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First Page: Sugar Rush, Young Adult

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***

Ophelia shoved open the mercantile door with one hip and the frigid air bit her nose. She shifted the grocery bag into one arm and tried to ignore the scent of all the things she was forbidden to eat. Out of control.

She lifted her eyes to the enormity of Alaska.

Mountains, jagged and white, stabbed the dark gray sky, spilling snowflakes which shimmered in the street lamp. Although morning, it wouldn't get fully light for another hour.

The sun would not peek over the horizon until after nine. Her small town huddled between them and an inlet of the Arctic Ocean, closed with ice. A person might lose her way in any direction and only the polar bears and tundra wolves would find any trace.

Stepping off the curb, Ophelia dug keys out of her purse.

Something fell at her feet and she knelt to pick it out of the dirty, shoveled snow, a plastic triangular thing, a Star Trek uniform badge. Despite the phenomenal success of the newest movie, she was still the only teen Trekkie around.

Except for him.

Good feelings swirled up her back and wrapped around her in a hug. "You must be someone from my calculus class," she whispered, glancing around.

News of the new millennium hadn't entirely reached Togo, or so it seemed.

Ophelia was the only girl in calculus, and if she dropped out her doctor-mother would wage war with the school board. Anyway, winning a scholarship is my ticket out of this icebox.

She closed gloved fingers on the cereal box trinket.

This wasn't his first little gift.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

60 Comments

  1. Tabby
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 06:07:48

    It reads smoothly and still manages to convey lot of information in an interesting way. And the little bit of special-snowflake you included should appeal to the Twilight crowd and maybe appease the girls-need-positive-role-models portion too. Maybe. I like it–nicely done.

    “Ophelia was the only girl in calculus, and if she dropped out her doctor-mother would wage war with the school board.”

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  2. sao
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 07:51:26

    I have a few minor nits about word usage, which I presume someone else will mention.

    You’ve chosen an unusual setting, which would normally intrigue me a lot. If you got Alaska right, it would really make your book.

    But you don’t.

    1) when snowflakes swirl, a layer of pristine snow covers dirty snow very quickly.

    2) The sun rises in the East, no one calls mountains a horizon, particularly not if they have an ocean with a real horizon to the North or West and the sun is peeking over the Mountains. When she’s looking at the mountains, she sees the sky is lighter over there.

    3) The Bering Strait separates the Arctic Ocean from the Atlantic. If she is really on the Arctic Ocean, she is north of the Arctic circle. If is either mid-Feb or Mid-Nov. The sun did not/will not rise at all in late Dec, early Jan. December and Jan will have no real day, they will have a short periods that seem more like twilight than day. That makes a HUGE impact on thinking.

    4) Barrow Alaska is on the Arctic Ocean. In February, the high is negative 10 F. I forget the low minus 30? minus 40? . It is really, really cold. She probably has a scarf over her nose. Even uncovered, she is unlikely to smell anything.

    5) Above the Arctic circle you have permafrost, meaning there is no curb.

    When you get far enough north, it is not like just a little more winter than average, the lack of sun and the cold make a big impact on mood, actions, thoughts and life.

    Get this right and you’ll have a great book. If you have any success, you will be read by Alaskans who will hoot in disgust if you set your book in a slightly colder Illinois and pretend it is Alaska.

    Pick a real town in Alaska with a good website and find out what life is like there. Follow the weather report. Websites can tell you sunrise and sunset times. Find out what people do. What the native Alaskan culture is like.

    In short, know what you are writing about.

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  3. sao
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 07:54:29

    Oh, and north of the Arctic circle, it never gets “fully light” in the winter.

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  4. theo
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 08:06:19

    Ophelia shoved open the mercantile door with one hip and the frigid air bit her nose. She shifted the grocery bag into one arm and tried to ignore the scent of all the things she was forbidden to eat. Out of control.

    What’s Out of control? The scents? The grocery bag? Her appetite?

    Mountains, jagged and white, stabbed the dark gray sky, spilling snowflakes which shimmered in the street lamp. Although morning, it wouldn't get fully light for another hour.

    The sun would not peek over the horizon until after nine. Her small town huddled between them and an inlet of the Arctic Ocean, closed with ice.

    It wouldn’t get fully light for another hour and the sun peeking over the horizon until after nine are redundant. One or the other is enough, or combine the description:

    **Already eight in the morning, the sun would not peek over the horizon until after nine and she hated the almost perpetual darkness.**

    Rough, but you see the idea.

