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First Page: YA Paranormal

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Stop and smell the roses, for tomorrow they may be dead.

Chapter 1

The tribal drum thumps in my head slow and steady – boom, boom, boom – and the Cherokee markings under my eyes feel heavy, but I keep my gaze steady ahead of me. Blue paint cracks on my arms as I curl my hands. My arms soon join the dance as I weave them in front of me like two snakes.

I am a snake. I am fire.

More drums join in, and the pace quickens. The flames dance to the same rhythm in front of me. I take a step sideways and bring my legs back together, executing a pirouette, and repeat the pattern several more times. After making it around the small propane-fed fire, I bow to it, willing my ancestors to leap out. I run backward; my footfalls mimic the drums inside my head.

After curling my fingers to my chest, I punch my arms out far above my head and release them into the sky. With a tiny movement, so the recital audience won’t see, I wave to the stars projected on the ceiling. Sue me.

There’s no real music at first, at least none with a beat,” my dance instructor said a couple of months ago. “You’ll just have to imagine a regular little beat, Kara. You can do that, right?

Can I imagine a drum beat? You mean like the ones often in my head anyway? The soft, sometimes hard, pats have been part of my psyche for as long as I can remember. At the moment, they’re the only things that keep me anchored.

I have so much on my mind right now, but I must perform. A ghost dance – how ironic. I picked this week for my summer visit with Grandpa because of the Panama City recital and now I’ll be watching my ancestor die.

Layout, ponche, forward roll. Great, I didn’t break my collar bone.

Thump, thump. The drums are real this time—electronicMy cue. I pick up the arrow and leap into the air.

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

36 Comments

  1. DS
    Feb 04, 2012 @ 07:00:04

    I don’t know. I might read on but I would need more. Feels like the story could go either way– interesting story incorporating the Ghost Dance Religion or bland story with inclusion of some bits of Native American reference.

    I think I would definitely lose the statement at the top. It’s a trite sentiment that has been said a lot better. I almost stopped there.

  2. Author on Vacation
    Feb 04, 2012 @ 07:26:19

    I think it’s an interesting, pleasant first page. I’m not crazy about the first person present tense style, though. A book has to really snatch my interest for me to be willing to read that. This one doesn’t “grab” me.

    Also, I think the narrative needs greater emotional depth for readers to feel any type of connection with the protagonist.

  3. SAO
    Feb 04, 2012 @ 08:33:37

    This is a sit-and-think beginning disguised with activity. Sure, she is dancing, but you could replace the dancing with sipping lattes at a cafe and still deliver the same musing about her dance instructor and the drums in her head and the upcoming death.

    Nothing really happens. There’s no conflict, no interaction with others, no emotion, and no character development.

    One page is a short sample and whether to turn the next page depends on your general take. First person, tribal drums and the cliched smell the roses thing aren’t my thing, but other writers have hooked me on stuff that isn’t my cup of tea. Get conflict and character on the page and you’ll have a lot better chance.

  4. Lynne Connolly
    Feb 04, 2012 @ 09:09:18

    I read the first sentence, thought, “Present tense – not for me” and switched off. Just warning you that you’ll get that reaction from a number of readers.
    So if you decide to go with the present tense, you have to have a good reason to do so. Fashion or “because I can” doesn’t cut it in this case. I can’t see any reason why you can’t write this book in the past tense.
    However, having said that, when I wrote a historical in the first person (not present tense) all my crit partners and a couple of editors said, “Try writing it in the third person, it will appeal to more people.” So I did, and the book died on me. Although the Richard and Rose series is in the first person, none of my other books are. It just worked for that particular book. So the artistic decision has to remain yours.
    But I agree with the others on the rest. Nothing happens. Nothing. Again, this might be okay, but you have to have a hook. Think of the scene in “Lawrence of Arabia,” when he sees a speck in the distance that gradually turns into Omar Sharif, who shoots his companion before you can see him properly. Ostensibly, for the first part of the scene nothing happens, but it is racked with tension and unanswered questions.

  5. theo
    Feb 04, 2012 @ 09:29:04

    I did the same as Lynne due to the first person, present tense, though I forced myself to finish it. I evidently know nothing of the subject matter (ghost dance?) because reading the first several lines, I thought your narrator was high on something. I imagine I’m going to be the only one who thinks this, but I needed to mention it at least.

