Monday, October 16, 2017

PitchWars Critique - ACHERON CROSSING


I LOVE being a mentor for PitchWars. BUT there is one bad part - having to choose just one manuscript to mentor when there are so many with so much potential.

And so, wanting to give something back to those who chose Mindy McGinnis and myself as one of the mentor teams to submit to, we decided to offer first page and query critiques on our blogs. Our decision to do this via our blogs, rather than a private email, is so that (hopefully!) everyone can learn a little bit from this feedback.

And for anyone out there looking for personalized feedback, I also offer manuscript critique services which you can find more out about here.  

Dear Mentors,

Natalie commits suicide to escape bullying for her weight, WOH! There's a lot going on here and we're not even through the whole sentence. Maybe break this up a bit and bring us a bit into Natalie's world. She's being bullied for being overweight, I assume? Can you go into more detail than that even? Give some specific details to bring her to life. and ends up in Acheron Crossing, a destroyed city whose feral inhabitants menace her from the shadows. But she's dead, right? This needs to be clear. Dante rescues her, from what? And who is Dante anyway? then tasks her with meeting new arrivals and taking them where they belong. In exchange, he magically makes her thin. She agrees, party out of gratitude, and partly because she wants him to like her. Dante can magically make her thin, why doesn't he magically make her do the meeting new arrivals thing?

Dante warns her to stay away from Ben, another relatively “normal” resident of the town. He’s her opponent it isn't clear whether the 'he' you're referring to is Ben or Dante in a game she doesn’t understand, trying to get to the new arrivals before she does. As time goes on, and she develops feelings for both men, Men? Isn't this YA? So aren't they boys? it becomes clear that they’re hiding things, and one of those secrets might be that they’re not all as trapped as they seem. One of them is using her feelings against her, using what feelings? and she has to face her past and insecurities if she wants to find the truth. Find the truth doesn't feel like very high stakes. Or all that compelling. If she doesn't face her past and insecurities than... can you give a bigger more gulp inducing consequence here?

ACHERON CROSSING is a 69,000 word YA horror novel. I have a Master’s Degree in mental health counseling, and worked as a crisis counselor with teens struggling with suicidal ideation. I have been published online and in several small anthologies under my pseudonym, Doree Weller, and am active on social media. Very nice bio! No comps though for your book?

Thank you for your time and consideration. 

Sincerely,


Acheron Crossing
by Doree Weller
Chapter 1       
           I didn’t know the last day I was alive would be the last day. Well most people don't. This is not a great first line. You want a first line to GRAB your reader. Even the construction isn't great. You repeat last day. And it's vague. Think of all the different ways you could say this same thing. I didn't know my last day alive would be meatloaf Monday. I didn't know when I woke up to the rain pouring down that I'd be dead before the basement would flood. 
           Maybe I should have, but I’d been thinking about suicide for so long that it was just background noise in my head. Like the little mental voice that sounded just like me and hated me, reminding me whenever I did anything stupid or weird, or just plain wrong. Watch our for word echoes like the ones I highlighted here.
           It started off like an ordinary school day. I got up, had a rushed breakfast, said goodbye to my parents, rode the bus to school. Can you color these moments in a bit more. Give them some shading. What is the rushed breakfast? Where are mom and dad when she says goodbye? What is the bus like? Crowded? loud? Maybe it's a generic day for her, but it shouldn't feel that way for the reader. Got to school and spent the first hour trying to stay awake while my teachers droned on.
           At lunch, I got a salad. I debated between Ranch dressing or fat free Italian, which I hated. I finally settled on a tiny bit of Ranch, figuring just a little bit wouldn’t have too many calories. If she's worrying about this I think she'd know the exact number of calories. Show us those calculations. Really get us into her head.
           Betsy, Lexie, and Lexie’s boyfriend Ray were already sitting when I joined them. They were deep in conversation about some movie they’d seen the week before. I hadn’t gone because there’d be popcorn there. Popcorn and candy and wonderful smells. And I was on a diet. Again, more here. Give us more sensory food details - show us why it would be impossible for her to sit there and not have the popcorn and candy and whatever else.
           “You should have come with us,” Betsy said. “It was so good.”
           “We can go again this weekend, if you want to go with us,” Lexie said.
           I wasn’t going to go, but I couldn’t just say that. They wouldn’t understand. “Maybe,” I said.
           I ate my salad and was still hungry, so I took my sketchpad out of my backpack to distract me. I worked in pencils, sketching Venice from the memory of a picture on Pinterest.
Overall, the writing here is fine, but it needs to be sharper. Right now my image of this girl is hazy and unfocused. I want her to be so clear that I could pick her out of a lineup and you get that with specific details that bring her and her world to life.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

