Me & My Muse – Day 290: What is your grade?

I just found out mine, and I’m not too happy with it.

Based on the first section alone, I ended up with a B-.  Now this isn’t my overall grade, as this will be determined when I add up everything when the book is finished.  If I were to use some other works, I would probably be closer to the “C” range.  And to be fair, I think that my writing ability is at about the “C” range.  For me, there is plenty of room to improve.  This is how I figured the grade:


(The following is an excerpt from K.L. Walker’s The Tale of Zachary Willowbrook: A Leap Day Paradox)


A curse.  That’s what it was.  At least he thought it was.

Zachary Willowbrook looked at himself with regret.  Zachary was special.  This was what his mother always told him.  But why did it have to happen?  Zachary didn’t know.  All he knew is that it happened.

One might even argue that what Zachary was born with was a gift.  Going back to the beginning, Zachary Willowbrook was born on February 29, 2004 in the city of Nimbleburg, Ohio.  It was not apparent then that there was anything wrong with Zachary.

Upon leaving the hospital, Zachary was a normal child.  His mother was so excited to have her first child.  The father was especially proud, since he would be able to have a son to raise.

As the time passed, it was then that they noticed that something was different about Zachary.  This occurred about a month later, in the evening.

The mother approached the phone.

The father shrugged his shoulders and sighed.  “What’s the problem, Stacy?”

Stacy began to sniff, and wiped away a tear.  “Davy, our child is not normal.”

David frowned.  Even though he preferred the name David, she still called him “Davy”.  Looking at the worry in his wife’s face, he decided that tonight was not the night to argue.  “What do you mean he’s not normal?”

“Haven’t you seen him?  It’s been one month since we took him home from the hospital, and he doesn’t look any more than a week old!”

“Just give it some time, honey.  Maybe there is some kind of delay in his development.”

Stacy placed the phone back on the receiver.  “I hope you’re right, Davy. He’ll surely grow in the next few months, won’t he?”

Three more months passed.  There were several more sleepless nights, with each parent taking turns tending to Zachary.  One sleepless night in particular was nearing an important milestone.

David squinted his eyes and placed his hands over his ears.  “Your turn.  I tended to him last time.”

Stacy staggered out of bed, almost unable to keep her eyes open.  “No it’s not.” she yawned.  “I changed him last time. It’s your turn.”

David closed his eyes and groaned.  “He’s crying now.  You go see him.  Stacy?”

The crying got louder.

David grabbed his wife and began shaking her.  “Stacy!  Wake up!”

Stacy awakened, her eyes wide open and squinting.  “What?  What is it?”

Stacy listened to the cry. “Oh.  It’s our son.  Did you see him yet?”

“No.  I thought it was your turn.”

Stacy scowled.  “Let’s both see him!”

David sighed and quietly moaned.  “But I’m tired….”

“So am I, Davy!  Tired or not, we got to take care of Zachary.”

Stacy, in her nightgown, put on her robe and grabbed David by the hand.  He was wearing just a T-shirt and red briefs.

They ran to Zachary’s room.  From last time, Zachary didn’t look much different.  His face looked a little older, but that was about it.

Stacy picked Zachary up out of his crib and rocked him back and forth.  “What’s wrong, Zacky wacky?”

Zachary looked at Stacy and smiled.  “B-b-b-b….!….aa!”

David yawned.  “Shouldn’t we change him?”

Stacy shook her head.  “No.  I changed him an hour ago.  He doesn’t smell like he needs to be changed again, either.”  Stacy sat Zachary back down in his crib.  He was now falling asleep.  Upon looking look at him, she began to shake her head.  “No….”

David placed his hand on Stacy’s arm.  “What’s wrong, honey?”

Stacy placed her hand on her face.  “Shouldn’t he look older than this by now?  Davy, it’s been four months since we had Zachary.  He doesn’t even look like he’s four months old.”

“How old does he look to you?

“I don’t know!  Maybe about a month old.”

“Stacy.  You’re worrying too much.  Just give it more time.  He’ll grow.”

Stacy hugged David, as she wiped away a tear.  “I hope you’re right, Davy.  I hope you’re right.”

Both David and Stacy left Zachary’s room, their eyelids still heavy.  This left Zachary all alone.  He slept, full of peace in his blue crib.  His blue crib sat in a room surrounded by blue.  Different shades of blue.  Baby blues for the walls and darker shades of blue for his crib.

Stacy designed what she believed was the perfect room for a baby boy.  According to her, she was quite successful.  A banner of different animals ran the whole perimeter of the room.  Everything was spaced evenly apart from each other.  The changing table, the dresser, the crib and the rocking chair.  The room was clean, with everything neatly organized and everything in its place.

