Saturday 5 February 2011

NEAR EDGWARE? We've Come a Long Way, Baby.

 On her Blog, The Writer's Hole, Christine is hosting the You've Come a Long Way, Baby Blogfest/Anniversary ContestOn Saturday, 5th February you can click over to read the rest of the entries. If you have kept those early drafts of your wip, you can showcase how your writing has evolved. 

From Christine's website:

You don't have to participate in the blogfest to be entered in the contest. Winners will be chosen randomly among everyone who has become a follower of The Writer's Hole and posted a comment that they want to enter, by Saturday, Feb. 5th.
You can earn additonal entries as follows:
+1 for promoting the contest on your blog
+1 each for tweeting or posting on FB
+2 entries if you put up a sample of your own early-in-my-learning-process, sort-of-awful-but-I-don't-mind-embarassing-myself writing.
+1 more for a rewrite of it, showing off your improved skills.

NEAR EDGWARE - with a crafty twist of word order - was selected by Nathan Bransford as the perfect example of a manuscript that was not-exactly-ready-to-be-queried. During the Agent For A Day Competition, I received over 300 pieces of advice (and kept copies of lots) ; all of them taught me to learn to write lean.


We arrived at midnight; a clear, bright, moonlit kind of midnight without a cloud to spoil the silky navy blue. It was perfect, so perfect. My heart sang – I swear it did – as I jumped out of the car and scrunched my feet into the white chips of marble. My first sound of home. Back and forward, I twisted to thoroughly absorb the feeling and that sound. But the loudest sound that broke free with each twist of my feet was a giggle. I’d missed this sound. I loved this sound: just thinking of it made me smile. If I had less of an audience, I’d get back into the car just so I could get out and stand onto our drive again.


Dad parked in front of the white stone entrance. Even there, I could see things had changed. On the new school crest a beast with sharp teeth and raised claws stood on two legs, it glared down at the visitors to school.
I scanned further along the familiar, red brick building as I walked around the front of the car to join Dad, "It looks different... larger than I remembered. Have I shrunk?" 
He put his hand on my shoulder as we stepped into the reception area. He pressed both the buzzer, and my arm, while we waited.
The secretary wove between the desks towards us; her expression was brighter than the “Welcome to Woodford College” banner on the wall.
 “Good Morning. I’m Simon Trainer. This is my daughter, Jess. We’re here to see the Headteacher.”


Matt, from History, had mumbled, You good? but, when I nodded, he went in. I wanted to go in. Standing outside in the corridor, I wanted it so badly, I stepped back instead. In the main building everything was quiet and ordered. It even smelled wrong: air-freshener sickly. Me and the school, we’d both had make-overs but only school was different on the inside.
In the Common Room students sprawled over the soft chairs, territories marked out with invisible force fields. Around the edges, smaller groups talked quietly. Right at the back, near an open window, three blond boys were huddled together, their heads so close they were almost touching. The boy whose back was towards me had hints of curls in his short hair. He glanced around then pushed his brothers back a few more steps.
The group I was looking for stood in the centre of the room. I was only back when I was there with them too.

Some people run towards things, others run away; I just run. 

The inciting incident.

This is a plot element that arrives near the beginning of the drama. It connects the situation the characters find themselves in at the beginning, or before the novel begins, to the end. It begins the action and also sets up the motivating question. The focus is on the character and reader suspense.


  1. glad to see people playing along. mine goes up tomorrow.

  2. Hi Michelle
    I'm playing along but I still can't leave it alone. I'm looking forward to reading everyone's work tomorrow. :)

  3. My work still has a long journey - but good work here :-)

  4. It would have been so much fun.
    Time why aren't there more days in the week?

  5. Wow. I think you have as many opening scenes as I do! I think I like the crunching gravel thing in the first version the most, even though the writing needs work.

    I found the last version a little confusing, though I understand what you are saying about inciting incident.

    Something I have learned in the past few years is that other writers are very free with their advice, but unless they are experienced, published writers, you have to take it with more than a grain of salt. And even experienced, published writers break the rules. A lot.

    I've also noticed that even though agents and editors say that they want a certain set of criteria, if you hit them with something that grabs them emotionally, they'll read on.

    I'm thinking of going back to one of my previous first chapters. It got criticized for this and that, but it made the most emotional sense to me, from a story perspective. Every version since then seems forced.

    Thank you so much for participating and giving me a chance to revisit this issue in my own work.

  6. P.S. It's so funny - that whole "common room" and "headteacher" lingo. To an American, that sounds like Harry Potter. It's just not a part of our experience so it feels made-up, even though I know it isn't.

  7. I've played around with my own opening scene until I had about twenty completely different, seeming unrelated scenes. There's a blogfest for the future! LOL

    I liked something from every excerpt here. The descriptive quality to your writing shines through each one. I really enjoyed reading your work today!

    Best of luck with the project!

