Sunday, November 15, 2015

1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Proctor Rev 2

Author:  KD Proctor (please call me Kelley)
Genre:  New Adult Contemporary Romance
Title:  Until the End


Elizabeth Channing has been the top seed in everything she does, including being first in her class in medical school.  Confident she'll land the internship of her dreams, she also agrees to be a mentor to incoming first year students.  Anything to pad the resume, right?  Wrong.  She never expected to be paired with the one person who publically humiliated her on the first day.  In front of everyone.

Brad Payne was on thin ice and it’s only the first day.  Not only did he call out his mentor—she totally deserved it—but he was on a mission to prove to everyone around him that he could finish med school, even if his failing health was making it damn near impossible.

With their rocky start, a friendship was something they never expected. Even more unexpected, the budding romance that somehow felt more right than any internship or risky surgery. But when Elizabeth doesn't get the internship she wants, she's assigned to a project that could possibly get Brad suspended, and possibly derail any future together.  Can Elizabeth still be the support Brad needs or will she do what she’s always done—sacrifice others needs for her own?

First Five Pages:

“Son of a bitch!” 

The coffee in my travel mug ten second ago is now everywhere after I slammed the brakes to avoid hitting the car in front of me.  And I’m not kidding.  That shit is everywhere.

The floor mats.

My Milton University School of Medicine tote bag.

The dashboard, the radio, even the passenger side door.

I scramble to open the glove box, digging inside for napkins to mop up some of the mess.  But all I could come up with is a travel pack of tissues.  Or make that tissue. 

One. Tiny. Tissue.

Can I get a do over?  Seriously.  It’s not even seven-o’clock in the morning and this day already sucks.

This is my punishment for oversleeping on the one morning I need to be on campus at the butt crack of dawn.  My med school mentor Dr. Phillips—for the record, I was assigned to him, I didn’t pick him—has a motto:  If you’re on time, you’re late.  As his mentee, he holds me to a higher standard than everyone else.  

And I hate it.

Red lights flash around me like bulbs on a Christmas tree as morning rush-hour traffic has now come to a complete stop on the interstate.  My head falls back against the headrest and I groan in frustration.

Really universe?  Today?  Of all days?

“Stop gawking, let’s go!”

Good one, Elizabeth.  Yelling always gets traffic to move.

I bite my thumbnail.  The list I need accomplish this morning is already a mile long. Unless this traffic jam clears, I’m screwed.  Feeling around in my now completely soaked bag, I search for my phone.  Coming up empty handed, I dump the contents on the front seat.  I find it wedged in a notebook full of my internship interview notes. 

Thankfully my notes and my phone survived the tsunami unscathed.

“Happy first day of the semester!  You’re calling to see if I want coffee from the Beanery aren’t you?”  Cody Jefferson asks in his usual cheery tone. 

“I wish.  Are you on campus?”

“Of course I am.  I’m at the receptionist’s desk spying on the newbies.  Half of them look like they’re about to puke.”

“I seem to remember you actually did puke last year,” I tease.

“Bite me.  Seriously, hurry up and get over here so we can spy on them together before you have to be all official and shit with your mentor coordinator duties.”

“Can’t.  I’m stuck on the expressway.”  Traffic starts to move, but not fast enough. 

He lets out a heavy sigh.  “You’re juggling with fire, girl.”

“Isn’t it playing with fire?” 

“Tomato, to-mah-toe. You keep this up and that fire’s gonna scorch your behind.  You’re making the rest of us look bad, Miss Future Neurologist.  What time did you finally leave the lab last night? Eleven?” 

“Three?  Three-thirty?”  All second year med students are assigned to a department for a year-long internship and we learn of our placements this week.  I hope to be placed with Neurology and I want to be ready for anything they throw my way.  The late nights are worth it, even if I overslept a few times during summer classes and Dr. Phillips threatened to take away my late night lab access. 

“If you’re going to be up until three, at least be up doing something fun.”

“That is fun. To me anyway,” I say with a giggle.  My stomach rumbles and I tear off a bite from the bagel I toasted this morning.  A blob of melted strawberry cream cheese drips on my white lab coat. 

“Damn it,” I mumble with my mouth full.  I hold the bagel in my teeth as I wipe the bright pink blob away.  Fran-freakin’-tastic.  I am a walking, talking hot mess this morning.  Let’s hope that when I give the welcome speech to the first year students, they’re focused on my face, not on the stain.

