Sunday, November 1, 2015

1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Proctor

Name:  KD Proctor (please call me Kelley)
Genre:  NA Contemporary Romance
Title:  Until the End

Today, of all days, I cannot be late.

And of course, I am just that.  Late.


“Shit! Shit! Shit!” I thunder down the stairs at break neck speed.  Bag in one hand, my phone and car keys are shoved in my mouth as I pull my pony tail out of the back of my scrub top.

“Elizabeth!  Language!” my father shouts while he slams a cupboard door shut.

I dump my stuff onto the small table in the corner of my parent’s cozy kitchen.

“Sorry.  I overslept again,” I say to the floor as I tie my sneakers.

“You need to find balance, kid.  Medical school is important but there's more to life than spending every moment in a lab or the library.  Here.  Sit down and eat something.” My father pours steaming coffee into a stainless steel travel mug.  The rich aroma makes my stomach growl but I don’t have time to sit.  Hell, at this point, I don’t even have time to think.  If I show up late again, Dr. Smith will have my ass.  And I make it a point to not hand him my ass freely.

“Can’t,” I groan, slipping on my backpack. “First years start today and I am coordinating their mentor placements.”

“Well then I guess it’s a good thing I’ve made you a bagel so you can eat on the way.” My shoulders soften as he holds out the coffee and the bagel.  He probably hasn’t even had his first cup of the day.

“Thanks, dad.”

“You’re welcome.  Will I see you for dinner?”

“I doubt it,” I call over my shoulder.  “I love you!”

“Love you, too.”

The engine of my late model Toyota chugs to life and I race out of the driveway.  My thumbs nervously tap on the steering wheel as I drive towards the expressway going over my mental checklist for the fifth time this morning.  Folders for the interns…done.  Name tags…done, and in the folders.  Assignment sheets for residents and returning interns…not done yet, but ready to be printed.   Welcome speech.

Crap!  The welcome speech!  

My stomach feels painfully hallow.  I hate public speaking.  Even worse, I hate public speaking in front of my med school class.  I’ve had a target on my back since our year one exams last December put me first in the class.  I can’t screw this up today.  Or…ever.

“Good Morning!  I’m Elizabeth Proctor.”  My voice warbles as I merge onto the interstate.  The ocean and seaside resorts of Camden, Maine whiz by as I barrel down the highway.   “Welcome to Milton University School of Medicine.  When I was a first year resident…no.  Wait.  That makes me sound like I’m much older…” I clear my throat and change my wording, “…just last year I was in your shoes, a first year med student, excited about what I’d be learning.”

Red lights flash on the car in front of me and I slam on the brakes.  My seatbelt holds me in place as I come to a complete stop in the middle of the expressway.  So much for leaving early.  Traffic is now inching along; red taillights flash and blink on the interstate like bulbs on a Christmas tree.

“OK, this cannot happen right now.  Not now.  There better be one hell of an accident.”

God, that sounds morbid, even for me, and I’m a studying to be a doctor.

“Okay, I’m not being serious.  No awful accidents but come on, folks!  I’m late!  Move it!”  

The self-doubt train slams into my chest at full speed.  Crap. Maybe taking on first year mentoring wasn't such a good idea. Dr. Joseph Smith, the Dean of the Medical School, hand-picked me.  How can you say no to a personal invitation?  Yet another reason I have a target on my back:  I look like the teacher’s pet.

There is nothing glamorous about this.  The reporting.  The evaluations of my peers.  Coordinating schedules.  And chasing after first years that can’t remember the passcode for the cadaver lab.  Yeah.  Real glamorous.

But if it gets me into the residency program of my choice?  Gimme.

I pull out my phone to call my best friend, Stanford Jefferson, also a second year student, praying he’s already at the hospital.

“Morning, beautiful…please tell me you’re calling to see what kind of coffee I’d like from the Beanery?” he chirps into the phone.

“No time for a coffee stop this morning.  Where are you?”

“At the receptionist’s desk spying on the newbies.  Half of them look like they’re about to puke. Why?”

“I’m stuck on the expressway.  Traffic is at a stand still and I’m nowhere near an exit.”

“You can’t be late again, Elizabeth.”  His tone drops to a hushed whisper.

“You can say that again.”

“You can’t be late again,” he chuckles into the receiver.

“That’s not funny, Stanford.  Is he there?”

“I haven’t seen him yet, but you know he’s always here early.”

I let out a heavy sigh.  A former US Marine, Dr. Smith’s motto is, “If you’re on time, you’re late.”  It’s not like me to be late, but lately I’ve been flirting with repeated tardiness.  Yet another reason my classmates will look for anything to use against me.  Encouraging, I know.

“I need you to cover for me Stanford.”

“Elizabeth…” he warns.