    Does her town huddle between the horizon and the inlet? Or the mountains and the inlet?

    Something ‘falls at her feet’, but from where? Out of the sky? Did someone throw it at her?

    Except for him.

    Good feelings swirled up her back and wrapped around her in a hug. “You must be someone from my calculus class,” she whispered, glancing around.

    Him? If she knows who ‘he’ is, she’d know whether or not he’s in her calculus class.

    News of the new millennium hadn't entirely reached Togo, or so it seemed.

    This sentence just seems out of place to me. You go from the calculus class to this sentence and back to the calculus class.

    Ophelia was the only girl in calculus, and if she dropped out her doctor-mother would wage war with the school board. Anyway, winning a scholarship is my ticket out of this icebox.

    If Ophelia drops out of calculus, why would her mother wage a war with the school board? They didn’t expel her from the class. She quit. Her mother should wage war with her/Ophelia and not the school board.

    She closed gloved fingers on the cereal box trinket.

    This wasn't his first little gift.

    Is he, whoever he is, dropping things out of nowhere for her? And she’s sure it’s from him because…?

    I know I’m not your target audience for this, but I think young readers (for the most part) still expect a smart, well written story. The premise is good, Alaska is a state that, at least to me, is still unexplored enough that it almost reeks of supernatural possibilities. Each thing mentioned above, in and of itself, can be an interesting tidbit. They all need to be rearranged in a more cohesive manner though.

    JMHO and kudos for putting it out there.

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  5. Tamara Hogan
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 08:34:55

    Good points by sao concerning a unique setting. I think the writing itself is engaging and sharp. I love the last line.

    That said, I had an immediate, and surprisingly visceral, negative reaction to the character’s name. After reading the very first word of the manuscript – “Ophelia” – I experienced a full mental stop, and then had some admittedly uncharitable thoughts about heavy-handed Shakespeare allusions sure to come.

    Certain character names carry some very heavy literary baggage. This is one of them – so much so that, upon merely reading the first word, I, as a reader, have expectations about where the story is going to go, and they aren’t all positive.

    I have no idea if this is the direction the author plans to take, but I wanted to raise the point for the author’s consideration.

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  6. Kimber An
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 08:40:17

    Tabby, thanks! I’ve never read Twilight or watched any of the movies, so I’ll have to take your word for it.

    Sao, you got me on the geography! I actually live in Alaska and took my knowledge of it for granted in this respect. Togo is fictional, but I did imagine it a little further South. I’ll be sure to check my map.

    Theo, thanks for the feedback!

    Tamara, I actually named the heroine “Ophelia” on purpose. She *redeems* the name.

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  7. Lori
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 08:47:08

    The only thing that jarred me was the line about her mother waging war if Ophelia dropped out as someone else pointed out: dropping out means Ophelia screwed up, not the school board.

    I liked the invisible gift giver. Of course as a reader I didn’t/don’t know what he is that she isn’t seeing him but that’s part of the reason I’d want to read more.

    I don’t read YA but would like to keep reading further from this. I think its good. Thanks for putting it out.

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  8. Kimber An
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 08:50:38

    Thanks, Lori. I’d hoped the line about news of 21st Century not quite making it to Togo would explain why Ophelia’s doctor-mother would wage war on the school board if she dropped out. In small towns, social pressure can be backwards.

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  9. RebeccaJ
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 09:20:30

    Ophelia shoved open the mercantile door with one hip and the frigid air bit her nose. She shifted the grocery bag into one arm and tried to ignore the scent of all the things she was forbidden to eat.

    When you said she "shoved the door open," and she "tried to ignore the scent of all the things she was forbidden to eat," I assumed she was going INTO the store. After all, why buy a bag of food you’re “forbidden” to eat? But good otherwise.

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  10. Kimber An
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 09:22:28

    Thanks, Rebecca!

    “why buy a bag of food you can’t eat?”

    She bought it for her family.

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  11. Tracey
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 09:24:41

    I was confused about a couple of things. This passage was a bit baffling.

    Something fell at her feet and she knelt to pick it out of the dirty, shoveled snow, a plastic triangular thing, a Star Trek uniform badge. Despite the phenomenal success of the newest movie, she was still the only teen Trekkie around.

