Author Topic: The Wild Isles, (538), Young Adult Novel Extract  (Read 3532 times)

Offline CharlotteJ

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The Wild Isles, (538), Young Adult Novel Extract
« on: August 14, 2015, 12:50:43 PM »
Hello, I'm a young writer looking for some advice on my work! The book, briefly, is a coming of age 'growing up' novel. It follows the experiences of a girl named Isabella Cage, living in a seaside town in industrialised (run-down) Northern England. When her father emigrates, following her sister Nora, she is left alone in her home town of Sipling. The content of the book gets quite dark later on, tackling drug addiction, depression, sexuality and hedonistic and self destructive behaviour. The story follows Isabella and her group of friends through the summer in her first person perspective. I'm extremely nervous about this, but would be so grateful of feedback on this extract, thank you!  :)

Sipling is our world. On this beach we ran, as kids, up and down the pebbles scattering them in ricochet. Hush... the sea. With raw grazed knees and pink cheeks, we built castles with the thick wet sand. We skipped stones in the calm of the sunset. We splashed through the waves and laughed and bent double in hysterics, as Dad shouted, about how cold the water was. Dad hated swimming. I remember, the sea would swell and spit and we would dance and prance through the waves in bright suits. Costumes with characters; Mini, Goofy and the gang. We were mad on it. Grace was the sort of little girl that would be afraid of everything.  Grace used to live next door and we grew up side by side. We spent most of our time at her Nanaís, up the street and round the corner from home. We used to play for days in her Nanaís lush and landscaped garden; and watch the kids channel on TV, that I didnít have back home with Dad and Nora.

Across the bay the sea yawned in and out, and further in, a single tree stood. Branches stretched outward in twisting pose and cast stretched shadows across the sand. It was bare and isolated, brave and alone against the goliath of blue; both sky and sea entwining to form an endless mirage. The world then, seemed just that, and even though I knew the world went on, to me, it stopped on that horizons edge. When lying back on the sand I almost thought I could see the earthís curve, a curve to seal us in.
Sipling is a large town, and at the coast, itís hard to think of what Sipling is not far from here. Grey streets with kids running wild. Bleak days and bleak nights; pub brawls and street fights. Here, the air is warm and holds you calm. But a short train and there you are, in the concrete world. And all that planned and polished architecture, couldnít beat this place if it tried.
Wild flowers of purple, and green, and gold, lace the hills. Lavenders with humming bees and birds, ripple in the setting breeze. The wind whispers words of welcome to the grass. Tall forests of wheat like weed appear, to hide you on your turn at the game. I waited silently in the overgrowth to be seek-ed.
I remember at that age, treasure covered the shore; in nets, in weaves, in coves; bright shells with flecks of green and gold. Dad would tell stories of pirates and smugglers to us. To Grace, my sister, wrapped up in a threadbare towel. To Nora, sat quietly by my side. Tall tales of smugglers hiding in the caves, with stocked boats for the pub on the corner. Fine brews, years old and seasoned by the sea. Stories, of Pirates, storming through the waves and out onto the moors and dunes.
From sea to different sea. A sea of wild and tangled growth.
Great weeds, to some, soared above the fiends as the landscape swarmed with men in battle. In Yah! And scream. And swipe and slice, the men fell down and sunk back into the earth.

Offline MiggsEye

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Re: The Wild Isles, (538), Young Adult Novel Extract
« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2015, 01:35:35 PM »
Hello, I'm a young writer looking for some advice on my work! The book, briefly, is a coming of age 'growing up' novel. It follows the experiences of a girl named Isabella Cage, living in a seaside town in industrialised (run-down) Northern England. When her father emigrates, following her sister Nora, she is left alone in her home town of Sipling. The content of the book gets quite dark later on, tackling drug addiction, depression, sexuality and hedonistic and self destructive behaviour. The story follows Isabella and her group of friends through the summer in her first person perspective. I'm extremely nervous about this, but would be so grateful of feedback on this extract, thank you!  :)

Sipling is our world. On this beach we ran, as kids, up and down the pebbles scattering them in ricochet. Hush... the sea. With raw grazed knees and pink cheeks, we built castles with the thick wet sand. We skipped stones in the calm of the sunset. We splashed through the waves and laughed and bent double in hysterics, as Dad shouted, about how cold the water was. Dad hated swimming. I remember, the sea would swell and spit and we would dance and prance through the waves in bright suits. Costumes with characters; Mini, Goofy and the gang. We were mad on it. Grace was the sort of little girl that would be afraid of everything.  Grace used to live next door and we grew up side by side. We spent most of our time at her Nanaís, up the street and round the corner from home. We used to play for days in her Nanaís lush and landscaped garden; and watch the kids channel on TV, that I didnít have back home with Dad and Nora.