“Is he there?” I ask, licking my finger clean. 

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

Of course he is.  I swear Dr. Phillips sleeps in his office. 

“I need you to cover for me.”

“Elizabeth…” he warns.

“I just need you to make copies for the mentors so they know who they’re mentoring.  It’s in my network file drive all ready to go.  Please?” Desperation makes me beg.  Pathetic, I know. 

His silence twists my stomach into giant knots. 

“Fine, but if I’m stuck testing fecal samples because of this…”

“Thanks, Cody!” I say before I toss my phone on the passenger seat.  Stretching my neck I can see an exit up ahead.  It isn’t the one I need, but 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. 

I check the clock again.  Damn it.  I’ll never make it if I park in the student lot.  I turn the corner and my shoulders relax a little.  There’s an empty meter right outside the doors of the medical school building.  Finally, my day is starting to turn around. 

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 lecture hall with a few minutes to spare. A few minutes is good.  And technically on-time.

I crack my neck from side to side and when the light turns green I punch the gas pedal.  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.

All I catch a flash of a purple polo shirt as I lower the passenger window.

“Hey!”  I shout through the open window.  Who in the hell steals a parking spot when a car has its blinker on?  The guy doesn’t look, instead fumbling with something in the back seat. When he slings his messenger bag over his shoulders, his shirt tugs in all the right places temporarily turning my anger into intrigue with those sculpted back muscles.

Holy Beautiful Deltoids, Batman.

Cars pass by me, honking as I’m still blocking traffic.  I snap back from my Human Anatomy refresher to the asshole who stole my spot.  My eyes narrow at the Greek letter sticker in his back window. 

Frat boy.  Figures.

I bark out the window again, “Hey!  Frat Boy! Did you not see my blinker?  You damn near hit me.”

He turns around and the sunlight bounces off the frames of his trendy, dark rimmed glasses.  A smart-ass smirk creeps across his face as he approaches my car.  His glasses, the right amount of jaw stubble, and a little bit of smugness oozing from his pores?  Oh Jesus H. Christ.  He is trouble. 

With a capital T.

He rests his hands on the passenger side door, not seeming to care that it’s still wet from my coffee.  His left wrist is turned just so, giving me a glimpse of a small tattoo but I’m not able to make out what it is. 

“Hey…are you okay?  I honestly didn’t see you.”

Okay?  How about ‘I’m sorry’?”  I look at the clock.  I no longer have minutes to spare, but seconds.  “Now I’m officially late. Thanks a lot.”  My tires screech on the pavement as I barrel towards the ramp that charges by the half hour.  Still miffed that he stole my spot, I roll down my window and flip him the bird.  And it feels good to get the last word.  Really good.


  1. HI everyone! Can't believe it's our last week together! Thank you so much for all your feedback and I look forward to one last go 'round!

    I'm STILL playing with the hook. I went back to my "old stand by" of starting with dialogue. I like this one better than last weeks, but I look forward to your thoughts.

    On we go... :)

  2. Hi Kelley!

    Thanks for letting me critique your work! It’s so much fun to edit really good writing, and that’s definitely the case with you!

    Here are some final comments:

    * I don’t think I’ve mentioned this, but your title is great.

    *The pitch is super tight; I really like it! My only suggestion is to find a place to give us a flavor of who Brad is, other than someone with a medical condition. Maybe start the paragraph with “Frat boy, Brad Payne, was on thin ice…” or “Brad Payne, the jock with the cocky grin, was on thin ice…” or whatever. Not the best, but you get what I mean. Ha

    *The first line of your first 5 pages is a little choppy. I think it’s the “ten seconds ago” that threw me. Maybe if you say “the coffee THAT WAS in my travel mug ten seconds ago…”? Usually less is more, but here I think you need the pronoun/verb combo so we know where you’re going with it. Otherwise, I like this new beginning. It's exciting and fun.

    *There’s a tiny tense slip in the paragraph that starts “I scramble to open the glove box…” where you use “could” which should be changed to “can” to keep the writing present tense.

    I know we’re not supposed to line edit, but I have a line-editing disease!! And since this is our last round, I thought I’d point out anything that catches my eye. Hope that’s okay. In the paragraph that starts “I bite my thumbnail” the word “accomplish” needs to be changed to “accomplished”. Or add the word “to” before it.

