Saturday, June 25, 2016

Summer '16 YayYA Entry #10: A NINE DAYS' WONDER

Name: Maria Hossain (@modestmaria1)

Genre: Young adult historical

35-Word Pitch:

While trying to reconcile his estranged parents and avoid unwanted divorce, Ned discovers and attempts to help his girlfriend, Summer, move on from her traumatic past and start afresh back home, away from him.

First 500-Word: 

 Day One:
Universally, a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes just a word can reel your life.
This seven letter word did just that for me. But I had to evict it from my mind and focus on what was happening right now.
"You've got to believe me, officer. Damon Crawley is my father."
But the fuzz with moptop haircut and long sideburn wouldn't believe me. Darn their species!
He rolled his eyes. "If that's the case, then why don't you give me his home telephone number?"
I was figuratively shoved to an impasse. I didn't want to inform my Dad about this.
"Fine." I told the fuzz Dad's number. Done with dialling the telephone, the fuzz handed me the receiver.
"Hello?" It was Ted, my naïve, innocent little brother. Someone was playing Peters and Lee's "Welcome Home" there.
"Teddy boy? Can you give the phone to Dad?"
Ted put me on hold.
"Ned?" This time it was Fred, my perfectionist elder brother. I needed Dad, not his lackey.
"I'm at the Charing Cross police station."
"Long story. Give the phone to Dad."
After what felt like an hour, Dad answered. "Ned?"
"I need you to bail me."
"What is it this time?"
"I, um, I drove your car with a nulled license and without your permission. And beyond the speed limit." I wanted to kick myself.
"Why did you?"
To get away from you and Mum. To not witness you two getting a divorce. But I couldn't bring myself to mention that in front of the fuzz and bring family melodrama in public. That was worse than washing and drying your underpants in public.
"I can't tell you."
"I demand an answer, Ned."
"I can't, darn it!"
"Then rot it jail!" The call was off.
I peered at the fuzz. He now knew that my Dad truly was Damon Crawley, one of the assistant commissioners of Scotland Yard. And that I was his seventeen years old son, Edwin Crawley.
"He won't come?" he assumed. I nodded a no. "What about your mother?"
She couldn't. She was too busy doing what she always did, sleeping. Not her fault though, but still.
"She doesn't want to either."
"Well," the fuzz sighed, "you know what that means."
I was put behind bars.
Three hours later, my bail was made via telephone and intentionally late. One of the perks Dad enjoyed in his line of work. I retrieved my rucksack and my brand new Polaroid SX-70 1972. When I asked for the car, the fuzz refused.
"Your father's order," he told me.
"How else will I go home?"
"Ever heard of a taxi?"

Another punishment by Dad. I felt like Oliver Barrett IV. So I left without it.


