Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pitch Critique - Amy Trueblood

Amy Trueblood is with us today - yay!

For those of you don't, you should go follow her on Twitter: @atrueblood5. She was the "Sun" half of the "Sun vs Snow" contest last month - a terrific contest that resulted in many requests!! She's also part of Operation Awesome. She's a great writer, and equally as important she believes in staying positive - supporting and uplifting our writing community.

So - get your pitches in! First 10 get critiqued.
After Amy is finished with her round, feel free to comment as well. The more the merrier!

Here's how this works:

1) Post your pitch in the comments section.  Tell us your genre: YA, MG, or NA. And for reference, tell us your ms title.
2) The first 10 to post will get a critique from Amy. As I said, after she leaves feedback, I hope others will leave feedback as well - the more the merrier.
3) Use the "reply" button to do this rather than making a new comment - I am hoping that will help us keep the feedback organized and easy to follow. Just to be sure, reference the ms title you're critiquing to minimize potential for mix up!
3) As always, please keep your feedback constructive, not mean.

For those of you polishing pitches for #PitchMadness Clue Edition hosted by Brenda Drake, Sharon Johnston, Summer Heacock, and Rebecca Weston, the contest rules and info are HERE .


  1. YA Fantasy

    Harry Potter meets steampunk in Athenia, where a student named Oubliette investigates who is trying to steal her academic mentor’s work. But stopping the thief means giving up admission to the university of her dreams.

    1. Oh, and title is The Theory of Everything. Thanks! :-)

    2. Hi Katie:

      I like this premise!

      My first suggestion is to remove the HP reference. While I love HP, I've seen many agents comment that it is overused as a comp,

      I'd recommend by starting with who Oubliette is and what she wants. You say she is a student, is there magic involved? Show us what makes her unique. If this is steampunk, I would encourage you to illustrate how it is fused into this world.

      Then give us the conflict. Why does someone trying to steal her mentor's work effect her? What is the cost to her?

      Finish with your sinker. Why does stopping the thief put her admission to a university at risk? Allude to how the thief is tied into destroying her dreams.

      Good luck!

    3. Hi Amy,

      Thank you so much for your advice! I was on the fence about the HP reference, so I will definitely remove it. But how to do everything else in 35 words??

      Here are two alternative revisions. I'd love to hear what you and the other blog readers think of them:

      In the erudite city of Athenia, Oubliette investigates who is trying to steal her beloved mentor’s groundbreaking research. But unmasking the thief means missing a competition for admission to the university of her dreams.

      At the University of Athenia, Oubliette investigates who is trying to steal her beloved mentor’s groundbreaking research. When it turns out the culprit may be a familiar Academic, Oubliette must decide where her loyalties lie.

      Thanks again!

    4. Hi Katie -
      I think both versions have something good.

      Can you get away with saying "University student Oubliette?" I'm looking for ways to save you some words. I also think you can cut "beloved" because the word "mentor" implies close relationship.
      And - groundbreaking research - is this what makes the ms steampunk? Can you be more specific so as to allude to whatever machinery or science is motivating Oubliette to take such risks?

      I also think the sinker could be more specific. Do her loyalties lie with her need to apply to the university of her dreams? Or to her mentor? What happens to her life if she can't go to university?

      I know - it seems impossible to get it all in. But I think you're really close, so keep trying!!

    5. Hi Heather,

      Thanks a ton for your input! Here's another stab at it--would love to hear what you think.

      Oubliette investigates the attempted theft of her mentor’s invention, which could revolutionize scientific philosophy. When she discovers the culprit is an Academic from a prestigious university, stopping him means giving up her dream of attending.

      And thanks again for arranging this!

  2. Lucy found paradise beyond her missing grandmother’s hedge. She even met a fabulous guy there. Unfortunately, she can’t bring him, or her grandmother, home. Who knew Eden was so complicated?

    EDEN, YA Magical Realism

    1. Hi Geni:

      After reading this pitch, I have so many questions - which is good.

      First, I had to read the first line a couple of times before I realized her grandmother was missing. The way you have it written it sounds like the grandmother's hedge is missing.

      Maybe try - "While searching for her missing grandmother, Lucy finds paradise..." This helps set up the conflict right away.

      Next, I would suggest using the boy's name and trying to give him some other description besides fabulous. This would be a great place to insert Lucy's voice. Would she call him "yummy?" or "Mr. Seriously I'm Hot?" LOL! These are just suggestions, but I'd encourage you to add a little voice to the pitch.

      Last, I would like to see you hint as to why Lucy can't bring them back. Is there a curse? I'd been inclined to want to read more if I knew what was holding them back.

      Hope this helps and good luck!

