Wednesday, March 25, 2020

March 2020 Pass or Pages Entry #2

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agents Stephanie Winter of PS Literary, Amy Bishop of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret, and Samantha Fabien of Laura Dail Literary Agency for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!



Nash is a member of an elite cadre of investigators who relive the final moments of a violent crime through the eyes of the criminal using memory objects [SW1]. A rising number of these crimes are being committed by The Others, a growing faction of humans who seemed to be acquiring special abilities after a mysterious celestial event. These investigations come with a great risk. If detectives aren’t careful, they can lose their identity in the mind of the criminal.

Nash witnessed the murder of her son by her husband, but she isn’t convinced he is guilty. Nash believes Theo’s mind was taken over by the Other he was investigating at the time of their son’s murder [AB1]. In hopes of proving Theo’s innocence, she pushes the investigation to the limit, disregarding her own safety. When she discovers her own link to the Others, she becomes a target for the same people she works for [SW2].

NATALY ASHBY is an 86,000-word adult suspense novel with a soft science fiction core coupled with elements of horror featuring a diverse cast with a strong female voice [AB2].

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Stephanie's comments:
[SW1] This first paragraph features information-heavy, long sentences. This style is difficult to process and is a pass for me. Instead of a hook, I’m seeing more world-building. I’d love to see a clear logline.
[SW2] This is on its way to becoming the hook I was mentioning above! Where possible, try to avoid summarizing as though writing a synopsis—the query isn’t giving a step by step guide to the story, but is wowing and teasing the reader with the predicament.  

Amy's comments:
[AB1] At this point, I’m feeling kind of confused. There’s a lot of unnecessary words here (for example, you could shorten “eyes of the criminal” to “criminal’s eyes” and “the mind of the criminal” to “criminal’s mind”), which I think is making the query sound unnecessarily convoluted. There’s also some tense switching going on and I’m not totally certain of what kind of world we’re in – is it modern day? Is it on another planet? Is it speculative?
[AB2] This could be a good spot to add in some comp titles!

First 250

White knuckles smoothly gripped a foreign steering wheel as I sped down an unfamiliar highway. Soft rain danced from speckled clouds, muddling my vision, momentarily clearing with each squeaking swipe of a wiper blade. Darkness crept across the land, slowly snuffing out the final glimmers of light, the day’s last stand before nightfall. Deep breathing, eyes darting over the empty slick highway with headlights quivering across my unforeseen path. Sparse streetlights shone bits of road and barren trees [SW3].

Where am I? How did I get here?

Stealth fingers stroked the steering wheel after seeing the fuel gauge inching toward empty. Squinting eyes between wiper blade streaks revealed a dimly lit gas station down the distant highway. Unwilling foot pressing metal rendered the road more risky, the rain more blinding, and forced me to speed past impressionist scenery. The sky too darkened to welcome the water lilies, too stormy to appreciate the stars, a tempestuous forecast of what the night would surmise [SW4].

Finally, I peeled the wheel into the station stopping at the nearest open pump. Empty station, no eyes to match mine which shot to and fro, soaking in minimal surroundings: an Exxon sign with the middle “x” flickering, emitting the wavering buzzing sound of near death; a dark amorphous form behind the window, presumably a gas station attendant; and two dismal excuses for gas pumps—one with yellow caution tape haphazardly wrapped around it and the second dangling out of its holster…[SW5]

Stephanie's comments:
[SW3] The longer the line, the slower the pace for the reader. I get the sense that this scene opens with a more ominous tone. It doesn’t quite make it there, for me, because the longer lines convey a different tone. 

[SW4] You really excel with description! That said, the description as your opening page can be a touch too dense for what is supposed to be a hooking first page.
[SW5] I appreciate the consideration that has gone into depicting this setting. At the same time, this first 250 is lacking an action or incident to really grip the reader and is lacking a reason for the reader to need these descriptions. 

Results:  Pass

Amy's comments: None

Results:  Pass

Samantha's comments:

I have an odd quirk about thrillers that feature investigators/detectives/police/government officials as leads in thrillers, but otherwise this is a great query. Given that this was able to be summed up in such a concise way, there is room to include a personalized paragraph for why you're querying this particular agent. It's a small note, but agents always appreciate seeing it. Oh, and also include a bio! This also has a great opening!

Results: Pass

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