Sunday, January 20, 2019

1st 5 Pages January Workshop - Majo and Nessa Rev 2

Name: Majo and Nessa
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary


Gaming addict Asena has a secret crush on Milo, a boy she met through her virtual adventures. She’s fine with their online-only friendship—until he invites her to spend Spring Break with him in London.

Meeting Milo is a dream seven years in the making. To make it come true, she’ll have to keep her strict, dictatorial parents in the dark, or she can kiss both the trip and the boy goodbye. Dragging her best friend, best Misena-shipper, Daya with her for moral support, Asena is ready to conquer her fears and find happiness outside of her parents’ expectations. But when an adorable Milo picks them up at the airport, a surprising thought comes to Asena: Daya and Milo would be perfect for each other.

Through staged dates, bad decisions, and chasing their best friend’s dreams, the unexpected trip to London turns into a reverse love triangle where the two best friends play each other’s matchmaker, putting all three of their hearts on the line for a chance at love—at the risk of losing friendship altogether.


One lick never killed anyone.

Unless it was poison.

And considering Mom’s glare, a strawberry tart might just as well be poison.

Further down the buffet table, Mom turned her back to me and leaned over the fizzy water fountain. My eyes roamed over the golden croissant on her plate, then lowered toward the poor slices of kiwi in mine.


The table was dotted with foodie crimes—caramel custards, white-chocolate cupcakes, decadent éclairs, creamy cheesecakes. All gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, and Asena-free. It was unfair. A torture.

Come on, Ase. It’s just one lick.

The strawberry tart was waving at me from the dessert tray, a glazed gelée coating its crust in sweetened swirls of forbidden bliss.

One swipe. One lick.

A vicious voice rose inside me. She won’t see you.


I jumped, my knuckles snapping against the side of the table. My kiwis nearly toppled off to the floor, but remained glued to the crystal sheen of the plate. Dammit.

I blinked back tears of pain as I looked up to Mom. She was gaping at my plate, her lashes fluttering in confusion. For a moment I thought she would offer me a treat (a multigrain bagel, perhaps?) but her hand closed around a jar of pear salad that she promptly added to my plate.

“You need fruits. They’re good for your skin.” Leaning over, she whispered, “Did you try the face masks I bought you?”

I nodded, pressing my painful hand to my mouth. “Hm-hm.”

Mom straightened, her signature glare piercing holes into my cheeks. “Do you know how to use them? You have terrible circles under your eyes. People will wonder what you stayed up doing a Saturday night.”

By people, she meant Miss Chen, her best-friend-worst-nemesis who we were having brunch with. These two had a habit of keeping scores and an accurate history of everything the other’s children had ever done wrong in their lives. It was a sort of competition. These brunches were outright interrogations, and skipping on one was pleading guilty. It was their way of maintaining the peace between two dictatorial queendoms. To me, it was another torture.

“I was finishing a report,” I replied, evasively, my attention back to the buffet table.

Not for that chemistry test, that was for sure.

My phone buzzed in my pocket. Balancing my plate with one hand, I fished it out with the other. A text notification brightened the screen.

Milo: Are you any close to being done yet?

A smile perked up on my lips. The last text was literally me telling him bye in the car five minutes ago. He knew I wasn’t. My face warmed as I replied.

Me: 5 mins less than the last time you asked?

I screenshot the conversation, ready to send it to Daya for gushing time. I paused when the three dots appeared at the bottom of the screen.

Milo: Can’t they speed this up? There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you.

My stomach flipped. Oh. My—

“Asena!” Mom whisper-shouted. I caught a flash of black silk; the next second, Mom’s hand yanked my phone away. A scream nearly ripped out of me. “Daya can wait. Let’s go.”

My brain churned with unfinished thoughts as Mom walked away with my phone. I hoped—I prayed—she wouldn’t think of confirming her suspicions only to realize it wasn’t, in fact, Daya I was talking to. Not Daya who’d kept me up all night. Not Daya who’d got us late this morning.

I followed after Mom to our table—her favorite venue, next to the palatial bay windows, where the lighting of the morning sun gave her pale skin a brilliant glow.

