Sunday, September 15, 2019

1st 5 Pages Workshop- Seifert Rev 1

Name: Lina Seifert
Genre: Young Adult Romance / Coming of Age
Title: The B-Side Fidelity


Aidan, a young Irish musician, dreaming of making it big with his band, is the most versatile lad Emma has ever met, challenging the cognitive blueprint of her life. From their first encounter in Rome they knew they could never forget one another, but their differences mark their relationship as impossible.

Nevertheless their lives intertwine again as they are moving in circles around early 1980s Europe, and as Emma is introduced into his bands social cycle, the girl she used to be is slowly torn to pieces by the woman she needs to become while Aidan is faced with the realities of living between the grief of the past and the demands of the present.

All is coming together on the Emerald Island where their thoughts and dreams roam- and losing and freeing themselves lies closer together than they ever anticipated. Caught between long-standing social conventions, the ever-gaping wound between the faiths and their own belief of what is right they fight for the love of a lifetime as their worlds are changing- from within and without. 

1st Five Pages

It was night, but a warm summer night in the Rome of 1981 when Aidan first materialized in my world. My eyes, worn out after a day of constantly blinking in bright sunlight, were awakened with a jolt as they fell upon him standing languorously in the shadow of the center Obelisk in Piazza Navona, his gaze wandering over the crowd streaming around the Palazzo in small groups on this night of possibility.

On a wave of post-secondary-school graduation bliss this trip had begun, the funds for which I’d earned myself, and on this last night before I was moving on I had felt the restlessness of the hopeless wanderer. The Piazza in its warm streetlight glow was my safe haven in this city where I was a phantom, owning the streets by simple right of presence like the stray cats which were claiming the ruins of the Roman Empire as their own. Amidst the solidarity here was a character standing out and intriguing my artistic soul, irresistibly drawing me closer towards him, pretending to admire the work of one of the street artists next to the fountain.

Ragged, dark leather jacket, which he adjusted absentmindedly. Then shifting his weight in strong legs engulfed by tight, black, shiny pants. This midnight-blackish-brown mess of a hair held back by a dotted grey bandana, smoothed back in a lazy gesture with no lasting effect whatsoever. Another bandana lazily fastened around one of his medium-heeled cowboy boots, enough of a heel to make him stand out from the crowd of tourists and late-night wanderers around him.

Sneaking, pretending, I found that up close his face was bold and rough but with a hidden attractiveness that seemed to come from his bright blue eyes, in contrast to his otherwise rather dark appearance, as well as from his mouth, thin-lipped but caked with attitude. His lips moved as if he was talking to someone next to him, someone who clearly wasn’t there for the rest of us to see.

In spite of his outward appearance which screamed London Calling and  picturesque obscurity, sending blunt fingernails down my spine, I was self-consciously sidling up next to him when a sound different from the other sounds of the nightly Palazzo sparked my ears, a subtle soundtrack to the scenery unfolding all around me. A soundtrack indeed, because it was him, singing softly but distinctly to himself, and now to me as I listened.

In an instant recognition kindled my soul, the gentle loving touch of a friend long forgotten, and I knew that it was the melody that right here, right now, needed to be sung. His voice was mesmerizing, like a warm blanket woven from every heartfelt emotion a human had to give, and I felt the resonance like a rope that would pull me back into myself, into who I was and who I wanted to be, would I only have the courage to reach out and touch.

And right in this moment of time I did.

He sang a song that spoke of the metaphoric conscience within love, and this language was the one of my heart. Feeling the words, the parts of me that usually felt doubt, shyness, insecurity, fear and envying melted away under the lapping of tone and note, I was not who I had been for all my life. I was feeling the rise of the woman I always wanted to be, pride and strength pulling back my shoulders and raising my chin.

Gently I joined in, slowly and with my voice so much less significant, but with the same sincerity. Singing like I’d only ever sung to myself knowing that I could and would never be out of tune, not with that other voice winding through my ears, down my throat and amid the hollowing in my chest that was humming and buzzing with summerly harmonic vibrations.

He didn’t show any sings that he’d heard me, or even knew I was there, but when I sang the verse for the second time, everything in me stretching out towards him, almost painfully aware of his presence next to me, he joined in at the exactly right moment, in a higher pitch than me spiraling us up, up to where timeless melodies spark timeless feelings. It didn’t even surprise me that he found the high notes so effortlessly, with more sensitivity but the same earnestness.

When our voices had faded I wasn’t sure what to do, whether to look at him or say something, anything, or just turn around and walk away, but as he stood tall as he had done before, I took in the moment, the echo with him.

The scene on Piazza Navona had changed, so subtle that we must have been the only ones who could notice it. Where there had been a place full of individuals, going about in their uni-colored bubbles of their current experience of living, there was now a shimmering thread connecting all of them with us, with this place, with this moment in time, like it being captured in the pages of a book or through the lens of a movie camera.

Together we were hovering in the center, and gaily I embraced the happiness that was melting on my skin when he turned towards me, his eyes gleaming and a smile on his lips, almost appearing to be sheepish before I saw it broaden.
  “Thank you. That was beautiful.“, he said simply with a confident Irish accent, homely as it was to me although mine wasn’t really the same, and I couldn’t help but love the way he emphasized the word “beautiful“, made it his and mine. I smiled back.

