Sunday, July 17, 2016

1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Lollis Rev 2

Name: Dan Lollis
Genre: Middle Grade Sports
Title: Scratch

Scratch - Pitch

Twelve-year-old Win Moore lives and breathes mini-golf, but his real dream is to ditch the putter and master “real” golf at the exclusive local country club. Short in stature, but big in imagination, Win scores a summer caddying job that turns from dream to nightmare as he’s fired by the country club’s snobby president.

With his access to the course and opportunity to practice gone, Win is given a second chance to learn and play when the country club’s bitter and washed-up greenskeeper, Mr. Boozer, a disgraced ex-golf pro, hires him as an assistant.

Win works with Mr. Boozer, on the course and off, to prepared for his ultimate goal — the annual end of summer Junior Club Championship. As Win learns and questions the crazy techniques, ideas, and strategies Mr. Boozer shares with him, he discovers that things aren’t as they seem. Like, maybe Mr. Boozer isn’t washed up, and maybe being short isn’t that big of deal, and maybe every shot, even the little putts, count.

Scratch - Revision 2

Ladies and gentlemen, it all comes down to this putt.

I looked down at the golf ball, licked my lips, and spread my feet.

If he can make this putt, Win Moore, the pint-sized 6th grader, will become the youngest champion in golf history.

I lined up the putter and tightened my grip.

The hushed crowd waits in anticipation.

I let my mind go blank, pulled back my putter in one smooth motion, and then brought it forward. The putter made a satisfying PING as the ball jumped off the turf and shot towards the hole 25 feet away.

And the putt is away. Moving a little left-to-right. This ball has a shot.

I loosened my grip and leaned to the right — willing the ball to move in that direction.

Win Moore likes his putt. But does it have enough speed?

“Come on. Get legs,” I whispered under my breath.

Almost there! But will it make it? The—ball—is—

The ball slowed to a stop, froze on the edge of the hole, and seemed to debate whether to move another fraction of an inch and fall in.

“Drop,” I whispered.

The ball shifted slightly and then—CLINK.

It’s in the hole! He made it, ladies and gentlemen! Win Moore has won the championship with that amazing putt!

I jabbed my putter toward the sky and karate chopped the air in front of me, as I ran to the hole and grabbed my ball. After kissing it, I held it up for all to see.

“Hey, kid? Are you done yet?” asked a dad with two little kids.

I turned around mid-celebration, mouth open and golf ball held high, and snapped back into the real world.

“We paid for the 18-hole early bird special.” He leaned against the rainbow-colored windmill and crossed his arms while his two bratty kids swung their mini-golf putters like swords and hit each other.

I swallowed. How long had they been standing there? Was I so into my game that I didn’t notice them? I wanted to crawl behind the fake rock surrounding the hole and hide.

“Sorry, didn’t see you there,” I mumbled and ran away without making eye contact. I gripped my putter, crawled under the fence, and ran into the clubhouse. The bell on the door jingled as I went inside. Mom sate behind the cash register — head buried in a book. The phone rang once, and she grabbed it.

“Good morning. Thanks for calling Putt Putt Palace, home to 36 holes of putt-erifc miniature golf and the best—”

Mom stopped mid-sentence, frowned, and half-slammed the phone back on the counter.

“They hung up,” she said. “Guess they didn’t want to hear about the free ice cream cones today.” Mom smiled at me, took a gulp of coffee, and shoved her nose back in one of her battered mini-golf maintenance manuals. “You’re out practicing early today. How’s the course?” I never understood how Mom could read and talk at the same time.

I glanced around the clubhouse. At the duct tape holding together part of the cash register. At the piece of cardboard over the broken front window. And at the flickering neon sign above the golf ball dispenser that read “PRESS BUTT    FOR BALL”. The letters O and N burned out last summer, and Mom said that they were super-expensive to replace. I wish she would just turn it off.  Do you know what teenagers do when they see a sign like that?

