Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I'm Bored

Since I have some extra time on my hands from not working these last few days, I decided to take a break from not working and rest my feet.  The curious and savvy can do some research and figure out what that means.

For the rest, I thought I would read through my WIP.  I finished the re-write last week, but haven't gone through it line by line to ensure it makes sense all the way through.  I've read 83 pages thus far today, and guess what?  I'm bored.  I really don't think it's such a bad story, but I did cut a lot to get it under 60,000 words.  Has it suffered?  I don't know.  I know there is an unwritten rule to set it aside for a few weeks before reading it again.  Maybe I'm still too close to it.  But I want to get it out to beta readers and if it sucks before they see it, then what's the point.

So help me my blogging friends.  In an unprecedented move, I've decided to post the first 838 words.  I figure if an agent is going to like it or not, it will be decided that quickly.  I actually think the first chapter is pretty good.  It's the next 80 pages that lag.  At least to me.  Sorry it makes for a long post, but I need to know if I'm wasting my time.

Comment.  Please.

 “Skully? You finally awake?”
Not waiting for a response, the quartermaster burst through the hatch.
Well, this can’t be good, thought Skully. He was in his hammock, strung up above some stacked crates, a small desk turned on its side, and a lone chair—there was no room for anything else—in the cramped cabin next to the captain’s quarters. Wishing he were anywhere else.
Pirates were surprisingly cordial to one another, but several weeks of boredom on an over-crowded ship led to a few fights. The quartermaster doled out justice. That could mean lots of things. Nothing pleasant.
Gladwyn was big. Giant big. With dark skin, rippling muscles and strange circular scars. He never wore a shirt, either because he didn’t own one, or they didn’t come in his size. He had an enormous head with yellowing eyes. His hair and beard, like spongy black cotton, circled his face.
“I didn’t do anything,” Skully said, sitting up too fast and banging his head on the bulkhead.
“Now, who said you did?” Gladwyn asked. “I asked a simple question.”
Skully’s life stopped being simple the day they started calling him Skully. Normal went on holiday. Complicated moved in. Became a constant companion. Along with a rather vicious case of seasickness.
The lines across Gladwyn’s giant forehead softened. “I have been worried about your ear. It was bleeding again last night.”
Beneath tattered bandages, what was left of Skully’s ear felt like it was on fire. The hammock swung back and forth. The ceiling swayed. He squeezed his eyes shut. His hands were shaking and his legs felt weak. His stomach lurched amid the constant rolling of the ship. The inescapable stench of a hundred men, months past bathing. The putrid stink of rancid water, rotting fruit and moldy bread.
Wishing he were dead, Skully leaned over just in time, scattering chunks onto Gladwyn’s boots.
So much for wishes.
The dead didn’t get sick. They didn’t do anything. Except die. That, he knew firsthand.
Gladwyn looked up from the mess at, and on, his feet. Puking, it turned out, wasn’t widely tolerated by pirates. Something of a shame, then, that Skully now lived among them. Not that he had much choice. But Gladwyn did not scowl. He did not frown. Or yell. If anything, he almost looked amused.
“Where are we?” Skully asked.
“Somewhere in the middle of the crossing, I estimate,” Gladwyn said. “A little closer than yesterday, but still weeks away. Of course, I have only made the journey one time, so I cannot be certain.” Gladwyn shuffled across the tight space, to open the porthole. He stuck his head out and inhaled deeply. “The captain wonders if there is anything you wish to tell him.”
The captain. That was not what he’d called himself a week ago. It left Skully a bit untrusting.
“Are you feeling alright?” Gladwyn asked. “I can give you some more unguent.”
“No way. I don’t need any more of that.”
The first night aboard, Gladwyn had mixed up a strange concoction that numbed Skully’s ear and sent his mind wandering. It took a few days to recover.
“My apologies,” Gladwyn said. “I may have overestimated the dosage. I do not usually treat children.”
“You’re not a very good doctor”
“I am not a doctor. A healer—maybe. How do you feel?”
“Hungry.” He wondered if it was because he’d thrown up, or in spite of it.
“You should get some grub.”
Grub was the right word. In the week since he’d come aboard, Skully had yet to eat a decent meal. Or anything that resembled a meal. What passed for food on a pirate ship would not have been served in a prison back home.
“I’ll be there in a minute,” Skully said. “I just need to…just give me a minute.”
Once Gladwyn had gone, Skully climbed out of his hammock, avoiding the vomitty mess. Wind whistled through the porthole, followed by the crash of waves. A gray-blue wake, topped with white foam, trailed the ship. Skully dragged the chair to the porthole for some fresh air. Kneeling with his arms on the ledge, he watched the rolling swells.
Never before in his twelve years had he claimed to be a pirate. Nor had he said his name was Skully. But that’s what they were calling him. So that’s who he’d become.
Skeletal nickname not withstanding, Skully was all too alive. All elbows and kneecaps, he had pale skin and blonde hair that he used to keep quite neatly combed. He had been a stay at home kind of kid, who wore fancy clothes and meandered, unnoticed, among his grandfather’s high society friends. Mostly because his grandfather insisted he avoid less desirables—those who existed beyond the grounds of the grand mansion known as Admiralty House.
His grandfather, Admiral Alban Ironskull, would certainly not have approved of Skully traveling with the most despicable excuses of living creatures—as he had often described pirates. Okay, so maybe they weren’t all missing limbs and trailing bloody entrails. But Admiral Ironskull wasn’t just any Navy admiral; he was The Admiral, and knew what he was talking about. There was no questioning his word. Of course that, along with everything else, had now changed.


