Thursday, January 23, 2014

SVS 9: RUNNING WITH NEEDLES, NA Contemporary

Title: RUNNING WITH NEEDLES
Genre: NA Contemporary
Word Count: 75,000

My Main Character is most uncomfortable with:

I used to love the snow, but that changed during my first operating room clinical. I watched an elderly woman have hip surgery after she broke it falling on the ice. It wasn’t too bad to watch until the surgeon pulled out a hammer. Yes, an actual hammer. That’s when I almost fainted. Now I’m a fan of sunshine and dry sidewalks. Oh, and Luke wears sweatshirts when it’s cold. I’m against anything that makes him cover up that gorgeous body.

Query:

Dear Amy and Michelle,

Nursing school is going exactly as Morgan always planned. Well, except for that time when she heard a heartbeat on a dead body. There was also that humiliating incident when she accidentally put a patient’s suppository...well, let’s just say it went where it wasn’t supposed to go. And then, there was that awkward moment when she was finally about to make out with Luke, her cute classmate, and realized there was vomit in her hair.

Despite these hiccups, Morgan’s dream of touching lives is becoming a reality. But with reality comes the cold, hard truth—which can be hard to swallow.  When she learns that her favorite patient has only six months to live, Morgan is faced with the realization that she can’t care for people without becoming emotionally invested. Morgan must find a way to maintain her own sanity, snag that cute classmate, and somehow pass her licensing exam—all while trying not to accidentally kill anyone.





First 250 words:

I placed my stethoscope on the eighty-eight year old patient’s chest. 

“Big breaths.”

“You should have seen them when I was younger.” My patient, Louise, smiled proudly.

“What?” My cheeks flushed. “Oh, no. I meant please take a deep BREATH.”

“Dear, would you help me to the bathroom?”

I carefully assisted her out of bed.

“Are you ok while I grab your IV pump?” I’d left it just outside the door, the IV tubing still attached to her.

“Yes.”

I stepped out of the restroom and grabbed the pole, turning back right as the door slammed, almost hitting my face.

I twisted the doorknob. It wouldn’t budge. This can’t be good.

“Louise? Are you ok? Can you open the door?”

Silence.

“Oh, shit.” I was in so much trouble. I had to fix this before my instructor found out.

I knocked on the door. Pounded on the door. Yelled “Louise!” Nothing.

In a panic, I called Louise’s real nurse, Tammy, from the room phone.

“Louise is locked in the bathroom!”

“Get her out of there; I’ll be in as soon as I can.”

In the background, right before she hung up the phone, I heard her say, “Ugh… student nurses!”

I dropped to the floor and laid my face on the cold, germ-infested tile, trying to catch a glimpse of Louise. I could see a gown on the floor, but not much else. Had she fallen? What had I done?

I used to consider myself a smart person. Then I became a student nurse.

26 comments:

  1. I really, really like the medical background. I don't see it enough in women's fiction or NA. A nursing career is a fresh concept. One problem I see is that there is no specific conflict set up in your query. The impending death of an ill patient is not Morgan's conflict---or if it is, we need to see WHY this turns her world upside down.

    Your opening is really nice. The action (which is funny too) starts off right away, which is so important. We learn all we need to know about Morgan without being told too much. I would recast that last sentence; either delete "Then I became..." or recast into one sentence (i.e., "I considered myself a smart person before I entered nursing school." The way it is now deflates the momentum a bit. Good job overall.

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  2. Hey there, RUNNING WITH NEEDLES author! Mentor Sarah Marsh here. First of all, I love your title! It lets me know I'm about to read a book with plenty of humor.

    I'm actually going to start by commenting on your first 250, and that's just to let you know what a great opening you have! The first few lines of dialogue are so funny, and then your MC gets into some trouble with her patient...I was quite disappointed that I couldn't read on--I need to know what happens to poor Louise, and how Morgan fixes things! I get the sense from your first page that this is a book filled with snappy dialogue and hilarious situations. So fun :)

    As for your query, I don't think it's doing your wonderful writing justice as-is. The first paragraph is great. It gives me a sense for Morgan's voice, and the hilarious/awkward situations likely to happen in your pages. But by the time I got to the second paragraph, I wanted to see the stakes, what drives Morgan's story forward.

