Sunday, March 18, 2018

1st 5 Pages March Workshop- Thakare Rev 2

Name: Sanyukta Thakare
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Some Girls Are meets Gilmore Girls.
Title: Time And Again

For 17-year-old Ashley Lockwood, no feeling could compare to the joy of being acknowledged by her mother. Unfortunately, it only lasts for three months before Ashley hits rock bottom again.

Ten months ago, when in a drunk accident Ashley set her house on fire and things take a turn for the best. She decides to trade her high-end life for a secluded one to focus on future and her mother's happiness. Just when the bullying at school dies down, Ashley gets dragged back into the spotlight due to the return of her presumed dead father. Ashley's trust in her mother falters when she admits having kept him a secret.

Anxious about changes in her life, and ambushed by her manipulative stepsister, Ashley writes a controversial piece for the school paper. In turn, it only brings her misery and invites more trouble. When she finds out the love of her life might be scheming with her stepsister, it breaks her strength.

Having experienced love and heartbreak Ashley beings to sympathize with her mother. To give her a chance at a perfect life Ashley must first forgive her conniving father and her manipulative sister or let her past get in the way.

Ashley paced around the crowded living room resting her eyes on the envelope. In hot bold black letters, it read Pemerson Lawyers. The room grew smaller as she patrolled through every corner. All the tossing and turning gave her a splitting headache but what matter stayed inches away from her, in the sealed envelope. Spiraling deeper in thoughts she plunged into self-doubt, sure that the notice came for her. A reminder of the mistakes she had made in the past. Things she did with pride until a few months ago. She hadn’t been part of any foul play at school as long as she remembered. A few possible verbal clashes with her former clan, but they were nothing worth calling the lawyers over.

However, Ashley’s opinion held no mass in front of the Windrip High winzes, who had their own sense of righteousness or the entire school that hated her to the core. Not her batch of juniors but also the entire high school. The thought of being publicly called out yet again for another reason dried her throat and the urgency to know what the package held consumed her. Three more steps and it would be in her hand. First step in and the flickering yellow lights of her mother’s blue Ford Fusion beamed through the window, behind her.

Without thinking she jumped the remaining two steps, grabbed the letter and scratched the sealing sticker off. It pulled off a little piece of the brown paper making it impossible to cover up. Ashley didn’t care. Eventually, she'd have to come clean. For now, she needed to know whose ruin it dictated and didn’t have time to read the detailed bunch of pages that came falling down. The doorknob clicked, and Ashley turned wasting another second of her time. She picked up the dispersed papers without stuffing them in and ran to her room, next to the passage hallway.

She knew, the end of the papers and the beginning always had names, always. She’d seen it in movies. Ashley could hear her mother walking in, moving towards the living room, opening the paper bags. Rushing through the pages twice as fast, she found only one familiar name in two places, luckily not hers. Valerie Lockwood rested at the start and a signature hard to read at the end of the paper, she figured it’d be T. Lockwood that looked like an N.

“Ashley, did Randol stop by?” Ashley heard Valerie pass by her room.

In a fit of panic, Ashley blurted, “One sec Mom.” she stuffed the papers back in again and walked out. Fidgeting as though she committed a crime.

“You said something?” Ashley asked clearing her dry throat.

“Randol told me he’d dropped something off earlier. Did you get it?”

“Oh, Ya. It’s in there. I’ll bring it for you.”  Ashley stumbled at each word, pointing her room.

She knew her name wasn’t on it, but it didn’t settle the uneasy feeling in her stomach. Hesitant she brought the packed to the kitchen counter again and pushed the package forward, towards her mother. “Here.” The Roman font still daunting her, Ashley’s eyes widened thinking about the words she’d found inked on the papers.

Valerie dusted her hands and took charge of the papers, “Did you open it?” she looked at the torn sticker.

“I was curious, I am allowed to be.”

“Did you see who is it from?” Valerie asked.

“I don’t know, all I saw that it had your name, and a signature that could be… ” Ashley watched her mother remove the papers and calmly began at the first page unlike her. In less than three seconds her expression changed from calm to chaos. She chewed on her lips turning them a thin straight line and touching her face again and again.

Ashley scanned the papers spread on the counter. A White envelope with red ink on the cover said, Valerie. She picked up the small letter to read it.

“What are you doing?” In a panic, Valerie snatched the letter back and pulled scattered contains from Ashley’s side of the counter.

“It had your name on it, there is another one, let me see.” Ashley reached for it leaning over the counter.

“Stop it, these are legal documents you can’t just read them.” She quickly picked up every one of them careful not to miss and sealed them back into the envelope.

“It was just a letter for you.”

“Yes, and I will read it.”

Ashley reached for the package in her hand further trying to lean on the counter. She walked away and lifted it up in the air. Unable to grasp it she retrieved.  “Why won't you let me see it? That's from uncle Tony.”

“No, it isn't. And I am the adult here, I get to decide what happens.”

“Well, then why don't you start behaving like one, maybe start from the grocery lists,” Ashley smirked at her own clever mark.

“Hey, you volunteered for it.”