“Stanford.  Please.  I just need you to make copies for our classmates so they know who they’re mentoring.  It’s in my network file all ready to go.  Please?”  I beg.

His silence eats away at my empty stomach, already twisting it into bigger knots.  I reach over and grab my bagel and tear off a bite.  When I’m stressed, I forget to eat, and if it weren’t for my father’s insistence this morning, I’d probably be chewing my nails instead.

“Fine, but if I’m forced to test fecal samples because of this…”

“Thank you, Stanford!” I sing into the phone before I toss it on the passenger seat.  Stretching my neck I can see an exit up ahead.  It isn’t the one I need, but at least I can navigate the side streets to get over to the university.  Having grown up in Camden, I know all the short cuts. Taking matters into my own hands, I illegally drive on the shoulder.  My eyes dart to the rearview mirror, praying a cop doesn’t pull me over.

Parking around the school is always a nightmare.  I check the clock.  Crap.  Forget parking across campus in the free lot.  I need to either park in the expensive parking ramp or find a cheap parking meter, which are rare.  Turning the corner, I find a meter across the street that is empty.  Today might actually be turning around, after all.  The light turns red, forcing me to wait.   My eyes burn into that parking space.

“You are mine…” I whisper.

If my calculations are correct, I can get from the meter into the locker room with a few minutes to spare. A few minutes is good.  And technically on-time.

Nervously I tap my thumbs again, and when the light turns green I punch the gas pedal, gripping the wheel for dear life.  Blinker on, I turn to check my blind spot when a silver, all-sport SUV slides into the space, nearly taking out my passenger side headlight.

“Oh fuck no.  No.  No.  NO!!”  I growl, punching the horn.


  1. Quick FYI for everyone: My character's last name is NOT the same as mine! It would seem I have quick typing fingers that have a mind of their own and I didn't even catch it when I did a proof read. ACK! I've made the correction--but just so everyone knows, that was a minor typo and has been fixed in my WIP. (if you're wondering, her last name is Profit). Thank you in advance for your feedback...I look forward to everything you have to share!

  2. Hi Kelley!

    Great to meet you! Thanks for letting me read and comment! I have a few, minor suggestions for you:

    1. When your MC slams on her breaks, does her coffee spill? And where did the bagel go? While she’s going over her speech, is she chewing on a bite? Or did she throw the bagel in the trash before she got into the car? These details will help us get to know her. Maybe address this, especially the coffee, just for consistency. Because right when the brakes slam I pictured the coffee all over the front dash, but nothing was said. (Okay, after reading the whole excerpt I saw that you added the bagel in there - great! But I still think the coffee needs to be addressed when she slams on her breaks-hard enough to activate the seat belt restraint.)

    2. There’s a part where your MC is talking to herself in the car:

    “OK, this cannot happen right now. Not now. There better be one hell of an accident.”

    God, that sounds morbid, even for me, and I’m a studying to be a doctor.

    “Okay, I’m not being serious. No awful accidents but come on, folks! I’m late! Move it!”

    I buy it that she says out loud “come on folks, I’m late, move it” but the rest that’s in quotes I don’t think she would say aloud, unless she talks to herself a lot. Otherwise, these are her thoughts, so maybe it would be better to italicize them to set them apart.

    3. Did you use the name “Joseph Smith” randomly or does it have a connection to the historical prophet from the Mormon religion? Are you LDS? Haha, just curious ☺

    Overall, I was cracking up by the end. I totally like this girl. I’d want her as my friend. Haha I would ABSOLUTELY keep reading. I REALLY want to know "what" walks out of the silver all-sport SUV. I think he might be yummy! Am I right? Ha

    Anyway, great start. Other than the few comments, I have no other suggestions. You painted your MC perfectly and there’s tons of tension to keep me wanting to read. Your dialogue is completely believable and real, and your writing is smooth and easy to follow. You’re also really good at sentence structure. And your writing is super clever and witty. I love that! Great job!!

  3. Hi Kelley,

    I really liked the opening…and the middle…and the end…ok so I enjoyed reading the whole thing! The dialogue was great and you had so many lines that made me laugh!

    The first sentences immediately gave me a sense of Elizabeth’s personality and there were multiple times when I was concerned for her safety! By the way, I also had the same reaction as Jessica to the name Joseph Smith. That could be something to keep in mind if your name was in fact chosen randomly :)

    Based on how frazzled Elizabeth seemed in the first couple paragraphs, it was interesting to keep reading and find out that she’s actually at the top of her class and is normally not late. Those poor med students must be so stressed!

    I think it is fine to have her talking to herself in the car when traffic hits since she’s already in the middle of practicing her welcome speech out loud when she gets interrupted. Maybe moving the quotation marks so she thinks some of it instead could also be a potential option. For example:

    “OK, this cannot happen right now." There better be one hell of an accident.

