Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #14

WORD COUNT: 48,048

Thirteen-year-old Jocelyn Hook is a disappointment. Her grandfather intends to see her pressed and starched into a well-mannered, fine society lady – but Jocelyn has other plans. Besides having a distinct aversion to starch, Jocelyn wields a sword better than an embroidery needle. She dreams of high-sea adventure, hoping to become every bit as daring a pirate as her infamous father, Captain James Hook. A forced admittance to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb’s Finishing School for Young Ladies insists that Jocelyn stuff those dreams into a lacy white handbag – complete with matching hankie. 

When Jocelyn is sprung from school in order to hunt down the crocodile that killed Captain Hook, she finds more adventure than she ever imagined. As if trying to defeat Neverland’s most fearsome beast isn’t enough to deal with, Jocelyn must captain a crew of untrained pirates, battle a not-quite ghostly ship, outwit cannibals that are wild for English cuisine, and tame the attentions of a love-sick fairy.

HOOK’S REVENGE, a middle grade fantasy-adventure, is complete at just over 48,000 words.

First 150 words:
The week before Jocelyn’s grandfather decided to send her to away finishing school was an eventful one, even by her standards.

On Monday, Jocelyn’s newest tutor found his pupil unable to do her history lesson. Someone had torn out most of the pages from her lesson book in order to make paper boats. This same unidentified person then floated the paper vessels on the garden pond, after lighting them on fire, of course. Jocelyn sat at her desk, wide eyes and innocent, with a spot of soot on her nose and the faint smell of smoke still clinging to her rumpled dress.

If you ask me, her tutor was wrong to turn in his resignation. True history is filled with burning fleets.

On Tuesday, Jocelyn startled the head cook, who rather foolishly did not expect the girl to come flying down the front banister brandishing a wooden sword and singing a bawdy sea chantey at the top of her lungs.


Unknown said...

I loved your paragraph about the accidental burning of the history page fleet - fabulous.
In your query letter, I was distracted when you said Jocelyn was looking for the crocodile that killed "Captain Hook" because first, and foremostly, to her, Hook is her father.

Katie Slivensky said...

Great query! I'm really drawn in and can feel a strong sense of your MC's voice.

I agree with the comment above that instead of the crocodile that killed Captain Hook, it should be the crocodile that killed her father. Keeps it personal that way, too.

Your first 150 words are entertaining and strong. The only part that threw me was when "I" came in. I had thought this was third person, but then a first person came in. Is this a narrator? It felt strange to me and took me out of the story for a moment. I'd either take it out or orient the reader straight up that there's a first person narrator.

Otherwise, I love it. I'd definitely read this if I found it on a shelf! The flaming paper boats had me smiling, but what really amused me was that foolish, foolish cook. ;) Great job!

Heidi Schulz said...

I updated my query to say "her father". Great catch.
I agree that the use of I is confusing there.
I have a prologue that introduces the narrator, clearing up the confusion. When I query, I generally skip over the prologue, sending pages starting with chapter 1, but I do note it in the query letter so agents know that it exists and what it's purpose it.
If you are interested, here are the first 150 from it:

There have always been pirates. Why, even as far back as Eve, on the day she was considering whether or not to eat that apple, a pirate was most certainly planning to sail in and take it from her. He failed, of course, but that’s not why you’re here, is it?
I expect that you’d like to hear about the most famous of all pirates, Captain James Hook. As I am the world’s foremost expert on him, naturally you came to me.
Children come to me all the time, begging me to tell what I know. I graciously seat them in a circle around me, lean in, and whisper, “Not a chance.”
I don’t like children all that much.
However, last Thursday I became an old man. It occurs to me that someday I will die. Like many my age, I hope that I may go peacefully, in the midst of a hostage situation or a failed arson attempt, but I digress…

Katharina Gerlach said...

I've seen this before (maybe at Mrs. Snarks 1st Victim?) and you cleared the query up quite a bit. Well done. Nothing I could nitpick at the moment.

Anonymous said...

Can you make her 12? The MG lines are a lot more in favor of 12 yr olds -- 13 is on the fence a bit.

No need to italicize the name of the school.

I like all the character-building info in the first paragraph, but I think it might be a tad long -- maybe drop one sentence or lengthy phrase.

"is sprung" -- is passive -- who springs her? I'd think she would spring herself?

I love the opening, and of course have no clue what comes next, but I think Monday and Tuesday with a quick one sentence about W, T, and F are enough character building. I'd want to then jump into some plot.

Good luck!

MPH2003 said...

I love the line "A forced admittance to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb’s Finishing School for Young Ladies insists that Jocelyn stuff those dreams into a lacy white handbag – complete with matching hankie." The "lacy white handbag--complete with matching hankie" is hilarious and gives a wonderful sense of her against this mold her grandfather is trying to make her fit.

I agree with the above comments. Instead of the second Captain Hook, why not just write, "her father"? And the sudden first-person narration threw me, too.

Great play on Peter Pan stories. What fun.

Donea Lee said...

Your title on the side-bar caught my attention first ~ :) I just knew it had to be Peter Pan related.

I love this concept and your query and your 1st 150 words ~ simply charming.

I got a great sense of your MC in both, as well. She's got a lot of spunk right off the bat and I'd expect the rest of the story to be a lot of fun. Nothing to really nit-pick at. I'd totally read on! Great job! Best of luck to you ~ :)

Anonymous said...

I, too, love the premise and think this is probably an awesome story. I see from the comments that you changed Captain Hook to her father. My only other suggestion would be that the opening line of your 150 could be a bit stronger. I'd like to get more of a sense of how much she doesn't want to go to the finishing school.

Dr. Milestone said...

I agree with everything the others pointed out. The only other thing I would add regarding your query is when you say: "When Joceylyn is sprung from school..." the passiveness of this phrasing made it difficult. I wonder if you could specify who sprung her? Was it other pirates? I actually thought at first Capt Hook sprung her, but then I realized that couldn't be and I'm not sure who it was. A little more specificity could help (and make it more active tense). The first 150 words are great, but be aware that if an agent skips the prologue, they're going to wonder who this mysterious "I" is as well...
Good luck!

Cynthia said...

I really like your query- I have a fondness for stories about females stepping out of their confined roles to be who they want to be. I enjoyed the first 150 words you shared. I might consider taking out the part where you say "If you ask me..." just because you're establishing the narrator as another character in the story, and in this case, I'm more interested in hearing the story told from Jocelyn's perspective, even if it's not in first person. Jocelyn seems like a very strong character and I anticipate her having a very witty voice. Good luck, and thanks for sharing!

Stacey Trombley said...

omg, omg, omg! I want to read this RIGHT NOW! haha (this is based off the query, I wasn't pulled in as much by the pages.) I LOOOVE all things Peter Pan, so I'm sold.

To me, though, the first page wasn't engaging enough. I think because you are talking about things that already happen, instead of letting us be there with the character.

Heidi Schulz said...

Thank you - great advice and encouragement! You guys are awesome.

Jeff DeCoursey said...

Hey there, just wanted to say I read and offered feedback on this during writeoncon, and I love your changes to the first 150 words. The prose reads clearer and I'm not stumbling at all --- the voice really shines now, and the narrative flows better. (And I still love the burning fleets line).

Also, I hadn't read the query till now. It sounds like a great premise!

Nice job and good luck!

Heidi Schulz said...

Thanks, Jeff. I've been getting good agent response. Fingers crossed.