Sunday, January 19, 2020

1st 5 Pages January Workshop - Gallant Rev 2

Name: Kristin Gallant
Genre: Young Adult Sci-Fi
Title: Running Waters


The lake has a secret.

Sixteen-year-old Becca’s distant grandfather had one too. But after his death there is no one to protect her from discovering it.

With a deadly storm upon her, Becca finds her grandfather’s rowboat mysteriously on shore. With it, she races out to save her brother who’s struggling to get off the lake. But it’s too late.

Together they are dragged through a water passage, stranding them on the ocean, near a colony that is isolated from the world.

Now lost, with her brother critically injured, Becca has only one hope of obtaining a healing sap and repairing their boat. She needs to steal it.

An electrical barrier is the islands only protection from outsiders. Allowing ships to pass through but means instant death for its passengers. What Becca discovers is that her grandfather was their leader, until overthrown by a tyrant, imprisoning them on their own island. The madman preys on the island’s occupant’s worst fears, controlling the water and power. He also guards what Becca needs.

With the help from a family, on the island, Becca must make a long journey to the splinting tree that conceals the precious sap, or risk never getting home.

Chapter 1:

There weren’t many things I hated, but as I raced along, I started thinking running might be one. The dry air tasted like stale bread, scraping inside my throat. I didn’t think there was enough water in the nearby lake to sooth my thirst.

Maybe I should have filled my water bottle before I left the house, but if I had, I risked waking Mom. Then there would have been no chance of slipping away without a hundred questions. Though, as I continued jogging, I sounded more like a cat gagging up a hairball. Maybe I should have chanced it.

In the last mile I sped up, my hips jetting out side-to-side in a clumsy fast walk, then increased to a snail paced jog. A technique Coach Davis added to his torture list of skills to practice over the summer.

In front of me a group of holes stretched across the length of the road. Hopping over the small crater I grit my teeth as I landed. Suck it up Becca. I could do this, but if I didn't stop soon the metal holding my knee together would most likely start tearing through flesh, or wear down the bone I still had left.

Who would have thought me a runner? Not me, for one. Mom’s panicked calls to the surgeons clearing me, didn’t help my confidence either. But when Jacob, the school’s cutest and fastest runner, invited me to run on the team, I couldn’t say no to his smiling eyes. Me. Not any of the junior groupies that followed him around school. But me. My heart pumped a little harder at the memory.

My watch flashed three miles.

Up ahead, hanging from chains that had become rusted and decayed, swung the old wooden sign that Grandpa had made so many years ago. His last name carved into it; Saltz.

Jogging by, I tapped it. The chains creaked as it rubbed against its hooks. No surprise that the most recent storm didn't tear it down, it had hung there ever since I could remember.

Beyond that was his home. For a moment I expected to see him outside working in the yard or near his boat, ready to greet me.

In that instant my stomach turned from butterflies to bricks. Without slowing I came to a stop, but my sneaker slid on the loose gravel beneath it, causing my knee to buckle while my foot continued to move. My arms flailed until I grabbed hold of a pine tree's low hanging, sap dripping branch. Pulling in close I leaned against the tree, squeezed my eyes shut as a tear threatened to push through.

Taking a deep breath I looked over at the house. It appeared quiet, with no evidence that Mom or my younger brother Cooper were awake. I decided to make my way down to the lake.

The view of the lake was one the ugliest I had ever seen. We wouldn’t be seeing bright colored photos of the view in any visit New Hampshire advertisements.

Through the tree stumped yard, a set of steep, splintered stairs lead down to the water. It overlooked the inlet and a large, tall, rock formation we called the “Beast”. Soupy green algae hung off the large, jagged rocks. My skin crawled at the thought of my bare feet touching the lake’s deep bottom and its slime slipping between my toes. It was a good enough reason not to swim out too far.

On top, a few dead trees loomed over a corroded electrical transformer. Enclosing it, a wire fence hung, drooping into the water.

Sticking out of the lake, a second metal fence wrapped around the entire rock island, except for the opening that faced the house. The mouth of the Beast. That was where the metal fence rusted, bent, and broke apart. Under my grandfather’s watch, he put a rope across it. Anyone who dared to venture close enough couldn't ignore the red electric voltage signs warning to keep back.

At the stairs, I stroked a notch in the railing, my name, then Cooper’s, a dedication of sorts that Grandpa made. I had forgotten about it. That was one of the last times we saw him.

