Monday, November 21, 2016

November Pass Or Pages Entry #1

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.



ZAKE ALLGOOD, DUGOUT SUPER-SPY[CG1] is a humorous middle grade mystery about how a boy's love of baseball becomes his secret weapon to conquer his fear of public speaking, expose dangerous criminals, and muster the mojo to be a hero, both on and off the mound. The book mashes the film The Sandlot, with contemporary Hardy Boys[RP1][CG2], for a 54,000-word adventure that will resonate with fans of baseball, friendship, and victory over bad guys and other obstacles in the complicated life of a twelve-year-old kid.[CG3]

Zake's got some missions unaccomplished:

1. Talk in front of 62 eyeballs without puffing into a paper bag... again.

2. Write down journal stuff[RP2], so that random thought don't spill out like a bucket of baseballs.

3. Win back the championship in a Midwest town so small that Google Maps ignored it.

He’s also on a quest for self-discovery, even though he doesn’t know it.[CG4] But when Zake and his best buddy, Campy, break curfew to work on Zake’s curveball, they spy two thugs[RP3] burying something past the outfield, and Zake’s biggest mission becomes survival. No one lets them explain; no one takes the boys seriously. But the boys know one thing is serious—the bad guys’ threat to toast any witnesses. Zake plots to expose the goons, and pours his heart into his journal—an introspective journey that Google Maps couldn’t begin to chart. Along with his best friends, Campy—a biracial catcher who views life through the lens of legendary black MLB Hall of Famer, Roy Campanella; and MJ—a friend who won’t let Zake forget his dreams while she pursues her own—Zake discovers he must take matters into his own mitt to solve his problems and the town’s mysteries with the one thing he knows best—his baseball.
Rebecca's Notes:
[RP1]I wouldn’t stop reading here, necessarily, but these comps are a bit retro. I would pick a more current comp from the last few years (i.e. The Hardy Boys meets The Bubble Wrap Boy, or a more fitting contemporary MG sports book.)
[RP2]Always be clear and specific—you don’t want to waste words in a query, or give an agent any reason to doubt your storytelling ability, and even small choices like “write down journal stuff” instead of “Start a journal” send up a red flag. Again, I might not stop, but I would worry.
[RP3]I’m not crazy about this word usage because of its present day connotations, and it’s not specific—what thugs? Are they older boys? Men he recognizes as working for a shady businessman in town? Definitely be as specific as possible, so I know what story I’d be getting into, and so I don’t put it down for the wrong reasons.

Clelia's Notes:
[CG1]This title sounds young to me, so I am assuming this book is written for a lower middle grade audience, 8-10? I would clarify this in the body of the query.
[CG2]Although these references are ones that nearly everyone will know, they are a both outdated. I would consider bringing in a modern reference as well. You want to give the agent or editor the impression that this book will have modern appeal.
[CG3]Good starting paragraph that serves as a set up for your pitch. I wish more queries I received had this structure! I like how, in this paragraph, you start with a solid one-line pitch followed by an informative sentence to give me all the context I need to appreciate your pitch.
[CG4]This doesn’t quite add up for me because a “quest for self-discovery” implies self-awareness.

Overall, solid query.

First 250:

Not a whiff of trouble in the whole Ohio sky, and Keffel Stallions practice was in full swing. I stood tall on the pitcher’s mound and inhaled the warm evening air, heavy with the awesome smell of baseball—freshly-mown grass, glove leather, infield dust, and body odor stink so thick it curled my nose hairs.

My arm ached to hurl some more lightning bolts at Campy. He crouched behind home plate—a spittin’ image[RP1] of his Hall of Fame idol, Brooklyn Dodgers catcher, Roy “Campy” Campanella. He flashed a grin behind his catcher’s mask—he was ready for another jolt from my impressive fastball.

Sure, our team was only a small town travel ball squad of twelve-year-olds, but Campy and me, we were feelin’ pretty major league. We were at the top of our game, and only a few days away from our shot at winning back the championship against our arch-rivals, the Richtown Raccoons. Baseball at its best in Keffel, Ohio, and I was the fastball king of the mound.

This was heaven.

“Curveball!” hollered Coach Stone. I cringed. Coach wanted to see what else I could unpack. I adjusted my grip and snapped the ball, but my arm tightened on the release, as if it didn’t like getting tricked into a different pitch. The ball never even crossed the plate. I gritted my teeth and tried again, but missed the mark by a long shot.

My heaven was turning into H-E-double baseball bats fast.
Rebecca's Notes:
[RP1]This phrase, and the spittin’/feelin’ spelling, is a little outdated, and coupled with the retro comps, would make me worry that the voice wouldn’t be fresh enough. There’s some lovely really writing in this sample! But with the outdated comps and unclear or unspecific language in the query, I might not have made it this far, because I would worry that it would carry over into your storytelling within the manuscript.

Clelia's Notes:
Your writing style is appealing and clean. My one concern is that this book feels rather old-fashioned to me –from another time (other than the Google Maps reference). I would find ways to make this book feel more modern and appropriate for today’s market.
Rebecca Podos: PASS
Clelia Gore: PASS

1 comment:

Rick Wheeler said...

I really enjoyed the use of humor, I chuckled a few times reading this. Good luck moving forward.