Monday, October 19, 2020

October 2020 Pass or Pages Entry #1

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agents Dr. Uwe Stender, Kelly Peterson, Shannon Snow, Jennifer Herrington, and Torie Doherty Munro 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!


Query letter

I[JH1] would like to present for your consideration my young adult adventure[KP1]/contemporary fantasy[TDM1] novel DRAGONS AND PIZZA[JH2], complete at 78,000 words[JH3].

Sixteen-year-old Dionara is a country girl who works part time delivering pizzas… on the back of her dragon Zorax[JH4]. She lives in an alternate version of our world, where dragons are as common and diverse as dog breeds[JH5][TDM2][KP2].

But[SS1] among all types of dragons, the rarest and most prized one is the ice dragon. Dionara's older sister Elissa was the proud owner of a baby one, until both of them were kidnapped and disappeared[JH6][TDM3][KP3].

That was ten years ago[KP4]. Dionara thought she'd never see Elissa again, until she learns of a mysterious new entrant into the world of dragon-fighting tournaments[TDM4]: a young woman who rides a coveted ice dragon. Could it really be Elissa?[KP5]

Dionara leaves her pizza-delivering life behind to seek out the truth and try to get her family back. In the world of dragon fighting though, the stakes are much higher than a missed delivery. For Dionara, a loss could mean losing Elissa again, losing Zorax, or worse[JH7][TDM5][KP6].

DRAGONS[SS2] AND PIZZA combines the action and family tension of THE RED QUEEN with the fantastic-yet-real world of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON[JH8].

I look forward to hearing from you, and[SS3] thank you very much for your consideration!

Uwe's comments:

Kelly's comments:
[KP1] Adventure to me reads a lot more like MG. I don’t usually see this genre above that age range, so this isn’t needed. =)
[KP2] Do we need to know this right now? Can we learn this as we read? What’s the purpose of this statement?
[KP3] Lead with this part! This is your action here, how does this affect Dionara’s life? Why is her sister and this dragon so important to her that she drops everything and leaves to find out?
[KP4] Okay, and what has changed about Dionara since? How has missing her sister changed her life? Why does she still care?
[KP5] Is there a better way to present her wanting to find the answer than physically asking the question? I always feel like asking the question decreases the tension building!
[KP6] Good stakes, but what does this mean for her emotionally? How would she be losing Elissa? Why does she care about any of this?
Shannon's comments:
[SS1] I would connect this paragraph to the one above so that all the major backstory is one place and the agent knows immediately the main points: 1. Who Dianara is, 2. That dragons are commonplace in this contemporary world, 3. The rarest breed, 4. That her sister had one of the rarest but both are kidnapped. Then the next paragraph can move you and the agent into the immediate conflict.
[SS2] It’s generally a good idea to insert a small bio about yourself, background, any previous writing credentials, etc.
[SS3] An extra space is between your comma and the next word.  I would just make this into two sentences to make it cleaner.

Jennifer's comments:
[JH1] I always recommend a personalized Dear agent at the top to show the agent that you know who you are querying.
** Important note from OA: The rule is "Please don't "personalize" the query for the agents or include your bio paragraph, but other than that, treat it as you would a normal query letter."**
[JH2] Cute title!
[JH3] This gives the details upfront. Great!
[JH4] I liked this line. It grabbed my interest and gave me a brief insight into the story world.
[JH5] I don’t think we need the mention of the alternate version of our world, and you could rework dragons being common and diverse with the rarest/most prized. It reads a little clunky.
[JH6] This is great information to setup the story.
[JH7] I liked this pitch sentence.
[JH8] Intriguing comparative titles!

Torie's comments:
[TDM1] I would suggest just describing this as a fantasy – it avoids overloading the reader with too much info right off the start, and fantasy novels often incorporate some kind of adventure anyways
[TDM2] I like the specificity of the first sentence, but then the second sentence is way more generalized and dilutes the impact. Is there a way you could communicate that same information – that this world is very much like our own, but with dragons – by including more details about the world itself?
[TDM3] Here you’re waiting just a beat too long to get to the important stuff – as a reader, I don’t care that much that ice dragons are rare, but I DO care about a missing/kidnapped sister.
[TDM4] It’s late to be getting to this, if it’s the inciting incident of the story. I would try revealing this mysterious new entrant sooner, to grab your readers’ attention, and then explain the backstory about Elissa.   
[TDM5] This paragraph is a little vague – it’s hard to understand what steps Dionara is taking to seek out the truth and get her family back, other than quitting her pizza delivery job. Is she entering the dragon tournaments too, and why?

