Monday, July 25, 2011

BlogFest Week4: First 200 words

OK :) In the final week of the 'Gearing Up To Get An Agent Blogfest,' I'm going to post the first 200 words of 'MANAS.' It's a completely bad-ass YA spy/sci-fi adventure, and I'm fiercely proud of it. It's all packaged and ready to sell, I just need an agent willing to take a chance.

Name: Amber Plante
Title: MANAS
Genre: YA sci-fi adventure
Length: 77,000

Here's the pitch:

'Zellie, a prodigy spy with pink hair and a penchant for knitting, is sent to London to acquire Oliver, a smooth hacker with geeky good looks and access to genetics firm Pyxis. Zellie’s link to the ‘Project Manas’ data, hidden within the Pyxis mainframe, sends the pair on a speeding adventure through the bowels of London’s punk underground to romantic Paris streets and murky Venice canals. Can Zellie uncover the missing pieces of ‘Project Manas’ before a rogue agent with murderous intentions catches up?'

Here are the first 200 words. (247, actually -- I didn't want to break up a graph.) (I'm really nervous about this, btw.)

“Any time you’re ready,” I whispered into my headset. “I’m a go on your signal. Of course, I’m comfortable where I am, too, if you’d like to continue taking your sweet-ass time.”

Fifty stories below me, Trey grunted. “Keep your pants on, little one. You’ll get your shot. This isn’t as easy as it looks.”

Through our camtacts – nanobot technology built into contacts – I watched Trey lunge again at the metal backdoor in the subway station. My viewer, attached to my wrist, showed four quadrants with different locations. Each contained a direct link to the rest of my team – Trey, Jace, Marienne and Emerson. Altogether, a deadly quintet.

The reception on Trey’s quadrant fuzzed as he made contact with the rusted metal. “Have you even broken a sweat?” he asked, most of his attention focused on busting down the back door into the building to use as our escape route.

“I am a sniper, not a strong-armed brute,” I said sweetly. I was teasing him, but part of me wanted action, which I wouldn’t get unless something went wrong. Such is the role of the mission lead – boring.

“Never send a woman to do a man’s job.”

“Will you two shut up? You’re interfering with my feed,” Marienne snapped. Our resident hacker, she sat in the cafĂ© across the street. Through the camtacts, I watched her orange fingernails click across the laptop’s keyboard. “OK, I’m waiting at the gates of the system mainframe. Your word and I’ll get the door.”

Thoughts, critiques, wildly enthusiastic compliments? :) Thank you in advance for every single one (even the mean ones). See you all on the other side of this contest! Good luck, and keep on writing ...


  1. I forgot how much I love this. Here's to Zellie, Amber, and may she and her team of genetically-enhanced spies see print soon soon soon.

    Oh, one thing I didn't see before. I wouldn't mind the addition: "Through the camtacts, I watched her orange fingernails click across the laptop's keyboard." Just as a reminder.


  2. Done and done :) Thanks so much for your support -- Zellie wouldn't be half as bad ass as she is today if it weren't for your guidance :)

  3. Excellent dialogue, description and voice as well as immediate hook. A 10 in every way!

    P.S. I've left a response to your comment on Bird's-eye View,

  4. Very action packed! I'm excited to see where this might go. The only thing is, starting with dialogue is a little confusing. I think I'd like to see where we are first, before hearing dialogue.

  5. Hi Amber:
    I love this genre so am already a fan! :)
    A few comments , all IMHO but hopefully they help you clean things up a bit.
    I don't think you need to tell us what camtacts are. I read this over w/o that sentence and could still figure it out.
    Nor do I think you need to tell us she's working with a deadly quintet. You're showing us this later, right? No need to tell your hand so soon.
    And you say 'sweet' twice here. Two different ways, for sure, but I know you can come up with some other adj. to vary things up. Before the sentence about mission lead being boring, you show us this bc you state she has nothing to do.
    Otherwise, this is awesome! I would definitely read. Good luck!

  6. hi amber
    tight, good dialogue, completely believable and slow building tension (which I like, I don't think *too* much should happen in the first 200 words!)

    My first thought was, don't explain the camtacts - as melodie already mentioned. When world building, the less explaining you do, the more natural it feels. Your descriptions of what she sees through the camtacts are more than enough for us to understand what they are.

