic, great hook!

  2. I remember reading this through other critiques and I loved it and the premise of it all. Your writing is strong, concise, and filled with so much information and emotion.

    My only suggestion, which you can take or leave, is towards the end when she sees the red light. "Not a lot of light, but light." When I first red it, I somehow put in my own sentence of "Not THE light, but light all the same." Just a suggestion.:)

  3. Hello fellow YA Contemp writer :)

    I agree with Loralie's suggestion for the logline. It reads much better that way.

    In my opinion the first 250 words are brilliant. I'd hate to be her.

  4. Polished writing! You clearly are ready to put this out into the world! My only suggestion would be to avoid ending sentences with "into" or "onto".(Just a nitpicky grammar point!) Otherwise, your writing pulled me into the scene. Best of luck!

  5. Your logline left me intrigued. I'd read on to find out what she knows. Your opening was great, very intense and full of tension. I could feel her pain! Great job.

  6. Great opening! I really felt like I was there with her, piecing together a horrendous accident. Good job. I'd definitely keep reading.

  7. Wow, such descriptive writing! Your opening paragraph had me feeling claustrophobic! I wasn't hooked by your logline, but your writing is definitely there! I would read on!!

  8. Great 250! You use such great descriptive language that I can see this as I read it. And that makes me want to read more.
    Good luck at auction!

  9. Great, vivid writing. I'm not usually a fan of starting a novel with a car accident, but in this case you make it work.

    My comments are more aimed at the novel as whole, given the little I know from your logline and excerpt, so take it if it helps and leave it if it doesn't.

    What's the action going to be? Your genre is YA Contemp, but from the premise it reads more as lit fic. As far as I can tell, the conflict, the goals, and the obstacles are all internal. I'm not saying this won't work for YA, but I think that in today's market it's probably harder to market a book like that. Kids these days seem to want vampires and zombies.

    Also, I'm having trouble figuring out from the logline why she's so conflicted about this accident. Does she think she caused it? Did she cause it? Were here parents fighting about getting a divorce right before it happened? I think here, it's just a case of putting a bit more detail into your logline.

    On the whole, this is a really powerful opening. Good luck!

  10. This is great! The description is so real and visceral, I really feel I'm there. Good luck!

  11. I loved the 250! :D

    I stumbled over the light thing, too--so I agree with Rebecca.

    If I were an agent, I'd definitely bid on this one ;)

    Good luck!! :D

  12. I agree with the first person (and many others) about the log line - those last two sentences read a little awkwardly.

    The excerpt, though, wow! Even though I'm disoriented just like the main character is, the immediate details are very well described.

    I also want to know what the secret is about the accident. I'd read on!

  13. I'm guessing from the logline that the accident was somehow Lucy's own fault, but it would have to be a big secret for her brother to leave her. They may not have a close bond, but I'm guessing after the accident he would need her as much as she needs him.

    Great opening, although i think you're portraying the scene vividly enough that you don't need as much description as you have here. For example, I love that line "I'm not sure if my eyes are open or closed," but then I tripped over her pushing the lids open. I think even if you leave this sentence out, the feeling is strong without too much description. Same with the "certain now I won't pass out" line. What's changed that she knows she won't pass out? She's having a wicked headache, disoriented, and not fully aware what's going on or what's pressing on her face. I don't think she could rule out passing out at this point.

    The part I got really into was when she started trying to move and saw the lights. I think you could really condense a little here and pull that action right up front. That would definitely make me turn the page.

    Good luck!


    Logline: I’d swap the last two sentences, since the momentum seems off. Also, the meaning changes. In the current version, I read the “If she does” as a reference to losing her mind rather than confessing.

    Line notes: I do worry this is a tad overwritten, with too much describing. Much of the details you’ve offered are interesting, but perhaps too specifically described for a first-person POV from a character who is disoriented. Maybe leave the more visceral observations, less of the thoughtful/reflectiveness (eg. hearing the gears of brain creaking)?

    Overall: My primary concern is that there are so many novels that start with parents dying in a car crash. Readers will be looking for ways this stands out from the crowd. I hope the thing Lucy knows that she’s afraid to confess is something very special indeed, to help this rise above the ordinary.
    Best of success.