Sunday, November 8, 2015

1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Ureta Rev 1

Name: Hazel Ureta
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Title: What Happens Now


Ready To Leave, Ready To Live

A wide open road sounds both exciting and terrifying. I’m braving it today and heading back to my home state, Tennessee, for my cousin’s wedding. Lily, who I love like a sister, and her fiancĂ©, Dave, are getting married this week and I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

It’s a long way from California but at least I’m not alone. I’m driving with Dave’s brother, a boy I’ve never met. It’s far from an ideal setup and yet I still can’t help feeling pumped to go on this excursion. Driving through several states and seeing America is bound to make for an epic road trip.

Before I take off, I want to share my must-haves:

Megan’s Road Trip Essentials

1. Good music - Fact: great tunes equals great road trip. I’m not a windows down, blown away hair, loud music kind of girl but there’s something about driving down the freeway that begs for a soundtrack, preferably Springsteen.

2. Smartphone - To check in with my family and best friend, who are occasionally worried about me being kidnapped or being awkward. Also, for taking photos, reading, note-taking and blogging on the go.

3. Sunglasses - It’s not summer until the sun is making you squint as if saying, “You can’t handle my shine.” Plus, my favorite vintage browline ones match the retro clothes I’d picked for the trip.

4. Snacks - Cookies, M&Ms and Nerds are necessary for survival. Must stop by a gas station later to refill stock.

5. Water bottle - For staying hydrated (Note to self: go easy on the water- gas stations may be few and far in between and I’d rather spare myself of ever having to relieve my bladder behind a bush or tree or god forbid, a bottle.)

6. Instant camera - A gift from Lily when I turned nineteen. I like technology fine but I find Polaroid prints cool, no matter how old school. I want to take lots of them during this adventure. I want to “capture precious memories”, like my cousin had told me when she gave me the camera.

Write soon! Watch out for my road trip posts!

Love, Megan

Can a person be two different things at the same time? No, I’m not talking about having a split personality. Dissociative personality disorder, my psychologist Mom would correct me. Whatever. That’s not the point.

Sometimes, I feel like I have two personas: my usual self and my blogger self. As I typed the post about my impending road trip, I am in blogger mode. I talk on the page, to my readers, as if they were close friends. Truth be told, even though people say internet friends are not real friends, I can’t help thinking otherwise.

It may be because I have so few in actual existence that I fool myself into believing that. That’s me in reality- a girl with a diminutive social life. A recluse, my English major roommate would say.

“Are you all set?” I strain my eyes away from my laptop to look at Brooke Hamilton. My college roomie. She’s also given herself the best friend title and in the past semester we’ve spent rooming together, she’s earned it. In fact, I’m happy I can call her my best friend too.

With my status as someone who was anything but a people person, I’m surprised I managed to find one in college who I easily clicked with. Then again, I’m surprised to find someone who loves cookies as much as I do. I’m a cookie monster. Brooke loves to bake them and I love to eat them. It’s pretty much my daily diet.

I revert my attention to the screen in front of me. Some stray blonde hair hang over my face, remnants of the bangs I got when I started college at Stanford, and I tuck them aside. I scan what I wrote for any blunders, find none, hit publish and view the final post. Funny how I sound confident when I’m anything but.

“Yup,” I answer but my voice falters as I close my laptop and lean back in my desk chair. Now that I’ve posted about the trip on my website, the fact that I’ll be leaving town and setting off with a mysterious stranger today is really sinking in. When was the last time I even spoke to someone I was unfamiliar with that wasn’t forced by college group projects or Brooke trying to get me to meet new people?

I roll my neck and shoulders to try and relax. Unfortunately, I can’t do anything about the knots forming in my stomach.

Maybe I should tell Lily I’ll take a Greyhound bus instead. I can’t help but shudder remembering the disgusting details Brooke shared from when rode it to get here from Boston. Not only did she have to be terrorized by a large cockroach under her seat, she also had to witness an overeager couple going at it and moaning like there was no one else on the bus.

That was enough to make me accept Dave’s offer to ride with his brother. Crazy that I would ever reconsider riding a Greyhound after learning about Brooke’s experience but at least I could have solitude, provided I put on my earphones to drown out any unwanted noises. I wouldn’t have to be subjected to several days driving with some guy in awkward silence. What if he wanted to make small talk? I flinch inwardly.

