Monday, July 26, 2010

Critique Party #1

Remember - I'm moderating the comments. This is meant to help one another, so be nice.

Our goal is to help each writer make their page stronger.


Reliance
, a contemporary YA novel by Sarah Enni.


I jerk forward when Dad cranks the U-Haul’s emergency break to keep the piece of junk from rolling back down the street. I don’t have the energy to rag on the broke-down old truck. I’m too distracted by the one-story rambler outside my window. It’s brown, just like the patches in the lawn, just like the dusty ground at the end of the street, just like the 360-degree view from any given place in this God-forsaken West Texas town.

“It’s not too late,” I say, not looking at Dad.

“Not too late for what?” He sounds tired. It took 23 hours to get here from Santa Cruz and he didn’t let me drive for a half second of it.

“To get a place of our own. In California. Oregon, even. Someplace where there’s a body of water closer than a state or a country away.”

Dad sighs. He’s been doing that a lot lately. I know my nagging gets to him but all this stuff has been hard on me too. And I’m only saying it’s our last chance because, well, it is.

“Poppy, we’ve been over this.” Now it’s my turn to sigh. Dad rubs my shoulder. I don’t look around. “You’re not a kid anymore. You need to have a woman in your life to teach you things.”

I look at him. Dad’s scraggly beard is a lot more salt than pepper these days. His face looks like an ill-fitting mask that has started sagging in all the important places.

“You did fine with the period stuff,” I say to get a smile out of him. It works, but turns to a grimace.

13 comments:

Holly Dodson said...

FYI I'm gonna do you all like I do Susan -- point out anything and everything I stumble on. lol

This is a really great page, Sarah. I love the MC's voice.

...It’s brown, just like the patches in the lawn, just like the dusty ground at the end of the street, just like the 360-degree view from any given place in this God-forsaken West Texas town....

This sentence goes on too long for me. I really like the imagery you're evoking, but maybe break it into two parts.

... He sounds tired. ...

What makes him sound tired? Does he sigh? You're telling us he's tired, now show us.

... he didn’t let me drive for a half second of it...

Try- he didn't let me drive for even a second of it. Or something...I stumbled on it.

...than a state or a country away...

Maybe just say a state away...country made me have to stop and think and took me out of the flow of the story.

I really like what you've got going here. I'm already interested and want to know where it's going. Also...the tone is dead on. Great page!

Susan said...

Overall, nice page! You've got a good sense of flow, and the MC's voice really shines. I'll just add to Holly's comments with anything else I noticed...

Only a few parts tripped me up.

The first two sentences are a bit difficult to read -- you might try breaking them up for easier flow. For example:

***
I jerk forward as Dad cranks the U-Haul’s emergency break -- the only way to keep it from rolling down the street. I don’t have the energy to rag on the broke-down old truck.
***

Just an idea.... And, since you say it's "broke-down" in the second sentence, I'm not sure you need to call it a piece of junk in the first sentence too.

The next part I had trouble reading was in the dialogue -- I couldn't always tell who was speaking because you break up Dad's dialogue with the MC's internalizations and actions. You might try either specifying with dialogue tags, or else keep the MC's thoughts separate from her Dad's dialogue. e.g.:

***
“To get a place of our own," I answer. "In California. Oregon, even. Someplace where there’s a body of water closer than a state or a country away.”
***

***
“Poppy, we’ve been over this,” he says, and now it’s my turn to sigh. He rubs my shoulder. “You’re not a kid anymore. You need to have a woman in your life to teach you things.”
***

Finally, I think you need to specify what turns to a grimace in the last sentence -- the antecedent is confusing. Technically, "it" refers to "trying to get a smile". So, to make the anaphora match up, you'd have to rewrite the last sentences as:

***
It works, but the smile turns to a grimace.
***

That's all I've got for ya. Great job and happy writing!

KO said...

