another great @Shelley_Watters contest

Just when I thought I was ready to relax memorial day weekend and catch up on yard work I saw Shelley Watters is hosting another contest over at her blog:

here is 250 version 3.1 (thanks for the feedback keep it coming!)

A Life Of Inches
85k words
General fiction/Romance

Pushing with all of my strength, my arms lift an inch. I think of Molly, I think of Woodie, and I think about pitching a baseball. Another surge of effort, another inch, but the thoughts fueling my workout remain the same. I think of her. I think of him. I think about baseball.

“Ryan, let’s switch it up. Give me some pushups,” Ho Ban, the team’s trainer, says.

Separating myself from the stench of the padded floor, I push, as I think of kissing Molly, and striking-out Woodie. Through the years,Woodie, my fiercest competitor on and off the field, has earned the moniker, “Mr. Luck.”

My body aches as I grunt, but I don’t allow any sign of doubt or pain show on my face. I’m not going to let anything stand between myself and the Triple-A Championship tonight.

“Keep your back straight. I don’t want to see you favoring your right side anymore.”

Ho, a former baseball star from South Korea, is one of only three people aware of my shoulder issue. Having him notice I’m still not fully trusting my body is a blow to my confidence. Part of the game of baseball is the ability to keep an even keel through any and all distractions no matter the situation, but how can I focus knowing how soon I’ll be seeing Molly again?

I think about the love of my life, Molly De Leon, and I push.

I push.

I push.

I push, faster.

I strongly urge my fellow authors to check out not only her blog, but @Shelley_Watters as well to get involved!

The contest is to stun an agent with the first 250 words of my MS so I have posted the words here in hopes that you will read them and offer your brutally honest positive and negative feedback. This way I can make sure to put my best foot forward during the contest. I have read this book about a zillion times, so I have lost all perspective on what is good or not.

Please leave comments with your feedback!! Thanks. And for those interested in doing some more reading I’m looking for beta readers to review chapters and chunks of the book as well. Comment if interested.

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45 Responses to another great @Shelley_Watters contest

  1. I’m getting here quite late in the game (one set of out-of-town visitors left this morning, the next arrived this afternoon) so I haven’t read all of the comments – I apologize in advance for any repetition.

    The rhythm of the prose works really well with what is happening both physically and mentally – very nice. Also I have a pretty good idea of the stakes for this character without your throwing it all at me in a mad rush.

    My only critique here is that there are a couple of places where you resort to telling us info that your character knows (in order to give the reader information) in the guise of reporting his thoughts. For example, in the paragraph with Ho, you say, “Having him notice I’m still not fully trusting my body is a blow to my confidence. Part of the game of baseball is the ability to keep an even keel through any and all distractions no matter the situation.” The first sentence is explanation of Ho’s comment. Trust your reader – we should be able to figure it out – or give us more of this conversation wherein the trainer and the athlete discuss the injury. The second sentence doesn’t feel like an organic thought to the moment of the workout but an imposition from a later time (i.e., when the guy is writing this down) which pulls me out of the wonderful immediacy of the writing and reminds me that I’m reading writing. Does that make sense?

    Good luck, and thanks for your comments on mine!

  2. Jessica says:

    Doug as someone who hates to work out I loved this. Only because I try to think of anything and everything that will push me to get it over with. I think everyone has said everything critical and sorry I am so late commenting I was gone yesterday. I think you have done a great job of setting up questions about the people he was thinking about and also he obviously loves baseball. Good luck and great job.

    If you don’t mind jumping over to my blog, I listened to you and every one else’s critiques and I posted my original opening.

  3. Jody Lamb says:

    Hi, Doug,

    I like this! Interesting choice of a beginning. It’s good — when I’m exercising, I have to think of goals unrelated to exercising in order to get through it, too. Attention getting!

    There’s great tension here. His best friend is also his biggest rival? Yikes! The fact that you bring up the love of his life – Molly – leads me to think that there’s a love triangle but I’m unsure. Does he fear that Molly will leave him for Woodie? Why is the championship so important to him? Is something more than a big win riding on the turnout? As others have commented, I think you need just one more hint of what’s really at stake. His Molly? Finally defeating his friend at something?

    If you can do that, what a knockout beginning you’ll have!

    Thanks for sharing! Good luck!

  4. I think this version is a great improvement because I can see the inner conflict more. Just that one little change about the shoulder got me really intrigued because now I feel for him and I am curious how his shoulder got messed up. Also I am guessing Woodie is with Molly and his baseball rival? If so then I am definitely reading on. One small change
    but how I can expect to focus knowing how soon I will be seeing Molly again? Should be how can I. That’s it. Other than that one problem I thought it was really good, especially the last three lines.

