Monday, October 16, 2017

PitchWars Critique - ACHERON CROSSING

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 Mentors,

Natalie commits suicide to escape bullying for her weight, WOH! There's a lot going on here and we're not even through the whole sentence. Maybe break this up a bit and bring us a bit into Natalie's world. She's being bullied for being overweight, I assume? Can you go into more detail than that even? Give some specific details to bring her to life. and ends up in Acheron Crossing, a destroyed city whose feral inhabitants menace her from the shadows. But she's dead, right? This needs to be clear. Dante rescues her, from what? And who is Dante anyway? then tasks her with meeting new arrivals and taking them where they belong. In exchange, he magically makes her thin. She agrees, party out of gratitude, and partly because she wants him to like her. Dante can magically make her thin, why doesn't he magically make her do the meeting new arrivals thing?

Dante warns her to stay away from Ben, another relatively “normal” resident of the town. He’s her opponent it isn't clear whether the 'he' you're referring to is Ben or Dante in a game she doesn’t understand, trying to get to the new arrivals before she does. As time goes on, and she develops feelings for both men, Men? Isn't this YA? So aren't they boys? it becomes clear that they’re hiding things, and one of those secrets might be that they’re not all as trapped as they seem. One of them is using her feelings against her, using what feelings? and she has to face her past and insecurities if she wants to find the truth. Find the truth doesn't feel like very high stakes. Or all that compelling. If she doesn't face her past and insecurities than... can you give a bigger more gulp inducing consequence here?

ACHERON CROSSING is a 69,000 word YA horror novel. I have a Master’s Degree in mental health counseling, and worked as a crisis counselor with teens struggling with suicidal ideation. I have been published online and in several small anthologies under my pseudonym, Doree Weller, and am active on social media. Very nice bio! No comps though for your book?

Thank you for your time and consideration. 


Acheron Crossing
by Doree Weller
Chapter 1       
           I didn’t know the last day I was alive would be the last day. Well most people don't. This is not a great first line. You want a first line to GRAB your reader. Even the construction isn't great. You repeat last day. And it's vague. Think of all the different ways you could say this same thing. I didn't know my last day alive would be meatloaf Monday. I didn't know when I woke up to the rain pouring down that I'd be dead before the basement would flood. 
           Maybe I should have, but I’d been thinking about suicide for so long that it was just background noise in my head. Like the little mental voice that sounded just like me and hated me, reminding me whenever I did anything stupid or weird, or just plain wrong. Watch our for word echoes like the ones I highlighted here.
           It started off like an ordinary school day. I got up, had a rushed breakfast, said goodbye to my parents, rode the bus to school. Can you color these moments in a bit more. Give them some shading. What is the rushed breakfast? Where are mom and dad when she says goodbye? What is the bus like? Crowded? loud? Maybe it's a generic day for her, but it shouldn't feel that way for the reader. Got to school and spent the first hour trying to stay awake while my teachers droned on.
           At lunch, I got a salad. I debated between Ranch dressing or fat free Italian, which I hated. I finally settled on a tiny bit of Ranch, figuring just a little bit wouldn’t have too many calories. If she's worrying about this I think she'd know the exact number of calories. Show us those calculations. Really get us into her head.
           Betsy, Lexie, and Lexie’s boyfriend Ray were already sitting when I joined them. They were deep in conversation about some movie they’d seen the week before. I hadn’t gone because there’d be popcorn there. Popcorn and candy and wonderful smells. And I was on a diet. Again, more here. Give us more sensory food details - show us why it would be impossible for her to sit there and not have the popcorn and candy and whatever else.
           “You should have come with us,” Betsy said. “It was so good.”
           “We can go again this weekend, if you want to go with us,” Lexie said.
           I wasn’t going to go, but I couldn’t just say that. They wouldn’t understand. “Maybe,” I said.
           I ate my salad and was still hungry, so I took my sketchpad out of my backpack to distract me. I worked in pencils, sketching Venice from the memory of a picture on Pinterest.
Overall, the writing here is fine, but it needs to be sharper. Right now my image of this girl is hazy and unfocused. I want her to be so clear that I could pick her out of a lineup and you get that with specific details that bring her and her world to life.