Brooke sits on my bed, facing me. “You’re not having any second thoughts about this, are you?”

“It’s uncanny how you know exactly what’s on my mind.” I tell her with a bemused smile.

“Look,” She says. I meet her worried eyes and I can tell she can see my agitation. “I was surprised when you agreed to this but I think it’ll be good for you. You need to have fun. Have an adventure.” I understand she means. Spring semester of my freshman year was rough. Another reason I agreed to the trip- I wanted to get away.

“If it makes you feel better, I made you cookies for the trip. I put them in your bag.”

“White chocolate macadamia?”

“And cashew caramel.”

I think about how lucky I got that Brooke and I were assigned to be roommates this year. I had a good feeling we’d become fast friends when we were still coordinating about our room through email and she said she was bringing in an Easy-Bake oven. It’s ridiculous, but she bakes good stuff with that thing. Now, I wouldn’t know what to do without her and her cookies. It’s crazy how we’ve only known each other for months but I already adore her as much as Lily, who I grew up with.

“You’re the best- you know that right?”

“I could hear it more often.” We grin at each other. Just like that my worries about being on the road fade away. Almost.

I check the time and it’s past ten in the morning. My ride- Zac, Lily had told me his name was- is late. I sigh, disappointed Dave’s brother was not a prompt person. Still, part of me is relieved because at least I won’t have to deal with meeting him yet.

“He’ll be here soon.” Brooke tells me. And that’s what I’m scared of. I know she’s only trying to be reassuring but I’m only more nervous. I brace myself.


  1. Hey everyone, thank you for the helpful comments on my initial first five pages! I know a lot of you brought up the issue on my genre then and I wanted to clear something up so you don't think I ignored your remarks. While my characters are technically NA-aged, I believe the story is YA at heart. It's about the last summer of being a teenager and it revolves on the growth and change that occurs then. So I think YA is where my story belongs. :)

    Aside from that, I loved your suggestions from last time and you'll see that I included some of your awesome ideas. Please let me know how this one reads for you! <3

  2. Hi Hazel! I'm going to comment as I read through your work:

    Opening lines: MUCH cleaner! Easier to understand who people are right off the bat. I like that she mentions she's never met Dave's brother...a nice set up for some tension/conflict that most road trips tend to create.

    The list: cleaner and the explanation helps! I giggled about peeing behind a bush. That's no easy task as a girl! ha! One suggestion: why aren't Brooke's cookies on the snack list?

    The line, "...funny how I sound confident when I'm anything but" is a nice teaser and I think you could show us that a bit more. I get where you're going with that statement--online = confident, but in reality = struggling. Suggestion: as she's getting ready to publish her blog, have her scrutinize the content again, show us a gesture that most people lacking confidence display, etc. I'd rather SEE that lack of confidence rather than being TOLD about it. I don't know what is in store for the rest of your story, but this can open the door for a LOT of great tension later on. Does she worry about blog hits, Instragram "likes" and Twitter retweets as a sign of acceptance and confidence building? Will that drive Zac bonkers because he wants this girl to just see herself as he sees her? You get the idea.

    I LOVE that you hit on the idea of her being nervous for the drive! Such a realistic emotion to feel before getting into a car with some random dude--I don't care if he is going to become her "cousin-in-law" (is there such a thing? ha!)

    The line, "...spring semester of freshman year was rough" is a nice little hook, but I think you could punch it up a bit--if the "rough semester" is playing a part later in the story. If not, I think you can leave it. If it does play a part, I think you need a different word choice. "Rough" could mean anything from getting a poor grade in a required class, to horrible experiences like date rape.

    The line, "I think about how lucky I got"...As quirky and sassy as Megan is, this doesn't sound like her. Suggestion: "I hit the roommate jackpot when Brooke was assigned as my roommate." You get the idea.

    The Easy Bake oven is cute! But unless Easy Bake Ovens have changed since I was a're talking about baking 2 cookies at a time with that thing. Did she trick it out or something? ha! Most residence halls have a kitchen, so why not look at baking supplies instead, like a Kitchen Aid mixer or something?

