Sunday, July 24, 2011

Gearin' Up to Get An Agent - Week 4

I know. I'm a serious slacker loser. I totally did not participate in last week's part. I was supposed to submit my query here for consideration.

See, queries and I have a magnet thing going. No, not the part where we are attracted to each other. The part where when you put the opposite ends together (or try to) they push each other away.

Every time I think about trying to write a query, my brain twitches. It reminds me of Maynard G. Krebs's response to the word "work" from the old Dobbie Gillis show (go about 3/4s of the way thru this short video to see Maynard's reponse:

But I really haven't given up on the contest. I may, yet, squeeze a query out of my brain, so I'll jump in and do Part 4. This is the final week of the Gearin' Up to Get an Agent blogfest, which is hosted by Deana Barnhart.

Our challenge this week is to perfect our first pages. We're to post them on our blogs and then flit around to other participants giving feedback and advice. Have you ever imagined what a critique fairy would look like?
Critique Fairy

And then, we're supposed to email our official entries to Deana by Tuesday at 3 p.m. EDT. They will be judged by a preliminary team and then by Agent Kathleen Rushall of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency and by writer Monica B.W.

Okay, now that I've typed that, I'm having second thoughts about doing this. Ugh.

*bites the bullet*

We're not really sure about the genre for my WIP. It was suggested that it could be romantic suspense, but I've been told there's probably not enough suspense to qualify for that, but it's probably not a strict romance either, so it might be women's lit.

This project has been like that all the way through. It took me a year to come up with a title. I hope it doesn't take me a year to come up with a genre.

Anyway. Here's the first part of my ms. Go ahead. Rip it to shreds.
When Elle and I planned our dream cruise, pirates never entered into it, and they were the farthest thing from our minds as we stood before the check-in clerk at the wharf in Seattle. Holding my boarding papers I stood mesmerized by the site of the ship and felt a shiver of anticipation.

Elle nudged me as she accepted her ship card and paperwork from the clerk. “Don’t look but a guy over there’s been watching you.”

I started to turn my head, but she stepped on my foot. “Lyn, I said don’t look!”

“Sure he’s not been watching you?” I tried not to peek, curious in spite of myself.

“I know when guys are watching me.” She didn’t sound smug because it was the truth. After twenty years I should have known better than to ask.

We turned from the sign-in station to walk to the gangway. The man and his group had just finished at the station adjacent to ours, and we ended up next to him for a moment as we made our way to a new line.

He was tall. Really tall. At nearly six feet myself, I paid attention when guys were taller than me.

Elle gave him a sideways glance, and I casually turned my face in his general direction. He was looking at me. When our eyes met, he dropped his gaze and said something to a little girl whose hand he held. He and his group stepped ahead of us.

Elle smiled as we got in line behind them. “He’s cute,” she whispered.

“Looks like he has a daughter,” I noted, trying to discourage her.

Elle shook her head, keeping her voice low. “I overheard them. The little girl belongs to the couple he’s with. She called him uncle.”
Almost of their own volition, my eyes turned in his direction again, and I forced myself to turn away. Elle had hinted her goals for the cruise included getting me on a date again. My plan included reading a lot of books.


  1. Love the set-up and you made me care for the characters right off the bat. You could use some commas here and there, but nothing jumps out at me too much. :)

  2. Hi Donna:

    I am drawn to this story, and for the same reasons that Alleged mentioned. I want to know more and follow the storyline during this cruise!

    Am I allowed to comment or make a suggestion? I didn't participate in this fest, so hope I am not committing a faux pas here.

    I really like the pirate thing. So much so that I would consider bumping it up just a bit.

    "Pirates weren't on the itinerary when Elle and I planned our dream cruise. I know they were the last things on my mind as we stood before the check-in clerk.....etc.
    When you say "our minds" you get into Elle's head. Is this going to be a third person omni POV?

    In keeping with the pirate thing, I'm curious. Is this mysterious stranger who is holding the little girl's hand "your pirate?" If so, how soon do you tie in the pirate thing to his character? As it stands, there's no further mention of pirates in this sample.

    Again, just my two cents, adjusted for inflation. Forgive me if I am out of bounds. But I REALLY like this premise! To me, it's got the makings of a suspense story, one that I want to read to its completion. You've hooked me!

