Sunday, November 1, 2015

1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Ureta

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


I’m Off To An Adventure!

I’m heading out for a while to go an epic road trip back to my home town, Tennessee! My cousin’s wedding will take place there so I’m leaving California just to attend. I’ll be traveling with my cousin’s groom’s brother. Driving through several states with someone I hardly know is far from ideal but I can’t help but still feel pumped to be going on this excursion. I’ve shared before about my wanderlust (link to post here) and how I have so many places I’m dying to visit but never really had the chance to yet. While I’m anxious to see how things will turn out, I’m excited to take off and see more of America.

Before I leave, I want to share my must-haves:

Megan’s Tennessee Road Trip Essentials

1. Polaroid and digital camera - to capture all the awesome I’ll be seeing
2. iPhone w/ good music - because great tunes make a great road trip (also can be used for GPS, taking photos and occasionally checking in with my family and friends via text/call)
3. Tablet - god knows I’ll have separation anxiety being away from my laptop so this will serve as placeholder (also for reading and blogging on the go)
4. Notebook and pen - so I can write blog post ideas and also record our travel
5. Sunglasses - I expect there’ll be endless sunshine to protect my eyes from especially since it’s summer
6. Snacks - Cookies, M&Ms and Nerds are a must (must stop by a gas station later on to refill)
7. Water bottle - staying hydrated is important (note to self: don’t drink too much- gas stations with bathrooms may be few and far in between)
8. Normal stuff - like clothes & other boring things

I hope you’ll find this helpful for future adventure packing. I’ll update you about my trip if I’m able!

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.

It’s just that sometimes, I feel like I have two personas: my usual self and my blogger self. As I type words and write a blog post on my computer about my impending road trip (and by impending road trip I mean I’m leaving for it today), 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 but think 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 declare.

“Megan!” Speak of the devil. I strain my eyes away from my laptop to look at Brooke Hamilton. My college roomie. She’s given herself the best friend title and in the year we’ve spent rooming together, she’s pretty much 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, let me tell you. Brooke loves to bake them and I love to eat them. It’s pretty much my daily diet.

She stands at my door now, leaning on it with her hand on her hip and a cross expression on her face that makes her small eyes even smaller. Her long dark brown hair, which she usually puts in a messy bun, lies straight on one side of her shoulder. I’m slightly jealous. My own blonde waves are always a tangled mess. They’re not even passable as natural beach waves, unfortunately.

“What?” I revert my attention to the screen in front of me. Some stray hair hang over my face, remnants of the bangs I got when I started college at Stanford, and I tuck them aside. I scan the post I wrote for any blunders, find none, and hit publish.

“Are you seriously on your blog right now? Your ride is supposed to be here any minute.” She sounds like my mother. I sometimes think she takes the “You are your roomie’s keeper” rule— a reminder the dorm head keeps on a frame at the main hall— way too seriously. But I tolerate her and she tolerates me. Our toleration for each other mixes easily with fondness and mutual respect. Pretty essential when you’re rooming with a person for your whole college life. Also, a key ingredient for friendship.

“No worries, I’m done.” I close my laptop and sit back at my desk chair. Few people would know no worries is an ironic thing for me to say. Another thing Brooke and I have in common is that we both like to worry.

I spin on my chair and turn to my roomie and can’t believe I won’t see her for more than a week. I’ll miss her face for sure. And her cookies.

“Do you have everything ready? Your dress for the wedding?” Brooke asks. She should know by now I’m all set. After all, she saw me prep for the road trip from the day my cousin told me I’ll be riding with her fiancé’s brother to her wedding. Comprehensive lists and an organized itinerary at hand, of course.

At this point, I know her well enough I’m not surprised she double checked. Still, I can’t help but roll my eyes at her. “Yes, mom. I’m all good. No need to worry about me.” I turn off my laptop and position it properly in the middle of my desk. I’m sad to be leaving it behind. I wanted to bring it along but Brooke asked to borrow it for her summer homework since her computer broke down a few days ago. Brooke had been devastated because she was in the middle of a writing project. I have my iPad anyway so I can write an update for my blog from there if I manage to find WIFI somehow.

“Where is he anyway? Didn’t Lily say he’ll arrive to pick you up at ten?” It’s already 10:10 am, according to the digital alarm clock on my shelf. I had put it up there specifically so I won’t be able to easily reach it and hit snooze when it rings to wake me up in the morning.

I shrug. “Maybe he got stuck in traffic.” I’ve only met Dave, my cousin Lily’s fiancé at the time and now groom, once. He was pretty chatty and offered up lots of information about his life I didn’t ask for, like how he was a Dodgers fan and how he worked in the music industry. Even so, I know next to nothing about his brother except that his name is Zac and he’ll be coming from Sacramento to pick me up.