    What I recommend doing is actually trimming some of that second paragraph to build more room for showing the stakes. For example, take these lines: "Despite these hiccups, Morgan’s dream of touching lives is becoming a reality. But with reality comes the cold, hard truth—which can be hard to swallow. When she learns that her favorite patient has only six months to live." This could become: "Despite these hiccups, Morgan's dream of touching (maybe saving instead?) lives is becoming reality...until she learns that her favorite patient has only months to live." At that point, you need to show us why this is Morgan's conflict. Is she trying to find some sort of alternative cure for the patient? Or does she have to learn to say goodbye, and that's something hard for her to do because of events in her past? Show us how this person's terminal condition changes Morgan, in other words. Your closing line is really cute, though--hope you keep that when revising!

    Best of luck with this. I hope I'll get to read the rest someday! :)

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  3. This is great! I love the premise here and the humor is fabulous. I think your query and 250 words are really compelling and would definitely make me request this if I was an agent. Let me be more blunt: your first 250 made me laugh out loud and I want to read this book now. Now.

    The only thing I'd suggest is raising the stakes in the second paragraph of the query. Because I'm sure there's a lot standing in her way to happiness but I'm not getting that because of the first sentence. So how about something like:

    But when she learns that her favorite patient has only six months to live, Morgan is faced with the realization that being a nurse is harder than not cringing over hammers in the operating room and vomit in her hair. Her inability to care for people without becoming emotionally invested is standing in the way of her dream of touching lives. ...

    But I'm still not happy with that because I don't know the stakes for Luke or for not killing someone. It's like she has 3 obstacles (keeping her mental health, not killing anyone, and something that prevents her from snagging the cute boy) and we need to know all of them. I almost want the obstacles to be overwhelming, that way we get the pay off of passing the licensing exam, getting the boy and finding a way to keep it all in check.

    Hope that helps. I can't wait to read this as a book, it sounds fabulous!

    Natalie
    Team Snow!

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  4. FIRST 250:
    Great First 250 sentences. The voice is great and I'd definitely read on and I think agents would want to as well. My only complaint was that the dialogue came to quick for me, I would have preferred one more sentence establishing character and setting but that's subjective and others may not agree.

    QUERY: I agree with the other mentors...the query needs to be re-worked just a bit. I would elaborate on her relationship with the patient, the relationship with the boy and also her issues with taking the test. A little insight as to who Luke is and why she likes him would also be great.

    This entry will do well--wishing you the best!! : )

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  5. Hello! The first paragraph of the query is funny. I get a great sense of the character. I think you only need a sentence or two of that for me to get that. My nit-pick is the use of the word "cute." Give me something more! Your answer to the question was so great because of the hoodie line. Put some of that in the query. But yes, infuse some more tension. She's dealing with death and having the scary power of having peoples' health in her hands and it's going to get overwhelming through the course of the story, so build some of that in right away.

    First 250: I think the other mentors have nailed it: there is something really funny and self-deprecating in the opening. I'm already rooting for her. I've felt that kind of panic before. So I get a sense of some of the stakes and conflict in that opening that I didn't necessarily get from the query. But, no, seriously, I would keep reading, and in fact, I really want to know if she gets the woman out of the bathroom!

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  6. Mentor of Team Snow, Copernicus Nerd here! It's all subjective in this grand 'ol writing world of ours, but I hope whatever I have to say helps out at least a little!

    Starting with your query, you had me rolling. Some great lines spread throughout the query and you definitely put a smile on my face this morning (and that's a task in itself with the day I'm having! lol ) While I do enjoy the quips and the humor, I also feel that the query needs a little bit more of the traditional query good stuff, especially a hook.

    While I am laughing, I want to be pulled in more. I'm sure she's seeing her fair share of bizarre scenarios in nursing school, especially with her relationship with the patients. So give me a little bit more hook and a bit more stakes, while keeping that same humorous voice!

    On to your 250! Holy crap, this is even funnier than the query. Seriously, you've got a great sense of comedy here and the lines are just flowing off the page. I literally laughed out loud at work while reading this. Then I get to the panicky part, and sure enough I panicked with her. I really don't have much to say regarding the 250. You do a great job of pulling me into the world the character is set in immediately, and it makes me NOT want to be a nurse. I wouldn't have the patience lol.

    Good luck with your changes! And great work!

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  7. Hi, Vicki Lemp Weavil, mentor with TEAM SNOW here!

