Monday, May 23, 2016

1st 5 Pages May Revision - Konyak Rev 2

Name: Sharyn Konyak
Genre: YA Contemporary
Title: These Pieces of Me

The day before her 16th birthday, Olivia Callahan is the victim of a tragic accident. When she wakes two days later, she has no recollection of it or the last two years of her life. Her only connection is a haunting recurring dream she can’t make sense of. What happened that is so terrible her mind has chosen to lock it away rather than allow her to know the truth?

These Pieces of Me is an evocative tale of a teenage girl’s struggle to reassemble her life from a jar of memories she doesn’t recognize. Her journey forces her to face the truth about herself and those she holds dear.

The novel, told through Olivia’s eyes, propels the reader through Olivia’s confusion as she comes to recognize that the truth is the one thing blocking her recovery. She must face the reality that the control she craves in her life is just the thing she needs to surrender in order to become whole again. Every day brings her closer to another memory and a more complete version of herself. 


The bottom of a lush ravine envelops me, dense and suffocating like a wave crashing over me and pinning me to the ocean bottom. For a moment of intense panic, I have no idea which way is up. I thrash at the air hoping to find something to grab on to. A heaviness in my chest weighs me down, trapped and helpless. I am suspended, a puppet on a string tethered to some invisible anchor, arms pinwheeling free, unable to rid myself of the harness.

Trees obscure my vision, a heavy velvet curtain appearing black instead of green. Is it day or night? My eyes struggle to focus, catching only flashes of light, fleeting and inconsistent. I wait for them to deliver me but there’s never enough. Fear rises in me, threatening to collapse onto me.

The smell of earth has settled in my nostrils, damp and musty mingling with a chill that has, likewise, taken a hold of my bones. My body aches. I feel nothing and everything. A sharp twinge of pain at my temple and a phantom ache in my knee resonate in my consciousness. 

I have the strange sensation I am not alone, though I pray I am. I turn my head to locate someone, anyone. It’s no use. There is nothing, only more blackness.

I hear a voice calling across the distance. It’s origin unclear. For a moment, I think it may be my own though I doubt I can make a sound. My lips are dry, my throat thick, my tongue leathery and parched. I swallow hard, trying to rid myself of the acrid metallic taste. 

The voice must belong to another. Someone in control. For although it searches, it does so with purpose, with authority. Olivia, it calls. In a moment of clarity, I realize it’s my name I hear. An urgency pushes me toward it. I struggle to utter a sound, to will this mute tongue to issue more than a grunt. A word. 


I’m here!

As I call out, questions paralyze my mind. Where am I? How long have I been here? Why am I here at all? Time seems to stand still yet spin out of control. 

Have they heard me? 

Will they find me? 

An intense panic shakes me to the core, however, it’s one I’ve felt before. I feel someone reach out and grab my hand, attempting to pull me back from the edge just before I careen over into the blackness. But the anchor is temporary, I feel myself slipping away.

And then, it all goes black and it’s over.

Until the next time.


Opening my eyes now, I realize that experience, the one I’ve been living over and over again, with no resolution, is only a dream. 

I can’t remember the first time I had the dream, or how often. I know it like my heartbeat, grounded in every fiber of my being, the one thing familiar in all of this.

I am Olivia Callahan. That I know for certain. But, here. This place. This is not the tortured dream. 

My mind comes into focus shortly after my eyes, surveying the scene around me trying desperately to make sense of the images. Heart-shaped “Sweet 16” balloons fill the room, swollen globes of purple and white bobbing, adrift on a silent sea, their strings dancing just above the floor. Did I have a birthday? I can’t recall. How could I have missed it? It’s only August, after all. I’ve got a full month to go. Wait. 16? But I’m 13. I have to be. School just started. Freshman orientation. Locker set up with Joss and Maura. That weird chat with Kirsty.

My mind struggles to make a connection. This is my bedroom, familiar yet different to me now. Everywhere vases are bursting with big yellow sunflowers, my favorite and the reason I painted my room this sunny, never-turned-off color. 

“Geez, Liv,” my best friend, Maura, had joked after our first attempt at painting had left us both covered in the stuff. “It looks like a highlighter exploded all over your walls." 

Though everyone’s reaction was the same slightly uncomfortable ‘WOW?!’ I couldn’t have cared less. I remember thinking no matter what happened, I could never have a bad day waking up in this room.

Get well soon cards line the ledge of the sill around the windowseat. Someone has taken the time to line them up by size, just like I would. Their encouraging words and cheerful pictures create their own little cheering section. I love that windowseat. It’s my favorite place to curl up with a book or just stare out onto the backyard and daydream. There have been days I never wanted to leave it.

