Sunday, August 2, 2009

Critique Session #7

Hey all! This is mine--and the last of the critique round--but it's only fair that I throw mine into the gamut, considering I put you all through the wringer :) I also entered this one into the Miss Snark's First Victim contest, although I've revised it based on their comments for a newer one here. This is also the last of the queries--sorry to add some on the weekend, but I wanted to be sure to let each person have a full day on the blog for their queries.

Title: LONG WAY HOME (currently)
Genre: YA SF
Name: Beth Revis
Website: This one :)



Sixteen-year-old Elder has always known that he was going to one day lead the space ship he was born on. Despite the fact that he longs for planet-landing more than anything else, he knows his responsibility lies in becoming the leader his people need during the long journey.

What he doesn’t know is that the current leader isn’t telling him everything. Such as the fact that there’s a hidden level on the ship containing cryogenically frozen people.

Then Amy wakes up fifty years early.

Amy has no desire to become one of the first colonist on a new planet—but her parents do. So she agrees to be frozen for the journey, even if that means giving up the life she loves on Earth.

As Amy adjusts to life on a space ship without her still-frozen parents, she and Elder discover that her cryo chamber didn’t malfunction—someone had tried to kill her and is now succeeding as he unplugs more and more helplessly frozen victims. Desperate to find the killer before he gets to her parents, Amy must combine her knowledge of the past with Elder’s knowledge of the ship and technology. Their digging leads to discoveries about how the ship’s leaders have maintained control in the past…and why one man thinks the answer is to kill the cryogenically frozen people before they have a future.

Complete at 80,000 words and told in the alternating view points of Amy and Elder, LONG WAY HOME is a YA science fiction intended for teens who like modern, character-drive speculative fiction such as Mary Pearson’s THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX.

I am currently a high school world literature teacher and an active member of SCBWI, having been publishing in and working as the copy editor of the state SCBWI magazine. Additionally, I run a blog on writing for MG and YA audiences ( which has over 250 subscribers. I can be found online at or I am prepared to submit the entire manuscript upon your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Beth Revis

First 250 Words

My name is Elder, even though I'm the youngest one on the ship. Not that I'm young. Sixteen years should mark me as an adult. But still, I'm youngest by a decade.

I lay on the cool metal floor of the Keeper Level, the only level with a window to the uni outside. Above me, the stars are abbreviated dashes in the sky, with streaks of faint colors―mostly reds and yellows, but sometimes blues or greens―within the lines of the stars.

I wonder, sometimes―I can't help but wonder―what it will feel like to stand on Centauri-Earth and look up at the stars and see only dots of light, not trailing splatters of delicate colors. It'll be a long time, I know―I'll be really old by the time we land, but when we do, I hope it’s at night. I want it to be really dark with no clouds or moons, and I hope before we set out to make our new world as the first humans on another planet, we all take a moment to stand still on the planet and look at the sparkling stars.

But I try not to think about it too much. Planet-landing is a long way away, and I don't like to remember how much time will pass before I go from being a traveler to a settler.

Above me, the stars glow brightly.

And then one of them dies.


Bontemps said...

Nice one Beth, it certainly looks very polished.
I was a bit confused in the sudden switch of tense when you describe 'Amy has no desire... but her parents do. So she agrees'.
That bit jars to me as you have her waking 50 years early and then suddenly your before the time in which she is frozen. I would have just changed that para to past tense, its short and would fit with the rest of the query.

But that is it, the rest reads smooth, and concise. As for the 250 word excerpt, I can't fault it. I was straight into the character and their voice.

