Friday, April 4, 2008

Evaluating Critiques

Recently, I submitted my pitch for The Red Thread on the BookEnds pitch critique. The agent wasn't a YA agent, but she had great comments:

The Orginal Pitch:
YA Fantasy, THE RED THREAD.
There is a perfect good reason for sixteen year old Chloe to be in the middle of the street, crying, and naked. You would be to if you (but not your clothes) were plopped into a world where monsters are real and indoor plumbing isn't.

The knight in shining armor Chloe thought would save her turns out to be a berserker who tends to go mad with bloodlust at the most inconvenient times. The knight, Heath, is on a quest to save a kidnapped princess and defeat an evil tyrant. After Chloe joins Heath, she learns that the enemy Heath is fighting is linked to her own brother. In THE RED THREAD, Chloe must figure out how she can save her brother, even if he doesn't want to be saved, and how far she is willing to go for the knight she's falling in love with...even if he doesn't love her back.


Jessica Faust, Literary Agent: Critique:
Too long and a little messy. It’s definitely a case of trying to be too clever and give too much information all at the same time. I’m not a big fan of pitches (or books) that talk to the reader. In other words, I don’t like the phrasing “there is a perfect(ly?) good reason . . .” I think I would like it better if it was something more along the lines of, "Sixteen-year-old Chloe felt no shame about standing in the middle of the street crying. Wouldn’t anyone who was plopped naked into a world where monsters are real and indoor plumbing isn’t? On the search to save a brother who doesn’t want to be saved, Chloe meets with a berserker who tends to go mad with bloodlust at the most inconvenient times and finds herself falling in love with a knight who is more focused on saving a kidnapped princess . . ." (you need one final closer here). And then I think you’ve got it. This one is close, very close, and I suspect any good YA agent would request at least a partial.

My Thoughts on Jessica's Crit:
I guess here it is long and messy. Generally, I give one sentence or so in the opener of my letter to capture the agent's interest. So that first paragraph would really be there as the hook, I'd follow that up with info on the book (genre, length, etc.) and then the middle paragraph of my query would be that last one. I'd never thought about the whole tone of the pitch that Jessica mentions, so I'm really glad she did.

Revised pitch:
Actually, I was going to try to be creative and completely redo it, but I really like the way Jessica's got it structured at the beginning...so...I think I'm going to use it. Here's how I'd do t for a query:

Dear Agent,

Sixteen-year-old Chloe felt no shame about sitting in the middle of the street, crying. Wouldn’t anyone who was plopped naked into a world where monsters are real and indoor plumbing isn’t? The Red Thread, a 70,000 word YA Fantasy for teen girls, shows what happens to Chloe when she's jerked abruptly out of her modern New York life and into a world where she must challenge all she used to believe in. On the search to save a brother who doesn’t want to be saved, Chloe meets with a berserker who tends to go mad with bloodlust at the most inconvenient times and finds herself falling in love with a knight who is more focused on saving a kidnapped princess. In the end, Chloe discovers that in order to have the life she wants, she must learn to accept one for who he is, and to do all she can to change the other.

I believe you'd like The Red Thread because of your work with _____. The Red Thread is funny and entertaining, but there is a serious undertone that would appeal to modern teens: a connection is made between Chloe's brother's magic use in the new world and his drug use in his old one.

I am currently a high school English teacher and a working writer. This is my first novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Beth Revis
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