“The windmill isn’t spinning — again. And something is wrong with the fountain on number three. Instead of nice blue water, it’s spewing brown foam that smells like sewage.” I gagged a little at the memory. “I know you love this place, Mom, but it’s old and you can’t fix it all yourself.”

Mom plopped her book the counter. “I know it’s old and seen better days,” she said. She scanned the clubhouse and scratched her chin. “It just needs a little—work.” Mom nodded and changed the subject. “How did you putt this morning?”

She never wanted to talk about the million things wrong with Putt Putt Palace. I shrugged my shoulders. “Okay—I guess.”

“Did you win your championship?” Mom asked with a smile.

My face reddened, and I pulled my cap down low.

“Oh come on, Edwin! I see you talking to yourself out there and jumping around like a maniac when you make a long putt. You think you’re the only one that ever pretended to be a sports star?”

“It’s stupid,” I said as I shoved the putter back in the rack and threw my ball into the giant “PRESS BUTT” ball dispenser. “Besides, it’s just putt-putt. It’s not even a real sport.”

“Gold is a real sport,” Mom said. She grabbed a screwdriver and tightened the heads of a few putters that had seen better days. “ And any professional golfer would tell you that putting —”

“Putting is part of a real sport,” I interrupted. “And not even the fun or cool part. Smashing a ball 300 yards off the tee is exciting. Tapping a putt three feet into a hole is a game for little kids.” I waved my hand toward the window so Mom could see the two screaming, putter-sword fighting kids on hole nine. “See?”

Mom frowned and squinted her eyes. “Those kids are not getting their free ice-cream cone.” She turned her attention back to me. “Every shot counts, Edwin. The three-foot putt is as important as the 300-yard drive. It’s not always about how far you hit it.”

“It is when you’re the shortest kid in school and can’t even drive the ball to the fairway,” I mumbled. Why couldn’t she understand that being good a putt putt was like being the best kazoo player in the orchestra or being the best tricycle rider in a bike race.

I grabbed a water bottle and my sack lunch from the fridge behind the counter. “I gotta go,” I said. Mom tried to reach over and give me a hug, but I ducked under her outstretched arms and shot toward the front door before she could grab me.

“You’re never too old for hugs from your mom,” I heard her shout as I opened the front door and literally ran into two teens and the steps outside. They were thick as a brick wall, and I fell flat on my butt. The door slammed behind me.

“Watch it, munchkin! You almost made me spill my drink,” one of them said as he fumbled with his soda can.

“Uh—sorry,” I said and propped up on my elbows. “I didn’t see you.”

“Short and blind,” the other one sneered and nodded toward the door. “Maybe your mommy can give you a hug and make it all better."

The other one closed his eyes, wrapped his arms around his back like he was hugging himself, and make wet kissing sounds. “Smoochie. Smoochie. My little boy,” he said in baby talk.

Both teens burst into laughter, opened the door, and went inside.

I grabbed my water bottle and smooshed bag lunch. I took a quick peek — PBJ, flattened banana, and crushed chips — delicious. I wanted to follow them and throw my ruined peanut-butter and jelly sandwich at one of their faces. It’s bad enough to get picked on in gym, or on the bus, or in the cafeteria, but now I was getting it at the Putt Putt Palace? That’s just not fair. I imagined for the millionth time what it would be like to be tall. No more teens knocking me down. I would be able to see over the heads in front of me in the movie theatre. And I would be able to hit a golf ball a mile.

I should have followed the teens inside to convince Mom to kick them out, but what good would that do? I knew we needed all the business we could get. This place has been a money pit since Mom took the business over from Grandpa a few years ago.

The alarm on my phone buzzed, and I got a flutter in my stomach. If I was late, Mr. McManus would fire me. I stood, dusted myself off, and looked at the potholes in the parking lot, the beat up orange cones that kept customers from parking in front of the dumpster, and the crooked Putt Putt Palace sign begging customers to “TURN HERE FOR FUN-CREDIBLE, FUN-BELIEVABLE MINI-GOLF.

