Monday, May 21, 2018

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Wyatt Rev 2

Name: Paige Wyatt
Genre: YA Contemporary
Title: Never, Sometimes

Fiona Pennington is just trying to survive high school. Her pink hair, love for punk rock, and plus size figure make her a target, but when she sneaks out to watch her crush’s band play, she thinks she’s finally found a group of friends that understands her. 

Until the knock down, drag out fight at Denny’s that ends with her friends in handcuffs and the rich and powerful Easton siblings who started it getting off without a slap on the wrist. 

It gets worse when Fiona’s mother forces her to join student council to keep her out of trouble, which leads her directly to Landon Easton, the boy with whom she shared her first kiss on the basketball court then ditched her when he chose popularity instead. Their time together drudges up love, hate, and everything in between, completely disrupting their opposite worlds.

Fiona struggles to balance feelings for Landon and loyalty to her friends. When one of her friends is charged with assaulting one of Landon’s, every encounter with him is betrayal. As tension builds between their two groups, Fiona and Landon have to stop the fighting before it goes too far and destroys more than relationships and reputations.

Final Revision:

Today was supposed to be a good day. I planned to spend my afternoon basking in the glory that is Brendan White, but here I am, avoiding Principal McKay’s x-ray glare instead. 
“Fiona, did you give Brendan a weapon?” Mr. McKay asks as he neatly folds his hands on his desk and, I shit you not, hunches over like he’s Mr. Burns from the Simpsons.

I’m sweating and my thighs are stuck to his pleather couch that’s supposed to look classy but really screams Walmart chic. I don’t want to end up in detention with all the other burnout degenerates of Middleton North High School, but I don’t like lying, either.

“Weapon?” I echo. It’s double standard bullshit anyway. McKay is only out for blood because tomorrow is the first night of football regionals and Connor Easton is the star quarterback who now, thanks to Brendan, has three broken fingers on his throwing hand. He didn’t give a shit when Connor snapped a picture of my ass and put a “Wide Load” banner over it, and nothing happened when Connor got the entire football team to moo at me when I had to run the mile in gym class.

But I walked into school today determined to feel good about myself despite all that. My mom finally let me dye my hair pink last night, I’m wearing the only outfit that makes me look hot, and Lily did my makeup this morning. I just wanted to get Brendan’s attention, not to aid and abet in the beat down of Connor Easton, but I couldn’t say no when Brendan asked for my help. 
Mr. McKay tosses a plastic bag onto his desk in disgust. Sealed inside is my wristband. The safety pins that were once clasped closed are open and there are chunks of bloody flesh on their sharp tips. “Several teachers confirmed this is yours.”

My face is expressionless despite my increased heartbeat. “It’s not.”

He leans in like he’s about to tell me something no one else knows, but I see through this act. Every adult I know has tried this on me at least once in the past year, but I spot the disingenuity like a turd in a punch bowl. “Fiona, you’re a bright young lady. Taking all honors classes.” He sighs and it’s unnecessarily loud. “But since your father died--”
I brace myself. I’d rather break every bone in both my hands and never play piano again than think about my dad right now.

“You’ve taken a turn down the wrong path.” He presses his mouth into a line as his eyes brush past my nose ring.  “First you quit the basketball team, and now this. I just don’t think you’re hanging around with a good crowd.” 

I look at the clock, trying to ignore the knot in my stomach. “I appreciate the concern, Mr. McKay, but I should be in Geometry.” 

After a few minutes of questions, he writes me a pass and I’m out of the office as fast as my Chucks can go. 

Lily is hunched over her phone outside the office, her thumbs flying as she leans against a locker. She should be in Geometry too, but of course she’s waiting for me because that’s what best friends do. “What did McKay want?” she asks without looking up.

We fall into step as we walk. “He asked about the wristband. I said I didn’t know anything.”

“Good. You can’t get expelled, too.”

“Expelled?” I stop so fast she almost crashes into me.
She leans in, her rainbow braids falling over her shoulders. “They’re expelling Brendan this time.”

