Friday, July 29, 2011

International Sh*tty First Draft Week-CONTEST!

All week long, fearless authors have revealed excerpts from their sh*tty first drafts. We've seen scenes like Christmas sweaters the manuscript outgrew; scenes that didn't carry their weight; scenes that have been cut and reinserted and cut so many times they don't even bother unpacking their suitcases any more.

Sh*tty First Draft Week was a misnomer in many ways. For one thing, much of the so-called shitty material in first drafts isn't so shitty after all. In fact, sometimes a scene or chapter is just perfect in its original context—but when you change other parts of the story, the context flexes and morphs until that "perfect" scene or chapter doesn't even make sense any more.

In this respect, drafting a novel is a bit like cooking a pot of soup: you can't throw in one new ingredient without affecting the flavor of everything else in the pot.

Another reason Sh*tty First Draft Week is a misnomer is the word "first". What about second, third, fourth, and fifth drafts? INTERN remembers hearing a director say that for every minute in a play, his theatre troupe does an hour of rehearsal (or was it ten hours?) INTERN feels the same way about writing: for every word that makes it into the final draft there are at least three words discarded. That's 300,000 words of drafting for a 100,000 word novel. This ratio is different for everyone, but it speaks to the huge amount of exploring, delving, mistake-making, playing, and who-are-you-kidding that goes into a finished creative work.

So anyway. On to the shitty first draft contest!

The Rules:

To enter, all you have to do is post a short excerpt from your own sh*tty first draft in the comments of this post.

You don't need to tweet about the contest or put it on a t-shirt. You don't need to follow this blog. You don't need to take out a Sh*tty First Draft Week ad in your local newspaper.

Just paste your goddamn draft excerpt in the comments.

The Winners:

INTERN will randomly select three winners by assigning each commenter a number and then drawing the numbers out of a bowl.

INTERN will not be judging the entries on any axis whatsoever, so don't fret about whether your entry is too shitty/not shitty enough/etc—winning is a matter of luck!

INTERN will announce the winners on Monday, at which point winners can send iNTERN their contact information to claim their prizes.

The Prizes:

One lucky winner will receive a first 50 pages manuscript critique by INTERN!

One lucky winner will receive a mysterious Revision Prize Pack!

One lucky winner will receive some twigs, bits of string, and perhaps a book or two!


OK, everyone! Ready to reveal your sh*tty drafts? As promised, INTERN will share a snippet of shitty draftery too.







INTERN's first draft snippet:

This is the story of a girl who was pregnant with a cat. The cat lounged inside her, lapping at sunlight, until the girl awoke in pain one morning; the cat was dragging its claws all the way out.

This is the story of a girl who gave birth to a spider. Her belly swelled up so that people thought she had twins, triplets, quintuplets. But no; all that happened when she went into labor was a very tiny black spider crawled out. After hours of pushing, a tiny black spider. After all that blood, a tiny black spider. After all those months of eating, a tiny black spider. It crawled away on quick spider legs and though she called for it the girl never saw it again.

This is the story of a girl who gave birth to a rat...

etc. etc. etc.

Explanation: INTERN often feels daunted by first drafts, so she'll use poetic devices like repetition to make things "easy" until she hits on an idea she wants to follow. For INTERN, drafts are full of experiments like this that help INTERN discover who her characters are and what they want to say.

So what's your sh*tty first draft about? To the comments!


  1. All right, I'll give it a try:

    This is the first page of the first draft of a possible novel called Riddleyore Bagel, which appears to be Damon Runyan meets Connecticut Yankee.

    All this is gone now, by the way, because the story starts much, much later:

    Yeah, I’m a chump. Like they say, practice makes perfect.

    Come on through the portal to a real magical kingdom and start a whole new life.

    Here’s a few bridges to buy before you go, and this here Nigerian banker wants to give you a big bag of money ‘cause you got an honest face.

    Riddleyore is one of those places that everyone knows all about, usually from a friend of a friend whose cousin's coworker's brother-in-law took the plunge.

    I figured most of the stories were pure bull, since gold makes lousy asphalt and rivers of beer don't make no sense, unless that's the reason all them wishing fish are so easy to land. But some stuff was reported on the news and in the papers--the legit ones that don't have Elvis's alien baby on the covers--which mean it could be true: Riddleyore had magic--the real stuff, no hats full of rabbits or psychic 900 numbers.

    And Riddleyore wasn't just looking for tourists either, they wanted settlers. And CNN said they took in everyone, no questions asked, or at least no tough ones, just like America before Ellis Island. You had to stay five years--no exceptions--to prove you weren't just day tripping, but it looked like a pretty sweet deal, if you were looking for new beginning or a sudden change of location.

    And me? I admit the ad boards on the El and damned near every bus in the city caught my attention.

    "What will you become?" they said in St. Patrick's Day fancy letters. "A Scholar, a Warrior, a Farmer, a Wizard? Employment guaranteed!"

    Well, I ain't dead between the ears, but I ain't no scholar, neither, and nobody's ever confused me with Schwarzenegger or Stallone, since I'm what you might call built for speed over power, which has been useful to me at times, so I ain't complaining. The closest I wanted to get to livestock was buying FDA-stamped hunks of it on square foam trays wrapped in plastic at the grocers, so farming was out. In fact, I wasn't much what you'd call temperamentally suited to regular employment in the first place.

    But being a Wizard--hey, I kinda liked the idea of waving a wand and having the seas part and brooms carry buckets and schmucks turn into frogs and all that. Probably impress the hell out of the ladies, too.

  2. I posted this on my blog too, because it seems like fun ;)

    This was originally the opening scene of my memoir. Cringe in horror! (it is seriously bad. fair warning):

    Our lives are made up of a million stories. The anecdotes we tell our friends to make them laugh. The bad days we share to vent stress. The daydreams that occupy our spare time.

    If you're a writer like me, there are the fantasies too. Imagined worlds where we can make anything happen, craft any story we want: realistic fiction, romance, science fiction, anything. But some days, like this one, writers get stuck. No new ideas, no gripping plotlines, no characters screaming at me to tell their stories. Some might call it writer's block. I think it's more like life block.

    So today, I'm going to try something different. I'm going to tell my Story.

    Everyone has a Story. It doesn't detail every event in your life; doesn't include every detail or best friend or meaningful relationship you've experienced. It's simply the most interesting tale you have. The one that makes the whole room fall silent when you tell it. When you're telling your Story and you pause to take a breath, all anyone says is "then what?"

    You know the Story I mean.

    Some people's Stories are about self-discovery. Religious awakenings or survival in unbearable circumstances or triumph over oppression, addiction, trauma.

    Mine doesn't involve those things. Mine is a love story.

    Wow past Ellen, can you blather on about inanities some more, without any actual scene or setting or context? Thanks. Also, way to be meta. "Here is a memoir about writing?" Wat.

  3. Sign me up!
    Vamp yanked me around the angled street corner by his leash, heading to the nearest tree three houses away.

    “You can’t,” I warned.

    But a stringy, forty-nine-pound fourth-grader like me proved no contest for a ninety-eight pound German Sheppard.

    “I said…”

    “I heard you,” he said without moving his lips.

    It’s how he’d spoken to me from the first day I visited the shelter. He’d been scheduled to be put down. I begged the volunteer behind the desk to pull some strings. They’d already shaved a spot on his leg for the euthanasia injection.

    I turned around and heaved the leash over my shoulder. “That’s Mrs. Doop’s tree. She’ll scream out the window if you go near it.”

    A police siren groaned a few blocks away.

    “I marked it first,” he spat. “It’s not her tree.”

  4. This is fresh off screen. Wrote it yesterday. And my, it's so sparkly it could extend the word sh*tty.

    Misha was flying. It was cold, shocking as a bucket of ice. Wind stretched her cheeks and her eyes teared up. She felt buoyant, weightless, and for a split-second, the terror in her heart was ousted by ecstasy. She was now a flying squirrel, her arms and legs spread wide, her clothes flapping around her like loose skin.

    “Brace yourself!” said Evelyn from above.

    The cement ground came fast at her. Misha pulled in her legs to soften the impact, but when her feet slammed the ground, the rough granite pushed into her soles like needles to a pincushion. Unwelcome tears pricked her eyes. She tried to stand. She quickly wiped them and grabbed something for support. The support turned out to be the hood of a luxurious car.

    The alarm went off. It blared through the quiet neighborhood, loud and obnoxious.

    Evelyn dropped beside her. “Cripes.”

