Thursday, January 1, 2009

A New Year, a New Beginning

Ha! A pun! With the new year came the end of revisions...or at least, what I consider to be the end of revisions. And as I turned over the very last page of my manuscript, bleeding with red ink and changes, I turned right back to page one.

See, I've always had trouble with the first page of the manuscript--which isn't that great of a thing considering that of all the pages of a manuscript, page one is arguably the most important. Without a knock-out page one, I can't sell the blasted thing.

But then again, the last page is important, too. And the second biggest problem people have with my manuscript is the last page. But after submerging myself in revisions for EIGHT STRAIGHT HOURS NOT EVEN PAUSING FOR SUSTENANCE, I came up with a new beginning for the new year!

I know some of you are probably sick of reading versions of my work, but I'm a writer, which means I will mooch feedback from wherever I can possibly glean it from. Besides, it's short :) Anyway, here's the just-off-the-press, I'll-probably-regret-this-later new first bit. Right now, my biggest worry is that a) it's not attention-grabbing enough, and b) it uses the word "change" too often. Oh, and c) that if I try to thrust another version of the first page at anyone else, one of my readers will paper-cut me to death.

Change had never done Belle Ravenna any favors. Moving from one coast to another last year had meant change: a new school, a new house, and no friends. But the first day of school was all about change—and maybe this would be the year things would finally change for the better. The start of eighth grade would give Belle the chance to reinvent herself, finally become the person she wanted to be.

Someone knocked into Belle as she picked up a chocolate milk. Ashleigh. Belle's corndog slid off her fries. The stick end landed in the ketchup.

"I hate it when the nobodies just stand there," Ashleigh said to the lunchroom in general. She paid for her salad, no dressing, and bottle of water.

"I hate it that you think you can just walk all over me," Belle told her corndog.

So much for reinventing herself. All that had changed since last year was her grade.

"$2.60." The lunch lady didn't look up as she held out her hand.

Belle handed her three dollars. "Have you ever wondered if maybe life should be different from how it is?"

"Change." The lunch lady handed the coins to Belle.

Belle stuffed them in her pocket, picked up the tray, and stepped into the lunchroom and its chaos. ...
Thanks in advance for any comments any one can provide--and please, don't hold back! And, as a special thank-you for helping me out with this manuscript and sharing this crazy ride of a blog and a manuscript development, I'm making a special pre-announcement: I'll be holding a contest very soon just for you, my wonderful, amazing blog readers!

PS: Thanks to Christine, who gave me the phrase "reinventing herself" during my Amnesia Door Chapter 1 Critique Revisionrama! :)


Michelle D. Argyle said...

I'll critique a few things. I'm tired from last night, so forgive me if my comments are stupid and make no sense. I'm trying. :)

I agree that there are too many "changes" in your piece here. That is not hard to fix, though.

Your pacing is good here. I like the dialogue after the short introduction to the character.

I LOVE the word "change" from the lunch lady. Great double meaning there.

Maybe alter these sentences to one: Belle's corndog slid off her fries, the stick end landing in the ketchup.

I love Belle's voice, though. You have developed her character well so far. I'm intrigued!

So is Belle still talking to her corndog when she asks if life should be different from how it is? Just wondering who she's talking to...

Maybe just say the lunch lady held out the coins. That way you get rid of the word "hand" that you already you use a little too much. I think the reader probably knows that the lunch lady would be handing the coins over to Belle - then you don't have to worry about saying Belle's name too many times there at the end.

Sorry if none of this is helpful.

But I like it so far! Great job!

Angela said...

Here are some ideas. Of course take what works and scrap the rest. Also, keep in mind this is such a short sample to critique.

First congrats on major revision process!

I love most of all in this sample the lunchlady's word of advice. I wonder if the simple double meaning of it all is lost on Belle or if she notices the wise advice. I almost picture it would be like a movie with a sound effect.... and wonder if a line of description would make sense here (if in fact Belle notices at this point).

Some other ideas:
1. Do you need ph 1? The second paragraph drew me right in and the reader knows that nothing much has changed based on ph 5.
2. Would Belle have a stronger response to Ashligh?
3. Would it strengthen Belle's plight if Ashleigh made her insult to a group of girls -or a hot guy- instead of to the lunch room in general?

Please ignore any of my comments if they aren't helpful YOU KNOW YOUR STORY!!!

Happy New Year!

christine M said...

First - congrats on finished the revisions! That's great.

Now - as for page one. The only part I find problematic is the first paragraph. I wonder if you couldn't start with her being knocked into - and then have her think some of the things you tell us in para 1. And I think you do have the word change there a few too many times.

I'd say you're 99.9% of the way there!

PJ Hoover said...

OK, I was about to type something and read Chris's comment and it's what I was going to type. The first paragraph, though written well, it total narrative. I'd suggest jumping right into the action and then filling in the details as the first chapter progresses. Readers will know everything in the first paragraph by the end of chapter one just by the content.
Congrats on getting through the revisions! That's huge!

Keri Mikulski said...

I agree with PJ - go right into the action.. :) Cut - in general. And combine - Stepped into the chaotic lunchroom. Hope this helps. :)

Happy New Year!

Unknown said...

Thanks everyone for the comments! I had intended to dive right into rewriting this opening page, too...but I think that, as with the rest of the manuscript, I am going to force myself to wait. I've read and considered all of these comments, but I am not certain waht direction I will take with any of them. I really appreciate the feedback--and will be doing something soon to thank you all! :)