So there's something y'all may or may not know about me: I'm writing a YA novel. (I know, who isn't, right?) And in truth, I'm writing about three. And there are about three more floating around in my head.
But that is not the point.
The point is that it's both easy and hard to write a book. It's easy in the sense that sitting down and getting the ideas and words out of your head and onto the page is, well, FUN. And you feel like you're accomplishing something. For me that part is easy. The hard part comes in evaluating what you've written. So I've created this new feature so that I can share my writing with y'all (because y'all are experts on YA). And because sharing is the best. (And I'm sure at some point I'll add in polls or ask for advice along the way. *grins*)
So, here's the skinny on the chapter of the book I'm going to share with you today: I've really struggled with it. It's the opening chapter of a contemporary espionage novel that I've been working on FOR MONTHS, and no matter what I do with it, I don't seem to like the first few paragraphs.
But I figure that I'll probably never be completely satisfied with my writing, so I'm just letting it go and turning it over the (hopefully constructive) people of the Internet. If you have the time, feel free to read through the first chapter and let me know what you think of it!
Addy Scott was annoyed. She knew that on that particularly warm October day, at exactly 11:52 A.M., a special announcement would be made proclaiming the names of the lucky ladies on this year's Homecoming Court.
Addy was so anxious for the announcement that she couldn't focus on anything her trigonometry teacher was saying. When it became obvious that learning wasn't going to happen, she tried doodling and daydreaming to pass the time, but to no avail. Her thoughts kept going back to whether or not she'd made Court. She was growing more and more impatient; time seemed to be mocking her by moving more and more slowly.
So now she was trying bend the clock to her will. But, despite her best efforts at telekinesis, the second hand seemingly refused to budge past 11:47 A.M.
Normally Addy was not the kind of girl to sit around thinking about Homecoming Court, despite the fact that she lived in Katy, Texas and Homecoming was a bigger deal than the Fourth of July. However, things had changed for Addy in the past year, and now she was the kind of girl who thought about Homecoming Court.
In nine short months, she had morphed from a too short, too skinny, flat-chested girl into a perfectly proportioned young woman. And because high school is the most superficial place in existence, as soon as the rest of the students realized she was gorgeous with her chestnut colored hair, hourglass figure, and delicate bone structure, there was a new, widespread curiosity about Addy despite the fact that she had known her classmates since kindergarten. She actually found the curiosity and attention more annoying than flattering.
As she sat in class and thought about her newly inflated social status and her insane amount of commitments, Addy knew her chances of being on Homecoming Court were good. Not that she was full of herself—she had proof. At least eight of the football players stopped her that morning to tell her she was their pick for Court, and because they never walked alone, their friends all grunted in agreement, making it seem as if she was the obvious choice for junior maid.
“Come. On!” she said, a little too loudly, while still staring at the clock and rapidly tapping her pencil against the desk. She suddenly realized that she looked like the opening shot of that old Britney Spears video, except without the schoolgirl uniform and weird pink fluffy things in her hair. Praise God.
“Miss Scott, is there something you’d like to share with the class?” the trigonometry teacher asked.
As she tried to collect her thoughts and say something semi-coherent, the anticipated announcement began.
“Hello students! This is Mrs. Mitchell, your student council advisor. Today we have a very special announcement regarding your Katy High Homecoming Court.”
Addy’s heart rate rose until she could feel her pulse in her thumbs. She leaned so far forward in her desk chair that she felt the back legs tip a little off the ground. As she readjusted her weight so that she wouldn’t fall over, Addy caught the eye of her best friend, Marcy.
“Anxious much, A?” Marcy whispered from across the aisle.
“God, is it that obvious?”
Addy felt ridiculous. She hadn’t been nearly this nervous when student council was announced the previous May. And being vice-president was a way bigger accomplishment than being on Homecoming Court. At least, it was in her mind.
Marcy giggled softly and said, “Yeah. But, I mean, it is Homecoming Court. It’s a seriously big deal. Even for Addison Scott.”
Addy rolled her eyes. She knew that her late-to-the-party growth spurt and subsequent popularity hadn’t been easy on Marcy, who is Amazon tall with so-red-it's-orange hair and millions of freckles covering her almost translucent skin. She had always been the gangly, awkward girl who was the obvious choice to play center for the girls’ basketball team, but was too uncoordinated to actually play.
But Marcy had been her best friend since the first day of middle school, when Addy had spied the picture of Spike in Marcy’s locker, and they had bonded over their mutual love for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They had been inseparable ever since. Addy wasn’t about to abandon that friendship just because Cassidy Freeman, the most popular senior, decided to invite her to eat lunch one day.
Suddenly, Addy was jolted out of her thoughts.
“ . . . and this year’s junior maid will be . . . Ariel Stephens!”
Addy felt as if a sumo wrestler was sitting on her chest. She was surprised by the weight of her disappointment and didn’t turn to look at Marcy, whose big blue eyes were surely full of the same disappointment Addy was feeling. She just couldn’t face her yet, even though she knew Marcy would have exactly the right thing to say.
In an attempt to distract herself, Addy closed her trig book and started making a mental list of the things she needed to do that day.
"French test. Quiz Bowl practice. Grocery store. Oh right, grocery store."
For some reason her dad had asked her to pick up a couple things after school. He said he had something special planned.
“I hope he’s not announcing that he’s going to propose to his inane girlfriend,” Addy thought.
