Monday, September 28, 2015


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.


The Black-Eyed Children is a chilling urban legend passed through generations, recounted to scare people for terrifying enjoyment. Good start, but the wording gets a little laborious here, making it lose a little punch. But the legend isn't a myth. The stories are dangerously real, and the Black-eyed Children?

They're coming, and they aren't taking prisoners.

When seventeen-year-old Raquel Alexander was born, she inherited all three Soleian powers of The Light. She can kill with a flick of her wrist, heal with the softest touch, and protect others with the roar of a single word. The problem for Raquel--she believes she's the only Soleian left, and revealing this kind of power in a world controlled by the Devati, a stunningly beautiful yet cruel family of magical dark-eyed warriors, would turn deadly. Hmm... okay I'm a little confused because you used the phrase "urban legend" above, which implies a contemporary. But right now this is reading as straight up otherworld fantasy.

Raquel is hell-bent on hiding her true identity from the Devati, and confides only in her best friend, Kaia, who's sarcastic and gritty kick-butt attitude keeps the curious at bay. Her world again, I need to know what world this is. is turned upside-down when she meets Adrian, the strikingly handsome and mysterious son of the Devati Commander, where wording doesn't quite work here forbidden love blossoms and she learns she isn't the only Soleian left. While Adrian's father is methodically hunting, torturing and killing any Soleian who can be found, Adrian is teaming up with Raquel, quietly helping her escape certain death by smuggling her into Soleian territory.

When the Commander uses his dark powers to kidnap Kaia as bait, Raquel is forced to venture back into the heavily guarded Devati sector to save her and capture the Commander before it's too late. If she fails, Kaia will suffer a gruesome death, and the fate of the entire Soleian race will be left in the viciously evil hands of Commander Sloane and his dark-souled henchmen.

THE SOLEIA: RISE OF THE GUARDIAN is a YA Fantasy okay, so it is a fantasy. In that case I would get rid of the phrasing "urban legend" because that implies we're looking at urban fantasy / contemporary with magical elements. and is complete at 93,000 words. A full or partial manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration. I have included the first page per submission guidelines.

Also - who are the Black-Eyed children in this scenario? Is it Raquel? Is it the Devati? It's a powerful start but there is absolutely nothing to link the opening para to the rest of the query.

First Page:

Today will be different. I can feel it. It's happened before, but never to this intensity. The warm spring breeze dances through my hair as my feet tread down the street. The golden strands This might be a personal preference but I dislike character descriptions teased into narrative like this tickle my bare shoulders, teasing me with warm, happy memories of the past. Like what? How would her hair on her shoulders remind her of the past? A tiny trickle of sweat runs through my hairline and toward my temple. Yet, my body is cold. Chills are rapidly spreading throughout my body, dampening my heart as they snake outward through the intricate pathways of my veins. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The feeling is electrifying and my senses are overly heightened.

What will it be today? The Light is growing inside me, aching to be let out. It's almost superhuman. Be definition, it is superhuman. Danger is lurking in the shadows, waiting to strike. I can taste its metallic bitterness on my tongue and smell its rancid stench saturating the air. Somebody is going to need my help, but who will it be? My chilled heart constricts with fear, and my honey-colored you did it again eyes dance around, scanning the different rundown buildings and entryways for any hint, any sign of impending danger. Again, I'm getting mixed messages on genre here. I have no feel for setting right now other than "street" and "rundown buildings" - it's reading like a contemporary at the moment, but your genre is stated as fantasy.


The walk home from school okay so we are starting in our world / contemporary? This feels at odds with your query is long and tense. My heavy steps pound the eroded sidewalk, leaving my legs longing for a break. I left my bike at home today, and that decision wallows in the back of my mind. The other kids in my class think I'm crazy. Maybe I am. I'm not like everybody else. They would all love the upper status one inherits by owning a bike here in the outskirts of Sector 14 now it feels dystopian. Bikes are rare, and those of us who are lucky enough to have one are usually popular and social. I couldn't be more different.

The heat rises as I continue walking along the main road, following far behind my classmates. The icy feeling of impending danger constantly tugs on my heart strings. One of the popular girls ahead turns and stares at me with disgust. She knows I chose to walk today and hates me for having the luxury of a bike, but not taking advantage of it. She would give anything for a bike. Her desire to have one melts together with the anger she holds, and the poisonous combination seeps out of her body, invading my inner core and causing me to become physically nauseated.

Overall this isn't a bad start, it's just that what you're giving us in the first two paras feels at odds with the the query, and has me dancing around mentally trying to figure our where we are. The query says it's fantasy, the beginning feels like a contemporary setting for the first few paras, then uses wording that leans dystopian. Get your setting out there front and center, and make sure it's in keeping with your query. Also watch your echoes - high lighted above.


Becki Stockton said...

Thank you for your critique! The constructive feedback is invaluable and I appreciate your time. Now to get back to work and tighten my opening!

Mindy McGinnis said...

You are welcome! Best of luck!