Zachary slept on.  He was greeted by pleasant dreams, which brought a smile to his face.  During that night, he didn’t wake up again. At least not until morning.

Eight more months passed.  It was now March 1, 2005. Looking at the calendar, Stacy cried. With Zachary being born on February 29th, she could not celebrate his birthday this year.

And how bad she wanted to celebrate his birthday!  She already had everything planned.  Balloons, toys, her family, and a tiny cake, just for Zachary.  When she saw the date, she decided to cancel everything.

When David saw her do this, he was shocked.  “Why did you cancel?” he said with a sigh.  “We can still celebrate his birthday, even though it’s not the 29th.”

Stacy shook her head.  “No! His birthday is going to be celebrated on the 29th!  Now Davy, how would you feel if your birthday was not celebrated on the same day?”

“I wouldn’t like that.  So now what?  Do we celebrate his birthday in 2008, when he’s four?”

Stacy stared at David, with a crazed look on her face.  “Yes.  And we can make it an even bigger celebration, since it only comes around every four years.  Let’s do that, okay Davy?”

It’s David….David muttered to himself below a whisper.  “Alright honey.  We’ll do that.”

With it being one year since Zachary was born, Stacy started to worry again.  She brought David into the room and pointed her finger at Zachary.  “Does this look like a one-year old to you?!”  Stacy shouted.  “Tell me, David.”

David hesitated.  “Well….”

“TELL ME!!!!”

“He doesn’t, honey.  Not at all!”

“We’re taking him to a doctor. Something is definitely wrong with him.”

And with that, Stacy set up the appointment with the pediatrician.  She picked up Zachary and carried him to the car.  She fastened him in his car seat. She and David got in the car and drove to the doctor’s office.


Based on that manuscript excerpt, I figured the grading below:


The Essentials

The writing creates an emotional experience for the reader.    B


Score for this section:  3


In the first paragraph….

The reader’s curiosity about a character or relationship is aroused.  B

The setting is introduced.   D

Resonance is lent to the story.  C


Score for this section:  2


In the first sentence….

The “narrative hook” is established.  A

An interesting personality or an action is conveyed that we want to know more about.  A

Something unusual or shocking happens, surprising the reader.  B


Score for this section: 3.6

Overall Score:  (3+2+3.6)/3 = 2.9 = B-


Now that grade should really be a little lower, considering that I have even factored in the additional criteria (use of narrative summaries, characterization, plotting dialogue, etc.).  For now, the grade is where it stands.  But this section will be revisited once additional criteria is introduced.  This will not be for a while, since I want to show contrast in how much different the grading will be.


Dark Muse:  It’s not fair!  That stupid Muse is not fair!

What do you expect?  This is the spoiled rich Muse we’re talking about!

Dark Muse:  But she was so much fun to control!  Tee hee!  But now she won’t let me anywhere near her!  What a meanie!

Ghost Muse:  How do you think I feel?  That body that she’s in used to belong to me.

Dark Muse:  But I still have mine!  It just doesn’t feel the same not being in my home….

Ghost Muse:  It’s not your home!

Dark Muse:  Yes it is!  It’s always been my home, ever since I first entered it!

Ghost Muse:  But it’s my body!  It was never yours in the first place!

Remedy:  Enough!  Fighting will do nothing to solve the problem.  Now if you want her back, you’re going to need to work together….

Ghost Muse & Dark Muse:  With her?  Never!

Remedy (to Ghost Muse):  Shh!  It will only be until you get your body back.  The Dark Muse won’t get your body.  Don’t worry!

Ghost Muse:  I gotcha!  What do you say?

Dark Muse:  I’m not working with YOU!  What’s in it for me?

Ghost Muse:  You get the body.  We both want it, right?

Dark Muse:  Okay.  But I get it first!  I’ll give it to you when I’m done.  Tee hee!

Ghost Muse:  (She would, but she doesn’t know how to share!)


While you all plan, I’m getting back on track.  More grading criteria will be added as I continue reading Stein on Writing.  As for the grading,  how did you fare?  For all you writers out there, you are welcome to use the same criteria as I did.  Take an excerpt from your own manuscript and use the same checklist.  Then calculate the results.  You’ll either end up doing better or worse than me.

My friend will be coming over later, so I need to get started.

Today’s high is going to be 57 degrees and the silver lining will be later, when my friend comes over for a visit.

To those of you who love report cards, I hope that you all have a fantastic day.


Muse:  It begins.  I have purchased the Tangible planet.  Construction on the largest, most elegant garden begins now.  You peasants are powerless to stop me.  Ha ha ha ha ha!!!!

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