PitchWars Critique - BONDED BY LIES


I LOVE being a mentor for PitchWars. BUT there is one bad part - having to choose just one manuscript to mentor when there are so many with so much potential.

And so, wanting to give something back to those who chose Mindy McGinnis and myself as one of the mentor teams to submit to, we decided to offer first page and query critiques on our blogs. Our decision to do this via our blogs, rather than a private email, is so that (hopefully!) everyone can learn a little bit from this feedback.

And for anyone out there looking for personalized feedback, I also offer manuscript critique services which you can find more out about here.  

Dear Mentor,

Lina was all set to spend her spring break training to finally beating her mentor in a sparring match., Instead she found herself not fighting demons and chasing down her mom’s kidnappers! There's a lot in this first sentence. I'd maybe break it up and make it two. Also it's a little overly wordy. 

New paragraph just to give a break after the big set-up above. When horn-headed, foul-smelling demons invade Lina’s suburban Georgia life, her nemesis, nemesis why? Also maybe mention he's her fellow classmate or whatever else he is. Dray, goes after them for the same reason she does- they took his mom, too. Lina knows that he’s just as likely to turn her over to the demons himself, but he’s still her best shot, if she can prove that she’s worth more to him as an ally than as a bargaining chip. This sentence is too wordy. Also why would he turn her over to the demons? It'd be nice to know why they hate each other so much that she thinks he'd do that.

Dray and Lina share more than open animosity for each other; they’re also angels- Oh! The angel thing is a surprise and changes so many of my assumptions. You need to have that detail right in there from the beginning, not coming out of nowhere in the third paragraph. which is next to useless when she didn’t even get a pair of wings out of the deal. Her lack of faith leaves her powers unreliable, but she’s still ready to take down any demon that gets in the way of saving her mom. As a four-thousand-year-old war drags Lina in, demons prove more reliant than her fellow angels. Meanwhile, her increasingly conflicted feelings about Dray and the role her own mother played in his painful past complicate the choice Lina is faced with.

She has to choose between the angels who can save her mother but will kill Dray for the sin of being born half-demon, or the demons who will help them both. But the demons’ aid would comes at a price- Lina would will have to betray her own kind. get her hands dirty  to further their cause against her own kind. Much less wordy this way.  Otherwise, this is a good summation of what's at stake here.

BONDED BY LIES is a young adult contemporary fantasy complete at 104,000 words that would appeal to fans of DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE and THRONE OF GLASS.

I am a college instructor who spends 8 hours a day trying to motivate young adults. I was inspired to write about a martial arts-savvy heroine through my own experience of earning my black belt in Taekwondo as a teenager. Good bio paragraph!