    Beyond that, she’s dancing. (Yes, I finally figured that out.) But what else is she doing? Nothing. Not a thing that makes her the least bit interesting to me. Perhaps you have a better place to start, one that will entice your reader to keep going? This opening gave me no reason to read on.

  6. Loreen
    Feb 04, 2012 @ 09:29:22

    I don’t really understand what is going on here. Is she going to travel back in time to watch her ancestor die? Why does she hear drums in her head all the time? That would really drive someone crazy.
    I would read on if the story seemed interesting, but only if I thought this was going to be a realistic and honest portrayal of contemporary Native American life. (ie. no Cassie Edwards Savage Moon spiritualist appropriation of Native cultures)

  7. Bren
    Feb 04, 2012 @ 10:08:17

    You put the most interesting line in this passage near the end of it:

    A ghost dance – how ironic. I picked this week for my summer visit with Grandpa because of the Panama City recital and now I’ll be watching my ancestor die.

    As a reader with no investment in this character whatsoever, I really don’t care about the details of the dance steps. I found them boring and skimmed over them. Maybe you could fit them in later and interspersed with some conflict.

    The key of the matter is I sensed no conflict whatsoever until I hit the line I quoted above. Now give me more to chew on … what does it mean to dance the “ghost dance”? And why is it ironic? Dig deeper.

    I also agree that just because you are describing dance steps during this internal rumination does not mean you are starting with an active beginning. Give us conflict to hook us and bring us in. The sooner, the better.

  8. Gwynnyd
    Feb 04, 2012 @ 10:26:04

    Unlike the other readers, I was mostly liking this until I ran into the “Great. I didn’t break my collarbone” line. What? Was this a possibility she was happy hadn’t happened? Or something she *wanted* to happen? What tone was that “great” said in. Hope? Thankfullness? Despair? Sarcasm? I could not tell and spent far too much time staring at the page trying out the variations in my head to see if any made sense.

    I didn’t see any worry or hope in her that she was going to screw up the dance in such a physical way before then. I was willing to go along with the set up of the dance as a way to introduce the drumbeats in her head, but if something major hinges on THIS dance then I think you need to introduce this concept earlier. If it doesn’t, then why even mention the possibility/hope of a broken collarbone. It brought me up short and tossed me right out of the story. Dancers do not usually break their collarbones by doing a roll on stage. I’d think she’d be more worried about coming out of it crooked or not managing a full roll than breaking something.

    I also agree with removing the “roses” line… or change it to something that is more in tune with the Native American theme.

    Good luck!

  9. DS
    Feb 04, 2012 @ 11:02:09

    The ghost (or spirit) dance religion of 1890 was the result of a vision experience by Jack (?) Wilson, can’t remember his Native American name. It lead ultimately to the massacre at Wounded Knee. As far as I remember from my anthology classes in the 70’s it was more of a shuffling clockwise circle dance rather than a lot of leaping about. It spread to many tribes in the west and midwest but was rejected by the Navaho due to their beliefs with regard to ghosts.

  10. R. Sleuth
    Feb 04, 2012 @ 16:15:20

    A few of the commenters noted that the beginning is not action-oriented, and because of this, they find it boring.

    I’d like to offer a differing opinion. True, the character is inwardly focused, and we’re not thrust into the middle of an action scene. However…

    I have seen many stories open with a gunfight, horseback chase, blah blah blah. And they were still boring. An opening scene is about giving your reader a setting, showing your lead’s personality, and – most importantly – giving them something interesting to keep them reading.

    I like how much we learn about the character. Without telling us she’s a natural dancer, you show us by noting that she’s always had a beat in her head and she seems to be preforming well. We also find out what she’s doing, and why, and how she feels about it, with very few words and no tiresome introspection.

    Also, the mesh of Native American culture and modern-day items (propane, recorded music) makes an interesting contrast that draws me in.

    In other words, this may not be an active scene, but I (personally) still feel it is done right. However, if you can find a couple sentences describing dance steps that you are willing to erase, perhaps you should. Otherwise, your style is concise, and I like that. :)

    There is one thing that bothered me. Sarcastic, self-depreciating female leads? Ugh. The parts where she said “Sue me.” and “Great, I didn’t break my collar-bone” would make me consider putting the book down. Not sure how many others will feel the same way, but there it is.

