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Shelley Watter’s Birthday Blowout First Page Contest with Victoria Marini

Saturday, 25 June 2011  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

Today is Shelley Watter’s Birthday Blowout Blogfest Contest (Happy birthday, Shelley!!!) with agent, Victoria Marini. I was hoping to have my new project completed so that I could enter its first 250 words into the contest. But, alas, I failed at finishing it in time. I decided to post Library Jumpers instead. Some of you have read it before, and I apologize for boring you. Actually, I’ve been querying Library Jumpers and I get mix comments about the beginning. Some agents say it goes too fast and others say it starts too slow *scratches head*.  I came up with two beginnings and I was wondering if you all could read both and tell me which one works best for you.

Title: Library Jumpers
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Word Count: 91,000

1st Beginning . . . 
I swallowed my breath mint when some hot guy across the reading room busted me staring at him. I completely froze, unable to tear my eyes away from him. He totally stood out in the conservative atmosphere of the library with his messy brown hair and tight leather gear. His intense gaze held me for several seconds before I shot my eyes at Afton. Submerged in a book on the Salem witch trials–a strand of her dark hair-weave all twisted around her finger–she hadn’t even noticed him. A gust of wind came from his direction and rustled the pages of her book. I swung my eyes back to him. He was gone. 
“What the . . .?” I blurted and stood to get a better view of the large reading room. The biography on Samuel Adams slipped from my hand and clunked onto the table.
Shhh, Gia.” Afton glared over her book at me. “Hello? We’re in a library.”
We weren’t in just any library. We were in the Boston Athenaeum, an exclusive library with a pricey annual fee. Afton’s father got her a membership at the start of summer. It’s a good thing her ticket in allows tag-alongs, since my pop would never splurge like that, not when the public library is free.
“What’s wrong?” Afton asked. 

           My eyes flicked around the reading room searching for the guy. In the core of the room, a collection of antique furniture and sculptures surrounded large walnut tables with leather chairs. 

2nd beginning . . .

           The bloated dark clouds spattered rain against the polyester shield of my faded-red umbrella, threatening to dampen my good mood. I strangled the wobbly handle while dodging hurried shoppers along the tiny makeshift aisle of Haymarket, Boston’s famous outdoor produce market. Every Friday and Saturday canopies bloom and produce stands sprout up in the early morning hours in the middle of the bustling city, where venders shout their wares over tangled conversations and the howl of the nearby traffic. The site, just off the North End, is totally packed and stinky. The fruits and vegetables sold there are rejects from nearby supermarkets. Basically, they’re sort of edible and crazy cheap.
            “Limes!” an older Italian man with a huge belly yelled. “Twelve for a dollar!”
            I skirted around a group of slow-moving tourists.

“Real Sugar Cane!” a craggy woman bellowed over the crowd, her weather-battered face looking just like brown leather.

 “A buck a pound!” another man shouted as he held up a tomato in his sausage-sized fingers.           

“Fish! Fresh off the boat,” a shorter man lied.

The stench from the fish gagged me and I hurried past the booth, holding my breath. I rushed up the street, my sandals slapping against the wet pavement. The rain slobbered my legs, and I cursed my friend, Afton, for insisting I wear a skirt today. Breaking through the crowd, I continued up the street to the Haymarket entrance to The T, Boston’s subway system. 

          Across the street, my two best friends huddled under a black umbrella.

Thanks for stopping by and stop over at Shelley’s blog Is It Hot In Here Or Is It This Book? to check out all the other participants entries.

Filed: Misc

  • ulleseit says:

    Ha! I’ve redone my beginning six times so I can relate! I like the first one, but then the pic is pretty hot. 🙂 I like the library setting, the friend, and the mysterious stranger. The second one opens with a telling paragraph. If you decide to do that one, I’d start with the first vendor’s words and work the descriptive paragraph in between the cries.

  • I definitely like the second one better. It just seems to flow better and focuses more on the visuals than the voice. That being said, the voice in the first one is very good. Very YA appropriate. Good luck.

    <3 Gina Blechman

  • Both openings have merit. The first one definitely for YA. The second opening is more atmospheric and my favourite because of the scene setting.

  • The first has more reason to keep reading. Who is the boy and why is the MC interested in him beyond his looks? Or why was he apparently interested in her? From the way he’s introduced he’s obviously going to be important if not a fully fledged love interest. The second opening doesn’t tell me anything about the story or really raise any questions, it’s just a girl meeting her friends. I’d stick with the first.