    Except for him.

    Good feelings swirled up her back and wrapped around her in a hug. “You must be someone from my calculus class,” she whispered, glancing around.

    1) “Except for him” seems to say that she knows who is giving her these gifts. Then she says “You must be someone from my calculus class.” Which indicates that she DOESN’T know who’s giving her the gifts. Which is it?

    2) Why does the gift of a Star Trek insignia mean that the giver must be in Ophelia’s calculus class rather than in her chemistry class or her English class? We haven’t heard of her wearing an insignia to calculus class, after all.

    Then there’s this:

    Her small town huddled between them and an inlet of the Arctic Ocean, closed with ice. A person might lose her way in any direction and only the polar bears and tundra wolves would find any trace.

    I’ve got friends who are from Alaska, and one thing they always grumble about is the fact that everyone assumes that city streets are crawling with wolves, polar bears and penguins.

    It’s possible that Togo is far enough out in the bush for polar bears to be risk. But it sounds like a stereotype to me…or a joke that didn’t quite come off.

    That said, the story sounds pretty good. And I do understand about parents who simply will not accept a kid quitting a class and who will move heaven and earth to get teachers on their side. (Though I do feel very sorry for the girl because she’s named Ophelia. What a horrible name! There aren’t even any good nicknames for it. All you could call someone with that name is “Feely.”)

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  12. John J.
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 09:47:33

    Aside from all of the critique that’s been done – which is all pretty accurate – I can’t see too much else to remind you of. I like that your protagonist is a Trekkie – teens look for quirks about the main characters, because real people have quirks, and being a Trekkie is one that signals someone possibly dorky but at the same time intriguing. Making her the only girl in calculus is over the top, though. Even in a small town, girls have higher intelligence levels than boys, so it seems a little too odd. I don’t know if a class full of boys is a part of the plot, but its really unconventional unless you have a good way of explaining why it is. And why would it have to be someone from her class? If you keep that in, try and explain it. I’m sure she has more than one class in school.

    But other than that, it’s a pretty solid first page, and it captures the reader’s attention for sure. You manage to hint at the MC’s personality and give us a nice (if not essentially accurate) sense of imagery. :) It’s a good first page, just not a great one – yet.

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  13. nell dixon
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 10:12:02

    The use of Togo as a name completely confused me, I didn’t realise that was the name of the town. I immediately associated it with Trinidad and Tobago and thought you meant somewhere in the Caribbean which didn’t tie in with Alaska unless it was an alternate future set piece.

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  14. Anne Douglas
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 10:18:30

    I like the idea of Alaska (quite nice and different in fact), I like the idea of a girl with a ‘secret admirer’ who seems to be into all the things she is, and other things. But for some reason the tense is all wrong for me-like I’m being told all these tidbits that don’t necessarily flow one after the other. I’m not feeling any movement.

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  15. Kimber An
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 11:01:26

    Tracey, thank you!
    1) Both.
    2) I did mention it was a tiny town, which means the high school classes are very tiny, which means she knows everyone and all about everyone, except who the gift-giver’s true identity.
    3) I’ve lived in Alaska for almost two decades.

    John, thank you!

    You’re right about girls being smart, but studies confirm girls, starting in Junior High, tend to hide their intelligence, especially in math and science, especially in a small town in Alaska which hasn’t come completely into the 21st century yet.

    Nell, thanks for reading! Togo is a fictional town. I named Togo after the other lead dog in the famous dog sled relay which brought life-saving medicine to Nome, Alaska in the 1920′s. You may have seen the movie based on the other lead dog, Balto. The Iditeroid Race is held to commerate this event in Alaskan history. If memory serves, Togo, the heroic dog, was named after a Japanese friend.

    Anne, thank you!

    I know First Person is hugely popular in female-centered Young Adult right now, but I’ve never liked it. Few authors can write that way so that I like it. This was how this story wanted to be told. I do admit it’s not perfect. I’m no Grammar Goddess!

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  16. Kimber An
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 11:06:10

    Sorry, I was going to comment on verb tense for Anne, but the Edit function kept bounching me all over the page. Anyway…ex the POV comment and go with rest of what I said, Anne. My mind was in a parallel universe.

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  17. Polly
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 11:48:27

    A few points:

    1) As someone else mentioned, I’m not sure what the “Out of control” in the first paragraph referenced. Her desire for the food? Why can’t she eat it? I assume we’ll find out more later, but I didn’t like the “out of control.”

