Wednesday, October 21, 2015

PitchWars Critique - CROWN OF GOLD AND BLOOD

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,

As the nineteenth century bleeds into the twentieth, Allegria Fox has grown up in a world built by her runaway sister's fairy tales--a sharp contrast to the poverty and isolation that surround her as the daughter of a small town prostitute. Ooh! I am intrigued! But when she survives a brutal assault by murdering her attackers with nothing but her thoughts, she is whisked off to high society Manhattan, a world of obscene wealth ruled by an exiled Unseelie fairy queen. Maybe "fends off a brutal attack" instead of survives? The queen takes a special interest in Allegria and offers to fulfill her heart’s deepest desire.  Allegria is shrewd enough to know that nothing comes without a price, but she can't imagine anything she won't sacrifice to find her sister, even if she has to blacken her heart along the way. Okay, so far so good. I like how we are seeing conflict and what's at stake for Allegria.
As the queen draws her into a web of opulence and lies, Allegria learns that she is the heiress to a dangerous legacy that makes her a target for Seelie and Unseelie fairies alike.  In order to survive and claim her birthright, she has to rely on new allies with ties of their own to the fairy world, including the queen’s cynical adopted daughter whose dark skin makes her an outcast among the Knickerbocracy and a roguish viscount who has has offered his heart to the queen in order to save his disgraced family. They, along with a secretly sapphic society darling and a set of cursed twins, must use their logic, will, and ruthlessness to save themselves and their world from becoming collateral damage in a fairy war. This is great!
Crown of Gold and Blood (77,000 words, YA) is a Gilded Age gothic fairy tale where the glitzy, elegant setting highlights the nightmarish decay lurking just below the surface. It features the old world glamour of Edith Wharton with a twist of Holly Black and is the first in a planned trilogy. Again, very nice. I love the comps.
Thank you for your consideration. Please let me know if you would like to see any more material. 

This is a really solid query. Great job!

Allegria Fox didn’t think anything bad could happen to her in the woods.  She had always felt far safer there than in her mother’s house, where threats lurked everywhere--in her mother’s every mood shift, and her mother's clients’ every leer.  The woods weren’t without their dangers.  There were bears and wolves and more, but they gave her peace if she gave them the same, which was more than could be said for most people she knew.

She grew up playing in the woods with her sister, Ivy, whenever their mother was entertaining a client.  Often, they spent most of the day there pretending to be princesses or mermaids or witches in stories that Ivy made up, and gorging themselves on berries and apples that would serve as at least two of their daily meals.  Sometimes, when she walked through the woods now, it was easy to pretend that her sister was still there beside her, but Ivy left Blueridge a year ago for New York and hadn’t sent so much as a letter since.  

Allegria tried not to miss her, especially since Ivy didn’t seem to miss her at all.  If she did, she would have come back for her like she’d promised.  Allegria waited for months.  She had even saved up for a worn, threadbare carpetbag that she kept packed with everything she owned under her bed.  But as time passed, she gradually unpacked it piece by piece until it lay deflated.  Not that she blamed her sister.  She understood that when a person emerged from hell in one piece, they weren't quick to brave fire and brimstone again, no matter what promises were made. 

Without Ivy to act as peacekeeper, it was only Allegria and her mother at home, stuck together like two wild animals in the same cage.  They were rabid and vicious and—powerless to the outside world—they took their fury out on one another.  Allegria thought she would hate her if she didn’t pity her so much.  Love must have been mixed in there too, but her feelings were so hopelessly knotted together that it was impossible to say for sure. This is all good stuff and really well written, BUT it's backstory. Could you maybe weave it in a bit later and instead keep us in the now of the story?

The walk between the hotel where she worked as a maid and her house was short, but the winding path through the woods took nearly three times that and she was happy for the extra time.  They were the only minutes she had that were hers alone, where she owed nothing to anyone.  Not empty politeness, not unearned respect, not fake smiles. Yes this. I feel like this would more logically follow the first paragraph about thinking nothing bad can happen in the woods.

Her feet knew the path well enough on their own and her mind could wander to places she could never reach, places far beyond Blueridge and even Maine altogether.  She let Ivy's stories come back to her and work under her skin.  She was too old now to believe in magic or a fair world, but she could never let the idea of them go completely.  If she didn't believe in them at least a little, she didn't know that she would be able to get out of bed in the morning.  She didn't know what the point would be in opening her eyes.

The transition betwen the last paragraph and this one could be a bit smoother. The sun was sinking fast in the sky, slicing through the leaves overhead and warming her face with the last bit of the day's light.  If she closed her eyes, she could almost believe that she wasn't there at all.  She could be a character in one of Ivy's stories: an explorer on an uncharted island, a queen standing amongst her subjects, an heiress meeting a pirate for a moonlit rendezvous.

Again the transition here is a bit weak. Thomas Driscoll’s was the first voice she heard, loud and mean as it had been even when they were children.

“Allegria Fox.” 

Overall, this is really good and I would definitely be intrigued and wanting to read more. 

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