Monday, September 11, 2017

PitchWars Critique - CHAOS: AFTER MONSTERS, BEFORE HEROES


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 mentor,

For years, Lesa has spoken with no one but her violent father. Okay, this is interesting but I think it needs more. First her age. As simple as: For years, sixteen year old Lesa has spoken... My other problem is that it seems impossible that she's spoken with no one else and I think you need to fill in a bit more details bc this is an odd situation. Do they live in the middle of nowhere? Does he forbid her from leaving the house? Does she leave the house but stay on mute unless she's speaking to her father? Be more specific. Every day, he reiterates that she must never leave him. Lesa knows her father’s temper is driven by loneliness and fears comma here her own loneliness will make her just like him. Violent, smothering, and unloved. Okay, you could cut some of this and instead focus on the questions I mentioned above. Simply, "Lesa fears she will become like her father: violent, smothering, and unloved."

Then, at seventeen, Lesa becomes an “Outcast,” one of hundreds of people to spontaneously acquire a superpower. Lesa renames herself Chaos, hoping to distance herself from her father. But it isn’t long until Chaos accidentally kills a man with her new power. WOAH! I feel like you skipped a lot of details here! So suddenly she's talking to other people, I assume? And what specifically is her superpower - I feel like that's a really important detail that you just skip over. And HOW does she accidentally kill a man?

Chaos believes her only chance at redemption is to find her mother, who left years ago. If Chaos can convince her mother to love her, then she won’t be lonely like her father anymore. But traveling is dangerous. Outcasts are hated by the public, hunted down by researchers, and easy to identify on sight. To go means risking of capture and life-long experimentation. I know what you mean by life-long experimentation but it reads here as if she will be forced to do the experiments, not be the subject of them. Not to go means having no way to prove she isn’t a monster. Hmm... I'm not really grabbed by this dilemma, probably because I am not sold on the whole "finding her mother will bring redemption" plot point. 

CHAOS: AFTER MONSTERS, BEFORE HEROES is a YA speculative fiction novel with 75,000 words. It will appeal to readers of Marie Lu’s The Young Elites and fans of X-Men. Good although Young Elites kinda is like X-Men already... I wonder if another comp might work better.

I hold a BA in writing and have short fiction published in Literary Orphans and Strangelet journal. Thank you for your time and consideration. Nice!
First Page

The girl touched her head to the chair's high back and hissed when the icy metal touched a bit of bare scalp. Her skin was raw where she'd torn out some of her hair that morning. The girl glanced past the concrete walls to the bleary orange ground lights that lit her feet. Seeing the lights, she tried to imagine the sun. She'd only ever seen its halo behind tall black buildings. Okay, I feel like you are throwing a lot of details but I can't quite see where this girl is. I also feel like you could linger a bit more on the detail about the raw scalp and how that happened. Overall, I'm not sure this is a first paragraph that would really grab me. There's good specific details but it hops around so much I can't really focus on one thing. Also, "the girl" feels so distant. Is there a reason not to name her? 
A guard came in through the door. He observed the girl without speaking. Yet, she heard his voice: At least she isn't trying to gouge out her own eyes. The words matched the whispery chatter that had fogged her mind since it happened. She squeezed her eyes shut, felt her irises humming against her eyelids. This last sentence is really nice!
The guard stuck a cigarette between his lips and flicked his lighter three times before the flame sprung. The smell of gas livened the air. He retrieved a clipboard from the wall. The girl heard his unspoken voice again as he estimated her height and weight and age. Then, the guard peered down to write, is she watching him - can she see him? Can we get some mental picture of what he looks like? and a picture showed in the girl's mind of herself as the guard had seen her. She had the look of someone small. Her hair was scraggly, ripped. The colors in her irises swirled: purple and pink flecked with gold. This feels like a cheat - her seeing how she looks through his eyes. Almost like a character looking in mirror on first page which is generally a cliche and thus a no-no.
The girl snapped her face away. She didn't like the look of herself, how he saw her. But the picture showed in her mind whether she looked at him or not. She tried to adjust her expression. Yet no matter how she widened or narrowed her eyes, the guard saw a girl who wanted to kill him and couldn't. Why does he think she wants to kill him?
But that wasn't what she wanted. It wasn't. It wasn't.
"What's your name?" the guard asked. His voice echoed aloud, startling her. When she didn't answer, the guard approached and kicked her chair over. Her head struck the floor. The pain was hot and sudden and turned the voices in her mind into woozy murmurs. Then, the guard kneeled so close that his voice--his thoughts--screeched like a mechanical bird. I think you need to be more firmly in the girl's POV. Even though it's not first person, we are still experiencing the story through her eyes in this bit here, but there are points where it seems to be swing toward the guard. Let us into her head a bit more and even more importantly - her feelings! Is she scared? Desperate? Numb? Otherwise, I think the pacing is good and overall you chose a good place to start you story.

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