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best Regards,

The way Lina saw it, there were two ways to come back from a sucker punch. Cower in the shadows with a scrape on your cheek and mud drying on your knees, or come back up swinging harder than that bastard could’ve ever seen coming. this second sentence feels overly wordy and reads a bit awkwardly. Maybe break into two sentences?
Lina slammed the metal door of her locker shut, smiling at the way the bang echoed down the hallway. Andy sighed and shook his head, leaning against the row of lockers beside her. Why does this have to do with the above sucker punch opening? Seems unrelated? Why not just start with this paragraph instead?  
“Bonus points. You flinched.” Lina smirked at him.
“Don’t take it out on the poor locker, Freshie. Your grade in calc is your own fault.”
“What’s the point of getting good grades if my mom is going to make me go to community college, anyway?” Lina scowled at the textbook in her hands. She had to prove, somehow, that she was strong enough to leave her mother’s protective nest. Then maybe a university that was two hours away wouldn’t be so out of the question. 
“Hey, it feeds into Georgia tech. Do your homework- for once- and in two years, you can come beg me to show you how to find your classes.” He lifted his sandy-blond eyebrows and leaned over, adding, “Freshie.”
Lina reached out to pinch him, but he leapt out of the way with those annoying reflexes that came from years of martial arts training. He laughed and stepped back to her, and she was forced to crane her neck to glare up at him.
“Damn you for getting so much taller than me!” Sophomore trig class felt like decades ago, not just three years, when Andy had insisted that she looked too young, and must’ve been a freshman. Thus, the nickname.
He continued to laugh and her cheeks warmed. 
Overall the writing here is good, but it doesn't jump off the page. You may be starting the story in the wrong place as nothing is happening here and there's no tension to draw me in and make me want to keep reading and turning the pages.

Monday, October 9, 2017

PitchWars Critique - THE LAST EXIT


I LOVE being a mentor for PitchWars. BUT there is one bad part - having to choose just one manuscript to mentor when there are so many with so much potential.

And so, wanting to give something back to those who chose Mindy McGinnis and myself as one of the mentor teams to submit to, we decided to offer first page and query critiques on our blogs. Our decision to do this via our blogs, rather than a private email, is so that (hopefully!) everyone can learn a little bit from this feedback.

And for anyone out there looking for personalized feedback, I also offer manuscript critique services which you can find more out about here.  


Dear [Agent]:

At sixteen, Birk Bellamy is starting over yet again with his fifth foster family. Kicked out of every foster home he’s been in, he wants to bury his past bury his past is a cliche and also not specific enough to tell me anything and be left the hell alone. But rumors of his past indiscretions What sort of indiscretions are we talking about here? Again, can you be more specific? result in unwanted attention from the kids at his new school. Worse, the drunk driver who killed his parents is paroled, resurrecting his crushing pain I'd cut the second half of this sentence - we get why having the person who killed his parents out of jail sucks. He copes with his turmoil through secrecy, isolation, and the occasional fistfight, always looking for the exit. what does "looking for the exit" mean? What specifically does he want?

While deep in the woods, Birk meets fourteen-year-old Philip “Frip” Thorndale hiding in a ramshackle cabin. Birk wants nothing to do with him, but Frip earns Birk’s trust and draws Birk into his crisis. Frip’s parents give him an illegal drug that keeps him alive but causes extraordinary side effects, and they are on the run from the FBI. Frip and his parents got separated, and Frip is running out of his medicine. He must find his parents and the safe place to which they were fleeing. Risking arrest and exposure of his emotional vulnerabilities, the phrasing here reads really awkwardly. Maybe just cut it.  Birk agrees to help him.

The FBI learns of Birk’s contact with Frip, and they pressure Birk to turn Frip in. When Birk stonewalls the agents, they threaten the few things that hold Birk together, what specifically??? and his tightly wound life unravels how? Specifically?. As Frip’s condition worsens, Birk must choose between protecting Frip’s fragile life or his own—but, with his past, he’s not certain he can succeed at either. I'm not sure you've established why his past makes him believe he can't succeed. 

