Monday, May 21, 2018

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Veile Rev 2

ame: Adam Veile
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Title: Lucy the Fifth-grade Fairy Monster


Fifth-grader Lucy Samsa thinks fairies are for storybooks—until she wakes up one morning with wings on her back. Confused by her new appendages and afraid her classmates will laugh and her parents will put her in the zoo, she hides her wings under a bulky sweater.

She thinks the wings are a curse until two Tinker Bell-sized fairies appear at her window. They teach her to fly and invite her to the fairy castle. Thinking she’s found a place to fit in, she follows her new friends but finds the fairy castle is barely taller than her, and when they teach her to cast a sparkle spell, she ends up blowing up a rose bush. To the tiny, frou-frou fairies, Lucy is a big, clumsy monster, and they banish her.

Dejected, Lucy then figures out why she’s the only big fairy—a fairy hunter lurking in the woods has spent decades chasing big trophies. He’s snatching kids, trying to find which is the big fairy, and now he’s on Lucy’s trail. Armed with only her sparkle spell and two tiny friends, Lucy has to risk giving up her secret and face the fairy hunter to save her friends.

First Five Pages:

Lucy Samsa didn’t have wings when she went to bed. Now, as she stared at her reflection in the mirror at the back of her bedroom closet, two small wings flicked back and forth on her back. Fear, confusion, and excitement spun a tangled web of disjointed thoughts in her brain. The more she tried to make sense of it, the more disoriented she became.

It seemed like a trick, like some kind of photo filter on the mirror. She touched the glass with the tips of her fingers, leaving sweaty prints that slowly evaporated. She told herself that mirrors don’t have photo filters. But, then again, fifth-graders don’t have wings.

Lucy reached back and felt the wings, hoping they weren't real, that they were some sort of costume. They felt like wax paper, and she realized she could feel the pressure from her fingertips just the same as if she were touching any other part of her body. They were a part of her.

As her heart raced, the wings spread, extending just inches beyond her shoulders. They weren’t bird wings or even angel wings. They were a translucent cream color, pulsing with streaks of gold and blue. They buzzed faster and faster until she could barely see them. Wind swirled her hair and rocked her hanging clothes.

It's a dream, she thought, and the wings calmed down. She'd felt terrible the night before, and she tossed and turned for hours. She looked at the sweaty, crumpled cocoon of blankets on the bed. It’s all a dream.

"LUCY, BREAKFAST!" her mom hollered from downstairs. If it was a dream, it was very realistic.

She scanned her room, looking for signs that something was off, that her desk was on the ceiling, or her lamp was talking, or some other indication it was a dream. When she saw nothing strange, her eyes locked on the posters that hung above her desk, gritty images of superheroes striking fierce poses, and she grinned. If this was a dream, she was almost certainly a superhero. Even if this wasn’t a dream, she might be a superhero. What else were wings for?

Lucy returned to the mirror and tried to flap the wings. The muscles in her face twitched as she concentrated, but the wings jerked awkwardly, like her dad trying to dance. They weren't even in sync with each other. The left one flicked forward, while the right one looked like it was vibrating. These small, uncoordinated wings did not look like they belonged to a superhero.

She climbed onto her bed and bounced gently enough to keep the bed springs from squeaking and alerting her parents. She knew those small bounces were not going to get her airborne. She bent her knees as she jumped, gaining height until she thought she might hit her head on the ceiling fan. She bounced twice and dove through the air. She knew it was a terrible idea the moment her feet left the bed.

Her wings folded like a broken umbrella. She belly flopped off the bed and crashed to the floor, burning her forearms as she slid across the carpet. “This is not a dream,” she moaned, and she wasn’t a superhero. Her wings twitched on her back. She imagined how she looked, like a dying bug on the floor.

“It sounds like there’s an elephant up there!” shouted her mother.

I fly about as well as an elephant, she thought.

“Come on, Lu, breakfast! We’re going to be late for school!”

School. She couldn’t go to school like this. She was a monster. Kids were picked on for being too fat, for being too skinny, for getting a haircut that wasn’t like everyone else’s. They got picked on, and they were normal human beings. Not like her. Not like whatever she was. Her stomach twisted in a knot.

What was she?

She heard heavy footsteps on the stairs. Her mom was coming. She could not see the wings. Normally, when her mom saw a bug, she’d scream and grab a shoe. If it were too big, like the size of a quarter, she’d run in terror. Lucy was a million times bigger than a quarter. Her mom might die of fright from just looking at her. The last thing she’d see was that her only child had turned into some kind of mutant.

In a panic, Lucy tried to pull the wings off, which sent a bolt of pain through her shoulders. She tried to peel off her black tank top, but there was no way to get it over her wings. If she ever wanted the shirt off, she’d have to use scissors.

Then, came a knock on the door.

“Don’t come in!” Lucy shouted to her mother. She knew right away it was the wrong thing to say. Of course her mother would be coming in now.

