Wednesday, September 7, 2011

first impressions – Elena's Pen

Our second entry, an MG Fantasy, comes from Nicole Zoltack. You can find her where fantasy and love take flight. My comments are in purple and you can see what Dianne had to say on her blog.

"Mr. McMichaels has hated me ever since he confiscated 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 sixth 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. I gagged and hurried past. This is good. I can smell this (ick)!


I turned and spotted Artex, the new guy, down the hall. He waved a piece of paper in his hand. His lopsided smile was so inviting that I smiled back. "Hi." Why was he talking to me? I forced myself to not shuffle my feet or play with my hair.

He jogged over. Dark hair fell across his forehead and made him look oh-so-cute. "I think this is yours." He handed me the story I had started during science.

"Thanks." I shoved it into a notebook. "I guess I forgot to grab it."

"Poor Roderick. Fighting without his armor and his horse against three bloody pirates. I'm not sure he can handle them." He fell into step beside me.

My cheeks grew hot. "You read it?" My biggest dream is to see my name, Elena Streaming, on the spine of a book, but I couldn't let anyone read it!" This last bit doesn't quite make sense to me. On the one hand she wants to be published but on the other she doesn't want anyone to read what she's written. Maybe re-word the last line to something like this: ..."but it wasn't quite ready for the cute new guy - or anyone else for that matter - to read!" After all, if she just started it in science class it's obviously unfinished. 

The only other thing is that the voice seems very old for a 6th grader. My niece is a 6th grader and there is no way she would write like this even though she's fairly well-spoken and well-read. She also doesn't like any of the boys in her class but is endlessly fascinated - from afar - with older boys. The narrator sounds more like 8th grade - or older - to me. But this is just my opinion based on my - albeit limited - experience. I expect there are other 6th graders who are much more mature than my niece.


  1. Great feedback. I would read more. I'm always fascinated by young characters who want to write.

  2. This is why I don't write MG. My characters always sound like older teens no matter how hard I try. But because of that I really enjoyed this excerpt. :)

  3. Fantastic feedback. As someone who has just started writing a YA novel, I worry about making my characters voice too old.

  4. For me - the ending meant that although she had big dreams of being a best selling writer, she hadn't thought much about the fact that people would actually be reading her words:) it's cute.

  5. thanks all for your comments - especially the dissenting ones! It's a good reminder that we should never rely on a single opinion about our work.

  6. Great excerpt! I agree that the voice sounds a bit mature for the character. I love the story line and you have beautiful descriptions.

    What is the big problem in the story? Just curious...

  7. I agree about the older voice, but I find myself already connecting to the character. I can totally understand wanting to be published, but being terrified of anyone seeing what I wrote. Great job!

  8. Thank you so much for your feedback! I've been going back and forth with how old to make Elena - between 6th or 8th grade - and I think I'm settled now on 8th. Thanks for helping me decide!

    Thanks, Matt!

    Karen, this started out as YA fantasy, but feedback from agents suggested that the theme is more fitting with MG. So I'm trying to tweak the voice down, and it's not always easy to do.

    Voice is so important, thanks Ellie!

    That's exactly what I was going for, Katie - although it's her dream, she's never actually thought about it happening and never realized it would mean people would read her writing.

    Thanks, Sharon! The big problem in the story is that Artex is from a fantasy world that is in trouble and needs Elena's help since she is the only one who can use a magical pen in which everything she writes comes true. But the power comes with a price... and it won't be as simple as writing a happy ending.

    Thanks, Shallee!


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