Sunday, November 15, 2015

1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Ureta Rev 2

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


Megan Delaney is not a people person. Being stuck on a road trip with a stranger to attend her cousin Lily’s wedding is possibly her worst nightmare. Even if she can’t wait to blog about all the exciting places she’ll see. And surely, even when said stranger is terribly cute.

What she soon discovers is that Zac Mitchell isn’t some average guy. In fact, he couldn’t be more out of Megan’s league. Add in how they’re polar opposites, certainly the road is going to be long and winding. But as the two strangers get to know each other along the way, they start to open up about past wounds and break free of the things that hold them down.

One hot summer, a great escapade and a grand wedding bring them together- much closer than they could’ve ever imagined. When Megan finally can’t deny her connection with Zac, heading back home brings her to reality. Is being with Zac worth stepping out of her comfort zone?


Can a person be two different things at the same time? 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: there's me, then my blogger self. As I type a post and write my thoughts without hesitance, I’m the latter. I talk on the page, to my readers, as if they were close friends. 

Truth be told, even though people say internet friends aren't real friends, I can’t help think otherwise. It may be because I have so few in actual existence that I fool myself into believing that. I just prefer to avoid people. A recluse, my English major roommate would call me. 

But when I blog, I feel less like one.


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 feel 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 a 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 boring. 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 last month. I like technology fine but I find Polaroid prints cool, no matter how old school. I want to visit interesting places and take lots of photos. I want to capture precious memories of my last year as a teenager, like my cousin had told me when she gave me the camera.

Stay tuned on the blog for my road trip posts! Write soon!

Love, Megan

I quickly scan what I wrote and hit publish with some conviction.

Alas, the confidence I have when I write a blog post fades in an instant. I bite my nails as I review the final post to look for any blunders and find none.

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

“Are you all set?” I close my laptop and lean back in my desk chair to look at Brooke Hamilton. My college roomie and best friend.

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

“Yup.” My voice falters. 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 group projects or Brooke trying to get me to meet new people?

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.

“Maybe I should tell Lily I’ll take a Greyhound bus instead.” Thinking aloud is something I only ever do around Brooke.

“Remember what I told you about that time I rode one?” She raises an eyebrow. I can’t help but shudder. 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. I’m an idiot to even reconsider riding a Greyhound but at least I could have solitude, provided I put on my earphones to drown out any unwanted noises. I wouldn’t be subjected to several days driving with some guy making awkward small talk.

“Look,” she says with a worried expression. “I was surprised when you agreed to the offer but I think a trip will be good for you. You need an adventure.” I understand what she means. Spring semester of my freshman year didn’t go like I thought it would. It sucks when you fail at the only thing you thought you were good at.

“If it makes you feel better, I made you cookies. They’re in your bag.”

“White chocolate macadamia?”

“And cashew caramel.”

It’s crazy how we’ve only known each other for months but I already adore Brooke 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 fades away. Almost.

I check my phone. It’s past ten in the morning and I’ve got no messages. Zac, Dave’s brother, is late. I sigh, disappointed that my ride was neither prompt nor concerned enough to text me about his delay. I should’ve asked Lily for his number, instead of just telling her to give him mine.

That said, a part of me is glad I won’t have to deal with meeting him yet.

“Now, make sure to update me when you’ve left, okay?” Brooke picks up her bag, ready to head to work at the local cafe. I nod in response and follow behind then hug her before she sets off.

I clear my throat. “See you in a week.”

She squeezes my arm and gives me one last encouraging smile. “Have fun.”

My hands start to feel clammy as I close the door. I’m just about to sit down to keep my knees from shaking when I hear two knocks.

“Did you forget-” I start to ask as I throw the door open.

It’s not Brooke.

“Hi,” greets a boy with sky blue eyes. Given his striking resemblance to Dave, I have no doubt that this is Zac.

In a split second, I decide it will be a long excruciating drive to Tennessee.


  1. I am so glad that I got to spend this month with you and your work! I hope as your work reaches the completion stage, you’ll allow me to read your story because I want to know what happens to Zac and Megan!

    I think this version compared to version one a few weeks ago has grown so much! And I love that I can feel Megan’s anxiety.

    Two things I saw:

    When she hits publish on her blog post, I don’t know if you need this line: I bite my nails as I review the final post to look for any blunders and find none. Here’s my thinking on this: is Megan’s character one who lives for the “likes and retweets”? Because if Megan is someone who struggles with her confidence, I would almost bet she’s someone who likes to see the numbers creep up on her social media. You know? If so, I would encourage a line revision to read something like: I bite my nails as I wait for the likes to appear. (or something like that)

    At the end of your five pages, I’m definitely hooked, but when she says, “In a split second, I decide it will be a long excruciating drive to Tennessee.” I had to wonder: is excruciating the best word? This is the downside to only having 5 pages!! Is it because she’s dreading the social situation? If so, what is it about Zac that makes it excruciating? Or because he’s out of her league (as pointed out in the blurb)? And if it’s because he’s out of her league—is it really excruciating? Or can she have the secret fantasy of just riding shotgun with the hottie? Again…I’m speculating because of the page limit. But it might be worth looking at based on what comes next (if that makes sense?).