THE LAST EXIT is a Young Adult contemporary novel, is this just contemporary? The bit with the drug that causes extraordinary side effects feels like some paranormal or magical realism has been thrown in here too. 81,000 words. A lifelong Midwesterner, I am an attorney and writer in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Some moments you capture; others capture you. That afternoon, I was the prisoner.
     “I’m going to puke,” I said.
     “Well, don’t,” said Mrs. Wu, my social worker. “Not here on the front porch. We don’t want that again.” She glanced at me, gauging my puke propensity, and checked her phone again. “Your new foster parents might not be as understanding about it as your last ones.” Seems kind cold. Not like he can control throwing up.
     Gripping my two suitcases, I breathed through the queasiness. I was so sick of beginnings and endings. My fourth foster family had recently kicked me out, and the group home the agency sent me to after that had rejected me, too. Beginnings and endings sucked equally, and they made me so sick.
     I’ll find a way out of this. I’ll find the exit. And without the gun. I feel like this sentence is taking me out of the moment, which is interesting and has high enough stakes that you don't need to add anything more quite yet.
     Mrs. Wu looked sideways at me again, taking in my black t-shirt, torn black jeans, and old Doc Martens.
     “You could have dressed better, Birk.” She rang the doorbell.
     “I tucked in my goddamned shirt,” I muttered.
     “Let’s try to have a more positive attitude.” Mrs. Wu primped her hair and adjusted her skirt. “And please brush your hair out of your eyes.”
     I scowled, shook my hair a little, getting it more in my eyes, and waited, the nausea rising in me.
    “And Birk—”
     “I know.”
     Don’t get angry. Stay in control. Don’t go dark again. This is a pretty solid first page. It feels like you're starting at a good place. I wanted a bit more voice wise - just a bit more flavor on the page and more time inside your MC's head because this guy seems like he's been through a lot and it doesn't feel like you've completely dug all the way into this character.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

PitchWars Critique - UNTIL THE MEEK INHERIT


I LOVE being a mentor for PitchWars. BUT there is one bad part - having to choose just one manuscript to mentor when there are so many with so much potential.

And so, wanting to give something back to those who chose Mindy McGinnis and myself as one of the mentor teams to submit to, we decided to offer first page and query critiques on our blogs. Our decision to do this via our blogs, rather than a private email, is so that (hopefully!) everyone can learn a little bit from this feedback.

And for anyone out there looking for personalized feedback, I also offer manuscript critique services which you can find more out about here.  

Query letter:

Pampered, indulged teenagers, Judith Marie Freeman, 14, and her brother Lance, 15, are orphaned when a car accident kills both parents. Thinking to transfer their dependence to their elderly next door neighbor, Miss Hattie Strang, they are startled when Miss Hattie insists on providing what she believes they need most: “Supervised Adversity.”  Bypassing the usual bickering, Judi and Lance narrow their priorities to one: staying together. Reluctantly, they give up their family home, then a modest motel room, and wind up living in a boxcar on an abandoned railroad spur. Okay, I was with you until the "supervised adversity" bit. What does that mean? And everything that happens after is because they are running from Miss Hattie or stuff she is doing or has nothing to do with her? This needs to be clarified.    
 
UNTIL THE MEEK INHERIT is complete at 61,000 words. You need to specify what this is. Young adult contemporary? YA mystery? Whatever it needs to be there. Also... where is the rest of your query? The above paragraph is only set-up. I want to know what the main conflict in your story is. Also who the main character is. Also what's at stake. What you have above is not enough.
A former newspaper reporter, I have a degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. Thirteen of my manuscripts are now available from print/royalty companies and online. No. 14 is to be released in March, 2018. My short work has appeared in “Newsweek,” “Time,” “True Love,” “Whispers from Heaven,” “Arabella,” “Pray!” “The Harvard Review,” and other national magazines. I am active on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, have a blog (sharonervin.wordpress.com), and a website (sharonervin.com). I am active in Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the Texas Writers Guild, the Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc., and a local critique group. 
The mother of four grown children, I work half-days in my husband and son's law office. While nice, I don't think you need this last bit about mother of four grown children, etc.

