First Glance (Is It Hot In Here Or Is It This Book? Entry)

Below is the first 250ish words for my Young Adult Fantasy novel titled First Glance. The novel is complete at 145,000 words.

This is my submission for the Shelly Watters one page contest. (full details and additional submission links  listed on her site Is it Hot in Here or is it This BOOK.)  Please leave comments and suggestions on how to improve this. Grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, or anything that catches your eye. Thanks all

 

Chapter 1

“Come on, come on, come on,” Lace muttered. She paced, stopped, looked around seeing naught but streetlights and the occasional passer-by. In the distance, a dog bawled. Although familiar, this part of the Midwestern United States with its small towns, the era with its faster pace, wasn’t like her adoptive home, yet no one took notice as she pulled the long travelling cloak tighter and she began the pace again.

“Where are you?” she whispered, then a little louder as if that might help. “Please, show yourself.”

She had come on the promise of a prophecy, but time was running out. Running out, she thought, nearer to expired. Unconsciously she rubbed her arm as she glanced inside the diner where her travel companions sat eating and laughing. Laughing, if I were inside…, before remembering the lot didn’t know the gravity of the situation. None knew either the truth of their travel, nor how near the end stood. Lifting the sleeve of her tunic, she looked at what had only a turn gone been ridges, now angry red furrows, the result of magic she knew better than to have invoked, but felt little choice over.

“Dark as blood.” She breathed into a night that suddenly took a chance to blackest pitch and chilled. Every light within a block had extinguished, not that it limited her sight, only stiffened her back at the possible forboding. Lace closed her eyes, remembering the gathering in the tavern. The argue of blame before the others arrived. And then… him.

 

29 thoughts on “First Glance (Is It Hot In Here Or Is It This Book? Entry)”

  1. I don’t know why, but the language is a bit difficult for me to understand. For instance, I’m not sure what this means: “She breathed into a night that suddenly took a chance to blackest pitch and chilled.” (what does it mean for a night to suddenly take a chance?”
    And here “She began the pace again” (do you mean she began TO pace)
    And here:
    “Lifting the sleeve of her tunic, she looked at what had only a turn gone been ridges” (I’m not sure what “a turn gone” means.)
    I’m wondering if this is all part of voice and I suspect it is, but it might take the reader out of the story for a minute.
    With that said, I like the premise I see so far that something ominous is about to happen … I think you do a good job with mood and tension. good luck.

  2. Oh…I like this. I get the feeling she was thrust into a future. She seems archaic but those around her seem modern. She mentioned though adoptive home. I would think it’d be orphanage or something. The tension and conflict are there and I am intrigued. Good work!

  3. I’m a bit worried about your length my dear. That’s long even for an adult fantasy. YA is typically shorter. A lot shorter than that even. Adult fantasy runs in the 90-110k range. But that doesn’t make it unpublishable. It just makes it harder.

    On your first line: she has no reason to mutter. No one can overhear her. And muttering is a speech tag, which is out of “style” at the moment with a lot of editors and agents and writers. The idea is that a) the dialog and actions should show us how to read it rather than a tag that tells us. b) it often halts a smooth flowing narrative. People ignore “said.” But they pause for yelled, shouted, muttered, mumbled, etc. Just a thought.

    I don’t have a clear sense of what’s going on here. She’s got a cloak and way of speaking that is acronymous to Midwestern US. As Elizabeth said, it does give her the sense of not belonging there, but I’m not getting any clues as to why she’s here or where she’s from or how she got there. Its just a girl that doesn’t quite belong. It feels wrong and odd rather than intriguing. I think you can fix this with a tiny bit more details in the beginning. Why does no one notice she’s got a cloak on? Is this set in the future where people where cloaks or is she a time traveller from the past or another dimension? Give us more clues on way or the other and it’ll make the picture clearer for us from the start.

    “Laughing, if I were inside…” okay first of all you don’t need a comma there. Secondly, I really don’t understand this line. Its confusing. What are you trying to imply here?

    Where are these ridges besides under her sleeve? Are they on her knuckles? Her arm? Her palm? I’m hearing about a dog barking but not the stuff I want to know about in this scene.

    “Took a chance to chillest black.” What? That’s not a phrase I’m familiar with, and I don’t think your target audience will be either.

    Also, it sounds like you’re segueing into a flashback. Flashbacks and dreams are one thing that will KILL your novel to an agent. If you’re not doing a flashback, then awesome but make that clear so Victoria won’t read this and think oh great. A flashback. They’re unnecessary because most of the time its just backstory that can be integrated into the story more smoothly so that we’re always moving forward not jerking around.

    Just some thoughts to think about. I like her name “Lace.” Its kind of fun. I like the diner setting with the friends. I just wish I knew what was going on in this scene right off the bat so I could picture it clearly. I don’t need to know the details of the prophecy or anything like that. I’m hoping this makes sense so it will be actually helpful to you. That’s why I repeat myself, in the hope that the message will get across. Good luck.

  4. Great piece! It definitely has me hooked to want to know more! 🙂

  5. It definitely has a hook, even though I do agree with a few other’s about the few grammar/punctuation issues. The fantasy genre is something I know nothing about, but I do feel as if this particular story could grab some real interest from a YA fantasy reader. I liked it. Was she a “normal” person that evolved into a time traveler? That’s kind of the impression I get.

