15 critiques for ’15!
My wonderful critique partners have started a new freelance editing business and agreed to sponsor my January workshop. Jami Nord and K.T. Hanna have helped me spruce up my manuscripts and now they’re helping fifteen lucky and brave writers with theirs. The winners have already been picked. In the next few days, stop by and read Jami’s and Katie’s critiques and learn from their advice. Today we have our next two critiques up. We aren’t mentioning names or titles. It’s up to the writers if they want to reveal themselves.
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Critique by Jami Nord…
(Personalization goes here)
When Raz walks into advanced algebra on the first day of senior year, she hasn’t a clue that the secrets she’s been keeping about her dysfunctional family and her escape plan are about to unravel before her eyes. It’s hate at first sight when she sees Logan, a bad boy from the other side of town, who accuses her of being a thief. On the surface, they couldn’t be more different: she’s a brain and he’s barely passing, he’s chased by every girl in school and she doesn’t even have a boyfriend, she’s half Italian and half Jewish and he’s multiracial. When she’s forced (How? Does she get caught doing something she shouldn’t? Or part of a class, like peer mediation?) to tutor him, she discovers he’s about to threaten everything she’s worked so hard for (Again, how? Be more specific). When Raz doesn’t fall for his superficial charm, Logan realizes that Raz really cares about him and isn’t afraid to break through the stereotypes and barriers that threaten to keep them apart.
SECRETS (64,000 words) is a
completed (Redundant. Please, everyone, don’t query incomplete novels. It wastes the agent’s time and your chances at that agent/agency. Don’t be that person.) contemporary young adult story (told in the alternating points of view) of two lonely teens who need a best friend to trust and love. Written in both Raz’s and Logan’s point of view, the novel presents a fresh teen perspective, portraying their thoughts, insecurities, hang-ups and urges, making it easy for any teen to identify with. Strong themes of acceptance, diversity, courage and independence are woven through the book, providing a powerful read that boldly faces the difficulties of mixed racial relationships. (This would do much better worked into the description of the plot. I don’t know enough about the plot here to spell it out, but I’ve woven in what I could tease out from this above in the inserts. The mention of dual point of view would be better accomplished if the first paragraph gets split out. Show us the stakes from Raz’s point of view, what she has to lose, and what’s holding her back. Then from Logan’s point of view, show the same things: what he specifically has to lose, what he’s afraid of, etc. Then, in a third paragraph, tie them together and emphasize the conflict. The book could fit on the shelf next to PERFECT CHEMISTRY.
The University of South Florida’s Palm Prints published one of my short stories, Riverwalk published another online, and I won first place in a Virginia Romance Writers contest and second place for a YA novel in a Florida State Writing Competition. (Ideally, if any of these are available online, be more specific. Agents often Google perspective client’s claimed credentials if they’re interested, and especially if it’s an event they haven’t heard of, they want to see if it’s legitimate. None of this is, alone, impressive, but it’s good to show you’ve been working at this for a while. )
I’ve copied in x pp. of SECRETS per your guidelines. This is a multiple submission. (Redundant. They will see the pages below the query, and queries should always be multiple submissions.) Thank you for considering my story.
Everyone thinks I’m a math genius and track star who can’t be bothered with guys. The truth is—that’s a total lie. If I told anyone what’s really going on inside me, in my family, and in my hopes and dreams, they’d never believe it. (This is telling. Show us this. Grab a trigonometry book, and complain about being up so early on the first day for track practice, lace her newest shoes, etc.)
Starting senior year shouldn’t be so nerve-wracking, but I’m in the passenger seat of Chelsea’s VW bug when the red brick school buildings come into view. My hands sweat, even though it’s cold. We’re late, and Chelsea drives like a maniac while I hold onto my seat and tell myself just nine more months and I can escape from my small hometown and start my life for real.
If I can get that track scholarship to UW-Madison.
Chelsea squeals to a stop in the student lot behind a about a hundred cars jockeying for a parking place closest to school. While gas exhaust forces its way up my nose and car horns and squealing wheels fill my ears, she checks her mascara in the rear view mirror, and pulls a purple headband around her hair.
