Friday, November 13, 2015

PitchWars Critique - VITIUM

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,

“All immortals must die” is a rule seventeen-year-old Superbia knows as well as her Colt M1911s. As an Aspect, one of seven super-powered assassins working for Death, she will do whatever it takes to uphold that rule--even if it means shooting, strangling and stabbing whoever stands in her way. Good. The specificity here is really nice.

When Death promised to revive her brother David, she decided she'd pay any cost to get him back. No matter how many lives she had to trade for his.

But when she’s supposed to kill an immortal child even younger than David, she hesitates. If she kills the boy, she’ll be one step closer to reviving David. If she doesn’t, she may find herself needing resurrection. Death doesn’t tolerate defiance, and with six other Aspects against her, Superbia’s demise may be all but is guaranteed. Suggested change just bc it's less wordy and more direct.

Superbia’s conundrum captures the interest of the Virtues, counterparts of the Aspects tasked with creating and protecting immortals. Both conundrum captures and counterparts feel like showy (and distracting) word choices here. Maybe just one would be okay but both together doesn't work for me. They may even give her the help she needs to revive David and rebel against Death.  But their goal is to offer immortality to all of humanity. They’re certain that eternal life will make the world a better place, just as certain as Death is that it’ll destroy it.

Either way, Superbia will need to pick a side: Life or Death. It’s a good thing she never believed in certainty. I don't really get this last line about not believing in certainty - not sure how that connects with choosing between life or death.

Vitium VITIUM - your title goes in all caps just like the comp titles is a dark, diverse YA urban fantasy, complete at 75,000 words with series potential. It will appeal to fans of STEELHEART and THE MURDER COMPLEX.

When not writing about super-powered teenage assassins, I work as a finance attorney in Boston, Massachusetts. Thank you for your time and consideration. Good bio. Short and sweet sometimes just works.

Best regards,

First Page:

As an Aspect of Death, I know exactly when I will die. Down to the very second.
But standing at the top of the New York Times Building, I’m suddenly not so sure. Ambulance sirens below me waft into my ears does sound really 'waft into ears'? and a warm April breeze caresses my face. My lungs expand as I take in a breath. It feels strangely final.
No. I won’t die—not today. And, to prove it to myself, I leap into the open air. I'm not understand this. If she knows the moment she's supposed to die - then shouldn't she know whether or not it's this moment?
The rushing winds lash against me and rip my cheeks. My arms tense and I almost want to shield myself from the cool air. But just as terror lances through me, so does adrenaline. Confidence surges beneath my skin. Some of your word choices here feel very self conscious and unnatural. It doesn't - for me - convey a teenager's voice.
“Look at the world, Dani! You run this shit!” I shout. THIS feels more teenager voice.
Screams from below interrupt my boasting. I’m pretty sure a kid points in my direction and yells for help. The people on the ground will probably be calling 911 soon. I have to act fast.
Ignore me,” I command them.
My voice strains in the gusts of air blowing around my face. They can’t hear me down on the ground, but another Aspect perk is that they don’t need to. As long as I can see them, my commands work.  And sure enough, people go back to what they’re doing—buying street meat from sidewalk vendors, laughing with friends, taking pictures.
Good.  I swing my eyes to my left Um how exactly do eyes swing to the left? and see the ledge coming fast. My target is some rich asshole—he lives in one of those penthouse condos I wouldn’t have been able to afford in my past life.
I think you need to work a bit on voice here - especially while writing the character's internal thoughts. And while this feels like a good starting spot - I wonder if you could play more with the character's jumping from the building so there's more tension in it and the reader doesn't know until the end that she isn't truly in any danger.


  1. Thanks for the critique, Kate! I'll have to think about these as I revise, particularly the points about word choice and voice. (How did I never notice all of those C-words in my query...)

    The "how can she die" bit I'll have to think about--she knows when her natural life span will end but the supernatural stuff she encounters can still kill her prematurely. Just kind of awkward to write without it coming out clunky--I'll have to figure it out.

    Anyway, thanks again for the thoughts!

    1. Glad it was helpful - good luck with the revisions!