Monday, February 13, 2017

Son of a Pitch!

Hi. Thank you for checking out my pitch. May the force be with you all!

In the spirit of Star Wars, here's a picture of a dresser I painted for my seven-year old son a couple of Christmas's ago. I let him pick any characters he wanted, and he chose Rey, Finn, and that evil guy who's name I can't remember.


Title: AFTER
Genre: YA speculative fiction
Word count: 57,000

Query

Dear Fabulous Agent,

Dead at seventeen, Prea Río knows she doesn’t quite fit into the afterlife. She always assumed death would end her problems, but now she’s got an ugly secret about how she died. Still, life is way better here than back on lonely Earth. Prea has her boyfriend back, the one who died when he was fifteen, and she’s searching for her mom, who was killed when she was a baby.

So when Prea discovers she may not actually be dead, and might even have taken another person’s slot in the afterlife, her nearly perfect world is threatened. She knows the so-called “heavenly” thing to do is to leave, but all Prea really wants is to steal someone else’s paradise for her own shot at reconnecting with her mom. Besides, the pearly gates don’t exactly come with an elevator back down to Earth. Then Prea discovers a way to leave, but while she tries to choose between doing the right thing or staying to be with her mom, her boyfriend is about to discover her terrible secret. If the truth comes out, she could lose all the relationships she’s recovered in her afterlife, and even ruin the life she might have to live out back on Earth.

Readers of WE WERE LIARS and IF I STAY will enjoy AFTER. I have self-published three books, (THE TRUTH ABOUT DATING, MURDER BEYOND WORDS, and MURDER WITH ART), each of which sold 20,000 copies in their first year of publication.

Sincerely,

And now, the first 250 words of AFTER.


Chapter One

So, I guess this is Heaven.
I was on a cloud in the middle of outer space, and I could breathe fine, sans space suit. The cloud was about the size of my school’s football field, but instead of a goalpost at the end line, there were these enormous white gates rising up out of the mist. Hundreds of people were swarming them, but I was off to the side, watching. The sky was black and everything was eerily silent, like we had all lost our voice boxes on the trip up from Earth.
I wondered if it was just Earthlings in the crowd or if the life forms were from all over the universe. Heaven was supposed to be where all your burning questions were answered, but no old guy in a robe was showing up to explain anything. I squinted at the crowd, hoping to see aliens but expecting old men with their hospital gowns hanging open in the back, maybe a couple of people carrying their limbs. I couldn’t make out any details at all. Everyone was just blurry lights, like human glow sticks. Maybe alien glow sticks. I looked down at my legs and I was kind of lit up, too.
I should be glad to be here because, a) my family never went to church, and b) back on Earth I didn’t even believe in God or Heaven. My bad.
I made my way over to the gates, but I couldn’t see beyond the shimmering, pearly bars. 

16 comments:

  1. Great work on the query and first 250 words! I think this is a great premise and your query has a lot of voice and definitely catches the eye! What I'd suggest however is streamlining the final two paragraphs so that you keep the pacing as tight and snappy as you have in the first paragraph.

    "So when Prea discovers she may not actually be dead, and might even have taken another person’s slot in the afterlife, her nearly perfect world is threatened. She knows the so-called “heavenly” thing to do is to leave, but all Prea really wants is to steal someone else’s paradise for her own shot at reconnecting with her mom. Besides, the pearly gates don’t exactly come with an elevator back down to Earth. Then Prea discovers a way to leave, but while she tries to choose between doing the right thing or staying to be with her mom, her boyfriend is about to discover her terrible secret. If the truth comes out, she could lose all the relationships she’s recovered in her afterlife, and even ruin the life she might have to live out back on Earth."

    I think if you refine the focus here, it will help clarify which of Prea's stakes is the most central. Do you want your reader to focus on her reestablishing her relationship with her mother? Or is her boyfriend the focus? Once you determine this you will have a much cleaner read. As it stands, things get a bit muddled in the section above when it comes to how much you want to show us. You've got the dark secret, her boyfriend, her mother, and her discovery of a way out of paradise. There's so much thrown at us within one paragraph the sharpness is lost. So I'd recommend determining your focus, and sticking to the most compelling stakes that you want at the forefront. Then this will shine even more! But great work on the whole. There's a solid query in the works here!