Great idea Holly-- I am loving this already. SO COOL to see what other people write.
Sarah-- I like what I see. I like the MC's voice and I am intrigued by the story.
I like the way you convey the dismal setting and Poppy's attitude toward it.
I would only add to the other comments:
emergency brake, not "break"

Amanda said...

Sarah -

Love, love the voice in this piece! I'm adding my comments before I read the others:

I jerk forward as Dad yanks (cranks makes me think of gears) the U-Haul's emergency brake. It's the only thing that stops the piece of junk…

Since you say she doesn't have the energy to rag on the truck, I'd use another word than distracted. I don't know what off the top of my head, but the two don't match.

Choose a different verb than look because you use it twice quickly: I don't look around. I look at him.

Overall, it hooks me and I want to read on! The comments I had with it were minor and nothing that stopped me from wanting to read it! I'm curious about who the woman is that they are going to live with!

LTM said...

Hey, Sarah! This is a great start! I also really like the voice and want to read more...

I have to agree w/Amanda about the brake. Maybe he should pull it (or yank it). I thought of starting the ignition when I read crank.

I stumbled on the first two sentences also.

One thing that confused me was they drove from Santa Cruz and she was saying it's not too late to get our own place in California, etc. (Didn't they just come from Cali?) That's not super major, but maybe you could say they drove from (state) and later establish that they're from Santa Cruz?

Personally, I didn't have a problem w/the dialog the first time through, but I think Susan's suggestions would make it even better...

This is really good stuff! All the best~ :o)

Abby Stevens said...

Sarah, if I read this first page in a bookstore, I would defintely keep reading. I disagree about the second sentence being too long (I like the way it flows) but if you did want to break it up here's another way you could do so:

It’s brown. Just like the patches in the lawn. Just like the dusty ground at the end of the street. Just like the 360-degree view from any given place in this God-forsaken West Texas town.


If you do decide to break it up, I think the Just like the 360-view... sentence may need to be tweaked.

I think it's emergency brake instead of break.

Would the patches be on the lawn instead of in it?

It bugs me when there's not a comma before 'too,' although I know that's purely my pet peeve and it is completely acceptable not to use it.

The name Poppy jarred me a little. It definitely feels like one of those names you only see in books (cue 5 people telling me they know real life Poppies, lol). I just read PRINCESS OF GLASS, and in it the main character's name is Poppy. It took me a good 10-15 pages to get used to the name, but once I did, no problem. I certainly wouldn't put the book down because of the name (in this case, anyway... maybe for something like Xhejnaanan or something).

Those minor things are all I have - I enjoyed reading this and would be interested in reading more.

Sarah Enni said...

The comments so far are SO great, guys! Thanks so much. Now I have itchy writing fingers, but have to wait until I get home from work...!

Alicia Gregoire said...

I like the narrator's voice, especially at the end of the first paragraph. It gives me a total sense of what she thinks about her new home.

The opening sentence was hard for me to read, and I kept stumbling over it. I think it's because of the present tense. (Personally, I don't like reading things in present tense and constantly change the tense as I read, but the opening sentence was the only one where I had problems switching it around.)

Maybe if you reorder the first sentence so it reads, "When dad cranks the U-Haul's emergency brake, I jerk forward."

The story picks up towards the end and I'm super curious to know about why they had to move and who they're living with.

Holly Dodson said...

Wow these were all really great comments guys!

Sarah, I hope you found them all useful!

KO said...

OK-- hope it's not too late to add. I was at work yesterday, and didn't get to spend much time on it.

Sarah-- as I re-read I get more hooked by the use of language. You tell us so much about Poppy when she says "rag on", "broke down", "rambler", god-forsaken"-- I am picturing a character that is a little rough around the edges, maybe a little country, tough, no-nonsense. Maybe life has been hard (can't be too far off if no mom is in the picture), and Poppy has created a hard shell to deal with it.

But the joke about the period really makes my heart squeeze for her. It gives me the sense that under this hard exterior is a girl who thinks and feels a lot. A girl who feels strongly about protecting this relationship with her dad.

