Friday, April 12, 2013

Teen First Page Critique AND Ask a Teen Friday!

With our new schedule, you guys are in for a double teen treat today! A FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE and ASK A TEEN FRIDAY!

Our TEEN FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE is 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 Melissa Grebeleski, and here is the first page from her YA WIP.


I shifted my gaze to the window.  Pale light from the moon filtered through the white lace curtains, a flowery labyrinth upon the shadowed walls.

The clock on the nightstand read 9:18.  Reluctantly, I picked up the sad-looking pen, its end riddled with teeth marks, chewed flat.  How do you say goodbye to your loved ones? How do you convey all the love you hold in your heart onto a single sheet of lined paper?  I thought it would be easy, but now that I had to do it I found that the words just wouldn’t come.

I’ve been told that we all have a destiny.  But what is destiny?  Maybe destiny is the result of random acts of kindness, like pay it forward.  Or maybe it’s just the accidental twisting of fate.  How much of our own decisions really made a difference?  If destiny is the result of choice, not a manipulation of chance, then my life is a runaway train on the tracks of Plan B. 

I close my eyes, take a deep breath and inhale through my nose, holding it a few seconds before slowly exhaling through my mouth.  I repeated this a few times before opening my eyes to stare down at the open notebook in front of me, my mangled pen resting in its crease.

Sitting low in my sturdy desk chair, I relaxed my head against the backrest.  I studied the spackle patterns in the ceiling while sifting through my memories, digging deep to find the motivation to get me through what I was about to do.  It didn’t take me long to find the ones I wanted.  Some were older, slightly vague, but most were recent and poignantly clear, a brief tapestry of my short life.

For a full thirty seconds I debated writing nothing at all, but then I thought of my family. I couldn’t bear the thought of them never having a goodbye or some sort of closure.  With slow deliberation, I began writing.  To my surprise the pages filled up fast.  When I was finished I carefully pulled them from the book, making sure the perforated edges were clean, no tears.  I folded each letter, tucked them into their individually addressed envelopes and sealed them shut.

Here's what our teens had to say…

RIV: I found it pretty interesting, for the most part. But it needs to be cut down a bit, because I did get a bit bored towards the end, and there isn't enough of a hook to pull me in. The mood kept shifting, though. It started out very sober, and formal, but then there were sentences, here and there, that were super casual and threw me off a lot. "Plan B" and "Pay it forward" are much more informal than "What is destiny?" and "sifting through memories" etc. It kept shifting back and forth between formal and casual.

On a side-note, one little thing that stuck out at me was "the sad-looking pen" on the third line. The "the" makes it sound very significant, but it's just a plain pen. And it wasn't mentioned in the preceding three lines, which made me feel like I missed something. "A" wouldn't distract me the same way, I think.

It was pretty good, though. I asked questions. It just needs to be shortened, adjusted a bit for mood. Best of luck! 

KATIE: The first paragraph feels like the author tried too hard. Maybe if they asked less question regarding it and states what the main character beloved about. Personally I know what destiny is for me, hearing others be uncertain about it is a little frustrating being a reader. Make sure the vocabulary is teenage realist. Refinancing the word " poignantly ".

Would I continue reading? No I would not. The reason being from the first page I felt that this book is going to be about suicide. I don't know if that's what the author is going for but that's what I got. If there was a sign of hope that maybe a friend is going to talk her out if it I might continue reading to see how the main character over comes this depression and goes on to live a happy healthy life but there isn't any hope. Just sadness and therefore I would put the book back on the shelf. 

LEXIE: My attention has definitely been caught.  From this, I gather that the narrator is about to kill themself or permanently depart (forgive me if that's totally incorrect) and I'm definitely interested in knowing the WHY of it all.  I also loved the writing--it just had this marvelous flow, and a few particular phrases that stuck out to me.  However, my main issue with this is that it struck me as a bit too contemplative.  Thoughtfulness can be excellent, but there were so many rhetorical questions that it started to feel a bit slow and forced.  Also, something one always needs to take into consideration when writing a prologue is whether it's absolutely necessary.  I can't comment myself on whether or not this is crucial to the story, not having read it, but many publishers nowadays shy away from prologues, so even if you think it's a really cool piece of writing, you might want to look and decide if the prologue is absolutely essential to the story you're telling.

That aside, I really did enjoy this and I'm super interested in seeing where you take the story from here.  I would definitely read on.

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 Melissa! I know how scary it can be to put your work out there. Thank you for sharing this with all of us!

You've read a little of the insightful and realistic feedback our teens can give. Want them to answer a few of your questions? Here's your chance! Leave a question in the comments. Ask them anything you want about being a teen!


Teen life? 


Reading habits? 


Anything in between?


Anything that will help you write your WIP??


Ask away!


And check back next Friday for their answers!


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