Author Topic: The Freckles on Mars - Coming-of-Age  (Read 175 times)

Offline MP_Squawk

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The Freckles on Mars - Coming-of-Age
« on: July 28, 2020, 02:07:53 AM »
Hiya! New to the forums :) I'm in the process of editing this manuscript in hopes that I can soon take it to the query trenches, but I'm getting a little uninspired. Critiques always seem to kick my butt into action, so if y'all feel like it, let me know if you have any comments on my first five pages. It's two short, little baby chapters at the start. Pasting below...

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Chapter 1

Summer would be dead in a month, and Mom was in tears. Her lemonade shook in her hands – both, like she didn’t trust herself to hold the glass with one. I kept my eyes on the sun in front of us. She’d only cry harder if she knew I saw her. All I could do was help her every summer sundown. We’d make lemonade, we’d sit on the porch, and we’d pretend like nothing was ending. Or that nothing had ended.

Pink clouds hovered over the lowering sun. The air cooled, filled with an ambience of children playing and screaming outside. A couple hours passed, but maybe it was only a few minutes. I don’t know. Things feel long when you don’t care about them.

I tried all summer to care about its sunsets; Mom cared, and I cared about her. I wanted to talk about the blinding orange in the sky with her, how its fleeting colour made me melancholic. “It makes me think…” I wanted to say, but it didn’t. It was just the sky. And though these summer sunsets wouldn’t last forever, there’d be more next year. They weren’t all that bad during the other seasons either. Just different.

The colours in the sky dimmed into dark blue, then black. Stars appeared one by one. Another sunset gone. Mom accepted that, pushing herself off the bench and walking back into our house.

“Goodnight,” I said, but I wasn’t sure she heard it. She didn’t say anything back.

I hugged my knees. I hated how comfortable I was with Mom crying. She filled the whole summer with her broken heart and expected me not to notice. I couldn’t blame her, but it hurt. I didn’t know how to help. Mother would’ve known, but she wasn’t here this summer. She’d never be here again.

Stars covered the sky, and something balled in my stomach. It was small, sad, and it made me a bit ill. Was this what Mom felt, looking at the sunset? Maybe, if I couldn’t find meaning in the setting sun, I could find it in the night sky.

I took a sip of sour lemonade, then made a wish. There weren’t any shooting stars, but what did it matter? Why did someone else get to make up the rules? It was my wish. My meaning. Mom was worth breaking the rules for anyway.

I wished on every star above. “I wish I could protect Mom.”

Chapter 2

The moment I found out about The End of the World, I was in my local convenience store. Nothing happened. The ground didn’t shake, meteors didn’t fall, no blood-thirsty monsters crawled out of the earth – nothing. I just handed over a five-dollar bill and thought to myself, hey, I think the world is ending.

So, I asked. “Do you feel that?”

The shop-owner blinked at me. “Feel what?”

“Like the world’s ending.”

He blinked some more, and I realized I sounded stupid. The End of the World? Where did that come from? That was it. No more apocalypse TV shows with Lucky. They must’ve gotten to my small-town head.

The shop-owner rummaged for my change, his lips pressed tight together. An outline of his braces poked out above his upper lip. Classmates made fun of this guy at school. Having braces in your late thirties was both shameful and hilarious, apparently, but I found them charming. He looked younger with them. I hoped that social shame would be gone by the time I hit thirty, because I might not be able to afford braces until then either. I still had a good sixteen years though. A million things changed in a day, let alone a decade.

He handed me my change and eyed the door, as if to remind me where it was. Like that’s why I stood too long in front of his counter, rambling on about some end-of-the-world sh**. Coins slipped off my palm and clattered to the floor, but I grabbed my groceries and bolted out. Door chimes rattled above me. I didn’t want to bother him anymore. I’d be bothered too if some child with an apocalypse fantasy came in and screamed about The End of the World. Not that I screamed. The feeling in my stomach wasn’t scary. It was just kind of sad.