  3. Alleged - from a strictly grammar point of view, I agree. Another writer friend brought the issue of flow in terms of commas to my attention. When we're reading we tend to pause a bit at a comma, which may not be what we want. Since I haven't worked with an editor yet, I'm not sure what s/he would suggest there. I've noticed many missing commas in published works, which really has me confused. =D

    Bryce - please do comment. I'm always open to suggestions.

    There are no further comments about pirates until the pirates show up.

  4. I like this premise and am already sympathetic to your main character (I like her hesitancy with flirting and intention to read books :)) And I want to know more about this "uncle." Thanks for sharing!

  5. I enjoyed reading this, Donna! As others have said, I thought the set-up was great, and I was immediately intrigued by the opening sentence. I want to continue reading and find out what happens on this cruise.

    I can relate to your magnetized relationship with queries! I have been trying to send some for articles and am having the same experience. Good luck to you!

  6. You already know how I feel about your book, but the comments here have made me wonder--after an opening sentence like that, readers will be watching for the pirates around every corner--and they wait a long time. You might want to either seed in some false alarms OR let the pirates rest until they show up. Surprise!

    Just a thought.

  7. I liked this opening, and I'm curious about the guy, but I'm not sure about that first line. You open it by mentioning pirates,which is a great way to hook the reader in, but then the pirates get completely dropped. I know it's not misleading b/c you'll probably get to the pirates eventually, but maybe something more to segue between the mention of pirates and the perfectly normal situation that follows. Or remove the mention of pirates entirely.

  8. Pirates and a tall mysterious guy--I'm in :) You hooked me.

    Nothing negative jumped out at me. I just wished I could read more. Great job.

  9. I've really had to fight to keep my reference to the pirates in. I finally narrowed it down to this single reference, and I've had many people think it's a good lead in hook.

    See, I've always imagined the pirates being mentioned on the back of the book, so I'm not looking for surprise. Though that is a possibility as some of my betas completely forgot about the reference.

    There used to be a lot more about them. Following is from the first, very rough beginning:

    For one thing, we weren’t abducted by aliens. That actually would have had a fairly high cool quotient, depending on the aliens. I mean, they could have been galactic botanists and taken us to see interplanetary gardens. Or they could have been warrior aliens with great dreads—I like to think I could be heroic, and they might have thought we had potential as warriors and not just canon fodder. You’re probably right though. The alien warrior dudes would probably have just killed us outright.

    But there weren’t any robots, or naked guys flying silver surfboards, or even guys with pointy ears saying things like “I grok Spock.”

    For another thing we never found an island full of dinosaurs. Helloooo. That’s already been done ... again and again and again! I mean, really, people! I’ve seen some of those tabloid pictures. You’d think that with today’s technology they’d get better with the Photoshopping. It always amazes me how widespread the sucker factor is—people just seem to want to believe the ridiculous and unbelievable.

    There were pirates.

    Somehow, when Elle and I planned our dream cruise, pirates never entered into it. Considering what happened, that seems a rather serious lapse on our part. But let’s be real here. We watched the news. We knew there were still pirates roving the open seas (they didn’t wear eyeliner, by the way). But the pirates on the news stories we watched were doing their thing in other parts of the world, and I don’t remember ever seeing any cruise literature that included guys with guns trying to take people hostage! So I really think people should cut us some slack.


  10. I think Bryce and Lori both have great food for thought. Pirates on a fun-filled cruise? Of course I must read on to find out how and why. :)

    P.S. I've left a response to your comment on Bird's-eye View,

  11. Gorgeous opening, Donna. I'd read on in a heartbeat. As for the pirates, I like the idea of leaving them in with false alarms because it is such a good hook.

    One thing did occur to me, though, following this hook. It sets up a retrospective POV. Consider if the rest of the book has this looking-back feel. If it doesn't, I'll have to side with those wanting to take the pirates out, as it would function only as a hook in that event.

    In any case, great stuff. "Reading a lot of books." (!!!)


  12. Very attractive beginning. I'm eager to learn more about the characters, specially the tall, dark and handsome stranger. (Filling in blanks.) It was cute the way he held the little girl's hand. Always a sucker for a tough guy who's a softy. I love the pirate bit. It give it an air of suspense, like we know something is going to happen, and the story won't just be smooth sailing throughout. :)

  13. Hi Donna!

    I loved your picture of the query fairy. I'm with you. My query almost drove me insane....and it still could.