    Overall, you’ve done a nice job!

    1. AHH! I'm sorry...I forgot to talk about the blurb!!

      I absolutely think you should mention in the blurb something about being comfortable online, but in person she's a social recluse. As I mentioned above, with the likes and retweets, is she popular online? Does she have a significant following?

      I'd also like to hear more about Zac. What's his flaw? What's at stake for him? What is he trying to overcome?

      I would also play up the conflict Megan is struggling with, because "back to reality" makes it sound like she's escaping something. What exactly is she escaping because if it's to become more comfortable in her own skin and being social--wouldn't the road trip with Zac have helped her overcome it? (Does that make sense?)

      You've got a good I think it's about tweaking it to really make it pop!

  2. Hazel,

    It was so nice working with you this month! Here are my suggestions on your pitch as promised :)

    Paragraph 1: It sounds like her blog (containing Megan’s online persona) is an important part of the story, so I think this is something you could try to play up more in the opening paragraph as a way to build on the fact that Megan is not a people person. For example: “Megan Delaney is not a people person. Unless you count the hundreds of online followers on her popular teenage blog. Blogger Megan is excited at the prospect of an road trip with a stranger, unlike real life Megan who is afraid of living out her worst nightmare…” Kind of a bad example haha! I’m positive you can come up with something 10x more amazing!

    Paragraph 2: Like Kelley, I also would like to know more about Zac! What characteristics does he have that makes Megan things he is out of her league? What is he hiding? Also, from reading your pages, I think Megan would be have a snarkier way of describing the road than using “long and winding”!

    Paragraph 3: I think the last paragraph could use some rewording to get rid of the question at the end! (Just learned that from Brenda’s comment on Kelley’s entry!) For example: “For Megan to break free of past wounds (this could be an opportunity to build on what’s troubling Megan if you decide to discuss it in previous paragraphs!), she must learn how to step out of her comfort zone. To be with Zac, she must stop hiding behind her blog and …...” Again, you know your story best and I’m sure you can come up with something wonderful!


  3. Hey Hazel!

    I’m glad I get to read your pitch! I was sad when it didn’t come through email since I wanted to know more about the story.

    I really like the way your pitch reads! I only have one little suggestion. The last paragraph where it starts “One hot summer…” I thought it was going to say “One hot summer, a great escapade and a grand wedding later, ……” I had to stop and reread that sentence a few times. One suggestion is to change it to “One hot summer, a great escapade and a grand wedding later, they’re much closer than they could’ve ever imagined.”

    I LOVE the changes you’ve made to the beginning. It flows so smoothly and naturally. Love it!

    Great line: “Thinking aloud is something I only ever do around Brooke.” It’s so simple yet deep. That’s the best type of writing!

    In the paragraph that starts with “I could hear it more often”, there are two plurals together. Either her worries FADE away or her WORRY fades away.

    This is so minor I shouldn’t even suggest it—ha. But in keeping with Meg’s personality the line that says, I clear my throat. “See you in a week.” --it might be fun to have a question mark after her comment, so it reads, “See you in a week?” as if she’s unsure about the whole thing. It adds a touch of tension, and tension is always good.

    When you give us Zac’s description, could you add a little more? Ie, “Hi,” greets a tall guy with the most beautiful sky blue eyes under the brim of a beat up baseball hat. That way we get to know a little about him while still keeping the feel of that first meeting.

    I read Kelley’s comments about the last line and the word “excruciating”. I agree that something in that line should hint toward the excitement of being cooped up with a hot guy for several hours. But I’m not sure the word “excruciating” doesn’t do that. I have to say that when I read the line the way you have it I got a big grin on my face. I totally understood how “excruciating” it would be for shy (yet secretly blog-outgoing) Megan to try to talk to Mr. Stud-muffin. Excruciating because he’s hot and she wants this but doesn’t and she knows she can’t handle it but wants to try and it’s all so confusing and too much, not in spite of all of this. That really is excruciating (in the most exciting way, of course). I guess that’s how I read it, and it really worked for me. Maybe see how everyone else takes it.

    I REALLY like this draft. You’ve cut out all the unnecessary and it moves along at a great pace. I hope I can read the full MS soon!

  4. Your pitch is great. I LOVE, "Megan Delaney is not a people person." Can you put more hints in the pitch (and in the pages) as to why she is the way she is? Is there past trauma involved? The "home" line made me wonder. You might also want to play up the fact that she's a blogger with a following - that's an interesting hook that will make this book stand out.

    These pages have come so far, so really great work! Megan's social anxiety feels very real in this draft, which is great, given how important it is to the story. And I'm so glad we got to meet Mr. Sky Blue Eyes himself. There are so many charming lines in here, and "It sucks when you fail at the only thing you thought you were good at" is REALLY intriguing.

    I have to admit, I did miss the old opening, with the blog as a jumping off point. That felt a smidge fresher to me than this version - just one opinion!

    All in all, wonderful work on these pages. Thanks so much for sharing them with us and best of luck as you finish working on the book!