UNTIL THE MEEK INHERIT

Chapter One

Judith Marie Freeman’s head jerked forward as sleep, the Nemesis of 14-year-olds, almost defeated her again. nemesis doesn't need caps. Also not sure if sleep is the nemesis of 14 yr olds specifically. She had to stay awake. She patted her cheeks and sat up straighter. She wanted her parents to see she was the adult in the house, able to last beyond her 10:30 curfew.
Judi celebrated through the whole day of being on her own, her private joy marred only by Lance’s interruptions. what interruptions specifically?
“You are such a toad,” she whispered toward his six-foot frame slumbering on the long couch. She flashed him her superior look. “I outlasted you, you big wuss.” She gloated quietly, loving the one-sided conversation.
“You are not two years older than I am. Only twenty months.”
At five-feet-six-inches, Judi was tall for her age. She resembled her brother, slim with sandy hair and bright blue eyes, although she had a quicker, more inquisitive mind, at least that’s what she told people. 
A car? Was that a car in the driveway? Two car doors slammed. Try not to repeat the same word several times like this.
“They’re home,” she blurted, then clamped a hand over her mouth, eying Lance. He didn’t stir. Let them see the real Lance, slack-jawed, drooling, and the real Judi, alert, taking care of business.
Her arms and legs flailed in four directions as she struggled over the arm of the chair, dropping the Afghan in her flight. Wearing panties topped with one of her dad’s old T-shirts that covered her to her knees, she bounded toward the entry hall, then ran back to retrieve the Afghan. This reads more like middle grade than YA just from the character's description and mindset about wanting to be seen as older more mature, but coming across as very very young.



Monday, October 2, 2017

PitchWars Critique - ERADICATED


I LOVE being a mentor for PitchWars. BUT there is one bad part - having to choose just one manuscript to mentor when there are so many with so much potential.

And so, wanting to give something back to those who chose Mindy McGinnis and myself as one of the mentor teams to submit to, we decided to offer first page and query critiques on our blogs. Our decision to do this via our blogs, rather than a private email, is so that (hopefully!) everyone can learn a little bit from this feedback.

And for anyone out there looking for personalized feedback, I also offer manuscript critique services which you can find more out about here.  




I’m writing to pitch you my novel, ERADICATED. Eradicated is an 78,000-word young adult fantasy novel. I would not repeat the title back to back like this. Instead: ...pitch you my novel, a 78,000 word young adult fantasy, ERADICATED.
  
Seventeen-year old Maya Richardson joined the commune army for food, shelter, and an excuse to kick people—not necessarily in that order. Not sure if I know what a "commune army" is, but otherwise this is a good sentence. She doesn’t believe she’ll ever see the front line though. The militia has been preparing for a fight with the Gliesians for the past 400 years. But the Gliesians—the super-powered aliens that now co-habit the Earth—have been completely peaceful. Maya, like most humans, refuses to buy into the conspiracy theories--until her mom is abducted. Okay, you are throwing a lot at me here. There are aliens. They're peaceful, but there is a still a militia preparing to fight them and there are conspiracy theories (about what specifically?) and then her mom is abducted. It feels like the way you're telling everything here is with a THIS... BUT type structure. She joins the army BUT doesn't think she'll have to fight. The militia is prepared to fight BUT the aliens are peaceful. BUT some people say they aren't. And then mom is abducted. Once this might work but over and over again it just feels messy and confused.
Maya will do anything to save her mom, but the fearful commune elders forbid Maya from leaving the compound grounds. Where does she need to go? The only person on her side is Roman, a seventeen-year-old outsider, with a grudge against the aliens for killing his dad. So... the peaceful aliens killed his dad? Maya and Roman escape from the compound and into the glittering allure of the Gliesian city. But everything that glitters isn’t gold, cliche and also tells me nothing and Maya’s search for answers uncovers a nefarious plot that has been causing the human population to dwindle for centuries.
Caught spying on the aliens, Maya is thrown in prison and sentenced to death.  Roman risks his life to free her, but exposes himself to be something other than human—something she can’t accept. With her mom’s life on the line, Maya must convince the rest of the humans that the aliens pose a threat, the commune that they are capable of winning the war, and herself that Roman isn’t the enemy. Good final paragraph! I like the stakes. Except if the humans have a militia why does she need to convince them the aliens are a threat? Or is the militia small? Might want to clarify this.