Across the bay the sea yawned in and out, and further in, a single tree stood. Branches stretched outward in twisting pose and cast stretched shadows across the sand. It was bare and isolated, brave and alone against the goliath of blue; both sky and sea entwining to form an endless mirage. The world then, seemed just that, and even though I knew the world went on, to me, it stopped on that horizons edge. When lying back on the sand I almost thought I could see the earthís curve, a curve to seal us in.
Sipling is a large town, and at the coast, itís hard to think of what Sipling is not far from here. Grey streets with kids running wild. Bleak days and bleak nights; pub brawls and street fights. Here, the air is warm and holds you calm. But a short train and there you are, in the concrete world. And all that planned and polished architecture, couldnít beat this place if it tried.
Wild flowers of purple, and green, and gold, lace the hills. Lavenders with humming bees and birds, ripple in the setting breeze. The wind whispers words of welcome to the grass. Tall forests of wheat like weed appear, to hide you on your turn at the game. I waited silently in the overgrowth to be seek-ed.
I remember at that age, treasure covered the shore; in nets, in weaves, in coves; bright shells with flecks of green and gold. Dad would tell stories of pirates and smugglers to us. To Grace, my sister, wrapped up in a threadbare towel. To Nora, sat quietly by my side. Tall tales of smugglers hiding in the caves, with stocked boats for the pub on the corner. Fine brews, years old and seasoned by the sea. Stories, of Pirates, storming through the waves and out onto the moors and dunes.
From sea to different sea. A sea of wild and tangled growth.
Great weeds, to some, soared above the fiends as the landscape swarmed with men in battle. In Yah! And scream. And swipe and slice, the men fell down and sunk back into the earth.

There is no doubt you can write. You have a beautiful voice and know how to use words. One would not want to tamper with that, but rather encourage it ó which I hope my comments do.

What you've shared here is gorgeous imagery and engaging backstory. You've written it in the style of a narrator telling it to the reader, while showing some evocative detail. I like how you dance with imagery that might become over-sentimentalized and cliche. Somehow, you rescue it from the brink of that fate and give it a freshness and originality, merging it with additional imagery. This is a delicate dance you must be aware of lest you fall and drown in a sea of cliches. But you seem diligent and adept at that.

With all this, I still stand by my comment in the First Liners thread: At some point this lovely, lyrical backstory has to give way to something that happens actively, in a moment, that starts the cause-effect stream of the story. Then carry the reader through a series of similar active moments through the passages of your story to its end. Cause. Effect. Cause. Effect. Cause. Effect... There are many theories out there on how to structure stories, scenes, sequences, etc. Whether you've studied them I don't know. But I'd like to read a passage where you have an active scene going on. See how you render its arc, it's conflict and resolution, and how you cue it up for the next scene.

In my opinion, you have not started the story yet. Only cued it up.

Given, your compelling voice, I'd like to see where you take the real story once it gets going.

Strictly my opinion. Use it if it benefits you. Or lose it if otherwise.

Cheers,

MiggsEye

P.S. And welcome to the forum!
« Last Edit: August 14, 2015, 01:54:12 PM by MiggsEye »
ďThink left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you tryĒ ó Dr. Seuss

Offline Emery

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Re: The Wild Isles, (538), Young Adult Novel Extract
« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2015, 01:40:16 PM »
It takes some courage to put your work out there and let others go at it, and please remember that critiques of your work has nothing to do with the value of your story, your voice, or the potential. You seemed nervous.  ;D

Here's the rest, I'm not a huge fan but it's more so for your aim than the piece. I actually found some of the images fresh and unique; I enjoyed the cadence and the ethereal like quality it had. However, as a young adult coming of age story, the style didn't work for me.

