Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January Secret Agent #49

TITLE: Modified
GENRE: YA Sci-fi

At first, Blair thought it was the spring squall pelting her window that had woken her. Half-awake, she swung her legs to the floor. For a moment she wouldn’t recall; for a moment, her world was perfect once again. But the truth always found her. She dropped her head into her hands as the searing burn of reality hollowed her stomach. Finn was gone. He’d been gone over a month now.

She thought reluctantly back to that Friday. With no pressing homework, they’d started for the cliffs just after school. They mixed with a larger group at school, kids they’d known all their lives, but after school was their time. They never expressly said as much but every day they’d leave their group behind and walk out to the cliffs, seabirds swooping overhead and the tang of low-tide on the wind. This day was different because of a mounting sense of excitement that Blair felt in Finn’s presence, and she guessed he felt in hers too. It was hard to unravel this feeling, having known Finn since they’d both napped in the same crib as their mothers drank coffee together. She’d loved him all her life, but this feeling was new, brand new. It was strange enough that she felt nervous when she knew she was going to see him, but exciting enough that she wanted to see him all the time.

That particular afternoon was exceptionally sunny and warm for late March.


  1. The first sentence throws me. Is it raining? Is that what woke her or was it dream about a spring squall that has something to do with the loss of Finn? It's unclear to me. I think the first is a bit clunky.

    I second is much better. I like the imagery and the writing is precise.

    Good luck and thank you for sharing!

  2. I've always been told not to start the story with a flashback. That, if you need to flashback, you aren't starting the story early enough.

    That said, I like the writing. I can feel Blair's emotions.

    Good luck.

  3. I, too, was thrown off a bit by the first paragraph. I understand it's raining, but "squall" and "Pelting" sound negative, not part of a "perfect world." Also, if you're keeping the first line, I think you need to contrast "At first Blair thought" with something like "But it was..."
    I like this paragraph without the squall pelting. What do you think of starting with "Half-awake, Blair swung..."
    I really am interested once I start the second paragraph. With this excerpt, I'm wondering is the story about their relationship, and if so, why have it start with a flashback?
    Or is the story about Blair and what happens after his death? I would keep reading to see where this is headed.

  4. I like the premise of the freind who is irrevocably lost and the MC who pines and wishes to change some single event. I do think, however, that the opening needs some polish.

    The emotion in the story is compelling, but the action of waking up and remembering falls flat for me.

    The second para holds rich language but it, too, relies on another flashback.

    I wonder if starting your story somewhere else - perhaps with the MC engaging in some action that then reminds her of the pain of loss, maybe with a previous hike so we can "see" the relationship for ourselves. Not sure since I've only seen these few words, but just something to think about.

  5. Lori A. Goldstein (@_lagold)January 16, 2013 at 4:40 PM

    I like the tone of this very much but I don't think the first paragraph does the writing and story justice. I'd almost like to see you start with "Finn had been gone over a month now."

    Suggestion: Maybe have her mark an X on the calendar or simply check the date on her watch and calculate in her head that he'd been gone a month.

    While it's kind of a flashback, since it's only a couple of lines and we don't find out what happened (at least yet), maybe you can instead have these inner thoughts about their relationship happen during a scene of something Blair is doing? Slowly dole out what happened that day and the important details of it?

    I think you could break up paragraph two. And be careful for copy edits. As a copy editor by trade, I can't help see these: low tide, no hype, half awake, no hyphen.

    Good luck!

  6. Backstory dump in the second graph. IMO, weave that into the present action w/o fire hosing your reader.
    We want to know about the present before we care about your MC's past.

  7. Your voice is quite strong and her grief feels very real. But I've read quite a few agent blogs and tweets and they always talk about how books starting with the main character waking up make up a huge percentage of what they see. When you're fighting for attention on the slush pile, you really want to stand out from the pile. I agree with Lori's comment: maybe there's another way she can remember. You could even have her going to the cemetary to leave flowers on his grave. "One month without you" - that sort of thing. If there's any tension with his family she could run into one of them there as well.

  8. I really like your description of how she feels about Finn. It conveys perfectly how the character feels and I think a lot of people will relate to it. But I'm not hooked overall because your MC isn't actually doing anything in this first scene. She's just sitting on her bed, thinking. And Cassandra is right, every agent comment I've read on story beginnings says waking up is very common and should be avoided if possible. If you start with a flashback, it's probably a good indication that you should be starting with that scene instead.

  9. Nothing happened. Your MC woke up. You've started with backstory. If that part of the story is important, why not just start there? SOunds like it could be interesting.

  10. Your second paragraph draws me right it...the description, the tension between Finn and MC (whether it's good or bad)I'm there.


  11. I also like the emotion in this and the fact that she's starting realizing that she has feelings for this boy right before she's lost him. I think, however, that this needs sharpening a bit. I don't have a strong sense of either the characters or the setting here. I think more specific details would help. Also, I think you could play up the mystery of his disappearance more. What is unique about him being missing? I think with a few more details and a bit more mystery to why and/or how he left, this could really shine.

  12. Don’t open by waking up. It’s a clichĂ©. Then, moving right into a flashback without any kind of context takes me out of the story. There are some nice emotions here, but I’d rather have you start in a place where there is some action,. I like the detail that they napped in the same crib while their mothers drank coffee, but I don’t have enough connection or enough questions to be hooked.

  13. Just Another YA AuthorJanuary 19, 2013 at 12:32 PM

    This moves backwards instead of forward. The opening should always move forward. You lost me.