  5. Hi Hazel!

    I think you’re off to a great start here, and that there’s a lot of potential in this story. I think the idea of a character whose personality shines online but has trouble expressing herself irl is really interesting (and I’m sure very relatable for many introverted teenage readers). The concept reminds me a bit of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, although not so much that I’m worried that it’s too similar.

    Like a number of other commenters here, I wanted more about that dichotomy between Megan’s online and offline personalities in the pitch. Without the context of the pages, the blog almost seems like an aside, and I think throwing in some specifics about the kind of blog it is and what kind of traffic it gets would really drive the point home in a way that shows rather than tells. You can also use concrete detail to show what’s at stake for her, beyond just general shyness. What kind of “past wounds” and “things that hold them down” are we talking? What exactly is the conflict? I can’t tell if the “heading back . . . to reality” involves some dangerous secret, or whether she’s simply insecure about whether a guy as great as Zac could really like her. I also agree with commenters who suggest that it would be good to get more about Zac – is he more of a fantasy object playing a role in Megan’s character arc, or does he have a fully realized arc of his own?

    Your writing in the pages is capable, but I’m a little unsure about the conversational tone Megan takes directly with the reader. I’m not fond of opening with rhetorical questions, and phrases like “Whatever. That’s not the point” suggest that you’re not sure that the voice is strong enough to establish itself without breaking that fourth wall. Luckily, you already have a built-in way around that: why not simply open with the blog post itself? That would give us a taste of how Megan talks directly to her readers without having her talk directly to us, while also introducing this plot element. When you return to the regular narrative, resist the urge to pack in as much exposition as possible, and trust your writing. Megan and Brooke’s closeness is already apparent in their dialogue; we don’t need the backstory on their friendship to believe it. Another way to show the characterization rather than telling would be to give us some scene setting. Even though we won’t be spending the novel in Megan’s dorm room, giving us an idea of how she’s decorated it (or not) will demonstrate something about her personality.

    A few plot issues that piqued my interest: the blog post is well-written and engaging, but I’m not sure if I get the sense of why it’s so popular (as I assume it is, if Megan spends most of her social life there). How has she managed to gain such a following just writing about her life? Is blogging the right platform, or should it be something a bit more current, like Instagram or vlogging? Why are Megan and Zac driving together instead of flying? If they have to spend a couple days on the road, surely the hotel costs add up to more than a plane ticket would be. If there’s a convincing explanation for this choice, you might want to bring it in earlier, and possibly even mention it in the query. Lastly, I’m really intrigued by the line “It sucks when you fail at the only thing you thought you were good at” – what does it mean? If this is just disappointment at not doing as well at school as she hoped, you might want to reel it back a bit so it doesn’t inadvertently tease something that won’t come, but if there’s more there, it would help to play it up even more.

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


  6. Hi Hazel!!!

    I'm so glad we got to connect during his great workshop! Your story is the kind of story that blossoms and is full of heart!
    Yout pages have developed so many more layers! Great job!


    Your pitch is so well rounded and gives great promise to the reader to find a exciting and emotional ride. I think you did a great job. Only thought is to really ouch your main characters conflict to create even more pressure for her. (To come out of one's she'll just doesn't seem enough... I hope that makes sense?)

    1st 5 PAGES

    You have recused your pages so beautifully. I feel like I am getting to know your MC so much more. After the two revise if I had to pick on something I think I really feel your initial beginning of starting at the blog first was the most intriguing. Maybe start there again?

    The new beginning paragraphs felt like a overview of the rest of your five pages... So it felt like it wasn't necessary. Those thoughts were all things , as a reader, I discovered as I read the rest of your pages....

    -also, I think you could skin out some affirmations of her being a recluse, shy, finding Brooke as her best friend... You do so well in your side conversations, and inner thoughts. It felt redundant sometimes...
    -after reading all the revisions I started to think I would love to know more of what Megan looks like... I think that would really be a great addition if you think appropriate for your pages...
    -overall my only last comment would be really to try to separate the personality of Megan online than her as the real Megan... I still felt her wrriting on the blog felt like the same voice as the real Megan

    Thank you again Hazel for letting me read your lovely story. You are a great writer and I hope to read more soon!!!


  7. Ooooh, big changes. I like them.

    First, I really like the new opening line, with the blog coming in a little later. It grounds us in the setting a bit more. Plus, you still left in the differences between the real her and the blog her, which is great.

    You've added in nerves about her upcoming trip, which is realistic.

    VERY smart to add the love interest much, much sooner. This will catch the reader's attention and keep them hooked. The only problem I had with this new section is that she now considers the drive "excruciating." That doesn't seem to fit. "Interesting?" "Butterfly-inducing?" I'd switch out excruciating for something else more fitting to how a girl would really feel when she sees sky blue eyes (great description, by the way).

    About the pitch, the main thing I thought was missing was conflict in the final paragraph. They fall in love, but what's the conflict that will keep us curious until the end? What's the "how will they handle this?" situation?

    Overall, you've made really strong improvements to this piece. It's a clever set up that promises to bring lots of great reading. I wish you good luck. And Happy Thanksgiving!