Wednesday, September 23, 2015

#PitchWars Crit - SERANEA’S TREE

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:

To avoid being chopped down, literally I'd cut this, it's messing up your flow, and claim her power as queen of the dryads, Seranea must enter her tree. But when her path is blocked by her sister, who wanted your -ed verbs are placing this in past tense. Queries are in present tense the throne, and an army of deadly monsters that escaped from the dryad prison Dannemora this sentence is now long and unwieldy - the important plot point is that she was blocked, not necessary that an army was involved or even the name of the dryad prison, Sera ends up in the most unlikely place—human habitation. Not sure you have the right word choice there.

To keep the location of her tree secret, So it was secret in the first place? Then how was her path blocked? I interpreted that literally. Sera is forced to hide with her aunt—a dryad who married a human over 200 years ago Slightly confusing - is the her husband still alive? Her aunt must have taken on human form to marry him, yet retained her power to still be alive for 200 years. So I assume the human is alive as well, because if she still has her powers and he had passed away I think she'd return to being a dryad... see how the specifics of that information led me down a path you probably didn't intend, and clouded the query? In this instance I think it's safer to say she poses as a human teen—and attend the local high school until she can safely travel through the forest without being followed. When will that happen? What's her timeline here? 

Unfortunately, staying in the human world brings even more trouble when forest-ranger-in-training Jason Cooper takes an interest in Sera and she starts to fall for him. She is caught between an ancient evil power with the ability to kill her forest And who might that be? This sounds like our antagonist, but we're just now hearing about it and the boy who has awakened her heart.

If Sera can’t find a way to her tree, the forest will die and all the dryads with it. If she does, she will lose Jason forever. Very confused on the nature of her tree -- her path is blocked, she must keep it's location secret, but here it almost seems to imply she can't find it herself?

SERANEA’S TREE, is YA Contemporary Fantasy and complete at 51,200 round this down words. 50k seems quite short for a fantasy. This is the first of two finished novels. Not the best way to pitch - I already think your first one seems short on length for the genre, and a series is sometimes hard to sell. I'd recommend combining your two books into one and pitching that way.

First Page:

Red sparks blazed across the sky above the forest with an ominous so the sparks are blazing, and tinting the sky? Or the sky was already tinted? Feels awkward  tint, the signal Seranea had been dreading. The glowing shower hadn’t even faded when her feet tore across the springy undergrowth.
 “Mother!” she shouted, as she ran toward the solitary oak tree. Her younger sisters scattered out of her way.

A regal woman with long grey hair melted out of the tree. Her golden crown of leaves and a twisted oak branch staff shimmered in the fading light. Seranea gasped at the dramatic change in her mother. Instead of the smooth skin of a young woman, Aire had transformed into a mass of wrinkles in less than a day.

“Seranea?” Aire took a labored breath.

Seranea shuddered and her skin turned icy cold. Nareve’s Is this the sister you spoke of in the query? If so you should identify her as a sister right away treachery had finally gone too far—she had betrayed the location of Aire’s tree to the enemy. Does she know this because of her mother's degrading state? If this is the case you need to clarify. Dryad lore isn't as well known as vampires or werewolves, so you'll need to feed it to your readers.

The branches above her whose head? drooped and creaked like a dead tree it can't be like a tree. It is a tree in a winter wind. Several leaves drifted to the ground and melted into dust. She assuming we're talking about Seranea but we don't know for sure closed her eyes trying to stop the tears. She didn’t want to believe it, and yet the stark reality was before her: her mother was dying.

Seranea came to the Queen’s feet and bowed, and then she stood tall and took the withered hand. She carefully pulled her mother out from the shelter of the massive oak and pointed to the red lights above them.

“Mother, the enemy is coming.”

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