    2. Thank you Amy and hi Everyone. I tried a rewrite. I'd love comments if you have them:

      While searching for her missing grandmother, Lucy stumbles into paradise, and smart, lanky Isaac. To keep Isaac, and find her grandmother, Lucy must evade Eden’s information blackout – before the summer ends. EDEN YA Magical Realism.

    3. Hi Geni -
      Much better!
      I think you still have a few areas to clear up though - the "information blackout" is confusing. It sounds dystopian. Magical realism is the real world with a little subtle magic thrown in - clearly Eden is the magic place? But why? And what will happen when summer ends?
      Isaac is clearly important - I would keep searching for a better, hookier way to describe him. Is he magical? Seductive? Mysterious?
      I know - a lot of questions to answer in 35 words, Ouch. But I have faith you can do it!

    4. This is great Geni :) Maybe instead of before summer ends name the stakes of why she needs to do this before summer ends?
      Good luck! I KNOW how hard this is ;)

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. Thank you Heather and Julia! One more try with your comments in mind:

      Lucy meets library-hot Isaac in paradise, beyond her grandmother's hedge. It's perfect. Too perfect. Lucy suspects their paradise explains her grandmother's disappearance. She wants Isaac for real before she loses Eden, too. EDEN YA Magical Realism

    7. I think you're getting there! Better each time!

      This time, I'm wondering just how important the hedge is? Can you get away with saying "Lucy stumbles through the back yard into paradise and meets library-hot Isaac - but it's too perfect." Does that work? If so maybe you've got a few more words for your sinker, which is still a little confusing. Why isn't Isaac real? And is Eden at stake because her grandmother is still lost?
      Keep plugging... I know you can do it!

    8. Heather, there is a special place in heaven for you.
      I promise this is the last try I'll post:

      Lucy meets library-hot Isaac in the paradise beyond her grandmother’s hedge. Unfortunately, if Lucy’s grandmother disappeared into Eden, Isaac might be next. Before she can fall for Isaac, Lucy must find him. EDEN YA Magical Realism

  3. NA Sci Fi/Fantasy Romance – When the Clock Broke

    After being dumped, Aidelle’s finds more than brick-and-mortar walls keeping her from the man she still loves: she’s sealed herself in a frozen reality. And, in less than 24 hours, she’ll be erased from existence.

    1. Hi Alexandrina:

      Cool title! It definitely piques my interest.

      I like the idea of a frozen reality, but as a reader I need to understand what this means.

      Is Aidelle a scientist and has stopped time? Did she stumble upon a secret experiment? I think this would be better illustrated if you gave us more of a definition of who Aidelle is in the first sentence. Is she a scientist? College student? I'm just guessing here, but as a reader I need this to be clear from the start. In NA too, it's always good to define where this character is in their early 20s.

      I like the stakes in the sinker, but I think I need one more line to add to the tension. Does the ex-boyfriend figure in to getting her out of this frozen reality? I'd like to see a little more meat to the pitch before the end.

      Best of luck in your publishing journey!

    2. Hi,
      Thanks for the comments!
      I have about five different versions and three rewrites of this pitch floating around. So, so difficult to distil! I'd love to get Aidelle fiancé in the pitch actually, as a lot of the plot is from his POV.
      Will you be looking at a rewrite posted here? Also, what do you think are the best tips for 35-word pitches? :)

    3. I'm happy to look at rewrites. I think the best way to approach the 35-word limit is to remember the Trinity: Character, Conflict, and Cost. (Plus Hook!) All subplots must go - which means the onus is on you to decide what is really at the heart of this ms.
      It seems your main plot isn't the love story but the fight for survival? And what is erasing her?

    4. Thanks!
      Here’s probably the best of the rewrites I’ve tried. I’m not a big fan of the qui-clause structure, though I suspect it is the simplest.

      When 20-year-old Aidelle breaks a mantelpiece clock over being dumped, she must traverse the static alternate reality she’s been transported to before the vanishing hours seal her as memory alone in this false universe.

    5. Hi - it's getting better! I think you're close, but I'm still a little confused.

      Is it the clock that sends Aidelle into the alt reality? And what do you mean bv static? It doesn't change?

      Also - in the interest of making each word count, I don' t think you need the word "false" - it's clear it's not the "real" one.

      "before the vanishing hours seal her as a memory alone" - meaning she's a memory in her own world? She won't be able to physically return?

      Sounds interesting! Feel free to try another revision here.

    6. In answer to all of the questions you posed: yes. :P Would 'unchanging' work better than 'static'? I'm always finding it difficult to suggest in so few words that all of the 'broken' reality apart from Aidelle is literally standing still.

      How's this one?

      When a broken mantelpiece clock transports 20-year-old Aidelle to an alternate universe, she must traverse this reality as its only moving component before the vanishing hours steal her body from her true reality and lover.