  5. Sounds like fun. Here the opening of chapter one in my crappy first draft.

    Moonlight illuminated a lone figure’s path through the halls of the darkened mansion. The young woman stalked a prey that she knew lay just beyond. A prey which will fall like the rest and was the last defense between her and the ultimate goal locked away in the office beyond. Thumping of the thief’s heart rang louder in her ears than the footsteps upon the tiled floor or the jingling of weapons at her waist.

    At the edge of the passageway Brae halted and poked her head around the corner, a potted fern covered her petite frame. A large foyer flanked with staircases and balcony came to focus as her vision adjusted to the dim light. Several more potted ferns dotted the landscape, along with the last guard in front of an oak door.

    Slowly the guard’s head turned as if he was searching for signs of movement, moonlight glinted off the goggles strapped atop his head. His disheveled mismatch clothing, hunched over posture, goggles strapped to his head, and navel revolver which hung in a hip holster indicated that he was an air pirate. “Black Scars” was written across his jacket. He should not be much of a challenge for the thief as long as he was taken down quickly. Brae knew that it had been a long and slow night for him, just like the night before and the night before that.

    Lithe fingers twitched at the hilt of the sheathed sword as Brae watched the guard. He stood with arms crossed in front of the office door. With a furled brow she began to revise her plan. In the darkness she could rush him, knock the pistol away, and take him down before he could fire a shot. Not the best of plans, but one which had worked in the past.

    The dimly lit foyer masked the air pirate’s movements but a familiar tapping reached the thief’s ears. His hands were slapping out a cigarette from a soft pack of smokes. Closing her eyes, Brae protected her acclimated vision from the inevitable flash of a lighter. Licking her lips she pounced upon her prey, weaving between the potted plants. A dagger materialized in the hand that had been just fondling the sword.

    Before the air pirate guard realized he was not alone the young woman was upon him. Her blade dug into his throat while the glowing ember was knocked away and a hand clamped over his mouth. Brae waited half a heartbeat, letting the shock of what was happening sink in before jerking the blade into flesh. Liquid splashed upon the tiled floor.

    The guard grasped at the hand locked over his mouth. Only a guttural gurgle could escape as his body went limp. Brae plucked the cigarette from the floor and stuffed it between her lips. “These things will kill ya,” she grunted while dragging his body behind some potted plants.

  6. Her foot slipped on the wet rock and a strangled cry ripped from her throat. She landed flat on her back. The change in pressure made her little island tip. It was going to slide her straight into the mouth of the beast. She grabbed for a hand hold, anything to keep her on the rock. Her hands found the sword. Desperate, Morgan grabbed it and stabbed it into the rock. It actually sank into the stone and held. Morgan gasped and then choked on a wave that enveloped her. She held on as the stone slid a little further. It was perfectly vertical, hanging her exactly over the cavernous scallop mouth.

    Morgan tried to take a deep breath, think of changing the situation, like the therapist said. She shut her eyes and pictured a flying unicorn over a rainbow, pretty and nice. She could still feel the sword underneath her hands, gravity pulling her to her death. Unicorns. Rainbows.
    A roar from the monster made her eyes snap open. Instead of rainbows, rain poured on her in sheets. Morgan cried as one hand slipped from the sword’s hilt. She flung it back up and gripped harder. Instead of nice unicorns, wingless demon horses flew through the air. One landed on the monster. The weight of the horse popped out one of the monster’s eyes. The blue orb flew up through the air towards her and her pitiful rock. It landed not two inches from her head and she screamed again as the blue ooze ran down the rock, getting onto her shoes and bubbling.

    Since been deleted. :) sarahbelliston(at)gmail(dot)com

  7. I'll join in. Not sure where to grab the shitty from, but this draft just went to someone for reading so it hasn't been seen by anyone but me (well, maybe Ruth has gotten to it by now...)

    I needed another 'possession scene and this one feels shoe-horned in:

    “Okay, seriously, Winston. Something happened this weekend; something not good.” I was curious how he and Shy had gone from being so happy on Friday to this.
    “It was just a fight. Nothing huge.”
    “Excuse me, Jared?” Meredith's high voice didn't really surprise me, but the other two jumped a bit.
    “Hey, Meredith. TJ, get the story out of him, will you?” I asked, turning to go with Meredith a few steps. “What's up? What's she doing today?”
    “She's trying to possess TJ. I think she has. I don't think that exchange with Bekah was all him. It must be enough like him that he didn't notice.”
    “Didn't you explain to her why she shouldn't do that?” I asked, my voice raising sharply.
    Meredith's pale eyes cooled. “Of course I did,” she hissed. “That doesn't mean she isn't still trying to get close to you. One of your best friends would probably suit her fine. Although, I think she won't like being a boy again now that she knows she's a girl.” Meredith drifted off, her anger fading into speculation. She gasped and clapped a hand to her mouth. “She just took Winston,” she said.
    I turned quickly to see Winston opening the door to the school. I trotted back to the TJ. “What? What did he say? What happened?”
    “I told him to apologize to her, to make it up to her somehow. Then he took off. Hey Emily.” TJ lifted a hand to greet her. I turned as well to see her green tam and scarf that she wore today.
    “Hi, Emily.” I reached out a hand to her shoulder, still not sure how forward to be. She tucked herself into my side and wrapped her arm around my waist.
    “Hi, Jared. I had a great time this weekend.” She rose on her toes to kiss me. It took focus to remember that Kimmy had possessed Winston.
    “I did, too. I... I have to go. I'll see you at lunch?”
    Her mouth tightened, but she sighed and agreed.
    Relieved, I began trotting through the halls to find Winston. When I did, he was making out with Shy. I shook my head both at them and the assembled ninth graders that seemed to be taking pointers.
    “Scat, you rats,” I muttered, nudging a few and making shooing motions at others. Bekah was nowhere in sight. I took Winston's arm and pulled him gently from Shy. “I think that's enough,” I told him.
    Shy blushed brightly and was about to argue, but Bekah made a reappearance and hauled her off to class. As soon as we were out of earshot, I shook Winston.
    “Kimmy, you can't do this. It's not fair to Winston or Shy.”
    “Why not?” My friend's blue eyes softened in a big grin. “We both want it.”
    They both want it. Not you, Kimmy. They need to figure out how to make it work for them. What is going to happen the next time Winston sees Shy? The next time you're not wearing him like a coat.”
    Winston frowned at me. The wind picked up to a howl against the windows and a door down the hall slammed.
    “Kimmy, I know you're looking for somewhere to fit, but you can't just take over someone. It isn't right.”
    Winston slumped, defeated. Then he started to tear up. If I needed any more proof that it wasn't him in there, that would do it. “I know.” His soft voice broke a little. “I don't fit anywhere. No one can help me.”
    Then Winston straightened and more doors crashed shut. The lights went out through the hall. Winston stepped closer to me. “What was that?”
    “Dunno,” I lied. I hoped Kimmy found something soon. It was going to get harder to explain her.