I hooked a pair of earbuds into my ears and skipped to a summery beat, the sun mid-set. The first sundown I missed with Mom. I would’ve rather spent the afternoon making lemonade for the new neighbours with her, but Lucky insisted on playing a new racing game together. I wouldn’t hear the end of it if I rain-checked on him again. Or I’d hear absolutely nothing. He was either the loudest or quietest guy in the room when I pissed him off. I couldn’t decide which I preferred.

Home was a left on Gibsons Way, then another past my high school. The sun lowered behind the short, grey building, casting a long shadow and cooling the cement road. I hummed to the song bouncing in my skull and gazed up at Elphinstone Secondary. It was a welcoming place. Not too intimidating for a meekly eighth grader. Once summer passed, I’d officially be in the ninth grade. Most of us grade-eights weren’t involved too much with puberty warping our bodies and brains every day. But maybe this year, I’d finally settle. Maybe I’d find myself in a clique, in some drama. Maybe I’d get a girlfriend. Hell, maybe a boyfriend. Maybe even just a real friend. That’d be nice.

A couple boys my age ran up the road in my direction. They laughed and repeated some phrase that meant nothing to me but a whole lot of happiness to them. I couldn’t help but laugh a little too. The blond guy wrapped his arm around his black-haired friend as they stepped out onto the empty road. The black-haired guy pointed up at the pastel sky, and they stopped in the middle of the crosswalk to stare.

The black-haired boy stood just outside the shadow of Elphinstone, sunlight pouring on his pale skin. My feet stopped. The sickly feeling in me pulsed. His smile was gone, replaced with something similar to Mom. His eyes widened and watered as the sky dimmed. Maybe he had the same brain as her. These sunsets meant something, and soon, they’d be gone forever.

The boy was smothered in freckles, the most I had ever seen someone wear. Thousands of brown specks dotted his arms, his legs, his face. They bunched together over the bridge of his nose like one, large birthmark. From a distance, they were blurry little specks, like the stars. That’s what it is. He looked like the stars I wished on.

The blond guy made a joke, returning the freckled boy’s smile. And then my feet moved. The need to talk to him overwhelmed me. He pulled me in unknowingly. I had to say something. I had to see his stars up close.

But I never got to that day, because the two of them were hit by a car.

-----

Cheers! - M

Offline MegTravelz

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Re: The Freckles on Mars - Coming-of-Age
« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2020, 08:27:26 AM »
Hi MP_Squawk! The first chapter drew me in right away. Your writing has a nice rhythm to it, like I'm popping into someone's head and hearing all their thoughts as they come and go. Chapter one left me with the questions of why is the mom sad, what happened to the main character's mother, and what is ending? Which is great-- makes me want to read more. Chapter 2 is where I felt it start to drag a bit.

The moment I found out about The End of the World, I was in my local convenience store. Nothing happened. The ground didn’t shake, meteors didn’t fall, no blood-thirsty monsters crawled out of the earth – nothing. I just handed over a five-dollar bill and thought to myself, hey, I think the world is ending. You said that you "found out" about the end of the world, then you switch to "I think the world is ending". Its confusing

So, I asked. “Do you feel that?”

The shop-owner blinked at me. “Feel what?”

“Like the world’s ending.”

He blinked some more, and I realized I sounded stupid. The End of the World? Where did that come from? That was it. No more apocalypse TV shows with Lucky. They must’ve gotten to my small-town head. Now I'm very confused, because we've gone from the world definitely ending, to the main character thinking they've imagined it


Two kids getting hit by a car at the end of chapter 2 was very jarring, which I'm guessing you wanted. But I don't think it works to your advantage-- the reader is not emotionally invested in those two kids, and I'm still confused as to where the story is going. The world is ending, except it's not. Also minor, but we still don't know the MC's name (unless I missed it?)

Those are the main things that stuck out to me! Good luck!

Offline MP_Squawk

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Re: The Freckles on Mars - Coming-of-Age
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2020, 04:05:19 PM »
Ah! Thanks so much for the detailed feedback. I really appreciate it :)

I've scanned again through the first two chapters, and yes, it seems I've forgotten to even mention our main guy's name (Blue). Bonking myself on the head lol. I'll find some quick way to throw that in somewhere.