    Also, I don’t know anything about the cold in Alaska, but I do know something about perfume and the cold, and if it’s as cold as you say, I don’t think she’s smell anything. Unless she’s smelling the food right in the moment before she goes outside?

    2) Are the mountains or is the grey sky spilling snowflakes. Right now, the mountains are, but I assume it’s supposed to be the grey sky? If so, you need to fix your dependent clauses.

    3) How does she know it’s someone from her calculus class? I don’t follow the logic.

    4) Count me as another who doesn’t like Ophelia as a name. I’m just not a fan of heavily symbolic names, one way or the other. Totally your prerogative, though.

    Good luck. I read a lot of YA, though mostly ones with a fantasy-bent. I’m guessing from the title and the comments about the food she can’t eat that there’s a plot about eating disorders? If so, I might not be your target audience, but it’s an important topic and you’ve definitely got an evocative voice and setting.

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  18. Tabby
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 12:08:36

    @Kimber An:

    Tabby, thanks! I've never read Twilight or watched any of the movies, so I'll have to take your word for it.

    Wow. I just assumed someone currently writing a YA novel would have read the Twilight books regardless if they were interested in them or not. It seems arrogant or maybe ignorant not to read them if you write YA books–I’m not sure which. Or maybe I’m just projecting because even I read them to see what the fuss was about and I’m not a writer or interested in YA novels.

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  19. Kimber An
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 12:10:45

    Thanks, Polly. The heroine is diabetic and her diabetes is out of control in such a way that not even her doctor-mother can do anything about it.

    This story is Science Fiction based, not Fantasy. I realize that’s not exactly the rage in YA, especially for girls. I’m more into Vulcans than vampires, unless they’re alien in origin, of course.

    As for Ophelia, I wanted a name which conveyed her supposed victim status, because I thought’d bring greater emotional impact when she turns everything on the baddies by herself in the end. I don’t like stories where there is no character growth and a character cannot grow if she starts out already perfect and powerful.

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  20. Kimber An
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 12:11:29

    Tabby, I’m simply not interested in vampires, unless they’re alien in origin.

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  21. Tabby
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 12:23:33

    Yeah, but it’s your business! I read things all the time I’m not interested in for work. As a writer I’d think you’d be itching to dissect those books–any books in your genre to get critical or popular acclaim–to see what makes them tick. Oh, well.

    Good luck with you book–I think you’re off to a great start.

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  22. Bianca
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 12:58:35

    @ Tabby: How is it “arrogant” not to have read Twilight? The Twilight series does not define the breadth and depth of the YA genre. It is not a prerequisite to read Stephanie Meyers if you want to write young adult fiction.

    That’s kind of a strange assumption…?

    In regards, to the writing, I’m no critic: but I’d read on. The Alaska inconsistencies irked me, but if you do your research and make it truer to the setting, I think you’ll have a good book on your hands.

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  23. Kimber An
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 13:15:54

    Ha! The heroine’s sister’s name is Bianca! Yep, that was deliberate too. Not after you, Bianca, but after the Shakespeare one.

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  24. Lori S.
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 13:20:40

    @Kimber An:

    Actually, recent studies have shown that girls are making steady advances in the sciences while boys are beginning to lag behind. Nowadays, boys are the ones more prone to hiding their intelligence because it’s “not cool” to be smart.

    Many, if not most, high school math & science classes have a female majority enrollment. To have a math class with only one girl (unless your story is based in the 1950′s, or there are no other girls in town) doesn’t ring true to real life. Just saying.

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  25. Ros
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 13:38:51

    Just to add to the discussion on Togo. I assumed you meant Togo, which was very confusing indeed, since I’m pretty certain it never snows there.

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  26. Polly
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 13:39:38

    @Kimber An:

    Thanks for the additional info. Though, unless her mother’s an internist or an endocrinologist, there’s no reason why, just because she’s a doctor, she’d be especially good at treating her daughter’s diabetes. And I’m assuming, if it’s a small town, her mother’s probably a general practitioner, and not a specialist (not that she can’t have done a lot of research about diabetes, which I’m sure any parent–especially a doctor–would, if their kid had it, but she wouldn’t have had the practical training that a specialist would).

