Tuesday, September 27, 2016

September Pass Or Pages Entry #2

Time for our favorite part of Pass Or Pages, the feedback reveals! We hope that everyone following along will get something out of these reveals that they can apply to their own writing. I did!
We are so grateful to our agent panel for critiquing these entries. We would also like to give a shout-out to the authors for being brave and willing to improve.



For generations, the ancient demon Void Storm has terrorized the Southlands.

All Luo Sanniang has ever wanted was to wear nice dresses, have children, and marry the aristocrat Shi Jinyu. But when the only person who could've ended Void Storm's[RN1] reign, her brother, is murdered on her wedding night[RN2], she vows revenge against the masked fiend.[RN3]

Without her brother to protect the city, slavers begin kidnapping women and children. Sanniang sees how powerless the military is to stop them, so she defies tradition by secretly training in Valiant Crane style, a martial art suitable for women with bound feet. Near the end of her family's mourning period, the outlaw Xiang Su swears allegiance[SN1] to Sanniang, bringing her evidence of the conspiracy responsible for her brother's death — and Void Storm's mask[SN2]. In order to truly use what Su has brought her, Sanniang has to find a way to unbind her feet, learn Su's outlaw ways, and become the thing she hates most — Void Storm.[SN3]

When Sanniang dons the mask, its full powers reveal her as the true Void Storm.[RN4][SN4] While at Jinyu's estate, she learns of her betrothed's[RN5] involvement in the conspiracy[RN6]. Sanniang burns her wedding dress before setting off to re-form Void Storm's gang. As Sanniang and Su’s unlikely association grows into deeper friendship, they must unify their multi-ethnic band of outlaws and prevent chaos[SN5] from consuming Guangzhou.[SN6][KA1]

VOID STORM: UNBOUND is a YA fantasy novel, or more aptly a Chinese wuxia written for an American audience. Popularized in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, wuxia is a genre of high-flying martial arts, romance, chivalry, and adventure. The novel is complete at 84,000 words and would appeal to fans of Batman, anime such as Naruto, the "Tales of the Otori" series by Lian Hearn, and "Grave Mercy" by Robin LaFevers.[RN7]

Renee's Notes:
[RN1]First of all, I know nothing about wuxia, so please take this piece of feedback with a grain of proverbial salt, but all of the character names in this are obviously very Chinese, but Void Storm is not. I wouldn’t mention things like character names at the query level, except that it was jarringly different enough that it pulled me out of the query a little bit each time I came across it. I would love something a little more in line with the rest of the character names here.
[RN2]YA is a little tricky with marriages. It can be done (BREAKING DAWN, WITHER) but it’s very rare. I know it sounds ridiculous, but even if her brother was murdered on the night before her wedding, that would help this feel a little bit more YA.
[RN3]I love the ladylike girl with vengeance plotline. I’m always immediately compelled to read more.
[RN4]So she was Void Storm all along? Or she becomes Void Storm? This is very unclear.
[RN5]I thought Sanniang and Jinyu were married. 
[RN6]This conspiracy has been mentioned several times, but I had no idea why there was one. Was her brother murdered for power? Money?
[RN7]These comp titles are really interesting. I think they are well thought through.

Sarah's Notes:
[SN1]This is confusing. How did an outlaw know to swear allegiance to her if she was training in secret?
[SN2]Did he kill Void Storm? Wouldn't that be the end of the story?
[SN3]I don't understand this. If she trained in a martial art designed for use by women with bound feet, why would she unbind hers, and why does she need to train to be an outlaw or become the void storm. You haven't made the connection between these actions and bringing down Void Storm.
[SN4]Wait, so she's a demon?
[SN5]Chaos from who?
[SN6]So, it seems like chaos already consumes the area with a demon terrorizing the place for generations. What exactly is she trying to achieve, who is stopping her from doing it and what is at stake if she fails. These are the crucial elements of a query and I'm missing them here.

Kurestin's Notes:
[KA1]It feels like you've gone too far in this query. Ideally you'd stop right at the inciting incident that propels the action of the novel as a whole, usually what happens in the first twenty pages (give or take). This final bit feels more like something that happens in the third of the book or later. As a result, it doesn't feel powerful enough to propel an entire novel (likely because it does not). Refocus the query and leave us with the conflict that actually forms the beginning thrust of the novel.
Now, that all said, I would request because the concept is intriguing and our character sounds very driven, which I love.

First 250:

Images from a rogues' gallery glared down at her, and all Luo Sanniang could do was shake her head at them and mutter, "I could do better[SN1]." The hint of a smug grin crept across her slim face as she studied the array of yellow wanted posters pasted on the city wall. Tall, willowy, and well-dressed, Sanniang took pride in the attention and the wide berth everyone gave her.[SN2][KA1]

Shoppers shuffled across the flagstone streets, merchants called out the merits of their wares, horses clattered past leading a squeaky-wheeled carts, and armor-clad city guards leaned on their polearms. A trace of raw sewage lingered behind the more pungent licorice smell from an herbalist's shop. The constant haze of clouds had held back the mid-day sun's fury and made faint blobs of people's shadows. As the cover began to clear, Sanniang unfurled her parasol to protect her pale skin.

"Are you talking to the pictures, sister?" Xu Nianci dodged a slow-moving cart and waddled up, hands on her pregnant belly.

Sanniang pointed up at the posters. "Look how badly-drawn they are." A sudden gust disrupted the smoothness of her blue silk dress and pulled a long strand of hair free from her ornate headdress. It waved in the wind, slow and ephemeral, as if it were some sort[KA2] of ghost.

Nianci snorted and inspected the posters. "I don't think creating fine artwork was the goal here. Who would honor these lowlifes with talent such as yours anyway?"[SN3]

Sarah's Notes:
[SN1]It's unclear if she's suggesting she could be a better rogue or could have done a better job artistically.
[SN2]This sentence feels tacked on and not part of the first paragraph.
[SN3]There's nothing wrong with this opening, but it's a little forgettable.
Kurestin's Notes:
[KA1]I do really enjoy this establishing shot of her character, we get a lot about her very quickly.
[KA2]Try to avoid hedging language like this, it really weakens an image and can kill the tension of a scene.

Renee Nyen: PASS
Sarah Negovetich: PASS
Kurestin Armada: PAGES!

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