Thursday, October 27, 2016

PitchWars Critique - EVIL IN THE WALLS

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 Mentor:


I’m currently seeking representation for my YA Horror novel, EVIL IN THE WALLS

After Annie’s grandmother dies, her family moves into her hotel during the summer in an attempt to save it. Due to a few murders that occurred in the past, the hotel has gotten a bad reputation over the years. This second sentence comes across as unintentionally funny, because to say that a hotel has a bad reputation after a few murders feels like a HUGE understatement. A bad reputation might happen after the discovery of cockroaches in the bathroom or a few cases of food poisoning, but murders seem like they would have a more chilling effect. I also think you could really just get a lot more atmosphere and details in here, since overall this query feels really thin and underwritten. Maybe something more like: Over a hundred years old, The Hotel Hampton (or whatever it's specifically named - specifics are always good) was once the best place to stay in Hampton Grove. However, after a series of bloody murder five years ago that left three women dead, only those truly desperate booked rooms.  Upon moving in, Annie and others begin to notice that strange things keep happening. Okay, again, we need more specifics here. What strange things are happening? Also a little atmosphere would be nice. Right now the big problem here is that this just doesn't feel original enough. What sets this story apart from other haunted house/hotel stories?

Annie and her new friend, Charlie, How does she meet this new friend? begin to unravel the mystery within her grandmother’s journal what is the specific mystery within her grandmother's journal? but as more of the guests and staff begin to die, MORE people are dying? How are earth do they have anyone staying or working there??? the evil inside the hotel becomes stronger. When Annie is forced to see what is real and what isn’t, she may have to sacrifice something dear to save her family. Again specifics. What does "what is real and what isn't" mean? What exactly is she seeing? And what exactly will she have to sacrifice?

EVIL IN THE WALLS is complete at 51,000 words and available, in part or full, upon request. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Author




FIRST PAGE:
1

T
he tea cup was halfway to her lips when she first heard the noise. Her hand paused, slightly shaking. No. Not again. Aya Hara pressed her lips together tightly and waited. One second. Two. Five. Twenty. Everything was quiet. Swallowing, she moved the cup all the way to her lips, opening them to take a sip of the hot tea. She took a sip of the hot tea. She always liked to have a cup or two at night; it helped calm her.

There was the sound again. Low, but it resounded throughout the room. Something in between a groan and a howl. Her hand began to shake so badly that a stream of brown liquid began to dribble down the left side of the delicate china cup. Taking a deep breath, Aya tried to calm herself as she lowered the cup to its saucer on the table beside her chair.

Aya pressed her hands together. “That’s enough,” she said as loudly as she could. It wasn’t very loud. She was ninety-six years old, and her voice seemed to be getting quieter and quieter lately. Taking another deep breath, Aya reached for the ornately bound notebook that she’d been scribbling in since the death of her husband. Ten years of musings and she only had one last page left. She hoped that it would explain everything when she was gone.

There was no other solution that she could see. The hotel had to be destroyed. Over fifty years of hard work had to be demolished. Sadness filled Aya, but she knew it had to be done. If she didn’t destroy the hotel, it would destroy her and all that she loved. She couldn’t let that happen. So she pressed the tip of her pen to the paper, thinking of how to word an explanation in case she didn’t make it. Though she planned on surviving, she knew she shouldn’t take any chances. She was too old to be sure, and even if she’d been younger, there was no way to know for sure if she’d be safe even then. Why now? If things have been bad for a while and she is nearly a hundred years old why wait so long to make this decision?

This was her insurance plan in case things didn’t pan out. No one else was here; all of the help had been asked to go home over the weekend. All of the guests had checked out, the vacancy sign outside was dark, and no one was able to check in. It was just her and the evil that dwelled inside the walls. Her heart felt heavy. She had worked so hard and for so long on this place that it was like she was killing a piece of herself. She had to, though. If she didn’t, she knew deep in her heart that it would go after her family. The Grand Kansai had to go.

This first page has the same problem as your query - there are just not enough specifics. What is the evil inside the walls? You can leave a bit of mystery but you need to show us rather than just tell us how bad it is. Right now all we're shown are a few scary noises, which doesn't actually seem all that frightening. I am also not sure if this is the best place to start your story. As a YA novel starting with an elderly grandmother may not be the best way to grab your intended audience. Otherwise, the writing is good, although there are a few places where the wording is a little clunky or unnecessarily detailed (ie: cup to its saucer on the table beside her chair.)

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