Wednesday, November 2, 2016

PitchWars Critique - THE KILLING BLOG

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 Agent,

For some girls, the Internet is a place to go shopping. For others, it's a place to post their hottest selfies and get as many likes as possible. But for Amy Fickett, it's a place to share pictures of her freshly-killed victims with her millions of fans across the world. So the first two sentences here come across as gendered in a rather negative way. It feels like you are making statements about girls that really apply to all people. This is easily solved by removing the word girls in your first sentence.

After pulling the trigger on her father's suicide, Amy starts a new life with her estranged mother and sister in the picturesque and WASP-y suburb of Rochester, Michigan. WOH!!! The whole "pulling the trigger on her father's suicide" needs way more explanation. Like, for example, what does that mean? So far I am getting a really negative view of your MC all I know about her so far is that she posts pics of her murder victims on a blog and she helped kill her own father. We need some details to humanize her and get the reader on her side. On the other hand, I don't think we need to know she moves to a picturesque and WASP-y suburb - those are details that seem much less vital. She tries to fit in at her new high school, but her exotic looks and violent past make her an outcast. Amy withdraws deeper into her online world, where her love of shocking Internet videos and memes gain her a following. Can you be  more specific about the exact nature of these shocking internet videos?

But when Mom's boyfriend crosses the line, Amy snaps, killing him and taking pictures of his dead body. Again more details are needed here. How exactly does he cross the line? How does she kill him? Right now I am not convinced I would like or be able to understand your MC if I were to read your book.  The photos go viral and Amy, thrilled with her newfound fame, creates her own website to share her murderous deeds. The Killing Blog is born and Amy craves more blood, along with followers and likes. 

To hide any suspicion she transforms herself into a fashionable, charismatic, and manipulative teenage girl while she moonlights as the first serial killer of the Social Media Age. More kills leads to more fame until she's dangerously close to losing it all. She must fight to evade the law, keep her sanity, and stay alive. Okay, same problem again. This may just be a matter of taste and my own personal preferences, but a girl killing people for no other reason than to get social media likes and followers just does not feel like a character I want to spend a whole book with. Even describing her as a manipulative girl makes me think that there is nothing here that makes her seem like a character I can relate to. Think of a character like Katniss. She kills people brutally, but she has reason because she herself is hunted and in danger. Even if your book is about a character who kills for no good reason, you still need to humanize her in some way (ie: Dexter) so that your reader wants to stay on board with you.

THE KILLING BLOG is a young adult contemporary thriller, completed at 73,000 words. Thank you for your consideration.

Byron Sadik

Three weeks in a mental hospital, days of police interrogation, and tThe white carpet soaked in blood and flesh lingered on her mind as she headed to the bus stop. This sentence reads a bit jumbled - I had to read it a few times. I think it's because you start listing passage of times three weeks and then days of interrogation - then you switch to an image. It would make more sense to either follow the first two with something more like, "and weeks of packing boxes to move." Or (and I think this is the stronger choice) start with focusing on just that image of the white carpet per my cuts above. Dad's unexpected suicide forced Amy away from the run-down strip malls and apartments she lived for many years, and back to the cul-de-sacs and McMansions I don't think McMansions should be in caps of Rochester there are Rochester's in many different states, maybe be more specific? Walking through the winding sidewalks do you walk "through" sidewalks? and massive lawns, each driveway had a mandatory BMW-policy: every driveway had one parked just outside the garage. every driveway is repetitive after "each driveway" and this whole clause really just says the same thing that you already communicated more succinctly with "mandatory BMW-policy." As she wound through the big, airy, and monotonous homes of her new “neighborhood,” she found a group of kids around her age, backpacks slung on their shoulders. The two girls had blonde hair, though their eyebrows were as dark as Amy's black ones. So I think you spend maybe a little too much time on the optics of this neighborhood and Amy walking through it. It's a bit repetitive because you have Amy first "headed to the bus stop" then "walking through the winding sidewalks" and then later "wound through the big, airy, and monotonous homes." You really want to grab a reader with your first page and make every single word count. 

“Excuse me,” Amy said. Amy looked around and instantly felt out of place. Her pin-straight black hair, courtesy of her Indian father, didn't match with her golden-haired peers, natural or otherwise. Looking down at her own black pants, black boots, and black Nirvana shirt, she looked like a vagrant. She noticed one of the girls eying her up and down as though she knew her. Amy begged fate not to have to talk to her, but Amy knew what was coming.

“I like your hair,” the girl said. “You look like Alexa Arzniyan.”

Nothing made her blood boil worse than that. Amy hated Alexa Arzniyan. She hated that someone could go from a grainy sex video on Spankhub to an American icon. The best American icons committed suicide, as indicated by her Kurt Cobain shirt.

“I'm not Armenian,” Amy insisted. “I'm Indian.”

“Aren't you guys basically the same?”

Amy sighed. “Yeah, sure.”

“Do you speak Indian?”

Nobody speaks 'Indian', you dipshit. “I know a little Punjabi,” mostly swear words uttered from Dad's drunken lips.

“So are you, like, full Indian? You look pretty—”

“—White, I know.” Though her skin was pale, it had enough olive tone to remind herself that though she was white, she would never be white enough. Her hands dug deeper into her pockets and she turned away, but the girl didn't get the hint. By then it was too late. A tear dripped down her face like the blood from her father's gunshot wound. Suck it in, suck it in. Amy stiffened her lip, as she always did when he used to beat her. Years of abuse trained her to hold in her tears even as her ribs cracked within her. Okay, so the scene definitely picks up here with the dialogue - I would get to this sooner! And you do a nice job of humanizing Amy in this paragraph - it might be helpful to mention in your query that she was abused by her father.

Rochester High School was a barb-wire fence away from being a prison with its two main buildings joined by a walkway and surrounded by giant brick walls. Nice details - not overstated. Amy stepped off the bus, and took in the sight of her new classmates. They seemed wealthier, and, compared to the ethnic diversity of her old school, whiter. She followed her peers into the academic penitentiary. She roamed through the sterile, white walls. Amy hated white. It reminded her of places of despair: hospitals, police stations, and her father's apartment. She found her way to the correct classroom and opened the door. This paragraph may actually work better as your opening than what you have above.