children's writer

Help Me Polish My Pitch

Sep 26, 2012
I know you guys must me sick and tired of hearing about this novel. I think might be sick and tired of working on it. I've been thinking about entering the GUTGAA Small Press Pitch Contest though. And after reading some of the pitches and first 150 by you guys, I've made some minor changes yet again. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Is there anything I should add or take away? Is there any way I can make it better? I recently cut a lot of backstory from the first pages, which I didn't realize was unnecessary before.

Updated Query:

A week before her seventeenth birthday, sixteen-year-old Mary Love Taylor’s father left for work and never came home.

Mary Love suspects her mother might have said something to make him run off. Mary Love’s parents fought a lot, but her father always tried to make it work for her sake. Maybe this time it was different. Hours turn into days without a word from him, and the missing persons report Mary Love filed doesn't bring up anything. While Mary Love refuses to give up on her father, she realizes her mother’s all she’s got.

Mary Love's mother doesn't feel the same. Behind the mask of perfection she wears lies a woman whose words sting as much as her slaps. She blames Mary Love for her failing health and wrinkled skin. If it weren't for the boy she still loves, who’s sweet and kind and has loved her since she was awkward and thirteen, Mary Love would have given up on her mother. On everything.
                                                                                                                                      
Mary Love knows the only way she and her mother will ever be okay is if her mother gets the help she needs, and if she finds out what really happened to her father. But the truth might send Mary Love’s world crashing down around her and her mother to her deathbed, whereas never knowing the truth might make life at home even more hellish than it already is.  

Updated First 150:

It’s a week before my seventeenth birthday, and though I know I should be glad there’s a sickening feeling in my gut. For the first time in days, I’m worried.

I’m worried about Daddy because he’s running late and he’s never late. I’m worried about Momma because she’s on her second pack of cigarettes for today. But, most of all, I’m worried about myself because I think I might be turning into one of those girls Momma calls a harlot.

His name is Tommy Baker. And like I told my best friend, Lucie Mcroffey, over lunch the day before, there’s nothing worse than being kissed by a boy who’s called you string bean since the day you first met. Still, while I wait for Daddy to come home with his latest workplace tales of sorrow and glee, I can’t help but think about Tommy.
10 comments on "Help Me Polish My Pitch "
  1. This is totally my opinion, so take it with a grain of salt.

    A week before her seventeenth birthday, sixteen-year-old(don't need 16 here bc you've just established the age in the previous line) Mary Love Taylor’s father left for work and never came home. No one has seen him since then.(Cut this second sentence. It's redundant)

    Mary Love suspects her momma might have said something to make him run off. They fought a lot(The 'they' is a little vague. Who's fighting? Maybe say "Her parents fought a lot"), but Mary Love's father always tried to make it work for her sake. Maybe this time it was different. Hours turn into days without a word from him and the missing persons report Mary Love filed doesn't help (why doesn't it help? Instead of help, maybe say "doesn't turn up anything"). While Mary Love refuses to give up on her father, she realizes her momma’s all she’s got.

    Mary Love's momma doesn't feel the same. Behind the mask of perfection she wears lies a woman whose words hurt (maybe "sting" instead of "hurt") as much as her slaps. She blames Mary Love for her failing health and wrinkled skin. If it weren't for Mary Love’s friends and the boy she still loves (hello! Expand on this relationship a bit. You've thrown in a crumb or romance -- make it a nibble), Mary Love would have given up on her momma. On everything.

    Mary Love knows the only way she and her momma will ever be okay is if her momma gets the help she needs, and if she finds out what really happened to her father. But what Mary Love finds might send her world crashing down around her, and her momma to her deathbed. Mary Love has to choose. She can hold on to the people she loves most, or lose them forever. (Maybe change this choice around a little bit, bc the way it's written here, it doesn't sound like Mary has anything to gain by investigating, so why do it? What are the stakes if she *doesn't* look into her father's disappearance?)


    Hope those comments help! It sounds like an interesting story, and I think you did a really good job setting up a couple different conflicts here -- Mary trying to find her father, and Mary's difficult relationship with her mother.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Nickie. I'll definitely try to expand on the things you mentioned, especially the romance.

      Delete
  2. In your first 150 after the first sentence (past tense)- you tell us "on the evening of the desertion" which at this point is a future event, yet you're writing in present tense. So, at the time she's standing on the porch clutching her stomach, she can't yet know it's the evening of his desertion. She needs to be looking back, or not yet realize he's deserting them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for bringing that up, Jaye. I thought it might be an issue.

      Delete
  3. Nickie has done such a good job breaking down the query, so I'll only point out one thing that throws me off. The names. My brain keeps saying Mary Lou, eventhough she's Mary Love. And momma. In the query, I think if you're going to refer to her father as "father", then perhaps you should refer to her mother as "mother."

    Of course, I love your premise. You always come up with such heartfelt stories, and your writing voice is so authenic. Write on. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, Linda. Thanks for the kind words. I recently changed Mary Love's name. It used to be Amelia, but there are so many Amelia's in YA already. As for the momma and father issue, I'll definitely change it. :D

      Delete
  4. Your query has already received great feedback so I won't repeat what has been mentioned. So I have a slight bit of a nitpick :-)

    In your first 150, you have "and though I know I should be glad there’s a sickening feeling in my gut". The first time I read through this, I kinda stopped because I knew your character wasn't glad about the sickening feeling. So when I read it a second time, I paused after "glad" and got the better meaning. Not sure if you want to throw in a comma or consider a slight reorder so the comma won't be necessary. Otherwise, I must admit that I like the voice that comes through. Your MC reminds me of a daddy's girl, and she's worried about that special parent in her life. Yet, like a cute girl, she can't keep her mind off that boy :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the feedback, Angela. Getting those first lines right can be tricky.

      Delete
  5. Hi Tracey,

    The voice in the first 250 words is bang on! I'd love to get THAT into your query. It's good but like the others have commented on, you need to balance the Tommy romance with the troubles at home.

    Here's a few suggestions, maybe something will stand out for you.


    A week before her seventeenth birthday, Mary Love Taylor’s father left for work and never came home.

    Mary Love’s parents fought a lot, but this time it feels different. Hours turn into days without a word from him, and the missing persons report Mary Love filed doesn't bring her any hope.

    If it weren't for the way Tommy Baker smiles at her from across the classroom, Mary Love would have given up on everything.
    Her momma doesn't feel the same. Behind the mask of perfection, is a woman whose words sting as much as her slaps. She blames Mary Love for her failing health and wrinkled skin.

    Mary Love believes the only way she and her mother will ever be okay is if she finds out what really happened to her father.

    But the truth might send Mary Love’s world crashing down around her and her mother to her deathbed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the wonderful insight, Bethany. I really appreciate it.

      Delete