Since I’m in San Francisco, at one of the university’s cheap dormitories, Dave told Lily I could drive with his brother instead of taking a Greyhound bus. I’m relieved I won’t have to deal with riding one of those buses.


  1. Hi Hazel--good to meet you and I look forward to this month as we work together!

    Initial reaction: What kind of blog does she write? Is she a popular blogger with a big following? Or your average Tumblr blogger who just posts random nothing-ness.

    I love road trip stories and they can provide a great backdrop for the plot of your story! I really liked Megan's voice as well. She's got a bit of sass to her, doesn't she! I think she'll be a fun character to read about.

    Here are my thoughts and things I found:
    1. In the blog post, she mentions going to her home town of Tennessee. I think you mean "home state". Unless you want meant to list the city (Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga, etc.) and it got overlooked. Easy mistake. :)

    2. Essentials list: seems a little...average? I mean, it's a road trip and you only have so much space, but I don't know if you *need* a list? And to be honest some of the items don't make much sense. Examples: I don't know many 18 year olds who use a camera when they have an iPhone/smart phone; notebook and pen don't seem logical for an 18 year old when they use the "notes" feature on the iPhone or iPad. I like what you tried to portray with the list, but I think Megan's blog post could simply say, "I can't wait to show you everything I see on this trip. I just hope I don't have to stop and pee every ten miles. Have you seen gas station restrooms lately?" (that's just a suggestion to help illustrate the point, I'm not saying you should use that line exactly.)

    3. Best friend or not: There seems to be a conflict of terms. In one paragraph she calls Brooke her best friend, but then in another paragraph she says she "tolerates" her? That doesn't sound very best friend like. I say give us one or the other: they're either BFF's or they're just roommates. Also, she mentions rooming with he for the next 4 years. This isn't the norm for college freshman. It isn't *uncommon* to room together for a second year. But four years together is not common.

    4. Clarifying titles/people:
    --Dorm Head...I'd say "RA", it's a common term. Even though an RA manages the floor and a Hall Director manages the building, an RA is easily identified.
    --Cousin's groom's brother...I'd say "my cousin's fiancé" or "I'm attending the wedding with the groom's brother, Zac."

    5. Is it necessary: There are a few things in this passage that makes me ask, "Is it necessary for me to know that?" Maybe it is! First 5 pages isn't a lot and it may be setting things up for later. So, that's your judgement call. But here were a few things that you might be able to trim or tighten up a bit:
    --the laptop situation and leaving it behind
    --her clock being on a high shelf
    --being in the cheap dorm on campus (if she's broke, just say that "to save money, Zac's brother suggested I hitch a ride with him.")

    Overall, though, I think you've got a good start!
    If something isn't clear please let me know! :)

  2. Hey Hazel!

    Thanks for letting me read!

    I love the beginning, the idea of an online post to start off with. And great job having (link to post) in the first few sentences. Very clever! It also clarifies to the reader that the MC is posting online, and validates what the reader understands is going on.

    Here are a few suggestions:

    * I got a little lost when I read “cousin’s groom’s brother”. It sort of reads like “best friend’s cousin’s grandma’s brother’s son’s…etc.” haha. Can you word it so it’s a little easier to follow? Because this part is a big deal and you want the reader to grasp this right away. This is the moment the “romance” idea is first introduced, I’m assuming. In the sentence before maybe you could clarify with something like: “My cousin Lily is getting married to a guy named Dave. The wedding will take place there so I’m leaving California just to attend. I’ll be traveling with Dave’s brother. Driving through several states with…”

    * The road trip essentials list: I really like this idea. I think there’s so much potential to have a ton of fun with this list, but it falls a bit short because there’s nothing that really lets me inside the character, other than the fact that she’s made a list (which I totally love that she’s anal like this.) Also, bloggers, especially ones with big followings, are usually really witty or have a unique flavor/personality to their writing. For example:

    1. Polaroid (all you techies, go easy on me. Won’t part with the polaroid. I’m old-school that way.)
    2. Iphone with good music: I know I’ll get several comments about what constitutes “good music” but can we all agree there’s nothing better than driving cross country blaring slow jams with the windows rolled down and a warm wind blowing through your hair?
    3. Sunglasses – I’m going with the boho/yuppie round-rimmed look. I know, I know, they’re a little flashy for me. But I figure since I’m road tripping with someone I don’t know, why not sport them?
    4. (I like the snacks line you have!)
    5. Water bottle – Note to self: go easy on the water. Small frame equals small bladder equals road trip squat-in-the-bushes-disaster waiting to happen

    I know these ideas are pretty lame and totally NOT who your MC is, but you get the idea. Add as much info about HER as possible so we can get to know her better and connect. And bringing up her road trip guy partner (as in line #3) is always exciting, especially for romance lovers (me!) so as much as you can infuse the idea of “mysterious road trip guy” into this first part is great!

