Wednesday, September 23, 2015

PitchWars Critique - THE PRINCESS PLOT

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 Mentor,

Go to the ball. Seduce the prince, become a princess, and destroy the Royals. This is what Nora's spent the last five years training for. Nothing can stand in her way… except, perhaps, her own heart. Perfect! Truly this is an awesome way to start your query. The whole pitch is right here. Plus it's cute and snappy. 

Recruited to the Rebellion at thirteen from an abusive home, Nora is an orphan who wants nothing more than to avenge the death of her parents and bring an end to the monarchy that has ruled Washington with an iron fist for a hundred years. At eighteen, she is given a mission — seduce Prince Charles Ming at his birthday ball. And to be honest? It seems like the most difficult task will be not shuddering in disgust every time the prince leans in for a kiss. Again, this is great. You're giving me all the information I need. 

But as Charles begins to fall for Nora, she realizes that the feelings aren’t exactly one-sided. How could she love someone responsible for so many atrocities? Royals and Rebels, Nora learns quickly, don’t operate in black and white, and soon she doesn’t know who she can trust — all she knows is that her heart skips a beat every time that stupid stuttering prince walks through the door. Again, good. I'm intrigued by the "stupid stuttering prince" line and would maybe like to see a bit more about exactly what kind of prince Charles is. 

The first in a planned trilogy It's better to say "has series potential" rather than "planned trilogy" so that agents know the book can also stand alone., THE PRINCESS PLOT (78,000 words) is a YA speculative fiction novel set in the war-torn future of Washington, D.C. and based on the story of Cinderella. It will appeal to fans of Divergent and The Selection (with a touch of National Treasure, because every book needs more National Treasure). So Diverget and The Selection are both great comps in that they fit your book, but not so great in that both books are outliers, which is to say HUGE bestsellers. You don't want to pick books that have been made into movies for comps. Also both of these books are dystopians. I noticed you avoided that word in your query (smart!) but it's pretty clear your book IS a dystopian when use these comps.

When I’m not writing I’m an actor, Shakespeare enthusiast, and Segway tour guide living in Washington, D.C. I graduated from Cornell University in 2013 and, after a short stint at Walt Disney World, have been combining my love of the arts with my love of history ever since. Great bio!

Thank you in advance for your consideration! I’ve included my first chapter can’t wait to hear from you.


Part 1: Aboveground
Chapter 1
            The scream of the sirens was everywhere.
“Into the hold!” Jonesy, the cook, barked out the order without hesitation, pulling open a trap door in the middle of the kitchen floor. We had been cleaning up from dinner, all of the serving staff crowded into the kitchen when the sirens’ wailing had overpowered all of my other senses. Would a siren really overpower ALL her other senses? Natalie who is this? even just a quick "my best friend" or "Poor clumsy Natalie who'd started in the kitchens the same day as me" - this would give us a bit about Natalie and connect her to the MC. dropped a platter of vegetables onto the floor, the metal clattering as carrots rolled in every direction. But no one paid any attention. I could feel the panic rising up in my stomach, threatening to escape. I think you need to set the scene a bit better here before everything erupts into chaos. We're in a kitchen or restaurant? It isn't clear. The narrator is a waitress? Again, it isn't clear. What is she doing when the siren goes off? What's in her hands? Is she friends with the other girls there? Does anyone catch her eye or grab hold of her hand for comfort? The action is good. The carrots rolling in every direction is great. But I want to know your MC. I want to know what she is feeling SPECIFICALLY besides just panic.
The other girls rushed through the trap door, down a steep and rusted metal ladder that ended in darkness. I started my descent, hands shaking in spite of myself. I saw Bridget, gripping the edge of the sink and crying. She wasn’t moving.
            “Come on, Bridget!” I shouted. Is she doing this while on the ladder, blocking everyone else from getting down? I barely knew the girl  the serving staff had a tendency to rotate quickly due to Matron’s pickiness and excessively high standards  but I didn’t want her to die. Or whatever happened to people caught outside of shelters during a raid. No one really knew. We were all too scared to ask. Wait? They're all in a panic and running from nothing? They don't know if people left behind die? How is that possible? Does no one ever get left behind? What does it look like when they return?  Bridget finally snapped out of it, turning and climbing quickly after me. She pulled the door closed behind her as we descended the ladder into near darkness.
            I jumped the last foot off the ladder, landing on the hard packed dirt with a loud thump that echoed the frantic beats 

of my heart. The only light was from a few flickering flashlights that Natalie and Jonesy were holding. I'd like a better sense of exactly how many people are down here. The sirens weren’t 

as loud down here  having an entire house literally on top of you will do that  but I could still hear them. 

I like how you start in action with lots of tension. I think if  you could do a bit better job of introducing characters and also setting the scene, while also having that action. If you did that then this scene would be truly spectacular. 

Also watch your world building. On the first page to tell me people are scared but they don't know why - it doesn't draw me into the world. It's always better to be specific. If you said anyone who didn't obey the siren and get below ground was no more than a pile of ashes afterwards, then it's more powerful. She might not know what happens to turn the person to ashes, but she knows it's something bad.

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