Lucy pushed on the left wing, and it easily folded across her back to her right hip like origami. When she let go it sprang back up. She grabbed a baggy purple sweater off the closet shelf and tried to jam it on. The knob to her bedroom door turned, but Lucy was stuck with a sweater over her head.

“Wait!” Lucy slammed her closet door shut, just as her mother opened her bedroom door.

“Lucy?” The floor creaked as her mother crossed the room.

Lucy yanked on the sweater, trying to force her wings down. The closet door swung open as Lucy was pulling the bottom of the sweater to her waist.

Lucy smiled sweetly at her mother, and her mother stared back with a curious look on her face.

“Surprise!” said Lucy. “I decided to wear one of the sweaters grandma gave me.” She had hoped to go her whole life without wearing one of those horrible sweaters.

“You don’t think it’s a little warm for September?” She was studying Lucy a little too closely, and Lucy’s toes squirmed in her socks.

The Farmer’s Almanac said it’d be chilly today.” She had no idea if that was true, but there was no way her mom would argue with The Farmer’s Almanac.

Her mom nodded. “Your grandma would be very happy. Now, let’s get moving before we’re late for school.”

A wave of panic raced through Lucy. “My stomach hurts,” she blurted out. “I think I’m sick.” She realized that she hadn’t said it right, that she should have moaned and held her belly.

“Some breakfast will fix you up,” answered her mom. “We’re leaving in twenty minutes.”


  1. Thanks in advance, everyone! I appreciate your feedback. Best of luck in the future!

  2. Adam,

    You've made a huge improvement since your first submission. All that's left now are a few minute details.

    On your pitch:
    I think you do a good job of making the concept clear, concise, and well defined. I know what's at stake and if reading this on the back of a book, I would certainly be intrigued. The second paragraph is a little wordy, with the sentences being a little longer than before. See if you can trim some or re-word. I don't have much to say on the next paragraph, but if I were to read the whole query, I would want some comp titles.

    Onto the pages:

    I think you could trim a few words such as "even," or avoid negations like "they weren't even X" Sometimes describing something as what it's not is good, but most of the time I think one should describe in the positive.

    I would love to see the wings described in the first paragraph. That would paint a strong image in my mind. It's a personal preference, but I prefer that over starting with action.

    I think you should have her leave her room sooner and actually show her with her mom, trying to hide the wings, which I'm sure is what comes next, but I wasn't much of a fan of having that time in her room, scrambling around to be so drawn out.

    I'd like to know more about her love of superheros, if that's going to be a theme throughout the rest of the story.

    Everything else is line edits. Internal dialogue should be limited. Keep what's necessary or perhaps make it stand out more. Stream of consciousness is a fav of mine when it's done well.

    Loved her trying to fly. I would definitely keep that. I don't know how dark the rest of the story is, but that bit of whimsy and humor in there is always fun.

    I think you've got a lovely story and I hope it works out for you.

    Good luck,


  3. Hi Adam!

    Every time I read this, I keep thinking POOR LUCY!! Such a sweetie.
    Your pitch does an excellent job of capturing a younger voice, and I'm intrigued. I agree with James that the second paragraph is wordy. Also, 'Dejected' seems like too big of a word, considering the voice. And I'm not sure if it gives too much away? Lucy blowing up a rose bush sounds like a great, surprising moment, but you give it away.

    As for the chapter, I'm so glad you scrapped the waking-up beginning! This is so much more immediate! You've also done SO WELL in writing more whimsy into the story, which I felt was missing in your previous drafts. Seriously, I'm blown away by the improvement.

    Really, my only suggestions are similar to James. Her scrambling feels a TOUCH drawn-out, and the internal dialogue might not be necessary. The voice occasionally feels too logical/adult, but as I've mentioned, it's a thousand times stronger than it was.

    Overall, AMAZING improvement! Good luck with revision!

    ~Mary :)

  4. Hello Adam!

    Great opening line. It establishes everything so cleanly. Isn't it funny how things pop out at the end of agonizing revisions and in the end they're so simple but wonderful?

    I agree that you could go through and strip out all the tentative phrasing: likes and justs and evens, etc. Really, just tightening up the colloquial turns of phrase. It may seem like they're lending to your voice, but I think you'll find once you take them out, you won't miss them. You could also go through and get consistent with your contractions.

    The superhero additions are great, but they gets a little repetitive in this read. Probably because it's all new additions. I also concur that the pacing feels a little clunky since you've changed SO much over the past few revisions. It happens! So, once you have a chance, I'd recommend giving the text a breather (I know, we haven't had a chance to do this since the workshop started!) and after a break, go back and try to read the whole thing fresh, and you'll see where you need to smooth it out.

    The first sentence of your pitch is GREAT. The rest is too long :) . I think you can move straight from that into explaining -- on a conceptual level -- the tone of the story and how it shapes the adventures Lucy will soon experience. Think about how effective your first sentence is at establishing the age, the personality of your main character, and the inciting incident. Harness this efficiency in the rest of a one-paragraph pitch that packs in the crux of the story's conflict and indicates how you're going to tell it.