  11. JB Hunt
    Feb 04, 2012 @ 16:44:57

    One more vote for switching from present to past tense.

    Present tense is always a stumbling block for me. It interferes with my ability to lose myself in the story.

  12. DM
    Feb 04, 2012 @ 21:49:17

    “An opening scene is about giving your reader a setting, showing your lead’s personality, and – most importantly – giving them something interesting to keep them reading.”

    No. An opening scene is about hooking your reader. Action isn’t necessary. Tension is. The two are often conflated in writing “workshops” or “seminars” that would better be called lectures or presentations, because they last less than a day, and if it were possible to learn the craft skills of fiction writing in a single day, our bookshelves would be crammed to overflowing with desert island keepers.

    Interest isn’t the same thing as tension either. Interest doesn’t trigger adrenaline, and interest doesn’t call for release. Tension does.

    If by personality you mean character, then the only way to show it is through action. Character equals action. Your character can think brave thoughts, but we won’t believe they’re brave until we see them act with courage. Other characters can describe them as brave, but we won’t accept the reality of that bravery until we see it demonstrated.

    Author, if you want to hook your readers, step back from this passage and ask yourself: What is the worst thing that can happen in this scene? That fear is your tension. Express it clearly, and we will be hooked.

  13. Unbiased Observer
    Feb 04, 2012 @ 23:25:59

    There’s no need to switch it to past tense, third person. People go to these writing workshops and read all these writing blogs and end up becoming formulaic writers. I prefer first person, paste tense, but my favorite book (Please Look After Mom – Shin Kyung Sook) is in second person, present tense. When I picked it up I thought Second Person? How awful! But when I removed the stick up my ass I gave it a chance and fell in love with it.

    My problem with this opening is the bait and switch. I thought I was reading a fresh opening about a Native-American girl dancing with her tribe tribe and about to go on some sort spirit quest or have a vision. If you would have stopped at “I am fire” you would have had me. But then came the modern setting with the industry standard teen voice.

    Despite the above point, I wouldn’t have stopped reading, but I was beginning to lose interest. Maybe describe fewer dance steps so we can get to the tension and the point of the scene.

  14. Cindy from Michigan
    Feb 04, 2012 @ 23:28:21

    Sometimes I like not knowing what’s going on. I enjoy being seduced by the mystery of possibility.

    I also like your maxim about the rose. Poetic, yet it’s tucked into a dark-like mystic scene.

    I’m so sick and tired of formula. What? Is every story supposed to be a clone of everything else?

    Keep your voice, author. It’s different. While I’m a big believer in polishing your work and deep revisions, but I’d hate to see you lose yourself in sameness.

    I also do not like first-person voice. I’m not invested as much in the storyline when that’s what it is.

    Much luck to you! Keep going.

  15. Lilly
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 00:56:05

    I have no problem reading first person, and it seemed to me the present tense worked well. In fact, I didn’t notice it was present tense until the first comment.
    But I did find the story dragged for me. I skimmed the dance, wanting to get to the conflict she faces. I agree that the sarcastic teen voice is overdone. I want a character to like and care for and worry about. Might not happen on page 1, but I don’t want to dislike them or not care right away, either.

  16. SAO
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 01:54:43

    I like snarky heroines, but here, the “sue me,” and “great,” are grating because they aren’t in response to anyone. By saying, ‘sue me,’ she’s responding to herself and it’s easy to imagine getting tired of a heroine who is jeers at everything, including herself.

    I will add my vote against present tense. I find it distancing because simple present is normally used for general, non-specific or repeated actions. (‘I walk to school’ does not imply you are doing it now, ‘I am walking to school,’ does.)

  17. hapax
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 12:47:01

    I am not Cherokee, but I work right next to the Cherokee nation, and I am somewhat puzzled by the references here.

    While the Cherokee do use ceremonial face paint, there is no standard “Cherokee markings under the eyes” of which I am aware.

    The Cherokee haven’t practiced the Ghost Dance for a century, and it was a communal circle dance, not an individual dance. Also, it *did* use music (songs), not just drums.