    I totally love the banter between Liz and Cody! Every girl wants a guy-friend like him!

    When she b-lines it out of there while hottie’s leaning on the car, I picture him falling over or getting run over by her – haha. Maybe address that he pushes away before she can take his arm with her while she screeches out of there.

    So much fun! I love reading your writing! It cracks me up. Your ideas flow so smoothly, without your reader having to make unnecessary jumps in logic.

    Great job! Good luck with your writing future! I’m excited for when “Until the End” gets published!

  3. Wonderful job so far! I agree with Jessica's comments and fixes. I still think you need a great hook before that beginning dialogue. Something that introduces your character to the reader. The pitch is tight, but how is her getting a certain project going to get Brad suspended and derail their budding relationship? Also, no rhetorical questions in queries.Rework that last line to be a statement and define the stakes better.

    Really love this pitch. Can't wait to see how it does!

  4. Kelley,

    I've enjoyed this story since week one and it just keeps getting better!!

    Great job with the pitch! and I think these pages are fantastic! One thing that stood out as strange sounding to me was “punch the gas pedal”. I would normally think of punching as something you do with your hands!

    Going back to the pitch, I agree with everything said above! If you include a detail about Brad (frat boy, tattoos, anything), then it will also make it more clear as to why they may have never expected to become friends with their different personalities.

    In addition, I think it would be helpful to make it more clear in the second sentence of the third paragraph that the internship is in reference to what Elizabeth wants, while the risky surgery is what Brad needs as a solution to his failing health. It took me a little thinking to connect Brad into this sentence, but then when I realized it, failing health + risky surgery = me being like “are they going to be ok?! what's going to happen!!”

    Please tell me that you’re finished or almost finished writing this so I can read more haha!

    Keep in touch!

  5. Kelley! I love your pitch. I'm super intrigued by Brad's health problems, especially since there's (rightfully) no hint of it in his introduction. I think you can take what you've got there (the pacing is perfect) and sharpen it even further. For example - the first sentence reads a little fuzzy to me, and I think it's because of the "has been"s and "being"s: "Elizabeth Channing has been the top seed in everything she does, including being first in her class in medical school." How about something like this? "First in her class in medical school, Elizabeth Channing is used to being top seed." There's still a "being," but you see what I mean. You're a really good writer, so you're down to a draft where you tighten every line with hyper focus.

    I wondered if this might be a better first sentence?: "It’s not even seven-o’clock in the morning and this day already sucks." That line felt especially punchy to me. I miss having the coffee tsunami right up there at the top, too - that's such a strong image to lead with. I love the new details about Brad.

    Wonderful job here - I want to read more! Thanks so much for sharing your pages with me. You've got a wonderful start on what's sure to be a great story!

  6. Hi Kelley,

    Okay I can't say enough what a great writer you are! Now, At this point ...all my following notes I reeeeeeeally had to get nit picky because overall the big picture stuff I feel you really hit it on the nose. :)


    Ditto to what everyone said regarding your pitch. It's really great. It shows the reader what the story is about and what types of drama we will encounter in your book. Only thing I can add is that with your talented writing skills you can maybe punch the FEELS up a notch. Really somehow show us the "butting of the heads" of your main characters.

    1st Pages:

    (Please remember this is all stuff I had to really dig up to feel like I could add something. Use as you see fit )

    -paragraph of "THIS IS PUNISHMENT....higher standard than everyone else." I was thinking since your book is 1st person I think you can make this even more in Elizabeth's head. For some reason when I read this I felt more narrator than Elizabeth and it kind of brought me out of the story.

    PARAGRAPH I bite my thumbnail. The list I need accomplish this morning is already a mile long. Unless this traffic jam clears, I’m screwed. Feeling around in my now completely soaked bag, I search for my phone. Coming up empty handed, I dump the contents on the front seat. I find it wedged in a notebook full of my internship interview notes.
    -this felt a bit choppy as I read, unlike the rest of your smooth writing style...not sure why...

    ERASE "I am" :“Of course. I’m at the receptionist’s desk spying on the newbies. Half of them look like they’re about to puke.”

    MAYBE ERASE "with your mentor coordinator duties": Bite me. Seriously, hurry up and get over here so we can spy on them together before you have to be all official and shit.”
    -after the with... It felt a little info dumpy....the voice of her friend was great...maybe you could somehow feed that little nugget of info more in the beggining part when she is all upset about waking up late?