  8. Scene from first draft that has now been entirely axed. It was pretty useless.

    Dory showed up on Friday. She had Jem with her and her schoolmarm face on. Part of me always wanted to dress her up in a poke bonnet and a Little House on the Praire outfit and paint her in front of a chalkboard with a pointer. I hear they use erase boards, electric pointers, and “smart boards” in schools now, but Dory really belonged in a one-room schoolhouse.
    I’m not being fair. She’s an excellent teacher and she really does love kids. She’s also fond of interventions. I didn’t know if this one was for me or Jem.
    “Hey Guys. What’s up?” I sort of hovered behind the door. When the neighbors saw me, I felt exposed. Exposed is bad. Exposed leads to fear, which leads to panic, which leads to—
    Trash fires.
    Dory turned her head at the sound of the flames. Outside two homeless people appeared as if from nowhere and began to warm their hands. There was no magical backlash. I guess helping the homeless in November outweighs setting your neighbors’ trash on fire.
    Dory looked at me, suspicious. But she answered my first question.
    “Not Jem, apparently.” She reached over and yanked off his sunglasses. “Do you have some coffee?”
    Jem’s attempt to get his shades back was half-hearted. He had one hand on his forehead and his eyes at half mast. “Our sister is a sadist. Do you know what time it is?”
    “Yeah.” I hooked my arm through his and pulled him towards the kitchen. “It’s nine o-clock.”
    “You two realize I’m usually at work by this time, don’t you?” Ah, our sister. She should have been named Pollyanna. Just look at those platinum blonde curls and baby blue eyes.
    Someone had to stand up for civilization. Looked like it was going to be me. “Dory. It is a Saturday. Civilized people do not leave their beds, let alone their apartments at this hour.”
    “Some people don’t leave their apartments at all.”
    “Excellent work. You almost managed sarcasm there. Almost.”
    “Tia, can we please be serious?”
    “I am always serious.”
    We reached the bottom of the stairs and Dory took in the state of my kitchen. “Ugh. How can you live like this?”
    I didn’t say anything. The disaster in my kitchen was unusual. But I’d been walking around in a mental fog lately, and that meant a lot of undone tasks—like putting the lid back on the peanut butter jar, or unloading the dishwasher. Consequently, there wasn’t a lot of usable counter space at the moment.
    Dory pointed Jem at a barstool and turned to me. “There’s a coffee machine in all this junk, right?”
    I pointed.
    Dory squinted.
    Ten minutes later, Jem and I hugged our mugs with the desperate fingers of the hopelessly addicted. Dory sipped her chamomile tea. I still didn’t know what they were doing there.
    “So. Care to enlighten me? You know I appreciate the special charity of these visits from the family parish, but I have sleep to put in the bank against a rainy insomnia day.”
    “You’re having trouble sleeping?”
    “That is not what I said.”
    “I know. I just, I mean—well, Mom told me what happened.”
    “You don’t say.”
    “And I asked Jem about it, to see what he thought.”
    Jem squirmed on his barstool. This should be interesting.
    “And what, pray tell, did Jem have to say?”
    He peered at me over the top of his coffee. He can be such a dufus, our Jem. With his surfer-boy looks and his dead-end bartending job, sometimes I forget how powerful he is under it all. All that bartending must be giving him a doctorate in human behavior, because he looked like he could read my every thought.
    “You should do it, T.”

  9. I've really enjoyed Sh%$^*y first draft week. Great contest idea!

    Here's mine:

    Hillary was folding his last few items when the strung-out woman across the Laundromat lit up. Her exhale obscured the “No Smoking” sign taped to the wall behind her head.

    She closed her eyes while the toddler balancing on her scurfy knee plopped to the floor. Hillary couldn’t help it; he made the offended grunt at the back of his throat, gave her a pointed look.

    “What?” she said, her focus already drifting. She had that brittle look the junkies got, twiney limbs, skin that melon-rind color that brought to mind airless rooms, eye sockets so heavily scooped she looked as if she was peering from deep within the cave of her own skull.
    He busied himself with the dishtowel in his hands, hating the cowardice that kept him from making more of a statement. No smoking inside, especially around a baby… your own obviously-neglected baby… The words slunk around inside his brain. But he didn’t want to get involved.

    Dressed solely in a sagging diaper, the baby toddled over and set itself down on the toe of Hillary’s shoe, began to empty the trash bucket piece by piece. It had fragile-looking brown ringlets and dark eyes, reminded him of the children he and Dina used to take in. But he was cured of do-gooding after the disaster that was Millie and Freda.

  10. Okay, so I'm going whole hog and posting some words I wrote yesterday. Part of my current first draft:

    I don’t know when I started to hate feeling people’s adoration on the streets. I refuse to wear the school uniform anymore, but people recognize me—maybe because they’ve seen me walk this route to school for years, maybe because some childish gawkiness gives me away. As Dad leads me through the sidewalk crowds, eyes follow and people whisper. Mostly the words are too soft to hear, like a little breeze, but sometimes I hear them say it: “Truechild.”

    At a traffic light, a boy who looks younger than me—but isn’t, if those old eyes are any hint—presses a piece of candy into my hand. An old lady with a facial tattoo actually pets my hair. I jerk my head away, and Dad frowns. “You need to show some compassion,” he says, for maybe the millionth time.

    He has the decency not to add Mom’s favorite line, the one that always makes me cringe: They’re starving for children.

    She makes it sound like they want to eat me. Really they want to love me. Or, rather, they want to love a fake idea of idyllic childhood.

  11. Ooo, I love first drafts.

    For someone who hates math, I think about numbers too much. The ones on the board in front of me burn into my eyelids. 21-15-9. A 3 here. 95/65 there. They jumble inside my head, mixing with the others. 300, my deadlift. 260, my squat. 165, my push press. It’s a miracle I can keep them all straight.

    Nathan comes up to me, all smiley and professional even though it’s 5:30 AM and he’s a weightlifting coach. “Tracie Lou!” His hands pat my shoulders, digging into my meaty trapezius. I welcome the back massage, knowing my muscles will soon collapse. “Smile a little.”

    “Sorry,” I say. A yawn splits my fake grin.

    “Having a Matt day?”

    It’s so early that for a moment I’m not sure what he’s talking about. Then I realize and feel like an idiot for forgetting about my boyfriend. The boyfriend I haven’t seen in two years. The boyfriend who is usually the reason for my morose mood. “Not really. Not yet. Maybe now—thanks, Nathan.”

    He laughs and moves on to Earl Burlington whose shirt is already hanging haphazardly across the radio. You’d think a sixty-year-old man would put the abs away, no matter how in shape he is. Not Earl, though. He winks when he sees me watching him, but it’s not in a creepy way, ‘cause Earl’s more like my dad than anyone else.

  12. From a huge subplot (er, more like half the plot) that I axed completely - the first dream-filming sequence:

    The director rounded on him, squinting through the sheet of grey rain. “Oh, good. You’re here,” he said.

    “Yeah,” said 893001445. “Where’s everyone else?”

    “Just you today,” said the cameraman, lifting a heavy slab of metallic film and sliding it into the back of the camera.

    893001445’s heart did a little flip. “Wait. Are you serious?” he said.

    The cameraman and director exchanged an unimpressed glance beneath the hoods of their raincoats. “Yeah. She should be here in about five,” said the director.

    The sound operator pointed at a small cave—not so much a cave as an overhang, really—right on the rocky shoreline. “Go ahead and get down there,” he called to 893001445 over the sudden burst of thunder.

    893001445 nodded and started to walk to the cave, but he was panicking inwardly. The trainers had all said that the humans wouldn’t notice any weird behavior from actors, that they were completely oblivious to anyone but themselves in dreams—but he wasn’t so sure, all of a sudden.

    He turned and called back to the Crew, “What’s her name?”

    “Eli Williams,” yelled the director. The concealer puttered around the rest of the Crew, draping them in sheets of Disguise. They slowly faded from view. The concealer gave 893001445 a thumbs-up and put a sheet over himself.

    893001445 was on his own.

    He walked into the cave, looking around a bit nervously. If he was really the only one in the scene, he’d be getting his name already. Most people didn’t get them until they were 18, at the very least, and he got his on his first assignment? It didn’t help his nerves, that was for sure.

    He picked at the pocket on the clothes he’d gotten from Costuming. They were scratchy and uncomfortable, and now, after walking through that rain, completely soaked.

    Then there was a bit of a hissing noise. 893001445 sucked in a quick breath and prepared himself.

    She—Eli Williams—faded into sight.

    She arrived sitting on one of the boulders near the back of the cave. She arrived, blonde, bored-looking, with a half-smirk on her lips. She arrived barefoot, wearing jeans and a black turtleneck.

    893001445’s breath caught in his throat as he looked at her.

    Eli stood up, something like relief showing on her face. “Silas DeWyer,” she said slowly, apparently recognizing him.

    “Eli Williams,” 893001445 replied—but from that second on, he was Silas DeWyer.

  13. We found the dog earlier that evening. Later, I realized I never would have witnessed the crash if I hadn’t noticed him moving in the underbrush. We named him Hermes. The messenger.
    Max and I had been out all afternoon gathering, but we were nearly home when the dog first came to the edge of the trees. My brother went running up to the compound while I lured the animal out of the woods with a strip of dried meat. At ten years old, Max was too young to remember the neighbors’ pets from our old life, but I could picture each one clearly. I used to beg for a puppy.
    It was full dark by the time the adults had agreed to keep him. The dog was obviously tame. Probably a group of travelers had lost him while passing nearby. I volunteered to bathe him. I wanted to see if he would sleep next to me, and I knew my mother would never let anything so dirty into the house.
    I was giving his coat a second rinse when I noticed the flashing wing light. It was falling fast. The sound came after, muffled by the forest. When my father and uncle came outside, brows in identical furrows, I was able to point right to where the craft had gone down. They reached the site barely in time to douse the flames and pull the girl from the wreck.

