This week’s mission is to post the first 200 words of our current manuscript and then hop around the blogosphere to give constructive criticism. After last week’s assignment, my pride is zero, lol. Give me your honest opinion even if you hate it because I’d rather hear it from you rather than an agent or editor! Here’s my info:
Name: Jamie Ayres
Title: 18 THINGS or RANDOM LEE CHOSEN (still can’t decide!)
Genre: YA, coming-of-age love story
Novel Length: 75,000 words
**I’ve made changes based on comments below so here’s my revised 200 words:
I needed a change. The first of April caused me to realize I’d been a fool carrying a secret crush for Random Lee since kindergarten. The dye was step one in my master plan of making him notice me as more than the girl in pigtails he used to chase at recess.
“Why does my shower look like a scene from a slasher movie?” I ask my best friend Nicole, towering over me. She laughs diabolically, pretending to wield a knife. “This is not funny. Did you read the instructions right?”
Cocking her head, she says, “Hang on, Olga. This may hurt a bit.” She scrubs in the conditioner and rinses fiercely.
Five minutes later I study the color in the mirror. “Crap.” Although my caramel hair turns darker in winter when Michigan doesn’t see sunlight, it had never before been devoid of all brown and gold.
“You look like you dyed your hair with Kool-Aid,” Nic comments, not helping.
I pick up the box, examining the photo. “I don’t understand. It warns the results may vary slightly from the color in the picture, but this isn’t even close to Strawberry Blonde.”
Nic gives me a one-armed hug. “You’re red-hot. If Random can’t see that, he’s the fool.”
I’ve been in love with Random Lee for as long as I can remember. We bonded in kindergarten over our horrible names. As Olga Worontzoff the second, I’m named after my Russian grandmother. My parents had good intentions, but whatever, the world is full of those. Without action, intentions are worthless, which is why I wanted a change. I bought the dye last night. April first made me wonder if I’d been a fool carrying a secret crush all these years.
“Why does my shower look like a scene from a slasher movie?” I ask my best friend Nicole, towering over me.
She laughs diabolically, pretending to wield a knife. “This is not funny. Did you read the instructions right?”
Cocking her head to the left, she says, “Hang on, this may hurt a bit.” She scrubs shampoo into my curls and rinses fiercely before lathering on the conditioner that came with the home kit.
Five minutes later I study the color in the mirror. “Crap.” Although my caramel hair turns darker in winter when Michigan doesn’t see sunlight, it’s never devoid of all brown and gold.
“You look like you dyed your hair with red Kool-Aid,” Nic comments, not helping.
I pick up the box, examining the photo. “I don’t understand. It warns the results may vary slightly from the color in the picture, but this isn’t even close to Strawberry Blonde. And by the way, you dyed my hair.”
Soooooooooo that’s all folks–hope you’re hooked but if not, let me know your suggestions please and thank you!
Ha! My shower looks like that after I dye my hair. Great voice and I care about the characters already.
One comment (but it’s a doozie): You may want to consider not writing this in present tense. When I read present tense, I hope for quite a bit of action in a novel. Just my opinion though, and opinions are like belly buttons… 🙂
HA! Opinions like belly buttons, never heard that one. As to present tense, the action part is why I like it–helps me propel my story forward:) Thanks for being the first to comment!!!
as a fan of young adult literature..(lol)..i like it! i like the characters and the humor. i want to read more…so that’s a good sign! 🙂 good luck, jamie!
p.s. i love the title, random lee chosen, that would totally grab my attention at the book store. 18 things kind of sounds like alot of other books…and not as interesting.(my opinion) the play on words would make me pick the book up and see what its about.
p.s.s the 2nd query letter is much better.it focuses more on the emotions , which is what would make me buy it. i wanna know know my heart is gonna race.im gonna fall in love with these characters and im gonna cry. 🙂
Present tense is adventurous — I like the way you’ve written it. Olga’s voice is fun and just sarcastic enough. I think this is great. The only thing (and maybe it’s just me) “April first” stopped me — for a second I thought April was another character. Don’t know if it should be April 1st, though. Maybe: The first of April…
You’re opening line hooked me, and your voice kept me there. The only thing I didn’t quite get in the first graph was the connection between dye and having a crush. In the last graph the line “And by the way, you dyed my hair” threw me, because I thought that’s what they were doing. I totally want to read on, especially remembering your query.
P.S. I’ve left a reply to your comment on Bird’s-eye View, http://michellefayard.blogspot.com/2011/07/blogfest-first-200-words-contest.html.