    I’d definitely be more interested in reading a sci-fi story than an issue story, but I have a pretty strong aversion to symbolic names, and with Ophelia and Bianca in one story, you’d probably lose me. I’d definitely give it a shot, though. Good luck.

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  27. Tia
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 13:55:10

    I really liked the mood you established here. I would be looking for something stronger to suck me in. The Trekkie badge is cool and you talk about the warm feelings, so I think if you take it even further, such triggering a memory. Need to attach to the character.

    I also had to read a few times before I understood the thing with the badge, so ditto what the others said.

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  28. Kimber An
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 13:55:10

    Thanks, Lori. This is why I mentioned that news of the 21st century hadn’t yet made it all the way to Togo.

    Come to think of it, the math-and-science smart boys in the story are not treated well either.

    In some small towns intelligence and the outside world are regarded with suspicion and, therefore, something to be ignored or ridiculed.

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  29. Kimber An
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 13:59:09

    Thanks, Ros. Here’s my fictional town’s namesake-

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Togo_(dog)

    Tia, thank you so much. Writing a first page has to be the hardest part of writing a novel. I swear I rewrote this one at least thirty times. It was the most difficult First Page I’ve written so far. And, I fully admit, it’s not perfect. However, I couldn’t get it anymore perfect on my own.

    So, thanks to all!

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  30. Lori S.
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 14:16:47

    @Kimber An:

    I understand what you’re telling me, but you’re not adequately relaying this information to the reader, which is why it rings false.

    I understand how hard it is, to see one’s work under the microscope. However, your dismissive tone & justifications tell me you really don’t want to hear anything aside from praise. The commenters are trying to strengthen your work, not tear it apart. Blow off my comment if you like, but please try to take the other comments more seriously

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  31. Maili
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 14:28:32

    @Kimber An: :D For what it’s worth, I had a classmate whose name was Ophelia*. Our peers didn’t perceive her name having a tragic victim undertone. Our age at the time means her name was basically a bright flashing neon sign that read: “Please kick me”.

    Classmates made fun of her name right up to our graduation day. Ophelia = Offal: Piggy, Faggot, Faggie, Haggis, Stinky Swine, etc. Helicopter, Chopper; Chemist (Ophelia = opium + paraphernalia), and Pneumonia (this after learning the story behind the painting).

    That memory makes me wonder if your heroine has the same problem with her classmates.

    *Ophelia’s sister’s name was Ariel and their older brother Orlando. And from England. Poor bastards. FWIW, former classmates still refer Ophelia as Pneumonia.

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  32. Kimber An
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 14:36:15

    Gee, Lori, I thought I was being good-natured and polite. But, I know it’s easy to misunderstand each other on a forum in which we can’t see each other’s faces or hear the tones of our voices.

    Maili, oh, I love those names! Orlando makes me think of Orlando Bloom, of course, and he is so hot.

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  33. Jennifer M
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 14:38:54

    I was also rather baffled by the geographical references in this story. Stating that the sun would rise around 9AM seemed to set the story in the lower part of the state, but the Arctic Ocean reference and the polar bear reference then totally threw me as did the reference to the horizon when you were clearly talking about the mountains.

    The Togo reference on top of all that was just a bit too much for me. I initially thought Togo was a South Pacific island, then looked it up and saw it was a country in Africa. Either way, although I now understand that you named the town after a famous dog, I think you should seriously consider changing the name. Togo is just familiar enough for people like me to think, “Wait a minute, isn’t that an island or a country somewhere other than Alaska?” and get completely thrown out of the story as a result.

    Once I get past all of that, this page seems very interesting and has the potential to draw me in.

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  34. RebeccaJ
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 14:44:03

    Ah,ok, Kimber An, I didn’t realize she had a family.

    It’s hard when we only see one page:)

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  35. Maili
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 14:48:34

    @Kimber An: Yeah, our classmates loved those names, too, for horribly wrong reasons. Heh. I didn’t escape the fate either (Chinky is my most hated nickname).

    Considering what the others said about the town name, how about adding a word to it? Something like Togo Town, Dog Togo, or Togo Route?

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  36. Tasha
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 14:48:51

    I was also completely thrown by the use of “Togo.” I assumed she had an African pen pal when I got to the line “This wasn’t his first little gift.”

    You might want to make it clear sooner that Togo is the town’s name, since most readers (at least, I think) will recognize Togo as a country.