    Perhaps the author is a member of the Cherokee Nation, and is familiar with customs that I don’t know about — there are many, I am sure. Or perhaps zie is trying to make up customs for a future society — I would avoid an actual tribe name, then.

    On another note: this phrase — “My arms soon join the dance ” made me laugh. I visualized the narrator watching in horror, as her limbs willfully detached themselves from her body, going off to slither about without her….

  18. The author
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 18:52:49

    Everyone has offered such great advice here.
    I’m taking out the sarcastic remarks. It’s funny how used to them I’d gotten and almost forgot they were there. My character isn’t really sarcastic. Just being nervous – dancing in front of a crowd does that to her. I’ll take them out. As far as the Ghost Dance, in the next couple of paragraphs it becomes clear that this isn’t a true to history Cherokee Ghost Dance – her instructor (who isn’t Native American) calls it a modernized Ghost Dance. There’s other things about this dance that Kara and her instructor are also not aware of – the women should have their hair loose and the attire is different, etc. Kara is Native American but knows nothing of her heritage because her father committed suicide before she was born, and her mother (a non-native American) raised her. This is simply a dance that a small-town dance instructor came up with due to running out of creative ideas of her own. The dance is something I thought would be a vehicle to get characterization out there as well as information about what landed Kara in the situation that she finds herself in; a situation where a sixteen-year-old has to decide whether or not she will take care of her cancer-ridden grandfather. I will shorten the dance scene to get to the main tension quicker. I had thought to build it gradually: As she dances, Kara’s options are revealed and straightaway after the dance, she chooses and makes the phone call that will have her moving in with her grandfather.
    I was just trying to build the tension gradually rather than dump it at once.
    Thank you everyone for such valuable feedback.
    As far as the tense I have it in, I believe I’ll keep it. All of my book was in past tense originally but I wasn’t happy with it. I’ve changed it to present and I’m very happy now with the way it reads.
    Someone above says something about being tired of formulaic writing. I’ve read blogs, articles and done the workshops. I found that all of the advice was great for helping me shape structure and such but my overall style suffered-it came off bland. I just had to learn to pick and choose what I took away from other’s advice and there’s plenty to pick from here. I thank all of you for your constructive criticism.

  19. DM
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 20:35:09

    @Author

    “As far as the Ghost Dance, in the next couple of paragraphs it becomes clear that this isn’t a true to history Cherokee Ghost Dance – her instructor (who isn’t Native American) calls it a modernized Ghost Dance…This is simply a dance that a small-town dance instructor came up with due to running out of creative ideas of her own.”

    Is the dance instructor conscious of the cultural appropriation issues? Is the heroine?

    “The dance is something I thought would be a vehicle to get characterization out there as well as information about what landed Kara in the situation that she finds herself in; a situation where a sixteen-year-old has to decide whether or not she will take care of her cancer-ridden grandfather. I will shorten the dance scene to get to the main tension quicker. I had thought to build it gradually: As she dances, Kara’s options are revealed and straightaway after the dance, she chooses and makes the phone call that will have her moving in with her grandfather.”

    This doesn’t sound like a scene to me. It sounds like an activity (dance) during which a character thinks. I’m not sure how dancing reveals options, or forces the character to make choices, but if you can frame this scene in terms of goal, obstacle, and disaster, you’ll stand a better chance of making it work.

  20. SAO
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 22:10:39

    Past tense isn’t “formulaic.” Past tense is the grammatically correct tense for actions that are specific and completed. Present tense is for actions in progress (I am ranting) or repeated, non-specific actions (I rant about present tense all the time).

    People do it, but if you are making the choice to write present tense you should be aware that you are violating English grammar.

