Monday, September 14, 2015

Pitch Wars Critique - WHITE MAGIC

PitchWars is at its heart about the writing community. And even though at the end of the day Mindy McGinnis and I were only able to choose two mentees, we still wanted a way to give feedback to the many many many others who had been kind enough to share their work with us. Our decision to do this via our blogs, rather than a private email, is so that (hopefully!) everyone can learn a little bit from this feedback.

I'm happy to say that quite a few people have been generous enough to take us up on this offer! So, through November, Mindy and I will be posting these critiques on Mondays and Wednesdays. Make sure to look for them on both of our blogs as we'll be posting totally different critiques.

And for anyone out there looking for personalized feedback, I am now offering manuscript critique services which you can find out more about here.

You'll see my comments in red.

Dear Agent,

I am a mother of four children, living in Prince Edward Island, Canada, This has nothing to do with your query but I am a huge Anne of Green Gables fan and have always wanted to go to Prince Edward Island *sigh* Sorry. Back to the query critiquing now. and I'm addicted to writing and reading, not to mention learning about writing. I love writing middle grade, picture books, and young adult. One day, soon, I will be venturing into the adult books. I intend to keep writing until - no, no until. I intend to keep writing. This is all very nice. You don't need it. Bio in a query letter is a really a "just the facts ma'am" sort of thing. I'd also suggest moving this to the bottom of your query, which is where bio's usually reside. Unless you've done something amazing like recently saved Stephen King and he promised to blurb anything you write, well then this is just not the most important part of your query.

I'd be thrilled if you would consider White Magic in caps WHITE MAGIC, my 47,000 word tween (younger YA/ older middle-grade) Yeah, so this is not a good space to be and you really want to decide whether this book is YA or MG. Where would it best fit at Barnes and Noble - with the YA or MG? novel. It was recently shortlisted in the Open Day Writing Competition with Kobo Writing Life/ Silverwoodbooks/Berforts. (still excited!) I actually think this would be better in the bio. Also congrats! That is exciting! :)

Fifteen year old Lily has a secret, and has kept it hidden for as long as she can remember.
What teenager wants to be shunned for daring to be different? And wanting to become a witch is as different as it gets. 
She is obsessed with witches. While other little girls dream of being princesses, that has never crossed Lily’s mind. Her only dream is becoming a witch. Okay, so you are contradicting yourself here. First Lily is hiding she's a witch and doesn't want to be different, but then her dream has always been to be a witch. Look, in the book this might work, but in the query, it's confusing and mushy. We need things to be as clear cut as possible here.
She has her own spell book, none of witch - oops, none of which I am a fan of puns  -the dorkier the better - so I think this is funny. Others might disagree. actually work, but it's her very own, and she's spent years building it up. She's tried to give up on her dream time after time, but it's impossible. It's part of who she is.
Lily's friends end up in the hospital, one after another, deathly sick.  While Lily’s dream comes true and she’s gifted with powerful magic, is it worth the price she may be forced to pay? So everything before this was just set-up and background info which could have been summed up as, "Lily always dreamed of being a witch." This paragraph here is the heart of the story - it's where the action and conflict lives, but you're short changing it. What friends are sick? Sick with what? How does Lily's dream come true - specifically what happens? A fairy godmother? A radioactive spider? And what - again specifically - is the price she must pay? This paragraph is your query, the rest is just clearing your throat.
White Magic fights Dark Magic. This tells me nothing. You never even mentioned dark magic! 

I think a log line might help you focus this query. A logline is also a great way to start a query because right up front it gives up a quick snapshot of the story and what it's about. This formula is your best bet for beginning to craft one: 

[TITLE] is a [GENRE] about a [DESCRIPTION OF FLAWED HERO] who after [LIFE CHANGING EVENT] wants to/must/struggles to/ [GOAL] by [PLAN OF ACTION] before [SPECIFIC BAD THINGS HAPPEN]. 

And for bonus points you can add onto it: This becomes increasingly difficult because [OBSTACLES AND COMPLICATIONS].
Thank you for your time! I hope to hear from you. 


Chapter 1

I am a witch
With powers so neat.
Hold on to your hat!
For I won’t be beat.

With potions and spells
To recite with pride,
And finish my homework.
Okay, just from the beginning poem this is definitely reading MG to me.
Stupid, stupid words. If I can just get this spell to rhyme, Lily thought, tapping the pen on the notebook, no more homework. And no more stupid detentions from Ms. Crankypants. Again Ms. Crankypants definitely sounds middle grade.
“Lily, get out here for dinner. Right now! Don’t make me call you a third time...”
Lily rolled her eyes.
If only she had a power. Any power. She’d wrinkle her nose and be wherever she wanted to be. She’d wave her hand and she’d be rich. She’d cast a spell and be drop dead gorgeous.
But nope. Nothing. No power in sight. She was not a witch.
Just a plain old human.
"Lily, I’m warning you.”
“I’m coming!” she hollered back to her mother, dropping the pen on the scribbler and dashing to the dining room before her mother could get seriously upset. Ain’t no spell strong enough to calm that woman down when she gets riled. Funny. Nice voice. 
Dinner--a chicken and stir fry rice with way too much broccoli and not enough carrots, in Lily’s opinion--was already on the table.
Paige, her nine-year-old sister, was scarfing hers down.
“What’s for dessert?” Lily asked, guessing why Paige’s food was disappearing without a grumble. I like the little bit of voice here, but I wonder if you can find a stronger place to start your story where a bit more is at stake other than getting in trouble for being late to dinner and what's for dessert. 

Overall, though, I think this could be a really cute - definitely MIDDLE GRADE - story. Best of luck with it!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the critique! There is a lot to learn, a LOT to fix, and a lot of fun doing it!