    One thing I noticed is that Elizabeth uses “crap” a lot. I would suggest taking the chance to get creative with cursing! From the first couple pages, it seems to me like her character wouldn’t be afraid to use more colorful phrases to describe how she is feeling.

  4. Kelley~

    I adored how relatable this opening scene was! I think we’ve all been through that moment of frustration when you’re running late at some point and you really did a great job of portraying that. You blended it well with the comical cursing.

    Also, I have to say I’m really excited about an NA romance set in med school. I would definitely buy/read this story from that alone. I’m studying college in the health profession field too and Dr. Smith’s motto about being late is incredibly on point!

    You mentioned that it isn’t like Elizabeth to be late. I’m curious as to why she is now. Aside from oversleeping, is there anything else causing her to flirt with tardiness recently? It just seems a little out of character since she seems like the kind of person who’d be responsible and early, at least that’s my assumption of her from the fact that she was hand-picked for first-year mentoring.

    Speaking of flirting, does Elizabeth not have a reaction when Stanford calls her beautiful? You mentioned they’re best friends- is that how he always greet her? I’d like to know more about him- I think he’s a fun character.

    That last line. *cracks up* Totally wish I could read on so I can find out who the parking-space-stealing-offender in the SUV is.

    Overall, I think this was easy and fun to read. Having a med school student protagonist was refreshing, at least compared to all the hyped NA novels I’ve read before and I really like the narrative voice!

  5. Hi Kelley!!!!

    I am honored to work with you during this November 1st five pages. I hope you find my notes helpful and let’s make our pages shine. ;D

    So…instantly I liked your MC Elizabeth! I can tell she has personality for days! Nice intro! You also did a great job of allowing me as a reader to have a clear sense of your MC’s time urgent problem and the impending danger of getting the wrath of Dr. Smith. (Don’t mess with Smith!LOVE—is Dr. Smith hot? I picture hot! ;D)

    I feel like I have a very clear understanding of her world—high pressure job but she still loves what she does, she wants to be not just good but the best, she has the smarts, passion and drive.

    You have great pacing. Nice balance of dialogue and action.

    I loved the build up of Elizabeth’s relationship with her loving dad. (PLEASE DON’T LET ANYTHING TO HAPPEN TO AWESOME DAD… I reeeally like him. Sorry just had to say that ;D)

    If I had to be nitpicky I would recommend to skim through and maybe look at your dialogue tags…
    -he chirps into the phone
    -His tone drops to a whisper.
    -He chuckles into the reciever.
    -He warns.
    -I beg.
    These are the dialogue tags I would recommend to see if you think it would work better just to change to something more simple like ‘he said’ ‘she said’ or maybe no tag at all (I was told by a friend, who has a agented CP, that less tags are something agents prefer in dialogue right now—I too have to work on this myself…I went to the extreme of almost no tags and now readers are left with…wait who’s talking? Lol I guess practice makes perfect.) Also, I found that if you feel there needs to be a tag instead of a direction of HOW the speaker is saying it, but to state a physical movement/action of who is speaking or the physical movement/reaction of the one hearing the character speak, can work and it can add a nice extra layer to the conversation.

    Also, your MC keeps telling us that she has a mark on her back, that she is targeted by other med students, but I wish somehow you could show us who? Does Elizabeth have a nemesis? If so, what has she done to bring Elizabeth down? Can Elizabeth see her nemesis cackling in her demise of tardiness? Also, if Dr. Smith chose her why is he so hard on her? Is he extra strict only with Elizabeth? If so is it to protect her? How does Elizabeth feel about his Hard CORE attitude towards her? Does she feel this unfair? Or does she respect that because she know why he is so tough on her because of the jealous Nemesis—to make sure not to make Elizabeth look like she is being favored…but can’t Dr. Smith cut her some slack? Is this something Elizabeth would feel with sooooo much pressure to be PERfect?

    I hope my notes are helpful. I wrote down every question or thought that came to my mind, so please use or discard as you see fit to make your fun, fast paced, well written story even stronger! Thank you.

    Best Regards,

  6. Hi Kelley!

    FANTASTIC start on these pages. You're a strong writer and the story is already so fun, so my notes are all about sharpening and polishing.

    Can you establish earlier the specific reason Elizabeth can't be late today? It gets a little muddled, which makes the story feel more generic than it should. And can you be really specific about the stakes? Getting yelled at doesn't quite carry the threat that something else might. What will she lose if she doesn't make it on time?

    I love the opening, with her crashing down the steps, but I think it could be tightened. Do you need "And of course, I am just that. Late. Again."? It's crystal clear from the context, and it might read stronger going straight from the first sentence to "shit shit shit!"