Being so close to him now I started to notice he was maybe just a boy yet, he seemed younger than from afar and his dress less intimidating and bulky. His stature was more slim than I’d assumed, although his arms and shoulders still hinted at muscularity.

My throat felt soar and my voice strange when I answered.
  "It felt like the thing to do- your voice is…. unique.“
I was grasping for words, strangely aware of my own insecurity welling up, now talking to his chin instead of his eyes.

  "There is such emotion in it- I can’t put my finger on it, but…“, I took a breath, gathered my strength and let my eyes return back up to his,  “but… it made me feel as if it would kill me to never hear it again.“ Where this expression came from I wasn’t sure, but the instant I said it I knew it might just have been the most truthful thing I had said in a long time.

He was still smiling, now so wide that I could see his teeth, and chuckled a little at my words.
  “Well, I don’t even know you, do I?“ 
  “I don’t think so.“
I felt confused, but a little like I’d just told my mother a white lie- I didn’t know him, or did I? He cocked his head a bit and, staring into my eyes, appeared to be considering something before he suddenly took a step forward and extended his hand. “I’m“, he paused for a beat, so short I might have imagined it, “…Aidan, and if you’d care to get to know me- I guess I’m here to find something, so maybe you could help me?“ He sounded playful, but his eyes were deepening in blueness and honesty. 


  1. Pitch: It's a little vague-put some definition into "their differences mark their relationship as impossible." What differences? Why is it impossible? Why are their worlds changing? The query needs to have a little more info. You don't have to give everything away. But the lack of details just makes me confused, not wanting to read more. However, you have a good romance here and I love the Irish inclusion!

    Good first sentence as a hook. I would take out the "bright sunlight" comment-it doesn't seem needed and then you say it's nighttime anyway.
    Start of second paragraph is clunky. Love the phantom reference! And the description of Aidan is very clear-I can picture him leaning against the wall.
    Again, nice poetic language and voice. I think it would be helpful to you to read this aloud to yourself and hear how it flows though.
    Good luck!

  2. Hi Lina,
    I love the idea of your two characters wandering around Europe in the 80s, but your pitch needs to be more specific I think. From what I’ve read about crafting good queries (I’m no expert), the clearer the better. So, try switching out generalities like “differences” with specificities. What differences – religion, ethnicity, social class? Be specific on what Aidan’s grief is and who is the girl Emma used to be (shy, conservative, Catholic?).
    Is your book two POV? If yes, maybe have the first paragraph focus on Emma and the second on Aidan and show what they want. If it’s 1st POV (Emma – as it seems to be in your 1st 5 pages) – make the pitch about her.
    It’d also be good to finish with the stakes – what’ll happen if Emma loses her fight to love?
    First 5 pages: You have a lot of deep description which does paint a very clear picture, but as a reader, I am looking for action early on. Could you move their initial dialogue to earlier in the pages while still keeping the rich feeling of the scene?
    All the best, and I enjoyed reading your work.

  3. I'm not sure what's at stake in the pitch. What does she/they stand to lose? You do paint the romance well- but what will happen if they can't figure it out?

    The opening paragraph is so much better! I really get a sense of the setting. As a side note and there are varying opinions- but more of an FYI- I've been told to limit the use of adverbs.

    I can tell you put in the work here!

    Good luck!

  4. Lina,

    Thank you for sharing your submission. You have made some nice changes from the first round, and I am curious to see how this develops.

    I instantly get a feeling of romance from the pitch, but I am a bit confused. Is this story about Emma or Aidan? Whose POV are you writing? The pages show one of Emma, but the pitch looks like a possible two POVs. I suggest making this more apparent.

    Let's also tighten the pitch by adding some specifics. What is the cognitive blueprint of Emma's life? What differences make their relationship impossible? What are the long-standing social conventions? Who is Emma (if the POV is only of Emma), what does she want, and what are her stakes?

    As for your pages, you have a nice lyrical touch to your writing, and this helps with your scene descriptions. The paragraph describing Aidan still feels like more of an info dump. It might help if you sprinkle some of his details into the following paragraphs.

    I like the inclusion of Emma just finishing school, but I still don't connect with her yet. What did she go to school for? Did she study art or economics? The pitch eludes to differences, but all I get from the first pages is that she is educated and Aiden is more of an alluring vagabond. You did well at breaking the scene apart and inserting a little of Emma's personality. Let's see some more.

    I'm a sucker for mysterious musicians, and I can see how Aidan caught Emma's eye. This looks like the start of an interesting romance — best of luck with your manuscript.

  5. Comments on Pitch:
    -The point of the pitch is to show the main character's journey which means goal, obstacles and stakes. I can't see any of these here. We need to know what Emma wants and how meeting Aidan will either help her from getting it or prevent her from doing so.

    Comments on Pages:
    -This is a lot easier to read now that you've broken it up into paragraphs. I still find the sentences very long and complicated, especially for a teen audience. If that is the voice you want for this story, you may need to consider making it Women's Fiction instead. Historical fiction is already very difficult for YA and that's when it's high action/high stakes.
    -I agree with the others that we need the action earlier. Otherwise, it's all narration.