    I really enjoyed reading this -- great concept, voice, and writing. I really don't see anything to change in the first 250 words.

    In the query, I agree with some of the other mentors that you need to rework the second paragraph to up the stakes for Morgan. Perhaps focusing on the patient she loves (tell us a bit about them -- are they a child, an older person, etc. ) and how Morgan finds that she is too invested to -- perhaps -- do her job properly. Is the conflict that Morgan cares too much to be a good care giver? Will this force her out of her nursing career before it even begins? I think that's where your real stakes are and that's the thing to focus on. (The love interest seems like a side plot, to be honest. If it isn't, we need to know a little more about the guy).

    Overall though, I think this is a winner and I look forward to reading your revised version!

    Nitpick: You use "hard" twice in one sentence: "But with reality comes the cold, hard truth—which can be hard to swallow." If you keep that sentence, you should change the wording a bit.

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  8. Hi, Snow mentor Kate Brauning here, of Month9Books!
    Query:
    I love your title—it sets up the perfect tone for the story, and it’s both memorable and funny in a grim sort of way. Love it!
    I’d use the funny mishaps in your first paragraph to show how hard this is for her. Right now it just sounds like funny events, so if you can connect them to her struggle, it will be that much more compelling. “She was prepared for nursing school to be tough, but when A, B, and C happen, she wonders if she can handle this.”
    Your second paragraph starts with 2 lines that are vague enough that I don’t feel them. Specifics are your friend with queries, so I’d remove the vague language and state specifically what problem she’s facing. This story sounds to me (so far! I could be wrong!) like it’s about identity, career competence, and self-respect. She’s facing some tough stuff here, so I’d boil it down to what her main problem is. Is she afraid she can’t do this job and she’ll have to take her dreams elsewhere? I want to see more of the conflict, how the love interest is involved, and what’s at stake—what happens if she can’t do this job and does leave? I love the concept and your character, and if we get a clearer idea of stakes and conflict, this will be great!
    250:
    I, too, would love another line before the dialogue to really ground us in the scene. Really funny first moment, though, and I love how the mishap plays out without the character looking incompetent or clumsy. She’s believably a student nurse who is trying her hardest but overwhelmed. Great job striking that balance!
    This first page is pretty dialogue-heavy, though, so I might add just a bit more sensory details and thought/emotion from the character to round it out. Lovely job, though—this is entertaining, smoothly written, and I’d definitely read more! :)

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  9. Team Snow mentor Kat here!

    A great title!

    Query: I love the set-up, and the student nurse angle feels fresh. I agree with the others that you need to pin down the stakes, and then I think you'll have a really strong query.

    First 250: Really funny opening exchange. I'm a little wary about there being so much dialogue at the beginning of your novel, especially with more than 2 characters and very few dialogue tags. I would read on, but as a reader I feel a bit thrown into the action without having a solid grasp of the setting and roles of the characters I'm reading about.You have nailed the tone, though, and it carries through from the start of the query right to the end of the excerpt.

    Good luck!

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  10. Hi!

    So this is a tricky one. I mean you have most of the elements you need right here. It's an easy, breezy read. It's funny. We have set-up and plot and character. What I will say is I'm not quite drawn in yet. The writing is sparse and simple and I don't know if this is how the whole book is, but keep an eye on sensory details. Engage the senses. Immerse your reader, you know? Right now, that's slightly lacking because those 250 breeze by so fast.

    That's really it. Maybe nix one of the 'well's in the query. Best of luck with this!

    Cheers,
    Lisa.

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  11. Hola! Team Snow mentor here.

    QUERY:

    Right away, too many details. They're cute and funny and I like them, but that doesn't mean they need to go in your query. The opening of your query is your hook. You have one paragraph to tell me who the star of your story is, what the book is about, and why I should care. While you did a good job convincing me that Morgan is a real person and is fantastically relatable as a character, I have little sense of what your book is like. That's the important part here. You're pitching a book, not a character.

    I feel like the rest of the query gets a bit lost in generalities. Becoming a nurse is hard, getting a guy to like you back is hard, sometimes being a fully functioning adult is hard, but I need more than that to feel convinced that I need to keep reading. What is it about your book specifically that makes it special? Focus on that. Right now, I don't know what's at stake for Morgan.

