Wednesday, November 23, 2016

November Pass Or Pages Entry #3

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.



Living[CG1] in an Italian/Spanish neighborhood has its advantages, and twelve-year-old Mitch knows how to maneuver his way around the hood. If Rat Ears and No Neck hadn’t played a school prank earning him[CG2] the nickname Skeletor Mitch, he wouldn’t have accepted their challenge to compete at a treacherous game of JUNKYARD DOG. But the idea of besting them and winning the prize, the school’s Marshal Badge, has its perks. For one thing, he’ll end their reign of terror. Humiliating the thugs[CG3] will be sweet. But the idea of losing is painful—he’d be labeled the biggest dork ever.[RP1]

Enlisting the help of his best friends, things don’t go as planned and instead of gaining supporters, Mitch ends up the underdog. On top of that, all efforts to win over the Bullmastiff that guards the junkyard of creepy old movie props backfire.

Its doomsday Monday, the street has been blocked off; the drones are ready to go live on Snap Chat, and the whole school shows for the event of a lifetime—including the mafiosos.[RP2] Armed with a glow in the dark watch, a bag of cat food, his lucky chicken legs, and a treasure map, he sets off on a scavenger hunting adventure. When the game goes awry, Mitch has to choose: save the lives of his sworn enemy and lose or go for the gold.[CG4]

MG JUNKYARD DOG 56k-words[CG5]

Rebecca's Notes:
[RP1] I have a lot of questions about what’s going on in this paragraph, because there’s a lot of plot. What does living in an Italian/Spanish neighborhood have to do with the skillset Mitch needs, and what does he need it for? What is Junkyard Dog? Is Skeletor Mitch a bad name (it seems better than Rat Ears.) What kind of game is Junkyard Dog, and what’s a Marshal badge? Piquing an agent’s curiosity is good, but you don’t want to confuse them by throwing too much down at once. I would be cautious going forward.

 [RP2] I might stop reading here, because I wouldn’t know what was happening. I thought this game was just between him and the bullies like a dare, but now the town seems to be involved (blocking off the street) and the drones make me think this is sci-fi, though Snap Chat seems like a strange forum for this, and I don’t know where the mafiosos came from. And I still don’t know what this game is, that it requires a treasure map. There are some cool elements here, but in a query I look for who a character is, what they want and what’s at stake, and I’m not sure of any of that. So it would make me wary of what story I was getting into.

Clelia's Notes:
[CG1] I always recommend starting with an introductory paragraph that includes contextual information plus a one line pitch that includes your hook and will get a reader interested in knowing more.
[CG2] This sentence construction is off because, as written, the earnings of the prank should be imputed the Rat Ears and No Neck, which, after two or three reads, I realized is not what you mean to say here.
[CG3] I’d use a different word.
[CG4] You are including too much of a plot in this pitch. It’s coming off as too complex for the pitch. Remember, the pitch is not a synopsis, but a selling document. So take the most compelling parts of your book and the necessary plot points and context – you don’t need to unveil the entire story. Try to cut this down to one paragraph. Read flap/jacket copy on books to get a better idea of how to do this well.
[CG5] This should be rolled into the text of the pitch more naturally.

First 250:

Mitch shook the hatchling lizard from its waxy bag into the terrarium, and counted the seconds it would take Sam, his pet python, to snag it with his killer fangs. The lizard’s tiny legs sped across the tank’s glass walls. On twelve, the python’s yellow head shot like an arrow, snaring the crawler into his mouth.[CG1]

“Whoa. That lizard didn’t stand a chance. You’re fast, buddy.”

Sam slithered lazily into his pool.

Outside his bedroom window Kurt hollered. “Yo, Mitch! You up there?”

Kurt said he’d be coming by at noon. The Batman clock on his nightstand had both hands pointed to twelve. Mitch pulled the curtains aside and poked his head out. “Hey, man.”

“We’re late. Hurry or all the free food will be gone.” He flipped his skateboard and held the Zero like a torch. “Break out your board, we’re rolling.”

If he moved any slower, Kurt would know he’d been dragging his feet. “Sure.” Mitch checked his iPhone.[CG2] No calls or texts. No news is good news. “I’ll be right down.”

Mitch slid closed the feeder door of the terrarium. “Sam, I’m late for an event.” He pressed his nose to the tank. “Have you ever been pushed into doing something you’ll regret? No. Why would you? You’ve got superhero strength. Who wouldn’t be scared of you? ” He sighed. “See ya, buddy.”

He loved bowling parties, but didn't want to run into a certain two morons from school.[CG3]

Clelia's Notes:
[CG1] A jarring initial image, some kids could be turned off by it. Consider whether this opening has a bigger purpose—does it demonstrate a character trait about Mitch or his life that will have importance later on or in the entire book, or is this just included for hooking in or shocking the reader on page 1. Ideally, you want a balance of both.
[CG2] Try to speak about technology as generally as possible – you want your book to still be around for years to come, and who knows if kids of the future will know what an iPhone is. Do kids of today know what  Blackberry is? Definitely not.
[CG3] Writing is solid, but I leave not totally hooked. Working on a sharper, more compelling query will make an agent want to read on even if they aren’t totally connecting at first with the sample writing.

Rebecca Podos: PASS
Clelia Gore: PASS

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