When I look at a first person novel, I want to get an immediate feel for the narrator. That's the biggest plus, I think, to using 1st person. Otherwise, why bother? So here, a coming of age novel with a main character with this voice doesn't work for me. A teen waxing poetic on the shore of an ocean? If it is true to character, it's not one that I want to follow for 300 pages. Plus, it's numbing. Even the parts I thought that worked well blurred into the mass of imagery and style.

I always try to find some encouragement here. I actually enjoyed the style even though it's definitely not my normal reading material. My advice, focus on the style that is true to the character--not you. And don't try to hard, let the story be the focus and not how you can turn a phrase.

Good luck!
All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.
-F. Scott Fitzgerald

Offline RamblingRose

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Re: The Wild Isles, (538), Young Adult Novel Extract
« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2015, 02:03:23 PM »
Thanks for posting Charlotte. Your piece has a lovely rhythm to it, and the images are beautiful in places. But where's the main character? I don't get much of a sense of her yet. There's a wistful almost nostalgic tone to it, which makes me think more of an older person looking back on a childhood, rather than a young teenage girl (I assume she is, as you say its a YA 'growing up' story). That's not to say you don't have much more written already with her involvement, this is a very short extract after all. If you can find a way to include the imagery you clearly can write intertwined with a punchy YA story then you could have something with a unique voice. Focus on using the imagery to enhance the story. Stick around here, post some more and review others' work too - you'll be amazed how much you can learn just from reviewing and reading reviews. Good luck!

Offline Simple Things

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Re: The Wild Isles, (538), Young Adult Novel Extract
« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2015, 02:11:43 PM »
hello

Though nice in imagery, that is all there is, so at the end all I'm left with are those, but I'm not looking at viewing photographs when reading, I want more. This felt like a foreword, a backstory with no active participants. I am unsure if it would work as an opening as such, due to that fact. Perhaps further on it begins.

As for the writing. I mentioned the poetic side, there are other things, but since this is a draft, and the writing overall is good, I dont' know if I should interfere. Still you did post this with that intention, so I'll try to point out a few things.

Quote
Sipling is our world. On this beach we ran, as kids, up and down the pebbles scattering them in ricochet. Hush... the sea. With raw grazed knees and pink cheeks, we built castles with the thick wet sand. We skipped stones in the calm of the sunset.

One of the things that makes this too observational for me is how many times you begin sentences with pronouns. Since this is a recollection, to reduce those, it only takes small restructuring.

In the bold areas you have two like images. Well like in action and object. Pebbles ricochet/stones skip. I ask, what else can you give me so the images expand. I found there were too many(not badly written) to allow me to enjoy them as I should. Often a single rose shows more beauty than any dozen could hope.

I suppose if I were to choose. I would delete the last line.


 
Quote
We splashed through the waves and laughed and bent double in hysterics, as Dad shouted, about how cold the water was. Dad hated swimming. I remember, the sea would swell and spit and we would dance and prance through the waves in bright suits.

Your comma placement seems excessive. This might be your attempt to draw attention to each image, but what it did for me is start/stop flip card kind of flow. Since this obviously a reflection - I remember - is moot to use. I don't want to focus on a memory reflected, I want to be at that time - even though it is a reflection, you can still keep it active for the reader and mc.

....and bent double in hysterics as Dad shouted about how cold the water was.  - give me a complete image every so often. There was no real reason to break that flow into so many pieces. You will tire a reader that way if it goes on and on.

Again, nice images, but you need to learn how to structure your sentences better to keep the reader in mind. This is a story for them after all.


Quote
Costumes with characters; Mini, Goofy and the gang. We were mad on it. Grace was the sort of little girl that would be afraid of everything.  Grace used to live next door and we grew up side by side.

The first sentence I would remove. I don't know your gang enough and so my mind ended up picturing Goofy/Mini and such, when I should be building an empathy for your characters - otherwise, why write them in at all?

Grace lived next door, and we grew up side by side.  

Again, it is understood by the reader that this is a reflection of a past event/time. That she 'used to' is not required. I don't need to know the future of 'her not living there now' at this time in the story. Focus. Focus is very important. When you drift away you lose all the hard work you created. It may not seem important, I mean 'used to' can be placed, but for what purpose is it for? What does it give me to build on the story. For me, nothing.

Quote
We spent most of our time at her Nanaís, up the street and round the corner from home. We used to play for days in her Nanaís lush and landscaped garden; and watch the kids channel on TV, that I didnít have back home with Dad and Nora.

