Monday, August 3, 2015

Eek! Put Some Pages Up For Criteek!

A Post By Jonathan

 In a recent post about his harrowing run-in with a rogue tornado, fellow Boarder Steve Kozeniewski mentioned that we here at Across the Board are more than just a bunch of bloggers: We are a community. I found this out big time when, in a recent fit of desperation to achieve my dream of becoming a published author, I reached out to all the accomplished writers here at ATB, asking for editing help, general guidance, and any other advice they had about the writing life. I received a flood of support-filled responses in return and couldn't be more grateful... Thanks again, everyone!
One of their responses included a suggestion to put some of my writing up on the blog so that other writers could see what they thought... Being the brave soul that I am, I said okay. What do I have to lose, right?
So, without further ado, I present what we hope will be a regular segment here at Across the Board: "Eeek! Put Some Pages Up For Criteek!" You hereby have my permission to shred/praise/toss/tout/completely rewrite the first two pages of my MG WIP, currently titled Mac Magellan and the Gathering of Galaxies.Happy reading. And be gentle!

Chapter 1  
     Okay. I’ll just come right out and say it. My name is Mac Magellan and I hate outer space.
     Why, you ask? How could anyone possibly hate the moon, the stars, the entire Milky Way? Well, I bet you’d hate them too if you had astronauts for parents and they had crammed all-things-outer-space down your throat 24/7/365 since the day you were born. And you definitely wouldn’t like it if you got shipped off to nerd camp —AKA, Space Camp— every time they had to go on some useless space mission, like the great ISS zero-gravity toilet install of 2015.
     I know my mom and dad keep sending me to Space Camp because they hope all that junior astronaut training will eventually rub off on me, that one day I’ll want to explore the universe just like them. Well, Mars and Venus (they hate it when I call them by their NASA code names), it just ain’t happenin’ (they hate it when I talk like a Texan too, even though, as I always like to remind them, we live in Houston, Texas and are, therefore, Texans. I mostly do it to annoy them these days).
     Even if I had any interest in outer space (which I don’t), I like baseball way too much to give it up to float around in a tin can for the rest of my life. Plus, I’ve been known to lose my cookies on more than one Space Camp training simulator… and on more than one Space Camp counselor. Who knows what would happen if I actually left the atmosphere? No thank ya ma'am. I’ll take green grass, fresh air, and a bat and a ball in my hands any day.
     Of course, Mars and Venus wouldn’t know a baseball if it hit them upside the head— a theory I’ve been tempted to test out on more than one occasion. Needless to say, they weren’t happy at all when I told them I wanted to be a professional baseball player when I grow up. Sure, I’m only twelve now, but I figure if I get enough practice in I could easily be the starting pitcher for the Astros by the time I’m twenty-four.
     If my parents knew that all I pretty much did at Space Camp these days was sneak away to play baseball, they’d probably take the first space capsule off the International Space Station and remove me from the premises themselves. Then again, probably not. They hadn’t made it to any of my Space Camp graduations, and I wasn’t going to start holding my breath now.
     But what I was going to do was start working on my curve ball, and thankfully I had some friends to help me out in that department.


Debra Renée Byrd said...

Hi Jonathan! Ack, scary, critiques! You're very brave. They make me clam up.

I like the introduction. I always like when I hear a 1st person narrator's voice right out of the gate. Continuing to read, I felt like he sounded older than an MG protag. I also get a hop-scotch feeling of camp-baseball-camp-baseball-camp-baseball. It might just be me, but if you could sort them together a little more--all his cons about Space Camp and then all his pros for baseball--it could erase that. :)

Jonathan Schramm said...

Double Ack! Thanks so much for commenting, Deborah! Great points all around. I could definitely bounce back and forth between Space Camp and Baseball a little less. I've also been working on my word choice and shortening my sentences, so hopefully when I'm done that'll make Mac sound a little more MG. Soooo appreciate it!

Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

I love the voice of this piece -- you're hitting your audience. I agree with Deborah regarding the back and forth between camp and baseball. Here's also a copy edit note: "ISS zero-gravity toilet install of 2015" if this is the first time you're mentioning ISS -- you need to spell it out for your reader. Also, that sounds funny.

Brenda St John Brown said...

The first sentence makes me want to know more about this kid and it immediately comes across as a MG voice, which is great. I feel like this is a bit of an info dump, though, and I wonder if there's any way you can show the reader this stuff, even if it's not right in the beginning. For instance, if the story continues with Mac at camp practicing his baseball stuff, I think these details could be woven into his interaction with his friends. Like one of them remarking that his parents are going to be mad that he's missed his zero-gravity practice AGAIN and he can reply with something like, "Mars and Venus don't care, as long as I'm out of their hair."

I think with MG, you want to jump right into the action, which here seems like it would be the baseball practice at space camp. There are so many opportunities for great dialogue and if this kid is sarcastic and funny (which he sounds from the narration), that will really reel in your target audience.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I love the voice of the protagonist -- it comes through loud and clear!

I notice many other readers commented on "too much telling" and "show us more." I am not a fan of following the "show, don't tell" rule too closely. Sometimes you HAVE to tell things, and this kind of light-hearted commentary can be a wonderful opportunity to explore the voice and thoughts of the narrator. That said, you might want to trim this section just a little and get us to an actual scene by the end of the first page.