I reached the table at the same time as Truby, Miss Chen’s son. He shot me the barest of lip twitch before taking the seat next to the one I was going for. I hesitated, considering rounding the table to sit beside Mom, when Miss Chen appeared in her turquoise dress, assaulting me with all the shiny glitters. Her sharp gaze made a sweep of me in my white peplum dress.

“You’ve gotten so tall, Asena.”

Miss Chen made sure I remembered my height every Sunday. Thank goodness she was here or I might forget how much I could never find long enough leggings to wear during classes. I solved the issue by wearing leg warmers over my pants any chance I got—until Mom decreed this was not a proper dress code for young, respectable, future-med-school students. It was as though she feared some college rep from the Ivy League was going to creep the student halls and add my name to the debauched list. (Because there obviously was such a thing as a debauched list.) And thanks to my leg warmers, my name might already be on it. Though just to be safe, Mom took the natural precautions and bought me a dress for every occasion. A bit much? Not to Mom. And clearly not to Miss Chen.

“I eat all my vegetables,” I replied with a tight smile.

Not picking up on my gruff tone, Miss Chen beamed. “Tall girls like you usually have trouble finding tall boys to mate.”

Despite myself, I coughed—a nervous tic I’d never been able to shake. Truby moved his mug of coffee to the other side of his plate, making a clear statement on where he stood in all of this. Out of spite, I wanted to cough in his face, but I couldn’t give Mom any more reasons to hate me, so I simply pulled out my own chair and plopped on it.

“Asena doesn’t have time to mate.”

My mother, the voice of wisdom, and eternal savior of my soul. Looking at her, she seemed to idolize me. Listening to her, I was some kind of otherworldly goddess who could do no wrong.

All an act, but I was thankful to have her by my side. Except, of course, for the phone stealing situation.

Mom rose her chin higher. “She has a big test coming up next week.”

Yes. The big test. The one I absolutely, unquestionably, non-negotiably had to pass. Without these extra credits, I couldn’t apply to med school. Without med school, I couldn’t ensure the succession of the cardiologist gene that ran in my family. I would be a sham. An unworthy child meant for exile. Phoneless, on top of everything.

Miss Chen let out a disinterested hum and picked up a warm cinnamon roll with two manicured fingers. She licked at her thumb, her eyes sparkling with delight, and eagerly reached for her dessert spoon.

The soft pastry gave way to the spoon, and a cloud of heat escaped, a scented joy that made my stomach grumble. Truby shot me a look. Being the same age, he was in most of my classes. Sometimes I had a feeling he was spying on me on behalf of his mother. Mom certainly suggested I did the same.

I shifted on my seat, and stabbed my fork into a piece of pear. Facing us, Mom and Miss Chen raved on about some Kamila girl who’d dared to send her children to Canada. Quite frankly, McGill University seemed like a good enough school. But I wasn’t sitting at the good enough table.

Something brushed against my leg. As I peeked under the table, my heart made a rattling jump. How did you get there, buddy?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I really love this revision. Your pitch hooked me with a unique concept— love triangle? Wow, I’d like to know what motivates Asena to give up her online affair with Milo. Very interesting.

  2. I really like the revision! Considering the pitch and that the focus of the book is the crush on Milo, their connection through gaming, and a potential trip to see him, I think working in a little more detail on who Milo is among the texts could help shape that. It could be in narrative - something like, for a boy I'd never met in person he sure was on top of my schedule... or I imagined he was playing [name game]. I wished I was online with him so we could [specific gaming term] but here I was stuck having lunch with Mom and her friend... Or extend the texts a few more lines if you can add an organic way to show how they know each other. Have her question what his question is and whether it relates to the game, giving a little background detail on how they met without going into lengthy explanation.

    The writing here is really great. I loved the description at the end about the pastry giving way to the spoon and how delicious it seems.

  3. Wow, that's quite a pitch! I've not seen a reverse love triangle and I'm definitely intrigued about how that plays out over the course of the novel. I think you've hit a lot of interesting points--meeting someone on the internet, gaming, friendship, romance, family dynamics--that will resonate with teen readers.