First 250 Words

Chapter 1

Six-year-old[KP7] Dionara Lamton[TDM6] was playing tug-of-war with a two-ton dragon, and she was losing. Armed[KP8] with nothing more than her overalls and blonde ponytail[TDM7], she yanked on the rope tied around the dragon's thick, scaly neck. She had about as much luck pulling him through Lamton Farm's dusty fields as if she were tugging on a skyscraper.

The dragon was a wingless Walker, basically an overgrown lizard with a mud-colored hide. Two thick legs, two tiny arms, and a fatty[KP9] stomach that curved out from his body like a rock-patterned balloon. Even though the Walker wasn't the most impressive dragon in the world, he was still one-hundred times Dionara's size. His dozens of knife-like teeth could chop her in half with a single bite, and his fire-breath could roast her like a chicken on a spit.

Not that any of that was going to stop her from kicking him.

"Get to work, you lazy excuse for a dragon!" Dionara shouted. She let go of the rope and stomped over to the Walker's reptilian leg. Attached to the dragon's back was an iron plow[SS4]. Dionara was trying to guide the dragon to plow the fields, but she'd only managed to get ten feet before the Walker realized that he didn't have to listen to this tiny human[TDM8][KP10].

She smacked her muddy boot against his hardened skin, but the Walker just let out a smoky yawn, blinked his slit eyes, and curled up on the ground to take a nap[US1][JH9][KP11].

Uwe's comments:
[US1] I actually find this whole thing interesting and would like to read the full.

Kelly's comments:
[KP7] Six year old or sixteen? Personally, if she’s six in this beginning, then it reads a lot like a prologue! Do you absolutely need this here?
[KP8] Start here! =)
[KP9] Delete ty and just use "fat"
[KP10] So this portion reminds me a bit of horse abuse and labor, since they plowed the fields. Can you show instead the connection she might have for the dragon? I feel bad for the dragon being forced into doing work here, instead of for your character. Emotion is what really pulls your readers in, so can you utilize her emotions and connection to her dragon in order to attract your readers?
[KP11] Cool concept and I love the stakes, but this is reading a bit younger YA to me, and I’m not the biggest fans of dragons! I’m going to reluctantly pass. Check out my colleagues though, and some friends of mine love dragons! =)
Shannon's comments:
[SS4] I would have stopped reading right here.  There is a lot of passive voice in this piece that I noticed in the above but kept reading anyway.  There are, at times, going to be some passive voice sections/sentences. They’re unavoidable.  However, there were some passive sentences that could have been re-worded into more active options instead. They were fixable and would have created a more active, attention-grabbing read. This sentence, for example, could have been worded like: “An iron plow attached to the dragon’s back” or “An iron plow clung to…”  Too much passive voice, especially in a small space, slows your story and pacing.

Jennifer's comments:
[JH9] Interesting writing voice, but I wanted to start the book with Dionara in the present. I personally struggle with books that start in the past and then move the reader to the present. When I open a book especially of the YA genre, I want to connect with the lead character from the opening sentence/paragraph/page.

Torie's comments:
[TDM6] One question that comes to mind immediately: why is a YA book opening with a 6 year old? I would probably stop reading here.
[TDM7] This reads a little clunky – I like that that you’re trying to give us a sense of how Dionara looks, but she’s not really “armed” with these things, or using them to wrangle the dragon in any sense. (She is armed with a muddy boot, though!)
[TDM8] We’re getting a lot more information in this opening about the dragon than we are about Dionara – the bulk of the description has been about the dragon and how he looks, what he’s decided, and what he’s supposed to be doing. I’m not really feeling connected to Dionara in any way in these first few paragraphs.


Uwe Stender: Pages!
Kelly Peterson: Pass
Shannon Snow: Pass
Jennifer Herrington: Pass
Torie Doherty Munro: Pass

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