The railing vibrated under my hand as I made my way down. Still hot from my run, I kicked off my sneakers. Stepping in, I clenched , waiting for the shock of cold water to run through me.

My shoulders dropped as my foot sunk. It was warmer than I thought it would be. I decided to go in a little deeper, running shorts and all.

Only after a few steps, I floated waist deep on my back. The water cooling the pulsating blood running through my knee. I closed my eyes listening to the hooting of a nearby loon and the slurring of the water as it pushed up against the shore. Hypnotic. Mom knew I wasn't excited that we'd be spending the summer here, but maybe it wouldn't be so bad. Spending my waking moments running the trails might make it bearable.

A patch of icy water shocked my back. More cool down than I wanted.

Still on my back, I gently swung my arms toward the shore, until the sound of low electric hum grabbed my attention. I twisted off my back, treading the depths, noticing I drifted too close to the Beast.

Water agitated up against its fence and rocks.

I had no intention of drifting out that far. Spotting the shore over my shoulder, I began kicking in its direction. But instead of moving forward a swirl of water pulled at my legs. The funnel dragging me closer to the outer fence.

Water rose around me . Or was I sinking?

Whirling my head about, I searched for anyone to help. But only the loon fluttered nearby, watching me.

Unable to kick my legs more than inches apart I swung my arms out in front. Water splashed up, and I couldn’t see. With nothing to grab onto I was pulled in deeper.

I wanted to yell, but my mouth skimmed along the surface. Water seeped in and the tin taste filled my mouth, clogging it. I began coughing.

Something brushed along my back, and I flexed. I shot my hand in its direction. If it was something that wanted to attack me, I would put up a fight.

Smacking the water, my hand hit a stringy object. I gasped, realizing it was the rope, bobbing up and down along the opening.

Clawing through the water, my fingers fumbled at the rope, finally grabbing it. My hands slipped along its algae slime surface. Frayed bristles ripped away, while I continued to be dragged.  

The burning in my biceps became unbearable. I felt my arms being ripped from my shoulders, and wasn’t sure how long I could hold on.

“Help,” came out as muted gargle. I tried again, just before the funnel jerked and pulled me under.

The swirl of water twisted my legs and climbed to my waist. With the strength I had left, I yanked at the rope. It gave me buoyancy, and I briefly resurfaced spitting up water before being dragged under again.

The suction held tight, my legs unable to kick free. Tugging at the rope, I twisted so that it wrapped around my arm and hand. The rope tightened around my wrist, cutting off circulation. I used the leverage to reach the surface.

I sucked in air.


  1. Hi Kristin! I'll start with your pitch.

    The short sentence to start out with definitely makes me want to read more. I'm curious, and secrets make awesome stories. The next sentence doesn't feel strong or communicate much. Is it important to know? Really important to hooking a reader to read on? Because that's what you need your pitch to do. Like with writing the manuscript, state what is absolutely vital, the main bones of your story - character, conflict, goal. Keep it simple, but direct. I hope this helps.

    Your revision:

    Oh, wow. That first paragraph is so much better! It's clear, direct, and tells the reader a bunch about your MC without you having to 'tell'. Plus, I can hear voice. The pages continue with mood and some tone. I like that. Honestly, this is much clearer and cleaner. Nicely done. I also like what you've done with introducing her memories/reality of her grandfather. There still is a bit of telling in the middle, but you can probably tighten it a little. Might be okay. See what others say. Your action toward the end creates nice tension, too. I'm looking forward to seeing what is really happening to her!

    Thank you for sharing your work with us! All the best to you...

    1. Thanks Sheri for this and your feedback over the last few weeks!

      Ugh, the query can be so hard :) I'll keep at it.
      Best to you too

  2. Hi Kristin,
    I like your pitch. It invites to read the story. There is definitely more tension created in this version, which was nice.
    Although there isn’t much place for dialogue in the text, it would be nice if there was some human interaction. Even if from a memory. It may just be me though. Maybe others don’t agree.
    I only noticed this now, but in paragraph 2 you mention jogging. Then in paragraph 3 you mention that Becca speeds up to a fast walk.
    Bringing Jacob into the story here was a good idea. It piques the curiosity, and makes me wonder what his role in the story will be.
    It sounds like a super story. I’d love to know when it’s published.
    All the very best,

    1. Thanks Carryn! Great catch, I appreciate it! Swapping out different paragraphs I missed that change in action.

      I've been playing with the idea of dialogue, introducing a character earlier on. That might be one I need to step away and revisit.
      Best of luck,

  3. Hi Kristin,

    I think the opening to your pitch is very hooky and enticing.
    However, the middle few paragraphs, to me, read more like a synopsis than a pitch (listing events, rather than describing the plot). I think revising and reframing it around her grandfather’s secret might help.
    My only other concern is that your pitch and pages do not connect. We still start out with her running and I’m not sure how that fits into the overall plot?