    ERASE. "can't."
    “I’m stuck on the expressway.” Traffic starts to move, but not fast enough.
    - when I read, I think Elizabeth being so panicked she would naturally just ignore that question and just go straight into her panic-stricken state...

    Okay soooo that is all the major nit picky things I found. Nothing major. Use or dismiss either way your pages are great!! And I looooved getting to see and learn more details of the HOTTIE! Yeah! I hope to read more and see all the drama unfold for Elizabeth!!!

    Happy writing!

  7. I love finally having a name to the beautiful deltoids AHEM the parking-space-stealing frat boy ;) Helloooo, Brad Payne.

    Your pitch has me even more excited for your story, Kelley! I think it's intriguing and gives enough details and makes me want to find out more. It's already super tight. I think my only comment is about the project that could get Brad suspended- which is just a little vague for me. I realize the stakes here but I want to know the why. Or the what for that matter.

    As for the latest revision, as usual the writing is straightforward and moves along at an awesome pace. I kind of agree with Jenn about the first line/sentence though. I think it could be much stronger.

    It’s been amazing, getting to read and work with you on your pages! <3 We’ll stay in touch on Twitter, yeah? Looking forward to seeing your story amongst NA titles one day. :)

  8. Hi Kelley!

    Your novel here is a bit more low-concept than some of the other samples here, and it can be a bit of a challenge to draw readers in without an obvious hook, but you do a great job of making the characters come to life in a way that more than compensates for that difficulty. While I don’t generally do New Adult or romance, I’m always interested in smart, ambitious women, particularly in the STEM fields, and Elizabeth certainly fits the bill.

    The pitch feels pretty solid, but I think there are still a few places where you could squeeze in a bit more detail. For example, naming a few ways other ways in which Elizabeth has been “top seed” would help establish her character, as well as the idea that she has a history of putting herself first. Like some of the other commenters, I’d also like to know a bit more about Brad’s personality, and maybe a bit more about the health condition that drives his story. Why does that put him on thin ice? I think you can be more concrete about the first day incident, especially since knowing what Elizabeth considers humiliating and Brad considers “calling out” will tell us something about both of them. I got a little hung up on the logistics – if it’s Elizabeth’s first day, how is she a mentor? Or do you mean it’s her first day of being a mentor? That confusion should be easy to clear up. You’ll also want to watch the tense, which slips out of present into past a few times. At the end, there’s the conflict of Elizabeth’s project possibly getting Brad suspended, which I think you could also be a bit more specific about, since that dilemma seems to be the crux of the story.

    I like the opening to these pages, and don’t have a problem with starting off with dialogue without a hook preceding it, although I’d never rule out the possibility of a better idea coming along. I do wonder if the exclamation could be something a bit more unusual or eye-catching – “Christ on a cracker!” for example. Elizabeth’s voice is entertaining, but you’ve got her talking to herself out loud, talking to herself internally in italics, and a conversational first-person narrative, which feels like a bit much. Especially as she fumes about her late start, her spilled coffee, and her parking difficulties, you may want to rein it in a little, lest it come across as somewhat overwhelming and repetitive. Towards the end of these pages, those internal monologues seem to be a bit at odds with each other, with her appreciation of Brad’s good looks clashing against her anger at his stealing her space. It might be more effective if you united those two trains of thoughts with her being irrationally annoyed at him for being so attractive, a typical pretty boy frat guy.

    As in the query, the tense jumps around a bit, which wouldn’t be a dealbreaker necessarily, but is one of the many things that add up to a first impression and can make it harder for me to immerse myself as I read. I also had a bit of trouble picturing what was happening outside of the dialogue, particularly that Elizabeth is still driving as she talks on the phone and when she comes on campus. Showing me what Milton University looks like alongside of the description of the structure of the program would help me get a sense of setting. I liked how Dr. Phillips and his peccadillos are established, although I’m not sure what the aside “for the record, I was assigned to him, I didn’t pick him” is meant to tell me, but I’d like a bit more of Cody, especially since he’s doing Elizabeth a favor. Does she consider him a good friend, or is he one of the people she’s taken advantage of in name of her ambition?

    Thanks for the opportunity to read these pages and pitch. Hope these notes help!