Sunday, June 9, 2019

1st 5 Pages Workshop - Crisci Rev 1

Name: Kim Crisci
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Title: All the Time in the World
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 exploratory rover can withstand 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 Mars model, skipping movie marathons with her children or block parties with the neighbors. 

And that’s why, when her twelve-year old daughter invites her to a game of chess, Michelle usually declines. 

Deirdre pushes aside her loneliness and focuses on the game. 

She has her mother’s ambition, evident by the four dozen chess 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—”


The young boy stops. “I didn’t say anything.”

“I don’t care, Jordan,” Deirdre says to her pieces. “You’re supposed to knock first 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?” 


“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.”

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.”

“But Hulk protects his friends. It’s like this. Look—” Jordan rises onto his knees to flex a set of unfledged biceps. He balls his hands into tight fists, then collides them together, knuckle to knuckle. His cheeks puff, eyes catching fire. “Deirdre say don’t touch the pieces! Deirdre angry!”


  1. Hi Kim,

    I enjoyed reading it again. The character interaction are a real positive part and the trimmings you've made to the superhero mentions hopefully reduced the superhero queries others had.

    I would still like to know a little bit more about the Mars parts in these first 5 pages. Why is mum so busy with this Mars buggy? Are they actually on Mars?

    Again, its an interesting opening and something I'd like to read beyond the first 5 pages.

    1. Hi Prentis! Thank you for reading my revision. I definitely want to clarify the Mars issue for you guys. I'm hoping the solution I put in place for the next revision will do that. It's hard to balance what is too much info, and too little info. I'm sure you understand.:)

      Thank you again!

    2. Tell me about it! I feel I am like a pendulum, swinging from too much detail to not enough and back again! Hoping next week to ends somewhere near just right!

  2. Hi Kim,
    I agree with Prentis on this - is the mum an engineer for Nasa making things to go to Mars or are they on Mars? It's not super clear since it's set in the future.
    There also seems to be a lot of focus on the mum in the first bit which suggests to me the story is going to be about Deidre and her mum's relationship, but then it veers off when Jordan arrives and she seems like more of a background character. Is the mum important and thus needs to be up front? At the moment she's vying with the concept of time for importance.
    Still great writing and love those opening lines.

    1. Hi KD! Thanks for reading my revision! I understand your confusion and I'm working towards making the Mars issue much clearer. And you're right, Deirdre's mother is vying for importance. Since it'll be revealed in the pitch that Michelle (and her husband) are the actual MCs, I wanted to show the inevitable similarities between mother and daughter up front, a theme that will reoccur throughout the novel. It's SO hard to balance with only five pages! lol

      I appreciate your keen eye and thank you for giving me things to think about! :)

  3. I like this revision, especially that you've cut the super-heroes to a couple of the really iconic ones that are more likely to be remembered in 10 years. Like the others, I'm curious about Mom and the Mars rover. If this is the future, maybe they are living on Mars? Or maybe planning to move there?

    The interaction with Jordan feels really natural, but because the chapter opens with the discussion of time and that Mom uses hers well, I feel like we need a little more context about both things if they are going to be important to the story ahead before Jordan shows up.

    1. Hi Kate! Thank you for your comments! You're right; I need to clear up the Mars issue. So many people have mentioned it and I can't believe I didn't notice the small detail. As always, thank you for letting me know!

      I'd love to put more context about both topics, but I worry about bogging down the intro too much. People have commented that I need to solidify the setting more, which I agree. Maybe there's a way to integrate the time motif with the setting without losing the voice...hmm...

      Thank you again!

  4. I'm intrigued to see where this is going. I read in an earlier comment that the Mom and Dad are the MCs. I'm not sure that's YA. If Deidre is the MC, that would be MG or maybe upper MG. Also, I still think Jordan seems a lot younger than 3rd grade, from what I'm remembering about my own kids. I do like the symbolism with the chess board. There is a lot you can do with this. Chess seems to be a big part of Deidre's life. I'm wondering where Dad is and why he isn't around. Also, why does Deidre get angry and why does Jordan say she is being protective? Would like to read more to find out.

    1. Hi Susan! Thank you for reading my revision. You make some great points and I don't blame you for wondering why I made it YA. (At this point, I'm wondering too lol) I'm hoping my pitch next week will finally answer the reoccurring question, "Are you sure this is YA Contemporary?", but I'd love to tell you now. Yes, the mom and the dad are the MCs. Though the first chapter takes place in 2029, the rest of the novel takes place in 2009, when Mom and Dad are teenagers in high school. As for where the Dad is, well...he's on page six. ^___^

      Wow, I didn't realize Jordan sounded younger than 3rd grade. I will certainly try to age him up a bit! Thank you for telling me!

  5. I like the details you've put in about the mother, but (as others have noted) the setting is unclear, and I do think you need to ground us more. I love your style, but I wouldn't say that this is MG at all; it doesn't read like MG. It reads like an adult novel. There's a very different voice to this, and I'm thinking that although you're saying it's YA you might want to rethink it as SF. Either that, or the detail you're giving us about Deidre's mom is just too much, and you're telling us nothing really about your MC, Deidre. She thinks a lot. She doesn't FEEL that much. And kids of this age intensely feel things. So maybe look at that, if you're looking to take it into MG or YA. If you like the style you've got (I DO!) then maybe consider rethinking it as a straight SF story?

    1. Hi Rachel! Thank you so much for reading my revision. You're absolutely right; I've made solidifying the setting priority one. I can only hope I do your comments justice.

      You know, throughout the course of the workshop, and with everyone's commentary coming in week by week, I'm starting to think this might be written as an adult novel. This was not my intention going in. My understanding of genre assignment was (and forgive me if I'm wrong on this), whatever age the MC(s) were, that was your book's target audience. My MCs are actually the parents. While the first chapter takes place in 2029, the rest of the novel takes place in 2009, when the mother and father are seniors in high school. Naturally, I assumed that because they were teens, this couldn't be anything BUT YA. I think you're right in acknowledging the obvious sci-fi elements in the piece. Because of the nature of the story, I'm not sure if my work is more contemporary or more sci-fi. I'm hoping my pitch next week will help solve my book's existential crisis once and for all. ^__^

      Thank you again, Rachel. You'll never know how much I appreciate your insight. It's an absolute pleasure to have you as a mentor.

  6. I loved reading this again and all the details! I noticed you changed a bit of the order and tightened the pacing further, which is great.

    Like the other commenters - I still had the questions about the mom and Mars. And the time travel :) I know you mention this is the only chapter with this character (and that the rest of the book is the mother's POV). I wish I could see those chapters as that is so much more the bulk of the book!!