  21. The author
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 22:17:29

    @DM:
    Neither Kara or the instructor know of their faux pas concerning the dance, though Kara understands more eventually.
    Yes, the dance is an activity, and it’s one portion of a complete scene. After the dance concludes, she makes a call that reveals her decision. And as she’s leaving, a Native American man is standing there waiting for her – he was a friend of her father’s and he informs her that she shouldn’t have done the dance, however, she didn’t do it right so no ancestors were stirred. No harm.
    Which…uh, I didn’t even want to get into all of this. I’m Native American (which feels really weird to keep saying. We’re indian; just like African American people call themselves black). I belong to the Creek grounds that he’s about to invite her to (which in the book I’m calling Cherokee grounds). She doesn’t do the dance right therefore no dead ancestors were bothered. That is the whole argument with the Ghost Dance, which is actually more about a religious movement rather than a simple dance. The dance was supposedly created to arouse the spirits of dead ancestors so that they may help combat the white man. The other faction of NA didn’t like this because it’s a very bad thing to disturb the spirits of dead ones – they should rest in peace. However, as many people know who’ve studied any American history in depth, the Cherokee Nation is made up of many, many different tribes who found themselves fizzling, most of which participated in the Ghost Dance (although many even within the same tribe disagreed with it), so to say that the paint isn’t right for a Cherokee dance, the clothing isn’t right or whatever someone else tries to split hairs about, isn’t exactly correct. All sorts of tribes did the dance differently…looking differently, which would include several different tribes within the Cherokee Nations. And to get back to the story, that’s what this man is here to tell her (beyond the fact that he knows her father) is that she shouldn’t do a dance you know nothing about, however, she didn’t do it even close to how it’s supposed to be done so no harm is done.
    So it’s crazy to go into all this Native American background because my book only hints at it. But I assure all of you that the hints that are there are correct. I know my stuff – I only say this because I don’t want to go back and forth on what’s correct, etc. All of that’s on the up and up. My writing is what I wanted opinions on and I got it. Thank you all very much.

  22. The author
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 22:34:36

    @SAO:
    I don’t think anyone was calling present OR past tense formulaic. I believe the point was that the formula or sameness of action/tension/solution isn’t being used in this piece.

  23. R. Sleuth
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 22:47:28

    @SAO: I’ve never heard someone make that point before, and I’m a bit surprised. Present tense bothers me, too, often enough to make me stop reading.

    BUT. It’s a novel. The actions haven’t happened in the past – they haven’t happened at all, unless it’s a work of nonfiction.

    And apparently, many editors (most, I imagine, with English degrees) disagree with you enough to publish present-tense novels.

  24. The author
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 22:56:43

    @R. Sleuth:
    I do have an English degree but I received it so long ago that I didn’t feel confident arguing that point.
    That editors/publishers don’t believe present tense is incorrect, I agree with you.

  25. Unbiased Observer
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 23:18:05

    @The author:

    Off topic: why do you prefer Indian? When I read someone refer to themselves as Indian, I automatically assume they’re from South Asia. I don’t think it’s comparable to black and white as those are skin colors. It would be easier to refer to your tribe name, no?

    Also, I have to wonder if you’re changing Creek grounds to Cherokee because people are more familiar with them. Don’t pander like that. I’d much rather read about your tribe.

  26. The author
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 23:42:56

    But I don’t want to write about me. This isn’t a book about any tribe. Ancestry is only mentioned three more times in the book.
    No, we’re not technically Indians either but, if I’m being honest. Most Native American’s think NA is just as bothersome, maybe even grandstanding…oooh, I know how to be politically correct. We just say Indian, and what are we going to do? Be offended by each other?

  27. The author
    Feb 06, 2012 @ 00:54:48

    @DS:

    “The ghost (or spirit) dance religion of 1890 was the result of a vision experience by Jack (?) Wilson, can’t remember his Native American name. It lead ultimately to the massacre at Wounded Knee.”
    I tried my best to ignore this but as you see I fail. Excuse me while I defend: The ghost dance/religion did not lead to the massacre at Wounded Knee – as if my ancestors brought their deaths upon themselves. Close-minded overreaction is what lead to that disaster.

  28. SAO
    Feb 06, 2012 @ 22:56:04

    @ R. Sleuth:

    The real issue is progressive (actions in progress) and perfective (completed actions). You can’t have a present tense completed action and that is the building block of books. Things happen. For the most part, English doesn’t make a strong distinction, but when we take an ambiguous word, like read, most people will take ‘I read lots of books’ as present tense reed and ‘I read the book’ as past tense red, because they recognize the conventions.

    The word choices themselves don’t always do this. For example, ‘I am finishing the book,’ tells us that it will be finished, but isn’t yet.

