Wednesday, August 30, 2017


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 with so much potential. 

And so, wanting to give something back to those who chose Mindy McGinnis and myself as one of the mentor teams to submit to, we decided to offer first page and query critiques on our blogs. 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 Pitch Wars Mentor,

All that high school freshman Daniel Murphy wants is to be normal, but normal seems impossible—he looks nothing like the rest of his family, and he’s the class bully’s biggest target.
I'd consider breaking this up into a few sentences. Maybe after impossible put a period. On your your feels weird here. His? Or Everyone gets a superpower on their fifteenth birthday, you get a superpower; Again, I'd suggest a period here. Daniel hopes his will make him amazing could you be more specific? give us an idea of the superpowers handed out and which ones specifically he'd like to give and/or avoid?, but inexplicably, he gets no power at all, so it’s off to Kimberly’s School for Weakly Gifted Children. Paragraph break here maybe? Before he goes there, his high school librarian gives him a secret book with a map to follow to get to The Doctor, this chunk feels unnecessarily wordy. Maybe just "a secret book that will help lead him to The Doctor the only person who can give him a power. A few days at Kimberly’s school prove that he’s not going to get a power there, so just as the school dean’s about to get what he needs from Daniel to bring his dead son back—which may be what the dean had in mind all along when he admitted Daniel to the school—Daniel escapes with his only two friends. Woh! Say what now? Is the School supposed to help get kids their powers? And why does the Dean think Daniel can bring his son back from the dead? 

Daniel needs to find The Doctor to get a power and thus become normal, and he’s got his friends with him. Colin is a tree that can’t speak but can run and make food, and Lenore is a telepath. Okay, maybe introduce the friends before you get into the thing w the Dean and running away. The map in that book will guide their cross-country trip. But the dean needed Daniel’s help to bring back his dead son, Marcus, You already said this already in the above paragraph. You don't have a lot of space in a query - don't use some of it up repeating yourself! Also I still don't understand how Daniel can help bring back Marcus. and even though the dean and his parents thinks powers are undignified and shouldn't be used, they enlist a man made of dirt, a woman with fatal hands, and a 30-man strike team to try to make sure a few lowly teenagers don’t ruin their best chance to be a family again. Who's chance to be a family again? Daniel's parents and the Dean? Those plans will be ruined if Daniel gets a power and Marcus isn’t involved. I don't understand what the plans are or how they would be ruined and why Marcus needs to be involved with Daniel getting a superpower. Also this paragraph makes this story feel like it's more about the Dean and Daniel's parents and what's at stake for them, then about Daniel and what's at stake for him. 

I am a copy editor and have worked for two of the largest newspaper publishers in the country. You don't want to specifically name them?

THE POWER OF DANIEL MURPHY is a 103,000-word YA sci-fi novel. Some comps would be nice here. ie: It would appeal to fans of X and Y.  


First page:

The red marquee lights above the power booth flashed 1:00 faintly in his goggles.
1AM? Or PM? I wonder if this sentence might have more punch with a POV inserted? ie: Daniel squinted at the flashing marquee lights...

“One minute,” Daniel said intensely into his word-muffling mask
He's wearing goggles that also cover his mouth? I'm having trouble picturing this. But the sound that escaped it died in the soundproof plastic booth he was sitting in

“Fifty-seven seconds,” he said, watching them tick down. “Maybe I’ll get the power of flight, and it’ll be so strong that I break these straps and fly out of this disgusting seat.”

His cells buzzed with the energy of that genetic trigger.
What genetic trigger? Something big was about to happen.

Fifty seconds.

“I’m going to be so amazing,” he resolved. “Everyone will beg me to help them.”

He’d been waiting for this since he could remember. And after today, nobody--not even Marie Tyler--would ever mess with him again.

“What is taking so long?” he yelled. Forty more agonizing seconds until he became amazing--and until he could again breathe normal air, not the stale, nasty stuff in that decrepit mask. The whole sweaty, beat-up power protection setup--from the mask to the boots--would come off and he'd have the power to shoot firebolts, or teleport, or do some other phenomenal thing.

“Generations ago, under threat of imminent attack, our ancestors were afraid. Would weapons be enough? What more could we do to protect ourselves?

The best minds of the day gathered and called for an era of superheroes--of making every human being a scientific marvel. And so it began.”

Are these last two paragraphs meant to be a flashback or a manual or something like that? It isn't clear. The concept is interesting though. I also like that you're starting the story with Daniel getting his change - right in the middle of the action. The voice, however, feels a little immature to me. More middle grade than young adult. Depending on what happens in the story, you might want to consider aging your MC down a few years.


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