  8. For whatever reason, opening scenes are the jewels of my writing. It's the middle and end that I struggle with...if I even make it that far.

    Also, you're good with description!

  9. Wow! I can't image sorting through that kind of feedback, but however you did it, it worked. Writing is hard, but worth it.

  10. I enjoyed traveling through those revisions with you. Interesting journey from the first iteration to the last. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Interesting to see the changes that have been made. And wow, to go from 120k+ to 70k+ that is quite the change. I kind of liked the excitement in the first version though. The voice of character and wanting to experience the moment over again was fun. I couldn't tell the gender of the main character really, which is sometimes hard in first person. Good luck with the story and good entry for the blogfest.

  12. I'm back!
    I knew my day was incredibly busy - which is why I posted early.
    Michelle, Charmaine, Ali, Christine, Nicole, Jonathon, WBM, Christopher and Dawn Hi sorry I missed you earlier.
    Thank you every one for your kind words. Every time I'm stuck I visualize the whole scene. Then I just have to decide which details are interesting and which tell us something we need to know (for now or for later.)
    I was impressed by how excited the first excerpt sounded - I'd almost forgotten that version (blotted it out).

  13. It is amazing how much scenes can change over time with every revision. The final version pulled more emotion, I think. Thanks for sharing your journey!!!

  14. I think I've read the first three revisions. Do these all depict the first page? I’m going a little outside the bounds here, because I’ve read some of your excerpts, and I’m not getting a sense that this is truly the beginning of Jess’s story. I invite you to ignore all this feedback.

    They are all quite different, and convey a different sense of the character's (Jess) emotional attachment to the setting. To me, they are all viable introductions. But to be honest, as an American I did have the initial Harry Potter reaction. To all the openings.

    Christine is correct in this respect. And just my opinion, I don’t think you can help that aspect of the novel. B/c in America, only private schools (rich kids) are boarding schools. So for your European/British readers, you need no explanation of why Jess is going away to school. But, I’d like to suggest that perhaps this is still not the “beginning” of your novel.

    In each of these beginnings, Jess has an intimate sense of place, of home, when she enters the school. (Well, except for the one where her father basically drags her to the attendance office; but since I know what that scene is about from other postings, I still think it is not the right start for the sense of home you’re going for.) But I don’t know why she is SOOOO happy to be at school. I’m wondering, if you start a little earlier with Jess at home on her summer or spring break, and what life is like prior to going off to school, you could both show that this is DEFINITELY not a Harry Potter type novel, and give the reader a reason for her overwhelming feelings of happiness at school - and away from her parents.

    The “mid process” beginning says to me there is an “inciting event” prior to her arrival at school. But all of them beg the question: Why is being at school such an exciting pleasure? From reading other excerpts, I’m getting that Jess is a near rebellious teen at home in her quest to have some family secrets revealed. I’d like to see that tension set up before I see her in her preferred environment. That way, when she makes the choices she does that go against her family’s legacy, her character is already built as a curious rebel.

    In all the scenes you’ve posted so far, I’ve never got the feeling that she is a disappointment to her family; rather, that they may also be questioning their life roles in the manner Jess is, and thus may be a part of the problem too. A cultural as well as family quandary.

    I know I am offering feedback beyond the confines of the blogfest Elaine. Send me a virtual SLAP if I’m out of bounds or offensive. But, I can see from all these beginnings that you have struggled with an exact start. I believe each of these beginnings shows the strength of character and the sense of coming home that you are attempting to portray. They are intimate, sensual; vivid in imagery and personality. They work.

    Can you see that I am drawn to both the very first and the very last versions though?

    Good luck with your choices for this novel. I can see it is a labor of love and commitment.


  15. Hi Donna
    Thanks for your thoughts. I love the opportunity to see where confusions lie.

    I always smile when my American friends presume Woodford Academy is an elite boarding school (public school to us). It is the school down the road from Jess/Selene's house.

    In the UK, at the moment, lots of plain old boring ordinary (public schools - to you) day not boarding, "comprehensive" schools (teaching kids between 11 - 18) are being given a little extra money, lick of paint, a designation as eg "Science/Art/PE specialist status," permission to be picky over which pupils are allowed to attend (the schools set their own criteria) and a new head - they are then reopened with a name. Usually same school, same kids, same problems etc Woodford Academy was Salters' School just re-branded and re-opened .

    I can see what you mean about the openings.
    Thank you for the superb feed back it is great seeing it from your perspective.

  16. I thought I was alone in the bazillion opening scenes club. LOL.

    To be honest, the very first one grabbed me. It is raw and pulled me into her world. I am grounded to the setting and drawn to her emotions.

  17. Hi Charli
    I have hopped around the original first four chapters to find the "best" starting place.
    After her run,she lands home to the parental lecture on not being late first day back at her new-old school. The family have been living in Guyana for a few years... work related.