      (I guess I should probably omit the mention of her love, but I had the space ;) )

  4. YA Contemporary Skinniness is Next to Goddessness?

    Food equaled security for Lacey but declares war when she discovers her comfort is really her greatest enemy. Now Lacey believes she would “kill to be thin”, until the expression becomes a tragic reality.

    1. Hi Julia:

      I love YA Contemporary and you pose some interesting issues here. Unfortunately, there are a lot of eating disorder books in the YA marketplace (BUTTER & SKINNY to name a few) so you need your pitch to stand out from the others.

      First, while I like your title, it feels a little to flip for a serious issue book.

      In your first line, I think you may have a word missing - maybe "she" after "but." Also, this is all pretty topical. Can you illustrate for us the event that makes Lacey realize that the "comfort is her greatest enemy?" For me, this is really where your story begins.

      Also, what does "kill to be thin" mean within the context of the story? Does she really murder someone one?

      I would suggest starting with an intriguing hook, tying in how perhaps not friends or tests are her biggest enemy but food is. This will grab the reader's attention right away & quickly illustrate your conflict.

      Best of luck to you!

    2. Thanks so much for your help Amy!

    3. This is my revised pitch, trying my best to take on Amy's wonderful advice, if anyone would be willing to help me out with it?
      Public display of Lacey’s wobbly bits by a cute frat boy is the final straw, sending her sprawling into a world of too few calories. But Lacey’s biggest mistake, taking a friend down with her.

    4. Hi Julia.
      I think the first phrase is a lot to swallow (no pun intended). Can you shuffle it a bit? Maybe "When a cute frat boy publicizes pictures of Lacey's wobbly bits, Lacey spirals into a world of too few calories." Just a thought. good luck!!

    5. Hi Julia -
      Love the "wobbly bits" - very Bridget Jones. :)
      Remember the Trinity: Character, Conflict, Cost. What is the cost? What are the stakes?
      Lacey is humiliated, right? Is that part of the conflict? And when she "takes down a friend" does that mean she also gets that friend to be anorexic?
      She's starving herself because she's humiliated - but starving herself is also killing herself?
      Things to think about - I would take another wack at this.
      Feel free to post revisions -- I'm happy to take a look.

    6. Thanks so much Geni and Heather!! All of these pointers are priceless!! Here is a revised version. I hope they did your pointers justice :)

      Fatness stole Lacey’s dignity and self worth. Drawn together by their hate for their bodies, Lacey and Ash engage in a calorie slashing competition. Their rash actions reveal Ash's weak heart, a little too late?

      Thanks again :)

    7. What an amazing change! I like this version and "slashing" and "rash" are great words. Good luck!

    8. Definitely much better!
      I would still keep tinkering with the first sentence though - I feel like it could still be stronger. I wonder if you could start with the second sentence? Driven by self (hatred) (loathing?) Lacey and Ash compete to see who can slim down by slashing the most calories from their day. But their (drastic? dramatic? ) diet reveals Ash's weak heart. Here's where I wonder - what's too late? Too late to gain the weight back? To late to stop a heart attack?

    9. Thank you both soooo sooo much!!! I'll keep working on it :)

  5. THE READER, YA Fantasy

    Sefia can use the book to avenge her father’s murder… if she can teach herself to read. But only eleven people in her world know the book exists, and the other ten want it back.

    1. Hi Traci:

      Thanks for sharing your pitch. As I read it, I found myself wanting more, and I think that is because it is very vague.

      For me a compelling pitch has to have three things: character, conflict and cost.

      So for character: I need to know more about Sefia before I can care about her avenging her father's death. What can you tell me about her? What makes her different than all the other female YA Fantasy characters out there?

      Conflict: Is it avenging her father's death or the worry that the other ten will take the book?

      Cost: I need a hint of what will happen to her if the others take the book. Will she lose her way? Does it mean death? Imprisonment? Not being able to exact revenge on her father's killers? If you can share what that ultimate risk is, you will have a very effective sinker.

      Hope I have helped and good luck!


    2. Hi Amy,

      Thanks for your critique. I appreciate it!


  6. BREATHING SEA YA Speculative
    On the eve of human extinction, Aster is selected to survive, frozen and sunk; preserved in stasis for thousands of years. She wakes on a pristine island, distraught to find her brothers missing. Turning to the sea for answers, Aster befriends water-breathing Kayo, whose estranged tribe also sought sanctuary in the sea, but now have sinister plans for her and her fellow trespassers.
    This is not a mermaid story, but to survive the journey—you will be BREATHING SEA.

    1. Hi Antonia:

      So first off, love the premise and title! It really caught my eye.

      I had to go back and read the first sentence several times. I understood "selected to survive" but then is she frozen and sunk into the sea? I think this may need some clarification.

      Can you use another word besides pristine to describe the island? I'm not getting a good visual from that word.