    * I like the idea that she’s reclusive, but nothing in her mannerisms back this up. Could you maybe add one or two actions on her part that “show” us this characteristic, instead of just “tell” us. Maybe you could play up that she’s nervous to be in the car with a stranger (and this could add more tension to their meeting/relationship, too), or maybe even mentioning something about how she’s excited to leave town for a while so she doesn’t have to face her classes filled with all those students, or whatever. Anything to SHOW us who she is, how she acts and reacts.

    Overall, I totally like your voice. It’s perfectly college – you nail this! And your MC is super likeable. I love the words you use like “epic” and “pumped” and “awesome”. The premise is really fun too. Road trip romance? YES, please! ☺ I want to read more, so that’s great!!

  3. Hi Hazel,

    Wonderful to meet you and your lovely words. Let’s work together and make our pages awesome! As a set of fresh eyes to your words I wrote what popped in my head as I read. Please use or discard my notes as you see fit to make your pages awesome. ;D

    Your intro is great. You begin strong showing your MC Megan’s personality and as a new reader I knew right away what was happening. Road trip! Fun!

    -Brooke Hamilton: love to have heard more of her nurturing ways by her voice…maybe add more dialogue. You have a strength in your voice in dialogue and that is where I felt the story really came to life. I like that you introduce Brooke early in the story. I would have loved to hear from Brook tell us/make fun of Megan of her recluse ways. She is a great tool to use to show us how she observes Megan’s hermit style of living. How she can’t believe Megan agreed to go on a road trip with a stranger.
    I would love to hear them banter from recluse to bestie-roomie’s keeper. And I can’t believe by the personality and shared agreement of contract of friendship--Brooke is leaning in Megan’s door without COOKIES! For the road trip…this did not ring true to me ( I am a total foodie and am a real cookie monster. I literally base all my friendships on food tastes—heehee ;D)

    -Age: I am not the expert on this but as I read, Megan finished her first year in college, which made me come to a revelation that Megan must be at least 19years old. I think this may be a bit old for YA? Unless, the core of the story stays in the YA “teenage experience.” Just a thought and forgive me if I’m wrong.

    -ESSENTIAL LIST: I see this as a great opportunity to really reveal the person Megan is. What on that list screams MEGAN. Right now it sounds like a list of the things in my everyday purse. (I swear that is what is in my purse right now…yes I have a really huuuuge bag ;D) Love to know more specifics… is she frugal? Does she have a germ phobia, she’s already thinking of gross gas station stops, so does she pack travel XL toilet seat covers? Love to see some specific personality items.

    Overall, I think your premise is a fun adventure that seems promising for romantic antics with Zac. I think by distributing some “information telling” of Megan’s traits, self observations, how she found a friend…etc if this somehow was blended into dialogue with Brooke, that would really engage the reader to discover the information as it is happening live. And you have a natural knack for dialogue. Can’t wait to read again.

    I hope my notes help and please let me know if I wasn’t clear on anything.

    Thank you again.

  4. Hi Hazel,

    Interesting idea with the blog posts! I graduated from college last year so reading these pages had me reminiscing about undergraduate life!!

    Most of what I noticed has already been mentioned, but I'll write about them anyways :)

    I loved the voice in your writing that came after the blog post. If you could weave in more of Megan’s voice into the blog, I think Megan’s character would catch my attention much more quickly! I think a good place to do this could be in her Road Trip Essentials List (already mentioned in some of the comments above!).

    “Cousin’s groom’s brother” also threw me at first. Had to stop and think if he and Megan were related at all!

    It was strange to me that even though Brooke and Megan are best friends, they only tolerate one another (also mentioned in a previous comment). Are there other ways you can try to describe their friendship? Or maybe their initial toleration of one another as roomies was what led to them eventually becoming best friends?

    Also, does this story take place end of freshman year? The part about her bang remnants from the start of college suggests to me it does, but the part about them rooming together for their whole college life also makes me wonder if they are seniors who have lived together since freshman year.

    One last thing! You mention that she is in Stanford, but living in San Francisco. You may want to consider changing San Francisco to Palo Alto since it would be a long commute from a San Fran apartment to Stanford’s main campus

  5. Heya Hazel!

    You're off to a fantastic start with these pages. Quirky, realistic characters and a killer set-up for a juicy romance. My overarching note here is that I want MORE of the good stuff you've got in place.

