Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #58



Fifteen-year-old Tanwen Varro's father warned her what could happen if the colony found her useful. Told her to keep her head down and stick to the basic education requirements lest she be conscripted into the colony's military and lose all chance at a normal life. But nothing's normal in a land marred by fallout, where fiery raids--the result of a protracted fight with a rogue collective--have forced the New Mexican colony underground.

It's easy enough pretending Tanwen's uninterested in school when her best friend is killed in a raid. That changes when new friends and a way out of her family's obligations to the colony become too good to give up, especially when she starts dating her classmate Brant. But when Tanwen can't erase evidence of her intelligence fast enough, her father's paranoid fears come to life. The colony's council taps her as the ideal candidate to infiltrate enemy territory, taking her beyond the dark tunnels of the colony and plunging her into the middle of the conflict.

Her father trained her to be a survivor, but the colony will train her to be a spy. And when she learns a devastating truth, she must ultimately find the strength to come home.

First 150 Words:

When Mom raises her voice that crucial octave--the one that gets the hair on the back of my neck standing at attention--I sometimes wish we left her behind like she wanted. It would probably make things simpler. But not necessarily better.

I stay bent over the control panel, my back to my parents, and pray the nanobots will hurry up and neutralize the sooty soil. We can't lose another crop. Not this late in the growing season.

"I didn't move halfway across the country to live underground." Mom always says that, and today is no different.

Dad just grunts. He probably doesn't even look up, too busy repairing the flame-resistant webbing we suspend over our five acres of beans, barley, and broccoli. Drought tolerant varieties that are supposed to stand up to the extremes here.

I retreat to the next row, out of the strike zone for now.


Tamara said...

I like the premise of a girl that is trying to not get noticed by the military & trying not to get drafted, so to speak. I was a little confused by your openings few lines as to place and who is speaking. I am intrigued by the mom who wanted to be left behind & would like a little more about this.

Dawn Allen said...

I love the premise and the voice is good. One of the difficulties of first person is the challenge of introducing the main character early. The excerpt opens with a comment about mom is great voice and gives us a sense of her personality but we don't know who she is or why we care. Beginning in medias res is good but doing so poses a challenge of bringing the reader in and quickly bringing them up to speed. I like this idea.

Jennie Bennett said...

This is the best query I've read so far. If I was an agent I would pick you up, but that's just my opinion. The only comment I have on the query is that the first line could be stronger. The first line had me wondering how weird the story was going to be (you start out with the colony but we have no idea what it is and I was afraid you where going to throw in other names that I wouldn't know and confuse my further.) instead you could add a couple of words that explain the colony to make it a little stronger. For example if you added "a military like fraction" after the word colony I would be pulled in more readily. I like your 150 as well, great job!

Shiela Calderón Blankemeier said...

Nice job on your query! I have two suggestions. One, cut the line "That changes when new friends and a way out of her family's obligations to the colony become too good to give up, especially when she starts dating her classmate Brant." It adds nothing and slows the pace down. Try it, you might like it :) Second, at the end of your query, I think your stakes are unclear. She must do something, or else something bad will happen. Whatever that is, because at this point, her choice/consequences aren't clear. Polish that up, and I think you have a winner here :)

Your first 150 give us a great flavor of what's to come. Not much to edit here. I'd cut "growing" in season (that's pretty well understood), but that's about it. Best of luck!

~Shiela #69

Tamara said...

I think this was a really good query and an interesting story. Oddly enough, I had the exact same advice as Sheila. The line that she suggested cutting was the only one that felt out of place to me. I like it better without that line. Of course, if you cut it, you might have to come up with another small lead in. Maybe something like:

It's easy enough pretending Tanwen's uninterested in school when her best friend is killed in a raid. But, even when she's not trying, Tanwen's intelligence is hard to hide. When she can't erase the evidence of it fast enough...

Of course, you know, something smoother than that. I just wanted to show what I meant.

I also agree that I wanted the stakes at the end of the query to be clearer. Why is she even allowed to go home? Why does it take strength? I don't know the story, so I'm not sure what kind of details would make this part pack more of a punch without giving away the ending, but it felt like it needed something.

As for the first one-fifty, I thought they were really strong. One thing I particularly liked about them was the mom. It's like...we're in this future world with nano-bots, but mom's yelling are still mom's yelling. haha. I think teens will relate to that immediately, which will give them an instant connection to your MC. VERY nice job on that.

Anyway, I just started a blog cause I really wanted to meet some other people in the YA world. If you have any questions about your query you think I could help with or you just want to make some new writer friends, feel free to stop by and say hi!! I love meeting other writers. :)

Good luck with this!