Since her mother had passed away three years ago, she and her father, Richard, a NASA engineer, had become incredibly close. Then six months ago he started dating Felicia, a hair stylist at a funky Houston salon, and Addy started to feel their perfect father-daughter relationship waver. She was glad that her father was happy, but didn’t he realize that Felicia wasn’t right for him? She was too loud, couldn’t cook, refused to wear any color other than black, and had blue streaks in her platinum blonde hair. Felicia was cool, sure, but she just . . . wasn’t right for her dad. Why couldn’t he see that?
However, her anti-Felicia train of thought was once again interrupted by Mrs. Mitchell’s peppy, high-pitched voice.
“Now for the big announcement. Although we typically have at least three nominations from the men of the Katy football team, and a school-wide vote for who the Homecoming Queen will be, there was only one nominee this year. The same lucky young woman was nominated by not only the freshman, sophomore, and junior football players, but the seniors as well, which forfeits the need for a vote."
“Geez,” Marcy said, “Who in the world would every class of football players nominate?”
Mrs. Mitchell continued, “It is my distinct privilege to announce that this year’s Katy High Homecoming Queen is . . . ADDISON SCOTT!”
The trigonometry class erupted in applause and Addy felt Marcy grab her in a huge hug. “Of course it would be you! Can you believe it?!” Marcy said.
But Addy couldn’t believe it. She was a junior. It was always a senior who was Homecoming Queen.
Throughout the rest of the day it seemed as if the entire student body congratulated, hugged, and told Addy how much she deserved the honor—even Cassidy Freeman, who had been on Court her freshman, sophomore, and junior years, and wasn’t the senior maid this year, graced Addy with the rehearsed smile of a pageant queen and a stiff hug. Addy had expected some serious attitude from Cassidy, and was glad to receive the forced sentiments. It was way better than the screaming showdown she had imagined, where Cassidy accused her of sleeping with the starting offensive line in return for the nomination.
By the time Addy aced her French test, finished up Quiz Bowl practice, made the trip to the grocery store, and pulled into the driveway, the shock of the announcement had worn off and was replaced with unadulterated joy. She couldn’t wait to tell her dad. She was even looking forward to Felicia’s reaction, despite the fact that she knew the woman would insist on giving her some sort of herbal hair treatment that smelled like patchouli the day of the Homecoming Parade. So when she walked through the front door, Addy was actually a little disappointed to find that Felicia was nowhere in sight. But the disappointment was quickly tossed aside and Addy reveled in the fact that she was able to share this moment with just her dad.
After they cooked dinner together, and Addy had set the table, they sat down to eat. She had been saving her big news for dinner so that she could properly make the announcement. She was sure he would be thrilled, despite the fact that he wouldn’t understand why it was a big deal. Even in high school Richard had been a genius who was more concerned with astronomy and physics than a high school football game. But she knew that he would still be psyched for her.
Just as she was forming the words to tell him her news, he said in his serious tone, “Addy, I have some news.”
“Well, I have some news too,” she said, mimicking his tone. She quickly added, “But you first. My news can wait.”
He breathed in sharply, and then held his breath for an excruciatingly long ten seconds. “Addy. I’ve been promoted.”
“Oh my God, Dad, that’s awesome! I’m so proud of you!” Addy exclaimed, beaming at him. “You so deserve a promotion. You spend almost every waking moment at NASA helping them develop . . . whatever it is you’re working on.”
She felt bad that she didn’t know, but to be honest, it wasn’t like they had spent much time together lately.
“That’s not all sweetie,” he said, and Addy felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.
“Here it comes,” she thought, certain he was going to announce his plans to propose to Felicia.
“The promotion isn’t in Houston. I’m . . . I’m being transferred to the Ames location.”
“Ames,” Addy said slowly, before asking “Where exactly is the Ames location?”
“California,” her dad said quietly.
“Oh. Wow,” said Addy, her head swimming. “Well, you didn’t already take it. Did you?” she asked cautiously, not daring to look him in the eye.
“It’s a huge promotion for me. For us. I couldn’t turn it down, “ he replied.
As Addy tried to digest the information, she realized her eyes were brimming with tears. She tried to hold them back, but that just made the urge to cry stronger.
Finally Addy asked, “What about Felicia?” hiccoughing before she said the dreaded woman’s name. Richard took off his rimless glasses and rubbed his eyes. “She’s not coming. I asked her to, but she said that she can’t imagine leaving Texas.”
“Neither can I,” Addy whispered.
“Addy, I’m so sorry,” her dad said, placing his hand on top of hers. “But I really think this is the best decision for our family.”
She couldn’t believe that he had accepted without consulting her first. It was just so . . . selfish. Didn’t he realize that she loved her life? The next, burning question was one Addy didn’t want to ask. But she had to.
“So . . . when do we move?” she asked, finally looking up from her chicken fried steak and straight into her dad’s eyes. He looked away. “Saturday.”
It was already Wednesday.
“The company hired movers, so you don’t have to worry about packing. And I can contact the school so you don’t have to tell them. And if you want to stay with Marcy the rest of the week, or have her stay here, that’s fine by me,” he said, hoping that concession would somehow ease the pain that was so visible on his daughter’s face.
As Addy tried to stomach all of the information, she realized tears were streaming down her face and off of her nose, and that she was making those stifled gulps in the back of her throat that sound like an oinking piglet. She was sure her mascara was all over her face, but she didn’t even bother to wipe it away.
Finally her dad said gently, “Now what was your news?"
©Bethany Larson, 2011.
All right, so that's chapter one! If you find yourself wanting MORE of Addy's story (oh, wishful thinking!) there are six chapters already up over on Figment. And I would love love love to have your feedback on this (good, bad, or ugly), as I'm currently my only editor and in desperate need of additional eyes on this. :)