We spent most of our time at her Nana's, up the street and round the corner.

*from home* - again what does this give me to build? You need to remember what was written previously so that you don't waste words. Rely on your reader's retention of what was said prior. If you write well enough, they will save you a lot of words. Make your reader active.

That I didn't have back home with Dad and Nora -   I can understand you meant that you didn't have a tv at home, but you word it awkwardly, or rather you complicate something simple. Show and Tell. Understand how to use them, and when to use them for the best benefit of your story. Show and Tell dictates many things. It builds characters, scenes and sets the flow. Rely on Tell in the same way you rely on Show. As it stands, you border on excessive Show. This makes a story longer in words than necessary.


***

That's about all I'll go into. Normally I don't go this far, but as I said, there's an ability here. You just need to refine it, remember the reader. And of course maintain focus.


My opinions of course. I will not argue their points should you disagree.



Offline CharlotteJ

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Re: The Wild Isles, (538), Young Adult Novel Extract
« Reply #5 on: August 14, 2015, 02:50:14 PM »
thank you for all the feedback I was very nervous to post my work  :) I appreciate all your comments and suggestions and will use them to edit the extract. I do tend to be a little over poetic as I am a poetry student, so thank you and I will use your advice to improve my work. I was just wondering can you post edited work at a later date? I'm still very new  ;D thank you everyone!

Offline RamblingRose

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Re: The Wild Isles, (538), Young Adult Novel Extract
« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2015, 03:15:18 PM »
I was just wondering can you post edited work at a later date?

Yes you can! Label it as 'version 2' or something in the title so people can relate it back if they want to.

hillwalker3000

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Re: The Wild Isles, (538), Young Adult Novel Extract
« Reply #7 on: August 14, 2015, 03:27:38 PM »
Others have commented on your writing style Ė and on the fact that youíre a capable writer. What Iíd like to focus on is what you have given us here so far Ė the substance of your story.

Youíre a young writer hoping to attract a YA audience. You admit your novel involves certain darker elements. Itís contemporary - and presumably gritty and graphic in places. Itís good to hear youíre tackling issues that many teenagers must face when growing up. Itís the kind of material they should therefore enjoy reading about. So Iím guessing this extract, which is presumably the opening to the story, is not entirely representative of the rest of your novel.

Iíve already commented on the opening lines in another thread. Thereís enough in the first four sentences to make me want to find out more. Iíll be honest. I thought this was some kind of fantasy Ė and Sipling a make-believe planet. Not my favourite genre but thatís beside the point.
But then it becomes apparent this is a piece reflecting on the narratorís past. Snapshots of childhood Ė the seaside Ė playing with Grace. So now it comes across as semi-autobiographical rather than fantasy. Is that what you want us to assume when we pick up the book and turn to the opening page?

Openings are important. The first page has to grab the readerís attention and hopefully hook them so theyíre desperate to continue reading. Most will only do this if thereís a sense of intrigue or conflict. If the narrator is in a situation that suggests thereís trouble ahead weíll at least stick with it for a couple more pages. Even if the story slips down a gear, if the main character is interesting enough or if weíre able to quickly engage with them, most readers will stick with it. But if your story fails the first-page test youíll risk losing a potential audience even if things change dramatically by page 10. Readers browse the back cover and the first chapter. Thatís often the only opportunity you get to sell them your story.

Does your opening paragraph do that? Not for me. Iím no nearer knowing anything about the narrator other than sheís probably female (in a Mini Mouse bathing costume). Whatís the story about? Growing up, possibly. But why do I need to read the life story of some girl Iíve never heard of? You have to make it clear as early as you can that there's something out of the ordinary about this particular girl's tale.

The second paragraph reverts to fancy descriptions. There are some great images Ė but thereís no story. Do I want to read a book filled with wonderful imagery? Not really. Would a YA audience want to? My guess would be not. So who are you writing this for? Yourself maybe?

Creating a setting is fine Ė but you canít afford to waste the most important part of your opening chapter on stuff like this. No one in your target audience is going to want to continue reading. As Iíve already said, thereís some great writing here but it wonít gain the wider readership it deserves the way you've presented it here. Itís too rich. Imagine a six-course meal consisting of sweet after sweet after sweet. Nobody would be able to work their way through that. And I get the feeling the same applies to this extract. Itís overwritten Ė and crucially, thereís nothing happening.