    That said, now that I know what the conflict is, I would encourage you to think about beginning the book somewhere else. I like the new introduction of Milo, but for me, it's too subtle for a first scene. What if you open with a scene between Asena and Milo online, and maybe she's texting Daya at the same time, lamenting about how hard it will be to take the trip to meet him? Then if you follow it up with the scene you've shared with us, the reader understands why Asena is worried. Just a suggestion of course. Conflict should be right up front, though, so the reader knows why they should care.

    Best of luck to you with this project and thank you for being brave and letting all of us read!

  4. Hi!

    Pitch: Have I mentioned how much I love your voice? This pitch is full of it! It sounds like a fun romp and with your humor, would be a great read.

    Having read the pitch, I’m curious if you could work in just a bit of hint about her gaming into these first pages—you mention she was up late working on something that *wasn’t* school, can you just be more specific there so the reader gets an immediate idea of what’s important to her? I like the added bit of their texts back and forth.

    I think you’ve set up fairly clear stakes for Asena-her mom, med school, and you’ve hinted at the complication of Milo.

    Great job! Good luck!

  5. This pitch is amazing! You hooked me. :)

    I love the revision as well. The addition of Milo piques my interest without overwhelming the intro. Personally, it feels like enough of a pull to keep readers going without making the full scene about him. I kind of like the hint of more to come as we get to know her ordinary life (and how her mom is impacting that!)

    One question: Does food play into the rest of the story, or is it just a representation of how strict her mom is? I didn't read about anything like it in the pitch, so I was just wondering how it relates to the overall story. :)

    Great job on the revisions! I would definitely read more.

  6. Hi, I agree with Sammi. Milo adds intrigue. The dynamic of boy, friend and Asena gives some excitement to the scene. The mother and Ms. Chen are perfect. And, like before, I'm hooked by a wanting so apparent for a treat rather than the gluten-free alternatives. I think I like this version because it offered the glimpse into Asena, who responds to her setting. Obedient girl in the presence of her mother, she has the potential to be interesting with her friends. You can't beat the connection created by a discreet pass of a pastry. Thanks, Jeannie Lambert

  7. This is Erin posting for Amy:

    Hey Majo and Nessa,

    The pitch is great! The addition of Milo to this revision is a nice one – I feel less disoriented about who Asena is in the world (beyond her relationships with strawberry tarts and her mother). That said, the pitch (Milo and the dream of meeting him, seven years in the making) doesn’t match up with the first five pages.

    If this is to be a manuscript about gaming and a reverse (!) love triangle, we need to see those things right up front. A reverse love triangle is a sure hook for so many readers. Right now these pages read like an introduction to a book about mother/daughter struggle, the fight for autonomy in a family with other ideas about one’s future, and a possible trouble-with-food story. Milo is mentioned, as is Daya, but neither mentions give the reader any sense of how important they’re to become to the story. What you have here is great – but it’s not the right introduction to hook a reader to the story you’re pitching. Does that make sense?

    Two quick points – you have “Asena” and “Misena” in your pitch. Are they both referring to Asena or Misena someone new? Also, I wrote no specific comments on this draft because you’ve tightened it up so well, other than the very last line where “Something brushed against my leg…” She peeks under the table and refers to a “buddy” but with the presence of Truby and no recent, specific mention of the tart, one’s imagination veers in another direction… ! ;)

    The beginning is (for me) the hardest part because it lays out what the story’s going to be. I suggest picking up five of your all-time favorite novels – ones whose stories you could recite in your sleep – and really inspecting their first five pages to see how they do it. Who are the main characters? What is revealed about them right off the bat? How does it connect to where they end up?

    Can’t wait to see where this goes. Happy writing!

  8. This is Erin posting for Carlie:
    Overall, I think this is a very strong opening. I enjoyed a lot of elements, particularly the balance between narrative and dialogue that really gave me a solid vision of the Asena’s world and the people who populate it. Even in these opening pages, I can see that the people around her have great dimension. I love that we immediately get an idea of the relationship Asena has with her mother, and that it’s both loving and provides a source of antagonism for Asena. I know that the book will have a romance element because I read the pitch, but it could be just as interesting as a mother-daughter story. My one caveat, and this may be unfair because I haven’t read more of the manuscript, is that Daya sounds a little like someone who exists to prop up the main character. When she’s introduced in the opening, what if there were (for example) a line about the thing Asena loves most about Daya? Aside from that, I think you’re on a great path here.