Sunday, February 18, 2018

1st 5 Pages February Workshop- Shae Rev 2

Name: Britney Shae
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Title: Fearless

Annie has always dreamed of being an MMA star, and when she shocks everyone—including herself—with a one-punch knock-out, her dream comes true. Except she assumed her brother and idol, fellow MMA fighter Marc, would be there with her. But he died unexpectedly two months ago, leaving her reeling in the spotlight alone. Now an overnight sensation, and with her next title match speeding toward her, Annie is terrified everyone will learn what she already knows: her victory was a fluke.

Still, Annie takes on the trappings of stardom—a reality show, a makeover, interviews, money for the first time in her life, and an attractive new trainer. But this dream of stardom isn’t everything she had hoped it would be. Annie begins to doubt whether being an MMA star is what she really wants.  But giving up MMA would take away the financial relief Annie’s single mother and sister need.  And giving up her MMA dreams would mean giving up the last piece of Marc.

If Annie can’t find the courage to compete and prove she’s the fighter everyone thinks she is, she’ll lose her chance to provide for her family and she’ll throw away Marc’s legacy.


The fight was playing. Again. It followed me everywhere, even at the convenience store down the street. I recognized it immediately on the old TV behind the clerk, despite its fuzzy images.

The store was dead quiet except for the voices from the TV through tinny speakers. I pulled the hood of my sweatshirt up and listened as the announcers from two days ago spoke—Her first professional fight. Her chance to win the Junior U-18 MMA title. And so soon after her brother, fellow MMA fighter, Marco Armani, was killed in an unfortunate car accident.  Look at her eyes—have you ever seen such intensity?

I slipped into the candy aisle, scooped up a bag of Skittles for Margie, and turned for the milk I had come in for. Goosebumps lined my flesh, but not from the cold blast of the refrigerated air. Hearing those announcers talking about Marc like they knew him pissed me off. I shut the refrigerator door with too much force and cringed as the sound echoed through the store.

Pulling out a wad of bills from my back pocket, I slowly approached the counter, mentally counting how much money I had. This was the last of my cash, the last bit Marc had given me over two months ago, as though he’d known then he was going to die. I had no idea when I’d get my reward money from the title fight to afford something as simple as milk. I thought about putting the Skittles back but couldn’t bring myself to do it. My sister loved Skittles.

I cleared my throat. The clerk’s attention stayed on the TV.

“Gimme one sec,” he said, the fight reflecting in his gray eyes. “This girl’s gonna throw a punch like nothin’ I ever seen before.”

I swallowed and focused on keeping my body still. In control. “That fight happened two days ago. Everyone knows who won.”

“I can’t stop watching that punch. It’s gone viral. Can’t go anywhere without seeing it.”

I almost scoffed out loud. Ain’t that the truth.

At that moment came the K-O punch. Just as it had in real time, my stomach lurched as my opponent crumpled to the ground.

The clerk let out a low whistle, shaking his head in awe. “She just won her first title, but there’s no smile, no elation—nothin’. If you ask me, I think that’s the sign of a champion. She knew she was going to win from the moment she stepped into that ring.”

My eyes darted to the clerk in disbelief, then back at the TV. How had I managed to look so confident I was fooling strangers into thinking I was a champion?

That punch was a fluke. Somehow I’d found the right strike-point at the right moment. I had wanted to win when I stepped into the octagon that night, but even in my wildest dreams I hadn’t thought I would. Not an amateur like me. Not against Taylor Heery, who’d won three titles in a row, beating out way more accomplished fighters than me. Especially not that easily. My stomach flipped again. Underdogs aren’t supposed to win. I wasn’t supposed to win.

As the man rang up the milk and Skittles, I glanced back up at the TV and right into my own blank eyes. My voice came out before I could stop it.

“What if she didn’t know she was going to win? What if she doubted herself even after she threw that punch?”

“That girl?” He scoffed. “She’s a winner. You don’t just throw that kind of punch from nowhere.” He handed me my change.

I stared at him for a second and my head rang: Yes, you do just throw those punches out of nowhere.

“Thanks,” I mumbled, taking my items and turning to leave.

It wasn’t until I reached the door that I heard the man exclaim with wonder, “Well I’ll be damned…” He had likely seen the embroidered letters adorning the back of my sweatshirt advertising Donovan’s Fight Club, the premier mixed martial arts—MMA—facility in Philly where I trained. I cursed my outfit choice and walked away as quickly as I could.