  14. Ohh I gotta get in on this!

    Joseph Branston slowly walked through the living room of his childhood, gazing nostalgically at how neatly everything used to be arranged. In the corner of the room was a grandfather clock, an heirloom passed down the Branston family for four generations. Gently it chimed the sixth hour of what looked and felt like a perfect, warm summer's evening. Everything here was just as he remembered it. A frosted French Door led into the wide back garden, a grassy space which was home to a small wooden shed and a red two-seater swing set. On an evening like this the smell of his mother's cooking would waft outside through the kitchen window she always left open, teasing him with thoughts of the delights to come when she called the family for dinner.
    He stepped through the French door as if it wasn't really there, feeling the well trimmed grass under his bare feet. It was a sensation which brought a smile to his face. Mother always hated him going outside without shoes on. A quick sniff of the air told him she was cooking roast beef. His favourite.
    Saving the best for last, he turned his attention toward the swing set, gently running a hand over the cool metal frame. He and his older sister used to spend hours sat on these swings, sharing in each other's day. Bianca was everything he wanted to be. She was smart and popular, a gifted young girl whose many achievements were the pride and joy of their parents. Yet, between all the after school clubs and her friends, Bianca Branston always found time to spend with her baby brother. It meant the world to him.
    He was only in his second year of school when those happy days ended. Bianca was cycling home from Gymnastics practice, her one non-academic passion, when a speeding driver hit her. The policemen who came to deliver the grim news said she'd died instantly and wouldn't have felt a thing. They never caught the driver. The only witness had been more concerned with trying to save Bianca's life than getting the license plate of the car responsible.
    After that, Branston never touched a swing set again. In the weeks after Bianca's funeral his family fell apart. The house whose garden he now stood in was sold to a single London Investment banker, who would rarely even be there and would never appreciate the love and joy that had once inhabited that space. A fact Branston resented fiercely.
    “You're in the right place now,” He could have swore he heard his sister say, “Please don't leave them.”
    With his heart starting to beat harder and louder, Branston slowly turned his gaze back to the swing seats. Her smiling face, which had always greeted him with warmth, was looking up from the furthermost seat, framed by the flawlessly long black hair that fell like a waterfall over her shoulders and halfway down her back. She wore a white dress which matched her pale skin and dark eyes. She looked exactly like she did the last time he saw her, only that time he was gazing down into her coffin.
    “Please sit with me,” Bianca patted the empty seat, “And we can talk again, like we used to.”

  15. Fun contest! I cut this scene because, well, it just wasn't moving the story forward and it made a lot of people dislike my MC.

    Elke Taylor is a tube-top stealing, shoulder-baring slut. That was all I could think about as I walked toward the squat, prison-like structure that was Hoover High. Well, that, and the fact that I was hoping Mr. Foster doesn’t check for homework in Pre-Calc because I definitely didn’t do it.

    It had been over a week since we exchanged clothes for Erin Barr’s brother’s college party, my black tube-top for Elke’s denim mini skirt. I gave her back that skirt the next day, and she has not even mentioned my top for days. She looks better in it than I ever did, but I mean, the only reason I got that stupid tube top was because she talked me into getting it. She said it would drive Logan mad. It didn’t.

    It’s not even that I want to wear it or anything; it’s the principle of the thing. You can’t trade anything with Elke because she never gives your stuff back. It was the same thing with my vintage Madonna t-shirt and Kelly’s rhinestone headband.

    I was prepared to fully sever our friendship as I walked through the blue double doors. I had prepared a speech in my mind last night, while I was tossing and turning in bed. I don’t remember the exact words now, but it was something about damning her to the social nether-realms. Because I totally had that power. There was also a part about how her arms were fat, which isn’t true, as if that ever matters in a friendship-ending fight.

  16. "A girl opened her eyes and looked around her. She struggled to remember exactly where she was, and why she was there.

    She seemed to be in a forest, surrounded by trees. She wondered what type of trees they were, staring up at the roundish green leaves. The trunks of the trees were wide and brown, covered with dark, rough-looking bark. She realized that it must not be winter or fall as everything around her was a lush chartreuse, rather than the yellows, reds and browns of fall, and it wasn’t cold enough to be winter.

    She leaned back into the tree trunk she was against, and waited for something to happen. She knew there must be something wrong - certainly someone should be looking for her? The moss at the base of the tree was at least comfortable to sit on. "

    How many times can I say "trees" in 150 words? Oh, a lot, I assure you.

  17. Um, the main character had dropped out of her graduate school life to become a tow truck driver in this first draft. Seriously. Here it is:

    "That better be it," she said to herself, standing, brushing her hands together. She placed the muffler repair tape atop the hood of the tow truck parked in the wide-space in front of the garage that leaned a few degrees off true. Birds chattered on branches overhead. Their maincoon lay stretched out on the cab sunning himself; small twigs had twisted in his coat. She leaned against the truck bed and swatted a hornet away hovering above her head.
    "Seven minutes. New record," he called to her. His muddy boot heels rubbed a line on the window frame she painted eggshell white last month.
    She walked across the yard, glanced up, and reminded herself that they had to climb up and fix the spot on the roof where the tree branch fell two weeks ago during a morning storm.
    She walked up the stairs, the sound of her boots hollow on the wooden porch. After she'd finished the windows she painted the porch deck a dark green then put new chains on the swing. She got him to go with her to a yard sale in Frederick County where they bought two used wood-slat chairs. She had set a pitcher of water with tea bags in the sun before they left. When they got home they drank iced tea while they sanded down the chairs then treated it.
    "What did you say that was?"
    "Reversing polarity. Like backwashing a radiator."
    "Okay," she said. "Don't pop your head open."

  18. Stowing away was a terrible idea.

    Cyna flattens her back against the metal wall, hiding behind the baggage piled high around her and clutching a thin coat still caked with mud and dried blood. The rumbles of the plane send shudders down her body.

    Footsteps pause just outside the door.

    Images of the plane's hacked blueprint flash in front of her mind. There are only two rooms on this end of the tiny plane—the engine room and the storage room she's in. If she's lucky, it's only a member of the Scarlet League down to check the engine before landing.

    emyblogs [at] gmail [dot] com

  19. Opening of an early draft of a teen short story, before I was rightly informed that my narrator a) was annoying b) was pretentious and c) in no way sounded like an actual teenager. I've solved most of those problems (I think), but according to my critique group, my short story is actually the outline of a novel. More revisions! Le sigh...

    As I run the silver-backed brush through my hair, I study the large gray eyes reflected in my mirror. They are somber now, veiled with fog, as though they have seen a hundred years instead of just nineteen. My face is young, but my eyes are old.
    This afternoon, I’ll attend the dress rehearsal of my father’s latest play. We’ll sit side by side in the empty theatre, and instead of watching the actors he’ll be glancing at me, brows knitted, as though wondering who I am, and where his little girl has gone. I will nod and smile and complement his direction, then speak of other unimportant things. Later, he’ll grin and present me with some small gift, as though a sketch pad or stick of charcoal will somehow bridge this gulf between us. He doesn’t understand. I do not try to explain. I am still my father’s daughter, but I’m not a child any longer.
    I remember the day that everything began to change.

  20. This is the original beginning to a fantasy novel I still haven't quite figured out yet (three drafts in!). The story now begins way later, since I had to eliminate this info dump:

    I didn’t sleep at all, my last night at home. There were too many sounds that kept my eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling above me. Memorizing the cracks that snaked across it, meeting eachother, and twining together into a water spot that had been there since I was five. I had a vague sensation that I should welcome my insomnia-after all, it was allowing to spend as much time as possible in my home, the home I would leave in just six hours. Instead, I wondering about (Griffin), the college I’d be attending, and living at, for the next four years.

    Griffin College was a small liberal arts school in New York City, one I didn’t even know existed until my friend Laura dragged me to it on her whirlwind tour of local colleges. Laura was motivated- she wanted to know what all her options were before she made any decision, even though she already had her heart set on the biggest and best schools on the east coast. I was just looking for a reason to leave home. I’d started senior year convinced I would be living at home, and going to college pretty close by.

    “It will be like high school, with Fridays off.” That was Laura’s argument against my plan. She didn’t understand that that was exactly what I was looking for, at first. “Come with me, anyway,” she said. So we went to every college on the Master List in the guidance counselor’s office, even ones she didn’t think she’d want to go to. “Who knows if I’ll even get in, right?” she’d asked with a gulp, more than once. It bothered me because I knew where she would get in and where she wouldn’t, and that she’d be fine wherever she went. I knew I’d be fine staying home and taking the bus to the local school. Maybe that’s why I went. It was always easier for me to do something as a favor to someone else, than to try to convince myself to have a stake in it.

