Thursday, September 22, 2016

PitchWars Critique - RALPHIE 2.0

I LOVE being a mentor for PitchWars. BUT there is one bad part - having to choose just one manuscript to mentor when there are so many ones with so much potential. 

And so, wanting to give something back to those who chose Demitria Lunetta and myself as one of the mentor teams to submit to, we decided to offer first page and query cirtiques on our blogs. Demitria will be hosting critiques on her blog on Tuesdays, while mine will be here on Thursdays. 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. 

And for anyone out there looking for personalized feedback, I also offer manuscript critique services which you can find more out about here 

Dear ,

I am excited to offer you the opportunity to represent my recently completed novel Ralphie 2.0, the first of seven planned books in The Wall of Tears series set in modern day Los Angeles. The work is a 178,000 word urban-fantasy that deals with the pitfalls of modern society in a unique and fresh way. This situation-driven story prompts the best and the worst in everyday people. Fun and offbeat, the book combines memorable characters, horrific incidents, comedy and tragedy, wit and stupidity, and structure to chaos. Okay, so we have a few things here - I've highlighted them - that concern me. First of all, when you say your book was recently completed it makes me thing that you finished writing it and then without any time to edit or have critique partners look at it, went straight to querying it. This is NOT the impression you want to give. Also "first of seven" makes me worry that this book will not stand alone. It's better to say the book has "series potential". Your word count got highlighted because WOAH that is A LOT of words. Actually it is way too many. This alone will make agents stop reading. If possible you need to get this down in the 100K range. Finally, just like with the writing in your novel where you want to show, not tell, the same goes for your query. Telling me your novel is "unique and fresh" is telling. Show me - with the description that it's unique and fresh. And yes, I did X out the last two sentences. Those again are more telling than showing and are just too vague to really draw me into the story. Think of the copy on the back of a book. You want to know what the story is about, who the characters are - these are the things that make us pick up a book. One last last thing. You should also mention that this is a young adult novel.

Sixteen-year-old Ralphie is slovenly and monosyllabic and he would prefer to spend his time engrossed in the innovative new video game comma The Wall of Tears  comma rather than see to any of his familial or social duties but when a single catastrophic incident changes him physically, his true spirit is tested as he is set on an arduous road to possible redemption. Always be specific whenever possible. WHAT is the single catastrophic incident? HOW is he changed physically? 

When the game world and the real world clash on an open battle field, each realm vies for validity and Ralphie finds himself smack dab in the middle of an unfolding nightmare. Despite the litany of more qualified applicants in his native Los Angeles, it would seem that fate has chosen Ralphie Clayton to play a key role in shaping the destiny of his world. Magic, mystery, chance and survival becomes the order of the day as the Clayton family use every resource at their disposal to try to get to the bottom of a mystery that could destroy not just our world, but another as well. Again, I want specifics. Ralphie is chosen to do what exactly? How does he shape the destiny of his world? What must he overcome? What is at stake if he fails?

I am an aspiring writer who studied film and psychology in college and draw heavily on those aspects of my life to create not only believable characters, but truly heartfelt moments that will keep the pages turning. I have written several unpublished and self published short stories. Show don't tell.

Lastly, I would just like to thank you so much for your time; I know it is extremely valuable. This completed manuscript is available upon request. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your consideration,

Chapter 1: Introducing, In This Corner, Sir Ralphie Clayton of Bel Air! (Applause)



            A creeping redness spread out across Ralphie Clayton’s enormous slack-jawed jowls as he watches Vorand’s decapitated body crash violently onto the shimmering floor. The sixteen-year-old sat forward on an old broken down leather couch, bathed in the pale blue light of his television screen and wheezing to a shallow rhythm. The all too familiar spurt of red gore splashed onto the screen, dissolving into a patronizing line of slanted text as the visage of his character faded into a milky black background.


You have failed! You are not the Chosen One!
Reload? Yes: X; No: O

“What the crap was that!?” Ralphie whined at his TV as he clumsily heaved the gaming console’s wireless controller across the room.
            “How the heck am I supposed to fight something I can’t even see?”
Complaining to no one is about as productive as complaining can ever be; not. Ralphie let out a defeated sigh as he worked his designer eyeglasses through his pudgy temples and tossed the thick plastic frames onto the adjacent couch cushion. The boy rubbed the bridge of his nose and tried to wrangle his temper back under control.
Ralphie pushed his glasses back into place with artificial cheese covered fingers and whipped wiped his nose on the bright red arm hair that obscured most of the back of his forearm. He stared at the game controller that lay a mere five feet from the couch. He had a momentary debate with himself about retrieving the device but settled instead on grabbing the spare controller from its charging station on the nearby end table.
He smashed a greasy thumb into the “X” button and the taunting message disappeared, replaced with a growing progress bar. The console hummed to life as it began to reload the level data. Ralphie, being a veteran role playing game player, had taken the liberty of quick saving right before he had faced off with the Master Vampire Clodrode.
“Vorand has been saved. Vorand has left the creepy dungeon filled with vampires.” Ralphie chuckled with a snort as he shoved a handful of cheese puffs into his mouth and choked as the artificial dust peppered the back of his throat.
Ralphie Clayton kicked his feet up onto the dilapidated coffee table. His foot sends several nearly empty cans of cola rolling off and into an old cardboard box filled with stuff Ralphie kept meaning to throw out. The high school junior leaned forward slightly and scoffed as the cola leaked out onto the golf trophy from last year, several straight ‘A’ report cards and a bottle of astringent that his mother had bought him. Ralphie narrowed his eyes at a framed picture of himself. He was surrounded by the golf team, wearing a grin from ear to ear and weighing a good eighty pounds less than he does now. He looked down at his belly and frowned.  

Your verbs switch a few times from past to present - make sure to watch that. While you do a great job of painting us a picture of Robbie, you go a bit overboard. You have a ton of description of Ralphie from his wheezing to his age to his year at school - a lot of it is telling us the same thing in different ways - which is that Ralphie is kind of a greasy slob. Maybe try choosing just one and cutting the rest. I'd also like to be more inside Ralphie's head - I feel like I am watching him at a far distance instead of experiencing his world with him. For example instead of a "A creeping redness crept across Ralphie..." you could have, "Ralphie could feel his  face growing warmer..." The latter allows us into what Ralphie is feeling.

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