    Aside: I'm a little confused by the first sentence of your third paragraph, too -- how does the fairy hunter explain why Lucy is the only big fairy? This might not even matter for a revised pitch, but it stuck out to me as confusing so I'm mentioning it.

    Best wishes, and thanks for the opportunity to read you the past few weeks!


  5. Hi Adam

    This is so much stronger! Well done. As the others have said, maybe let it sit for a little while as so much has changed, and then line-edit and polish to tighten it up a little bit.

    I liked the idea of the story in your pitch, but the pitch itself was a little wordy and woolly and didn't really grab me and suck me in.

    The first sentence is great, but maybe think about paring the rest back to essentials to make it pop. I'd also consider the word choices - some of the words you've used, like appendages, felt a little too 'literary' and out of place in Lucy's story.

    Good luck with any further tweaks you decide on. I've really enjoyed seeing some of Lucy's story.


  6. Adam,

    Once again you've done a terrific job with revisions! This version certainly opens with a strong hook! And overall the pages are working much better for me. They feel more focused and tighter, at least at a high level.

    Because all the changes you've made in a short period of time, there's some smoothing out remaining to be done. So it's time to get out the fine grit sandpaper! As mentioned by others, I think you can trim some words. And look out for phrases like: "two small wings flicked back and forth on her back." The two backs feel awkward to me.

    I'd also suggest you try to show Lucy's emotions more, rather than just describe them. Consider: "Fear, confusion, and excitement spun a tangled web of disjointed thoughts in her brain." It'd be great to actually see those emotions play out rather than merely having the narrator tell us how she felt. You do it well elsewhere in the pages, like when you describe her sweaty fingers or her racing heart. We should see more of that.

    As for the pitch, I think it needs some work, to be honest. The overall dynamic feels great--she doesn't fit into the human world or the fairy world. Love that. And I like the addition of peril in the form of the fairy hunter. But in general, I feel like the pitch is too in the weeds. You get into her blowing up a rose bush and wearing a bulky sweater but you don't explain the larger issues that someone reading the pitch would need to know. For example, you probably need to explain why Lucy wakes up with wings in the first place. Was she always a fairy and only just grew her wings? Was she magically transformed into a fairy overnight? Was she cursed?

    Finally, the pitch should convey some of the voice and finesse you've demonstrated in your pages. The pitch, compared to the pages just feels a bit flat.

    Best of luck to you! Keep up the good work!

  7. Hello, Adam!

    So I am sucker for all things fairies and I think you have done a great job of showcasing a younger story.

    Like everyone says, cutting down on some of the filler words will tighten things up. In the pitch, I was confused how no one explained Lucy's bigness. Wouldn't the fairies have known their own history?

    And like Rob, I am going to suggest dig into Lucy's emotions. You fall back into that telling space, which creates distance between Lucy and the reader. Show me her fear and confusion. :)

    Anywho, that is just my take.

    Best of luck,

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I realized I made an error and corrected it in the new comment. Apologies!

  9. This is seriously so amazing! You have brought this such a long way and it shows your talent as a writer. You have pushed yourself here and it has made this piece shine.

    I'm going to suggest the same thing I did for Rebecca--maybe re-write these pages in first person POV. I know I LOVE writing in first, but it helps me find voice for my characters and it might help you find more of Lucy's. We get glimpses of it, but it sort of slips in and out throughout the piece. Maybe trying it as a writing exercise will help you keep it consistent and eliminate some of the "telling."

    Overall though you should be so proud of this. I love this story and I love Lucy. You do a great job getting us to care for Lucy and root for her. I cannot wait to see this on bookshelves someday. You have something special here.

    Best wishes!

  10. Hi Adam,

    Thanks for sharing your revision this week!

    You've done a really good job of interpreting feedback and executing changes in each revision pass. That skill is essential for writers, and your willingness to reach for improvement WILL pay off.

    Your opening line certainly grabs our attention now, but the telling that follow it keeps us removed from the character: "Fear, confusion, and excitement spun a tangled web of disjointed thoughts in her brain." Perhaps slow down a little bit here. Ground us in Lucy's world. Hook us with that opening line, then let us *experience* the whole situation with Lucy. Show us how she feels. Give us a few beats to feel it with her. You're very close with this opening.

    I find the pitch is a little too much of a summary...I get the concept, but I'd like to see a line such as "When 10yrold Lucy wakes up with wings on her back, she must ??? before [consequences]."

    If you explore this traditional pitch format, it should help you focus on your central story question. Right now I'm not sure what that is! Is it: Why is Lucy a fairy? Remember, the plot is what happens to your character in order to help her grow over the course of the story. I'd like to see a little more of that reflected in the pitch: what Lucy wants (is she trying to get RID of the wings?), what actions she takes and how conflict prevents her from reaching her goal, and finally the consequences if she does not reach her goal (ie: the stakes). You have a lot of interesting elements, but in the pitch we need to focus on the STORY.

    Congrats again on doing so much good work. You have the perseverance that this job takes!

    My best,
    First Five Mentor