Prologue
            I smell them before I see them. Eh. I feel like this sentence needs more specificity to grab me or to lead to a really great second sentence... 
If there is one thing training to be a warrior has taught me, it’s to be observant. Also, eh. This feels cliche and lacking in specificity. Seems like training to be a warrior would teach you many things. This is a great place to inject some voice. "Training to be a warrior has taught me how long it takes a black and blue bruise to fade. That I can run three miles... as long as someone is screaming at me the entire time. But mostly to be observant. Especially in the mess hall on mystery meat Monday." Now none of this may fit your story or character, but do you see how much more specific this is and how much voice it has?
Aliens can easily hide their smell in the cities. The cities are scented; perfume is literally incorporated into the air filtration system, the water supply, the clothes.
Out here, on the dusty trail, with the wind blowing, the odor is noticeable—palpable. Maybe describe the odor or compare it to something?
So is my fear. to who? The aliens?
My fingers quiver, sweat pours down my face, my heart rate speeds up.  I fumble in my bag for the vials that will hopefully save my life-- or at least give me a fighting chance.
A million thoughts run through my mind. How many are there? Which of the seven powers do they have? God, I hope it isn’t super speed. 
Three Gliesian men appear in front of me. Shoot, they either have invisibility or super speed. Both of which makes an already unfair fight … well, more unfair.
            They look human, as always, but the predatory look in their eyes feels more like that of a rabid animal. The hairs on my neck stand on edge. I don't know enough about Gliesian at this point to be invested in the stakes of what is happening here. I don't know your narrator well enough to get invested in what is happening here. Action often seems like a great gripping place to start, but more often it feels like turning a movie on that you've never seen before in the middle of a car chase. 
            “What have we here?” the tallest one asks. His green eyes dance wildly. Dirty jeans and a tank top hug his muscular frame, long blond hair is slicked back into a pony tail. “What’s in the bag?”
“It’s not hair grease, so you wouldn’t be interested".Period goes inside the " on this last sentence. Dialogue feels a bit generic villain - especially the "What have we here?" line. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

PitchWars Critique - LIKE BIRDS UNDER THE CITY SKY


I LOVE being a mentor for PitchWars. BUT there is one bad part - having to choose just one manuscript to mentor when there are so many with so much potential.

And so, wanting to give something back to those who chose Mindy McGinnis and myself as one of the mentor teams to submit to, we decided to offer first page and query critiques on our blogs. Our decision to do this via our blogs, rather than a private email, is so that (hopefully!) everyone can learn a little bit from this feedback.

And for anyone out there looking for personalized feedback, I also offer manuscript critique services which you can find more out about here.  


Dear ,
LIKE BIRDS UNDER THE CITY SKY is a 54,000 word young adult novel with slight I'd cut that one word. If there are sf elements but you're not saying it is a sf novel, then slight is implied. science fiction elements. It might appeals to fans of More Happy Than Not and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.
Seventeen-year-old Micah can deal with being homeless. Like the birds, he trusts God will provide him with food and clothing. I feel like this is an odd belief and you might want to elaborate a bit more here. Like does he get food and clothing. Also how long has he been homeless? However, he has a harder time dealing with armed thugs following him around the city.
The thugs want to use Micah to get Charlie, his hacker boyfriend who escaped from Robo.Me, a shell corporation that does black ops for the CIA. WOH!! So much information here. It's a bit much to take in within just one sentence. Maybe intro Charlie in the above paragraph. Or maybe give Charlie his own paragraph, since he seems to have quite the backstory. Micah will die before giving up Charlie’s location, but he isn’t ready to meet his maker yet since he’s not really sure how The Almighty feels about the sex he and Charlie enjoy. Thankfully, he loses the thugs in a warren of drug-smuggling tunnels. He loses them... how exactly?
While Charlie works on a virus that will wipe out Robo.Me servers and all the information they hold about him, what information specifically? Micah uses his dumpster diving skills What dumpster diving skills? is this how he gets food and clothing? would be helpful to mention this earlier. and the contacts he made through community service to gather intel. Gather what sort of intel? About who? Not sure how this helps. Their plan requires more sins than Micah would like, What sins exactly dumpster diving is not a sin? but if they don’t stop Robo.Me Micah will be killed (probably burn in hell) and Charlie will be pressed into service as a cyber-assassin. How do they know this is what will happen? Also how will erasing the servers help Charlie get away - won't the people hunting for him still know who he is and why they want him?