    EXCERPT:

    There's a lot of dialogue and one line snippets of description, and I don't really feel like I'm getting a sense of the scene. The last line is great, and that's the first time we really get to hear Morgan's voice and get a taste of her personality. Give us more of that because even that tiny glimpse of her frustration and desire to to succeed when she keeps failing in almost comically ridiculous ways is intriguing and appealing.

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  12. Hi, fellow nurse and TeamSnow member! This reminds me of my own nursing school days; in my case, it was a foley cath., not the supp. And I thought I’d killed the guy after I put it in because he was unresponsive. However, onto your query/250!

    Query: Although it may be cliché, I long to put: But with reality comes the cold, hard truth—which can be a bitter pill to swallow.
    I don’t think you need the “that” before her favorite patient.
    Like others have mentioned, I’d love to see how the realization she’s emotionally invested in her patients plays into the stakes. Your stakes, while great, come across as hastily added. It would give your query more punch if you could incorporate this poor patient in, somehow. Not that Luke isn’t important, but is he needed in the stakes? Adding him in the intro tells the reader there’s romance in your MS.


    First 250 words:

    I placed my stethoscope on the eighty-eight year old patient’s chest. “Big breaths.” (I’d add this to her gesture so it’s clear she’s speaking)

    “You should have seen them when I was younger.” My patient, Louise, smiled proudly. (it would be nice if you could show us her pride, a blush on her face, wiggling eyebrows, etc., rather than tell us)

    “What?” My cheeks flushed. “Oh, no. I meant please take a deep BREATH.”

    “Dear, would you help me to the bathroom?” (Maybe give a Louise dialogue tag? For a second, I thought it might be a patient in the other bed asking this)

    I carefully assisted her out of bed. (ditto on the carefully; show us: I eased her to the side of the bed and made sure her feet hit the ground, footies skiddy-side down, then parked her walker in front of her, aiming it for the bathroom, or something to show the care)

    “Are you ok while I grab your IV pump?” I’d left it just outside the door, the IV tubing still attached to her. (You need to indicate you helped her there or I think she left her to get the pump; you might even be able to skip this part, because the pump doesn’t seem important here.)

    “Yes.” (give Louise more character here if you can: “Yes, dear, you just go on with whatever you’re doing. I’ve found these things take time!”)

    I stepped out of the restroom and grabbed the pole, turning back right as the door slammed, almost hitting my face. (I think you could just say: The door slammed, nearly hitting my face.)

    I twisted the doorknob. It wouldn’t budge. This can’t be good.

    “Louise? Are you ok? Can you open the door?”

    Silence.

    “Oh, shit.” I was in so much trouble. I had to fix this before my instructor found out.

    I knocked on the door. Pounded on the door. Yelled “Louise!” Nothing.

    In a panic, I called Louise’s real nurse, Tammy, from the room phone. “Louise is locked in the bathroom!” (same thing, if you put it up here, we know it’s her speaking)

    “Get her out of there; I’ll be in as soon as I can.” (I think you could cut the “Get her out of there”; the “I’ll be in as soon as I can” puts your MC in a bigger bind)

    In the background, right before she hung up the phone, I heard her say, “Ugh… student nurses!” (I think “In the background” weighs this down. How about: As she hung up the phone, her words came through loud and clear, “Ugh . . . nursing students!”)

    I dropped to the floor and laid my face on the cold, germ-infested tile, trying to catch a glimpse of Louise (while avoiding catching diphtheria – or something funny). I could see a gown on the floor, but not much else. Had she fallen? What had I done?

    I used to consider myself a smart person. Then I became a student nurse.

    My ideas above are just suggestions; take what you want and throw all/the rest away. I think you’ll see plenty of action when this contest goes live!

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  13. I love the voice that comes through in the first paragraph of your query. I agree with others that fleshing out the sobering issue of Morgan having to deal with the impending death of a favorite patient would up the stakes (and—on a personal note—probably gut me, because I care for my 79 yr-old grandmother, and I can’t read Louise without thinking of her). In doing that, the easy-breeziness of your first paragraph would take a serious turn, and show us that Morgan will grow (that serious turn in no way means her humor has to go away!). I’d certainly want to take that journey with her.

    “‘Oh, shit.’ I was in so much trouble. I had to fix this before my instructor found out.” This is repetitive; since you only need one, how about knocking out the obvious one for the one that shows her fear of getting in trouble (and by whom):

    “‘Oh, shit.’ I had to fix this before my instructor found out.”

