Monday, September 21, 2015

PitchWars Critique - THE ESSENCE OF WATER

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,


When Adie drowns in the ocean and doesn’t die, The definition of drown is to be held underwater until you die, so maybe rework this... unless she does die and then comes back to life. she discovers that water will obey her. She is a Misfit and it’s more than a taunting nickname. Shunned by society and hunted by agents called Handlers, who specialize in finding and exploiting Misfits, Adie is captured. Tortured and isolated, Adie is pushed to her limits as the Handlers attempt to control her and the power she possesses. What specifically are they trying to get Adie to do?

Aiden Oh wow. That name looks so similar to Adie. As a reader that would confuse me endlessly. Generally speaking it's a bad idea to make two main characters have names that look or sound this alike. is a Misfit who was tortured and manipulated as a young boy. Why was he tortured? What do they want him to do? After watching countless Misfits fall under the Handlers he is now nothing but a puppet. But as he observes Adie, who refuses to let go of her humanity, he learns to fight again. 

I moved this to make it its own paragraph. With Aiden’s help, Adie escapes and they run for their lives. But, Adie must decide if she can let go of her hate and continue to trust Aiden, the very Misfit who helped capture her. The Handlers are hunting them, a fight is coming and water might not be enough to save them. If they mean to survive, they both must rediscover what it means to be human. But, most of all, they must learn what it truly means to be a Misfit.

The Essence of Water is a 92,000 word YA fantasy novel.

Thank you for your consideration.



Chapter 1
 
Drowning isn’t as violent as it sounds. I don't know that drowning necessarily does sound violent. A gun shot seems violent. Drowning seems painful and scary. 
One minute I was there, the next I was gone. This is so vague. Where specifically was she? On a boat? On a pier? Swimming? On a bridge? Did she fall? Was she pushed?   There wasn’t time for me to yell or wave my arms. My body decided for me that breathing and remaining conscious was far more important. So I sunk silently beneath the waves and watched the water darken as traces of the surface disappeared. So your MC falls into the water and just sinks immediately? Without any struggle? Why would her body decide that not struggling is the best way to remain conscious and breathing? 
Four hours ago, when I was sitting on the stairs at my house, warm and comfortable talking on the phone, cliff diving sounded fun. Rag and Trish made it out like an adventure. Now I realize it may very well be my final adventure. This might be a better paragraph to start with.
 Normally, I’m a very good swimmer. It’s one of the few things about me that I’m particularly proud of. It comes natural, like breathing does to others, but when Rag shoved me off the cliff fully clothed, I hadn’t been ready. I hit the water wrong and the waves rolled in and shoved me straight into the rocks. And this would be better than the above paragraph about there not being time to yell or wave her arms. You're essentially repeating the same information but in a much clearer way.
 I’m running out of air. I hadn’t caught a good breath to begin with, actually I was luckily I wasn’t knocked unconscious when I hit my head. But, now mMy vision is turning red. and mMy lungs are burning. My body is shutting down. Logic keeps me from taking a breath, but in a few moments my instincts will kick in and force me to breathe in a last attempt to survive. I need to breathe. Except I know there’s no air for me here, only water. She seems a little too calm and analytical here. I marked above how you can try shorter sentences to punch up the panic and desperation.
 These are my thoughts as I sink further into the dark depths of the ocean. I don’t pray. I don’t struggle. I’m oddly disconnected from the panic that should be urging me to fight for my life. My vision splotches red and the pain becomes unbearable. I can’t hold it any longer. I open my mouth and the taste of saltwater and fish washes over my tongue.
 
Voices are in my head, a man and a woman. “We can’t quit what we’ve started,” the female the female reads oddly. I'd stick with woman. argues. “This is bigger than us.”
“This isn’t just about us anymore,” the male argues back. “How could we possibly keep them safe? We can hardly keep ourselves safe!”
“We knew the risks,” she says firmly. “I’m just as frightened as you are but we can’t stop. We’ve come too far. Besides, there’s always a chance that they aren’t not going to be like us, there’s always the chance they’ll have a normal life.” All of this dialogue feels really on the nose and unnatural. It also is distracting from what is happening in the now with your MC and her dying. I'd cut it.
The male snorts, “I think we both know better.” 
 
                Needles prickle up my spine and settle at the base of my skull. My fingers tingle and a tremor shakes my entire body. The world flashes light to dark like someone is flipping a light switch on and off. My heart jumps to life in my chest and I take a sharp breath but there’s only the grinding taste of salt and water against my tongue. Something pops like a gunshot inside my head and the pain seizes Seizes or did you mean ceases?.   
 I float, suspended under the water while it glows like melted metal around me. I’m not dead. I should be dead but I feel charged like I’ve stuck a finger an electrical outlet—my blood burns hot.
An image of the shore comes to my mind like I’m looking through a long lens. It’s distorted and rounded, but it’s there, showing me the way toward land. I watch the waves crash against the rocks and spray onto the beach. I can feel the grains of sand between my fingers as the waves roll and collapse back into the ocean.
 I swim toward shore. The water glows with an unnatural ethereal light while I make my way back and the ocean pushes me forward with strong currents until I’m tumbling inside a wave and thrown violently toward land. I fight to gain my footing as another wave crashes against my back. Cold air hits my face and I take a sharp breath and gag. I keel over and vomit salt water from my mouth and nose, it burns its way up my throat. I suck in another breath and choke. There’s a moment of panic as my body chooses between breathing air or water but accepts neither. Then my lungs bail and heave violently until there is nothing left but the bitter taste of salt on my tongue and air in my lungs. This last paragraph is great. I like all the sensory details! 

Overall, you have some good stuff here. I think if you cut those first two paragraphs this would be a lot stronger and read a bit more smoothly. Good luck with it!

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