That makes me want to read MORE!

thanks for sharing

Laura Ann Dunks said...

I jerk forward when Dad cranks the U-Haul’s emergency break to keep the piece of junk from rolling back down the street. I don’t have the energy to rag on the broke-down old truck. (I don’t think you need broke-down after saying piece of junk, it seems repetitive.) I’m too distracted by the one-story rambler outside my window. It’s brown, just like the patches in the lawn, just like the dusty ground at the end of the street, just like the 360-degree view from any given place in this God-forsaken West Texas town.

“It’s not too late,” I say, not looking at Dad.

“Not too late for what?” He sounds tired. It took 23 hours to get here from Santa Cruz and he didn’t let me drive for a half second of it.

“To get a place of our own. In California. Oregon, even. Someplace where there’s a body of water closer than a state or a country away.” (State will do, country is repetitive and draws you out of the writing so you think about the logistics.)

Dad sighs. He’s been doing that a lot lately. I know my nagging gets to him but all this stuff has been hard on me too. And I’m only saying it’s our last chance because, well, it is.

(I don’t think you need a new paragraph here. I think you are meant to start a new paragraph when a new person talks or does an action.) “Poppy, we’ve been over this.” (I think you need a new paragraph here.) Now it’s my turn to sigh. (I think you need a new paragraph here.) Dad rubs my shoulder. (I think you need a new paragraph here.) I don’t look around. (I think you need a new paragraph here.) “You’re not a kid anymore. You need to have a woman in your life to teach you things.”

I look at him. Dad’s scraggly beard is a lot more salt than pepper these days. His face looks like an ill-fitting mask that has started sagging in all the important places. (Good
description!)

“You did fine with the period stuff,” I say to get a smile out of him. It works, but turns to a grimace. (Good!)



I think you have a good story here. You have an especially good teenage voice and have used the first person present tense well.

Your protagonist is relatable and we can begin to feel for her. She is in a situation, which many can relate to.

The description of both characters and the dad is good.

Your first sentence is pretty good. It creates tension and questions. The piece of junk shows her animosity and inner-turmoil. It is not a perfect first sentence though, but it is very good.

Thanks for sharing, keep up the good work.

Laura
~X~

Laura Ann Dunks said...

I jerk forward when Dad cranks the U-Haul’s emergency break to keep the piece of junk from rolling back down the street. I don’t have the energy to rag on the broke-down old truck. (I don’t think you need broke-down after saying piece of junk, it seems repetitive.) I’m too distracted by the one-story rambler outside my window. It’s brown, just like the patches in the lawn, just like the dusty ground at the end of the street, just like the 360-degree view from any given place in this God-forsaken West Texas town.

“It’s not too late,” I say, not looking at Dad.

“Not too late for what?” He sounds tired. It took 23 hours to get here from Santa Cruz and he didn’t let me drive for a half second of it.

“To get a place of our own. In California. Oregon, even. Someplace where there’s a body of water closer than a state or a country away.” (State will do, country is repetitive and draws you out of the writing so you think about the logistics.)

Dad sighs. He’s been doing that a lot lately. I know my nagging gets to him but all this stuff has been hard on me too. And I’m only saying it’s our last chance because, well, it is.

Continued...

Laura Ann Dunks said...

(I don’t think you need a new paragraph here. I think you are meant to start a new paragraph when a new person talks or does an action.) “Poppy, we’ve been over this.” (I think you need a new paragraph here.) Now it’s my turn to sigh. (I think you need a new paragraph here.) Dad rubs my shoulder. (I think you need a new paragraph here.) I don’t look around. (I think you need a new paragraph here.) “You’re not a kid anymore. You need to have a woman in your life to teach you things.”

I look at him. Dad’s scraggly beard is a lot more salt than pepper these days. His face looks like an ill-fitting mask that has started sagging in all the important places. (Good description!)

“You did fine with the period stuff,” I say to get a smile out of him. It works, but turns to a grimace. (Good!)

Cont...