Wednesday, November 4, 2015

PitchWars Critique - UNDONE

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 Ms. Quinn,


I hope that you’re interested in reading my manuscript: UNDONE, which wraps two unlikely teenagers around a wicked-sweet love story and an impossible bully: Grandma Bee. I love the surprise of Grandma Bee being the bully. However, the two teenagers and wicked sweet love story just isn't specific enough to grab my interest.

After Dad dies, Lily and Joy Freemore must navigate a new school and take on-line classes, limiting her social life to zilch. Who's social life is limited Lily or Joy? It's unclear in this sentence. Lily tries to contain Grandma Bee’s wrath and protect her younger sister, What specifically is Grandma Bee wrathful about? And what exactly is Lily protecting her sister from? but once she meets Cameron Smith, she’s more determined than ever to escape Grandma Bee’s virtual convent. 

Making this a new paragraph. A senior at Carmine High, Cam writes controversial articles for the local paper; his fiery spirit and social activism stand for everything Lily’s grandmother detests. At first Lily is cautious, knowing that if she begins a forbidden relationship, her life will become immeasurably complicated, even dangerous. Dangerous how exactly? What is truly at stake here? But Lily, obsessed with finding a way to express herself and her need to escape Grandma Bee, begins to sneak out. The lies intensify, and her life unravels, jeopardizing her relationship with both Cam and her sister. 

Can Lily find the courage to discover her voice, protect her beliefs, and keep Cam in her life without Grandma Bee shutting her down? I would rework this so it's a statement instead of question.

At 60K words, UNDONE will appeal to readers of Ned Vizzini’s FUNNY STORY, Laurie Halse Anderson’s WINTERGIRLS, and Aaron Hartzler’s RAPTURE PRACTICE. Good comps.

My non-fiction book, Soul Sunday: A Family’s Guide to Exploring Faith and Teaching Tolerance won seven national awards in 2007. Currently, I teach English Composition at Colorado Mountain College, and this past summer I was awarded a grant to study with Mat Johnson at the Lighthouse Lit Fest and Nova Ren Suma at the Djerassi Institute. When I’m not writing, I shuttle two teens and a tween to ten thousand activities.

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

Sincerely,




First page:

It shouldn’t be so hard to order coffee, but Grandma Bee made everything hard, even when she wasn’t with us. But today, I wasn’t about to be scared away—it had been a year and a half, exactly 547 days since Dad died, and I planned to drink a latte in his honor. I didn’t give a shit if she grounded me for a year. The Grind was our place: mine and Dad’s, not hers, and there was no way I’d let her take it from me.

I stepped forward and ordered two smoothies, but I thought she was getting a latte? I only had $1.52 left—not enough for a blueberry scone. Dad and I used to scoff them down during our secret, Saturday morning adventures. I squeezed my eyes shut for a second, wishing I could take back time.

The girls what girls? wound their way past a few burlap sacks of coffee beans and found a corner table. I yanked a hoodie over my head and pulled my hair out of my ponytail clasp, brushing it forward like a blanket to warm me up. I wasn’t used to air-conditioning—Grandma Bee didn’t allow it at her house—said it was a waste of hard-earned money.

“Do we have to work on math?” Joy slumped in her chair, slowly taking a notebook from her backpack. Some description of who Joy is would be helpful here.

“Yep. Joy and Sarah to become a drag Are some words missing from this sentence?. If her best friend were scared away, Joy’d hurt something awful. She was only ten—too young to learn about lonely.

“I hate math,” Sarah said.

Joy pointed a pencil at Sarah. “Don’t say hate—it’s not a nice word, and the Bible says not to say bad words.”

I flinched; during the past year, Joy had started to quote scripture and reference the Bible like Grandma Bee. It made my insides crunch like nasty, dried-up crackers. 

I think this is a nice place to start your story - we get a sense of the conflict with Grandma Bee and the MC missing her dad. A little more specificity and description of the other characters would help draw the reader into the story a bit quicker, though.

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