Wednesday, October 28, 2015

PitchWars Critique - MUSE

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,

Do you love everything about your life? So there has been much written (not by me but you can find some mention of it here, here, and here) about whether or not to begin a query with a hypothetical question. Overall, the consensus is that you really should NOT use them. Thirteen year-old This is not a good age for a YA novel protagonist Piper Curtis certainly loves everything about hers. She has a mother and father who love her, a sister who is her best friend and isn’t afraid to stand up for her, and she’s also the top student in her ballet class. On top of all that, she’s taking a two-week family vacation to Paris, her favorite place in the entire world. Life couldn’t possibly get any better! And that’s when things spiral out of control. Muse, my 47,087 word novel, is the first in a planned series of two It's better to say is a standalone novel with series potential and tells the story of what happens when the most precious thing in life is taken away from you. So you have this really long paragraph telling us a lot of non-essential details and then when you finally get to the conflict (something happens in Paris!) you are super vague. Try instead: Thirteen year old Piper Curtis has a wonderful life that only gets better when her family announces a two-week family vacation to Paris. Unfortunately, that's when things spiral out of control. MUSE (all caps is the usual format for query letters. Also the genre and category is usually included as in: young adult thriller) tells the story of a girl who is kidnapped and how her family finds her again.

The day after landing in Paris, Piper and her family, as well as Derek Stephens, an old friend of her father’s, take a trip to the Louvre museum, a place that Piper has always wanted to visit. After their trip, she spends that night and most of the next day sick in bed, much to her chagrin. Her father, Damian, stays behind with her and they spend a day talking, laughing and playing Uno while the others go sightseeing. That evening, when Derek and the rest of the family return to the hotel, Damian goes to meet them while she stays behind to shower and freshen up before dinner. When they arrive back in their room, they make a startling discovery…Piper has disappeared! Naturally, questions begin to present themselves: Where is she? Who has taken her and, most importantly, why? And soon, what was supposed to be a relaxing and fun once-in-a-lifetime vacation turns into a race against the clock to find her and bring her home alive. Okay, two problems here. 1. Wwwaaayy too much detail about unimportant stuff. This is a query not a synopsis - you only want the most essential information to understand the basic plot of the story. 2. Again this does not seem like a YA story. Piper disappears and it seems like the rest of the story is about her parents trying to find her. That's an adult novel. Or if it focuses on her sister finding her - then the sister is the main character and should be the one spotlighted in the first paragraph.

Three days after Piper’s disappearance, Damian and the others are met by Special Agent Cole of the F.B.I. He tells them that he believes their daughter has been taken by a man known only as The Muse Killer, a man whom he has been tracking ever since abductions started almost ten years ago in Australia. He also tells them of the first known survivor, a young woman named Daisy Marshall, and suggests that they go to see her in hopes that her story might be able to shed some light on an otherwise dark situation. It is decided that they will go to Australia, and when they arrive at Daisy’s home, she quickly forms a bond with Piper’s sister Lilly, who, though usually bright and full of life, has spiraled into a deep depression and blames herself for not being able to protect her sister.

After a short stay in Australia, the group, with Daisy in tow, returns to Paris where, with the help of Daisy’s information and a cryptic phone call from Derek, they learn that Piper is being held in an airline hangar at a small airport outside the city. Though things don’t go as planned, she is found alive and well and after a brief stay in the hospital, she and her family return home where life slowly but surely begins to return to normal. However, questions from before still remain. They still don’t understand who took Piper and why, but these questions form the basis of and will be answered in the forthcoming sequel. You really don't want to leave a lot of questions dangling for a sequel - that would be a turn-off for both publishers and agents. 

The story itself is told in three parts totaling twenty-seven chapters, and is written from a third-person omniscient POVYou don't need this information.

As for myself, I only recently discovered a true love for writing, though I really began writing earnestly back in 2001, composing poetry for my own enjoyment. As of now, I have over four hundred poems and have written several other currently unpublished novels, with several more in the works. I attended Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia from 2004-2008 with a major in English, and took at least ten English courses ranging from Children’s Literature to Shakespeare. I also wrote devotionals for my church’s monthly newsletter for four years.

Should you find yourself further interested in Muse, I would be happy to send you the full manuscript for your review. In any case, I thank you for your time.

You'll notice I crossed out A LOT of your query and this is because you really want to keep them on the shorter side. Think of what would be printed on the back of a book - you want just the essential story information. I would recommend checking out Query Shark for some really great examples of what not to do.