    You start with the blog and contrast it with real life. Can you make that even more jarring? Maybe make the blog super-upbeat and confident, and then show Megan sweating bullets at the prospect of the trip she's about to take? Having you tell us that she's different from her blog persona is a lot less impactful than actually demonstrating it through the way she's feeling in real life. Can you also make her blog more sparkly/impressive? (Easy for me to say...I am the world's worst blogger!!) I think you can accomplish this (and a lot of my other notes) by being really specific. What specific brand of camera does she list, what specific music, what specific sunglasses, etc.? I'd love to see you get specific throughout these pages, right down to the type of cookies Brooke bakes - and how she bakes them in a college dorm (an easy bake oven would be hilarious).

    I think you can amplify both Megan and Brooke in these pages. My impression of Megan is what you've TOLD me - that she's introverted, a bit of a recluse, not really looking forward to traveling with a stranger. It's all a little casual. Can you draw all of these aspects out more? Could she be downright TERRIFIED at the prospect of having to make road trip chitchat with a stranger for the next few days? Could that show up in her body - racing heartbeat, palms sweating, other things that are less cliche than what I've just suggested? :) And what else about her is important? Is her blog a big part of her life? Why? Is it popular? Does it tie into future goals she's set for herself? Also: why is this wedding important enough to her to agree to ride-share with a stranger? Is she close with her cousin? Wouldn't miss the wedding for the world? There could be a greater sense of stakes here.

    Likewise, I'm getting a sense of Brooke as a mother-hen/caretaker type, but I think it can be drawn out a TON more. Maybe give her some physical actions throughout the scene -- zipping her bag for her, straightening her bed covers -- that show how much Megan leans on her. I second everybody else's note about the "tolerate" makes their relationship confusing, especially since you've described Megan as a loner. If she's her best friend, hit the best friend thing hard.

    A few little notes: This is college, so it's NA - which is great if you want to push the sexiness line a bit. ;)

    My first impression was that she'd be traveling with Brooke and that Brooke was a near-stranger (since she's the first person we see after the blog post). You can probably clear this up pretty simply, with "a boy I've never met" in the blog, or some such instead of "someone I hardly know."

    You also might want to give the set-up a bit more space - its own paragraph, ideally. You toss out the fact that her cousin arranged the ride to her wedding a little too casually, so it gets lost. You have room here to describe more: why she's dying to go to the wedding, how she couldn't get home on her own, how her cousin proposed this solution and how Megan grudgingly accepted, etc. It's the setup for the whole plot, so it deserves a little more oomph.

    "Dave" is still her cousin's fiance, not yet a groom. That sentence reads a little muddled right now anyway, so you might want to simplify.

    Can you pick a specific town in Tennessee (even if fictional), rather than naming the whole state? Again...the magic's in the details.

    There's a lot of hair description going on in these pages. Can you cut it back a bit? (Pun alert!)

    Again - great start. Can't wait to see where you take this.

  6. This is a fun concept. I loved the tone change from the blog post to the "real" her. And the road trip with a mystery guy (not a creeper) will be packed with romantic possibilities. And the fact that she'll be blogging about it is awesome. What will she share? What will she keep private? The reader in me wants to know!

    A few notes to consider:

    The opening line is cute but sounded almost like middle grade. And the MS is labeled as YA, but with her in college, I believe it should be classified as NA (New Adult). YA is for about 14 years old through senior year in high school (ish). So the opening tone, age, and genre classification can use some tweaking. For instance, when I saw that this was YA, but that her parents were letting her travel with an unknown guy, I made the note "no parents?" on my pad of paper. Later in the pages I see she's in college. Definitely not YA. Know what I mean?

    Very smart to mention the guy up front. It lets us know who the love interest will be, and we look forward to meeting him.

    There are a few areas that need to be shown instead of told. For instance, the fact that she loves cookies. Don't tell us. Instead, show us. Does she have a stack of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies leaving a grease stain on a piece of paper near her laptop? She's a worrier--ok, show us that. Is she checking her watch, waiting for the guy? Does she keep looking out the window? Right now she isn't acting like a worrier.

    I'd consider leaving lots of details out completely, or leaving them for later. Position of the alarm clock isn't needed. Stuff like that. Leave in only what is absolutely necessary now in the story. The rest can be threaded in later--if at all.

    A couple of picky things: she and her roommate tolerate each other, but they're best friends. I'd pluck that line out of there. When she refers to no worries, I'd put quotation marks around it. I read right past it and didn't realize the context. Also, the cousin's fiance isn't a groom until the wedding day. He's still a fiance until the wedding day.

    If I were you, I'd completely streamline the whole opening until you have room for the arrival of the guy. Let's get to his arrival, since that's when the juicy stuff will start.

    This promises to be lots of fun. Good luck with the revision!