Monday, September 21, 2015

#PitchWars Crit - THE CURSE OF JUDAS

My PitchWars mentor-partner Kate Karyus Quinn and I agree that we didn't read a single query that was bad - nor did we read any first pages that were unsalvageable. And honestly with as many submissions as we had, we were surprised at the quality of them. Which is why we decided to offer query and first page critiques on our blogs to everyone who submitted to us.

Quite a few people have taken us up on the offer. Through November, Kate and I will be posting these critiques on Mondays and Wednesdays. Any writer can learn from these - not just the author of the material being critiqued. You'll see my comments in green.

Query:

Most seniors in high school aim to graduate and move on to the freedom adulthood. Lena would settle for demons leaving her alone and having her mind back under her perhaps add "own" here control. Interesting enough hook. I'd keep reading.

Since her mother’s mysterious death ten years ago, Lena has managed to juggle a new stepmother, vicious town gossips what are they gossiping about?, and the occasional death premonition. Like what?

Then Liam, a Heavenly Mercenary, appears and suddenly, Lena has more than just premonitions disrupting her life—she has nightmares, premonitions that come moments before disaster, and can now also see the demonic spirits that have been stalking her. So the stalking has been going on forever? What's the connection to the premonitions? And she couldn't' see them before? How did she know they were there? With graduation looming closer, Lena finds herself focusing less on academics and more on controlling her own mind.

As she searches for answers from her ancestry, Lena purposefully becomes closer with Liam like she's manipulating him for answers?, who was sent to protect her, but won’t reveal the answers she desperately seeks. Her relationships with her family and best friend become strained by her focus on uncovering the secret sect of Heavenly Mercenaries. But the question remains, will her knowledge be enough to save her soul from the hunting demons?

I think we need to know more about what the end game is here - we've got a countdown to graduation and academic worries, but what answers is she looking for in her ancestry? What's at stake if she doesn't come up with answers? It sounds like she's been dealing with stuff her whole life, but suddenly it's amped -- why? Also watch for echoes, hi-lited above.

First Page:

I’d always known that things would be different one day.

Today didn’t seem like that day. I'm personally don't insist on present tense for everything, but first person past is hard to pull off. It puts up a barrier between the reader and narrative right away because it's not happening in the moment and slows things own - just look at al the -ed verbs.

“Great job, boys!” I feigned excitement to my five-year-old half-brothers as they pulled their shirts on. I checked my watch for the thousandth time. 7:49. Kathrine, the stepmonster, gave me all of five minutes warning that she needed my help with the boys before I left for school. Danny and Nick beamed up at me as their shirts fell over their hips and they simultaneously ran out of the room, headed downstairs for breakfast.

“Careful on the stairs!”

I rushed through my room, stuffing books into my bag, hoping that I grabbed all my homework, and ran towards the stairs, tying my hair up in a quick ponytail. 7:51.

“Will you put these in the mailbox on your way out?” Kathrine - sp? asked me as I was rushing down the stairs. Unsurprisingly, she stood there, all calm and curled red hair, outfitted with heels and floral dress.

I skidded to a halt at the bottom of the stairs, grabbed the envelopes from her hand, and sprinted out the front door. Before I got the door completely closed, I heard her yell something about having a good day.

Involuntary, my eyes rolled.

Over the past few weeks Kathrine had gotten worse about getting up in time to get my younger brothers ready for school. Yet she somehow had time do to her hair and makeup, which I didn’t understand since she didn’t actually have a job to get ready for. She told people that she was still my father’s secretary, but she hadn’t gone into the office in months.

It's not a bad start, but it is a little cliched with the idea of your MC getting ready for school being the opening chapter - it's one step past the waking up in the morning cliche. However, it does give us a good feel for the family, her relationship with the stepmother, and her own sense of responsibility. As long as there's something to move the plot forward on the next page or two I think you're okay, but I'd consider starting somewhere else if you don't get many requests from agents, because right now there's nothing new here -- primping stepmom, irritated teen with a good work ethic, etc. Also watch those echoes - highlighted above.

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