I think you're right on the confusion. Especially since I haven't posted a query/blurb, The End of the World thing might be getting introduced in a not so smooth way. Essentially, The End of the World exists only in Blue's head, and the whole story is about him growing up and struggling with this idea of is it real or am I losing my mind? I think maybe I'll change up the wording on the first sentence of the second chapter. "I found" makes it sound so certain, when it's not.

I don't mind the reader not being super invested in the kids, as it fits into certain themes later on. It's more about how Blue witnesses someone his age die, how he struggles with that, and the new characters that incident brings him to. Maybe I'll change up the wording and pacing so it doesn't feel like I'm trying to elicit that jarring feeling out of the readers?? I'll think on it. Let me know if you have any other comments. Thanks again! Cheers  ;D

Offline csc

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Re: The Freckles on Mars - Coming-of-Age
« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2020, 02:54:53 PM »
Hi MP_Squawk
I like your writing style. Clean and engaging.
The first chapter is compelling without letting the reader know too much, which is awesome It keeps the reader interested. The second chapter started off strong though it got a little confusing when you introduced the boys. It's going to be great if you work on making it a little clearer about who is who. I love the last sentence about them being hit by a car.

Have you finished your manuscript? If you are interested in being my Critique Partner, please message me. I'm looking for someone for my Women's Fiction that had gone through a second round of querying with agents. I'll post the query and the first 5 pages soon. Thank you.

Offline MP_Squawk

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Re: The Freckles on Mars - Coming-of-Age
« Reply #4 on: August 01, 2020, 05:26:20 AM »
Hey, thanks so much for your thoughts! I really appreciate you reading my stuff. You're totally right. I'll clean up the descriptions of the boys so it's clearer. Glad you like the way Chap 2 ends :)

I finished my manuscript, but I just decided to make a huge change to it, lol. I'm probably gonna need a couple weeks to work on it before I get any fresh eyes on it. I'll message ya when I'm done, and if you're still looking for a CP, we could maybe swap manuscripts. I'd definitely be interested in reading yours, though I'm not a woman and I don't read a whole lot of women's fiction, so I may not be your target audience lol! Your concept sounds very intriguing though.

Cheers,
- M

Offline csc

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Re: The Freckles on Mars - Coming-of-Age
« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2020, 01:04:34 PM »
Hello M,
Thank you for your kind response! When you finish re-working your manuscript and would like to consider swapping, please let me know. We can discuss further.

I love your writing style and am interested to know more about what happens in your story. Obviously I need to continue revising mine as well. My story has elements of mystery, suspense and romance. Even though I call it women's fiction, it should not be for women only. It's just the closest genre classification that I feel comfortable putting it in.

So far, I have only been able to find friends who are not writers to read my work. They are usually too kind to critique my writing or even tell me what they don't like about it. So, I'm still looking for objective opinions.

Meanwhile, take care and have fun writing!

CS
 

Offline mynasaurus

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Re: The Freckles on Mars - Coming-of-Age
« Reply #6 on: August 05, 2020, 03:18:47 PM »
Chapter 1

Summer would be dead in a month, and Mom was in tears. Her lemonade shook in her hands – both, like she didn’t trust herself to hold the glass with one. I kept my eyes on the sun in front of us. She’d only cry harder if she knew I saw her. All I could do was help her every summer sundown. We’d make lemonade, we’d sit on the porch, and we’d pretend like nothing was ending. Or that nothing had ended. This start is a little vague, but I'm intrigued.

Pink clouds hovered over the lowering sun. The air cooled, filled with an ambience of children playing and screaming outside. A couple hours passed, but maybe it was only a few minutes. I don’t know. Things feel long when you don’t care about them. I like this glimpse of your character early on.

I tried all summer to care about its sunsets; Mom cared, and I cared about her. I wanted to talk about the blinding orange in the sky with her, how its fleeting colour made me melancholic. “It makes me think…” I wanted to say, but it didn’t. It was just the sky. And though these summer sunsets wouldn’t last forever, there’d be more next year. They weren’t all that bad during the other seasons either. Just different.