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  37. theo
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 15:05:14

    To the author: I understand what Lori is trying to tell you and whether you know you’re being good natured or not, you’re right, it’s very difficult to tell that through the typed word in a situation like this.

    I have to agree with Lori though in the fact that, if it takes this much explaining on the author’s part to convey almost everything they’ve put on their first page, it makes me leery to wonder how much explaining is going to have to be done through the entire story for the reader to ‘get’ everything. Perhaps a reworking of things so they’re better conveyed will help. You don’t have to load your first page with everything in the story of course, but you also don’t want the reader scratching their heads for how many pages it takes to get to the explanations.

    As I said in my comments, the premise is a good one, but it definitely needs a more cohesive, easier to understand basis.

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  38. evie byrne
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 15:11:45

    Not knowing anything about Alaska, I read along just fine until the end–then I got confused:

    Something fell at her feet and she knelt to pick it out of the dirty, shoveled snow, a plastic triangular thing, a Star Trek uniform badge. Despite the phenomenal success of the newest movie, she was still the only teen Trekkie around.

    How could it fall at her feet if no one is around to drop it? I thought she dropped it at first, then I thought she found it, that it was left for her, but no, “it fell at her feet.” Did it appear supernaturally? If so, perhaps a word like “materialize” would be in order.

    Except for him.

    Good feelings swirled up her back and wrapped around her in a hug. “You must be someone from my calculus class,” she whispered, glancing around.

    She knows who it is, apparently, so why is he “someone from calculus class…”? If she’s going to whisper something, why not something more logical, like “You again?” or “Where are you?” Or whatever hints at the nature of their relationship.

    News of the new millennium hadn't entirely reached Togo, or so it seemed.

    This is a complete non-sequitor. What news? Whaaa?? The release of the movie? But the trinket proves at least one person has seen it. And I know Togo is a country in Africa, so this completely threw me for a loop, and caused all sorts of confused thoughts that are not conducive to a good first page, like, “Is the boy African? What does Alaska have to to w. Togo?” etc.

    Ophelia was the only girl in calculus, and if she dropped out her doctor-mother would wage war with the school board. Anyway, winning a scholarship is my ticket out of this icebox.

    Why are we talking about calculus and her mom now? It feels like you’re trying to set something up for later, but as far as I can tell it has nothing to do with the trinket and the boy, which is what I, as reader, want to know more about.

    She closed gloved fingers on the cereal box trinket.

    This wasn't his first little gift.

    This last part is very good. If it were my story, I’d just cut from “News of…” to here, to keep it on point and focused.

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  39. Marianne McA
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 15:38:38

    I liked it.

    This sentence:

    “Her small town huddled between them and an inlet of the Arctic Ocean, closed with ice.”

    threw me, because I’d lost track of what the ‘them’ referred to.

    ‘Togo’ threw me to a smallish degree, but from a non-American perspective it does fairly frequently happen that genuine American place names evoke a different place, so I’d have read straight past that.

    And ‘Ophelia’ would work for me, especially in the context of the Doctor Mother. It strongly suggests a particular kind of family. Same way Maili’s collection of names (Ophelia, Orlando, Ariel) paints a picture of that family.
    FWIW, my sister’s got a Shakespearean name, and I only remember it being picked up on once, when someone inviting her to the local boys school for a debate started the letter ‘Oh, tempestuous one…’ Mostly, not an issue.

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  40. Kimber An
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 16:47:23

    Thanks so much to everyone. I hope I did convey my gratitude well enough! I’ve been the receiver of plenty of feedback. I have learned some of it I can use and some of it I can’t use, but I need to be grateful for all of it.

    The bit about the Arctic Circle was a gorilla that sneaked past me, I swear. I think it must’ve happened when I was trying to decide exactly where to put Togo in Alaska. It’s a complicated decision because the *setting must support the story.* Thank goodness, it’s an easy fix which won’t throw off any plot threads.

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  41. Nicola
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 18:08:17

    I feel like maybe, Kimber An, you’re holding back important details so as not to info dump on the readers on the first page. I can understand that, but I think you went a little too far the other way and in an effort to create an atmosphere of mystery have left out a few actually pertinent details.

