Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Teen First Page Critique

It's time for our Teen First Page Critique, a monthly feature here at YA Confidential that lets you get feedback on your manuscript from your target audience: real teen readers.

This month's brave volunteer is Charlotte Soulsby, and here is the first page from her YA WIP.

When I reach the harbour, the sky's the colour of smoke. Fishing boats go chk-chk-chk as the waves push them up and down and up again, stark silhouettes against the murky, grey water. A group of fishermen huddle together up ahead, sharing jokes and a hip flask. Even the most practised fisherman on Tuglieth Island need Dutch courage before setting sail for the ocean.

There's a man apart from the others, crouched down inspecting the trawler. I swallow the lump in my throat and approach him.

“Sir?”

He can't have heard me. I try again, a little louder.

“Sir?”

This time he cocks his head over his shoulder. Dark, scowling eyes rove from my mud-caked boots to the worn patch in the knee of my dungarees. Finally, they find my face and squint with bemusement. “Can A help ye?”

I clear my throat. “A'm looking for work.” My accent gets more Scottish, leaving barely any traces of the American drawl I inherited off Ma.

“Are ye, really?” He strains through the dimness. “How auld are ye?”

I straighten up as tall as I can go, which isn't very. “Fifteen. Sixteen by the month's end.”

“Ah.” He removes a dirty-rag from where it was draped over his shoulder and stands. He wraps the rag round his hand, then unwraps it, over and over as he approaches me. “Yer Sheila Lawson's lad, ain't ye?”

“Yes, sir. Tripp, sir.” I reach out my hand to shake his. Manners, Ma says, cost naught but are worth a million.

The dirty rag wraps round his hand and stays there. He chuckles to himself. “There ain't nae work for ye here, Tripp.”

I let my hand fall limply.

Here's what some of our SPIES and ANALYSTS had to say…

LAURA: I love that first paragraph. It doesn't "grab" me, so to speak, but I instantly wanted to read more. I was interested to see where the story was going. My only complaint is that the narrative seemed a little distant. I love to get a real idea of a character on the first page (even in the first sentence), and I couldn't really form one straight away with Tripp. But, otherwise, I really enjoyed it!

ERICA: I am definitely intrigued by the concept, but it didn't really grab me. There were pieces though,- particularly in the story behind who his mom was or what this man's relationship to her was that interested me and had me wanting to read more to get the answers to my questions.

LISSA: I like the atmosphere that the writing is throwing off, but I can't say this first page is all that exciting; I feel like maybe it would serve better as a second page, with maybe a descriptive or emotional introduction to captivate readers for a first page. Otherwise, I'd say it was interesting, but considering I don't know anything about the plot or the characters, I can't tell if I'd continue or not.

LYNSAY: I really like this. Especially the beginning when it's describing the boats and the sky. I also like how the people are Irish and have accents. It seems like this isn't your stereotypical young adult novel. I would read more. I think it really grabbed me that the fisherman ended up saying there wasn't any work. I thought the kid was about to go on this big adventure with this guy, and then he said there wasn't any work, so now I want to read more to see how that works out.

Hope this helps! And I hope this feedback is insightful for our readers as well! HUGE thank yous to our SPIES and ANALYSTS and to Charlotte! I know how scary it can be to put your work out there. Thank you for sharing this with all of us!

We'll be doing another call for first pages in a few weeks. Stay tuned!

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