    Good luck!


  6. I like the changes you've made to the pages--the pacing is definitely faster with the long paragraphs broken up, and I have a better sense of place and action. I also like the opening line--it definitely caught my attention and hints at the romance to come.

    I agree with Holly that it still reads a little older than YA, partly because the lyrical sentences add a gravity and maturity to the scene. If you want to keep it YA, you might consider simplifying the sentences a little when you're setting up the scene--and I think the contrast of straightforward prose might help the really lyrical scene when they sing together stand out even more.

    For example, a lot of the sentences involve multiple clauses. You might break some of them up. You might also consider eliminating some of the longer clauses at the beginning of the sentences: "On a wave of post-secondary-school graduation bliss this trip had begun the funds for which I’d earned myself, and on this last night before I was moving on I had felt the restlessness of the hopeless wanderer" could become "This trip had begun on a wave of high school graduation bliss, with funds I'd earned myself. This last night before leaving, I was restless." (Then give some details that *show* us her restlessness, rather than telling us).

    I also find it helpful when I revise to read my lines out loud--some of these are gorgeous, but a few tripped me up a little.

    I agree with the others that the pitch seems a little vague to me. I'm not clear if the story is dual point of view or just Emma's; either way, I think we should get Emma's name in the pitch before Aidan's, given that her perspective is the one that opens the book.

    Usually in a pitch, I look for a few basic details: what does Emma want? What's keeping her from what she wants? (The pitch hints at some wonderfully dramatic forces of conflict, but we don't know what they are What are the differences that keep them apart? Are there external factors involved as well?) What's at stake if she doesn't get it?

    You might consider looking at the back-cover blurbs for some of your favorite romances and mimicking how those are set up.

    I love the idea of a historical, multi-country romantic epic. Good luck with your revision!

  7. Hi Lina! You write with so much passion--emotion--and I think that this will take you somewhere terrific over time. That said, this concept is not quite there. The first sentence of the pitch identifies Aiden as the "most versatile" guy. Given that the pitch is supposed to distill the story into its essence -- the most compelling elements of PLOT, then a bit of character and maybe (just maybe) a taste of setting -- this just doesn't feel strong enough to hang a novel on. Breaking down the last sentence of the pitch "the ever-gaping WHAT WOUND? between the WHAT FAITHS and their own belief of what is right they fight for the love of a lifetime as their WHAT WORLDS are WHAT CHANGES - from within??? and without???" -- all of these words need to be revised to something more specific (things that could only be part of THIS STORY, not any existential 20something crisis). Both the pitch and the chapter show signs that the MEANING of what your are trying to share with the reader is 2nd to the language which, while evocative, tends toward the confusing. Sentence #2 in PP1 of the chapter has 53 WORDS (and only 3 commas)! There are 6 paragraphs of backstory, emotional inner monologue, and description before the ONE sentence FIRST actual action "And right in this moment of time I did." And, while kind of structurally compelling (6 paragraphs then a sentence), it's again a very low-stakes action. She reaches out. Ask yourself, have you read a novel with this sort of opening? If you read this one, would you reach that sentence and have developed any sort of connection to/interest in the narrator that would make you have a sufficient reaction to the fact that she "reaches out"? I challenge you to write a page entirely in DIALOGUE or ACTION (a chase scene, some kind of transaction). Get the feel for this type of important element of YA novel-writing. I think this will help you feel your way toward a stronger opening. All the best luck! - Stasia

  8. First off, thank you for sharing your work. It’s always brave to open yourself up to critique, but this is how a manuscript gets better. Just remember that each person’s critique is so subjective.
    On your pitch – I like the idea that this is set in the 80’s and will be a romance. (But is the Emerald Island the same as the Emerald Isle (Ireland)?) I also thought too many parts of the pitch were vague like – “most versatile lad”, what does that say about him? "their differences mark their relationship as impossible." What differences? Why is a relationship between them impossible? In what ways are their worlds changing? The query needs to be much clearer. The second paragraph is one long run-on sentence that needs to be split up. I also think you mean his band’s social circle, not cycle. From the query, I get a good sense of who Aidan is, but not who Emma is at all.
    On your pages – For the most part, I liked the poetic, lyrical language. Many of the sentences went a bit too far though, and seem over-written. I agree with Rosalyn’s comments that you need to break up some of the multiple strung together clauses. Some of the introspection and wordiness could be trimmed down in the beginning so we get to the action between them sooner. As others have said, reading this aloud would be beneficial. I’m wondering if the plot and the voice here might fit better as a women’s fiction than YA. And I may be going out on a limb here, but this almost reads like a memoir, drawn from your own life experiences. I do believe that the best stories lie at that wonderful intersection of truth and imagination. Just be sure you realize though that if you’re trying to write this now as YA fiction, that you may have to stray from the actual facts. You may have to embellish, but you may also have to leave some parts out to serve plot and pacing. You’re also going to have to make the reader feel ‘in the moment’ with Emma.
    Best of luck with this!