Monday, January 14, 2013

Bouncer Post #29

Genre: YA Contemporary
Word Count: 81,000


Eighteen-year-old Ayla Rourke has always had one dream: to swim at the Olympic Games. She was well on her way, until a torn rotator cuff forced her out of the water. Now, she needs to find a distraction for the summer or face hanging around at home, thinking about all the medals she won’t be winning.

She finds it, eight hundred miles away in the middle of Vermont’s White Mountains. As a counselor and swim coach at Kilkenny Summer Camp, Ayla will hardly have time to breathe, much less fret about her future.

Not only will a job as a camp counselor keep her mind occupied, but it should be fun too. Ayla imagines manicures and dance parties, staying up all night for girl talk and gushing about boys. She couldn’t be more wrong. Ayla’s first cabin is united in their hatred of her. Her second cabin houses a bully, two minions, and a shy mouse of a girl who can’t, or won’t, stand up for herself.

Add to that two very talented, very good-looking, and very off-limits counselors named David and Liam, and Ayla gets the distraction she wanted, but it might be more than she bargained for.

SINK OR SWIM is young adult fiction complete at 81,000 words. 

I spent several summers as a camp counselor while pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Journalism at Western Michigan University. Currently I am working towards a Masters in Library and Information Science at the University of Denver. I am also a proud member of yalitchat. 

First 250:

"Did Coach say why he wants to see you?" Maureen, my best friend since kindergarten, asked as we sat together in Coach's office, waiting for him. I didn't answer Maureen right away, watching the snow falling softly outside instead.

"No," I finally said. "Just that it was important."

"A hard knot settled in the pit of my stomach and dread washed over me, making me nauseous. A few months ago my shoulder started to hurt. At first it was nothing, just a twinge during a hard set or an ache after a meet. I swam through it. Now, it was constant agony. Every time I tried to lift my arm there was a stab of pain so sharp, it made my eyes water. Coach finally begged me to go in for an MRI, and the results were in. 

"There she is," Coach said with a smile, sweeping into the office like a force of nature with a huge manila envelope in his hands. I narrowed my eyes; his lips were pressed together a little too tightly, his whole face was actually a little pinched, and his grip on the envelope was sure to ruin the test results inside. My heart sank. 

And then the school trainer walked in too. 

"I'm going to throw up," I said, reaching out for Maureen's hand. She squeezed. 

"It might not be bad news," Maureen said, trying to lift my spirits. 


  1. I really like your concept, and the setting for your first page is great: the tension is there right from the start. I did think the query was a little bit vague, and that you spend too long setting up the camp and Ayla's reasons for going there, and not enough time on what actually happens at camp and how it helps solve her problem (which I saw as her sudden inability to swim). How does she allay her campers' dislike of her (and why do they dislike her?)? What's the conflict with David and Liam? How does the camp help fix the loss of her swimming ability? That's probably way too much for the query, but you get the idea.

    I'm also not a huge fan of the dialogue first sentence, though that might just be a personal preference. I would like to have at least a sentence or two to set the scene so I know where I am and who's talking before we launch into a conversation.

    Best of luck from Entry #7! :)

    1. Thanks! I definitely appreciate the input.

      I know using dialogue as the opening is risky, and at some point I might change it. My CP's and I actually went back and forth about it a lot, but this start has always just been the best version I've come up far at least.

      Good luck to you as well!

  2. This sounds like a fun read! I agree with Anna's comments about starting with dialogue. Maybe set the scene in the office first, or begin with Ayla's injury?

    Have you tried starting the book at camp and informing the reader of the injury, etc. in flashback since the meat of the novel is really at the camp?

    I also question whether it'd be a coach or a parent who'd discuss results of an MRI. But I've never been an Olympics-bound athlete. :)

    Good luck! Love this concept.

    1. Thanks for your input!

      I have tried the opening a bunch of different ways. LIke I said with Anna my CP's and I have been over it a bunch of times and this just works best so far. But I keep rewriting it every once in a while to see if something sticks. The problem with starting with Ayla's injury is that it's such a gradual thing. It gets worse over time. And my first draft actually did start at camp and it just wasn't the right place to start.

      At the start of the story Ayla is eighteen, so Coach is free to share her results without her parents around. :)

      Good luck to you as well! Thanks again :)

  3. I like the idea of this, and you have a nice, easy-to-read writing style I really like. I would like to see a little more of the overarching conflict in the query. We get small conflicts, like the kids in her cabin and the boys being off-limits, but what does it mean that it’s “more than she bargained for”? What actually happens at camp? I feel like this query takes us just to the cusp of what actually goes on in the story and stops there, and I’d love a more clear picture of it.

    I like your first 250 a lot, too, and it’s great how you jump right into the meat of the story. Two things: Some people don’t like when the first line is dialogue (I personally don’t mind, but you’ll get some people saying that, I’m sure!) and I wonder if her parents would be present when her coach is sharing this big medical news? Something about that felt wrong and drew me out of the scene. I do think you have a really compelling heroine here!

    1. Thanks so much for your comments!

      I know dialogue is risky, and I debated starting with it, but so far that's just the version that's worked best. I do back back periodically and try to rewrite it, but so far this is the opening my CP's and I have agreed is best.

      As for the parents being present, I didn't realize that I've never addressed Ayla's age at the start, but she's already 18, so her parents don't need to be there. I may change it though, since two people have commented on it! No one has ever mentioned it before.

      Thanks again for your comments!

    2. You're welcome! As I said, I don't mind the dialogue thing myself, but I know some agents have advised against it. If you did want to mess around with it (and obviously you don't have to!) it could be as easy as switching the first two sentences, like: Maureen, my best friend since kindergarten, sat down next to me. "Did Coach say why he wants to see you?"

      (Or something like that. I just mean I think it'd be pretty easy to keep the same opening but not actually lead with dialogue, if you wanted to!)

      Ah, and her being 18 makes sense for that--but then my worry would be that some people say 18 is too old for YA, and those same people might advise you to make her 17 to set it firmly in YA and not be awkwardly straddling the YA/NA line...

      I think I know way too little about your MS to be trying to give advice like this. :) I'll just say I like your voice, and wish you the best of luck!