Sunday, June 16, 2019

1st 5 Pages June Workshop - Crisci Rev 2

Name: Kim Crisci
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary (with Sci-fi elements)
Title: All the Time in the World

Pitch
Seventeen-year-old Derek has seen his future a million times. He's going to play professional baseball, have a gorgeous wife, 2.5 kids, and live on the beach. As Astoria High's popular second baseman, Derek is on his way towards achieving that dream. The only thing left? Win the heart of his best friend, Corinne. But Derek's life is upended when he meets Jordan and Deirdre, two stranded children with a big secret: they're his future son and daughter. To make matters worse, Derek learns he's not married to Corinne, but to his abrasive, overachieving rival, Michelle, and their marriage is falling apart.
Forced to play house, a reluctant Derek and Michelle must work together to balance life as teenager and parent, all while searching for a way to send their children home. Along the way, Derek grows more attached his imperfect family, ultimately changing from a carefree jock to a father of two. His emotions conflict further when he realizes he's also falling in love with Michelle.
Derek is now torn between the life he envisioned and the life he never saw coming. He better pick a path soon, because little does he know, someone else wants to choose for him.   

Chapter One
Deirdre Lyttle has all the time in the world.
Sometimes, it’s a terrible burden. 
They say time is a relative concept, used to push the world along, a measurement of self-worth and importance. Deirdre closes her eyes, feeling the clock at work.
April 3rd, 2029. 7:20 pm.
She has a day planner, a watch, an alarm clock, a daily routine, all tools to keep her life in order.
Except time isn’t natural. Animals don’t use planners. Trees don’t wear watches. Fish don’t celebrate New Year’s Eve. Only humans chart the days ahead, which means they recognize someday, printed on a distant calendar, that their lives will end, and they’ll be gone.
But the question will remain: Did they make the time count?
Deirdre thinks about her mother, a woman who uses her time well. There’s rarely a moment where Michelle Lyttle hasn’t locked herself in the drafty basement, beneath the light fixtures that blink and buzz, welding panels together, so her employer’s exploratory rover can withstand Mars’ frigid temperatures without cracking.
Michelle says being a good engineer requires hard work and vision. But to be a great engineer, you need perseverance. And time.
Which is why Michelle keeps busy, making dinner for her family but never eating, foregoing date night with her husband to install new wheel cylinders in her model, skipping movie marathons with her children and meteor showers beneath the Oregon sky.
And that’s why, when her twelve-year old daughter invites her to a game of chess, Michelle usually declines.
Mom’s working. Don’t bother her. Deirdre pushes aside the loneliness, the slow shattering of her heart and focuses on the game.
She has Michelle’s ambition, evident by the two dozen Astoria Chess Club ribbons tacked to her pinboard.
White pawn is exposed. Black bishop to B6.
The checkered board sits flat against her bed. Deirdre plays on a wooden set, one of those five-dollar boxes you buy for kids who always lose the pieces. Her father bought her a pewter set for her tenth birthday, featuring kings and queens dressed as wizards, pawns wielding shields and a walnut board.
She doesn’t use it.
Take the black knight. White bishop to F6.
Deirdre drags the bishop to its new square, pulling out the black knight. The white bishop is now flanked in both corners by black’s queen and black’s pawn. She picks up the queen, runs her thumb over the coronet. Then she picks up the pawn.
Who should take the bishop? Queen or pawn?
Play the queen, the easy route says. She can do anything, move anywhere. Yet, the pawn can be anything, go anywhere, leave a bigger mark on the board.
Deirdre’s door swings open. She doesn’t look up; she knows who’s standing there. The irregular breathing, the patter of small, hurried feet treading on her carpet, the snort of phlegm tells her more than words ever could.
“Hey, Dee—”
“—No.”
The young boy stops. “I didn’t say anything.”
