Friday, 2 March 2012

Pitch Pitch - three YA/12+ pitches

In an effort to get through the backlog of pitches that brave writers have sent in, I’m putting up three teenage/YA pitches in one go. If you aren’t familiar with this incredibly useful and popular exercise, do go and read some of the comments on recent pitches. (Put Pitch Pitch in the search box at top right.). If you’d like to pitch your own book and get help from my highly constructive readers, do read this post to find out what to do.

And I have an apology: I have no time at all to comment on these pitches as I usually do. I’m away on a scary schedule of events and I am running to keep up with myself. So, readers, it’s over to you. Be constructive and honest with respect, as you always are. 

Fire in the Blood – an urban fantasy for 12+ by Audry T
Ever since her father abandoned her, Sandra Guirola has seen herself as a defender of the underdog, tough enough to keep those she cares about from being hurt by others. But Sandra's carefully-spun illusion begins to unravel when she sets her best friend Juliet up with a boy she thinks will bring the shy girl out of her shell, and inadvertently exposes her to a preternatural killer who has been lurking on the fringes of both their lives for more than a decade.

Juliet Abrams has lived in near-seclusion most of her life, thanks to the scar disfiguring her face and the traumatic memory of seeing her family murdered by an unholy monster. She lives vicariously through Sandra's romances, believing that love is a distant dream she will never achieve, until the night she meets a boy who empathizes with her disfigurement, and finds herself drawn into a deadly love triangle that nearly ends up tearing to pieces the only relationship that truly matters -- her friendship with Sandra.

(Audry also mentioned to me that it’s told from two alternating first-person perspectives, which she has not indicated in the pitch but would in the longer synopsis.)

Training Time – a YA novel by Kirsty Stanley
After her step-brother is murdered, Jane, fuelled by grief and her untreated bipolar disorder, nearly ends up dead, or in jail. Her step-father, the commander of the time police academy persuades the judge to recruit her to the academy rather than commit her. 

Inspired by the teachers pioneering this new technology and by the classmates who treat her as an equal, even when they are sabotaging her, Jane starts to get closer to the truth, of what she wants her life to be and to discovering who murdered Jamie. 

Travelling through time brings new challenges including a burst appendix and adhering to ethical guidelines regarding what is right and wrong. But, Jane has never really been one to follow conventional rules and this time she has friends to play look out for her, even down to spotting the love of her life. About time.

We Took Risks – a YA adventure with romance, by Jennifer Burkinshaw
The stakes are high for 17 year old Tess on her drama residential in Grange-over-Sands:  having always needed speech therapy, she has to succeed in her ensemble devised performance.  That will show her nemesis, Courtney, also in the group, that Tess can speak clearly enough, as well as the necessary confidence to study law.

But Courtney and the other four are distracted both by romance and an increasingly dangerous series of dares to liven up this has-been resort. Following their guided walk across Morecambe Bay, Korean Terry is hopelessly determined to find the last body of the Chinese cocklers. When the five set off alone across the lethal Morecambe Bay, it’s Tess who brings them a compass in the fog, and stays with Courtney as she’s stuck in sinking sand.

Jack, Tess’s speech therapist, is also on the trip to help with the drama and becomes part of the rescue of Tess and Courtney. Faced with death, Tess can finally acknowledge her feelings for him.

(Jennifer adds: What I don't feel I've managed to get into my pitch is that it's narrated in the first person by Tess, and there's an element of satire to it.)

Thanks to all those writers for being intrepid. As I say, I’m so sorry I just have no time to add comments but please, the rest of you, comment away!


Stroppy Author said...

Really quick as I have to go and do my RLF group, but Audry sent me to her pitch from twitter and I know I'll forget if I leave it for later...

Fire in the Blood - it's not clear how this is a fantasy. It sounds very dark - is there anything that redeems the darkness? It has a slow start, but the second paragraph contains the more compelling information, so maybe re-order?

Tamlyn said...

Agree with Stroppy Author regarding Fire in the Blood – the fantasy element isn’t clear. Even unholy monster could be a way of saying ‘bad person’ rather than literal. It also sounds like straight urban fantasy to me, not sure what YA-y-ness it has (that’s a word. Honest), except for the use of the words boy and girl (as opposed to man and woman). But then, I often have difficulty telling the difference between YA and not.

Training Time: There are some errant commas about the place, which don’t help some awkward sentences. The first sentence is one of them and it threw me off for the rest of the pitch. I think what confused me most was you open with untreated bipolar, yet it doesn’t seem to have an effect on the rest of the pitch.