Name: Maria Hossain (@modestmaria1)
Genre: Young adult historical
35 words pitch:
UK, July-August, 1973: Ned is forced to choose, either stay back and reconcile his estranged parents, or join his girlfriend, Summer on a Hippie trail tour and help her heal from traumatic, haunting past.
First 500 words:
Day 01:
Words hated me, and the feeling was mutual. They always bullied me, moving and juggling themselves whenever I tried to read them. But just my luck, not today.
Never had I hated a word so much to remember its correct spelling. Before I'd found the papers in Dad's study, it was just another word to me. But not when I was reading the papers. No movement. As if they wanted to be read by me.
To torment me.
To force me into packing my rucksack and go to the Charing Cross station.
To escape from witnessing...
I shook my head. No, I would not let the thought consume me.
It was half past three in the afternoon. I'd bought a ticket to Brighton. Never been there, though I always asked my parents to...
I gritted my teeth. The train to Brighton would arrive at ten p.m. Plenty of time before that. So I decided to ring at home, to at least say goodbye to Ted. Rochester, our butler always answered and if he did (I was quite certain he would), I'd ask for my naïve, innocent little brother.
Luckily, Ted answered first. I was awashed with relief.
"Where are you, Ned?" He sounded worried over the line. I told him where I was and why.
"You'll do no such thing, Edwin."
I almost dropped the receiver, for this was Dad's voice. Had he been eavesdropping our conversation?
I said nothing. But he went on, "If you go to Brighton or any other place without my permission, I swear to God, I'll hunt you down and you'll wish I hadn't."
I cut off the call and came out of the phonebooth. Dad's threat worried me. It wasn't just a threat. He might do that for sure if needs arise. After all, he was one of the assistant commissioners of Scotland Yard.
But then I just shook off the fear. He wouldn't do that. He couldn't just make all the police under his rank comb through England to find me, could he?
Fifteen minutes later, I regretted my decision. When Dad's minions found me listening to songs from my transistor on a platform bench.
"Mr Crawley, you need to come with us."
Two moustached police with long sideboards. They frog-marched me out of the station. A police car was outside. But as soon as one of them let go off my hand to open the door, I shook off the other one and sprinted for the opposite direction.
"Catch him!"
I ran and ran. I sneaked a glance over my shoulders. They were chasing me. I must get them off my tail. But how?
Just when I took a turn, I ran into a girl. We collided and landed on the pavement. I heard a whistle.
"Police! Stop!"
"Watch where you're going!" The girl sat up. She frowned at my panicked expressions. "Hey, are you okay?"
I didn't even look at her properly when I implored her,

"Hide me, please!"


  1. Cool time period and premise! Contemp is big in YA these days, and agents are looking for historicals

    Pitch: (Ned discovers and attempts ) reads awkward. I’d just say (Ned attempts)

    Ok, so, I am English, so I gotta mention a few things that stood out HUGELY for me. This is important because English culture through a lot of period and detective television is very popular in the USA. So if it stood out for me then its going to stand out for them as well.
    1. no-one calls the police ‘the Fuzz’ the way people think they did. Use it once, not twice in. English people don’t say Darn. They use D*mn, which I know is a rude word in America but interestingly it is NOT a swear word in England, I’d just use another word instead.
    2. “Rot in jail” is the most un-english sentence that an university educated assistant commissioners of Scotland Yard would use on his son. It’s too dramatic for his background/education/culture. The English are very minimal and emotionless. He’s probably say ‘enjoy your stay in the cells then’.
    3. We don’t use ‘JAIL’ in the UK. You'd spend a night in the ‘cells’ or in the ‘nick’ but Jail is an American term.
    4. the expression is ‘air your dirty laundry in public’ From the period of this piece, no one would even say ‘washing and drying underwear in public’.
    5. the police officer would ask for his ‘telephone number’ or ‘home number’ not a ‘home telephone number’

    I feel like the phone being passed from brother to brother to dad is a waste of writing space, cant you introduce the brothers later when they’re necessary to the story. Or only have one here at most.

    I also have a problem with the voice. I was in with the character until he said to his dad: "I, um, I drove your car with a nulled license and without your permission. And beyond the speed limit."
    Seriously, surely a teenager would say, ‘took your car, got a ticket’

    The line: (To not witness you two getting a divorce.) were they signing divorce papers there and then? If not than that sentence doesn’t make sense. He’s avoiding them ‘fighting’ or ‘heading to divorce’ at a push.

    Its good but you occasionally tell us too much:
    To not witness you two getting a divorce.
    bring family melodrama in public
    I, um, I drove your car with a nulled license and without your permission. And beyond the speed limit

    Plus there’s not much to grip the reader, to keep me turning pages. I think it might be more compelling if he refuses to contact his dad and chooses himself to go to jail, then we ask ourselves ‘why he would rather spend the night in a cell rather than call his dad’ he could call his one brother and that’s it and his brother tattles on him to his dad and his dad bails him out, making us dread alongside him, the coming home scene where his dad will confront him.
    If you hinted at the divorce as in ‘needed to get away from it all’ ‘it was smothering me’ ‘I took the car and drove hoping I could outrun it’ and did not clearly tell us anything more, that would make is wonder what the thing he is trying to escape is. You could also add tension by him internally thinking that one call to his dad could sort this out, that this officer is his dads subordinate, if only the officer knew who his dad was…but none the less he’ll keep quiet and that will make us wonder what is so bad at home that he wont call his dad. In that vein, I would start with him getting pulled over and scrap the first line.

