Friday, May 27, 2011

Made of Awesome Contest

Shelly Watters is having a contest! Head over to her blog and check it out. You post the first 250 words of your MS, then critique other people and on Tuesday, send your polished version to Shelly. She'll then pass them on to an agent, Judith Engracia, who will pick her favorite for a 10 page critique. Sound like something worth winning? I think so! So, without any further ado, here is my first 250. Apologies to regular followers who have probably seen this before... It has changed a little since last time you read it, but please don't feel you have to critique if you have before.

TITLE: Chasing the Taillights
GENRE: Contemporary YA
WORD COUNT: 87 000

The darkness is absolute. I’m not sure if my eyes are open or closed. I strain to push the lids up, but they’re already wide. Not a pinpoint of light penetrates the space I’m in. Something covers my mouth and nose, making breathing difficult. My lungs burn for air, but I can only suck in tiny mouthfuls through whatever smothers my face.

I turn my head, crying out as a savage bolt of pain shoots through it. I teeter on the edge of consciousness, wavy grey lines wafting across the blank space before my eyes. I struggle to keep my wits about me - what’s left of them - fighting the darkness threatening to drown me. I gasp for breath, certain now I won’t pass out. Reaching out my left hand, I try to find something to hold onto. My fingers scrabble over small objects, pebbles perhaps, that skitter away beneath my touch. I reach further, wrapping my fist around them. Pain prickles my fingertips. Not pebbles. Glass. Small, sharp shards of glass.

Using my torn hand, I drag myself forward, an inch, maybe two. A huge weight pins my legs to the ground. I can’t move them, can’t even feel them. Raising my head, I see light. Not a lot of light, but light. Red light, bright at one end, dull at the other. I know what this is. I do. My heart thumps at the side of my head and I can almost hear the gears of my brain creaking to make sense of this weird red glow.

There you go! Now, make sure you head over to Shelly's blog to find some other entries to critique...


  1. This is perhaps a POV thing but in this short section I see 17 use's of "I".
    One the other hand you built up some nice tension until the last three lines. You know what this is, then you can't make sense of it...
    Have me wondering what is going on though that is for sure!

  2. First impression: I'm intrigued. The protagonist (I keep thinking it's a girl) is tied up somewhere dark and escapes, heading toward a red light. I like the mystery and tension here, but I'd like to know the protagonist a bit better - I know hard in this setting, but adding a few thoughts that are personal can help. I guess I'd just like to be more connected to the character.

    Needing some love: The part 'I strain to push lids up' reads a bit awkward - would she not just blink her eyes to achieve this? Also, 'Using my torn hand' stopped me.. At first I thought it meant her hand was torn but upon reading again, realize you meant her free hand. Lastly, she says they know what the light is, then in the last sentence she tries to make sense of it.

    What I liked: The suspense and mystery built here.. I'd read on to discover the setting and who the character is.

    Thanks for reviewing my entry:)

  3. I agree about feeling the need to know the MC just a bit here. I'm assuming since this is a contemporary YA that we're in the here and now with no magical elements and perhaps the MC has been in a car accident. I think it would be pretty easy to put in a one line thought about something leading up to this moment (Maybe after the 2nd paragraph 1st line - "I turn my head crying. What has happened, the last thing I remember was......" - obviously not that but you get the meaning.

    Other than that, I'm intrigued and would read on - great building of suspense and tension.

  4. Adding a note after reading your blurb to the side here. If this is a dream sequence, you might want to rethink it. I keep reading how much of a pet peeve it is for agents/editors when books start with a dream or waking up from a dream. This may not be that at all, but if it is, just somthing to think about.

  5. I enjoyed this. The images on the page are vivid and frightening. If it is a dream, I'm still interested. If it's a memory, then wow! I'm hooked.

    There are places where the prose is tight-"Pain prickles my fingertips. Not pebbles. Glass. Small, sharp shards of glass"-if the page were entirely like that, I'd buy the book right away. Excellent job.

