New Writer

Hi Everyone,

Just wanted to introduce myself and say hello. I’ve just recently started out as a freelance writer and I’m working on building that up as a side-career. I also just discovered the joys of Scrivener, and knew pretty much right after starting with the trial version that I was going to like this program.

I’ve had a couple of ideas for books floating around in my head for a long time, and the first one I’m going to work on is a YA book. No, it’s not set in a near-future dystopia! It’s set in the Netherlands in 1944. I’d like to get some feedback on what people think of my introduction of the book. It was inspired by the opening of “A Bridge Too Far” with the Dutch seeing the Germans in retreat. I thought it would be interesting to reverse it into this:

Liam Chase McGuire remembered the day that the Germans came to the Netherlands.  He was nine years old in the spring of 1940 and had been with his friend, Bram Otter, behind the house when they first noticed the rumbling sound.  At first, they thought they were imagining it, but slowly they realized it was a real sound, faintly heard on the light breeze.  It couldn’t be thunder in a blue sky which held the kind of high, wispy clouds that reminded Liam of horse’s tails.  Besides, thunder came and went while this particular sound was constant.  The sound grew louder until they realized that it was coming from the road leading into the town of Arnhem.  

It sounded like engines, low and rumbling, but with the faint metallic clanking of a chain.  Excited and curious, the two of them climbed the ladder to the roof of the small house.  Liam’s father had placed the ladder against the wall the day before and had been working on fixing up the house.  As they reached the top of the ladder and stepped onto the roof, they climbed as high as they could to get a better look at what was happening.

Reaching the top of the roof, the two of them looked along the road.  They could see movement in the distance, but couldn’t make out what was happening.  Liam knew there was a war on, and the Germans had invaded the Netherlands just a few days before.  They had bombed the city of Rotterdam and were taking over bridges for their troops.  He had heard his parents talking, and they listened to the radio telling everyone that the German advance was quickly overrunning the country.  He had been scared, and there had been talk between his father and mother trying to decide what to do.  

His mother wanted to leave as soon as possible and get back to England, then home to Scotland.  His father had agreed, but told her that it was already too late.  There wasn’t enough time for them to make arrangements to get out of the country and cross the English Channel.  The German army was moving too quickly, and there was no way to outrun them.  Mum and dad had been scared and, even though they tried not to show it, they knew they were trapped.

Sitting on top of the house’s roof with Bram, they watched the movement in the distance grow closer and more defined.  He could just make out that it was vehicles and marching men.  For everyone else in the house, it took them a little longer to hear the rumbling, clanking noise as it steadily grew in volume.  Eventually, no one could ignore it, and everyone came out of the house.  Liam’s father was first, followed by his mother, then a moment later by his sister, Moira.  They all came out and stood in front of the house, looking puzzled.  

“Dad!” shouted Liam.  

His father looked up.  “Liam, what are you doing up there?”

“It’s soldiers, dad!” he called down.  “They’re off over there, coming this way.”

Liam saw his mother and father share a glance with each other.  Dad turned and rushed around to the ladder and began climbing.  When he reached the top of the roof, next to Liam, he stood looking off in the direction of the soldiers.

Steadily, the vehicles and men drew closer.  Liam could see now that it was a variety of different vehicles.  There were tanks, with their long cannons pointing forward, and slightly up.  They were huge, and Liam could make out men with the top half of their bodies sticking out of a hatch in the top of the tanks’ turrets.  He could also see other vehicles approaching with the tanks.  They were strange things that had the front end of a truck, but with tracks like a tank on the back.  There were regular vehicles too: trucks and smaller cars, even some motorcyles.  Every vehicle in the long line was packed with soldiers.

Alongside the vehicles marched more soldiers who were carrying guns.  They kept pace with the vehicles and walked on both sides of the road, all of them with their heads turning left and right, looking for something.  Maybe they thought Dutch soldiers were hiding along the roads and they wanted to protect themselves and the tanks.  Liam wasn’t sure why the tanks needed protecting.  They were made of thick metal armor, and no bullet could ever get through them.

“Allan, what is it?  Is it the Germans?”  Mum’s voice sounded very afraid, and Moira moved closer to her and put an arm around her.  


Father’s confirmation made Liam’s blood run cold.  A sudden fear went through him and he began to worry about what would happen next.  Would the Germans pass them by?  How would life change for everyone?  Would the Germans kill them all?  He had heard stories and rumors about life in Germany and other places that had been invaded.  People were being forced to wear a yellow star because of their religion and were being rounded up and kept away from everyone else.  At the time, he wasn’t sure exactly what that meant, or why it was happening, but he knew that he didn’t want to live apart from his friends or family for any reason.  

“Bram,” said Liam’s father, “you should get home right away.  Your parents will be worried.”

“Yes, sir,” said Bram in a shaky voice.  He stood and walked carefully to the ladder then climbed down.  When he reached the ground, he ran to his bicycle and sped off toward his house.

Looking up at his father, Liam could see he was scared too.  His jaw was clenched tight and lines of worry ran across his forehead.  Mother and Moira were frightened too.  They stood, huddled together, watching the soldiers and vehicles as they began to pass.  His mother suddenly seemed to remember the danger they could be in and she turned and hurried back into the house with Moira.

He didn’t know what was going on, or what was going to happen.  The full implications of the German arrival wasn’t revealed to him until later.  As he watched the column of vehicles pass and saw the look of fear on his father’s face, Liam knew that his world had just changed—maybe forever.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I’m looking forward to the journey of writing the rest of this story.

Keep on keeping on!

My suggestion: keep the action brief, simple, specific, and always driving forward. How would this play out in a film? What do we see in the boys’ faces and surroundings?

On a blue-sky day in May, Bram and Liam heard thunder and knew no rain was coming. The sound kept on, growing into metallic clanking.

They climbed to the house roof top and looked east, where a faint line of motion grew into columns of tanks and soldiers.


Marching steadily, growing larger and louder. Liam looked down and saw his family, looking up from the yard.

However, I think it’s important to draft just as you are, getting down all the memories and impressions in an orderly sequence.

Later on, you may revise to make the story sharp and compelling. (Eventually, this might make a good screenplay rather than YA fiction.)

Good luck!

I love the scene setting. Very cinematic. Personally I love the WWII era but I am a father of two, and not your target audience!

I do wonder whether the time period will work with a YA audience. My son is 13 (n=1) and while he is very interested in history (Vikings) he is rather uninterested in WWII, unless it is very dark such ‘Der Untergang’ (The Downfall). I was a huge fan of Svend Hassell, the classic WWII YA author, and though I threw a couple of those my son’s way, he never picked them up. My daughter is a huge fan of the Hunger Games, Maze Runner and Insurgent books and films, but also would never think of picking up a WWII story.

Which I guess means you don’t have a lot of competition in that space :smiley: but might make it harder to market to the YA crowd?

Also, I wonder if it would work as well or better if ‘Liam’ was a girl?

All I noticed when I was reading what you’ve got so far was them climbing to a higher vantage point. In my head I was screaming “Get down, they might shoot at you thinking you were enemy snipers!” If I was marching in those German’s boots, and looked up to see people climbing for higher ground, I might get some tank fire support or one of my units designated marksmen and neutralize the threat. But I’m just an overly paranoid veteran so… :open_mouth:

In the first paragraph, I’d suggest dispensing with the whole “remembering” thing and just dive right into the action, see the scene right away from the POV of the narrating character. What was he doing just before the rumbling started? Use that simple, child-like action (playing or whatever) as a contrast to the danger that arrives by the time the first paragraph is finished.