Expelled means I won’t see Brendan on my way to English class, or stare at him in Geometry, or sit next to him at lunch and pretend I don’t notice our legs touching under the table. “Seriously?”

“I heard he’s out ten days while they decide if he’s expelled or not,” she explains as I try to compose myself.

“Have you talked to him?”

She looks down at her phone. “He hasn’t replied.”

“Damn.” I kick a locker and a teacher pokes her head out of her classroom. I ignore her warning to be quiet and curse again, but it comes out as a whisper. 

Lily squeezes my shoulder and her brown eyes meet mine. “Nothing we can do about it now. Except maybe get revenge.”

My stomach lurches at the look in her eyes, so I change the subject. “We should go,” I suggest as I check the time on my phone. “We’re already late thanks to McKay’s inquisition. The one thing I can control today is my A in Geometry.”

When we arrive, Landon Easton stares at me like I’m some undiscovered species. I learned a long time ago not to back down when people do this, so I stare back. Landon looks away first, thank God. Today has been a shitshow and I don’t need him making it worse. I slide into a seat in the back and immediately start working on the packet, hoping I can go unnoticed for the rest of this awful day. 
After class I’m headed out the door and thinking about texting Brendan when someone taps me on the back. I stop short and almost knock Landon over. He looks like he’s straight out of a Hollister commercial with his Captain America haircut and basketball t-shirt. Most of us have to stumble through high school with zits and crooked teeth, but Landon has looked disgustingly perfect since we were little kids. “Hey,” he says.

I haven’t had a real conversation with him since the end of basketball season last year, and I’m definitely not in the mood to rehash any of that right now. “What?”
He holds up a pencil. “You dropped this.”

I snatch it out of his hand as his cousin Evan rounds the corner. Evan is shaped like a gorilla except I’m pretty sure any gorilla is smarter than he is. You’d think with all their money, the Eastons could buy him a brain. “What’d your boyfriend do to my brother, hambeast?”
I don’t dare show how much the insult stings. “How creative. A fat joke.”
Evan tugs my hair like we’re in third grade. “You look like a fat clown with this hair, frogbeast.”
I try to stay as calm as possible even though I want to run away. “I bet Brendan can break your hand too if you want to keep running your mouth.”

Evan’s jaw clenches and he steps closer. “You better watch your back, bitch. We’re coming for you and all your freak friends.”

Landon inserts himself between us, which stops Evan because Landon is tall. Last year he was the only freshman to make the varsity basketball team. “Let’s go.” Landon keeps his hands on his cousin’s shoulders as they walk away. 

As much as I hate to admit it, Evan’s threat rattles me. Ever since Brendan started fighting back when the Eastons would mess with one of us, the whole school has been on edge. I watch the back of Landon’s head as he continues down the hallway toward the cafeteria. 
Lily appears, taking the spot to my right and following my gaze. “What’d he want?”

I keep my eyes on Landon and think about how Lily would stop being my friend if she knew the truth about him and me. “I think Brendan started something we’re going to have to finish.”


  1. Paige,

    I like your pitch and I'm glad to get a glimpse as to what the story is about. I think you could cut some words and avoid cliches like "knock down, drag out" and a phrase like "it gets worse." We know it gets worse by the following paragraph explaining the stakes.

    As for your pages, I think you start in a good place and you're doing a better job of showing not telling, but push that even more. I feel like I'm getting a lot of expository info in the middle of dialogue. Especially with Landon, for example. I think you could make that conversation more passive-aggressive and most importantly,awkward. I think Fiona would make things awkward for him. Or maybe she's shy deep down?

    Overall, I think you'd do well to spread out information as much as you can. In first person, you have more room for exposition, which is a huge advantage, but in getting all that information across I feel the quality of prose slips. Mystery is good in the beginning. See if you can use language to pull the read in better.

    This is an interesting story with clear conflict and a great voice. Good luck.