    I have seen some weird results, notably in a magazine article about a scientist where the distant past ‘He opens a present and finds a chemistry kit,’ was all present tense, but once the article moved to the present day, the article switched to past tense to make a clear distinction between what had been accomplished versus what he was working on.

    The fact is, all native English speakers can easily use and understand complex grammar with no thought although very few can articulate names of tenses and the rules for when they are used. All of us can create a sentence where, say, ‘I will have been working,’ is used properly, very few can produce the precise name for the tense.

  29. The Author
    Feb 07, 2012 @ 08:26:53

    I’ve come to realize that my novel isn’t something that someone can like at a glance as it’s more of a literary fiction than commercial fiction.
    There’s that reason and the fact that most adults would rather read in the present tense whereas most young adults would rather read in past tense. When I found that out, I dabbled with my own writing and found that it wasn’t a struggle to write in the present tense like many writers have spoken of. It came naturally so I did it – not just because of a bunch of polls…though those did influence me to try it.

  30. DM
    Feb 08, 2012 @ 03:26:39

    @Author

    If most adult readers prefer the present tense, their preference isn’t translating to sales. The majority of fiction bought by NY is written in the simple past. If you choose to go with present tense, know that the market for your writing will be considerably smaller.

    Whether you are writing literary or commercial fiction, the basic unit of storytelling is still the scene. What you describe here:

    “Yes, the dance is an activity, and it’s one portion of a complete scene. After the dance concludes, she makes a call that reveals her decision. And as she’s leaving, a Native American man is standing there waiting for her – he was a friend of her father’s and he informs her that she shouldn’t have done the dance, however, she didn’t do it right so no ancestors were stirred. No harm.”

    is not a scene. It is a series of unrelated actions. There is no chain of cause and effect. Kara dances. Kara makes a phone call. Kara makes a decision. Kara meets a man. These actions are not linked by a chain of cause and effect. Action does not cause reaction. Dance does not cause phone call. Phone call does not cause decision. Decision does not cause meeting. And “no harm” is the definition of how not to end a scene. When everything is okay, there is no reason to keep reading.

    The distinction between literary fiction and commercial fiction is largely one of marketing. Don’t be fooled into thinking that obscure motivations and weak logic make something literary and clear motivations and tight plotting make something commercial. Or that an immediately likable and popular work is somehow less literary. Dickens and Austen were both commercial and literary.

  31. The author
    Feb 08, 2012 @ 08:30:53

    @DM:
    I have it totally backward above. Adults would rather read in the past tense whereas YA like present tense better.

    I consider my work commercial and literary, but the first page of a literary fiction with commercial appeal (called upmarket) isn’t always packed with action or screaming with tension. We’ll use your example: David Copperfield – it’s first page is mostly backstory. Even so, I love this book and so do many, many others.
    Please don’t assume that you have to tell me I shouldn’t throw logic into the wind. I’m not an idiot. In my book there is logic, a clear plot and complex characters – but the narrative, as with other upmarkets, is a little more complex and is built in layers if anyone is willing to read into them. The Lovely Bones’ narrative is a little more winding and complex yet the book was fantastic, even though the market for it was smaller. I think it was better than Twilight (which I like too) but some people just aren’t willing to think very much while reading, feeding their soul rather than their mind. There’s no judgement here as I do the same thing, though I rotate the feeding :)
    I agree literary vs. commercial has a lot to do with marketing but I disagree that it’s the only difference. Why do you think its marketing is different? Because the people who will read it is generally a different set. Why? Because the narrative is more complex.
    I do know my book, though, and my “series of actions” are linked and are directed from cause and effect. Maybe I didn’t relay the correct details in my messages to get those links across, but they are in fact directly linked in the writing. Actually, I am sure that I haven’t relayed all the details to you in my messages because you believe the scene ends with the guy saying she did the dance wrong. I was only relaying that part because so many people questioned the ghost dance and if she knows she shouldn’t have done it and such – I wasn’t trying to tell anyone the end of my scene in that message. It ends with the creepy NA man saying he knows her father and critiques her dance, he gives her the idea that her father might be dead rather that just a dead-beat dad, he invites her to find out the truth by going to some clan grounds. The scene doesn’t end with everything okay. It ends with her thinking the man she’s hated for almost 17 years might be dead – not a deadbeat.
    Please don’t go by my messages and assume things when I am only answering a question from others.