    All the best,

  4. Thanks Star!
    Best of luck to you!

  5. Hi Kristin,

    I love the opening to your pitch. However I did get confused as to what was happening. In the second paragraph, I'd start with the action of her brother struggling in the lake instead of talking about the boat. I'd also clarify the phrase "stranding them on the ocean." Does this mean they are living in the boat? Or did they wash up on an island?

    Thanks for sharing and good luck!

  6. Hi Kristin,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! Here are some thoughts:

    Pitch: Great beginning! I love the first line and like how you follow up with Grandpa also having secrets. When I read the part about the isolated colony, a whole bunch of scenarios came to mind; perhaps some added details would offer clarity and heighten the intrigue? The paragraph that starts with "the electrical barrier" has a lot going on. Maybe too much information? The grandpa angle to me is the most compelling so I would emphasis and maybe develop his situation more.

    Pages: You did a great job on your revisions. The narrative really flows smoothly. I like the added reference to Jacob; it helps me connect with Becca more. Also: the part where she can almost see grandpa working in the yard was a nice touch. I found your description of Becca swimming/struggling in the water to be very vivid, but it seemed like there was a lot of it. Might be able to trim some of it.

    Overall, great job! You really improved what promises to be a great story. Best of luck to you!


  7. Hi Kristin, Your revision is great -- especially the first few paragraphs. I imagine it'll take some time to hone the rest but you're definitely on your way. W/r/t the pitch, I agree with the comments above that it doesn't quite align with the pages and feels a bit more like a synopsis. One way to try to tighten a pitch is to strt with a question (like a hook) that tells editor/agent the core theme of your story, such as "Had Becca every really known her Grandpa?" and kind of take it from there.
    In a general sense, I'd go back through all of this for conventions, sentence structure and flow. It's a ton of work but sometimes paying close attention to technical details can be a strategy for fleshing out important themes. Good luck and happy writing! - S

  8. From Karly Caserza:

    Thank you for being brave and sharing your work. Reading critiques about your work is never easy so I appreciate you opening yourself to different ideas. Don’t forget that advice given is always subjective. These are edits that I think would help your work though someone else or you may completely disagree. Pursue the path that’s true to you as the author and your work.

    Hmmm….The paragraph “an electrical barrier…” reads more like a paragraph within a synopsis versus a pitch because it loses the voice you’re worked hard to establish in the first couple paragraphs and tells too much of plotlines that we don’t necessarily need to know at this point. Give us a clue, a mystery, that allows these details to unfold within the pages rather than a factual bit within the pitch.

    I do really like the first two lines paragraphs though. It inspires questions right away and has me eager to read forward. But the transition from the second paragraph to the third is a bit choppy and almost feels like a different story. I wish there was a better connection between those first two paragraphs and the mystery of the island or move the focus of the pitch to saving her brother and discovering that what she needs is on the dangerous island.

    And is this truly SF? I’m not quite feeling the SF genre from this pitch.


    Although I haven’t read anything beyond these first 5 pages, I think you have a stronger beginning elsewhere in your story. These sample pages didn’t connect with me as it neither gives depth of voice to the main character nor truly build the mystery of the island. You have SO much potential based on the elements of your pitch.

    The teeter-totter in thought between hating running, running for a guy, and then enjoying being at this place over summer because she could then run the trails was a little odd for me. Does she hate it? Does she actually enjoy it? Anyway, this was just a minor inconsistency I found.

    I like the connection you’ve established between Becca and her grandfather, the feeling of instant loss (despite knowing they’re gone) that she feels upon expecting to see her grandfather in the yard or in his boat. But as you begin to delve into this part, it abruptly shifts to her casting a glance back to her home and the magic you’ve created, the character development you’ve begun, is gone.

    Thank you again for sharing your work. Good luck on your writing career.

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