Monday, September 28, 2015

PitchWars Critique - SHADOWS

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,

SHADOW, is a “109,000” this is a bit on the high end for word count. -word young adult fantasy novel about a half-breed a half-breed what exactly? I don't even know if this is a boy, a girl, o anything whose father is killed and the girl who ended his life. Okay, so this is not a great start because this tells me stuff that happens to your MC instead of stuff that your MC is doing. A better set-up would be: ...about a half-human, half-tiger girl who after her father dies must learn to make her way in the world by herself.

All her life Shadow has been content to hide away in the woods with her father. It’s safe in the woods, much safer than the outside world. Shadow was born half-breed; half tiger Shifter like her father and half human like her long deceased mother it is dangerous just to be alive Why is it dangerous just to be alive? Because she is a half-breed? Who wants her dead?. One night she awakens to a mysterious presence in the forest, her father goes to investigate and never returns. Now, she must guard her territory alone and try to survive whatever killed her father or trust the neighboring wolf Alpha. I need a bit more here. A bit about what is at stake for Shadow. If she trusts the Alpha's will they kill her? What if she decides to run? What is at stake then? 

Lennox has grown up inside a seemingly happy wolf pack. All she wants is the freedom to make her own choices and finally have room to breathe I'd cut this sentence, it's not moving plot forward. When she discovers her Alpha is hiding a killer in the woods she bans together with her boyfriend to make things right and gain power There is a lot to unpack in this sentence. I'd simplify and clarify. It seems like the important thing is that she goes against her Alpha. Is that right? So maybe instead: Lennox wants to be the head of her pack and the opportunity to seize power arrives when she discovers her Alpha is hiding a killer in the woods. With the help of her boyfriend, Lennox murders the killer. . If only they had known the killer had a daughter… Now she must decide whether or not to eliminate the abomination Why would Lennox even consider letting her live? If she so easily killed Shadows's father? or allow the girl to live and overthrow the pack as planned This reads as if Lennox is going to allow Shadow to overthrow the pack as planned, which is not your intention, right?

Okay, this is a bit confusing. Is this book mostly about Lennox or Shadow? If it's mostly Shadow, I'd suggest leaving Lennox out of the query. Right now Lennox reads as the more active character who is making choices and pushing the plot forward, whereas Shadow who is your protagonist comes across as very passive. 

My novel is told from dual perspectives: a villainess and a half-breed orphan. Recently, I have noticed several agents mention they are searching for more diversity in novels; all of my characters except for one are people of color. 

SHADOW is a standalone with series potential. It will appeal to YA readers who enjoy the fantasy elements of The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater and the pack dynamics of Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Great comps!

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Chapter One


Lennox bit back a scream and swallowed the wolf inside; the shift threatening to overtake her as blood seeped from her body. She coughed over a whimper as she pulled jeans over the gaping wound in her thigh.  It's not very clear here what exactly is happening. Is she shifting back from being a wolf back into human form? Is she getting dressed? Or just trying to patch up a hole torn into her jeans? 

Damn tiger.

Blood soaked through the denim material as she struggled to button a flannel shirt sans bra. Again is she getting dressed because she was just a wolf? I think you need to be much more clear here about what is happening. Even the fact that she is a person who can shift into a wolf would not be clear if I hadn't just finished reading your query. She leaned hard against the tree trunk and clenched her teeth, the bark of the oak pressing into the bare skin of her lower back.

Don’t shift. 

The wolf within her was forced it’s way to the surface. She swallowed it down and regained control, a drop of sweat slid down her left cheek. 

Not here. Why not here? She's in the woods? Why can't she change?

“Alright, let’s get back before-” Grey watched her from several yards away, the last box of mothballs in his hand. “Lex?” 

“I’m fine. Let’s finish up and get out of here. The smell is vile.” The air was thick with ammonia, blood, mothballs and death. And the mothballs are for what? Again, I feel like you need to give a few more details and information here to fully draw the reader into the story. If she didn’t move and calmed her heartbeat maybe she could lessen the flow. 

“You’re bleeding.” Grey stated calmly. He dropped the empty box and knelt down to examine her leg. 

Lennox shook her head and weakly pushed him away. He didn’t budge under the shove of her hand. 

“It’s not that bad.” She insisted. The darkness of the forest around her played tricks on her mind, the stars above them spinning and flashing obscenely Nice. “We’re running out of time.”

The allotted time for the kill was nearly expired. They needed to finish clearing the area and head back before anyone noticed their absence. Or else what? What specifically is at stake here?

Grey ignored her, using a claw Is he in wolf form right now then? Or does he have claws when he's human? to slice open her pant leg and get a better look. She held back a groan and pressed her cheek into the rough bark of the oak tree. 

“This is why I insisted we bring the car.” Grey said sharply, his low voice a shout in the eerie silence of the night. 

“You can revel in the victory that is you being right over me later. Right now I want to get away from that stench!” She snapped at him and tried to stand up straight. She could hear her heart thundering in her ears. The scent of wolf surrounded her and she nearly lost herself in it, bones shuddering in anticipation of the Shift. 

How much blood am I losing? 

I like where you started this - there's a lot of really nice tension in this scene. And you get quite a bit of Lennox's voice and determination in here as well, which is great. However, I feel that if I hadn't first read the query I would be really lost as to what is happening here. I think if you can just weave in a bit more details and backstory this would be a really strong opening scene.

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