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.
I’m writing to pitch you my novel, ERADICATED. Eradicated is an 78,000-word young adult fantasy novel. I would not repeat the title back to back like this. Instead: ...pitch you my novel, a 78,000 word young adult fantasy, ERADICATED.
Seventeen-year old Maya Richardson joined the commune army for food, shelter, and an excuse to kick people—not necessarily in that order. Not sure if I know what a "commune army" is, but otherwise this is a good sentence. She doesn’t believe she’ll ever see the front line though. The militia has been preparing for a fight with the Gliesians for the past 400 years. But the Gliesians—the super-powered aliens that now co-habit the Earth—have been completely peaceful. Maya, like most humans, refuses to buy into the conspiracy theories--until her mom is abducted. Okay, you are throwing a lot at me here. There are aliens. They're peaceful, but there is a still a militia preparing to fight them and there are conspiracy theories (about what specifically?) and then her mom is abducted. It feels like the way you're telling everything here is with a THIS... BUT type structure. She joins the army BUT doesn't think she'll have to fight. The militia is prepared to fight BUT the aliens are peaceful. BUT some people say they aren't. And then mom is abducted. Once this might work but over and over again it just feels messy and confused.
Maya will do anything to save her mom, but the fearful commune elders forbid Maya from leaving the compound grounds. Where does she need to go? The only person on her side is Roman, a seventeen-year-old outsider, with a grudge against the aliens for killing his dad. So... the peaceful aliens killed his dad? Maya and Roman escape from the compound and into the glittering allure of the Gliesian city. But everything that glitters isn’t gold, cliche and also tells me nothing and Maya’s search for answers uncovers a nefarious plot that has been causing the human population to dwindle for centuries.
Caught spying on the aliens, Maya is thrown in prison and sentenced to death. Roman risks his life to free her, but exposes himself to be something other than human—something she can’t accept. With her mom’s life on the line, Maya must convince the rest of the humans that the aliens pose a threat, the commune that they are capable of winning the war, and herself that Roman isn’t the enemy. Good final paragraph! I like the stakes. Except if the humans have a militia why does she need to convince them the aliens are a threat? Or is the militia small? Might want to clarify this.
I smell them before I see them. Eh. I feel like this sentence needs more specificity to grab me or to lead to a really great second sentence...
If there is one thing training to be a warrior has taught me, it’s to be observant. Also, eh. This feels cliche and lacking in specificity. Seems like training to be a warrior would teach you many things. This is a great place to inject some voice. "Training to be a warrior has taught me how long it takes a black and blue bruise to fade. That I can run three miles... as long as someone is screaming at me the entire time. But mostly to be observant. Especially in the mess hall on mystery meat Monday." Now none of this may fit your story or character, but do you see how much more specific this is and how much voice it has?
Aliens can easily hide their smell in the cities. The cities are scented; perfume is literally incorporated into the air filtration system, the water supply, the clothes.
Out here, on the dusty trail, with the wind blowing, the odor is noticeable—palpable. Maybe describe the odor or compare it to something?
So is my fear. to who? The aliens?
My fingers quiver, sweat pours down my face, my heart rate speeds up. I fumble in my bag for the vials that will hopefully save my life-- or at least give me a fighting chance.
A million thoughts run through my mind. How many are there? Which of the seven powers do they have? God, I hope it isn’t super speed.
Three Gliesian men appear in front of me. Shoot, they either have invisibility or super speed. Both of which makes an already unfair fight … well, more unfair.
They look human, as always, but the predatory look in their eyes feels more like that of a rabid animal. The hairs on my neck stand on edge. I don't know enough about Gliesian at this point to be invested in the stakes of what is happening here. I don't know your narrator well enough to get invested in what is happening here. Action often seems like a great gripping place to start, but more often it feels like turning a movie on that you've never seen before in the middle of a car chase.
“What have we here?” the tallest one asks. His green eyes dance wildly. Dirty jeans and a tank top hug his muscular frame, long blond hair is slicked back into a pony tail. “What’s in the bag?”
“It’s not hair grease, so you wouldn’t be interested".Period goes inside the " on this last sentence. Dialogue feels a bit generic villain - especially the "What have we here?" line.