I closed my eyes and and imagined myself on the tee box at Pebble Beach. Green grass and tall palm trees instead of faded astroturf and fake plastic shrubs I gripped my imaginary club and took a big swing.

And Edwin Moore crushed his drive, ladies and gentlemen! How in the world does the little guy do it?


  1. I've given a lot of advice on queries here, Dan, but yours is pretty spot-on. My only stumble was this line:

    ... Win is given a second chance to learn and play when the country club’s bitter and washed-up greenskeeper, Mr. Boozer, a disgraced ex-golf pro...

    I feel that one of the adjectives can be deleted. Perhaps "bitter?" Think about it. He's bitter. He's washed-up. He's disgraced. Jeez, his name is even Mr. Boozer. lol. Deleting one of these might make this section read a little easier.

    I have a feeling you are going to get requests with this story. It's quite appealing. Best of luck, and thanks for sharing it.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Ronald. I really appreciate all your help and advice during this workshop.


  2. Nice job, Dan! Your pitch is quite good. And, of course, so are your pages. A couple of things that stand out to me:

    1) You still gotta nail the whole proofreading thing :) I spotted a couple of typos -- one in your pitch and one in your five pages. I know it seems minor, but you'll want your words picture perfect if you hope to win over an agent. I've seen plenty of agent blogs that really rail on things like typos!

    2) I find this line in your pitch a little vague and soft: "... he discovers that things aren't as they seem." I'd love to see something here that's bigger, higher-stakes or that hint at the kind of growth Win will go through in the novel. Or maybe you can just economize and say something like "... he discovers that maybe Mr. Boozer isn't washed up, being short isn't the end of the world, and even the smallest putt can be a really big deal."

    This is a compelling story that's really well written -- I hope it (like one of Win's imagined drives) goes far! Thanks so much for sharing it!

    All best,
    Rob, 1st 5 Pages mentor

    1. Rob,

      Thanks for the great advice and kind words. I can't tell you how many times I read over my pitch and revision and still missed a couple of mistakes. I need a new strategy. But I hear ya...any mistakes can make you look less professional and thus less serious as a writer. Point taken.

      I appreciate all your mentoring advice and suggestions during this workshop! Thank you.


  3. Hi Dan,

    I'm going to start with your pitch:
    This is super nitpicky but I think you should use "when" instead of "as" in the nightmare sentence. As implies a continuing action. When implies a specific moment or incident in time.

    In the third paragraph, make sure to use "prepare" rather than "prepared". I also would take out he conversational part of the last bit, cutting "that things aren’t as they seem. Like," and splicing from "he discovers" to "maybe Mr. Boozer". That part I suggest you cut slows down the pitch right where you want to amp it up, and it gives it a sense of cutesy. Like you're being bashful about the entire point of your story. So I would keep the pitch moving forward right through to the end of that paragraph.

    The only other thing I'd say about the pitch is you might want to change "discovers" in that last paragraph to "wonders if". Discovers sounds like something solved. But the rest of that are "maybe" things. Or, keep discovers and take out the maybe's. I think the second way is stronger, personally.

    OK, the pages:

    I think when he gets knocked down by the teens, his reaction goes on a bit. Consider cutting "I imagined for the millionth time what it would be like to be tall. No more teens knocking me down. I would be able to see over the heads in front of me in the movie theatre. And I would be able to hit a golf ball a mile." All of these things are clear based on what we know from the rest of the text. Saying it again here makes it feel over done to me.

    I also think "This place has been a money pit since Mom took the business over from Grandpa a few years ago" belongs up earlier when he's looking around at things, thinking about how everything is broken down.

    Other than that, I think it's really strong! I like the changes you made this week. The interaction with the mom is great, and there's a bit of a softer tone to it, which I liked. I thought the progression of events with the teens and how you drew it out a little more works really well. And I think the change at the end is perfect. Great work!