“That's because you forgot half of the things. You still do with the list.” She pointed at the half-empty bags still on the table.

“Ya, because I got things on my mind, like these legal papers.” Valerie continued fidgeting around the kitchen.

“They just got here, give me the papers I wanna see what’s in the letter,” Ashley demanded.

"Its nothing, and its none of your business. How about you leave me all the legal documents that come through the door, unopened? and I’ll leave grocery lists for you.” Ashley followed her mother walking back towards the stairs. And finally ran to her room.

She tip-toed after Valerie suspicious of the wary behavior. Instead of reading the papers or keeping them in her usual drawer, Valerie headed straight for her closet to hide them. Ashley peeped through the almost closed door. Valerie stood on her toes, pulled out a blue box from the top shelf and turned to check if the door is still close.

Ashley pressed to the ground hoping to still stay hidden. Valerie then picked up any cloth that she could find to clean the box. When cautiously done, she placed the papers in. Running back down Ashley made a mental note to sneak in when Valerie wasn’t home after school.

Ashley hated her mother’s need to know bases behavior. She was an ideal mother, by all means, but she hid things all the time and acted like nothing ever happened. A few months ago, Ashley wouldn’t have noticed or cared but now it drove her crazy. When Ashley decided to support her mother in the house and do everything she missed as a kid, she hadn’t thought she would still have to use her sneaky skills even with her mother.

When she came back down empty-handed Ashley stood in right before her so she couldn’t avoid her, “Is it from uncle Tony? Is it the shop again?” The topic had always been off-limits in the house. Ashley learned to live with the distasteful memories of Tony and Valerie arguing every now and then. Though they remained on good terms with his wife Becky, the arguments never ended. 


  1. Hey Sanyukta!

    So, the first sentence of your pitch makes me think being acknowledged by her mother is Ashley’s desire. The next sentence says it’s already happened and she’s back to rock bottom. It threw me off.

    The pitch feels vague. Ashley is miserable. Things were good. Things were bad. Things were good. Things were bad. Her trust falters. She is miserable. The thing is I’m not getting a sense of what exactly she is fighting for. Happiness? Her father turns up. There’s a step-sister thrown in. Why? What’s the point? After all these years, why would they turn up now? What are they trying to achieve? What is the conflict? She’s unhappy. Fine. She’s distrustful. Fine. She doesn’t like her step-sister. Fine. But what does she want? What is there to gain at the end of the book? Is all of this just to be happy? Even forgiving her father and liking her sister, as you say, won’t make a perfect family. Her mother would surely have her own feelings. Would they really start living with them again? The actual motive seems to be missing. All of this needs to be crystal clear in a pitch, and I’m not sure what it is.

    You write ‘Unable to grasp it, she retrieved’. Should it say retreated?

    You’ve done a great job of focusing on the one conflict. It’s much easier to understand with only the one thing to think about.

    You also write ‘and do everything she missed as a kid’. Who missed? Ashley? Her mother? What did she miss? Were they separated for a time so didn’t have the mother-daughter bonding?

    Overall, this is great revision. It’s much stronger than your first draft.

    I hope you find my feedback helpful.

    If you have any questions, let me know. I’ll be happy to expand. Good luck with it!

  2. Hi Sanyukta
    Thank you for sharing your pitch and pages. The strongest part of your pitch is here: "Ashley writes a controversial piece for the school paper. In turn, it only brings her misery and invites more trouble. When she finds out the love of her life might be scheming with her stepsister, it breaks her strength."

    I think it would be a good idea to focus on the controversial piece and let us know what the controversy is. If there is any way to see that controversy (and its effects) in the first five pages of your manuscript? This will strength your overall submission. The fallout from the news article should be more center stage in your pitch. In YA, the focus on parents isn't as interesting. So dive into what that controversy is and how it negatively affects your MC and what she must do to overcome the fallout.

    It's been a pleasure reading your words and I wish you the best of luck with writing!


  3. Hi Sanyukta,

    I think you have some good elements to this pitch. Unfortunately, I feel like they get lost in too many things going on.

    You start with Ashley wanting acknowledgement from her mother and then say she hit rock bottom. From what? How?

    You mention the fire, changing her lifestyle, and bullying and her ‘dead’ father returning and her having a stepsister etc. You get the idea. Focus on the most important plot point or two. Show us who Ashley is, what she wants, and who/what is in her way from getting it. Finally show what will happen if she doesn’t get it.

    Also, I know we’re only focusing on big picture suggestions, but I would definitely proof read your work. There are a lot of grammatical errors in your pitch and the pages as well that it becomes confusing and hard to tell what/how to critique. I have a critique group which really helps me with these types of issues in my work.

    As for your pages, you did a better job focusing on the letter and making the tension from it grow. Maybe you could do even more on that.

    Hope this is helpful. Let me know if you have any questions. And thanks for all of your help with my revisions. Good luck.