April said...

Now, I am not published either. I am no expert, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

The first thing I notice is there are a lot of adjectives and adverbs. I think there are some places this makes for great telling and some places where it can be changed to be great showing instead.

The second thing I notice is there are a lot of incomplete sentences. This is fine if it's your style, and that sort of style jibes with a 12 year old (meaning that's fine). This was more of an observation than anything, but I'd be careful. Too many short, incomplete sentences can become annoying to the reader.

I think there are quite a few sentences that can be shortened, tightened. I feel in places like you took the advice to show all the different senses and crammed it all into one paragraph instead of letting your writing flow.

I don't think it's bad, and I'm certainly wondering why a 12 year old boy is on a Pirate ship! I don't know what this story is about, but that has me intrigued!

Kara said...

I loved this. It can use some cleaning up though- especially the sentence fragments. In some spots it works, but at others it's a bit jarring. I loved the voice though- I think it's a nice opener.

Alyia Kallen said...

The story is intriguing, but the style needs work. You have a promising premise but you are so focused in this chapter on back story and what everyone looks like. When you describe them, you make a laundry list of face, hair and eyes.

I also agree with the first poster regarding sentences. Some of them seem to come out of nowhere, like you are bouncing from one topic to another. You just need some good transitions.

Also remember that whatever you write has to push the plot forward, but so far we have spent most of this snip looking back.

spamwarrior said...

Interesting! However I want to say one thing that gave me pause -- when you mentioned the quartermaster bursting in and then switched to Skully and then started describing someone named "Gladwyn" it felt jarring. Sort of like, "Who is this Gladwyn and what is he doing here? Oh wait, he is the quartermaster..." It felt like it came out of nowhere, so to speak.

Matt said...

Keep 'em coming. I need to hear this stuff.

Amy Saia said...

Everyone has given you great advice, so I'll just add a reminder to keep Skully's voice authentic. We're reading that he is young and sick and out of his elements, but what does he think about all this? What would you be thinking if you were a young man on a ship full of stench and burly men?

It's good—I really like your style!! Just keep that voice above all the description. I know it sounds tricky, but you can do it!

Sierra Godfrey said...

Matt, I liked this. Here are two things that stuck out at me (meaning, kicked me oiut of the story):

1. I didn't know who was speaking in the first line, so I didn't know whether to attach importance to it...is it the main character, and if not, do I care? That kind of question.

2. I didn't know Skully was a kid until close to the end. This may be what you want. But if it isn't, then I would move that detail up.

Lastly, I'd like to see the details shown to me in the last two paragraphs rather than told. I'd be willing to wait and see those things unfold, cause a kid who gets kidnapped as a pirate (right? Is that what happens?? is interesting!

HUGE kudos to you for being brave and posting this.