  2. Hi, Paige!

    I was so excited to read your revision! I've loved your story so much :)

    I do think the pitch starts on a rather cliched line. The "understands" shouldn't be pluralized, and I'd love to know why she feels at home with them? I also second James's note about the redundancy of "it gets worse". There's wonderful tension in the plot, and really, my only other suggestion is to smooth out the wordiness. It does get dense at times. Perhaps try sprinkling some of Fiona's fantastic snarkiness to give agents/editors a taste of what you can do?

    For the chapter itself, you're still NAILING voice. There's a 1000x more depth to Fiona than there was in the first draft. You should be so proud! The pace does feel a leeeeeetle quick, but that's about my only concern. Stellar tension, stellar voice, and a truly sympathetic heroine. I want more!!!!

    Thank you for sharing your work, and good luck with revisions!


  3. Hi Paige,

    I think it's coming together! It seems like the voice is stronger and it feels more evergreen now. Some of the very specific references, like the Rancid t-shirt, might have become outdated, but you've managed to remove those and still have a clear portrait of your character.

    On the pitch, my suggestion is to frame the whole thing around Landon and the conflict with the Eastons. I know you're trying to establish some things in the first paragraph, but I think you can do that while still focusing on the conflict.

    Just a few suggestions on the pages. In the last draft, you mentioned that the principal couldn't prove the bracelet was hers, and now without that line, it seems like she gets out of there really easily, that she should have gotten in trouble.

    This draft also feels a little more front loaded in terms of information. Maybe some of it could be cut or moved back. For example, what if the part about wearing makeup and the only outfit that looks hot is moved back to when Evan is making fun of her? I think that would really sting for the reader, juxtaposing her thoughts of how great she is looking with his insults.

    Congrats on all of your progress, and best of luck with your work!


  4. Hi Paige - love the pitch--it's a little Romeo & Juliet-esque, which I am a big fan of. I would've liked a mention of her dad dying in the pitch though, it feels like that has something to do with feeling like an outsider? Otherwise, the improvements keep getting better. Still loving the voice. Best of luck!!


  5. Hi Paige!

    Thanks for this. Looking good.

    My favorite part about reading these revisions is seeing how effortless your changes are. You respond to feedback in a way that incorporates the essence of the critiques without compromising your craft or your story. To me, this shows a level of writing maturity that is extremely desirable as you move into the commercial publishing world. Great work.

    Your pitch is too long, and I can tell you already cut it down because it's exactly 200 words :) For this manuscript, I think you can easily get your pitch down to a single paragraph. Right now it reads like the teaser cover copy, which is in the right direction, but a different kind of pitch.

    My advice for you here is to imagine this book is your favorite book in the world and you're trying to convince your friend - who doesn't read and has a short attention span - that they would love it and that they really should read it. Take out the plot events that will unfold naturally in the story and focus on the drama and stakes. If your friend told you "But that sounds like every other contemporary high school book," how would you convince them that it's NOT and that THIS IS THE BEST ONE?

    Aaand I'll leave you with that. Best wishes and thanks for the opportunity to read you the past few weeks!


  6. Hello, Paige,


    I don't mind that your pitch sounds like cover copy, but I do think either way, there is room to tighten. Consider using a 1 line positioning statement for your pitch.

    Overall, I'd love to see this in my querymanager one day.

    Best of luck,

  7. Hi Paige

    I knew Fiona and Landon were going to be a thing! Yes!

    On your query, it feels a bit 'flabby'? It feels like there are a lot of extraneous words and I would be inclined to try and tighten it up. (I think you may also have meant 'dredged' rather than 'drudged'?)

    I love the sound of the story, I just want the query to pop a little more.

    I agree with the comments above about this version of your pages. They start really strong but around para 3/4 the exposition starts to slow down the pace too much. Maybe move some of this to later in the story if possible?

    Thank you for sharing the last few weeks. I love your writing and can't wait to buy your book one day!

    Best of luck with revisions and querying.