This novel was inspired by both my own struggle with identity and religion, and by witnessing other LGTBQA+ people hold onto their faith without compromising their identity, even when the church rejected them. This is great! I won second place in Women on Writing’s Winter 2016 Flash Fiction Contest. My YA fiction was published in Youth Imagination and Spaceports & Spidersilk. My short fiction for adults has appeared in dozens of publications including Helios Quarterly, Theme of Absence, and Alternative Truths. Nice bio.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I’ve included

Sincerely,


Life as a vagrant isn’t as bad as I once imagined, but it’s far from glamorous. I’m free, I’m alive, and no one is telling me who I can love and who I can’t, but sometimes I feel like the city is swallowing me whole. Skyscrapers, flashing lights, cars, and herds of people surround me. I can barely see the sky through the haze of humanity that is clogging these streets. just a suggestion to help eliminate wordiness My chest tightens, I force myself to take a deep breath, and keep pushing through the crowds.
I miss open spaces: cornfields, lakes, and rolling hills. I’d give almost anything to spend a day in the woods, working my way uphill until I break the tree line and am rewarded with a sweeping view of the Poconos, but going home would mean giving up the one thing I refuse to part with: Charlie period. Nice paragraph.
Charlie is the reason I’m heading uptown today, to scavenge the dumpsters of high-end buildings. He has a long list of items that contain the parts he needs for the computer he is building. At the top of it is a power converter – a device he says will make the energy that comes out of our turbine safe for more than just lights. Safe to power more than just lights? Maybe rework for clarity.
The crowd flows around me, and I fight it like a salmon swimming upstream. salmon upstream is a bit of a cliche. Find some other less used imagery? Some people bump into to me like I’m not even there. I don’t blame the ones who give me a wide berth. Seventeen-year-old boys smell pretty foul when they only shower once a week, especially when the afternoons make it to the nineties and the humidity is high. My jeans are stained from my last excursion in a dumpster and my hoodie has more than one hole. I’m used to being avoided and ignored. If he smells that bad I'm surprised anyone is bumping into him much less brushing against him. 
 I’m not used to being stared at. A man in a loose, gray suit watches from a park bench, tracking my every move like a feral tomcat stalking a rat. I wish this had more voice. Also this city feels pretty generic. Can you give it more specific details?

Monday, September 25, 2017

PitchWars Critique - THE STATUE SAYS SPRING


I LOVE being a mentor for PitchWars. BUT there is one bad part - having to choose just one manuscript to mentor when there are so many with so much potential.

And so, wanting to give something back to those who chose Mindy McGinnis and myself as one of the mentor teams to submit to, we decided to offer first page and query critiques on our blogs. Our decision to do this via our blogs, rather than a private email, is so that (hopefully!) everyone can learn a little bit from this feedback.

And for anyone out there looking for personalized feedback, I also offer manuscript critique services which you can find more out about here.  


QUERY

When sixteen-year-old Inya’s parents divorce, the only way to save the mother she loves is to destroy the father who abandoned her. This sentence is too vague to have any effect. How specifically does she save the mother she loves? How specifically does she destroy her father?