    Feel free to ignore all my ramblings!
    Good luck!

  2. Pitch:

    This would be more compelling if you started with the character you wanted me to invest in. I'm presuming it's Ned.

    Using age/descriptions for him will firm him up in the readers mind and then make them care about what he cares about.

    Consider: X-year-old misanthrope Ned wants to help his girlfriend move on from her traumatic past and start afresh far away from him, while trying to reconcile his estranged parents and avoid unwanted divorce.

    I'm clearly picking a word that you probably wouldn't pick on purpose use YOUR words.

    The other suggestion I have is to make the situation as concrete as possible. It's okay not to put every bit of the story into the pitch, but make sure what you've got is unique enough that it stands out.


    I'm expecting the narrator to tell me about divorce, but instead I get straight into an interaction with a police officer which comes off as disorienting. It throws me out because it feels too disjointed.

    I'm getting a strong voice in the telling, but you can consolidate some paragraphs to make it flow more smoothly. e.g.

    "You've got to believe me, officer. Damon Crawley is my father."
    But the fuzz with moptop haircut and long sideburn wouldn't believe me. Darn their species! He rolled his eyes. "If that's the case, then why don't you give me his home telephone number?"
    I was figuratively shoved to an impasse. I didn't want to inform my Dad about this. "Fine." I told the fuzz Dad's number. Done with dialling the telephone, the fuzz handed me the receiver.

    You introduce a lot of characters in the first 500 words and it feels like I need to remember them all, and there's a lot of dialogue without much tagging/interaction. It may be stronger to tighten up what's happening and focus on getting the reader oriented to the story as much as the style.

    I think you're trying to communicate the MC's reaction the divorce, but I get lost in the dialogue and the brothers.

    If you're trying to accomplish something else, let me know and I can read it for that perspective.

  3. Hi Maria!
    First of all, this should probably be under the genre contemporary because I read everything as nowadays and if it's not the 21st century I think that should be indicated in the pitch (which I didn't think it wasn't with the cellphone and all)

    For the pitch, it's kinda awkward and I actually had to reread it a few times to get what you were trying to tell us. I think you should tell us about Ned before his parents and leave Summer's name out and her as the girlfriend.

    For the 500: I think if you told us about the divorce later and gave us less characters and slowed this scene down pace-wise it would be better. I was left wondering why his mom was always sleeping and if she was in a hospital but that distracted me, why his dad didn't care but came later and what was so important about his dad. I guessed his dad was supposed to get him out later on... but at first I wondered if he was some well known guy so maybe mention that the officer wants Ned to contact his dad merely to help Ned get out of the speeding situation. By the way, the descriptions of the brothers were awesome and I knew what their personalities were immediately and I wanted more of them...but it was too soon in the book to have six characters mentioned so I'd move them to the story later on!
    Hope this helps!!
    -Bethany (#12 and co-host)

  4. Hi Maria!

    You've got a great start to a story going here--lots of tension, lots of drama. I do agree with the other commenters, though, that there might be a little *too* much going on.

    Having your MC doing so much introspective mulling over of his parents' divorce, coupled with all the external action of getting the ticket, calling his dad, and being taken to jail, is a bit overwhelming. If you focus in a little more on the immediate action (what's going on with the police) and just provide small pieces of information about the divorce as the scene unfolds, it'll make the scene read a lot more smoothly and be less cluttered, for lack of a better word.

    Also, the language is tending to sound a bit formal, which might be off-putting for a YA audience. If/when you have beta readers look at your MS, it wouldn't a bad idea to ask them to point out places where your MC's voice comes off as too stiff. Kit pointed out some specific examples, so I won't go into that, but I agree with her suggestions.

