Wednesday, October 21, 2015

#PitchWars Critique: LOST IN THE DARKNESS

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.


Fifteen-year old Corey Tajos is broken. His healing power erases the physical marks of his father’s beatings. I'd insert "but" here It cannot contain the raging fury inside from exploding, fighting, and generally turning his life into a crapfest. So he's broken because of the power he keeps a secret, or because of his anger issues? Corey keeps taking the abuse because of what he is. No Normal you capitalized this - on purpose? person or policeman is going to stick his neck out to save some Abber kid. So Corey has really low self-esteem or is he just being practical by saying he'll take the abuse? If his father found out about his ability, he’d sell him to the highest bidder on the Abber black market. What is Abber? A town? What is this black market dealing in?

After his father hands out a near-lethal beating, Corey flees to Harrington House, a secret foster home for kids like him. Like Amy, the girl he’s been crushing on since he moved to town. Not a complete sentence. The girl who despises him because of what his brokenness makes him do. Is this a reference to his abilities or his fighting? With his father bent on revenge for what?, Corey must learn to trust this group of strangers to protect him from his father and, more importantly, the darkness inside himself. But the darkness doesn't sound like a bad thing if it heals him... what's the connection between the power to heal and his anger issues?

First Page:

Deep breaths. Take deep breaths. Stop the shaking, inside and out. Push down the darkness, get through practice, and this suckhole of a day will be over.

I closed The first para feels present tense but now we're in past my eyes, open locker shielding me from the rest of the team. Three minutes. All I needed was three minutes.

I leaned my forehead against the row of lockers. Cold metal to hot skin. Good start.

One breath for Father gifting me the fist-sized bruise below my shoulder blade.

One for the slap Amy Gosche laid on me when I pinched her butt. For the second time.

One for the D+ on the math test. (Father will be pissed.)

One for Lindsey Buckner announcing I kissed like a wet fish. To the entire cafeteria.

One for Mama. (If I lost it, we’d both pay.)

One for—

BAM! My locker door smashed closed, then shimmied back open from the force. My head jerked off the ringing metal as I spat out a long string of curses.

“Corey!” It was Trevor Pereira. Freshman quarterback. Coach’s bright shining hope for the future. My primary hope for escape from my own personal hell. “Get your ass in gear, we’re late!”

I slapped the locker shut, rammed the lock home, and grabbed my helmet off the bench. Every muscle rang with tension as I said, “Outta the way, Pereira.” My helmet may have collided with his stomach as I pushed passed him. These things happen.

Your voice is great here, but it opens very much like a contemporary, and your query reads SF. With his ability, the capitalization of "Normal" and the reference to a town and black market makes me expect a very different kind of opening. However I love the opening and think it's really good, so this indicates that maybe you need to get more of the contemp feel into the query. 

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