Nice one, I would read it.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Oh, Beth, this opening is soooooo fabulous. You painted a picture of space travel with stunning detail and then set-up the story and character precisely. I am going to be first in line to buy this when it is published.
I like the names that put us elsewhere--uni, Centauri-Earth, even the strangeness of a sixteen-year-old named Elder.
I can feel the cool deck and see the streaks of light and understand why, after his life in space, he wants to land at night, to feel at home. I feel his sense of wonder and it makes me like him.
Though it's subtle, there's enough here to make me feel a precariousness, that something is not going to go right.
The query is well done but there are places it could be strengthened. You use lead/leader three times in the first two graphs. I was thrown off by 'lead the space ship' anyway and would suggest 'command the space ship' instead.
Second graph make it one sentence and lose 'the fact that' for a tighter sentence.
The switch to 'then Amy wakes up' really stopped me. Who is Amy? Just say 'Amy, one of the frozen.'
The fourth graph switches tense and is confusing. Amy made the decision in the past so why not keep it: 'had no desire,' 'parents did' 'she agreed.' I also suggest that this be made part of the third graph.
Fifth graph,might start, 'Awake, Amy adjusts to life..while her parents remain frozen'
The big moment is that someone is killing the frozen people, so I would split that graph, adding a bit to emphasis that her chamber didn't malfunction to get more play out of it. Then start a new graph with 'Desparate to find'
I like the way you worded the sixth graph 'intended for teens who like...' Somehow that wording works better for me when making comparison to other books.
I've got to say, Beth, I would be asking for the full. This rocks!

Mim said...

First I really like the entire idea, and the alternating viewpoints. You even do a good job of that in the query.

Just a few very small nitpicky things.

First the sentence in the 2nd paragraph that starts, "Such as the fact" really pulled me out of the query. I don't know why, but I'd change it somehow just rephrase it.

Second I agree that the fourth paragraph switches tense. This is backstory, and should be in past tense, IMO.

Other than that I think it is great. I like the first 250 words a lot as well. Good luck on submitting this!

Thanks for the query critiques this week!

Little Scribbler said...

I wasn't really hooked with the 250 words. It wasn't that exciting, perhaps start with some action, even if it's just minor, or something.

You mentioned 'uni' in the excerpt. Immediatly, I thought you meant university. It took a couple of seconds to realise you were referring to the universe. I think you should use the word universe, to make it clearer.

Hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

I am intrigued and I would want to read more! I like your ideas and your two main characters, though I get more of a sense of Elder and what he wants from the query than I do of Amy.

My thoughts about the query is that the first 5 paragraphs of plot description feel a little choppy. I can tell you've been working and re-working it to get it just right. Having been through the whole query writing process, I know how this is. I think you've lost a little bit of the flow here, the part that tells the reader "I've got a really good story to tell you". Right now it feels a little disjointed, in need of some good transitions.
Good luck!

beth said...

Thanks everyone! I'm going to have to take a little more time with this one--I tried rewriting just as soon as I got feedback from the conference, but I need to remember to take a breath and focus more :)

Amy Tate said...

Very polished, Beth. I hope this one is the winning ticket. BTW, you have an award waiting for you on my blog!

Teri K said...

Beth -- Your Query definitely made me want to read the book. I wish I could get a copy now. That usually doesn't happen, believe me. In response to what others said, I really like the line "And then Amy woke up." It gave me a real sense of your style, and what I think will be a fresh, fast moving story.
I would rework the first sentence, "he was born on" felt awkward at the end of the sentence. I agree with the past tense idea. Also, it put me off when Amy woke too early because someone tried to kill her and didn't succeed, but was killing other people the same way. I thought the others were just waking up, too.
"Sixteen years should mark me as an adult" didn't fit with your voice. I'd expect that phrase in a medieval story.
I know this makes it sound like I don't like this proposal, but I really do. I think the 250 word excerpt is excellent, the plot sounds different from all the others, and I like Elder already. I really hope this one is a winner for you -- I want to read it!

Trisha Pearson said...

Hi Beth, I know this is way late but I just wanted to say that I really like both your query and your first 250 words. SF isn't usually my thing, but your description of the stars and your character's longing for landing on a planet really pulled me in. The idea of two POV characters is also very intriguing. I definitely want to read more!

The only thing that I stumbled over was in the 5th paragraph when you said "someone tried to kill her and is now succeeding..." It makes sense in the overall picture but, since I often visualize things as I read them, my brain stuttered at that part as I pictured a mystery killer starting to succeed in killing off Amy. If no one else stumbled at that part, I wouldn't worry about it though. My brain often tangles things up.

I really can't wait to read more!