    I came on here for opinions for my first page – not arguments. DM, I’ve received your opinion. Thank you for taking the time to give it.

  32. Lynne Connolly
    Feb 08, 2012 @ 10:39:15

    Author – I do wish you the best with your book.
    However, you do seem to be misunderstanding some of the points made.
    first, forget about the popularity of “David Copperfield.” Books that excited the market 150 years ago don’t have much in common with books that sell today, and you are trying to sell to today’s publishers – or self-publish.
    Either way, in all the books, David Copperfield included, there is a chain throughout the book that keeps the reader going. Cause and effect, action and reaction. It’s far better to start with an Action scene, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be all whizz-bang-crash. It should be a positive scene, a call to action, and that first page doesn’t have anything of that. It doesn’t contain the hook to make the reader read on, and if you want to drag Dickens back, he was superb at doing that. The dinosaur in the first paragraph of “Bleak House,” the first line of A Christmas Carol – the list goes on.
    So a hooky first paragraph, and then something to intrigue the reader, and keep him or her reading. Maybe you want to get your heroine to notice the stranger in the corner of the room, and that makes her lose concentration. Incorporate the story into the action.
    Because as an editor or as a reader, I wouldn’t really want to read on.
    On the present tense – when you come to write the book for someone else, ie you expect people to pay for the privilege of reading it, you have to ask yourself some hard questions. Maybe past tense would be an easier sell. I know I’d be out from the first paragraph, because with very few exceptions, a book written in the present tense comes across to me as gimmicky and difficult to read. So ask yourself why you want to go against convention and write in the present tense. What does the book gain that it couldn’t gain by being written in the past tense? The first page would certainly read just as well in the past tense (and might make diehards like me want to read on!)

  33. The Author
    Feb 08, 2012 @ 14:45:06

    Thank you, Lynne, and I’m truly taking all of these comments into account about my writing. Some of the comments that are referring to my messages, however, I have to discount because I didn’t give the proper detail to draw the correct conclusions. I do have cause and effect/links from one activity to the next. I’ve studied writing a long time and realize the importance of strong plot, strong character and clear logic for moving from one thing to another.
    As far as my hook being strong enough, you didn’t give it a chance. You took one look, saw that it was present tense and said not for me.
    I have had so many people to tell me that a girl doing a tribal dance around a fire is a very good hook. That every one of the 30 comments on here don’t like my hook vs. 300+ comment on another site who like the hook. You can’t fault me for going with the majority vote. Out of those 300, probably 200 are from teens.
    With that said, because of your comments I have been working on shortening the dance and taking out the sarcastic remarks. I think Bren hit upon the remark that I need to make happen earlier.
    As far as the verb tense goes – I had the entire book in past tense. As I wrote it I kept slipping into present tense though. After my third revision, fixing all the tense slip-ups and cutting unnecessary and/or shortening scenes and basic editing, a beta reader surprised me by putting one of my scenes in present tense and I was in love with it. I started tinkering with additional scenes and I loved the flow so much better. I have 28 chapters and I’ve changed everything to the present tense now. I’m very happy with it. I realize most of you don’t like it. I realize that many agents (adults) won’t like it. However, there are many who have been able to see past the tense, recognize that’s what the young people prefer now in order to feel more a part of the book, and are publishing these present tense YA books. I just finished a present tense new release last night – The Evermore series by Alyson Noel. I did not decide to do this because of a trend. I changed it because I found research saying my natural way of writing was more acceptable that I realized. I was delighted when I found multiple articles saying the youth unconsciously choose present tense writing over past tense. I tested the theory on a few teen betas, and the result was great.
    So, sink or swim, I’m keeping it in present tense.

  34. Unbiased Observer
    Feb 10, 2012 @ 04:03:27

    What is this other site? I like discovering new sites about books.

  35. The Author
    Feb 10, 2012 @ 07:32:16

    Inkpop.com – it’s like the YA version of autonomy.com

  36. Unbiased Observer
    Feb 10, 2012 @ 12:59:30

    Cool. Thanks!

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