Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #82


Covenanted

Historical Fiction

98,000

Query:
 The year is 1637 and Scotland is a nation on the brink. The king is seeking to reform the church in defiance of the will of the people. In the midst of mounting tensions and civil unrest  Jenny, a common-born farm girl, finds herself catapulted by one breathtaking act of defiance from vegetable stall-seller to national heroine. In Edinburgh’s dank alleyways danger is her constant companion, brought on by the unrestrained zealousness of the revolutionaries she joins, the brutal reprisals of the royalists, the jealousy of her unwanted suitor, the Laird’s son, and her own passionate love for the treasonous young preacher who first drew her into the realms of intrigue. As war looms and the proud old nation tears itself in half she finds herself faced with the starkest of choices – will she save her family, or abandon her principles?

 First 150 words:

There should have been thunder, Jamie Ness thought as he sat in the half-dark and contemplated death. There was rain. It beat down like Noah’s flood, pooling around the door and trying to soak its way through the thick nest of thatch overhead. It was because God was angry, Jamie decided. Tonight He was losing one of His greatest servants. Surely mere deluge wasn’t enough? Surely there would be thunder too?

“James,” rasped his father’s voice. The young boy looked up, his bitter thoughts dissolving. Even now one word from the old minister commanded him. Even now, bedridden, with his lungs infected and his body wasted, Jamie’s father seemed to dominate the room.
“Come,” Edward Ness managed through gritted teeth. Jamie obeyed, hurrying to the bedside. He glanced at Mortimer as the physician added more peat to the sputtering hearth. The morose man ignored him. 
“Well doctor?” Jamie said. “The verdict?”

7 comments:

Rhiann Wynn-Nolet said...

Hi! Getting right to the business at hand.
"on the brink" of what? War? Collapse? Revolution? spell it out.
"common-born, farm" pick one.
"one breathtaking act of defiance" which is what? agents hate vague
"In Edinburgh’s dank alleyways danger is her constant companion, brought on by the unrestrained zealousness of the revolutionaries she joins, the brutal reprisals of the royalists, the jealousy of her unwanted suitor, the Laird’s son, and her own passionate love for the treasonous young preacher who first drew her into the realms of intrigue." Whoa, way too long, needs to be broken up, and I don't like the danger...brought on by, this needs tweaking.
"As war looms and the proud old nation tears itself in half she finds herself faced with the starkest of choices – will she save her family, or abandon her principles?" Yay, very nice :=)
I think you've got a nice tight pitch, so there's enough room to elaborate a bit more on her act of defiance.
150
1st Paragraph - yummy
2nd - father seemed to dominate- why not father dominated? Stronger.
3rd - Jamie obeyed, hurrying to the bedside. omit "obeyed" we can tell through action of hurrying
He glanced at Mortimer as the physician (initially unclear that Mortimer IS the physician) added more peat to the sputtering hearth. The morose man (I'm assuming you mean Mortimer, why not just say that?) We can learn that he is morose a bit later and to me it sounds awkward to refer to him as "The morose man". But that might be me. P.S. I want to read the book!
ignored him.

Rebecca Enzor said...

I think Rhiann is right that you can elaborate a bit more in the query. It's so tight and focused that you definitely have room for more. It really sets the scene of the novel well, giving us an idea of what's going on in the world, which is always important in historical fiction.

I know you don't want to give away the defiant act (at least to us, you may want to hint at it more when you query) but perhaps you could flesh out some of the other parts mentioned here: "the unrestrained zealousness of the revolutionaries she joins, the brutal reprisals of the royalists, the jealousy of her unwanted suitor, the Laird’s son, and her own passionate love for the treasonous young preacher who first drew her into the realms of intrigue."

"
There should have been thunder, Jamie Ness thought as he sat in the half-dark and contemplated death." Perhaps contemplated his father's death, so we know he's not just thinking about death in general but one specific death that's about to happen.

"Even now, bedridden, with his lungs infected and his body wasted, Jamie’s father seemed to dominate the room." <333

Overall I think it's a great pitch. Good luck in the contest!

Lara Schiffbauer said...

The beginning sentences have a great somberness to them which I like. I also like the term "breathtaking act of defiance."

The sentence which starts "In Edinburgh..." is hugely long. I got tired about two-thirds of the way through. Is there a way to break it up into maybe three shorter sentences? If you did, you could give more definition to each point, which would increase the interest factor.

Your first 150 words are intriguing. I wondered when Jenny would come into play, though, since that's who I read about in the query. It's probably just me, though. I don't know about the query rules for that kind of thing!!

Cheryl Hettick said...

First of all, I like your premise. But I do have to agree with some of the comments posted above about giving more information in the query. Also, you use a passive voice and agents and readers look for an active voice (something you might want to google.) Basically, instead of saying "finds herself catapulted" "finds herself faced with.."you might want to change them so that she is doing something - i.e. action. She bursts, she enters, she pursues - etc. Don't let stuff happen to her, but make sure she is the one doing it. You have a great story, you just need to make sure it comes through in the query. Hope this helps! I'd appreciate it if you could check mine out (I'm #80). Cheers!

Cheryl Hettick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
robbiemacniven said...

Huge thanks for the comments folks (yes, this is me)! Anybody particularly wants me to crit their own stuff send a message my way :)

Seth Z. Herman said...

Hey,
First of all, love the premise. I do agree that we need to flesh out the query more - more specific tension, as to what Jenny will face if she sides with the preacher and not with the Laird's son - but the voice is excellent, exactly what I'd want from historical fiction.

The first 150 are solid, if unspectacular, but since it's not a YA/fantasy book (for example), you don't need someone to die in the first sentence to grab a teenager's attention :). They're perfect for the genre, in my humble opinion.

Good luck with it!

Seth
#64