    “I used to consider myself a smart person. Then I became a student nurse.” I know one of the mentors suggested cutting it, but I love this line. I don’t find it deflating; I find it totally in voice of your character. It would actually make a great line for a chapter end (though where it is would make for one heck of a short chapter).

    Bottom line, I want to read this. Best of luck to you!

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  14. Just a reminder to take the feedback that works for you when revising for the agent round. It’s a lot to take in, but you’re the expert on your story and know best. If you have any questions about the next round you may ask here or on twitter.

    Thought you’d like to know why you were picked. I loved everything about this. The details in the query really hit the mark. Great humor. Love what the first 250 shows us about your MC. We're seeing someone who is eager and not very confident. Someone it would be easy and fun to spend time with.

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    Replies
    1. Oh and you MC grabs my sympathy right away. :-)

      Delete
  15. Hi, fellow Team Snow member here. Following are my suggestions, for what they are worth.

    A great opening scene. The transition between talking about taking deep breaths and the patient asking to go to the bathroom felt a little jarring to me. How did Louise respond, a good naturedly chuckle, a reproving look?
    Also, how did Morgan react to being asked to take her to the bathroom?

    Good luck in the agent round!

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  16. Hello! Team Snow #5 here. This is a great concept. I appreciate how the focus here isn't completely on the cute guy. Much as I love steamy NA romance, I am excited to see the category expand into other areas.

    Query: I agree with others that I'd like to see clearer stakes. What is the main conflict? What makes losing a patient especially jarring for the MC? Is this the first time in her nursing education that she has considered that not all her patients will make it?

    First page: I LOVE this. I laughed out loud at the "big breaths" joke. Clever humor gets me every time, and this book promises to be filled with it. I do want to see more of what's going on. Use her senses. Adverbs are my nemesis, so I suggest looking at those first to see if you can describe the action in a different way. I was also thrown just a little by the switch from listening to her breaths and the request for help to the bathroom. These are nit-picky things though.

    Well done, and good luck!

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  17. Hi, I'm a fellow Team Snow member, I loved the title and premise and would enjoy reading this novel.

    Regarding the query...Like some of the others have already mentioned, I would like to know why the MC is so worried abut losing a patient. As a wannabe nurse, has she not already addressed this issue?

    Regarding 250 words...I like snappy dialogue and you definitely have a flair for it. It would help to have a few sentences to establish character and setting and maybe a dialogue tag or two.

    Good luck with the next round!

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  18. Hi fellow Teamsnow member. I am the PB writer in this contest so I am way out of my comfort zone. My first thoughts are I love the medical background. And the first few lines are hilarious, I can definitely see this happening in an elderly patient. I find myself wanting to know if the elderly lady is ok. I look forward to finding out one day.

    Best of luck in the agent round!

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  19. Hi! I am from #teamsun #12. I absolutely loved the first 250! I really enjoyed the humor, and I hope that it carries through the novel (where appropriate, of course!).

    The query, I thought, also has some of your great voice! What I believe it could use more of, however, is plot details. Of course, you should realize that my query has the exact opposite issue...too much of a synopsis! /so finding that balance is key, and is something I am working on. Maybe a bit more about the crush she has. What is it about him that she loves?

    I love the fact that this book features a female in a medical role. Good job with that.

    Best of luck to you!

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  20. Hi! Fellow Team Snow member here. I also write NA, and I admire your fresh idea and especially your humor! This feels fresh and different to me, and based on the first page, I'd expect a fun read, in the vein of Kristan Higgins. Because I'm a sucker for love stories, I'd love to see a little more about the romance in your query. Loved your first page. Good luck with this!

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  21. I love the title and the premise. Tighten your query a bit, otherwise it's good. Your first 250 are great. Good luck!

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  22. Your opening for your 250 made me laugh out loud! Way to go :)

    Good luck with your entry!


    #TeamSun Leader Amy

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  23. I love your voice! This was a really enjoyable, fun read and I'd definitely want to read the whole thing.

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  24. Snow Mentor Matt Sinclair of Elephant's Bookshelf Press, here. Sorry it's taken me a while to get to yours, but I'm glad I did. Love the humor in the opening scene. It comes across as believable to me, and the voice seems well suited to the story you outlined in the query. It's nice to see a story with the nurse as the lead character rather than a doctor, which I think has been done to death. Good luck!

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