    My second thought was about this line: "Such is the role of the mission lead – boring." It gives personality to the narrator that wasn't there before. I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing yet because I don't know if it's going to continue (asides from her) or if her narration is going to be more straight forward.

    Definitely intriguing!

  7. Hi everyone :) Thanks so much for leaving comments! This is the intro to the story -- think of it like the beginning of a Mission Impossible movie -- you're thrown into the mission and you meet the characters on the fly. Maybe I should post the beginning of the first chapter, too ... maybe a different day :) Stay tuned!

    I'll definitely take your advice really seriously -- thank you all so much!

  8. Melodie covered most of what I was going to say.

    On the whole I liked it, but I found it odd that they have nanobot contacts. First off, why bot? shouldn't it just be nano-tech? 'bot' implies some sort of mobile independent unit and I can't see why you'd want those in your contacts. Secondly, with this exceedingly high technology level, they're reduced to kicking the door open for their escape route? No electronic lock-picks or nanobots which can simply disassemble the lock? It seems awfully noisy, brutish and low-tech for the kind of elite force you're presenting here.

  9. I thought this was awesome. I love the snappy dialogue, very fun and funny :) I really like the group described as a deadly quintet--loved it.

    I wish I was techy enough to know what was realistic or not, all I can say is the I was eating it all up. I believed all of it.

    Well done :)

  10. I really enjoyed this. The only issue I had was that with starting with dialogue, I had no idea where the characters were at first so it was a little talking head syndrome. You might want to set the scene a little more immediately. Just a suggestion.

  11. Everything I have to say has been covered. I too am not fond of starting on dialogue. You could easily start with, "Fifty stories below me, Trey moved into sight." Or something like that.

  12. Great voice, wonderful dialogue, and fun characters!! I like how she 'sweetly' says she's a sniper ;-)) My only issue was the same as Nicole's; starting with dialogue can be a bit jarring, though I see it done all the time.

  13. Nothing to add - good comments here. Fun voice and I trust that you'll build the world so all the unknowns make sense.

  14. Very creative! You already have plenty of great advice--would def keep reading!

  15. Wildly enthusiastic compliment! I totally dig this. Only one tiny thing caught me: I would change "I am a sniper" to "I'm a sniper." Flows better, for me at any rate, and is consistent with previous use of contractions. Love snipers, btw.

    If the rest of the book is this fun, I'm sure you'll find a publication home for this!

  16. Overall a GREAT job:) People already said what I would pick at;) I was obsessed with Alias when it was on TV and a YA spy novel certainly sounds good to me!

  17. I really got caught up in this and wanted to know what was going to happen next! The narrator has a strong voice, and I loved the humor that comes through, right from the beginning.

    The futuristic tone was great, though I thought the explanation of "camtacts" was a little intrusive and wondered if there wasn't another way to show it without dropping it in as though the narrator is explaining it to someone. But possibly that's just your style, it's hard to tell from only 200 words.

    Good luck with the contest!

  18. @mark -- you're entitled to your own opinion just as much as i'm entitled to not agree. no one asked jk rowling why the wizards don't have TVs or cell phones – not that i'm comparing myself to the queen. but sometimes you just have to suspend your disbelief.

    @angie – thank you for coming along for the ride :)

    @nicole, laura, christina – thanks!! in journalism, i've been taught to NEVER start with quotes – bad form, you know – so i really wanted to with this book just to prove it could be done. it's hard to see how well it works in the first 200 words, but I promise it does!! :)

    @alexia – love you name, btw. and great catch! i'm fixing that now!!

    @andrea, melodie – i think you ladies have a valid point. hm. I certainly don't want to dumb down anything for the reader, so if you feel it's unnecessary ... interesting. Definitely thinking about this. maybe the description can go later ... if needed at all.

    Thank you all very much :) I really appreciate all your time and attention. All the critiques were really helpful!

  19. Amber, what fun! Loved it starting out with dialogue -- mainly because it was a good back and forth, felt as if I knew these characters.

    Tiny thing -- I agree w/the others about the camtacts -- you don't need to explain.
    What a great start!

  20. A very compelling start, and I like that we are right in the middle of the action here. Nice job! Although I agree that the camtacts description felt a little awkward, I do think you need to explain what they are somehow. I don't read many spy books, so I think I would have been lost without the explanation.

  21. Great job good voice and good start. I like the action and think you have a wonderful story to tell.


Thank you in advance :)