Wednesday, September 14, 2011

First Words Workshop

To see how the workshop began, read THIS post: An Analysis of First Pages.

Here is this week's 100 word (anonymous) MIDDLE GRADE entry:

Mr. McMichaels hated me after confiscating a story I wrote during class last week. A story about an evil goblin warlord. Named McMichaels.

I guess I can't blame him, but wouldn't most English teachers love a student who wanted to be an author? Not this one. I was lucky he only threatened me with detention.

I took my time walking to my eighth grade English class, not looking forward to Mr. McMichaels and his evil-eye glare.

The crowded hallway slowly thinned out as sixth, seventh and eighth-graders swapped classrooms. A kid slammed his puke green locker shut, wafting the scent of body odor and days-old sweaty gym clothes toward me.

*****
My thoughts are in red:

Mr. McMichaels hated me after confiscating a story I wrote during class last week. A story about an evil goblin warlord. Named McMichaels (funny!). I like this but somehow I want it to pack more of a punch for a first paragraph, so I might rearrange some things in my example below.

I guess I can't blame him, but wouldn't most English teachers love a student who wanted to be an author? I want this to be said in more of a kid voice, or deleted. Not this one. I was lucky he only threatened me with detention.

I took my time walking to my eighth grade English class, not looking forward to Mr. McMichaels and his evil-eye glare. HA! You've got the makings of a great story, but I want to bring out this voice more by rearranging. I also want to change one of these "evils" to another word.

The crowded hallway slowly thinned out as sixth, seventh and eighth-graders (not sure if this detail is needed) swapped classrooms. A kid slammed his puke green locker shut, wafting the scent of body odor and days-old sweaty gym clothes toward me. Ick, I can so smell that--nice details!

********
My rewrite:

My feet dragged as I walked to eight grade English. Mr. McMichaels hated me. Guess I couldn't blame him and his evil-eye glare. Not after he confiscated a story I wrote about a wicked goblin warlord last week. Named McMichaels.

You'd think an English teacher would appreciate a kid that actually liked writing. Not this one. I was lucky he only threatened me with detention.

The hallway thinned out as students swapped classrooms. One kid slammed his puke green locker shut, wafting the scent of body odor and days-old sweaty gym clothes toward me.

******
Stina's thoughts are in blue:

I liked this opening, but felt the first paragraph could be made stronger by adding more emotional punch to it. So I rearranged it a bit. Also, watch out for changes in your verb tense. “Can’t” is present tense, but your story’s in past tense. Otherwise I thought it was great, and loved the sensory details.

One other thing I changed was the list of grades. We know from her being in eighth grade that she’s in middle school. You don’t need to list the grades.

******
Stina's rewrite:

Mr. McMichaels hated me. I guess I couldn’t blame him. Not after he confiscated a story I wrote during class last week. A story about an evil goblin warlord. Named McMichaels.

But wouldn't most English teachers love a student who wanted to be an author? Not this one. I was lucky he only threatened me with detention.

I took my time walking to my eighth grade English class, not looking forward to Mr. McMichaels and his evil-eye glare.

The crowded hallway slowly thinned out as students swapped classrooms. A kid slammed his puke green locker shut, wafting the scent of body odor and days-old sweaty gym clothes toward me.

****

Two different viewpoints to take or leave. Thanks for this wonderful entry!

*****

IF YOU'D LIKE TO ENTER YOUR FIRST 100 WORDS IN THIS WORKSHOP (anonymously), email me: christinalee04@gmail.com.

ALSO, if you'd like to partake in an upcoming blog hop "of sorts" to spotlight a 2011 debut author, email me with DEBUT AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT in the subject line! :D

19 comments:

Jen Daiker said...

I'm definitely one who can apprecaite the changes. The first paragraph read a little weird to me, but once they explained that Mr. McMichaels confiscated the paper I was much happier.

Overall great job!

Christina Lee said...

Thanks, Jen! I think the rearranging *may* have helped.

Matthew MacNish said...

I've seen this before, so I know whose it is, but that shouldn't cloud my thoughts.

I think I like Christina's re-write best. Not that Stina doesn't also make some great points, but I like being grounded in the scene right away rather than reading the exposition first.

Not that that's the only option, but for me it works better for this opening.

Kelly Polark said...

I like how you ladies edit for us to see. Very helpful!

Christina Lee said...

Thanks Matt and Kelly!

storyqueen said...

Nicely done, ladies!

I would read more of this selection, just so you know, author of the first 100 words.

Shelley

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I agree, Matt. It reads better with Christina's opening line. It shows more emotion, especially when the opening is telling.

Christina Lee said...

Story Queen, she'd be happy to hear that!

Stina, yeah, I don't know. You're opening gets right to the point. I think she could go either way!

Stefanie Wass said...

I like how Christina started with action. It draws the reader right into the story.

Those sensory details are great!
Makes me want to hold my nose!

Also: "Confiscated" isn't a MG word. I think a middle grader would use another term: stole? ripped out of my hands? I'm not sure about the meaning of this, either. Did the main character write this story privately and the teacher stole his notebook? Was this a class assignment that the teacher decided not to return to the student?

Lourie said...

Mixing tenses is my biggest downfall!!! I love the "puke green" description. hahaha. It's perfect.

Christina Lee said...

Lourie, I sucked at it too, my first manuscripts. But it gets easier the longer you write (you hear me? I'm cracking the whip)!

Stef, I knew you'd have great insight, you awesome MG writer, you! :D

Theresa Milstein said...

This has a great in-school feel. I agree the first paragraph could be tighter. Great set up.

Laura Pauling said...

Wonderful suggestions! You both do great work! I agree. More emotion up front is always good.

Elana Johnson said...

Great comments! And what a great service you guys are doing.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Aha, I've seen this before and a little more of it, too!

I like the first sentence re-writes done by both Christina and Stina. I like those short sentence punches in an opening paragraph.

And I have to disagree about the word "confiscate" not being MG. I think it's a totally appropriate word for an eight grader. They get things confiscated all the time -- like their cell phones. So, I'm sure they use the word.

Stefanie Wass said...

I totally overlooked the fact that the protagonist is an 8th grader!
So I agree..."confiscated" works.

Maddy said...

You girls are soo good! I wish I could hire you to proof my blog posts :)

Christina Lee said...

Dianne and Stef: yeah, an 8th grader WOULD know that word, huh?

Medeia Sharif said...

I like the rewrites, which make the piece stronger. I'd read more of this.

Have a great weekend.