  6. I like the feel of this. The language could use a bit of tightening, and I’m afraid some of the phrasing will not be understood by most readers. 1st para last line, change to: “pulled the long traveling cloak tighter and began to pace again.”

    Third para leaves us hanging w/o needed followup; take out ‘but felt little choice over.’ ‘took a chance to darkest pitch,’ –just too difficult to accept wording.

    I love the statement “Dark as blood.” I want another followup statement that extends her thinking a bit, equally pithy.

  7. As always in writing group, you start with action, and they hook is strong. You meant “adopted” town, Lori. I’m confused by the phrase,”had only a turn gone been ridges.” I’m assuming the character is from the past given some of the word choices?

  8. As others have said… the language is a problem. I get that you’re trying to establish a “fantasy” style of language use, but it doesn’t flow naturally; whether that’s because it’s so early in the book or because you don’t QUITE have the handle on it that you want, I can’t tell. (The one that jumped out at me that I don’t think has been mentioned is “naught”. It just seems a little early in any book to be dropping a “naught” on us, that’s all. Maybe it’s me.) But, look, you have a frightened yet potentially powerful young girl, a dark and ominous looming… something, burns of red and magic and mentions of blood. You’re on the right track there. Personally, I’d love to read the NEXT 250 words, just to see if maybe the first 250 are unnecessary. (And for what it’s worth? I did NOT think you were going into a flashback or dream, at all.)

    Good work, and keep writing! – T

  9. The different uses of adopted and adoptive from the online dictionary: adopted: being the parents of an adopted child. adoptive: adoptive parents are people who have adopted a child. Adoptive townspeople, therefore, would be people who adopted the town.

  10. I love fantasy, both to read and write, so this has amazing possibilities. I wish I had more clues about whether this is a time-travel kind of thing, or if she has a spell on her, or what exactly is going on. It’s hard to be too intrigued when I’m not quite sure where and when I am.

  11. Miranda Hardy said:

    The first thing I noticed was the length. Wow! I wonder if it will be entertaining to a YA audience to keep their interest that long. I know exceptions exist, and I hope that is your case.

    I am intrigued about what Lace is waiting for, but some of the decsriptions through me off a little. I would keep reading, the last line was great!

  12. This is a great start, you’ve got some good intrigue going. However, a few things concern me about this:

    1) 145K is MASSIVELY long for a debut fantasy. YA Fantasy should clock in about 80-100K max. Many agents would auto-reject this just based on length alone.

    2) I’m not sure what to make of the archaic language. Words such as naught, passerby, etc. sound like something from another time, not just another place. While I assume she’s from another world come to Earth, this may be off-putting to some readers.

    3) Some of the language is overwritten and occasionally confusing. The line about the night at the end has been mentioned by others, but also in the beginning where she paces, stops, and looks is a bit too much. For such a small, unimportant action it gets a lot of words and page time, as though a lot is going on but nothing is actually happening. Try simplifying your sentences as much as possible. Consider how you can say the same thing, but in fewer words. this should help strengthen your prose and lower your word count.

    4) There’s some unnecessary repetitions. Mostly this happens in the second long paragraph with her inner thoughts. These could all be cut to strengthen it because you’ve already shown us these thoughts just before she thinks them. Both is overkill.

    5) You’re not going to like this one, but this does not feel like YA to me at all. It feels like adult High fantasy. Her language, her actions, and most importantly her voice do not sound like a teenager’s. If I didn’t know this was supposed to be YA, I’d guess her age to be no younger than mid to late 20s. This is one of the trickiest things about writing YA – the voice is either there or it’s not. Injecting it after the fact is incredibly difficult!

    Anyway, this is a good start and I’d read on to see where it goes since I do love a good fantasy. Best of luck!

  13. Highly imaginative, just a little convoluted. I’d recommend reading it out-loud to yourself to get a handle on which prose is working and which could be clarified. Nice build to the last line. Good luck!

  14. Well, this hooked me right from the start! I’d love to read more.

  15. Based on the comments and recommendations, my feelings on the matter and the advice of my fellows in my trusted writing group, below is the revised 250ish words.

    “Come on, come on, come on,” Lace muttered. She paced, stopped, looked around seeing naught but streetlights and the occasional passer-by. This part of the Midwestern United States with its small towns, the era with its faster pace, wasn’t like her adoptive home, yet no one took notice as she pulled her travelling cloak tighter and began the pace again.

    “Where are you?” she whispered, then a little louder as if that might help. “Please, show yourself.”

    She had come on the promise of a prophecy, but time was running out. Running out, she thought, nearer to expired. Unconsciously she rubbed the underside of her forearm. She glanced inside the diner to where her travel companions sat eating and laughing. Laughing, if I were inside…, before remembering the lot didn’t know the gravity of the situation. Neither the truth of their travel, nor how near the end stood. In the distance, a dog bawled. Closer, the oppressive sweet smell of maple wafted from inside. Lifting the sleeve of her tunic, she looked at what had only a turn gone had been ridges, now angry red furrows, the result of magic she knew better than to have invoked.

    “Dark as blood.” She breathed into a night that suddenly took a chance to blackest pitch and chilled. Every light within a block extinguished, not that it limited her sight, only stiffened her back. Lace closed her eyes, remembering the gathering in the tavern. The argue of blame before the others arrived. And then… him.

    • The winners of the contest are posted on the website. I was not among those, but there were so many really good ones and when you can only pick a handful. Congrats to all who did participate.