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.
THE HOST meets THE TRUMAN SHOW in this high-concept, speculative YA romance titled WHAT EYES MAY SEE I love these comp titles and this is a great way to start a query.
Anya is an orphan in near-future America, where parentless minors are non-citizens, cast into the street, and any disappearances rarely questioned. This is a great character and world building intro. The biggest critique I have is that it makes this sound like a dystopian story which is a hard sell right now.
Rhem is one of a small group of elite celebrities with their own television channel. For his entire life, Hollywood producers have fed lines to Rhem and his mother, utilizing their influence to persuade Americans to accept the ever-growing disparity of wealth and resources in the ruling political class.
On the same night Anya flees a police officer who catches her out after curfew, Rhem’s mother dies during a broadcast. Only Rhem knows she was poisoned and the crime made to look like an illness, because of her opposition to the secret program using orphans as puppet-spies called “Shields”. Through the implantation of a chip that turns them into remote-controlled human beings, orphans become surveillance units to uncover potential rebellion.
If anyone discovers that his mother told Rhem about the Shields, he’ll be killed too. Threats to someone's life is definitely high stakes, which I like to see.
In the wake of her death, Rhem flees the ever-present cameras, right into the path of Anya. The unlikely pair discover they share a common goal: To tell America about the purpose of the Shield program and stop the exploitation of orphans. To achieve this, they need a live broadcast that can't be edited. So Rhem pitches a new concept for his show, with a live finale, and convinces the producers to recruit orphan girls to compete for his heart—starting with Anya. Okay, so far it seems like most of this query is set-up for what will be the meat of the novel. I wonder if the above paragraphs and details can be condensed a bit.
As the season progresses and the show’s popularity reaches a fever-pitch, Rhem and Anya are drawn ever-closer by their shared secret and the electric thrill of each other’s touch. Each intends to be the one who will tell the world the truth at the conclusion of the show—and thus protect the other from the inevitable assassination that would follow. Or couldn't they try and think of a way so that neither of them will get assassinated? Right now this reads as the main tension being them arguing over which one gets to tell the truth and then die... which doesn't feel grabby enough to me.
But Anya and Rhem possess popular influence like no orphan ever has. Influence the programmers plan to exploit. Those men and women will stop at nothing to implant Anya who, in the hands of a Shield programmer, could lure Rhem to the labs, thus adding two popular celebrities to their ranks, and ensuring the only truth ever told, is the truth they want America to hear. I think you could probably just cut this final paragraph. It doesn't tell us something that Anya or Rhem want or are trying to do.
WHAT EYES MAY SEE is the first in a two-book series told in dual POV, and complete at 94,000 words. As a twice-published author (both books with Alloy Entertainment), I’m very open to editorial feedback and eager for a professional eye to help me refine this ambitious story. Perfect bio paragraph!
I appreciate your time and hope you’ll seriously consider working with me!
The girl’s hair spreads out like a fan on the shiny metal of the table, fingerlike strands
twisting on her neck as if they are the noose squeezing off her air. Her breath comes in shrieking
gasps, stifled by the grotesque angle of her neck, twisting, bending back. Too far back.
The writing here immediately strikes me as being polished. However, it feels maybe a little
overly polished perhaps. The first sentence alone has two different metaphors (her hair like a fan
and then also like a noose on her neck) that gives me too much imagery to deal with. I would
pick one. I would also maybe start with the weird/bad angle of her neck, which seems more like the first thing
someone would notice.
“Help her!” I scream.
The doctor’s movements are quick, efficient, his coat fluttering behind him like ruffled
wings. Yet she convulses. The gurney rattles, dances on the slick floor. The nurse, Brigit, says
something I cannot hear over my own pulse thrumming in my ears. He shakes his head.
I wish I had a bit more specific detail about what exactly the doctor is doing here. Is he operating?
Giving her a shot? Checking vital signs? It isn't clear.
The girl’s eyes fly wide—pupils so large I cannot see the colored circles. Her body arches
until I can see the doctor’s white coat between the table and her spine. Brigit throws her weight
over the girl’s chest, but it is too late. Her strangled cry cuts off with the sound of a snapped
branch that echoes through the room.
Everything goes still.
Drub, drub, drub. I am horrified by the sound of my own vibrant living. Love this.
“Anya, you have to go.” Brigit leaps into motion again, yanking the bag out of my
weakened grip, and rushing to the locked cupboard at the side of the room.
I feel like this might be a good place to slow the pacing a bit. Tell us where Anya is and why she has to
go now. Just give us a bit more to place us in the world, because right now it's tough to get a good feel for it.
A shudder wracks me from head to toe.
I did not know it could end like that. I thought I helped the girls I brought here. I thought
I helped the Doctor figure out how he will save me when my time comes. Again this would have more
weight and be a bit more powerful if we had just a bit more info about what exactly just happened.
I swallow the bile rising in my throat.
“Anya, go.” Brigit’s voice breaks as she shoves the lumpy bag into my chest, forcing me
back a step. I come up hard against the wall. “Now!”
Help me, Father Wind.
Blindly, almost dropping the bag, I stumble across the floor, open the door, am through,
out from under the green glare of their fluorescent lights and into the near-dark of twilight, made
darker because this door opens to a stairwell below street level.
So overall, I am really impressed by the writing here, there's some great imagery and I can feel the emotions from the main character, which draws me into the story. I do however, wish the pacing could slow just a bit. It's always exciting to start a story right in the middle of some dramatic action, but if we don't get a sense of the world and what's at stake for the main character then it's hard to be fully invested in what might happen next. Overall though, this is a polished first page and query with tons of potential.