The colours in the sky dimmed into dark blue, then black. Stars appeared one by one. Another sunset gone. Mom accepted that, pushing herself off the bench and walking back into our house.

“Goodnight,” I said, but I wasn’t sure she heard it. She didn’t say anything back.

I hugged my knees. I hated how comfortable I was with Mom crying. She filled the whole summer with her broken heart and expected me not to notice. I couldn’t blame her, but it hurt. I didn’t know how to help. Mother would’ve known, but she wasn’t here this summer. She’d never be here again.

Stars covered the sky, and something balled in my stomach. It was small, sad, and it made me a bit ill. Was this what Mom felt, looking at the sunset? Maybe, if I couldn’t find meaning in the setting sun, I could find it in the night sky.

I took a sip of sour lemonade, then made a wish. There weren’t any shooting stars, but what did it matter? Why did someone else get to make up the rules? It was my wish. I like seeing this aspect of your character too! My meaning. Mom was worth breaking the rules for anyway.

I wished on every star above. “I wish I could protect Mom.”

This was a good opener and very pretty writing. However, it was mostly description--I didn't get a ton about your character, only that he (?) cares for his mom and is trying to protect her emotions and pretend things are fine, but can't. I can't really tell anything about your plot yet, or what ended. I almost wonder if you should start with Chapter 2? Reading the first lines of Chapter 2, it is a lot punchier and more engaging.

Chapter 2

The moment I found out about The End of the World, I was in my local convenience store. Nothing happened. The ground didn’t shake, meteors didn’t fall, no blood-thirsty monsters crawled out of the earth – nothing. I just handed over a five-dollar bill and thought to myself, hey, I think the world is ending. This! This is great.

So, I asked. “Do you feel that?”

The shop-owner blinked at me. “Feel what?”

“Like the world’s ending.”

He blinked some more, and I realized I sounded stupid. The End of the World? Where did that come from? That was it. No more apocalypse TV shows with Lucky. They must’ve gotten to my small-town head.

The shop-owner rummaged for my change, his lips pressed tight together. An outline of his braces poked out above his upper lip. Classmates made fun of this guy at school. Having braces in your late thirties was both shameful and hilarious, apparently, but I found them charming. He looked younger with them. I hoped that social shame would be gone by the time I hit thirty, because I might not be able to afford braces until then either. I still had a good sixteen years though. A million things changed in a day, let alone a decade. This last sentence threw me off. I think it's because at first we're in your MC's head in the current moment, and then it feels like we're looking back on this moment from the far future, ruminating on how quickly things changed when the world ended.

He handed me my change and eyed the door, as if to remind me where it was. Like that’s why I stood too long in front of his counter, rambling on about some end-of-the-world sh**. If you're going to censor this, I'd just switch the word to "crap." Unless you've only bleeped it out because of forum rules--I need to check about that! Coins slipped off out of, maybe? "off" sounded odd to me my palm and clattered to the floor, but I grabbed my groceries and bolted out. Door chimes rattled above me. I didn’t want to bother him anymore. I’d be bothered too if some child with an apocalypse fantasy came in and screamed about The End of the World. Not that I screamed. The feeling in my stomach wasn’t scary. It was just kind of sad.

I hooked a pair of earbuds into my ears and skipped to a summery beat, the sun mid-set. The MC is much happier now, and it's a litte jarring as just a sentence ago he was feeling ill about the end of the world. The first sundown I missed with Mom. I would’ve rather spent the afternoon making lemonade for the new neighbours with her, but Lucky insisted on playing a new racing game together. I wouldn’t hear the end of it if I rain-checked on him again. Or I’d hear absolutely nothing. He was either the loudest or quietest guy in the room when I pissed him off. I couldn’t decide which I preferred.