    I think the heart of the story you've got going here is excellent, it just needs a little polishing to really shine! Focus on the action of the scene and give us the back story of the divorce gradually, and everything will unfold at a more natural pace.

    Thanks so much for the chance to read your words, Maria!


  5. Pitch: The pitch does a good job setting up conflict, however it could be a little clearer in a few areas. When I first read it, I thought Ned was the one getting a divorce (that could just be me!). I don’t think the pitch needs to specifically mention the divorce, the part about trying to reconcile his estranged parents is enough. I’d also cut the word “discovers” because it isn’t really needed.

    500 words: I like that the historical time period is indicated by Ned’s feelings about divorce which wouldn’t necessarily be so strong today. I haven’t heard of many YA novels set in this time period so that could be a really good hook! I liked the hints of humour and voice that came through Ned’s thoughts too (e.g. “I needed Dad, not his lackey”).

    The first few lines felt a little disconnected to the rest of the opening… they don’t seem like the kind of thoughts Ned would be having in that particular moment. It might be more effective to move them further down, to the point where Ned refuses to tell his dad why he stole the car. Hook the reader with the situation first, then explain why it’s all happening.

    There were a few lines that didn’t read quite right to me, such as:
    “Another punishment by Dad” might read better as “another punishment, thanks Dad” or something like that.
    “The call was off” could be “he hung up”.
    “Done with dialling the telephone” could be “Once he’d dialled,”
    These are all really minor points though! Overall, it’s a good opening and sounds like an interesting story :-)

  6. Pitch: you pack a lot into here…maybe a bit too much. The divorce and the girlfriend don’t connect so I felt like I wanted to hear more about one or the other. Also, a kid trying to be counselor for his parents struck me as strange—which isn’t necessarily bad but it doesn’t seem like a healthy dynamic for the kid and I’m not sure if that’s what you’re going for. (In particular, the word “unwanted” is interesting. Who doesn’t want to the divorce, the parents or the kid?) However, I was also interested by the pitch and wanted to find out what was going on, so that’s what’s most important.

    I agree with previous commenters that there’s a disconnect between the first line about divorce and then the police. The police might be a more interesting place to start, since it certainly is exciting.

    For some reason, the “fuzz” struck me as old-fashioned enough to be jarring. I’m tempted to look up what the cool kids are calling the police these days.

    The dialogue was also a bit stilted, and fell into “talking heads.” Then you skipped past what it was like for him to be thrown in jail very quickly.

    There’s a lot of great characterization for the MC and his relationship with his dad in this opening, which I like. It’s an interesting place to open the story to make someone want to read more.


  7. Pitch- I don’t think I can do much but echo what others have said. I don’t think there’s enough focus on Ned in the pitch. Also I think you should try and make the main problem he is going to face the focus, because I’m sure while he goes through the messy situations with his gf and parents, that there is some big struggle he is personally facing. So, maybe focus more on that.

    500 word- I’m not sure if this is your strongest starting point. I feel like if one of the main issues is a crazy divorce, maybe starting with something that relates to that would be good—like him coming home to a house full of bickering (but something not as predictable, like his mom stuffing the muffler of her estranged husband’s new car full of his prized baseball cards: both of which he put before her--- but something far more creative.)

    Same as the other commentators, I think too many people are introduced right off the bat. Slow it down and spend time helping us get to know Ned. You do an awesome job making his personality come across, although I think some of the phrases seem awkward for a kid, like “fuzz” and a lot of “darn.”

    Also there’s such a big chunk of dialogue in the beginning and so much happening, that it’s hard for me to picture the scene. I think it would be good to explain what Ned is seeing, what the police station is like, what it was like behind bars, etc.

    Hope this was somewhat helpful!

