Monday, October 12, 2015

#PitchWars Critique: THE BACKSLIDERS

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.


2019: Great Britain closed its borders, but not before expelling all foreign influence. Maybe a little background on why. Overpopulation? Threats?
2022: 17-year-old Thea Mimieux wants one thing: to escape. Escape to where?

As the daughter of foreign born parents exiled from Britain’s shores, Thea is a precariat, the lowest class in New Britain. Kind of confusing - the foreigners were expelled, but Thea is still there? Thea manages her wanderlust and hatred for the world she’s stuck in by gorging on the foreign culture New Britain banned. With her twin brother, Jack, they form the Backsliders, whose clandestine existence could be about to come to an abrupt end awkward phrasing when they encounter an Elite girl.

An Elite girl named Alice.

Alice Deering has a seemingly ideal existence but hasn’t felt alive for a single moment of it. Steered by The British Revival party’s strict morality laws, Alice is has yet to make a single decision on her own. She hopes that entering the world of courtship will be everything her mother promises and more. But Alice is repelled by the Elite boy society deems suitable and drawn to a precariat boy, Jack, who could cost her everything.

Told in a dual point of view, THE BACKSLIDERS is a 98,000 word YA dystopian novel. It is stand-alone with series potential and may appeal to readers of ‘AN EMBER IN THE ASHES’ you don't need quotes around these titles by Sabaa Tahir or Louise O’Neill’s ‘ONLY EVER YOURS.’

First Page:


New Britain’s borders might be locked, but rumours have a way of creeping in through the cracks. I’ve heard that most of Venice is under water and the last tiger has taken its final breath. Last year there was a rumour world war caps? III was raging in the east. I’ll never find out if these stories are true.

The latest rumour is the royal family are in France, why would the royal family be expelled from New Britain? preparing to storm the borders and reclaim their British throne, but I don’t hold out hope. If I want out of here I’ll have to find a way out of the rotting corpse of Britain myself - if the idiot I’m following doesn’t bring a sledgehammer to our little lives first, that is.

I scowl at his long, gangly legs in the hope they’ll stop moving so bloody fast. My court shoes nip at my heels and the thought of taking another step makes my temper flicker to life.

What is that boy thinking?

He hurries down a street lined with abandoned terraced houses, his white shirt a ghostly beacon for me to follow. The artificial flame of the street light flickers in the glass box above me and the thought of it disappearing leaves me cold. I can practically feel the MilPol curfew breathing down my neck. If we get caught breaking curfew it’ll be a one-way ticket to the penal colony for both of us. As soon as the white shirt has vanished from sight I hurtle after him, keeping my knees soft to stop my heels slapping against the cracked tarmac.

I haven’t made it halfway to the corner when I hear a faint buzz. A second later all traces of light disappear and I’m swallowed up by darkness. My heart starts to pound like a tribal drum, fast and erratic. I knew curfew was coming, but the hairs on my arms still stand to attention.

Overall this is definitely interesting. We need to know more about motivation in order to make world building believable in the query. Why would Britain make this dramatic move? Are the characters inside Britain? You say all foreign influence is expelled but there it sounds like there is a class of foreigners that our brother and sister characters belong to that are still inside. 

Also right now there isn't enough plot in the query to fill an entire novel. We've got a girl that wants to leave where she is and a girl in love with the wrong boy... but that's it. What's the struggle? Is there a revolution? Do they have a plan to get out? The bones are there, but definitely not fleshed out enough to show that there's enough conflict to build an entire novel on.

Echoes highlighted above.

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