As next in line to rule her country, Inya Sorstrand is well schooled in secrets and intrigue. Again, specifics are better. What sort of secrets and intrigue? But her plotting goes terribly wrong when she defies and humiliates her powerful father, Lord Orwen. Still not specific enough. What plotting are you talking about? How does it go wrong? How does she defy and humiliate her father? It's the difference between: "I had the worst day ever today" and "My breakfast was burnt, my dog got hit by a car, I was late to school, forgot my homework, missed lunch, got dumped by my boyfriend, and cried so hard my eyes swelled closed." Which of those sentences gives you a better sense of that person's day? With his subjects rioting in the streets, he’s enraged by disloyalty at home and disinherits Inya for his mistress’s unborn child. Okay, why are his subjects rioting in the street - is it related to Inya humiliating her father? Also the "for his" construct doesn't work for me. I had to read it twice. Maybe instead, "disinherits Inya with the intention of making his mistress's unborn child next in line to the throne.

Banished to the slums with her equally defiant mother, Inya sheds her old identity and learns to survive the mean streets with help from a pack of misfits. Would love to know more about these misfits... but okay as is. But when the riots turn violent, riots already sort of implies violence. Maybe call them protests? the whole city is caught between rebel firebombs and Orwen’s tyrannical justice. With her mother, her new friends, and her own life threatened on every side, Inya must bring her father down and she has just the weapon to do it: the very secrets and intrigue she learned at his knee. Again would be helpful to know what these secrets are. Also how does dad not see this coming? But using her secrets risks revealing her true identity and if her father doesn’t string her up for treason, the rebels, thirsty for privileged blood, just might do it for him.Great final sentence - very clearly lays out what's at stake.

THE STATUE SAYS SPRING is an 82,000 YA historical fantasy set in an invented non-magical world (think Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’strilogy or Jennifer A. Nielsen’s The False Prince). Good comps! No bio paragraph?



First page:

The pillory not sure if this a word most peopel would be familiar with was always mobbed in the day. If Inya wanted to help Papa Gregor, she had to sneak off after curfew. Stopping only to collect her bag of supplies, what supplies? coat, and eyeglasses, she tiptoed past her mother—asleep at last—down to the kitchen door, and out into the night.

The Brimmen sea wind was an icy slap to the face so she pulled her long, lank hair over her ears. If it's windy wouldn't that just blow her hair around? It didn’t help. Why was it so cold tonight, of all nights? It was mid-September, but it felt like February, and Papa Gregor was in the pillory—his head and hands locked in a wooden frame—with only a thin shirt for warmth. He’d be frozen half to death and powerless even to scratch his nose.

“Ikshik,” Inya cursed as she scurried past the Basilica's blood-red gates. Maybe he was frozen to death. Her own hands were already numb. Cursing again, she blew on her tingling fingers, and sped up. Gregor Hansa had always been there for her and she loved him dearly, like a grandfather. He’d smuggled her salacious books, not sure if salacious is the best word choice here. are these x-rated books we're talking about? I mean that's cool and open-minded, but doesn't exactly say grandfatherly taught her to ride boy-fashion, praised every accomplishment in her sixteen years of life. Inya knew he was innocent, she knew he’d never turn traitor. Innocent of what specifically? By all rights, she should already be wrapping him in a blanket. But her mother had guessed she’d sneak out, and sat up in her room to stop her.

Passing the barracks, Inya slowed to a creep and hugged the shadows. Thunder rumbled, the clouds broke and rain fell hard, stinging skin and echoing off cobblestone. In the distance, the Basilica bell rang: clang, clang, clang, clang. Four o’clock, later than she’d hoped. Then the bell rang once more. Five o’clock! Ikshik! Curfew ended at six. She’d never find the courage to help Papa Gregor with an angry mob watching, not when they’d already stoned a poor woman to death for defending her pilloried husband. Overall the writing here is good, although there are a few parts where I'd like a bit more detail.