    From the ‘out of control’ line I assumed that the heroine was on a self-imposed diet. Without any further explanation, this didn’t make me warm to her much. You said in the comments that she is a diabetic and that’s why she can’t eat the food. I don’t think it would take much to clarify that here. And if you don’t want to mention that she’s a diabetic yet then why mention the food at all? When I was a kid my younger sister was diagnosed with insulin dependent diabetes. The rest of the family changed our eating habits to support her. We didn’t keep food in the house that she couldn’t eat–at the very least we wouldn’t have made her go shopping for it.

    The name Togo also sent my mind to Africa.

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  42. Kimber An
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 18:13:18

    Thank you, Nicola!

    Especially for the bit about diabetes. It has been very challenging figuring out just how to and when to weave that in, because it is a vital to the Science Fictiony aspect of the story.

    I’m not emotionally invested in this story right now, because I’m working on another one. I’ll save all these comments and analyze them when I revisit it. Thanks so much to everyone!

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  43. Nicola
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 20:02:36

    I should have mentioned before that I thought this first page was well written and provided an intriguing set-up. I would certainly keep reading. I think maybe some commenters felt you weren’t taking their suggestions on board because you responded with justifications for most of your choices. Of course it’s good that you have reasons for what you’ve written but I guess the point is that these things need to be clear to the reader first go round without the author needing to come in and explain what’s really going on. This is a part of writing that I struggle with a lot too. Obviously everything can’t be explained on a first page, but I think the point most commenters were making was that having things unclear here doesn’t really add anything. You are probably better off explaining (just briefly) what her issue is with the food and why she thinks the gift-giver is in her calculus class.

    Also, someone whose diabetes is ‘out of control’ is going to get very sick very quickly. It is a disease that can have fatal consequences if not managed daily. But I for one (and I know this would go for my sister too) would love to see a chick with diabetes be the heroine in a paranormal. So good luck!

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  44. Julia Sullivan
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 20:03:06

    Put me down as another person who was confused by “Togo”–I was all “what does a country in Africa have to do with a town in Alaska?” and then I wondered if that was part of the science-fiction element and she and the boy in question had lives that were in synch even though they were on opposite sides of the world (a la The Double Life of Veronique) or something.

    I also assumed that the “couldn’t eat” was an eating disorder thing, not diabetes.

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  45. Kimber An
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 20:11:51

    Thank you, Nicola. Honestly, I thought I was answering questions, because there’s just no way to fit 75,000 words on one page. Oh, yeah, I talked to diabetics and the people who love them, and then came up with a Science Fiction spin on it all. The research was actually very interesting.

    Thank you for reading Julia. I wonder if the assumption that it’s an eating disorder is because teen girls are well-known to have them, but juvinile diabetes is much less known?

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  46. Kimber An
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 20:42:06

    I just wanted to add *this has been fun!*

    The only time an aspiring author gets to talk about her stories is when they’re critiqued, because there’s only about a 0.0001% chance of publication. So, I was really happy to have you all in just an itty bitty part of the Sugar Rush Universe for a just a little while. Thanks again.

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  47. katieM
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 20:48:14

    I want to read this. I, too, am not a fan of the Twilight type of book. However, I love Science Fiction. I hope this book gets published. I would love to read it.

    That reminds me, have any of the first pages been published?

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  48. Lynn
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 22:11:31

    @Kimber An: Togo was a little confusing, but you already mentioned Alaska. That being said, if you hadn’t said Alaska, it would have been snowing in Africa for me. Alaska does have a lot of interesting town names. The majority I can’t pronounce.

    Ophelia shoved open the mercantile door with one hip and the frigid air bit her nose. She shifted the grocery bag into one arm and tried to ignore the scent of all the things she was forbidden to eat. The last sentence makes it sound like she was going back INTO the store, so it’s a little confusing. Also, if it’s that cold out, she wouldn’t be smelling much of anything.

    Out of control. It does sound like an eating disorder.

    You said she was a diabetic which is “out of control”. Maybe say something about her blood sugar being too high or low, or her having a symptom or two. This bugs me. If her doctor-mom is so worried about her diabetes, why is she sending her to the store for “forbidden” foods? Sorry, but if I was a good doctor and mom who had a diabetic kid whose disease is “out of control”, I wouldn’t send my child to the grocery store to pick up sugar and carbs. If her mom wasn’t a doctor, you might have been ok in a bad way.

    You have a good start. I’d get the geography and atmospheric details ironed out. Sunrise, amount of daylight, etc..