  21. OK, here we go...

    Today is so much worse.
    Mom shakes her head and her eyes give me the I'm-so-disappointed-in-you glare all Chinese mothers master as soon as they give birth. I would prefer any amount of shouting or even physical punishment over this stare.
    All the team commanders and the Director had listened to the story Wallace and I told, then immediately darted out of the room to begin the attempts at damage control. My mom and I sit alone in the mission briefing room.
    "Technically," I hedge, "I didn't do anything wrong."
    It probably would sound more convincing if I believe it.
    "You were the senior agent," she says, cool and calm. "You are responsible for the actions of your team."
    "We shouldn't even have been on the side of the building. The heat sensors -"
    She cuts me off by standing up straight and crossing her arms over her chest. For a five-foot-nothing middle-aged Asian woman, my mom can be intimidating as hell.

  22. Here is mine:

    Ana sat in silence before finally asking the question he knew she’d been wanting to ask for a very long time, “What exactly happened to my brother? I know you said something about him being asphyxiated or something, but the way you said it…and the fact that you ran away afterwards…”

    “Looked pretty suspicious, didn’t it?” Gabriel finished for her. He at last turned to look at her then, and her cheeks reddened despite herself when their eyes made contact.

    “Yeah. It looked like you killed him or something.”

    “Well I didn’t,” he said as he reverted his gaze to the road.

    “Then why did you run?” Ana asked him interrogatively.

    He debated on whether or not to tell her the truth. Moira would surely punish him if he chose to say what happened, but on the plus side, it’d stop Ana from bothering him like this. Even if she didn’t believe what he said, the craziness of the truth would probably convince her that he was insane and that she needed to stay away from him. In fact, he wanted to freak her out so bad that she’d never cross paths with him again.
    Gabriel glanced at the rearview mirror and checked to see if the car was the only one in the road. Luckily, it was a Sunday night, and there was not a car in sight.

    “To put it simply: I stole his soul.” He made his lips arch upwards into an unnatural smile as he violently jerked the wheel around.

  23. (To Intern: I've tried posting this a couple of times but I seem to get blank resets. I'm trying to post it one last time from a different browser. Apologies if this shows up in your bin multiple times! It just wouldn't post with Firefox, so now I'm using Chrome.)

    Oooh, fun! Here's something truly sh*tty from me:

    Brynn saw with great dismay that the ship's captain was there at the table, sitting on a chair curving gracefully out of the floor itself, writing in a leather-bound book with a feathered pen. She noticed a plate set near the captain, with a half-eaten fish and other food laying on it. Her stomach could have whined at the sight of nourishment when it was so empty, it would have.

    She sat up, to see it better.

    The captain turned in his chair and looked at her. He played with the feather; Brynn saw that the hand holding it was bare. She couldn't help but remember where it had been. She felt herself turning red.

    "Are you comfortable?" he asked. His voice was rich like chocolate and thick like fudge and his words came out as smoothly as whipped cream. She licked her lips.

    He considered her lips. "Are you hungry?"

    Her stomach gave a fierce roll at the suggestion, but she kept her eyes away from the fish -- and focused on the man.

    I have to convince him to let me go, she thought. That should be my number one priority.

    He set down the pen. He reached out and lifted from the plate a round fruit smaller than a plum, a pale yellow thing speckled with bits of green. He stood up; as he did so, the chair on which he had been seated melted down into the floor until any indication that it had ever been there disappeared.

    Brynn's eyes crossed. "Okay, that's yet another thing that's not normal."

    The captain, for whom it appeared such things were quite normal, casually approached the bed. He sat down on the edge, within reach of her. He was looking more wicked every second. Brynn began to slide away from him, but he reached out and took her by the wrist. Her skin tingled where he touched her. He brought the shiny, wet fruit to her lips and said in a succulent tone of voice, "Eat."

    Her lips pressed together tightly. Her stomach growled at her. She refused to listen to it.

    "As you wish," he said, and proceeded to eat it himself. Juice ran down his chin as he did; he didn't seem to mind in the least.

    "You have a very mean spirit," she said.

    "No meaner than your vixen eyes," he replied.

    "You have no right to kidnap me like this."

    His gaze wandered down to the rope binding her hands. "It was not I, Lady, who put you in this awkward position."

    "Well then, let me go."

    He smiled. "Into the ocean?"

    She thought about it. "The sharks in the ocean are kinder than the men on a pirate's ship."

    "Why do you say that?" he asked. "I don't imagine that you are familiar with the ways of pirates."

    Brynn's gaze drifted down to his waist. The dagger was still sheathed at his hip, next to the much longer, wider sheath of his sword. On his other hip was a black leather holster, the carved handle of a black gun tucked into it.

    "Call it women's intuition," she said, and tried to pull away from him.


  24. A nameplate on her desk introduces her to me. “Principal Vyderbeck” it reads, and the stacks of file folders tell me she takes her job very seriously. Her walls are covered in plaques and framed credentials. Dr. Margaret Vyderbeck, they say. She has a PhD in medicine and philosophy, and according to a painting on the wall, she is the world’s greatest grandmother. I think I know all I need to know about her until I notice them— the pictures of her and the people she knows. There’s one of her and a little boy who looks no older than three or four Earth years, and there are several of her and a much older boy whose photos range from younger years to present time. He looks no younger than twenty-five Earth years, and no older than thirty of them. The problem isn’t those pictures; it’s the one on her desk. I strain to get a glimpse of it, but it’s the only one of a young teenage Terrie with long raven hair and a sparkling smile. Her picture is the only one without Ms. Vyderbeck in it, and it’s the only one that faces away from me.

    With a wave of her hand, Ms. Vyderbeck’s papers file themselves into a folder drawing my attention away from the room and back to her. My eyes widen. On Earth, things like alchemy seem so much more impressive than they actually are. “Are you from,” I begin, but she finishes my sentence.

    “Out of town?” she asks. “No. I was born here, but I’ll let you say that my mother wasn’t.” Folding her hands, she looks at me. “They’ve briefed you, I hope.”

    “Yes ma’am,” I reply.

    She’s curt when she nods, so much so I hardly recognize the gesture at all. She doesn’t look so direct, but her manners say different things than her unwieldy copper hair. She says, “So, Drew,” and her hands fly apart. She snaps and a paper shoots out of the file cabinet behind her and into my hand. “Welcome to Rachel, Nevada.”

    Thanks for this opportunity,
    Deserae McGlothen

  25. I'm a lurker, but I feel like you won't begrudge me that if I post my draft excerpt...thanks for a fun week getting to see other sh*tty first drafts!

    There is a bird in my backpack.

    Even though Ben was still talking, jabbing his finger in the air to prove a point, it was all I could think about. He moved his hands apart, possibly to indicate the magnitude of the
    problem to which I was supposed to be paying careful attention.

    I nodded and leaned back against my car, taking the opportunity to nudge my bag further behind the tire with my foot.

    “You just promised me. You just promised me, Lila, and now you’re already sneaking off.“

    I cannot look at my backpack.


  26. Someone has started dancing. And they are prancing about around us. The beat thumping an abandon I want to feel. I grab Cobalt’s hand and take him with me. I think I hear him gasp in suprise. I don’t know. All I feel is the fire in my soul and this need to be one with the music. Feel it course through me and set me free.
    I understand now, this need to preserve the old ways. It’s not the same the bits and snips they give us in controled amounts in our concrete jungle. No it is not the same at all. It is a pale shadow, an echo of this completeness. The grass is dewy under my feet, the cool of night descending upon us. I wrap my arms around Cobalts neck and his arms find my waste, we sway as the music slows and lulls around us. I stare up at the stars above us. They sparkle in their matt of dark blue velvet.
    “What’s that colour. Dark Blue like the sky is right now?” I ask Cobalt. He knows blues. He wears them on his soul.
    “Midnight” he whispers in my ear.
    I’m fully aware of him. How I have to look up to see him. How his hair falls in a wild tangle around his face. I brush it out of his eyes. My thumb traces back down his temple over a particularly angry jaded scar. I run my thumb over it. He stands very still. We’ve stopped moving.
    “Why did you hide yourself after you had shown me who you where?” I ask thinking back to our first encounter. Ages ago. Eons even.
    “At the time. It was a game. See how you react, see if it made me a monster in your eyes.”
    “It wasn’t the scars that made you a monster. It was your actions.” I say, pausing, then ask. “Why do you put people off like that?”
    “No one can hurt you if you hurt them first.” His voice carefully void of inflection.
    We’re still, just the two of us wrapped in moonlight, the distant echoes of a campfire and music still dance on the wind, but their no longer the fabric of our reality.
    I reach up on my tiptoes tentatively and kiss his temple. Then whisper in his ear, “I don’t want to hurt you.”
    I take his hand and walk off into the shadows. Past the camplight, onto a trail that will lead us away from them, to an open field, of grass and midnight and whildlowers. In the midle of it, I stop and turn to face him. A trail of silence follows behind us.