    The line, "my ride-Zac, Lily had told me his name was.." reads a little choppy. I'd call him who he is, "Dave's brother, Zac, is late."

    Overall, you made some MAJOR improvements to this and I like what you've done!! Nice job, Hazel!

  3. Great edits! I love the new details in this draft - especially in the blog post. You get a sense of who Megan is right off the bat now.

    You did a great job physicalizing what's going on with her in this scene, but I still think it needs to come in earlier. There's a whole lot going on in her head in these pages. Make it external wherever you can. I wonder if you could move this: "I roll my neck and shoulders to try and relax. Unfortunately, I can’t do anything about the knots forming in my stomach." to right after she hits Publish on the blog post, just so we can really SEE how different she is from her sunny blog persona instead of being told, which doesn't have the same impact.

    You might also want to go through and highlight everything that's interior, so you can see visually where you need to break her thinking up with some real-time action. (This is something that's been helpful for me in the past.)

    Great work!

  4. Hi Hazel,

    Thank you for sharing your work with us at First Five pages!

    I'm sorry I was away last week, so this is my first read of your work. I did read your previous version as well--you've improved your clarity and pace, and the voice is very easy to take in, which is great for this genre.

    My central question is about conflict. Usually, we enter into a character's life when a change has occurred, and a story has begun. I'm not picking up on what the central conflict or premise would be in this opening. I understand who she is, and her literal situation, but not exactly what makes that situation interesting or compelling.

    We want to hook the reader with our openings, so it's important to dig deep and draw that conflict out of your character, who right seems almost indifferent to her situation. She has a few feelings here and there, but I don't gather an over-riding sense of her emotional state in the scene. Is she nervous? Worried? Fearful? Excited? What is she focused on in THIS MOMENT that makes this the start of the story?

    I ask this because we need your story to stand out from all the others in an agent's or editor's inbox. Sometimes, the situational conflict hooks a reader. Sometimes, it's the voice. Either way, we need to dig for a bit more in this opening scene to make it really sing so that readers will be dying to find out the answer to a very interesting question.

    What question does this scene pose? Start there.

    Best of luck!

    Melanie Conklin
    First Five mentor

  5. Hi Hazel,

    Great movement of revisions! You did a great job of really getting into the head of Megan. And I like that in the LIST, we are seeing more of her taste in all aspects of her personality. So here are the rest of my thoughts…please remember I wrote all my thoughts as I read your lovely words…so please use what you see fit to make your story stronger and throw away what does not ring true to your writing style and words.

    In the first paragraph I caught a glimpse of the real Megan—inverted, quiet, having to BRAVE something because she is not a outwardly person… but as I read further Megan stated how she feels like she has two personas. But as I read her blog and read her thoughts off the blog…it felt like the same person. Then I began to ask how are they different?

    I wonder if you could give the ONLINE PERSONA and the REAL persona, even a harder edged separation. What makes her web persona SO different from her real life persona? I would ask the following questions: Because there is no face to the listener can Megan act more bitchy? Brutally honest? Snarky? Cold? Sweeter? More open? No apologies? Say the truth of her deepest, darkest emotional loves and fears because she has no fear of having back lash of real, in your face, judgey eyes? (yes, judgey is my word…okay I stole it from REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ORANGE COUNTY…it is my VICE and this is my online persona admitting to it! TRUTH IS OUT!!! Heehee) And if she does use this as a medium to vent or express these feelings and thoughts honestly…would she use her real name? would she have a nickname? Would she allow her mom the psychologist find her so easily to psychoanalyze her? Just food for thought....

    Also, what do you think of right after she finishes her online blog… Love Megan. You cut straight into… “Are you all set?” I strain my eyes away…

    I love that line and when I read it, I was pinched into Megan’s room and as a reader it really made me feel the present scene as active. Then maybe play with the idea of the discovery of her thoughts you wrote about in the 3 paragraphs between the end of the Blog and the line “Are you all set?” through Megan and Brooke’s conversation... as maybe have Brooke and her discuss the topics of: I read your last blog… You’re so not my Megan…Your mom would so not approve of your split personality…Your moms the psychologist go talk to her… You’ll be glad I saved you from the cockroach mobile and now you’ll ride with a cute boy.. who says he’s cute? If he looks anything... etc… etc..etc…

    I think in the last revise you really elevated and made your characters personality richer and shine. I feel I am getting a better sense of who she is. Great job on that. Only thing I would say is less telling and really showing in her actions—this advice is a tough one for me too. I’m an explainer ;( and I tend to tell tooooo much. I have to remind myself that readers are clever and they will figure it out and we don’t have to show them all our cards up front.... It’s always easier to see other people’s tellings than our own…

    So in the end, great revise…My recommendation on the second week of the workshop is to really separate and show us what makes Megan’s voice different from her online blog to her real timid, introverted voice and thoughts.