  5. Sonia says:

    Liked how you linked the workout and what’s important. I did like the on-purpose repetitions but some of it didn’t feel like it was on purpose.

    • douglasesper says:

      thanks for reading. i am actually looking over the feedback and making some updates as we speak. having several people give it a look was really helpful and i think it will make it a stronger beginning. you rock and thanks again
      douglas esper

  6. Michelle says:

    I agree with the above – this inner tension is really great, and it brings out the character without being too preachy or forward. It’s subtle and very well done!

    Good luck!

    • douglasesper says:

      i waffle back and forth on whether it worked the way i had hoped each time i read it, but i think it flows well into the rest of the story and avoids an info dump. how weird is it that sometimes the hardest thing to decide is where to begin? thanks for reading it means a lot to me.

  7. Lissa says:

    I love how your character clearly has someone else’s expectations in mind while he thinks about his own desires.
    Someone else has already pointed out the error with apostrophes in ‘push ups’, but you also missed an apostrophe in the same paragraphs with ‘lets’.
    This isn’t my kind of thing, but I do like your writing, I love the use of repetition, and I’m intrigued by the character already.

    • douglasesper says:

      thanks for giving me a read. thanks for the heads up on the grammar as well. i recently completed a major rewrite and am in the process of editing, and you have helped me along 🙂

  8. This has a good voice and a nice flow. Fine tune that first sentance and you’re on to something great. I’d keep reading.

  9. Kaleen says:

    I like that there’s a lot of inner conflict going on, but there doesn’t seem to be any stakes to his story. The writing itself is great.

    • douglasesper says:

      thanks for giving me a read. i am always exploring ways to amp up the conflict as early as possible. tonight i’m going to take a look based on all the great feedback and see how things go. thanks again!

  10. I’d read anything about baseball players, so thanks!! (and as for the first comment, I have a 30-something girl cousin named Ryane, so it’s been around for awhile!) The only thing about it (which I’m sure is quickly explained) is that when I think of a person training for baseball championships, thinking of kissing a girl, and imagining striking out an opponent he knows, I think young adult (high school), but you list genre as general fiction. That could just be me, though, since I write YA. Maybe think about listing the league or clarifying that??

    I see a few punctuation errors, so you’d benefit from an editor if you’re not catching them yourself (unless this is an early draft, then yeah, we all have them!). For example, the first line is “Pushing with all of my strength my legs lift an inch, as I think of Molly, I think of Woodie, and I think about pitching a baseball.” and unless I’m completely off-base, it should be “Pushing with all of my strenth, my legs lift an inch and I think of Molly, I think of Woodie, and I think about pitching a baseball.” (but I’d just say “…Molly, Woodie, and pitching.”). Later, I think it’s “let’s” since it’s a contraction of let and us, and then push ups, since that isn’t a contraction, but a plural. I don’t think striking-out needs to be hyphenated, either. Hope that helps!

    • douglasesper says:

      yeah i have had others mention the ya/adult angle. i had mentioned it was a triple-a baseball league championship, but i couldn’t fit it in 250 heh. i am going to retool a few things and see if i can squeeze it in 🙂 i am using open office rather than Microsoft office because my computer recently crashed and i lost it. for some reason it wants to hyphenate everything 🙂 your feedback is a huge help and i appreciate you taking the time to read by words!

  11. Interesting use of intentional repetition. Nicely done!

    Best of luck!

    • douglasesper says:

      thanks for taking the time to read my stuff. this is a cool contest and i was happy to learn about a bunch of great authors out in the world.

  12. Logan says:

    I enjoyed how the workout was scripted – seemed important to him and yet his thoughts were on what was also important. With 250 words – its always hard to see where you are going. Is there a reason you start with this workout instead of the championship game itself? Or even something that could ruin his opportunity to play.

    Good luck

    • douglasesper says:

      i appreciate you taking the time to give my blog a look and read my blurb. all this feedback is huge and helpful and keeps me thinking on how to better my MS. your are correct when you say there is something that can ruin his chances and his future, but it isn’t currently spelled out in the first 250. it is hinted and foreshadowed..though in the striped down 250 2 words were taken out that makes it a little tougher to piece together so perhaps i need to squeeze them back in. a lot of the conflict is man versus himself as much as man versus the other baseball team, so i wanted to start in his head for a frame of reference and build to the big game…perhaps its not the right way to go however.
      thanks again

  13. I am a huge sports fan so I would have enjoyed this piece regardless – but I really liked it. I do agree that there’s an overuse of Molly, Woodie, baseball and I would tighten up that first sentence – just a little clunky.

    Overall – great job – I like your mc already, and I want to see if he’s able to deliver on the championship.