  6. Lots of great tension here. I'd just watch out for the number of sentences you start with "I". This makes the MC seem very self-absorbed and harder for me to connect with him/her.

    Very curious for the revelation of what the red glow is. Would definitely keep reading if I picked this up in a store.

  7. everyone can relate to absolute darkness and thus instantly you had me locked in the moment worried and wondering what is happening. very cool. the ending, as mentioned earlier, is confusing when she knows the light/doesn't know it...but i am sure that is explained as the story goes...
    the pace is fast and furious as she begins to understand her surroundings which fits perfectly with the scene. plenty of time for personal info later :)
    douglas esper

  8. I love the tension. Maybe a little more about the character so I can see what is going least gender (although the consensus seems to be she is female.) I hope he/she gets out of it !!!

  9. I'm dazed and disoriented right along with the MC, and very much hooked. Nice job!

  10. I'm a little confused with what's going on, but definitely intrigued. There's a bit of telling in the first paragraph and a half, but when you get to the end of paragraph two, you are showing, showing, showing. I really started to get a sense of what was going on at that point too.

    Nice job! And good luck!

  11. This was definitely intriguing, but I felt like it was a little darker than your typical average YA. If it's a dream, I've been told to skip that in the beginning by agents.

    Good luck with the contest!

  12. Reading this piece, I keep wondering why she doesn't use her hands to pull the gag out her mouth so she can breathe and call for help. I don't remember reading that her hands were bound, so the scenario lose logic.

    On the other hand, I do find this intriguing.

  13. I found myself a little confused on exactly what's happening. After the first pass, I'm guessing she was in some sort of accident - maybe a car crash?

    As well, if she's able to use her hand to drag herself forward slightly, wouldn't her first instinct be to get whatever is covering her face, off, so she can breathe? If my guess is correct and it's a car, then I understand she can't move whatever is hovering over her head...but I think that needs to be a bit more clear. Let us know that whatever it is, it's unmovable.

    Aside from that, you have some really nice visuals here - which definitely pick up halfway through your second paragraph and continue through the third.

    Great tension as well. I'm interested to see where she is and how it all happened.

    Good luck with the contest!

  14. The first thing I noticed was that the line "Not a pinpoint of light penetrates the space I’m in." seems superfluous. You've already let us know that it's absolutely dark, so it lost a little bit of steam to me when that's sort of repeated. I was also confused about the red light. But I do want to know more about what's happened here! Good work.

    Best of luck!!

  15. Thanks for the comments everyone! Very helpful...

  16. I can see some subtle changes in this from previous viewings, but they're all great. The imagary of the heavy eyelids, the torn flesh on her hand and fingers, the pain and difficulty of breathing under something crushing her...I think you've done a great job - best of luck to you ^_^

  17. Intriguing opening. And full of tension and strife. I always struggle with beginnings like this that are all pain and struggle, but somehow no emotion.

    Yes we get that she's in distress and very confused. But there is no emotion or feeling to make us care. If you threw in a couple sentences to give us an idea of her feelings, it would help a ton. What was the last thing she remembers? What is the one thing she regrets doing that may have landed her in this situation? Is she worried about anyone else? How does she feel about the people/person that did this to her? Does she even know?

    And I agree with the other comments about how she instantly recognizes the red light, but then doesn't.

    Your writing is nice and clean. And you set up a great premise that would make me want to read on. Especially if you add something personal to it. I know it's hard for us to get a feel of the big picture in such a short amount of words. But this is great. Good luck.

  18. PS I've been to New Zealand a few times and I LOVE it there. My parents lived for a while on the South Island in Otago. And your name is beautiful.

  19. Wow, this is really creepy! But in a good way, I'm interested to know what happened and if she was kidnapped. The only part that didn't make sense to me was that her hands were free. I was expecting them to be tied. As someone else mentioned,if they're unbound, she should remove the gag from her mouth. I'd like the final sentence to tell us what the red light is. Is it a traffic light? It'd be nice to have a sense of place/setting. But this drew me in. I'd read on for sure!