Of course, I am way more interested in space than baseball, so maybe I just wanted less baseball. :P Sorry, Mac!

Carrie Beckort said...

Thanks for sharing, Jonathan! I immediately liked Mac and his sassy attitude. I like how you quickly brought him to life through dislike of space and passion for baseball. However, I agree with Brenda about possibly getting to the action a bit quicker. I didn't feel as if any of the information given was unnecessary, but it might be better to get more action going sooner and weave the background info in throughout. I'm interested to see what's in store for Mac!

Stephen Kozeniewski said...

The prose in this is great! I love it, and it does sound like an actual kid, rather than an adult pretending to be a kid. One question that occurs to me is that if his mom and dad aren't from Texas, where are they from? Presumably way up North or something.

I also agree with my esteemed colleagues: if something were going on I'd probably be more invested. Playing a game of baseball seems like the ticket. There's a lot of grounds for comparison there. Every time he hits a pop fly, he can look up and think about his parents and space and blah blah blah. But as he's gripping the bat and smelling the grass and etc. we would understand how much he loves being right there.

Can't wait to read more! And thanks for kicking off our new segment in style!

Unknown said...

I loved screams authentic MG to me. You set up the conflict right away too b/c we know what he loves, and what his parents want him to be into. But we definitely need some action to kick things off! doesn't have to be anything crazy, but just some way to show what he loves. I agree with Brenda and Steve, maybe a baseball game or something? and Mac can be thinking how his parents wouldn't approve. that would set some tension up too :)

Tara said...

I pretty much agree with all of the above. It's been a while since I've read MG but I can definitely tell that the voice is that of a child (which I personally would find really difficult to write so kudos on that!). I like the juxtaposition of baseball (cool) and space camp (nerdy) and I think that the struggle of wanting to do something you like and having to do something the adults tell you to do is probably something that a lot of young boys can relate to. Good luck and great job so far!

Brianna Lebrecht said...

So glad to see this up on the blog! I think all my thoughts echo those of the above comments, but I would like to let my 7yo read this and give her thoughts, if that's OK. Of course, her thoughts will be more along the lines of is it interesting, does she want to keep reading, etc.

Jonathan Schramm said...

That would be awesome, Brianna! Thanks!

P.S. You're next:)

Jonathan Schramm said...

Thanks, Kimberly. Sooo appreciate the comments (and everything else).. Good point on the International Space Station (ISS) acronym. Will definitely change that. Glad you thought it was funny! Teeheehee

Jonathan Schramm said...

Great points, Brenda. I actually have an earlier version of Chapter 1 where I did just that, but had less of a strong MG voice. Maybe I should come up with a nice mixture of both. Thanks!

Jonathan Schramm said...

Thanks for stopping by, Dianne! Glad you love the voice. Appreciate your points on showing vs telling. I agree, the opening could definitely be trimmed a tad though. Yeah... by the end, Mac is going to think space is pretty cool-- at least that is the character arch I've got planned for him. He may even think it's cooler than baseball, and that his parents aren't so bad. But who knows?! That's a lot of character development to ask for...:)

Jonathan Schramm said...

My pleasure, Carrie! It's sounds like you're suggesting the sprinkle technique:) I can definitely sprinkle! Appreciate your thoughts. Sounds like I have voice, just need to get moving with the story a little quicker. Now where did I put my sprinkler?

Jonathan Schramm said...

I have a confession to make. I'm actually a twelve-year-old trapped in a 38 year old's body. Just like that movie, BIg. If anyone sees that Zoltar Genie machine around anywhere, I could really use a transport back into my 12-year-old self... Being an adult sucks!

Thanks Steveo! Baseball game it is! Shouldn't be too difficult. Just need to dust off my previous draft O_o... ;)

P.S. I nominate Brianna for the next "Eek" segment:)

Jonathan Schramm said...

There she is! Thanks for the props, Beth! I was definitely trying to put my Save The Cat moment up front. Will definitely weave a little more action in there. Maybe even post the new pages on my next post... Stay tuned.

Jonathan Schramm said...

Thanks, Tara. Appreciate your comments. Sounds like I'm on the right track. Good to hear!

Mary Fan said...

Hi Jonathan! Late to the party but better than never, right? :-)

Anyway, didn't read all the comments above so maybe I'll be repeating some of the things... First off, I agree with everyone that the voice is PERFECT. This kid's got personality! Also, love the premise :-)

I think your opening would be stronger if you did more showing. Right now, the pages read like an indodump. A very entertaining indodump, but an indodump nonetheless. As a reader, I have no idea where Mac is or what he's doing (other than talking at me). Of course, sometimes you need to indodump a bit to set things up, especially in the beginning. It just needs to be more balanced. Sprinkle in some actions... "Hi, I'm Mac, and I hate space. That's why I'm currently ripping up the fourth Space Camp brochure my parents, Mars and Venus, left on my bed. I drop the pieces into the waste bin by my door and grab my baseball cap. Baseball's what I really love, but my parents don't get it." (Except not that, because that was terrible).

Also, the tense is a bit confusing... Are you writing in first present or first past? The opening looks like first present, but most of the paragraphs are written in past. I wasn't sure if that was because the book's in past or because Mac's talking about the past from a present POV.

Anyway, that's my two cents. Rock on!

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