    • douglasesper says:

      i am happy there are some sports fans reading 🙂 thanks for taking the time to check out my blurb. I am really happy i got involved and i think my MS will be better for it. tonight i am going to use all the feedback and retool the 250 and see how it comes out.
      thanks again

  14. I like the voice here. He is a very focused and driven man. I am concerned, however that nothing is really at stake, yet. I know this is only the first page and I’m sure the inciting incident is on the next page, or the next, but I’d like there to be a question, a motivation, a reason to turn to that next page.

    • douglasesper says:

      he is very focused and determined…i’m kind of jealous as i could use some time in a gym myself 🙂 i took a risk trying to build the tension as the MC prepares for the biggest game of his life and i know this will turn off some readers who want the action right off the bat. this story is very much man versus himself and thus i felt it was important to know the man we are rooting for and then why we are rooting. i appreciate you reading the 250 and your feedback…tonight my goal is to use the feedback to make it better, so thanks!

  15. Not a fan of baseball, but this piece worked for me. I loved the strong emotions the protag was feeling, and using them to push him forward in his training. It is obvious he really likes Molly and maybe not so much Woodie – hence I’m curious to find out more, so I’ll keep reading. The only part that stopped me was ‘Pushing with all of my strength my legs lift an inch’ – found it hard to picture this.. and why lifting his legs was so hard? Otherwise, the rest flowed and made sense to me.

    Best of luck.

    • douglasesper says:

      i appreciate you reading especially not being a baseball fan! i had a few people mention the leg exercise and i am considering changing it for simplicities sake. but i can tell you first hand if there is enough weight and resistance pushing against your legs during quad lifts it is a strain 🙂 than again the way i eat and spend all day writing just standing up is a strain!

      your feedback and time is appreciated. thanks for giving it a read!

  16. Julie Daines says:

    I don’t know much about baseball. But I love the way the characters thoughts match his actions. I workout, so I know how you try to keep your mind off the pain and on other things.

    When writing in 1st person, the word think or thought or mind is almost never needed. The reader already knows that everything they’re reading is thoughts crossing the main character’s mind.

    That being said, it seems obvious to me that the main character is purposefully trying to push his thoughts in certain directions, so maybe in this case it’s okay. He’s literally telling himself what to think. In which case, you may want to use, “Think about Molly. Think about Woodie.” instead of, “I think about Molly.” I don’t know. Just something to consider.

    Definitely, as I’m working out and I feel like I’m dying, I do say to myself, “Ok, think about ____.” just to occupy my mind.

    But you do want to remove other references to self. They are not needed. Delete “expect myself” from the last paragraph.

    Great. I love it!

    • douglasesper says:

      that was my intent 100 percent to match the thoughts and the repetitions of the workout. sports and working out are as much mental as they are psychical and i wanted a quick peek into the MC’s head to showcase his state of mind before proceeding. your feedback was great and uber helpful. taking the time to give me a read means a lot. thanks!

  17. Hey Douglas! Thanks for commenting on my blog for the bloghop! As for your comment about the Army, when you’re the son or daughter of an enlisted person or military officer who gets stationed at different bases, you’re referred to as an “Army brat.” That doesn’t mean you’re in the Army or old enough to be in it, just that you’re a military dependent and had to move all the time growing up because of your parent’s job. I was one.

    As for your entry, I’m not a great editor and I love commas a little too much, but here’s a spot where I think a comma would greatly improve your opening sentence:

    “Pushing with all of my strength(comma) my legs lift an inch. I think of Molly, I think of Woodie, and I think about pitching a baseball.”

    It was also bordering on being a run-on sentence, so I’d break it up into two, just like I did there.

    The word “push-up’s” is incorrect. It’s “push-ups.”

    “Once again I push, this time using my arms to separate myself from the floor, as I think of kissing Molly, I think of striking-out Woodie, and I think about the first pitch I’ll throw tonight.”

    I’d take out all but 1 on the “I thinks” here and make it:

    “Once again I push, this time using my arms to separate myself from the floor, as I think of kissing Molly, of striking-out Woodie, and about the first pitch I’ll throw tonight.”

    Unless that’s your style that you want to keep and it puts emphasis on what’s going on.

    Overall, I love a good baseball/love story! I think sports stories are the best description of the human spirit and I am such a girly girl, I am such a total sucker for a good romance! I just watched this incredibly corny baseball movie called the Pitcher and the Pin-up on netflix, but this is what it reminded me of.

    Good luck with the contest!