  8. I think you have a great story however I would tighten your pitch to not include the girlfriend. Focus on Ned. I love your first line and think you should keep it but perhaps it gets used elsewhere. It feels disconnected here Start with his line to the officer. I think it's a great scene but a lot is happening. I would slow it down. I loved when he phoned home how you introduced the brothers and showed us Ned's role in the family. I also feel the words chosen may not be related paled to your audience - eg. " the fuzz" I would also not include the bit about the mothers - too much in one scene. Best of luck!!

  9. Pitch: Consider turning the two parts around, so that you begin with his wanting to help his girlfriend (I'd change the wording; it's awkward) and then end with the thrust of Ned's stakes. You can take out the part about "avoid unwanted divorce" I think, because reconciling them covers that. Gives you more room to play.

    500: So, is the overall tone humorous? I ask because of the rhyming brother's names and the fun period language. But the pitch and initial opening made me expect a more dramatic story. Maybe try to get some of that voice (the time period and tone) into the pitch?

    A few times the working is awkward:
    "Universally" --actually, the opening is vague. I'd just jump into the action and work in his opinions/feelings as you go. He can force himself to focus in the middle of it all.
    "can reel your life"
    "figuratively shoved to an impasse"
    Is "their species" a period phrase? Sounded odd.
    and "rot in jail" was maybe overmuch, unless his dad is that bad, but then why would his divorcing Ned's mom be a problem?

    And I was uncertain how the cop knew his dad was who he said; does the cop recognize the home number? He never speaks to the dad, so? Another confusing thing was why Ned would rather sit in jail than tell the cop the truth; after I knew who his dad was, I understood, but maybe give the dad's title sooner? And it's a fun time period, but I had no idea who Oliver Barrett was until I looked it up. Not sure if teen readers will. And "fuzz" sounds kind of cheesy. Use it once? I did like how you set the time period by the camera!

    I bet there's a fun, compelling story but you need to focus on it and not the extra characters or the general opening. I think the humor and emotional stakes plus the unique time period could make this very appealing!

  10. Hey Maria! A few things that stood out to me in your pitch: I would delete "discovers and attempts" and choose one verb. Two verbs makes it a little confusing. I would also name the time period if you classify it as a historical and ditch the word "unwanted" from divorce since it is obvious he doesn't want his parents to divorce.

    Your first 500 words was well written, but pretty dialogue heavy for me. I would love to get more of a sense of setting and your MC's personality. Dropping us right into the middle of a conversation doesn't really help your reader get to know your character or your place particularly well.

    I would even love something like "I'm at Charring Cross Police Station" as a first line. How did he get there? How does he feel about being there? Is this something you can show us in the first 500 words?

    I also saw that Kit did a great job with the Brit Picking in her critique but it is definitely something to be aware of.

    Good luck!

  11. Hi!!

    Remember that all crits are subjective and that you are welcome to use or dismiss mine as you see fit for your story! Thanks for entering #YayYA!

    Pitch: I would cut "discovers." It confuses me. Does he meet Summer in the story or is he already dating her?

    First five hundred: That's a great first line. You've got a humorous vibe alongside of the tragedy and frustration, which creates a great, unique voice. I'd cut the line "I was put behind bars." It's a jump and it's implied anyway in the next scene. I'd also love a better idea of what era this is. Just give us an idea of what kind of car he's driving or something like that. Or go all out specific and have the cop mention what year it is while he's jotting down his notes.

    Happy writing!!

  12. There are several things I like about your revision:

    I like that you now have divorce better lead into what's going on and I like the peek into the narrator's dyslexia.

    I also like that you're beginning with more action. The chase scene from the police is fun. Also, good job slipping in background about his dad's job unobtrusively.

    New comments:

    Naïve and innocent is redundant, the two words mean the same thing.

    The fifteen minute time skip is abrupt to me. Like it happens too fast. You might slip in a bit of description of the train station or something in between, or have the main character look around at people and wonder who might be suspicious, spot the police coming and wonder if they're coming after him, etc. Something to build up the tension before the action starts.

    I don't know what this girl looks like. You can wait to give me the description but I wouldn't wait too long if she's an important character.

    I hope this helps!