    This pulled me in, my only concern is that the first line could be snappier. I like the forboding about the pirates, but maybe break up the sentence so it's just, "When Elle and I planned our dream cruise, pirates never entered into it."

    Good luck!

  14. No ripping here, I really enjoyed it, and would continue reading.

  15. I am super intrigued by the opening. I actually like the mention of pirates. I've read through all the comments, and I think even if it took a while to get to pirates, just the voice would keep me hooked. Lyn feels so real right off the bat, and I love her reluctance at getting involved with a guy and reading books instead. The line about "getting me on a date again" made me wonder if something happened to a previous boyfriend or on previous date that made her reluctant to go on one again.

    (I also read in the comments your original opening and really liked that, too. The voice of your MC has attitude! :D)

    The only things I noticed were a couple of missing commas, which you already said were mentioned to you. Also, if the editor me is going to get really nitpicky, I'd change "farthest thing" to "furthest thing" in the opening sentence. "Further" generally implies metaphorical distance, and "farther" generally implies actual physical distance.

    I would totally read more of this to find to find out what happens next! Great job with sucking me in right off. :D

  16. I didn't get a query up last week either - I wasn't brave enough, but afterward I wished I had been, because I learned so much!

    Here are my thoughts on your 200 words:

    I liked the opening! It drew me in, with the subtle tones of humor. I thought that Elle's personality came through very well, without any "telling".

    As to the pirate issue, it was definitely part of what hooked me. I didn't mind that there was no further mention of it, because my mind is working on whether the tall guy is or could be a pirate, and what is going on.

    I'd definitely keep reading this!

  17. The pirates definitely hooked me. I think its a great setup to a very interesting story. There are some places I would add a comma. Other than that, I would read on.
    Good luck!!

  18. Wow! The opening was great and the set-up was stunning! Well done, Donna! :)

  19. Thanks for the your kinds words everyone.

    Laura - *smacks forehead with palm of hand* I so know that. Thanks!

  20. Awesome first pages! It sounds like a fabulous story!

    And I totally agree about query writing. It makes my brain twitch, too!

    And your critique fairy freaks me out in a big way. I think I might have nightmares tonight.

  21. I agree with what others have said... This is a very strong start, and I am already invested in the story and eager to hear more!

    Just one quick point for you. Although I LOVE what you are saying in your first sentence, I think it would read a little clearer if you broke it into two sentences. I don't feel like I have enough time to linger over the idea of cruise ship pirates before I am transported to the wharf in Seattle. Otherwise, this is perfect, and I already love the relationship between the two women!

  22. Liked the first page but I would sharpen it up a bit. Why has the guy "been" watching her? Why not that guy over there's watching you.

    Also, I would take out "We turned from the sign-in station" to-- we turned to walk to the gangway. (We already know they are at the sign-in station.)

    The lines--He was tall. Really tall. At nearly six feet myself, I paid attention when guys were taller than me.--too wordy. Maybe --He was tall. Really tall. At nearly six feet myself, believe me, I noticed.

    Also, how about--Our eyes met and he dropped his gaze. . . (Puts me in the story rather than being told the story.) I also think it reads crisper to get rid of --Almost of their own volition-- and go with-- My eyes turned his direction again, and I forced myself to turn away.

    Hope that was helpful. What do I know though? Anywhoo, loved the first page and would definitely read more.

    And yes, I do like the pirate hook, even if they don't show up for awhile.

  23. Hi Donna! Intersting debate on the pirate hook ~ :) Of course, you know how I feel about your book = LOVE IT!

    From the comments, it looks like most people agree - we like Lyn right off the bat!

  24. I really liked the hook in the beginning. However, I did think there was a lot of time in between that pirate link and when they actually show up. I think there could be some other tying hints or clues to the pirates as you go along. For instance, other moments of introspection about the pirates, or possibly like others have suggested, false alarms signaling danger that turn out to be something else. But it does seem to take a while before it happens. I kept asking "When are the pirates gonna get here?"


  25. Nothing to rip here-sounds exciting!


Comments brighten my day.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...