Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Pitchwars Query Critique – ARCANUM


Here is another query critique for our pitchwars hopefuls. I’ve pasted the entire query and first page, then again with my comments. Thank you so much to Chris Hoerter for sharing with us!

 

 

Dear Pitch Wars Mentor:

Cyrus is a book-addicted 15-year-old boy who wants just one thing: to know his parents. The problem is that they’re dead. Also a problem: being home-schooled by his séance-obsessed sister, Jezanna. But when Jezanna’s latest lesson is necromancy – and the homework is bringing Mom back from the dead – Cyrus knows he has to stop her.

In ARCANUM, a 71,000-word young adult novel of supernatural horror, Cyrus must overcome his sister's betrayal, fight off her psychic followers, and uncover her plans to bring back the souls of the dead. But the hardest part might be learning to trust anyone ever again.

If Cyrus fails, his sister will unleash an ancient evil with plans of its own – and a thirst for the souls of the living.

Thank you for volunteering your time as a Pitch Wars mentor. I hope to hear from you soon!

Best wishes,
Chris Hoerter

 

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I never knew my mother – she died giving birth to me. But that didn't necessarily mean I wanted to bring her back from the dead.

    

I think for a lot of people, that would be exciting or something. But believe me, boring is good. Take it from me: If someone wants to give you a Tarot reading, or look at your palm -- don't get me started on Ouija boards -- do yourself a favor and go play a video game.  Maybe even go crazy and read a book. You'll be happy you did. And -- bonus points -- you'll get to live a normal life.

    

Of course, I didn't know all that the night of the séance.

    

I was perched in my favorite tree, reading. Sorry -- I mean, "being home-schooled." The truth was that my sister gave up trying to teach me anything about three years ago, when at the age of 12 I started to get ahead of her in fields like math, biology, and astronomy. Real, scientifically proven sorts of things, which Jezanna knew nothing about. Astrology, on the other hand -- but I digress.

    

Anyway, Jezanna's yelling interrupted my everything's-perfect-tree-reading moment.

 

"Cyrus, they're here! Time for the séance!"

    

I rolled my eyes, even though she couldn't see me. She was a long way off still, and I was 10 feet off the ground, resting on the gnarled bark of the old live oak, floating above a cloud of swaying Spanish moss. (Like I said: Perfect.) I went back to Herodotus, who I thought had an undeserved reputation for being a liar. He had what I thought was a pretty good approach to history -- especially when you consider the guy was an ancient Greek. He said, "I am bound to tell what I am told, but not in every case to believe it." That strikes me as a reasonable approach, one with a dash of skepticism, but not opposed to embellishing a bit for the sake of a good story.

  

And now with my comments!

 

Dear Pitch Wars Mentor:

Cyrus is a book-addicted 15-year-old boy who wants just one thing: to know his parents. The problem is that they’re dead. Great opener! Also a problem: being home-schooled by his séance-obsessed sister, Jezanna. But when Jezanna’s latest lesson is necromancy – and the homework is bringing Mom back from the dead – Cyrus knows he has to stop her. Love this first paragraph! It's grabby and interesting and reveals just the right amount of plot.

In ARCANUM, a 71,000-word young adult novel of supernatural horror, Move to a last paragraph and add anything else relevant…are you a member of SCBWI, do you work with teens? Add any pertinent details, including comp titles…maybe PARNORMALCY…although that’s a bit old. Also, your tone in this query is a bit snarky (in a good way)…is there humor in the MS? Is Cyrus a smartass? Maybe reflect that here. Paranormal horror with some snark.

 

Start second paragraph with this Cyrus must overcome his sister's betrayal, fight off her psychic followers, and uncover her plans to bring back the souls of the dead. But the hardest part might be learning to trust anyone ever again. This list seems out of order…wouldn’t he uncover her plans before he overcomes her betrayal and fights off her psychic followers?

Move to end of above paragraph. If Cyrus fails, his sister will unleash an ancient evil with plans of its own – and a thirst for the souls of the living. Great!

Thank you for volunteering your time as a Pitch Wars mentor. I hope to hear from you soon!

Best wishes,
Chris Hoerter

 

This is a great start to a query…a tad bit light on details. Maybe add just a teeny bit more…is there a love interest? What does Cyrus want? Just a few more sentences or another paragraph in the middle to round out the story. Not too much though, and what you already have is very good.

 

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I never knew my mother – she died giving birth to me. But that didn't necessarily mean I wanted to bring her back from the dead. Great opener.

    

I think for a lot of people, that idea would be exciting or something. But believe me, boring is good. Take it from me: If someone wants to give you a Tarot reading, or look at your palm -- don't get me started on Ouija boards -- do yourself a favor and go play a video game.  Maybe even go crazy and read a book. You'll be happy you did. And -- bonus points -- you'll get to live a normal life.

    

Of course, I didn't know all that the night of the séance.

    

I was perched in my favorite tree, reading. Sorry -- I mean, "being home-schooled." The truth was that my sister gave up trying to teach me anything about three years ago, when at the age of 12 I started to get ahead of her in fields like math, biology, and astronomy. Real, scientifically proven sorts of things, which Jezanna knew nothing about. Astrology, on the other hand -- but I digress. Feels like too much info here, could this info starting with The truth was…be added to a scene a little later? Right now it feels like you’re forcing his smartness on the reader instead of letting it unfold naturally.

    

Anyway, Jezanna's yelling interrupted my everything's-perfect-tree-reading moment.

 

"Cyrus, they're here! Time for the séance!"

    

I rolled my eyes, even though she couldn't see me. She was a long way off still, and I was 10 feet off the ground, resting on the gnarled bark of the old live oak, floating above a cloud of swaying Spanish moss. (Like I said: Perfect.) I went back to Herodotus, who I thought had an undeserved reputation for being a liar. He had what I thought was a pretty good approach to history -- especially when you consider the guy was an ancient Greek. He said, "I am bound to tell what I am told, but not in every case to believe it." That strikes me as a reasonable approach, one with a dash of skepticism, but not opposed to embellishing a bit for the sake of a good story.  Unnecessary and really brings the pacing of the scene crashing to a halt. Bring in the sister, show how un-normal she is…keep the momentum of the idea of bringing back his parents and the impending séance.

 

Thanks again to Chris Hoerter for sharing his work with us!

For the next query visit Kate on her blog on 10/20 at katekaryusquinn.blogspot.com and I’ll have another critique right here next Tuesday!
 
 

3 comments:

  1. This is great feedback. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this!

    --Chris

    ReplyDelete
  2. Your suggestions are well considered, Demitria!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Its so nice of you to share the peoples queries here on the blog in your posts. Its so good for us to learn from people's experience which they share on your site.

    ReplyDelete