Monday, November 11, 2019

First 50 Critique - YA Contemporary #2

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For all the details of how this works, click here.  We are NOT accepting entries this week.  But if you want to enter when we DO open the entry period, you must post a critique on at least TWO previous entries before you'll be able to submit.

Reminder: Be nice, but be honest. [Comments that are not polite/respectful will be deleted.] What would YOU like to know if this was YOUR first 50 words? Do you think it's a good opening line for the category/genre? Does it have a hook? Does it pull you into the story? Do you want to read more? Why or why not? Be specific, so your critique helps the person who wrote the entry.

Here's this week's entry.

First 50 Words - YA Contemporary #2

The insistent bell for first period clanged, but first, I had to remove the banana peel from my head. I gripped the slimy fruit remnant, chucked it backwards, and wiped the sticky residue off my hair. This was not my first trip into the dumpster thanks to Brittny and her minions.


  1. At first I didn't think the banana peel was literal. I thought, wow, now that's an interesting first sentence. What is the writer referring to... But, as I read further I realized the banana peel was literal. I would phrase it differently.

    The insistent bell for first period clanged adding to my misery. I removed the banana peel from my head, gripping the slimy fruit and chucking it forwards. I wiped the sticky residue off my hair and once again cursed Brittany and her minions.

    Breaking up the first sentence into two gives a better flow to the story. This way the reader knows first hand, what the character is experiencing. Hope this helps.

  2. Super helpful points! Thanks so much!!

  3. Love these first 50 words! However, I'm a bit leery of the audience. My only comment is that this sounds like it would be geared more toward middle graders than YA readers.
    Otherwise, good luck with the rest of the story.

  4. A very interesting opening. I'm intrigued enough by the banana peel that I'd read on, although I think I'd remove the telling sentence about Brittany and her minions and show them standing there, laughing at her or something instead. They could even say something mean that indicates she's been in the dumpster before.

    Hope this is helpful!

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  6. I know this girl instantly and connect. The inciting incident takes me right to that knowledge. You may want to consider making it a little more immediate with a few tweaks. A quick play with it:

    I gripped the slimy fruit and chucked it backward. The slick flesh from the banana peel clung stubbornly as I scraped my fingers through strands of hair. The bell stridently insisted that I head to class, but I was never going to make it in time. This wasn’t my first trip to the dumpster and it’s no easy task to get out.

    I’m not sure this is the right time to introduce the antagonists. Too much too soon. Make us wonder why she was in there in the first place. Then show us Brittany and the minions in a later paragraph.

    I tend to write YA in present tense. I find living in the moment keeps me more connected to my character. While you may not want to do that, sometimes it helps to do a scene in present, then convert it to your preferred past tense. It can help tighten up the lens.

    Hope that’s helpful. Best of luck.

  7. Well you've been given some great advice. I need to jump on here way sooner LOL. My only addition would be to note that you've used "first" three times in fifty words. But some of the above advice helps with this too. Good job with making us want to read more.

  8. I like the visual created here. I'm not sure if removing the banana peel came before the bell, or if responding to the bell would have to wait until after removing the banana peel and getting out of the dumpster. Bullies suck, so I'd keep reading to see if things get better for the character, or worse for the bullies.

  9. I felt for your MC immediately. What a situation! I also agree that this feels a little like MG rather than YA. But there seems to be demand for older MG books at the moment: depending on content, could your book fit into that category? Just a thought.

    If I wrote this and wanted to edit it, I would do this:

    The bell clanged. I needed to get to class. I threw the banana peel off my head and wiped sticky residue from my hair. This wasn't my first trip into the dumpster. But I sure was going to make it my last.

    (Or, something like that.)

    Why do it like this?
    > There's a lot of information in here we don't need to know, or don't need to know yet. Does it matter it's before first period? No, it's irrelevant to escaping the dumpster. Does it matter that MC threw the banana peel backward? No (unless it flies off and hits Ms Snarkybite, school disciplinarian. Which would be fun.) Do we need to see the MC decide to get the banana peel off, then do so? No. If we see the MC remove the peel, we know they already decided to do that. Etc.
    > I felt like the end of the paragraph could be more grabby. What's about to change? Why is this where the action starts? I invented the MC making a resolution to themself as the kickoff point for the rest of the story.

    I am always up for reading about someone taking on bullies. Way to go! I hope your MC discovers banana is great for hair and has a wonderful butt-kicking day. :)

  10. This has nice voice, humor and quirkiness. You might want to reconsider telling us that he/she has to get rid of the peel and show that happening. Boom. Then you'll have space to show Brittany and her minions (nice word choice) chortling their satisfaction. The situation sounds more MG, but the voice sounds more YA, so that's something to consider. If you're shooting for serious mean girl syndrome, it could be something grosser than a banana peel. Like a used ahem feminine product. Ewww.

  11. Sorry for the delayed response, but these comments are all so helpful. Thank you all again!


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