I turn my focus inward, secure in the idea that I am neither tethered nor suspended, but rather stable and secure, comfortably perched on a soft mattress enveloped in blankets. 

The chill has left me. I feel better; if this fogginess can be called feeling better. I’ve felt it before but not quite this way. This hazy half-consciousness when Dad wakes me up super early to tell me some crazy thing he just read on the Internet. He thinks I’m awake, mumbles on about this or that and, satisfied he’s just imparted some knowledge I just couldn’t survive without, finally gives up and goes back to his computer.

This time is different though. No dad. 

 As the fogginess continues to lift, there’s a tightness at my temple.  My hand reaches up feeling scratchy nylon strings. The same ones that poke you when you’ve forgotten to careful snip the tag off of your new shirt. Vaguely familiar, they remind me of the five stitches I got in my shin once in 3rd grade.

The rest of me seems the same. The neatly manicured nails, the long mahogany hair, plaited into a braid.

The clock on my nightstand reads 2:16 PM.  That’s strange. I should be in school right now. But I’m here, in bed, wearing cuffed sweatpants and a hoodie with a giant neon green X on it? I never dress to impress anyone but me. That’s what Poppie says he loves best about me. ‘You don’t give a fig what they think. Do you, Magpie? That’s what makes you a Callahan’ he always says. 

A stifled snore from beside me gets my attention. Kaydon? What is he doing here? Shouldn’t he be at practice? Instead, he’s plopped in my chair; his head hanging off the back of one arm, legs draped over the other, arms spilling onto the floor as if someone just tossed him there and didn’t bother to rearrange him before he passed out. Mom says he’s been ‘growing like a beanstalk’ but he must have grown like five inches overnight.

“Kaydon?” It comes out as a whisper. I try again. ”Kaydon?” louder this time. Still no response.

Looking at him there, all messy and snoring, fills me with a calmness. For the first time, I actually feel safe. Kaydon is here with me. Maybe he has been all along. Maybe he is my silent partner. I can’t help but think how perfect he is. Kaydon P. Callahan. I used to kid him the P stood for perfect even though we knew it stood for Patrick, after dad.


  1. Hi Sharyn,

    I loved your pitch!! I was definitely hooked with the idea, and now the confusion that I was feeling seems a lot more understandable -- confusion is part of it! I now understand the sweet 16 balloons, too. I think you removed a lot of backstory that was swamping up the last revision, and clarified everything else -- the bit about Kaydon I found SO MUCH clearer in this bit, with really wonderful details. I loved the "P" stands for "perfect" bit. It shows a lot about Olivia's relationship with her brother.

    What I also like about this story is how now, through your pitch, I can guess at how much Olivia is going to struggle piecing together her memories. So much changes between the age of 13 and 16. Will she still have a good relationship with her brother? Her best friend, Maura? I imagine so many things are going to change for it.

    These clarifications (in revision #2) were really awesome. Wonderful job --- I hope to read the whole story one day!


  2. Hi Sharyn! Your pitch helped me understand what I have been reading for the past few weeks, which is wonderful! Although I like the content in your pitch, I would suggest avoiding generalities like ‘tragic accident’ and ‘evocative tale’ in favor of specific details. Show don’t tell. Lastly, try to avoid rhetorical questions in your query. I have been told that it is fine to ask a question in one paragraph and answer it in the following though.

    In the dream sequence, I feel slightly confused, which may be your intention. Olivia feels pinned to the floor yet suspended, weighed down yet harnessed to something and able to windmill her limbs. This may just be me but the contradictions make it hard for me to create a clear visual of the scene which is making me disconnect.

    I really like the new information about Olivia and Kaydon. It helps bring them into focus now, and I like the image of Kaydon draped across the chair. I might move the information about her dad coming in to wake her about something from the internet to a point later in the book and add in more details about Olivia, her room, etc, so that the visual in this scene is sharper. All in all though, this is definitely the best version yet and I really like what you have done with the descriptive language!

  3. Very intriguing! Your pitch is great – concise and to the point. I would avoid asking a question, instead turn it into a statement. The last paragraph leaves the pitch open-ended and as an agent I want to know what is Olivia’s journey in this book? Is it to learn the truth about why she was in a coma? Do the details of the tragic accident derail, but then define Olivia? Ending with a strong statement about your story is a good idea.

    I like that you open with a dream sequence but it is a little confusing to the reader until the beginning of chapter 2, that this is actually a dream. I would suggest italicising all of chapter 1 to denote that it is not “reality”, or simply calling it Dreams, and/or making it a prologue.