My advice Ė keep the best bits to one side and try to feed them into the narrative in such a way that the reader doesnít realise youíve pressed the pause button to wax lyrical. But be aware that we've picked up this book because we're expecting a story to appear. We're desperate to get to know your MC - to discover why you decided to tell her story. In my humble opinion this story begins in the wrong place.

There will come a time when you have to cull some of these beautifully-crafted sentences because your job is to tell a story not just paint a picture. Thatís the hardest part of becoming a better writer Ė destroying something you are particularly fond of. Iíd be interested to read an extract where the plot comes first. Thatís the only way weíll discover whether or not you can set aside the poetry and write a story . . . especially one that appeals to your prospective readership.

Thanks for posting this and welcome.

H3K

Offline johnnyh2

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Re: The Wild Isles, (538), Young Adult Novel Extract
« Reply #8 on: August 14, 2015, 07:59:45 PM »
Hi Charlotte.

Not much of a story, true. Nevertheless, I reckon itís possibly the most beautiful, evocative piece Iíve ever read on this site. 

That said, not sure I could stomach a whole novel written in that style.  ;D


Johnny 

Offline MaryRuth

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Re: The Wild Isles, (538), Young Adult Novel Extract
« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2015, 04:26:01 AM »
Beautiful writing, Charlotte. It has a real lyrical quality to it and reminded me a little of Khaled Housseini. I don't know whether you've read anything by him, but he writes in a very lyrical way yet is also able to tell a great story, so all his images succeed in moving the story forward. (I went to one of his readings once and he said that he'd get up at 5 every day to write not knowing what he'd come up with and the writing just flowed out of him. Lucky man!). You clearly have the writing skills, now (for me) it's simply a matter of thinking of a good story.

Good luck!

Mary
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https://about.me/mary_thompson

Offline valgunn

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Re: The Wild Isles, (538), Young Adult Novel Extract
« Reply #10 on: August 15, 2015, 05:09:16 AM »
Very lyrical for sure as others have said. Works well, depending on where it is at in the story. Is this the opening of the book?

Offline Clarius

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Re: The Wild Isles, (538), Young Adult Novel Extract
« Reply #11 on: August 19, 2015, 01:55:38 PM »
I read this as what it is, an extract of a longer narrative work. There's some questionable punctuation, some awkward phrasing, and some arresting imagery. When you sort out the former I suspect the latter will get you published. Good luck.
O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us

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Offline Catherine F

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Re: The Wild Isles, (538), Young Adult Novel Extract
« Reply #12 on: August 19, 2015, 03:23:11 PM »
I read in awe, I love this kind of smooth, poetic writing : beautiful images, nice rhythm, to me it is enough : at this stage I don't need action, and I certainly want to carry on reading. True there is not much of a story yet, reminiscences of childhood, nostalgia. Somehow it reminds me of Jeff Buckley's voice (by voice I mean timbre of voice, the sound). As I said, to me it is sufficient, but I'm an oldish girl  :'( I'm not sure young adults would get hooked by the tone only, they'd need " more show less tell" (I know how impatient young adults are, I've got some myself...)
I can only wish you to keep the poetic side of your style, even though it is not of this time.

Offline heidi52

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Re: The Wild Isles, (538), Young Adult Novel Extract
« Reply #13 on: August 19, 2015, 04:07:09 PM »
As others have said you have some beautiful imagery but I felt it was too diffuse. Look at all the locations you introduce.  the beach, the rocky area then we are across the bay and into a field  somewhere then we are back to the beach but we are only a train ride from the city. Tnt to mention there are 5 people and just for good measure you throw costumes and some pirate stories. All in 2 or 3 paragraphs

whew, slow down. Focus and show us a scene. Make us see it.

It's obvious you can write, now we want to see you tell a story.

Welcome to the circle.

All of my comments are opinions only and should be taken with a bucket of salt.

Offline LC1

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Re: The Wild Isles, (538), Young Adult Novel Extract
« Reply #14 on: August 21, 2015, 10:16:46 AM »
There is al lot of thought provoking imagery here which I really like. However I feel your description of the rundown town is too cliche, like it could be any seaside town. You could possibly add something that makes this town stand out or maybe you were going for a typical seaside town. Great writing though and I would like to read more.