  4. Hi, Sanyukta,
    There is a lot to take in with this pitch, and I'm not sure what Ashley's driving motivation is. Does she want to be noticed by her mother as you stated in the first paragraph? Does she want to find love with this boyfriend that's mentioned? Does she want to put aside her feelings for her step-sister? Does she want to let go of her bitterness toward her father? And in the end, you state she wants to sympathize with her mother, but I thought she wanted her mother's attention rather than her mother needing to get her sympathy. Focusing Ashley's main motivation and her ultimate goal will help to pare some of the elements of this pitch down and give a clearer indicator of how various pieces in the story might come together.

    Within the five pages, you still have me hooked with that envelope, but then the minute Ashley realizes it's not about her, the tension seems to subside, primarily because I don't understand why the store and the bad relationship between her mom and uncle matter much to her. I can understand why they would matter to her mom, but why would Ashley care so much?

    I also don't know why she calls her "Valerie" rather than mom. If there is a reason she doesn't feel close to her, that needs to be clear so it doesn't seem awkward that a daughter is calling her mother by her first name.

    The character of Ashley is coming across as a conniving, sneaky one. I hope that's what you want. However, if you are going to make her this way, we don't want her to be "unsympathetic," which is a fancy way of saying we, as readers, want to connect with and feel for her. Currently, that's not happening as much as it could. Maybe her mother is angry with her for her past indiscretions and Ashley wants to be able to put those behind her so she gets her mother's trust. Yet, she still can't help herself from doing things like opening envelopes that aren't for her and planning to sneak into her mother's closet. Focus on really firming up this character, what her motives are, what her main goal is, what her main flaw is and how all of that works into the plot so that in the end, she can learn from her journey and become a better person for it.

    Thank you for all your hard work these past several weeks! Good luck with the story!!

  5. Hi Sanyukta,

    I'll echo what others are saying about the pitch. You have a collection of good plot elements (too many for the query, really) but no clear character arc or plot points. Try to begin by setting Ashley's situation in a couple short sentences. Build a middle paragraph that shows rising action. Use a closing paragraph to outline what she'll have to do. When [something, probably bad] happens, Ashley must [her goal or quest] or else [awful thing]. One of my favorite resources on queries is QueryShark. The queries forum on AgentQueryConnect is also a nice spot.

    I'd also recommend reading your work out loud for grammatical errors and flow. It's something I was advised to do, and it really helps.

    The pages have a more central focus and conflict now, which really helps. You might try clarifying the opening paragraph, because it's hard to grasp what exactly has happened at her school, except that it was bad.

    Best of luck, and keep after it!

  6. Sanyukta,

    Thank you for participating in the First Five Pages Writing Workshop. My thoughts are below.

    Pitch: I think you’re trying to tell too much in the pitch, so it loses its focus. What’s Ashley’s story goal? What’s keeping her from achieving that goal? What’s at stake if she doesn’t achieve it? Start with those three things and then expand slightly. Less is more.

    Pages: The opening line could be hookier. Ashley needs a stronger reason to believe the legal documents are about her, or we need to understand why she thinks they might be. She also needs to justify opening the letter instead of waiting for her mom to do it a few minutes later. Motivate Ashley’s actions and make sure she doesn’t come across as unlikeable. Right now, I’m not happy that she not only opened a legal document that wasn’t addressed to her, but then she went to open letters written to her mother. Motivation is the key. You can make your character do almost anything as long as we understand why she’s doing it. I would also like to see more of a distinction between Ashley’s voice and her mother’s. Right now, they sound too similar, both like teens.

    I think these pages have potential, but you need to go deeper in Ashley’s point of view. We don’t have a good sense of what she’s thinking or feeling, so we don’t really know her. There’s a lot of telling in these pages, but going deeper in her POV will help show more. I would also do another pass to catch the remaining spelling and grammar issues.

    Overall, while these pages need work, I think this could be a great story. Obviously, Ashley is dealing with something. If we had a little more of a hint as to what, or if her actions were better motivated, I think readers would be interested in learning what’s going on in her life and watching her grow.

    Lynnette Novak
    The Seymour Agency

  7. Hi Sanyukta,

    Your first line makes me feel for Ashley. I understand now that rehab in the first few pages was rehab for drinking. I wonder, what does Ashley want more than anything? This sounds like a heavy but real story filled with some great topics. I applaud you for taking this on. I will echo what the others are saying about query writing. I found this one to be quite helpful:

    I want to know what piece she writes for the school paper!! Cool that she is a writer too :)

    I think these pages are a lot stronger from all the revisions you have done. Great job. I would like to know more about Ashley and what she wants more than anything. What motivates her? Great work and I wish you all the best with your writing. Happy writing.

  8. Hi Sanyukta! There's a lot to like in these pages and you have some really unique turns of phrase. That said, I feel like you are at the beginning of your journey with this story. It's got tons of emotion and some interesting plot points but you're still working toward a cohesive, clear story. Per the comments above, the pitch is both too complicated and a little too vague. I'd focus on two or three critical characters and events and pare the rest away for the pitch. First pages-wise, the issue is similar: There's a bit too much and the focus of the piece is unclear. I think you'd derive some great benefit from a few writing courses. Check out for local young adult writing groups, classes, events and other resources. Most importantly, keep on writing and believe in yourself! Thank you for sharing your work! - Stasia