    Chapter 2, which if you follow my advice will now, be chapter 1. This chapter is captivating and pulls me in because I immediately wonder how Olivia came to be in this situation. You’ve done an excellent job describing how confused Olivia is. I am assuming that her brother is prominent since it appears that her brother will be the first to interact with Olivia.

    I love the dynamics between siblings particularly of different genders. There’s so much you can do. Great first chapters, thank you!!

    ~Sue Miller

    1. Sue,
      Thank you so much for your feedback and support of the dream opening. I used the question at the end of the pitch because I felt it would set the stage for all the questions Olivia needs to ask. I can certainly turn it into a statement to give a better idea of her character arc.

      I am considering the best approach from your suggestions regarding the chapter/prologue issue. However, I wanted to float another option. During the critiques and revisions, I removed the first line of the story. I was wondering if you thought it might address your concerns. It was
      "It's the same dream every time."
      I would love to hear your take on it.
      Warm regards,
      Sharyn Konyak

    2. Yes, that would address my concerns... I say put it back in :)

  4. Dear Sharyn,

    Because the pitch lets readers know that the story is about Olivia’s recurring dream and profound confusion/amnesia, and the fact that you’ve tightened the dream sequence, chapter one is more intriguing and compelling. Chapter two always was and now we get further along in it. It seems like more mystery is raised (but I guess that’s thanks to the pitch). I also like that the character of Kaydon now makes it into the first five, as he is a reassuring presence for both Olivia and the reader.

    One last nitpick: See if you can avoid the using “I feel” for Olivia. You may not need it anyway, as you are doing a good job of showing us how she’s feeling. For example, “I am neither tethered nor suspended, but rather stable and secure, comfortably perched on a soft mattress enveloped in blankets,” tells us so much.

    Great work on your first five pages! And best of luck with the entire story.


  5. Ann,
    Thank you for your support throughout this process. When I felt I couldn't cut another word, you challenged me to and my ms is better for it. I'm busy wielding the same sharp knife to the rest of it.

    Regarding your "nitpick", would this revise address the concern?
    "The chill has left me, though a fogginess clouds my mind. I’ve felt it before but not quite this way..."
    Warm regards,

    1. Hi Sharyn,
      That's another strong revision! And I just mean in general with "I feel" or "she feels." Sometimes we have to name it, but as you said, challenge yourself to show the reader how the POV character is feeling without telling us.
      So glad you rose to the challenge, and that sharp knife will come in very handy through your writing career :).
      All the best,

  6. Hi Sharyn,

    This is very much improved, although I would personally still prefer to know about your mc before diving into the dream. If you're going to insist on going with the dream sequence, go ahead and own it--because knowing that the dream is a recurring dream up front--before encountering it--at least helps us decode it. And the dream at least feels more vivid now. I would suggest making it even more real and immediate. Again, focus on removing filters and getting deeper into your mc's POV. And the pitch is great.

    Best of luck with this. You've done some great work.


  7. Hi Sharyn
    I like your pitch - the pace and the terseness of it. It paints a picture of what to expect without revealing too many details. So great job there!

    As for the revision, I still feel the dream in chapter 1 has to be revealed as a dream in chapter 1 itself and not chapter 2. This is because the reader will not be reading the pitch before the story like we are. And that'll lead to some confusion. Other than that, you've trimmed the dream part well and chapter 2 is wonderful. Although there's only a bit of info about Poppie and Dad and a bit more about Kaydon, your writing makes me like them already! Wish there was a peek into her Mom's character too - but I know that's too much to pack in in the given word limit!

    Good luck with the story! When I think about us all putting so much time and effort into just the 1st 5 pages, I wonder how long it'll be before we're done with the entire book . . . but this is so worth it, isn't it?


  8. Hi Priya,
    My manuscript is finished almost 75,000 words worth though I'm sure with what I've learned there will be a significant decrease after edits.
    Good luck to you as well.

  9. Hi!

    I like the way this revision sounds. I think the flow of the first chapter is great and I still don't mind the dream being revealed in Chapter 2. It makes me want to keep reading to see what is going on.

    I love the bit about Kaydon but be careful, it sounds a bit like she is fawning over a cute boy and not her brother. I thought he was her boyfriend until you said your mom says he is growing.

    Has she been living the dream since she was a small child? I am confused. You said she can't remember the last two years in your pitch but she can remember the dream? Maybe just a little clarification is needed here.

    Overall, I really like this and I hope to one day read it!