      So were Aster's brothers selected too? You may want to add this to the first line. Having them show up on the island sort of threw me.

      I am always leery of phrases like "sinister plans" as it doesn't convey much to the reader. Is there any way to illustrate what the cost will be to Aster and her brothers? This will make for a better conclusion and perhaps do away with the need for the last line which feels more like a conclusion to a synopsis than a pitch.

      Good luck with this!


    2. Thanks Amy, that was really helpful, and generous of you to give your time

    MG Contemporary
    Rebecca Waddell

    35 Word Pitch

    At school, wild rumors fly through the halls about Beth, the new girl football player.The boys she's counted her friends band together to show her how rough football can get.

    1. Hi Rebecca:

      I can't tell you how much I love this premise!!!

      Here are my thoughts:

      If you want to convey the story in just 35 words you've got to start with a sharp hook and work in the football player aspect in your first words. That way the agent or reader knows who the MC is right away and what is at stake.

      Next, I'd suggest hinting at what the rumors are. By doing this you heighten the stakes.

      For your sinker, you need to show what she is willing to risk for her love of the game . Is she willing to lose her friends? Is playing the game costing her too much?

      I'd also highly encourage you to throw in some word play too. Things like "sacked," "blindsided," "unnecessary roughness" could really work to your advantage here.

      Good luck!

  8. After dying in a car accident, Abbie awakes in the crime-filled city of Purgatory. To stay safe, Abbie reluctantly joins a gang and when she discovers their corrupt nature, she must fight for her freedom.

    1. Hi Jodie:

      Very cool concept. I think you can really do a lot with this pitch.

      First, I'd suggest doing more world building for us. You've said "crime-filled" city, but what other words can you use to create a visual of Purgatory. Is it dark or gritty? Think about ways to paint that picture for us.

      In regards to the gang, I think you need to add more. Is she attacked? Does she someone die? We need some sort of conflict to know why she would join this group besides the city being crime-filled.

      The phrase "corrupt nature" doesn't tell me anything. Are they gamblers, money launderers, drug dealers? Show me why she feels threatened.

      For the conclusion, I need to know what is truly at stake for Abbie. Will they kill her? Will she be imprisoned? Why does she have to fight for her freedom and what will it mean to her time in Purgatory?

      Best of luck with this!

  9. AF Book Club Historical

    For Maria, an Italian girl deciding to marry, Destiny's signs are everywhere. The problem is: so are their interpreters! The matchmaker says one thing, the mysterious woodpecker says another. But neither agree with her heart.

    1. Hi Savina:

      What a great story! It sounds like a fun read, but what you have written is not getting your story across in an effective way.

      First, who is Maria besides an Italian girl? Add a word or two to show her character. Allow the reader to get to know her.

      Next, what is her conflict? Is it that she doesn't want to marry who the matchmaker picked? If so, is there someone else? If there is, you need to share that with the reader. And my apologies, but I did not get the woodpecker reference.

      Last, what is the cost to her if she doesn't go with the matchmaker's pick? If this is a historical, I would imagine it would be disappointment from not only the family but the community.

      Illustrate these things in the pitch, and I think you'll get an agent's attention.

      Good luck.

    2. Amy,
      You rock for taking the time to help me on that! I can't wait to incorporate the feedback.

  10. I already tried yesterday but had many problem getting back here, so I am reposting this.
    Feel free to ignore if no one else is filling up the last spot. Thanks.

    It is up to psychic Janna to save the day after her Ouija board makes her twin disappear. She either has to face ten years in jail for kidnapping or face her deepest fears, cross over and fight invisible bullies.

    1. So sorry for the trouble getting back in to the blog site! Not sure why ... but glad you posted again. Thanks for participating and good luck!

    2. You are welcome. Thank you so much Heather for doing this. It is well appreciated :)

    3. Hi Sussu:

      So is this YA or MG? You say bullies, so I'm thinking MG.

      I like how you share that the sister is psychic right off, but I'd like to know what caused the Ouija board to make the her twin disappear. Was it bad magic? A curse? I'd encourage you to spell this out a bit more.

      When I get to the second line I'm confused. Why would she face kidnapping charges? Do she and her sister have a tainted past? Or is it because she can't explain her disappearance. Think you need to make this clear.

      In your conclusion, I suggest you illustrate what Janna's fears are and why it keeps her from crossing over. This is your cliffhanger moment, you need to show what it will cost her if she can't conquer her demons and save her sister.

      Good luck with this!

    4. Thank you for the useful feedback :)

  11. Hi all you amazing writers:

    First a quick "thank you." I know it is not easy to share your work, and I feel honored that you let me take a peek at your pitches today!

    Best of luck to all of you as you move forward. I'm keeping good publishing thoughts for all of you!