    Thank you and I really enjoyed reading your first revise. And I can’t wait to see what you do next week! Have a lovely week!!


  6. Hi Hazel,

    I love the details you added to her blog! The new road trip essentials, so fun!! and the new blog title! Clever!

    I think you did a wonderful job on this revision. The beginning definitely read much much clearer to me! I could understand who the characters were/their relationship to Megan.

    I was also able to get a much better picture of the difference between blogger Megan and real life introverted Megan. I think this is something you can keep trying playing up a bit more (either through dialogue, or body language) so that when trouble in the form of a cute boy hits later on in the story, we’ll be able to understand why Megan’s emotions are going crazy (or not haha)!

    If there is also a way to break up some of Megan’s thoughts into dialogue, I think it would be interesting to reveal some of the information through her conversation with Brooke. This could also be a way to explore aspects of Megan’s friendship with someone she feels comfortable with, again providing a contrast for when she meets a completely new mysterious possibly charming guy!

    I’m picturing all the shenanigans that may or may not happen on the long drive from California to Tennessee!!!


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  8. Hey Hazel!

    Great revisions! I had a few ideas while reading your pages:

    I didn’t get the whole “blog post” feel in the first two paragraphs like last time. I’d talk to your audience more in the first two paragraphs, ie. “If you’re like me, ….” or “Hey all you Tennesseans out there in bloggerville, I’m headed your way!” Something to remind us you’re blogging.

    Another suggestion is to start your book here instead: “Can a person be two different things at the same time?” I really like that sentence, and it might grab your reader better than starting off with the blog post. I wouldn’t eliminate the blog post, however, because that’s a GREAT part and, I’m assuming, a recurring part of your book. Maybe put it in between the third and fourth paragraph? Then transition by introducing us to MegansMusings and go right into your blog post. For example:

    “… a girl with a diminutive social life. A recluse, my English-major roommate would say. But my blog followers wouldn’t think so. In my latest post about my impending road trip, I even talk about relieving my bladder behind a bush!

    (Insert blog post here)

    (Then continue on with paragraph 4)
    “Are you all set?” I strain my eyes away from my laptop to look at Brooke…”

    Anyway, just an idea. Something to consider, perhaps.

    I love the changes you made to the road trip essentials list. It gives us such a better flavor as to who your MC is. Great job!

    In the line “Funny how I sound confident when I’m anything but” I think the word “sound” might be better as “act”, since she didn’t say anything, except to us, but I don’t think you want us (the reader) to be a part of her story. She pressed the button and posted her blog with confidence, so I think that’s more of an action.

    Great job “showing” us her nerves instead of “telling” us. We really get a feel for her anxiety! Yay!!

    There are a few places where you’ve left out a word. Reading it aloud might help fix those spots.

    The paragraph that starts “I think about how lucky I got that Brooke…” is all recycled ideas. I already know everything mentioned—how she loves her roommate, what a blessing she’s been, how she cooks amazing cookies and how Megan loves to eat them, etc. The only new part was the easy bake oven, but like Kelley, I’m picturing a little purple 1X1 box my four-year-old daughter played with that never really worked. Haha. I think deleting this paragraph would make things move faster.

    Overall, you made several AWESOME changes and I really think you’re on the right track! If I were to narrow it to one thing, I would say try to tighten these first few pages so no ideas are repeated and every line is important to the movement of the story, exciting us toward the part where she meets up with ZAC!!

  9. This is already much better. The must-haves list is much better and includes bits of her personality. You've cleaned out a lot of the stuff in the opening that didn't need to be there, and added in stuff that matters. You've also added her hesitation to drive across country with a stranger, which is good.

    I can't think of much to add, actually. Good job!