  27. They don't know that they're paying for this coffee. My pockets are emptier than a politician's words and I ordered the coffee with the longest name on the menu, suckers.

    I should be nicer. It's hard to be nice to a group of people like this, though.

    "Hey," I lean towards Roman. He looks at me from his whipped cream...thing and slurps in response. It's supposed to be funny, so I laugh. "Uh, I've been wondering. Is Carson a guy or a girl?"

    His laughter, sharp and red, drowns out my last couple words. Everyone else glances at us.

  28. This sh*tty first draft begins with a guy picking up a date for a high school dance. He meets her at the steps to the porch.

    “You mind if we don’t go to the dance?” she asked.

    “Um, no. I mean…” He glanced back at the house and shifted his feet. “You still want to go out?”

    “Oh sure,” she said, smiling, “it’s just that I don’t like dances.”

    He’d had the whole night planned – from taking her coat to the last slow dance – and now suddenly had no idea what to do.

    “Well, why didn’t you tell me?”

    She looked down. “I thought you wanted to go to the dance. And well, I wasn’t sure if you’d like what I have in mind.”

    He looked at her. [like he wasn’t already.]

    “It’s this old summer house,” she said. “It belonged to my grandmother. And we can go there.”

    He shrugged and laughed. “Okay, then. We’ll go.” [dude, are you oblivious?]

    “Thanks, Sean. I thought you’d understand.” [bleh.]

    “Hey, yeah,” he said. “I mean, I don’t like dances, either. It was just… you know.” [oh, shut up.]

    She opened her door and the dome light shone on her smile. [more bleh.]

    Do you really want to tag along on this date? Nope. So I changed it. First, I honed it down, and then I gave the guy some attitude and amped up the promise of what’s to come.

    “You mind if we don’t go to the dance?” she asked.

    His frowned. “You don’t want to go?”

    She shook her head, and then, quietly, “There’s a place I want to show you. An old cottage, where my grandmother lived.”

    Whoa. Here he’d had the whole night planned, and now was looking at a girl with a plan of her own.

    “But... if you didn’t want to go to the dance,” he said, “why didn’t you just say so?”

    Amy glanced down and shifted her feet. “I thought you’d ask someone else.”

    He wanted to kiss her right there. “Okay, then. Let’s go.”

    Amy grinned, and the wind blew back her hair like a flame.

    That last line hopefully hints that this girl is more dangerous than she seems.

    And here they are pulling up to the cottage. In the first draft, he’s still the indecisive nice guy, which doesn’t add any drama.

    It looked like she’d taken him to some remote spot on the shore, and he swallowed hard and gripped the wheel. He’d never done any of that, and wasn’t how he’d thought she’d be.

    And now the latest draft.

    It was perfect – this remote spot they could go to any time. Amy was turning out to be more of a find than he knew.

    Just what he’d think before the tables get turned.

  29. Alright, this is something I wrote awhile ago and now am coming back to so I can finally edit it and make it all pretty! lol

    June 1, 2009

    “What do you want people to know about your sister?"

    He looks at me with a calm expression on his face, his green eyes telling me, “I understand, I just want to help.” I wasn’t sure whether to believe him or not. Nobody had asked about Ellison in the past few years without wanting something for themselves: an interview that showed how screwed up she’d been, an artist wanting to cover one of her songs, my mother…my mother wanting me to help her get over the guilt she felt. I couldn’t help any of these people though. Interviews, she hated them. Cover songs, she’d say no. Mother, well, what could I say? How could I make it better?

    “I want them to know that she was a person. She wasn’t this figure they put up on stage to entertain. She wanted so much more then that.”

    “So why did she do it? Why did she kill herself?”

    The room was silent and I could hear the scratch of his suit as he moved, waiting for my answer. His pen hovered over the notebook and I knew as soon as I spoke, it would fall like an anvil, shaking the words I’d held inside free until they scattered over the paper and were no longer mine.

    “We don’t have to do this right now, if you don’t want too. I know it must be hard.”
    I let out a breath and look up into his eyes again. They look exactly like Ellison’s. I used to envy her, upset that I’d ended up with our mom’s gray ones. We were twins, but so very different. We had brown hair, inherited from both parents. Besides that though, I looked like a miniature version of my mom and Ellison took on more of our dad’s features, with his same green eyes. I think my mom hated Ellison for that. My dad left us when we were three but every day with Ellison was a reminder.

    I shake my head, trying to stop the thoughts. One step at a time.

    “No, I asked you to do this…I’m fine. I just, I need a moment.”

    He nods, leaning back in his chair and straightening the red tie he wore. I wonder why he chose to dress up, feeling a little out of place in jeans and an old band t-shirt. I’d recently read a book about another famous singer, which he’d written. He told the truth, plain and simple, and didn’t care about what had been splashed across magazine covers through the years. I knew he was the one to help me finally tell Ellison’s story. My story. I looked him up online, Graham Michael, and emailed him to see if he would like to write about the late singer, Ellison Montgomery. Once he agreed, I revealed who I was and offered to tell him the whole story. The one that Ellison never told anyone.

    “Okay,” I nod, clasping my hands together. “I think I’m ready now.”

  30. Love the concept of this week, I have to say. I discussed my snippet on my blog.

    A last look at the jagged rock all around--washed with light gold as memory--and Peregrine turned to leave. He palmed the brightcasting stone, sending shadows darting over the tunnel walls. Dragonkind belonged in the sky; he'd miss these gods-banished mines.
    He focused his inner casting toward the stone, and the brightcasting light drained, thick blackness pouring in after it. Peregrine ruffled dust from the wings folded to his back, his two feet and tailtip following stone path: he'd carved every knuckle-length of this tunnel but it was in the past, now. He'd start paying attention to the sky like the rest of the korvi race, he promised himself. Details, scents and wisps of cloud. Whether Tillian prompted him or not.

  31. My father always says you can’t trust people with two names.
    Fortunately, for him, I have several.
    I never tell people my original name, my “real” name if you want to be so crass, name #1, Jane George Peterson, the one I hate most. Jane. The plainest name in the English language, the most common, the most innocuous. When they – whoever “they” are -- want to use the most generic name, it’s John and Jane Smith. As if anyone named their kid Jane anymore (there are Janines, of course). But think about all the cultural references that attach to Jane. What about, Me Tarzan, You Jane? Calamity Jane. All through school, they ridiculed me for that one. Hey, calamity Jane, you drop something, they’d say and knock the notebook from hands. Ha ha, very funny. And yes, they nicknamed me Plain Jane, or just Plain, or sometimes they’d just call me anything that rhymed with my name. Hey, Slain. Hey, Crane. Hey, De-Range-ed (that one was particuarly common, for whatever reason, with a soft g, so it sounded like Jane was in there). Do you know how many things rhyme with Jane? I think we once started a list and got bored. Train. Gain. Sprain. Lain. Take that silly poem: the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plane.

  32. "Say Hello!" The mysterious, whispery voice came again out of nowhere.

    I slapped my palm to my mouth in shock.

    “What’s wrong?” Amari asked, narrowing her eyes at me.

    My skin prickled at the thought that I might be the only one who could hear it. There were no adults on the bus stop with us, but this voice didn’t sound anything like a kid.

    "Say Hello!"

    “You had to hear that?!” I said through my fingers, pleading with her to agree with me.

    Amari stared at me for a second before she said, “Are you sure you’re ready for this? It’s not a very good idea to start middle school off with people thinking we’re nuts.”

    As I lowered my hand from my mouth, something welled up inside of me and told me that this was definitely something I needed to keep to myself.

    “Well, crazy’s better than bored, remember,” I replied, my voice a little wobbly. I wasn’t sure if I was scared or just nervous, but I had enough sense to know that when people started hearing voices, good things were never in the mix.

    “Yeah, I know. It’ll get better,” she said and patted my shoulder to let me know she felt sorry for me and my situation with Grams.