“I don’t care, Jordan,” Deirdre says to her pieces. “You’re supposed to knock before entering someone’s room.”
“Oh. Gotcha.” Dutifully, Jordan closes her door and taps gently on the jamb. “Knock-knock.”
“You have to leave before—ugh, never mind.” Deirdre sets down her pawn. “What do you want?”
“I got something to show you,” he says, round cheeks swelling with cheer. He lifts the paper in his hand.
This is routine with him, barging into his big sister’s room with something he has to show her, the zeal and giddiness moving through him like tremors, eyes gleaming with anticipation. But an eight-year-old’s attention span typically opens itself to unbridled curiosity, and before Deirdre knows it, Jordan has something valuable of hers in his hand, waving it around like an airplane, adding engine revs and gunner noises for full effect.
“I’ve already seen it,” Deirdre says.
“Nuh-uh.” He waves the folded note in the air. “This is new stuff.”
Jordan hoists himself onto her bed, crawling on hands and knees to his sister’s side. The chess set ripples, the larger pieces tipping into their neighbors. Deirdre works quickly to upright the pieces, her teeth clenched in a grimace, body hunched defensively over the board.
Jordan eyes Deirdre’s attempt to restore order. “What’cha doin’?”
“Playing chess,” she answers mindlessly, returning the white bishop to F6.
“Ooh! Let me play. I’ll be the black guys.”
“No, Jordan. I’m in the middle of a game.”
“You’re playing by yourself.”
“I’m playing against myself.”
“That’s dumb. You need another player.” He reaches for the rook at C8, but Deirdre’s quicker on the draw, pulling the piece away with one hand while clasping his wrist with the other. “Hey! Let me go!”
She spots a dark powder stuck between the gaps in his fingers. “What’s on your hands?”
Jordan freezes. “I dunno.”
“Smells like potting soil.”
“I dunno.”
“Were you playing in potting soil or not?”
He averts his gaze. “I tried to ride my bike.”
“Mom said you’re not allowed to practice by yourself.”
“She was busy and Dad wasn’t here. I have to get good before Mason’s party.”
“So why is there potting soil on your hands?”
“Um. I crashed into the plants. Don’t saying anything.”
Mom’s going to notice. She notices everything. “Fine.” Deirdre releases his wrist. “But I’m serious about the chess pieces. Hands off.”
“Come on, let me play. I promise I’ll—” Jordan arm bucks the board. His eyes widen, hands reaching to catch some of the pieces in mid-fall, but they slip like water through his fingers and tumble to their sides. “Oops.”
Sixty minutes down the drain. What a waste of time.
“Great. Thanks, Jordan.” She grabs the box from her nightstand and dumps the pieces with careless apathy.
“Deirdre? Can I ask you something?”
“Hm?”
“Mason’s mom is having a baby,” he says. “If she swims in water, does she turn into a submarine?”
Deirdre pauses. “What?”
“Well, cause, you know, she’s got the baby inside her, and if she swims, it’s like she’s a—”
“—Why are you here again?”
“Oh. I made a drawing.”
Jordan shoves the crinkled paper in Deirdre’s face. Apparently, the bubble rule isn’t taught in third grade. She sets the chess box aside and snatches the note.
Her eyes land on a young boy she knows immediately to be Jordan, from the messy hair colored black, to the triumphant hand-on-hips he does after successfully sliding down the banister. He’s wearing a mechanized suit, red and gold with stars to emphasize the glow off his chestplate.
“It’s us as superheroes,” Jordan says. “You, me, Mom and Dad. We protect Astoria from villains.”
Mom’s easy to spot. Jordan drew her with her dark-framed glasses, which makes sense considering he’s rarely seen her without them. She’s wearing an armored red and blue dress with a golden W belt around her waist. Their father, undoubtedly Batman, stands with squared shoulders, a scribbled darkness cast over half his body. Deirdre wonders if Jordan understands the symbolism.
Then there’s her character. Bulky, nearly twice the size as everyone else, with grotesque muscle features. She’s walled in a fiery aura, indicative of an anger featured prominently on her face.
“I’m a monster,” she says flatly.
Jordan blinks. “You’re the Hulk. See? Green.”
“He’s still a monster.”

