Friday, November 30, 2012

(55) MG Contemporary: Discovering Isaac

TITLE: Discovering Isaac
GENRE: MG Contemporary

Eleven-year-old Isaac Sanchez didn’t know what to expect when his deadbeat mom came back, but it definitely wasn’t this: a secret code, a new best friend, and a strange connection to the greatest scientist of all time. Isaac’s experiments sometimes end in disaster, but he may discover what he was looking for all along: his own place in the universe.

Isaac Newton: “For the natural days are truly unequal, though they are commonly considered as equal, and used for a measure of time…”

Isaac Sanchez: Every day has 24 hours, but that doesn’t mean they’re equal. Sometimes, your whole universe can change in just 24 hours.

It all started with baseball.

I hated baseball.

I would’ve rather yanked out my nose hairs one by one in front of the whole sixth grade wearing only yesterday’s underwear than play a baseball game. But every year, Grandma made me play, and my whole summer was ruined by never-ending little league. The worst thing about torture is that it’s not optional.

So there I was, an hour before the first pitch of the season, willing to give up my whole life savings (four dollars) if I could find my mitt. Without it, Grandma would be on my case again, and I couldn’t even hide or protect a single part of my body.

I looked under all the dirty clothes littered around my room. No mitt. I heard Grandma’s footsteps coming down the stairs as I chucked the shoes from my closet floor. No mitt. She opened the door without even knocking and stared down at me as I scooped an armload of my collections—my magnets, my birds’ nests, my rocks—from underneath my bed. No mitt.

Grandma frowned at my mess.

“No mitt,” I said, holding out my empty hands. A little hope rose in my chest. “We could just skip it.


  1. This is a very cool idea. I really like your logline and writing too. It drew me in and I definitely want to know more about the deadbeat mom connection to the scientist and how it helps Isaac. I like the two quotes way to start out, too.

  2. Love the idea and the baseball!

    Okay, now the picky stuff...

    Not sure about the two quotes. They don't seem to fit with the tone of the story; they would've stopped me from reading on.

    The sentence about nose hairs seems to be more adult writing; maybe poked out his eyes?

    Don't need: so there I was

    Many sentences start with I; maybe reverse some of them, e.g., Rather than play baseball, I'd rather poke out my eyes with my toothbrush.

    Don't know if this is a boy or girl, and would be nice to have a name, too.

    Show him/her looking under the clothes instead of telling us about it.

  3. Oh, I love the science angle on this one! And I was instantly grabbed by the first lines (and officially hooked by "I hated baseball")

    Only pick--would it help to build the drama/tension if you structured that seventh paragraph like this:

    I looked under all the dirty clothes littered around my room.

    No mitt.

    I heard Grandma’s footsteps coming down the stairs as I chucked the shoes from my closet floor.

    No mitt.

    She opened the door without even knocking and stared down at me as I scooped an armload of my collections—my magnets, my birds’ nests, my rocks—from underneath my bed.

    No mitt.

  4. Love everything about this, both logline and text - fantastic voice and great punchy writing, and I really liked the first two lines.

    Tiny things: I agree that talking about nose hairs, while funny, sounds more adult, and I think Valeries' suggestion for the 'No mitt.' lines would make it even punchier. And I think it might sound better if 'my collections—my magnets, my birds’ nests, my rocks—' were changed to 'the magnets, the birds’ nests, the rocks'.

    Good luck!

  5. Logline is phenomenal IMO.
    Funny, others nitpicked the "nose hairs" line, I hesitated on "wearing only yesterday's underwear." Maybe just "in my underwear" instead?
    I also don't think you need the line that begins, "The worst thing about torture..." It feels redundant to me.
    But those are small things. I like the voice, and have tremendous sympathy for the sciency kid forced to play baseball. Love the line about the collections--it conveys so much about this character. When my son was the right age, he would have loved this. I like the opening quotes.
    Good luck!

  6. Love this! Such great voice. My heart immediately goes out to Isaac. I think every non-athletic kid (and former kid) can relate to his feelings on being forced to play baseball. And your logline is perfect! Good luck!!

  7. I love this. The logline is outstanding. The first page draws me in. I'd read this in a heartbeat. Everyone else has given you great comments, and I mostly agree. Good luck! Love this concept!

  8. I like the voice here, and the line about yesterday's underwear. I like Valerie's suggestion about the spacing in with the "no mitt" sequence. I like the two Isaac quotes at the top, but sometimes those can be off-putting in a contest. Next time, I'd suggest leaving the quotes out even if you end up keeping it as part of your MS.

  9. I happen to know who this is, so I will not be critiquing it, but I will say quickly:

    Still love this idea!

  10. Your logline does a wonderful job of conveying the story problem and makes me want to sit down in a comfy place and read your story. The voice is wonderful and I have no doubt this will get snatched right up.