Prologue 
to the rescue
 
   The blue-black clouds of night slowly retreated into the sky as the first signs of dawn peeked out from over the horizon; perhaps an ominous sign of things to come. I feel like the sun rising is usually the opposite of an ominous sign - it's usually seen as hopeful. As the caravan sped toward the stark white hangar in the distance, the man and his daughter silently prayed. When they had reached the end of their path, they watched from inside the black SUV as other similar vehicles pulled up next to them, followed by SWAT vans carrying a multitude of agents.
   He had been told to remain in the car until given the okay over the earpiece he wore in his left ear. He waited what seemed like an eternity, mind and heart racing at the prospect of seeing his youngest daughter again. There had been no gunshots or shouts that would indicate they had been set up; nothing but silence. Then he heard it, the voice of the agent in charge telling him all was clear. This does not read as YA when it's mostly from the POV of an adult.
   “Stay here Lilly…” he said to the girl that sat next to him in the back seat of the car. Could you rewrite this scene from Lilly's perspective instead?
   She nodded silently and he slowly opened the door and got out, unsure of what he might find in the hangar. Lilly, thankfully, had been spared from harm. Shortly after Piper’s disappearance, the F.B.I. got in contact with them and they began devising a plan to rescue Piper; this was the execution of that plan.

So overall, I feel like this is not a young adult novel - which is totally okay! But it's good to know where your novel would fit in the market when trying to find an agent so that's definitely something you want to have a better feel for.

2 comments:

  1. ‘philanthropic + epiphany’ (=so much to give + vision):
    ~let these two words be the start of thy journey~

    I looove RITErs;
    I looove giving'm opportunities
    for thots/ideas/structural integrity,
    taking'm in a completely-new-direction:

    Why else does a moth fly FROM the night
    than to a bold, attractive candle Light??
    Don’t let His extravagant Brilliance be extinguished.
    You’re creative, yes?
    Then, fly-away with U.S. to the antidote…

    Whether you obtain morality4mortality to wiseabove
    or just glean tantalizing specimens for thy next best seller,
    you shall find in our blogs a lotta (subliminal) moxie
    which has taken this sinfull mortal yeeeeers to compile!
    I lay it ALL out for you, dear, with All-Star-Oxygems:

    Wouldn’t ya love an endless eternity
    of aplomBombs falling on thy indelible cranium?
    An XtraXcitinXpose with no zooillogical-expiration-date?
    An IQ much higher than K2 all-go-rhythm?
    An anti-establishment, savvy victory +
    avant-guarde-humility =
    you’re promptly astonished, ain’tcha?
    withe extraordinarily explosion of maelstrom mellowdramatic??
    Here’s what the exquisite, prolific GODy sed
    (with a most-excellent-detector of bull§ht):

    “Faith, hope, and love,
    the greatest of these is love –
    jump into faith…
    and you’ll VitSee with love”
    Doesn’t matter if you don’t believe (what I write);
    God believes in you.

    Meet me Upstairs, girl, where the Son never goes down
    from a super-passionate, lucrative iconoclasm where you’ll find
    nonillionsXnonillionsXnonillionsXnonillionsXnonillionsX…
    of deluxe-HTTP [<- pi] opportunities for excitement BTW.

    Do it. Do the deed, dude. Sign into the Big-Zaftig-House.

    PS “It is impossible that anyone should NOT receive all that they have believed and hoped to obtain; it gives Me great pleasure when they hope great things from Me and I will always give them more than they expect”
    -our Lord Jesus to Saint Gertrude

    ReplyDelete
  2. ‘philanthropic + epiphany’ (=so much to give + vision):
    ~let these two words be the start of thy journey~

    I looove RITErs;
    I looove giving'm opportunities
    for thots/ideas/structural integrity,
    taking'm in a completely-new-direction:

    Why else does a moth fly FROM the night
    than to a bold, attractive candle Light??
    Don’t let His extravagant Brilliance be extinguished.
    You’re creative, yes?
    Then, fly-away with U.S. to the antidote…

    Whether you obtain morality4mortality to wiseabove
    or just glean tantalizing specimens for thy next best seller,
    you shall find in our blogs a lotta (subliminal) moxie
    which has taken this sinfull mortal yeeeeers to compile!
    I lay it ALL out for you, dear, with All-Star-Oxygems:

    Wouldn’t ya love an endless eternity
    of aplomBombs falling on thy indelible cranium?
    An XtraXcitinXpose with no zooillogical-expiration-date?
    An IQ much higher than K2 all-go-rhythm?
    An anti-establishment, savvy victory +
    avant-guarde-humility =
    you’re promptly astonished, ain’tcha?
    withe extraordinarily explosion of maelstrom mellowdramatic??
    Here’s what the exquisite, prolific GODy sed
    (with a most-excellent-detector of bull§ht):

    “Faith, hope, and love,
    the greatest of these is love –
    jump into faith…
    and you’ll VitSee with love”
    Doesn’t matter if you don’t believe (what I write);
    God believes in you.

    Meet me Upstairs, girl, where the Son never goes down
    from a super-passionate, lucrative iconoclasm where you’ll find
    nonillionsXnonillionsXnonillionsXnonillionsXnonillionsX…
    of deluxe-HTTP [<- pi] opportunities for excitement BTW.

    Do it. Do the deed, dude. Sign into the Big-Zaftig-House.

    PS “It is impossible that anyone should NOT receive all that they have believed and hoped to obtain; it gives Me great pleasure when they hope great things from Me and I will always give them more than they expect”
    -our Lord Jesus to Saint Gertrude

    ReplyDelete