    But for once, I wasn’t worried about Grams and how she was like the carbon copy of a prison warden. And I definitely didn’t see how this day was going to get any better. I’d already embarrassed myself on the bus stop in front of an eighth grader. A silly pink bird had popped out of nowhere and sung a song to me like it was a member of the Sassy Sistas. And now, some whispery ghost voice was invading my space.

    Okay, wait. I must really be nuts.

    I threw up deuces to Amari and said, “Peace, I’m outta here!” then swiftly turned on my heels towards home.

    “What?!” Amari said and grabbed my arm to stop me. “How come? You scared?” Even though she wasn’t trying to poke fun at me, it instantly made me feel chicken.

    “No,” I said, a little too quickly to be convincing. “Scared of what? I’m not scared. I’m just over it.”

    “Over it? Over what? We haven’t even started yet, how can you be over it?” She gave me the look that said, Who are you and what have you done with my friend?

  33. Thank you for this giveaway and series!
    The road on the thoroughfare was very neatly paved and every hundred yards a street sweeper brushed away dirt and picked up horse droppings. There were carts going in both directions, loaded with goods and produce, and a few other carriages, all much fancier than ours. Their horses looked brushed and their coats were shiny. Ours were tired from being driven all night and I felt bad for their drooping heads and hides caked with dirt and dried sweat.

  34. Thanks INTERN!
    They had found one spider after being outside for fifteen minutes but he was too quick for them. They tried to catch him with a glass jar but he kept moving and running under things where they couldn’t reach.
    She laughed as she watched Ben, lying on his stomach on ground beside the house, peering under, jar at the ready.
    “Here, spidey spidey,” he called. She stood behind him, laughing.
    “It’s not a dog, you know. It won’t come if you call.”
    “I’d like to see you do better,” Ben said, getting up and brushing the dirt from his pants.
    “Fine,” she said, up for the challenge. She grabbed the jar off him and walked around the side of the house, slowly, quietly, until she found one. It was a little big for her liking – a teenage huntsman, as she called them – but she wasn’t about to let that stop her.
    Ben was off to the side, laughing at her.
    “Did you find one?” He called as she stopped to zone in on the huntsman.
    “Maybe,” she called airily. He was peacefully resting on the weatherboard. There weren’t any webs around him so she could only think that he didn’t usually hang out there. He was very still and she grasped the jar and hovered the opening over the top of him. She felt goosebumps travel up and down her arms and she shivered.
    “What on earth are you doing?” Ben asked, coming over. “Ohhh,” he breathed, down her neck, standing over her.
    “A teenage huntsman,” she said, jar still hovering. He laughed.
    “It’s smaller than usual so it’s a teenager.”
    “Well, go on, spider-catcher. Do your thing.” She kicked him from behind, moving him further away from her. She looked at the spider again. It was still in the same position it was before. She moved the jar a little closer and as she was about to bring it down, slamming it around him, he was gone.
    She screamed, dropping the jar and run smack into Ben, who was still behind her.
    He caught her, laughing. She pushed past him and ran down the back of the garden.
    He jogged after her.
    “Don’t say anything,” she jokingly warned, wagging her finger at him. He put his hands up, mock surrender.
    “Me? Never!”
    “Come on, this spider-hunting is making me hungry.”

  35. Last December I began writing a piece about what might have happened to Scrooge one Christmas on from his revellation. As with all of my 1st drafts, it's riddled with typos and fluff and there are moments when I wander off at a tangent at the drop of a hat.

    Anyhow, here it is...

    Scrooge glared hard into his gravy, gnashed to blot all thought of ridiculous embarrassment from his mind.

    “Bah, I said. Bah, bah, humbug. And I was right.”

    In the single candle’s flickering echo: no ghosts, no illusions. In the future, business as usual. Business. Business. Right.

    He gripped his spoon and set to, knuckles white from the cold, from a lifetime bent round the quill. “Gravy. Naught but gravy, do you hear? Past, present, future: On this eve of Christmas, I’ll swallow you whole, consume you, spectres all.”

    For a dozen scoops, he sat, hunched on his stool in a threadbare shawl, eyes darting from floorboard to cobweb, counting each mouthful like bothersome flies swatted. A scoop for each wretched phantom. Times three. The lucky number, nine. Plus one more triumphant trio made twelve.

    Then came a gag: thirteen. The number all business people feared, the one omen you could never escape. The more wealth you had, the more it hopped along the columns of the pounds shillings and pence like a Russian Doll built up and up and up into a terrible giant. Always, more to lose, to be stolen.

    Scrooge’s fingers tightened on his spoon. In the dull gloop of fatty gravy, was that a face?

    Yet in the gravy, the skin on the gravy, a glow, some dim reflection, delivered from further afield than the boileds fat of some slaughtered animal

    a light cast from further than mere candle.

    Scrooge wheeled on his stool, alert to phantom Marleys, wretched spectres of Cratchitt’s neverending dead.

    In the bowl, Scrooge’s gravy whirled, like water from his one yearly bath growling down the scummy plughole. “Want to know the biggest drawback with being a phantom? You can’t grab people round the neck, people who bloody deserve it, and strangle the miserable bastards.”

    Scrooge leapt to his feet, spilling the bowl, clutching at his threadbare nightcap like the worst possible improvised weaponry in a morality tale unconcerned with Conan-like feats of swashbuckle power — but hey, it’s christmas, so take whatever you’re offered.

    “Another ghost?”

    The gravy span its gloopy muck into a grin. “Another ghost, yes.

    Scroodge egdged back, his shoulders hunched with abject apology.“All year, they said, all year. And I believed them, I did, I swear. The feast for .., the cheer in the street on Chritmas day”

    “And then?”

    “Yes. I see. But bills, bills to pay. It’s a fear, a wretched fear that grips to the bone far worse than the shock of ghosts.” Scrooge peered hard into the spiltr grave.

    “Everuyone wants, and most, I see now, deserve. But we can’t all ahev, we acant.” He threw out a hand to indicate the woodworned rot of his chameber, the price of a new bowl for his gravy, “Is it wroong to seek to keep what you have?”

    The specks of gravuy sought to drooble themselves together grom between the dried floorboards. “Your problem is that you can’t see further thsan the end of yout own nose. Forget the shillings and pence, muy friend. That’s the sourse of true poverty. You’ve spent so long scratching arounf for shilling after shiileing,m even when you’ve been shown a way out you revert.. I’d smack you, but I’m merely the liquified remains of some cow’s bones.”

    “Then waht? You say I can’t stay the same, and my

    “That’s what makes me the worst kind of ghost. I have no counsel, no answers, no future. I won’t even offer you the luxury ogf some idea of what might now be.

    I am the ghost of gravy, skies and time. In your life, all life, all year round. And I don’t care whether I inspire you to revellation or whether you rot in this hellhole. My word is true.”

  36. I think this scene will come about half to 3/4 of the way through my current WIP. They've just avenged the murder of Jordan's wife, but it was a particularly gruesome act.

    She only took the shower to remove the overt signs of blood. She wanted the bath to cleanse away the memory and replace the stench of death with something sweeter. The lights in the small suite’s bathroom turned off, a couple of electric candles provided illumination and a bottle of tequila to ease the tension from her shoulders, Chris sank deeper into the gardenia-scented bath water. Bubbles swirled about her with pressure from the jets beneath the surface. One of these days she intended to buy just such a tub for her own house.

    With her eyes closed, she lifted the bottle and took several long swigs. Stuffy Britches would pay for sending her on this assignment. Her own soul would shrivel with disgust that she’d let MacNaught buy her. And yet, she didn’t regret the bargain. Dee was safe, even if she didn’t know it. The mage-born curse would see to it since her friend simply wasn’t capable of doing violence to another person. That’s why Chris stayed near her. Someone had to protect her from the worst of humanity. Although, now that she and Stuffy Britches…

    The first hint she wasn’t alone came at the quiet splash behind her left shoulder. In the midst of taking a drink, it went down the wrong way as her eyes flew open. She sputtered, coughed and then yelped as a firm hand whacked her between the shoulder blades. “Breathe, Chrissy.”

    “I don’t need to breathe,” she wheezed. She sank deeper into the water. The bubbles kept everything shielded, stupid as it was to care. Still, she wanted to finish their business and get back to Fort Myers. Maybe this time they wouldn’t need to…release the tension. Thus far, with the unspoken yet mutual avoidance of physical contact, the heat hadn’t risen like it had in the past. Not as fast anyway. There was no mistaking the ten-year cycle neared its end. “What the hell are you doing in here?”

