Wednesday, September 26, 2018

September Pass or Pages Entry #3

pass or pages query contest

It's feedback reveal time for Pass or Pages, the query contest run at here Operation Awesome. We hope you'll find tips to benefit your own work and query letters. Copious thanks to our agent panel for taking the time to critique these entries. Our gratitude to all authors, especially those who participated in this round of Pass or Pages. The only path to success is by trying. Bravo to those entered.

Entry 3: The Pendragon's Son


Seventeen-year-old half-Spanish Prince Vael doesn’t believe fate has the last word, mainly because he has the power to alter it. So when his surly half-brother Mordred arrives at the castle, haunted by the prophecy that he’ll destroy Camelot, Vael defies his superstitious kingdom by taking Mordred as his squire. [WJ1] After years with only swords and tomes as companions, Vael’s tired of being alone, separated from his peers by his mixed heritage and strange ability. He finally finds a true friend in his hot-blooded half-brother—a boy even more familiar with rejection and loneliness than he is. [KP1]

Vael vows to rewrite his brother’s fate, but his dangerous gift has a hefty cost. He can save a life [KP2] only if one is lost—a lesson Vael learns [KP3] when saving a close friend results in another being fatally stabbed.

[WJ2] When Mordred’s sorceress mother steals Camelot’s greatest defense and frames Mordred to ensure he won’t stray from his destiny, Vael’s [KP4] run out of time for doubts.

Though Vael pursues the sorceress to clear his brother’s name, her alluring apprentice, [KP5] Nimue, entangles him in her own devious game—one that draws him in like a moth to a flame. [KP6] She might hold the key to understanding Vael’s unstable powers. If she doesn’t kill him first.

With the sorceress’ traps ensnaring Camelot and Mordred, Vael must convince Nimue to help him stop the prophecy. If not, he’ll either have to watch his father and kingdom fall, or kill his only friend—his brother. [KP7]

Complete at 95,000 words, THE PENDRAGON’S SON is a standalone #ownvoices YA [WJ3] Fantasy with series potential. An excerpt from this manuscript received the Superior Award from the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) Creative Writing Contest and the ACSI Regional Creative Writing Festival. I was a finalist in Pitch America 2016 and Author Mentor Match 2017, and was chosen by Kelly Hopkins as an unofficial mentee in PitchWars 2016.

Thank you for your time and consideration. [SH1]


Kelly Peterson's Notes:
[KP1] - I feel like this could be moved up. This seems more like a small problem/sub-plot that’s then solved by his half-brother becoming his squire. So, if it is in that order, these sentences would do better going before it’s stated that Mordred becomes his squire.
[KP2] Is Mordred fated to die? How would he be saving Mordred’s life, exactly? Or is it someone else’s life?
[KP3] Learned or learns? Does this happen during the story or before? If it’s during, should this sentence be switched so that we don’t know the outcome/lesson before we know the cause?
[KP4] …Vael has…”
[KP5] Is this meant to be “his” apprentice? The ownership of this pronoun is referring back to Vael.
[KP6] Is this sentence needed? Also, it’s an odd flow because it’s the only sentence in the query that rhymes.
[KP7] Do you need both descriptions for him? I feel like this might be more powerful of an ending if you just call Mordred his brother. 

Saritza Hernandez's Notes:
[SH1] - This is a really interesting premise and a good query.

Weronika Janczuk's Notes:
[WJ1] - Cut the rest of this paragraph.
[WJ2] - This paragraph and the two following read like way too much detail, and you never follow-up on—or build out a complete arc for—the tension that you propose in the foundational part of your pitch. This entire part of the query needs to be reworked and made more compact.
[WJ3] - Don't capitalize the genre.

First 250 words

As I hurried down the castle’s vast stone corridor to meet my half-brother for the first time, his name echoed around me, uttered like a curse: Mordred.

The vaulted doorway of the Great Hall loomed ahead, hewn from stone older than the ages. Squaring my shoulders and forcing my spine straight as a sword, I marched toward the raised dais, careful to keep my pace steady―calm and collected as a Prince of Camelot should be. At least I hoped I looked that way. Sometimes it felt like the kingdom still saw me as the timid yet overly emotional boy, [KP1] who worshiped the ground his father walked on―but those days were long gone. My muscles strained as my legs urged me forward. Every step was too fast, yet the dais still seemed far away. [KP2]

Armored knights filled either side of the high-ceilinged hall. I passed them and focused straight ahead on the three thrones. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t block out the poisonous words infusing the room, burning my ears.

“How is that bastard Mordred still alive?” a knight to my right sneered.

“Vermin never dies easy,” another said. [WJ1]

I bit my tongue, not for the first time that day. Such disrespect, all because of an unreliable prophecy. But superstition had formed the kingdom’s unstable foundation, supporting a castle built of large egos, fear, and barely-muted hostility.

My boots clipped against the scuffed stones. No point in arguing with them. I’d be wasting my breath. [SH1]


Kelly Peterson's Notes:
[KP1] - Would this be how he would describe himself or think about how he’s being seen? In YA, would this be the voice he uses to think? It sounds so much older than YA to me.
[KP2] I still don’t have a solid idea of where exactly this prince is, and why he’s rushing. What’s around him? Where is he going, exactly? Are there people around him? Is that why he has to straighten and why his brother’s voice is echoing around him?

Saritza Hernandez's Notes:
[SH1] - I’m not a fan of first-person (even in YA) so I’d likely pass on this but the premise is interesting and it can likely connect with another agent.

Weronika Janczuk's Notes:
[WJ1] - Everything before this is all detail that reads like it can be integrated later. I think the writer here can either begin later into this scene, the moment that a clearer action-based tension begins, in context of the immediate scene, or restructure this entire scene in order to immediately place the reader onto a clear tension arc. Remember also to show rather than tell; telling actively kills tension.



The name echoed around me, like a curse spit from teeth, down the corridor. My robes caught between my legs as I rushed.

“How is that bastard still alive?” a knight to my right sneered.

“Vermin never dies easy,” another said.

The words caught in my stomach, and their poison infused the throne room. My half-brother bore an imperial reputation, and I could not avoid it.

Be thinking about plot and pacing, especially with regards to scene structure--the way that you begin, move through, and end individual scenes: A huge part of the journey to publication, as well as career-building, requires a constant perfection of one's craft.

Also be thinking about the compactness of your query and your pages:


Kelly Peterson: PASS: Though this starts in decent action, the voice to me just doesn’t sound YA. It sounds much more adult to me than a teenager. This might do better as a younger 20-something main character’s voice, in the same vein as a slightly older Reign or The Crown.
Saritza Hernandez: PASS 
Weronika Janczuk: PASS 

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