Home was a left on Gibsons Way, then another past my high school. The sun lowered behind the short, grey building, casting a long shadow and cooling the cement road. I hummed to the song bouncing in my skull and gazed up at Elphinstone Secondary. It was a welcoming place. Not too intimidating for a meekly eighth grader. I'm beginning to lose the thread... there's no development on the end of the world thing. I don't think we need these aspects of your MC's backstory right away. Once summer passed, I’d officially be in the ninth grade. Most of us grade-eights weren’t involved too much with puberty warping our bodies and brains every day. But maybe this year, I’d finally settle. I don't understand what this means? Puberty is in full force by this age so I don't understand what is meant by "weren't involved too much." Maybe I’d find myself in a clique, in some drama. Maybe I’d get a girlfriend. Hell, maybe a boyfriend. Maybe even just a real friend. That’d be nice.

A couple boys my age ran up the road in my direction. They laughed and repeated some phrase that meant nothing to me but a whole lot of happiness to them. Sentence is clunky/distracting I couldn’t help but laugh a little too. The blond guy wrapped his arm around his black-haired friend as they stepped out onto the empty road. The black-haired guy pointed up at the pastel sky, and they stopped in the middle of the crosswalk to stare.

The black-haired boy stood just outside the shadow of Elphinstone, sunlight pouring on his pale skin. My feet stopped. The sickly feeling in me pulsed. His smile was gone, replaced with something similar to Mom. ??? Like, replaced by an expression like the one Mom always wore? His eyes widened and watered as the sky dimmed. Maybe he had the same brain as her. These sunsets meant something, and soon, they’d be gone forever.

The boy was smothered in freckles, the most I had ever seen someone wear. Thousands of brown specks dotted his arms, his legs, his face. They bunched together over the bridge of his nose like one, large birthmark. From a distance, they were blurry little specks, like the stars. That’s what it is. He looked like the stars I wished on. I was so sure this chapter was coming in before Chapter 1, chronologically, because Chapter 1 made it sound like the world had already ended and Mom was mourning it.

The blond guy made a joke, returning the freckled boy’s smile. And then my feet moved. The need to talk to him overwhelmed me. He pulled me in unknowingly. I had to say something. I had to see his stars up close.

But I never got to that day, because the two of them were hit by a car.

I find your setup really intriguing, and I thought Chapter 1 and the beginning of Chapter 2 were great. Personally I'd prefer you start the book at Chapter 2, but that might depend on what else happens in your novel and what makes sense for how you're framing the story.

I got confused as the shop scene came to a close. I thought the world was ending, but then that wasn't followed up on, suddenly the MC was happy again, and then...? I don't really see what prompted your MC to think the world was ending or if anyone else noticed (I guess not?) or what kind of apocalypse was occuring. It felt like the lead was dropped. I also didn't get to see much about the MC's character. I liked the glimpses of him that I did see, but I felt like there were only a few insights into how he felt and what headspace he was in. I don't even know his name (apologies if it was stated and I missed it.)

Hopefully this is helpful. As always, just my opinion. Happy writing!

When It Was Us - 71k YA Contemporary, querying.
The Garden at the End of the World - 79k YA Contemporary, revising.

Offline MP_Squawk

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Re: The Freckles on Mars - Coming-of-Age
« Reply #7 on: August 07, 2020, 10:57:48 PM »
Thank you so much, mynasaurus! I really appreciate you giving me so much detailed feedback!!

Another person mentioned the how I didn't name drop the MC (or even his gender, for that matter), and that's totally me being big dumb. I've inserted a line in my new draft (haven't posted it) that'll fix that. Also yes! You are so on the ball about that line of the MC being suddenly much happier. Not my intent at all, so I'm glad you pointed it out. I think that's the main issue with Chap 2. The transition from "The End of the World" stuff into the next scene needs to be smoother and have more of a conclusion. Will work on that :) It's okay that The End of the World doesn't totally make sense. The MC himself finds it strange that he felt so strongly about it when no one else did; this internal conflict is the main juice of the story. I will be adjusting how it's introduced and how he reacts to it to make it more clear though.

Also yeah, forums don't allow swearing. Didn't realize that when I posted and they censored my stuff lol.

Thanks again. Happy writing to you too!
- M