    More water sloshed, then rough fabric caressed her back. The bath pouf? “Washing your back. You find the blood distasteful and as I am responsible for getting you splashed with it, it seems the least I can do.”

  37. This was the first page of the first draft of my fantasy novel. I was trying to convey dramatic information the way an elephant tries to perform ballet:

    “How are you feeling, Angela-Courtney?” Tanita Bird adjusted her rear-view mirror.
    “Like I’m going to throw up,” Angela-Courtney Maddeus lay flat on the back car seat Her tangled leaf-brown hair relaxed on the seat.
    “Why don’t you look out the window? It’s a beautiful day.”
    “Can’t. Stomach’s still hurting. Mom, am I the first person to be allergic to diesel fuel? Because I’d prefer it if it wasn’t me.”
    “Don’t complain,” Ms. Bird chided her. “You just had bad luck. We all get that. Aren’t you glad you didn’t have lung cancer or bronchitis? You’re lucky not to have one or the other.”
    “Lucky? If I’m lucky, then how come we have to stay in the middle of a forest? How come Dad’s not with us?”
    Her mother’s hands gripped the steering wheel. She didn’t speak. Angela devoured the silence with internal pleasure while trying to not cry.

  38. This is the first draft of my first novel. Not only does it begin with a prologue (horrors!) but it is guilty of copious amounts of telling and many other sins.The ms is firmly ensconced in a drawer. I'm having fun reading the other entries.

    Dragons are not inclined to forgive a betrayal. Typhon flung herself forward, trying to bury the agony of grief in the pain of her body. The pinions of her wings cracked with the strain of beating the air and her flight muscles burned from the unaccustomed abuse. After four hours of her wild flight, the fire dragon was nearing the end of her endurance. Craning her head backwards, Typhon saw her three pursuers growing larger, still trailing by several miles, but gaining on her.

    The frost dragons knew their cooperative method of flying, each behind the wingtip of the one in front, would help them overtake their quarry. The foremost dragon would keep the most strenuous lead position for a time, then drop to third place to take advantage of the slipstream produced by the two in front. Relentlessly they changed position, so only one dragon had to break the resistance of the air. Together they could fly much further, much faster, than they ever would be able to alone. When Typhon saw them, she despaired, knowing that sooner or later they would catch her, despite her greater size and wingspan. Desperately outnumbered in a fight, she sought a means to hide or confront them one at a time. But there was no labyrinth here, no defensible fortress.

    Typhon prepared for the imminent battle, shifting the small object of desire, an elongated oval no bigger than two men’s fists, from front foot to back, firmly but gently encasing it in her extended talons. She took advantage of a large column of rising warm air to circle upwards, spreading her now silent wings to their fullest extent to speed her ascent. A position above her enemies would allow her the first attack dive, hopefully with the element of surprise. She would need every advantage she could muster to have even the slimmest hope of escape. When Typhon reached the clouds, she circled in the heaviest, wettest areas inhaling the water, decomposing it into pure oxygen and hydrogen. Typhon shunted these gases into two lung sacs and was invigorated by the extra heat the process provided. The dragon calculated she could deliver three blasts of flame before she would have to resupply. She was gambling that the frost dragons had not distilled nitrogen during the extended chase. Frost dragons could do this continuously and anywhere, but they had to use energy to compress the nitrogen into a frozen liquid.

  39. This is the boring beginning of my first draft. I wrote this before I knew starting a story when the character first wakes up is taboo.

    One of the most important discoveries I’ve made in my fifteen year old life is that if I let my radio keep playing after the alarm goes off, the music makes me get ready just a little faster. This is especially important on school days when I have to share the bathroom with my fourteen year old sister Judy. Judy hasn’t discovered the magic powers of the radio yet, but that’s probably because nothing wakes that girl up in the morning. She moves in slow motion and can’t even form complete sentences. If I don’t give her a few warnings every morning, she’s not ready in time to catch the bus.

    “Judy! Five minutes!” I yell, banging my fist into the wall over my dresser. The shower is directly on the other side.

    Judy doesn’t respond. She never does.

    Mom and Dad are always gone by the time I get up, so if I don’t wake up Judy, no one does. Normally I couldn’t care less what my sister does with her time, but if I have to go to school every day, then I’m going to make sure that she goes, too.

  40. this is AMAZING, everyone! INTERN is so proud of all of you!

  41. Lurker coming out of hiding for a contest, whoooo.

    First page of the first draft of the first novel I ever wrote. 'Twas about modern-day raptors (who could talk) who took over the world from an island off the coast of Australia. IDEK. I was in 6th grade. I guess it made sense at the time.

    A gunshot rang out. A tiger fell; never to stir again. Dwayne Carson jumped in the air and cheered. He was a poacher, killing hundreds of tigers a year. His daughter, Buffy, just sighed.
    She didn't like killing animals, but it made her rich. Her father got $300 a fur. They lived in a large mansion near a lake with 4 personal boats. She couldn't give that up. She loved being rich. So she didn't really mind her father being a poacher.
    As soon as the tiger was skinned, Carson set off again. Buffy turned around to get a Coke when she realized how large the pile of guts was. They had killed 6 tigers so far, so the pile was half as tall as her own 5 ft. build.
    "Gross." She brushed her strawberry-blond hair out of her face and downed a Coke in less than a minute.
    Her father suddenly ran up and grabbed her arm.
    "You've got to see them!" he cried as he dragged her along.
    They passed through some underbrush and stopped. There, in front of them, were hundreds of tigers!
    "What do you say to that?!" Carson cried happily.
    "Kill a lot. I'm going to go get another Coke."

  42. Hope I'm not too late! This is some of my Batman fanfic that hopefully I'll be able to forget about some day-

    She woke to the soft sunlight playing across her face. She moved, and groaned. Everything hurt.
    "Goodmorning, madam," an elderly male voice said. Cecily tried to see who it was, but a guazy screen blocked her view.
    "Or rather," the voice continued, "Good afternoon."
    "Were am I?" she asked.
    The screen was swept away, revieling a white haired old man in formal clothes.
    "You are in the Wayne mansion, my dear," he continued. "And have been since yesterday."
    "How did I get here?" she asked.
    "Need I tell you?"
    She frowned. The events of the night before came to the front of her mind with brutal clarity. Bruce was Batman. She started to luagh with a hysterical edge that frightened even her. She managed to get a hold of herself in short order.

  43. I'm in. Cut this from SEVEN DAYS and started with the heroine. Holding out for the stick.....


    A beautiful brunette came up on the third monitor from the right, on the top row. Could it be? Maybe so. She looked up, directly into the security camera outside of the bar. My program performed exactly as planned.
    Dessie asked, “Hey, Will, what’s that on the screen?”

    “It’s a flag to test facial recognition. See the sports team logo?”

    “Is that a Pittsburgh Penguins hat?”

    “Yup.” I could only hope. She pulled out a phone and started dialing.

    Dessie’s attention went to another call, but she threw back, “Will, can you grab that phone? Just put it on hold. There’s been a sighting of a former employee who likes to drug and rape women.”

    It might be the mystery woman from the bar. “Got it. Hotel Security, this is Will D’Arcion. May I help you?”

    YESSSS, it was her. “This is Elizabeth Benét. My sisters and I are guests in your hotel and I’m in one of the bars. It appears my younger sister has been slipped a date rape drug.”
    The folks in the office always complained about hotel guests who thought they knew everything about security and police work. Usually, it was because they’d watched some episodes of “CSI.” Maybe, this woman was the exception. And maybe, this was the jack hole everyone was looking for. She calmly gave the relevant facts.

    Now, I had to give her the bad news. “Ma’am, the security office is only for the casino portion of the hotel. We’ll notify the police and send someone down to wait with you until they arrive.” She didn’t sound happy. Elizabeth hung up the phone and turned away from the camera.

  44. Thanks for the contest!

    This snippet is from my untitled YA novel:

    Here’s what you need to know about me: I’m a demon.

    We call ourselves hellions, and despite what the Bible and the Lesser Key of Solomon say, most of us look just like you: human. All shapes. All sizes. All ethnicities. No hooves. No horns. No tail. Well, okay, some hellions have those things, but they aren’t a majority. With most hellions, you’d be hard pressed to find the difference between one of us and one of you.

    Unfortunately, the only type hellions that humans seem to talk about anymore are the nasty ones, like the Jersey Devil or the Chupacabra. Talk about a few bad apples.

    Not all of us like to eat livestock and drink goat blood for dinner. Some of us like normal things. Like cake.