12 comments:

  1. I think this version is better. I like the addition of the name of the town and that they are the protectors of villains. When reading the pitch, I was really surprised. The tone of where the book starts seems really different than the intro. It's an interesting concept and I can now understand why the book is YA. I almost think it would be better to start the book with Derek and Michelle as teenagers living their lives before they meet the kids. If not, I don't know if the first few pages would be appealing to teenagers as much as adults. The interaction with Jordan and Deidre make me think the book is going to be about her which also makes me think it could be middle grade. I also really like the foreshadowing and symbolism in the drawing. It's a smart way to show the characters.

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    1. Hi Susan! Thank you for the commentary. I had a feeling the story arc would come as a surprise, given the quiet nature of the first 1250 words. I've wrestled with the idea of starting it from Derek and Michelle's perspective, but I'm compelled to start it from the kids', mostly because the first chapter answers the all-important "How do they go back in time" question that seems necessary to show. I didn't want to simply start in the present, have the children arrive, and leave the reader with virtually no information about how they got there. Not to mention, the first chapter establishes a lot of key elements that occur throughout the novel, and I'm reluctant to cut or move it elsewhere out of fear of ruining the flow of the story. But you're right about this appealing more towards adult readers. It's something I have to think about going forward.

      Thank you so much for these past few weeks. Your notes have helped me greatly!

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  2. While I think your pitch is compelling, it's jarring to go from it to the first chapter to discover Derek isn't the focus. I think if you are going to begin the book here, you need to switch the pitch to focus on Deidre and Jordan in the first paragraph, then move on to Derek's role. Otherwise, you need a different opening to the book.

    I like the revision you've done here. It's clearer now that Mom is working on an actual Mars rover. Deidre and Jordan feel natural with each other, although Jordan comes off as being younger than eight. Maybe he's only five or six?

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    1. Hi Kate! Thank you for your commentary! That's a very interesting idea, establishing the children in paragraph one. I'm not sure how I might do that, considering Derek's the ones with the stakes, which I'm told should be the focal point of the query. (Does he take the sure thing with the love of his life or does he choose a future with Michelle, knowing he might not be happy with her, just so the children can exist?") Derek (and Michelle) do appear in the chapter about 50 words after this. Maybe I should bring him in earlier if possible.

      I like the idea of making Jordan a little younger. Thanks for the suggestion and wonderful critiques you've given me these past three weeks.

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  3. I really enjoyed your pitch and I found the story line really interesting. I would want to read it which I suppose is a big part of the pitch?

    The first chapter continues to be well written and lovely interactions between the two. Its so hard only reading the few pages though as I would like to see how it shifts from Deidre/Jordan to Derek being the main character. Getting to know the children before him is an interesting choice and I'd love to read how it goes.

    Overall, a really interesting concept and one I'd like to read. Well done and good luck for the future (pun not intended!)

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    1. Hi Prentis! Thank you so much for the commentary! Yeah, the first few pages can be a tricky thing without proper context. Workshops like these are a double-edge sword, in that they can help shape good first pages into great ones, with new people reading your work with fresh eyes. The other side is, because the query/pitches aren't posted until the end, we (for the most part) don't really know what we're reading. As CPs, we might be giving our workshop friends critiques that they either cannot use because they disrupt the plot (which we can't possibly know without the pitch), or we ask them questions whose answers will be established later in the novel. I think agents read the query before the pages, so that's good :D. I wish the workshop allowed for longer drafts, because Derek and Michelle show up in the chapter literally 50 words after this exchange. Oh well lol.

      (haha, <3 the pun anyways ;) ) Thanks for a fun three weeks!

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    2. I completely agree. Several bits of mine link with later or there are elements I don't want in the first chapter being suggested to be brought forward. Its great having peoples ideas and for me it has made me question which bits I really want to keep and which bits perhaps are not needed or worked.