Logan Spenser, a guy I barely know, pulls his car up alongside
me(us), rolls down his window and stares at me.
That’s a first. I don’t think he’s ever even looked at me. Of course, I can’t help staring back. His skin has a gorgeous mocha glow. His face is so perfect, it’s almost beautiful—that is if a guy can be beautiful.
(Get more into the character’s head. This is all very distant, which makes it feel flat. She drives like a maniac vs “the tires squeal and the car lurches forward before slamming me against the seatbelt.” for example. You get the idea.)
Critique by K.T. Hanna …
Killing never comes easy, but for eighteen-year-old Martia, exterminating those who fall in love is just one of the more uncomfortable parts of her job as a Deathwalker.
In the country of Mithos, True Love is the most dangerous form of black magic, capable of burning through skin and bone. Those who fall prey to it must be eliminated. Born with the ability to identify those with the aura representing True Love, Martia was raised in isolation and trained to be a killer. Her earliest memories are filled with anger and fear. She’s hated for what she is and the death only she can bring.
When Martia is assigned to the palace as a guard for Prince Narin, her worst fear is realized—Narin is her True Love. She refuses to fall under the intoxicating spell of the black magic, but Narin’s gentleness makes her dream of being more than a brutal executioner. When her crime is discovered, Martia must make a decision. She can plunge her sword into Narin’s heart, or choose Narin and become one of the hunted.
[I love this query. There’s a great sense of what the stakes are, and where the conflict lies. Based solely on this I would want to see more.]
The streets of Yuin are no place for love.
Only death. [This reads like grandstanding. Your opening line is strong enough. Don’t foreshadow what she does like this, it detracts from the shock of reading her actually killing later on.]
I creep through shadows, wearing black in a city of pale stone. Even after dusk, Yuin is bright,
the firelight flaring into my eyes [Does the firelight really flare into her eyes? That has to be painful]. I press myself closer to the building’s wall, tilting away from the flickering glow. Darkness shields better than any armor. [rephrasing suggestions: Even after dusk, Yuin is bright, and my black garb stands out against its pale stone. I press closer to the building’s wall, tilting away from the flickering firelight. Darkness is much easier to hide in.] Something clinks to my left. I reach for the polished hilt of my cutlass. A wine bottle rolls into the alley, and a giggling couple stumbles out after it. [This section is fragmented and stilted. In order to gain some flow I’d suggest something similar to the following: The sound of glass scraping against cobblestones sets me on edge and my hand grazes the polished hilt of my cutlass. I spy a wine bottle rolling in the alley, a giggling couple stumbling behind it.] The woman’s snicker grows sharp enough to block the distant music of stringed vihuelas and beating hand drums. She clutches her sides, bunching up the layers in her floor-length pleated dress. Her glazed eyes rise to meet mine and she wobbles back, her laughter cutting off.
By the Sisters’ graces. I hate it when people see me.
The corners of my lips jerk up in a jagged smile. [My lips jerk up in a jagged smile – works better. The corners of just adds unnecessary words]
She grabs the man’s hand and pulls him close. “It’s one of them.”
The man frowns and twists.
When he makes out my shape [this is almost headhopping. The man frowns and twists as he peers in my direction. Then he pales as a whine escapes his throat.] He pales, and a whine escapes his throat. They always look at me like that, seeing a monster in the place of a girl. I wish I could shrink back. [I thought she’d accepted what she was? This feels out of character for what little I know of her. Why would she want to shrink back from her duty? Do you mean to raise this question?]
I step forward.
The woman whimpers. “Please, don’t kill us.”
[This Query is great. It’s an interesting concept with a very solid and engaging view of the stakes and conflicts. But the first page falls apart a bit. The writing feels stiff and inorganic, a bit like it’s trying too hard. With some tweaks, I look forward to seeing how this develops]
Thank you, Jami and K.T.! Everyone else, make sure to stop by Tuesday for the next two critiques.