I also LOVED the voice in this. I liked the present tense. I did think the same thing as Michelle. I didn’t get the connection between the crush and the dyed hair. Is Olga changing it because she thinks Random will like it better–that could be a transition 🙂
LOVE the title 🙂 Great Job!
Fun stuff. I like the dialogue in this realistic-but-still-entertaining opening scene.
I’d like to cut the words “Without actions, intentions are worthless, which is why.” Jump right to “I wanted a change.” Feels punchier with the present tense.
Do we need to introduce April right away? We have to juggle four names with that addition.
You don’t need a paragraph break between “towering over me” and “she laughs diabolically” if Olga is still talking. Is she still talking? I wasn’t sure and actually got a little confused there.
But otherwise, great job, and I’d absolutely read on.
I like Olga’s voice but I think that the first 200 deviates a little because you start off by her talking about being in love with Random so I thought there would be more about that, then we get into her dying her hair. I was confused with dropping April in there, I actually for a second wondered if you were talking about the date April 1st…lol….Anyway, otherwise I think it’s a good start.
I agree with the others about the transition between wanting a change and dye. Lora’s suggestion was great – try making the dye part a second paragraph and see if that works, too.
also, who is April? You mention her once and not again here. Do you need to mention April right now? I’m guessing you talk about her later on but for the purposes of this contest, you might consider taking that sentence out and replacing it with something else.
I re-read your first graph and think it jumps around a lot. You tell us she has a crush, what hher name is and now she’s dying her hair. I thought Random was going to help her dye her hair – not Nic – so wondered why you mention the crush so early. Maybe pick one main idea and stick with it.
Other than that – love a good teen angst scene! Good luck!
The first paragraph felt disconnected from the rest. I’d start with the dyeing since that’s the action and where we get to know the character. Then you could mention her name and Random if he’s an important part of the plot to come.
OK, here goes 🙂 I liked it. The first few graphs gave VOICE and BACKGROUND, which was great. You write REALLY well!
-Capitalize April First — this was a great use of the date helping propel the character.
-The dialogue paragraphs — those are both said by the same person, right? Put them together into one graph.
-BIG thing: You don’t shampoo your hair after dying it. Like, ever. You don’t even wash it beforehand. So … maybe she scrubbed the remaining dye into a lather?
-how about ‘it had never before been completely devoid of brown and gold’ — otherwise it’s a bit confusing.
Good luck 🙂
Wow, thanks for your suggestions everyone! Really shows me how I need a fresh pair of eyes:) I was talking about the date, April First, not a person, lol. Good to know that was confusing. As for starting w/ dialogue first, that’s what I originally did but then went back and added that first paragraph b/c I read a lot of agents don’t like you starting w/ dialogue. Have any of you heard that? Yes, she is dying her hair b/c she wants Random to take more notice of her. Well, back to pounding the keyboard!
I would make it more clear that April first is a date and add a better transition from wanting a change to dying her hair. Other than that, I love the voice in this!
I love the title of your story. I thought the opening paragraph gave me a great taste of the character’s voice and some of her issues, though I was a bit started when she mentioned the hair dye right after talking about her name.I wasn’t sure about the significance of April 1st…maybe it needs a bit more explanation?
I liked the hair dye gone wrong, but I think I’d want to know a bit more about how it will affect her life (I’m sure that’s coming up, it’s hard to have everything in the first 200 words).
The revised 200 is definitely clearer. I like the Random Lee Chosen title, since 18 Things is very close to what’s in bookstores now. I thought the way you opened with the two friends doing something is good. It makes me want to find out what the reactions will be to the incident. Nicely done! Good luck with this!
I really like this! Feels like a very appropriate teen reaction. I know I used to dye my hair all the time. Awesome job!
Great voice and first person is my fav. I would transition the “wanting to change” and the “dying the hair” better. I get what you’re trying to say, but make it more clear.
Otherwise, great start. Good luck!!
I really love this – april first, feast day of fool’s everywhere, NICE!
Love how we’re introduced to her dying her hair via Psycho reference. It just gives an immediacy, a punchy ‘in her life’ feel. The revise, I think, is pitch perfect.
Your characters already seem real to me, and I love this moment of friendship. The girls talk and think authentically, and it was very clear to me that she dyed her hair to impress Random.
Your second opener is MUCH stronger than your first, and I’m glad you dumped the backstory. (You can easily pepper it in later without making it feel like an info-dump.) I also like the fact that–although the two openings are different–you don’t lose the “feeling” of your original opening. I am really looking forward to reading this someday!
Just to be difficult, I’m going to vote for 18 Things as the title instead of Random Lee Chosen. The play on words there sounds too light-hearted for what sounds like a meaty and sometimes heavy topic.
Great job very interesting and a good hook!