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  4. These pages are well crafted but I agree with Susan that perhaps the book should start with Derek, only because I fear Deirdre's voice sounds MG and someone may/may not choose the book based on her POV. Perhaps it could be a prologue and cut shorter?

    As for the pitch I was confused why Derek/Michelle would have to "play house" because their two kids show up? Are they suddenly all living together? I wasn't quite sure the stakes here. Are the children in jeopardy if they don't get home? Why did they come in the first place? Who is this someone who could make it for him and why? Just some questions to think about.

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    1. Hi Nikki! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment on my work these past few weeks! I really appreciate your pitch questions, especially the one "Why did they come in the first place", which is exactly why I started chapter one with Deirdre/Jordan and not Derek (though, as I've already told others, Derek appears in the chapter about 50 words after this). I didn't want to overlook this very important question by having the story begin in the present, and then all of a sudden, the children arrive, with no backstory as to what, why or how they got there. The first chapter holds "Easter eggs" to what will occur later in the story (and also happens to answer your other question: "Who is this someone who could make it for him and why?") While I like your idea of cutting, I have to be very careful. But I'm up to the challenge! *makes salute gesture*

      Thank you again for your keen eye and critical analysis. If writing a book like this has taught me anything, it's that time is a limited resource. Thank you for spending yours reading my work. :)

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  5. Wow, the pitch is not at all what I was expecting from reading the first few pages. I'm not sure I would classify it as YA Contemporary when time travel is such a big part of the story. I agree with everyone else that it's a bit confusing that Derek is the main character but we start with Deidre and Jordan.

    I have a question about Michelle working on the Mars Rover stuff from home though - would NASA allow that? I would imagine it would be a very locked down, secretive lab somewhere, not someone's basement. I did like the addition of the Oregon sky, that gives more grounding so we don't think they're in space.

    It's a really interesting concept, and I'd like to find out why there's time travel involved and what will happen if the kids aren't returned to their own time.

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    1. Hi KD! Thank you for your commentary! I appreciate the advice you've given me these past few weeks.

      I don't blame you for being unsure about the target age audience: I myself am no longer sure it's a YA. It's hard to say if the time travel aspect is a BIG enough theme to classify it as purely sci-fi. The bulk of the novel isn't so much of "How did they get there?", it's "Okay. They're here. How do we send them back and what should we do with them in the meantime?" Since Michelle's the engineer, she obviously takes the time-machine building reins, but designing the thing will take time. That's when you see all the in-between moments, like family outings and bonding, which forces Derek down his emotional cycle. But I've been staring at this thing for so long, I'm probably losing perspective lol.

      It's established in chapter one (about 100 words after this passage) that Michelle doesn't work for NASA. She works for a private contractor. Otherwise, you'd be absolutely right! LOL.

      Thanks for all your great advice and helpful critiques. It was a pleasure working with you. :)

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  6. Hi Kim! Excellent start! My advice would be to either alter the pitch or the initial pages (my guess is the pitch here would make the most sense). The pitch leads me to believe that this story is going to focus on Derek and his POV (or third person limited POV). To then start out with Deirdre’s was a bit jarring (keep in mind, some agents only ask for the first five pages and query for submission. You’ll want to make sure those are seamless representations of the project as a whole).

    The writing here is REALLY lovely. But for me, I didn’t think it felt particularly like YA. While the story is focused on a teenager (or teenagers), the thoughts and the maturity and distance in which the story is presented feels older. Especially if the story then shifts into Derek learning to be a dad (as it states in the pitch). This is just based on the few initial pages though—from the pitch as a whole, it does seem like it could certainly fall into YA.

    One small final point--I’d consider simply categorizing the story as YA Sci-fi or perhaps even YA speculative fiction. I think the contemporary fiction label is misleading.

    Overall, great job! This story feels very fresh and I’m intrigued!

    Kristy

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