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.
When Earth was queries are written in present tense no longer salvageable, why? what happened? humanity decided to start over on a new planet. Their solution was to build a giant spaceship, load all surviving animals all animals? Or like a two by two Noah situation? inside and say farewell to Earth.
April Woodwaith's life was all about goodbyes. For sixteen years, she watched as childhood friends, neighbours and strangers evacuated the dying Earth. So it goes in phases? Because the implication of a giant spaceship loading up all the animals is a one-time, one-way trip It would have been more difficult if she didn’t have a large, loving family to fill up all the silence.
When her family’s boarding time was suddenly pushed up, the ensuing rush left April as the last person on Earth. So they got separated? Explain. Desperate to reunite with her family again, April goes on a road trip across post-apocalyptic North America. Her destination: Mexico, the last country with an operational space station.
The spaceship had already taken off, but April wasn’t going to wish her family farewell. Wait - then why is she going? If it's not a race against time to make sure she gets on the spaceship, what's the plot? It feels like you're playing coy here and that's not the purpose of the query. An agent needs to see there's a workable plot in place.
WORLD WHERE ONLY I EXIST is a sci-fi version of Home Alone targeted for young adults. This novel is complete at 75,000 words. Ergh... possibly not the best comp title since Home Alone is a comedy and this sounds pretty dark.
When all of humanity had finally boarded New Hope, I was able to say, without a doubt, that I was one of the last humans to leave our dying planet.
That happened in my dreams.
Both sentences were true statements. Confusing. The silver band around my upper arm has my basic personal information and expected boarding time. What does this mean? We need more. Right now the reader doesn't have a lot to grasp onto.
My family had one of the last boarding times. One by one, the families of any friends I made awkward phrasing would disappear. The streets got emptier year after year, but I didn’t realize it. Nothing seemed to have changed.
After all, it was still noisy.
To live in a small house with lots of people and their various loud hobbies meant that my home was never quiet.
In the basement, June’s stereo and loudspeakers shook the foundation of the house when she practices hip-hop. I’m surprised that she hadn’t gone deaf yet.
On ground floor, the radio drowned the noise from the basement if May practices piano at the same time. I wondered if my sister could even hear herself playing.
Julius was in his rebellious pre-teen phase, so the sound of rapid gunfire and explosions can your tense slips here always be heard. His gaming console was in constant competition with our grandparents’ television in the room next door.
Even the attic above me was noisy, especially since we installed a new air conditioning unit. The fog filter rattled every time my family fiddled with the temperature controls. All the water pipes gurgled and whined through the walls whenever someone turns tense slip on the tap. Most of the doors in this house needed to be slammed in order to close properly.
Your statement that she dreamed it and it is also in fact true is confusing right off the bat, and you definitely don't want to confuse readers - or agents - with the first three sentences. Also the past tense, first-person slips away from you more than once, and (might be a personal opinion) but I think past tense 1st throws up a barrier between the reader and the text.
We've also got a statement about being one of the last humans - which is intriguing - followed up by a list of humans she lives with and the noises they make - less intriguing. I think we need more focus here out of the gate.