Loud music from Marc’s ancient iPod pumped through my earbuds as I walked into the gym, greeted by the familiar smell of mustiness and sweat. I’d only been absent for a few days, but god did it feel good to be back.
Donovan’s Fight Club was my escape from reality. My escape from Mom’s despair and constant disappearances to the county jail to visit Margie’s dad, Dave. My escape from the judge-y, snot-nosed rich jerks at school. Even my escape from Margie’s sad eyes every time I walked in the door and she realized it would always be me and never Marc arriving home. I went to the gym to train, but that wasn’t why I was there. When I punched the bag, the music from my brother’s iPod blasting in my ear, I could forget everything happening outside the brick walls.
I wasn’t sure what I listened to, other than that it was a playlist of songs selected by Marc, which he not-so-creatively titled “Angry.” I listened as the singer screamed out his words, the guitarist fiercely attacked his riffs, and the bass thudded with the driving beat.
This playlist was perfect because I was angry. I had been angry since inheriting Marc’s iPod two months ago when he died. Inherit wasn’t exactly the right word—it’s not like Marc had a will. Instead, it had been handed to me at the hospital by a police officer, taken from the wreck of Marc’s car. Unlike Marc, the iPod wasn’t destroyed. It wasn’t even scratched.
With my hood up and music blasting, it was like I had tunnel vision. I headed straight for my usual punching bag, the one tucked away in a corner room off the main gym. I threw my bag on the ground and pulled out the grappling gloves Marc had given me nearly a year ago, when we had first started getting into MMA after years of karate and martial arts training. I started my warm-up, switching between punches and kicks.
I grunted as I landed a solid kick and watched as the bag swayed. I pounded the bag with fury, every punch crunching against the red leather bag just like the metal of Marc’s car when he slammed into the car in front of him. My legs soared through the air and made contact with the bag just like Marc had flown through his windshield. I tried not to think about Marc, but he haunted me everywhere I went. The anger wasn’t just because he died—it was because left me. Right before my fight. Right before I won the title.

How was I supposed to keep fighting without him at my side?


  1. Hi Britney,

    I love your pitch! It’s well-written, concise, and I understand what’s at stake for Annie. She has a real dilemma.

    For your revised pages, I think your opening paragraph is even stronger now.

    I noticed your other edits, as well, and I really like how this piece ends with Annie’s question: “How was I supposed to keep fighting without him at my side?”

    I think you have a great story here, and as I commented before, I’d definitely keep reading.

    Good luck!


  2. Hey there, Britney!

    Great pitch! Definitely has a fantastic hook while telling us the conflict and stakes. Truly sounds like an awesome read!

    I enjoy the additions you made to your pages! I feel like they add more context and deliver backstory smoothly.

    Just some suggestions:

    Super small, and I know we’re not supposed to line edit, but:

    “The store was dead quiet except for the voices from the TV through tinny speakers.”

    I assume you meant “tiny?”

    “Goosebumps lined my flesh, but not from the cold blast of the refrigerated air. Hearing those announcers talking about Marc like they knew him pissed me off.”

    When I think of someone getting angry, I think of heat, not the cold. I’d do something like, “Even with the blast of refrigerated air, hearing those announcers talking about Marc like they knew him made me flush hot with anger.”

    That’s all I really have to say! I love how you added so much so well. Margie, Marc, her family life. We really get a feel for Annie now, who she is and her situation, and suddenly her insecurities hit home.

    Wonderful job!

    All the best querying! Good luck, Britney!


  3. Hi Britney,

    As someone who is *horrible* at writing pitches, I would say that yours is excellent. Brava.

    The first half of your opening pages are fantastic. The layers you've added are really powerful and simple additions like "I thought about putting the Skittles back but couldn’t bring myself to do it. My sister loved Skittles" made my gut wrench (in a great way). I'm right there with your character and want her to succeed for herself and remaining sibling. The second half of your opening is really visceral and powerful and well done! I loved the ending line because it makes the reader want to read more. I wish you and your words the very best of luck!! It was a pleasure to read your excerpt.

  4. Hi Britney,

    What a great and unique concept! And a very well-written pitch. It's short, catchy, attention-grabbing, and I could easily see this on a book jacket. Well done.

    The first five pages are great too. It sets the stage for the novel. The reader gets the sense of Annie's character, her personality, her grievances and triumphs and insecurities. It really packs a punch (pun genuinely not intended) with a well-paced and showing story. This sort of scene could easily be told to the reader and you managed to SHOW so much. Again, well done.

    This would be a project I'd have to read 10 pages, 20, 50, in order to properly critique. Where it is with the first 5 is good.


  5. Hey Britney,

    I love your pitch so much! It's got me hooked and I would love to read your book. You've given details on the stardom life, how she feels, the conflict and all the stakes at hand and you've done it all brilliantly. There's really nothing to critique at all.

    I like the new opening sentence, especially the "Again" - it brings out her voice. Your tightening and improvements have made it so much better. I love the new details you've added about the money issue and brilliantly lacing it together to show us that her sister loved Skittles. And I absolutely love the new way you ended the chapter with insight into her mind about Marc! Your writing is remarkable!

  6. Your pitch is amazing!! And I so love what you've done in this revision. I felt for her completely. Really, really amazing job.

    Smallest of things, watch for overuse of the word "bag" in the last couple of paragraphs. Other than that, great work. I wish you the best of luck with this going forward. I hope to hear an announcement from you soon! <3

  7. Britney,

    I'm focusing on the pitches this time. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) I don't have much to add for yours :) It lays everything out--plot, character, stakes, internal & external conflict. Anything I could say would just be fussing. Awesome job, with both the pitch & the pages!

  8. Pitch: So good! You rocked it! The ONLY nitpicky things I have is the last sentance of the 2nd, and 3rd paragraph seems like there's a little overlap. Then you use giving up 3x in the last two sentances of 2nd paragraph. Maybe change the middle one?

    I like this opening the best! Fantastic job!

    YAY! We know who Margie is! love that little addition :)

    I really like the spot your in with these pages and don't have much to add. I did catch the heavy use of bag in the last big paragraph so that would be my only suggestion!

    Best of luck! Can't wait to see where this goes!