Wednesday, September 9, 2015

#PitchWars Critique - WHEN WE FELL

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.


Seventeen-year-old Angela Rayburn always goes along with Dad’s conspiracies. Maybe some allusions to ones he's had in the past? But this one’s a bit ridiculous. He thinks the military is going to overthrow the government. Like the official military - not militia? Crazy, right? So is dragging her friend, Neil, around town to fill the Suburban with nonperishable foods and camping supplies. Telling her to flee the country is farther than Dad has ever gone and Angela is scared enough to play along.

When a new American Revolution begins it looks like Dad isn’t so crazy after all. Kind of contradicts the previous sentence that she gave hi enough credence to actually be scared.

Now Angela’s stuck in Canada under strict orders to stay put and out of trouble. Kissing Neil isn’t trouble, is it? I'd cut this for space, as the allusion to the romance is included later. When Dad vanishes amongst the chaos of the revolution, is he actively involved in it? He didn't go with her? Neil’s there to calm her and a summer romance makes the perfect distraction.

But distractions don’t last forever. Angela stumbles across a family secret that suggests Dad may be within reach. You're playing coy here - what's the secret? And within reach is vague - do you mean physically? She’ll do anything to have him back, even break promises. Promises to who? Neil or dad? Neil and Angela’s rescue mission is short-lived when they get are forcefully recruited into boot camp.

The New American Army doesn’t care who lives or dies but escape is never an option. As the Army transforms recruits into war machines, Angela’s top priority must become surviving if she hopes to reunite with her father once more.

WHEN WE FELL is a Young Adult Science Fiction Near-Future novel complete at 81,000 words with a diverse cast of characters.

I think we might need more about why the Army would revolt against the government in the first place in order to make this believable. Do they want complete military rule? What is their motivation and goal? Even a sentence or two in order to make the world building digestible would help.

First Page:

There was one benefit to sitting behind Jeremiah Jones in third period. Being well over six foot, he made the perfect wall. Could I see the whiteboard whenever Mrs. Sheffer wrote down notes or Juliette as she gave her biology speech today? Not so much. But they couldn’t see me either.
Flipping open my silver compact, I brought it up to check my lipgloss.

A hand jabbed into my side, an overly aggressive attempt to tickle me. The gesture would’ve made me laugh once upon a few weeks ago. Now, my only response was a glare I shot at the offender. Trevor gave me his signature one dimple smirk in response.

Turning my attention back to the tiny mirror, I rubbed my lips together and moved the compact around, assessing the color, Dazzle Me Pink, underneath the fluorescent lights.

“Come on, Ang,” Trevor half-whispered. “Are you really going to ignore me forever?”

With a practiced motion the compact snapped closed. “That’s the plan.”

“But I miss you.”

I twisted toward my ex-boyfriend and allowed him to see my eyes roll.

Trevor finally admitting, after two and a half weeks, that he missed me was extremely pleasing. Like thinking a new Coach bag was sold out only for the sales associate to find one more in the back, pleasing. But there was no way in hell I was going to give him the satisfaction of knowing that.

“You should’ve thought about that before you hooked up with Shelly.”

Stupid Shelly. First, she stole my boyfriend. Then, she stole my spot on the cheerleading squad.
Last Friday marked the final cut for next year’s varsity team. And I’d been the one cut. Thanks to Shelly. Was it my fault the new girl kicked higher than I was tall? Is Shelly the new girl?

“I was drunk,” Trevor continued, like I was interested in hearing what he had to say. “Baby, you know how I get when I’m drunk.”

Everything in your first page is fine, but we're getting a picture of Angela that was definitely not reflected in the query. She's very prima donna, and that's not in the query. So roughing it in Canada with camping supplies and canned food, then boot camp, are going to be seriously against her normal lifestyle. Get this in the query, because right now the MC is a very different person than I picture her from the query.

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