    • douglasesper says:

      wow, thanks for taking the time and leaving such a well thought out and thorough reply! i am notorious for my run-on sentences and my insane comma use, so it is appreciated anytime anyone offers suggestions to keep me in check 🙂 the “i thinks” are supposed to be repetitious to mirror his workout, but i am rethinking the style as a lot of people seem put off by it.
      as a newbie to the writing world i do not know where to turn for agents/publishers looking for sports fiction right now…i may end up making ryan a ghost and see if it helps get attention 🙂 any advice on who represents sports romance stories?
      and also thanks for clearing up the army brat thing ha! my buddy is/was one as his dad was career navy…i will have to start calling him a brat (it fits anyways heh)

      again thanks for reading your feedback was a huge help, and in the end i know my story is better off for it.

  18. I understand what you’re trying to do here, and it makes sense to me. Your earlier comment that some people will find this boring while others will completely relate to me is probably spot on. Personally, I liked it. Not sure about the sentence that begins, “Part of the game of baseball…” Seems to slow the pace of the excerpt.

    Good job. Best of luck!!

    • douglasesper says:

      thanks for reading and for the feedback. i agree that sentence needs something to smooth it out…right now i am clueless on what to do 🙂 i plan on using tonight to retool a second draft and to see if i can help the flow from all the great feedback i got.

  19. Jamie says:

    Not a sports fan here but I have spent my time in a gym… so only one note from me.
    “Pushing with all of my strength my legs lift an inch”
    how do you lift an inch? is if heavier then a cm? It’s a nit picky thing on my part but it took me out of the story.
    Good luck in the contest!

    • douglasesper says:

      i will take your word for it as i am no gym rat ha. in fact i should probably hit the gym rather than write novels, but one is a lot more fun than the other 🙂 i guess i was trying to say my legs lift (as in off the ground) or bench an inch…in my head ryan is doing a set of quad lifts. i think that’s what they are called anyway…all i really know how to do is beer lifts…also the inch part is a play on the book title which is a life of inches…part of what i wanted to do was showcase some of the extra things the little things people do in their lives to succeed such as lifting one extra inch per lift to get that little extra workout. part of the books theme is determination and going the extra mile to follow your dreams sometimes you can achieve this in large leaps or by several small steps, inch by inch.
      thanks for reading your feedback is appreciated!

  20. I find that you’re being repetitive with the word “think”, and thinking of Molly and Woodie. It’s unneccesary to mention this so often, especially in the opening paragrpahs. Also, since you’re in first person, words like “think” can be omitted and replaced by something like “my thoughts wandered toward”, or “Molly crossed my mind”. Show more, tell less (I hear that a lot from my editor).
    Also, the action is stalled with all this telling of thought. Move the action along, keep the story moving so the reader can get into the meat of it. =)

    • douglasesper says:

      thanks for the of my biggest pet peeves is needless repetition so i hear you on the “think”. the reason it was done this way is to reflect the action, which is very repetitive exercises, by the mc over and over and over again for hours each day as he prepares for the game that night.

  21. Kimberlee says:

    He’s working out and pushing his legs an inch, and they raise up, but I still can’t visualize the exercise he’s doing. If he were doing weight lifting reps with his arms, that would paint a clearer picture for me since it’s also repetitious like the circle his thoughts are going through.

    Definitely have a clear goal of this character’s motivations and priorities.

    • douglasesper says:

      kimberlee, you’re right i was trying to match the thoughts to the nature of his workout. for some it will be a grinding, boring intro and for those (not me) who spend time in the gym it will be very familiar. perhaps if i spent more time working out and less time writing novels my wife would allow me to finish the cookies sitting in the kitchen rather than watch me like a hawk 🙂

  22. CobraMisfit says:

    Very interesting opening. I especially enjoyed how it ended with the MC thinking of his love which then allows you to show, rather than tell, how it motivates him. It makes the reader wonder what about Mollie makes him want to push so hard? I would certainly read more about these characters.

  23. I found this a little confusing with all the talk of Mollie, and Woodie. Is Woodie there? If he is, I’d like to see more tension between them, or at least more tension within Ryan as he fears he might not be able to perform on the mound. As it is, there’s no real conflict or questions raised by this opening. Without questions, the reader has no reason to keep going.

  24. Hello!

    I enjoyed this first scene. I am impressed with how quickly and clearly you outlined the character’s most important desires. The character’s voice is clear and distinct. No critique points.

  25. LBlankenship says:

    You know, it used to be that if a character was named Ryan you automatically knew what gender that was. Nowadays? Just a matter of time till they’re naming girls William, I suppose.

    That has nothing to do with your story, though. I’m assuming Ryan is a guy.

    It’s a very clear picture, so I don’t have much to say. Only that it doesn’t sound like he’s going to have much trouble with the game tonight. So what do you want the reader to be concerned about?

  26. I enjoyed it but there is a lot about Molly and about the workout/baseball but I would like a little more conflict. Maybe expand more on the relationship between Ryan and Woodie. You have a nice rhythm to your writing.

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