    The dialogue throughout is pretty strong, but I think you can go further with it. In conversation with her father, for example, could you make Elizabeth's dialogue more staccato to show that she's frantic? Ex. "Sorry. Overslept. Again." and "Doubt it," instead of "I doubt it." Another dialogue tic that felt a little unrealistic, later in the pages, was how often she and Stanford said each others' names. I'd limit it to once each.

    Be careful, too, about forcing interiority into dialogue. When she's in the car, maybe she is just a running stream of consciousness - which is funny - but if that's the case, I'd amp it way up. Punch up all your jokes to make every line more unique/unexpected. For example, "that makes me sound ancient," instead of "much older." Add extra comic details wherever you can, especially in places where you're repeating yourself. In other words, you don't need her to repeat that she's late quite so many times unless it's pulling double-duty serving as comic effect. Preferable triple-duty - can you add more information about why she can't be late with every mention of it?

    It might also be funny to ramp up the cursing, get more creative with it as the story goes on, to show how much higher her anxiety is getting.

    Smaller notes:

    I love how her dad is clearly not on the same wavelength as her in their scene, but still manages to be incredibly helpful. Where is Mom? You say "parents' kitchen." Maybe a quick mention of her? She feels conspicuously absent, especially with lines like "Will I see you for dinner?" coming from Dad, instead of "we."

    Is Stanford gay? That was my first impression. (Careful of giving characters university names when the setting is a different university. Makes dim-wits like myself a little confused.) Another first impression, which could very well be off-base - is she sleeping with Dr. Smith? Or is he making moves on her? "I make it a point to not hand him my ass freely" seemed like a double-entendre. Plus she was handpicked by him. If not, maybe look for places where you've put in some unintentional innuendo.

    I'm assuming the love interest is in that car. If so, I have another suggestion. There's a lot you can trim in these pages. Be brutal in places where you're repeating yourself - it will be worth it to get a glimpse of the love interest (crux of the story) in the first five pages of the book.

    And I want a glimpse of the love interest. :) I want a glimpse of the rest of the book! Well done already!

  7. Sorry, I wasn't here for the first round. Great writing here!! You have amazing notes from everyone. I agree with Jenn that you should trim as much as you can to get a glimpse of the love interest. This is NA, do we need the part with dad? I hadn't read the header before I started reading and felt I was in YA until the mention of medical school. You could start with her being stopped in traffic? We could meet dad later. I'd rather have more fun conversation with her friend and get that glimpse of what I hope is Mr. Hottie in that SUV. That's all I have to add to all the notes you already have. I promise not to be so late next round.

  8. You guys.
    This feedback? FREAKIN' FANTASTIC.

    I don't know if anyone will see this--maybe you will, maybe you won't. But if you do, I want you to know how grateful I am for your eyes on these 1250 words. I've trimmed, and hopefully I didn't cut TOO much, keeping the integrity of the story.

    To answer some questions:
    NO! I am not Mormon (Lutheran--born and raised) and I had NO CLUE who Joseph Smith was. So...Joe has a new last name. ha!

    The dude in the SUV is absolutely the love interest and the next round...we'll see Mr. Parking Spot stealer. (in my stories...the guy is ALWAYS nice and the one you want to bring home to your mama).

    Stanford will have a new name, Cody, based on Jenn's comments about "academic names" used for characters (good call).

    Overall, I hope you like what I've done and cannot wait for your comments in round two. I am SO GRATEFUL for this opportunity. I'm not in the facebook group because Proctor is my pen name. But if you want to connect on twitter, I'm there: kdpwrites I tweet absolute crap, but I'm happy to connect and cheer you on!

  9. Hi! I'm horrifically late to the party and I apologize. But if you're still open to it, I have a few comments. I love your voice, but it did feel a bit YA to me. I think she'd be more mature (or hope so) if she's in her second year of med school and top of the class. Sassy and harried is good, but a tad too choppy and teen. Just smooth it out a bit, but keep the best parts. I love this line: And I make it a point to not hand him my ass freely.
    Just saying.

    OK. So I don't know if anyone else said this, but it's a bit too cliche to start with getting ready in the morning. Maybe it could be later in the day and she was held up doing something else? Then you can trim the whole dad thing and focus more on her social life.

    Last thing -- Certain lines felt like they were purposely stuck in to feed me info instead of something she'd actually think. Like the line about the scenery racing by. That's great, but just tweak it slightly to say something like, That's Camden Mass for you. Etc. Etc. I know those things are tough to fit in, but maybe even see if they're necessary. Do you have to say Stanford is her BFF? Can't we guess that from the exchange? Or does he then appear too boyfriends? IDK. Just some thoughts off the top of my head.

    Anyway sorry I'm late again! Oh it's going to say I'm AYAP, but it's Lisa!! Lisa G. ;D