  • Louisa says:

    I would use the first beginning as it the scene is situated in the library and relates to the title, and it hints at the fantasy element with the guy disappearing. The first one has a much better YA voice. The second doesn’t really tell us the age of the protagonist. Good strong writing and great descriptions.

  • Jessica says:

    I like the first one better.

    Now here are my thoughts on how to clean it up. Again just my opinion. I feel like you can take out breath – not necessary we get what you mean if you just say mint. Also no need for the word some.
    ex: I swallowed my mint when the hot guy across the reading room busted me for staring at him. I completely froze, unable to tear my eyes away from him.

    I like the first one, because, I feel like I get a sense of what the story could be about. Good luck

  • I like the first one better. The feel of it is more inviting, and I wanted to read more. Good luck!

  • I liked the first one far more. Maybe it’s just me being a shallow teenage girl and liking hot boys. *sigh*

    That said, I have a couple of suggestions for your consideration:

    “I completely froze, unable to tear my eyes away from him. He totally stood out…”
    I think you can do away with both adverbs. And I’m not a mindless adverb-slasher; I’m all for a good -ly here or there. But I legitimately don’t think you need either of these.

    “tight leather gear.”
    Er, what sort of gear? I’m picturing, like, a jacket? But I don’t know if that’s right… is it leather pants a la 80s band? =P

    “Submerged in a book on the Salem witch trials–a strand of her dark hair-weave all twisted around her finger–she hadn’t even noticed him.”
    You don’t need a dash to offset the middle clause. I think it’d flow better with commas, and if you trimmed the word ‘all’.

    Also, her friend has weave?! That’s a wicked-awesome detail.

    This intrigues me to no end. Not many first pages make me want to read more (and that includes published books), but this one clicks for me. I hope it finds a home soon so I can read it!

    Best of luck!

  • Brenda Drake says:

    Thanks for all the comments, you guys! Your suggestions are greatly appreciated and I can’t wait to tweak my first words.

    I agree, Riley, sometimes you don’t need adverbs and I try to use them sparingly, except for the ones I feel represents the voice. Teenagers are all about completely, totally, and ‘all’ twisted. So, that’s what I was going for when using the adverbs. I’m so glad the pages drew you in, and thank you for your feedback. I will definitely (whoops) watch the adverbs where it isn’t needed for voice. 😀

  • Lori M. Lee says:

    I liked the second one better in terms of writing and style, but the first one was more engaging. I wanted to know immediately who the boy was. The second one, I think, could stand to be pared down b/c you’re using a lot of words to describe a market, words that could be better spent on showing us what’s going on with the MC instead.

  • My vote’s for the first one. I really like them both, but like a lot of your other commenters here have said, the first one really sucks you right in, especially when your MC turns back around and he’s suddenly disappeared. Also it’s a good voice for YA.

  • Sarah says:

    The first one drew me in a bit more. I like the second, but it isn’t as personal or immediate. I love your title! Very interesting.

  • Jamie says:

    I love the first one. The opening line just grabbed my attention. But I have always felt this way about it every time that I’ve read it. Good job, Brenda!! You’re an awesome writer & I really want to read more. Good luck!! 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    I love your character names!
    I like the first beginning better for YA.
    Maybe tweak the first line slightly. Instead of “some hot guy,” I think “the” hot guy might fit better.
    Good luck!
    Kelly Polark

  • Orlando says:

    I liked the 2nd one. I has more depth, more realism. However to match the title I would pick the 1st one.

    It’s a difficult choice. Good luck with it.

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  • Kerri Cuev says:

    Wow what a mix of responses lol. I guess you have a hard decesion. I really like the first one if it helps any. I like the detail and the characters stand out 🙂

  • I like the first. Getting caught staring at a guy is so much more relate-able than beginning with a weather description.

  • The first one has been scrambling to turn the page. I need to know what’s going to happen next!

    Right, so I just went over to your libraryjumpers site and I LOVE the premise. LOVE IT! I’m adding this to my: buy it as soon as it is released list!

  • Summer Ross says:

    I agree with a lot of the others- the first one stands out, makes me want to turn pages. But the second one has some great descriptions.

    I guess it depends on what you want your audience to think and do. Would you rather they be itching to turn the page, or would you rather they get a feel for the scenery and a little character?

  • Damyanti says:

    The second one reads better, but the first is more intriguing! Beginnings are hard. I wish you luck with this one.

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