It's time for the last Pass Or Pages reveal of 2017! We're so grateful to our agent panel for taking the time to critique these entries. We hope you can find something to help you in your quest for an agent, even if you don't write middle grade!
Entry #1: LEGEND OF SMOK: THE LOCKET
Query:Emmie’s at a crossroads.[MLS1] She’s questioning herself and starting to believe those who put her down when she receives a magical locket that grants desires. The locket was sent by the wicked Ms. Smok who lives in the realm of Dulsiafacit and is a trained, although imperfect, magic spinner.
The locket entices[MLS2] Emmie, her twin brother Jake, and her developmentally handicapped and blind sister, Stella, to come to Dulciafacit, where they find the house of Ms. Smok, who invites them in as guests only for them to wake up in her dungeon. Ms. Smok gives Emmie a choice: choose any magical creature she wants to turn into, become Smok family[MLS3], and get revenge against those who put her down[MLS4], or have Ms. Smok choose what creature she becomes and wipe her memory. Neither choice sets Emmie’s siblings free, so she needs to find another option. The only chance of escape for the siblings is to find and lean on the strengths of each other. They learn the hard way that what you desire, isn’t always what’s best for you.[MLS5]
“The Legend of Smok: The Locket”[MLS6] is a diverse MG Fantasy novel of 56000 words. This story is told from three third person points of view: Emmie, Jake, and Ms. Smok. Emmie’s sister, Stella, is fashioned after my real-life sister.
I found myself confused by the query. I would suggest re-ordering the query to focus on the sibling relationships. That they must band together to get out of a tricky situation. I have no reference point for Dulciafacit.
Based on the query, I’d probably read the first few lines. I’m not sold on the story though. You give me a girl who’s bullied, but don’t tell me anything else about her. What does she want? Why is she the MC? Why does she go on this journey? Does the locket force her on the journey? Does she choose to go? What makes her a strong MC? These are all left unanswered, and it makes me feel like you don’t know the answers. If you do know the answers, and they are strong elements of the story, then revise the query to include them.
[MLS1]: The first sentence in the plot summary not only needs to be gripping, but the conflict needs to be specific. I found myself wanting something more than a mention of ‘crossroads.’ What kind of crossroads? For example, is Emmie deciding whether or not to go to public vs. private school? In addition, how old is Emmie?
[MLS2]: How does it entice them?
[MLS3]: What does this mean/entail?
[MLS4]: Because we didn’t learn specifics about Emmie’s past (and the people who hurt her), this isn’t as impactful as it could be.
[MLS5]: While this is a great sentence, you typically want to end your plot summary on the stakes: what’s at stake for the character and the world at large?
[MLS6]: This should be in ALL CAPS, not quotes.
First 250:She[MLS1] jumped as a colossal shadow grew on the sidewalk all around her and looked up to see what could have created it.[BG1] A majestic red bird streaked across the sky then swooped down towards Emmie. She gasped, dropped to the ground, and covered her head with her arms[MLS2], but the bird just[MLS3] landed on the tree next to her.
That bird looks familiar … like a phoenix I saw in a book, but I’d bet my favorite video game they didn’t really exist… did they?[BG2]
She looked around her on the street to see if anyone else noticed this bird that stood out like a sore thumb[MLS4]. A man across the street from her continued to water his lawn and bobbing his head to the tunes he was listening to, and cars drove by without stopping to stare.
This doesn’t make sense. Am I just seeing things?
“Hello, friend. Where did you come from?” she said as she walked toward the bird. He spread out his vibrant red wings and on his ankle, was a velvet band with a red gemstone.
“Someone already loves you. Who?” Emmie cocked her head to the side. You know, why hasn’t anyone seen a phoenix before. Do they just hide really well or did this one just come here from some other land? Why on Earth would they come to this boring town of all places? The bird flapped his wings and let out a soft trill.
Emily's Notes:I found myself unsure why the bird in the pages mattered.
[BG1]: Not a very strong first line.
[BG2]: This is where I would stop reading, and pass on the book.
[MLS1]: Start with Emmie’s name.
[MLS2]: Is she very little (particularly, is she short)? It seems surprising to me that a kid would react like this.
[MLS3]: In general, try to avoid using words like: just, very, that, then, really.
[MLS4]: I found myself wanting a more unique simile here.
The opening paragraphs are sweet, but probably not enough for me to ask for more because of the query. I felt that I didn't know enough about the protagonist or the specific stakes to be invested in the story. In addition, I think a few rounds of additional editing could improve the flow of the writing/scene.