    A couple of nits in the name of simplicity. If I've learned anything in my first round of edits it's about clarity being first and foremost, getting rid of all extra words (and characterization, but you are good there :)

    I agree that underwear is fine. Yesterday's underwear goes just a bit too far. I'm not sure you need the torture line either, but only because the worst thing about torture is...well, torture. I'm going to defend the nosehairs only because a kid himself doesn't need to experience something to comment. Maybe he watches his grandma pluck. I really think you should leave the rest alone because your style is your voice. If you break up that paragraph, it completely changes the voice.

    Good luck! I'll be watching this one.

  11. I liked it.

    I stopped at the nose hairs, only because I don't think of 11 year olds as having nose hairs. Maybe fine downy ones, I don't know. If you have an 11 year old look in his nose. I associate nose and ear hairs with old men.

    Good luck. Great voice.

  12. The baseball idea rocks! The voice is unbelievable and as far as little things go such as the use of the "I" pronoun, look at books like S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders - I,I,I and then some. Write your story, already it has heart. It stopped me out of a lot of these really good concepts floating all around it.

  13. Sounds like a really fun read. I love the 'I hate baseball' angle too. There's nothing like being a kid and forced to do something you hate. It's very relatable.

  14. Renee Zellweger says, "You had me at Hello." I say, "You had me at "nose hairs." The logline explains an interesting premise and makes me intrigued. The first few lines make me really like the story. Good voice and I like the nose hair line. I might delete the line about torture. Also, the line about protecting his body - does that mean Grandma beats him? Slightly confusing. Other than that, I was definitely interested and wanting to know what happens. Good job pulling me into the story!

  15. The logline is super-de-dooper, especially the "Isaac's experiments sometimes end in disaster," which makes me think we're in for some great comedy!

    Having said that, I got stopped by a couple of things in the excerpt. (People have already mentioned the nose hairs and underwear, so I won't beat that particular horse.) My major stumble is wondering why he is so desperate to find the mitt--unless we are really to believe that Grandma (whom we haven't yet met) would force him to play unprotected without it. In which case, Grandma is more of a meanie than I'd like to believe.

    How about having him absorbed in his collections, and then being rudely awakened to the fact he has to get ready for baseball by the sound of Grandma's footsteps on the stairs?

    There is some good writing here, particularly towards the end, with the "no mitt" repetition. And I have a feeling that we're all going to love Isaac when his adventures shift into high gear.

    Best of luck--I'll have my fingers crossed for you.

  16. I love this one. Really love it! I can't find anything that I want to critique. I hope this will be a book soon; I'll buy it!

  17. I would skip the quotes; it sounds too adult for 11. Starting with baseball-- and him hating baseball-- hooked me.

  18. You nailed the logline! Like everyone else, I agree that the voice is spot-on.

    I was also wondering about the mitt...seems to me that he would try to HIDE it to avoid having to play. As this stands, Grandma sounds a little too mean!

    Wonderful style here. Love your word repetition. Issac's name is perfect! Wondering if you can sprinkle some more details about his interest in science. Maybe mention his telescope,constellation poster, mobile of the planets, etc. Contrast his scientific interest w/Grandma's need for him to play baseball.

  19. Rereading and seeing that you mentioned his the scientific detail part is taken care of!

  20. I think this is super cute and the opening lines are great! But a lot of the lines didn't feel like an 11-year-old talking, so just scrutinize each word choice. Good luck!

  21. All good stuff. The part about having to protect his body might need clarifying. I read it three times and couldn't figure it out. Best luck with this.

  22. I enjoyed the voice, but you're going to have to depend on the agent to read the logline in addition to the page to get the premise. I love the idea of including quotes, and I do it, but you're wasting word space by including them now. Let YOUR words take center stage. You have a fascinating story to tell, and it's being buried.

    I have a boy who hated baseball, and those three descriptive paragraphs nail that.

    More you. Less Isaac's.

  23. Good writing. I have a different take on the nose hair controversy. You may want to use a metaphor that is somehow sports or gym related. Like losing your gym locker key and having to come to class in your smelly gym clothes or something like that. Much more clever, of course.

  24. I like the idea of quotes leading this off a lot (though I do agree in this context I would have lost them in favor of more of YOUR writing). I like the juxtaposition of Sir Isaac Newton’s philosophizing and your character Isaac trying to do the same. I wish you’d rethink the second sentence of Sanchez’s quote, though. I don’t get a clear enough sense of the idea he’s trying to get across.

    I also have to say that much as I like the quotes, they don’t seem to mesh well with the except that follows. Yet. (I’m assuming you’re going to keep going with quotes to lead off the paragraphs, though I could be absolutely wrong on that front.)

    Isaac’s voice is superb. I get a sense of who he is immediately, and how much he doesn’t want to play baseball. It’s really solid.

    What I don’t get, though, is how you make the jump from what’s in your sample to what’s in your logline. Based on the logline, I would assume I’m going for a heart-tugging, but the tone of your entry is much lighter. Maybe that comes from the idea that the deadbeat mom is back? I’d just suggest that you keep in mind how you are balancing your elements. It seems like a lot. I worry that it might result in tackling a lot of things okay, rather than focusing on just a few things and doing that really well. Really well will always win out.