    I've really enjoyed reading your work these past couple of weeks! Win's story has such heart. Wishing you all the best with his story and your writing journey!


    1. Amy,

      Thanks for the specific feedback and advice. You have been right-on about everything during the workshop! I very much appreciate the help. You have a great eye/ear for what works well and what reads best. Thank you!


  4. From Tanusri:

    PITCH: I was so impressed by this pitch. It was succinct yet informative with a catchy last line, great work!

    FIVE PAGES: The first chapter starts off really well. It shows us just how much Win wants to be a champion golfer. On the writing, Win is endearing and funny. I also really like the exchanges with his mother. At times I find first person POV a bit troublesome because we get such a one-dimensional account of things, but I think your voice is definitely up to the task!

    In these first few pages you’ve given us a good if quick glimpse into Win and his life and this is a great start. As the narrative develops we’d want to see more of what drives Win’s ambition (and I’m sure that will come across in the future chapters). Clearly he has an issue about his height, but is he a bit of an outsider for other reasons as well? Or does he perhaps have a best friend who doesn’t connect with his golf obsession? There is a mention of the business being in trouble, does that foreshadow a personal/ family issue that he is trying to subsume under this all-consuming goal to be a golf champion? Having the golf theme as the focus but Win’s overall personal growth (mental rather than physical!) as the overarching theme provides a very strong hook and gives you a lot of scope to develop some of the other characters in Win’s life. Onwards!

    All best,


    1. Tanusri,

      Thanks for the kind advice and helpful tips. This workshop has helped me focus on my first five pages and allowed me to step back and view the rest of my manuscript through a similar lens. I really appreciate your time and expertise.


  5. Dan,

    Love the pitch! I'm not even middle grade and I want to read more. I am really excited to see Mr. Boozer's crazy techniques - it reminds me of one of my favorite childhood movies, Happy Gilmore :) Anyway, I don't have much to critique to be honest. I'm excited to see where things head for you.

    Best of luck!

    Christian S

  6. Dan-

    You have done such an incredible job with your revisions. Your first pages are so strong. Both Win and his mom have solidified themselves in my mind. I loved the part where she picks up the phone and someone hangs up on her. Your writing here seems to flow so logically and effortlessly. Excellent job. I also love your pitch. I can easily see this as a book kids are going to identify with. Best of luck to you as you continue your writing journey. It's been fun working with you and watching your story progress.

  7. Hi Dan,

    I really love the changes you have made here! I felt like the opening was easy to follow and I could sense Win’s humiliation as he sped away. I also like the revisions to the dialogue between him and his mom, but I wish we got a little more of a sense of why it’s been so hard for his mom to keep the course maintained.

    I like that you changed his observations about the course into dialogue. I think it works, but sounds a little formal for a 6th grader. In particular, I have a suggestion for the line, “The windmill isn’t spinning — again. And something is wrong with the fountain on number three. Instead of nice blue water, it’s spewing brown foam that smells like sewage.” I would change sewage to something specific a 6th grade might say like, “and the fountain on number three smells worse than the last stall in the boys’ restroom” or “…smells more like number 2!” It would be funny and more realistic.

    I was a little confused at where Win actually ran into the teens and fell. It reads like it’s immediately after he opens the door (maybe he was looking the other way), but then the dialogue and description make it clear that he’s outside and his mom can’t hear or see what is said. I think just a little tweaking on that part to make sure it’s clear that he’s out the door and past the steps before impact.

    I did notice a few typos and a verb tense shift as reading, so I second Rob’s comments on that. Despite that, I really loved everything about these pages and the changes you have made. Your story is so funny and heart-warming and I know kids would really enjoy it. Congrats and best wishes!

  8. Dan,
    This is my favorite version! I really love what you did with Win's mom on the phone, and I also like how you amped up the tension between the teens and Win. It made me laugh when the teen made the wet kissing sounds.

    Your pitch is great! (Though those are not my strong point, so I don't have any tips). I look forward to reading your book. I know young boys will love it!!