    As far as the first 250, I enjoyed the voicing quite a bit, but there's a lot of scene setting (which is important because her being in paradise is central, but I found myself wanting things to move forward beyond the description and towards the heart of your initial conflict. We're faced with an unusual place to begin a story (which is a great attention grabber), but where is the tension? Nervousness? Confusion? How is your character reacting to where she is, how she got there, and what is going to happen to her next? She's speaking as though she is already used to her surroundings and is simply observing, but not reacting. So my curiosity lies in how she's going to respond to this (quite shocking) appearance in paradise. That's the spark I feel is missing here. You've got a great premise and a very interesting starting point for your novel. Looking forward to seeing your revisions!

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    Replies
    1. This is really helpful feedback. Thanks, Jenny.

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  2. I agree with Jenny. You can drop extra works like so, still, really, and besides from the query as a start. They are often seen as crutch words. With how often I'm guilty of using them, you'd think their crutch ability would be broken by now.
    The premise is awesome, the I wish I'd thought of that kind of awesome, and see so many places you can take this story.
    The first 250 could use a little more action. The first line is clutch, same with the query, but a shift from passive might benefit the flow. Lots of was/were. Ridding yourself of those would allow another sentence possibly. Also, note that every paragraph starts with the word "I" A little variation would improve flow.
    Love the use of the terms "human glow sticks."

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Tim. I really love those crutch words! Another favorite of mine is "just." But I agree, time to delete. I appreciate the positive comment about the premise.

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  3. I think this is pretty good.

    The premise stands out, of course.

    The only edits I would suggest are in the query. Summarize meeting up with BF and mother. Don't explain here.

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  4. Also, if you feel like critting an adult thriller - https://jayperinwordpress.wordpress.com/2017/02/13/first-blog-post/

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  5. I like the story concept. The query gives enough information to make me want to request more. Your publishing credentials are great too, congrats on such a large amount of sales.

    Was Prea's mother killed as in murdered?

    The first 250 words grab my attention as well. Watch out for "just". You used it twice in the same paragraph. You also used "maybe" twice. Just letting you know.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Elisa. Prea's mom wasn't murdered. She was killed in a car accident.

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  6. I really enjoy the premise of After, as feels like a modern take on Dante's Divine Comedy. Prea's desire to stay dead is quite funny, and your opening 250 words conveys that wry humor as well. Prea's stakes at the end of the query are quite solid too.

    My one point of confusion is that it's not clear how the mechanics of Prea's secret work. How does she know she's not dead, but other beings in heaven do not? How can other people in the afterlife learn about her secret? Just a little more insight into how secrets work in this afterlife would help me more clearly understand your world.

    But it's a wonderful, intriguing premise -- trying to stay dead. Usually its the other way around! Good luck!

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  7. I love this! Such an unusual premise. The first sentence of your query had me. The opening paragraph only drew me in more. Ugly secrets about how she died? A boyfriend dead at 15? A mom killed when Prea was a baby? The mysteries keep coming. Your second paragraph then ups the stakes...wait, she might not be dead? She has a choice about whether or not she goes back? I would love to read this book.

    Your first 250 words do not disappoint. You establish the character's voice and location. Some comments have complained that you don't get to the story sooner, but I disagree...I like that you drop us into her afterlife and we are wondering how she got there and where she will go. Good luck with this!

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    Replies
    1. Nice to hear. Thanks a lot, Kevin. Good luck to you, too.

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    2. Thanks Julie. I really appreciate your feedback on my query. Your comments had the greatest impact and led to the biggest overall changes. I would love to have you take a look at my version 3 if you have the time.
      http://kdwstories.blogspot.com/2017/02/son-of-pitch-2017-its-own-kind-of_15.html
      Thank you!

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  8. Definitely in - loved the query! Strong voice. I'm such a patient reader, I would be up for an even more detailed description at the start - it's heaven! Thanks for posting and good luck.

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  9. Liked this! I'm a sucker for anything to do with life-after-death, & have written a couple of adult novels delving into that subject through the eyes of paranormal investigators.

    Query was strong, but in the last paragraph I'd tighten it up and either reword the sentences containing "actually", "nearly" "really" or you could omit those words entirely and not lose anything.

    I enjoyed the 250. Your voice shines here. Though I'm no expert with YA, to me personally, it reads a tad younger in this limited view of the story...more MG to me. IDK, though, as I said, it's not my forte so I could be totally wrong. Either way though, it's a great premise and I'd read on if I'd seen it in a book store.

    Congrats on your self-publishing success!

    My adult contemporary fiction w/ romance elements can be found here, if you're so inclined:
    https://authorkjmilton.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/faces-in-250-words-or-less/

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