    I like anything Alaska. I also like that you have a diabetic science girl as the heroine. Might bring more awareness to JD.

    Good luck to you.

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  49. Kimber An
    Apr 25, 2010 @ 05:52:33

    Good morning, Katie. I have read hundreds of comments online about Twilight as self-education and it amazed me how people either love it or hate it. I’m one of those seemingly rare people who are indifferent. I’m not holding my breath on publication. Even if I do dot all my ‘i’s and cross all my ‘t’s, my chances at publication are practically zero.

    Well, Lynn, there’s actually a very good reason why her doctor-mother sent her to the store, but, aparently, I’m not supposed to answer those questions. My hope is that a reader would go, “Huh?” like you did and read on to find out.

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  50. Kimber An
    Apr 25, 2010 @ 05:58:34

    Okay, I can’t resist. The mother sends her because she’s the only one left.

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  51. Cindy from Michigan
    Apr 25, 2010 @ 07:53:30

    Kimber An,

    I love your voice and your writer’s spirit. I’d continue to read this because of the character’s general energy.

    Another thing that impresses me very much is that you have a reason for everything you wrote, which tells me you love your characters, you know them, and you feel a responsibility to keep them “pure” as they appear in your mind.

    What I mean is you understand their natures and let your intuition guide you on what they do and say.

    Every writer needs editing and revisions, but what you have here is special, in my opinion, and as I wrote in the beginning, so is your voice.

    Good luck with this.

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  52. Lynn
    Apr 25, 2010 @ 08:12:46

    @Kimber An: I look forward to reading it one day. Good luck.

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  53. Kimber An
    Apr 25, 2010 @ 08:30:04

    Thanks for your encouragement, Cindy and Lynn!

    “you feel a responsibility to keep them “pure” as they appear in your mind.”

    I do. So, unless an agent or editor tells me otherwise, ‘Ophelia’ stays, for example.

    I have all 75,000 words in my head like a full-color movie and I know her name is vital to the story. It smacks Hamlet right in the face with Tribble doo-doo.

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  54. Gwynnyd
    Apr 25, 2010 @ 19:53:37

    I’d say the obvious modern nickname for “Ophelia” is “Lia.”

    I found this page a bit jerky, but intriguing. As a Trekkie myself, albeit an aging one, I would read on.

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  55. Kimber An
    Apr 25, 2010 @ 20:35:20

    “Lia” That’s nice. I might have to use that if there’s ever a sequel in which she needs an alternate identity.

    As for ‘aging Trekkie,’ you wanna know a funny thing?

    When I put Sugar Rush through my usual critique group, several of the older critique partners worried that teenagers wouldn’t understand the Star Trek element.

    None of my young critique partners did.

    Star Trek is a cultural icon. It’s ageless.

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  56. Kimber An
    Apr 25, 2010 @ 21:28:03

    @Kimber An:

    Meant to say,

    ‘None of my young critique partners worried about it.’

    In other words, the young readers did understand, despite the older ones’ concerns.

    Duh.

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  57. Mina Kelly
    Apr 26, 2010 @ 05:50:35

    I know I’m coming a bit late to this, so I’m not going to comment specifically on the piece. I just wanted to let you know “Sugar Rush” is the name of quite a well known YA novel with a GLBT slant, in the UK at least. Depending where you sell it, you may not get to keep your title.

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  58. Maili
    Apr 26, 2010 @ 06:44:57

    @Mina Kelly: Yes! When I first saw the blog post title, I immediately thought of that YA novel (written by Julie Burchill, a notorious well known journalist and author).

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  59. Kimber An
    Apr 26, 2010 @ 06:58:00

    Thanks Mina and Maili.

    When I looked it up on Amazon, there were no other books by this title. Oh, wait, maybe there was one about desserts. Anyway, that was a while ago.

    Depending on a lot of factors, having the same or similar title as another book can be a good thing. However, I’ve been told many times never, ever to count on keeping the title I choose. With some of my stories, that would bother me. With this one, I don’t really care. In fact, I went through several titles for it myself.

    Crushed

    Sweet

    Sugar Rush

    I was also considering Sugar Crash.

    I actually do have two lesbians in the story, minor characters, come to think of it.

    I’ve been told titles are like cover art. The author gets input, but not the last say. Unless she’s J.K. Rowling and I, sure as heck, am not.
    ;)

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  60. Kimber An
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 07:30:47

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