We Took Risks: I don’t know what drama residential is or an ensemble devised performance, so I was lost to begin with. I guess I’m not the intended audience :)

I was confused about how the first para, which seemed to be some sort of study thing, was connected to the actual story, which seems to be a trip across Morecambe Bay. And how is a guided walk a dangerous dare? And where is the distracting romance? Why is Korean Terry (first thought ‘that’s an unusual name’... I’m a bit slow sometimes) determined to find the Chinese cocklers? And why is Jack on this trip with a group of what I thought were school age friends? I’m not sure what to help with the drama means.

Jack came into the pitch very late, yet ending on the romantic elements suggests it’s a very strong part of the plot.

Johanna Nield said...

It's been many decades since I was in the YA audience, but I'll pitch in with some observations:

Fire in the Blood
The central idea is conveyed well, but the sentences seem very long and rather clunky.

Training Time
I agree with Tamlyn with regards to the errant commas. I feel the pitch needs work in terms of sentence structure, but otherwise the summary works well.

We Took Risks
Non-Brits won't understand the risks involved in a walk across Morecambe Bay, so perhaps it needs to be described as lethal in the first mention, rather than the second? I assume that Terry is of Korean origin, but again this will have no meaning to non-Brits so you may want to ditch reference to his/her nationality to avoid confusion. I was also puzzled about Jack's appearance at the very end of the pitch, since Tess's feelings for him are clearly so important.

Good luck to all of you - you have some great ideas here :)

E.Maree said...

Fire In The Blood - The character relationships sound fresh and interesting, but the language used seems more suited for an adult book than a YA voice: "inadvertently exposes her to a preternatural killer", "near-seclusion" and "She lives vicariously through Sandra's romances, believing that love is a distant dream she will never achieve"

I have trouble believing a young girl with a facial scar (even one with low self-esteem) would describe herself the above way. And very few teen girls would admit to 'living' through their friend's romances.

I'd love to see the paranormal aspects shown more clearly in this pitch.

Training Time - The story here is clearly told, but I'd like a bit more info on the world and the risks. A burst appendix seems like a rather ordinary threat, I'd rather hear about the ethical (and wibbley-wobbley-timey-wimey?) problems Jane's going to be up against.

We Took Risks - I really like the main character and her determination despite her speech therapy struggles, but I don't understand why Terry decides to go looking for the cockle-picker's body. What's the incentive for the group to go hunting for a dead body? Is there a mystery over how they died, a dare, or the chance of financial reward?
Also, I'd state Jack's age (or give some sort of hint, like 'a young speech therapist' or try and fit something more in-voice like 'trying not to stammer around her hot young speech therapist')--without any hints otherwise, I'd imagine the speech therapist as a mature adult and even though Tess is over legal age that's still a character in a position of responsibility. It runs the risk of giving off a creepy teacher/student feel.

Kirsty said...

Hi all

First up I'll reply to my comments then I'll add mine on the other two posts in a separate comment.

Tamlyn and Johanna - oops you noticed my comma addiction - which I am replacing with dashes in this reply. Sorry something I clearly need to work on. And the sentence structure, bad for a writer I know. Editing my work is the part I find the hardest. I do the getting it down on paper bit OK but then killing your darlings is more tricky (and time consuming).

Tamlyn I fully appreciate the fact that I didn't return to the bipolar but that I need to - thanks for picking that up.

I found writing my 25 word pitch much easier than this one because when you start adding details it can start to get sloppy if you don't describe the importance of what is going on.

"Joining the time police academy gives Jane the chance to prove she is more than her mental illness, and to discover who killed her step-brother.'

E. Maree - I absolutely love the use of the wibbley-wobbley-timey-wimey line. That's how I feel about the time travel aspect. It can get so confusing. You are the second person to say the burst appendix is an ordinary threat, and of course you are both right, it's the circumstances it happens in, on their first time travel that makes it more of a threat. It is tricky being so close which is why an exercise like this is so helpful. Hopefully in the longer synopsis it will be easier to look at world building and more of the ethical dilemmas and I've realised I never even mentioned the name of her best friend or love interests. I think it's the fear of giving the plot away.

Thanks all so much I've found this really helpful.

E.Maree said...

Kirsty - Sounds like you're working hard to get the pitch down perfect, best of luck. :) I know what you mean about the fear of giving the plot away -- I'm always worried someone will run off with my project. But I remind myself that there's a (very very) slim chance an agent may run across my query/pitch, so I better make it the best it can be just in case.

If it's any use, there's a recently release YA time travel book out called 'Tempest' by Julie Cross and it's got some nicely-written back cover copy (which would also work as an American-style query) which can be read over here.

Kirsty said...

Fire in the Blood

Hi Audry - I really like the premise of this pitch but do agree with the others that it sounds a little more adult (I agree there can be overlap and have had this query of my own work) - are the characters in their late teens here?

Am I right in thinking (from Nicola's comment) that the two first person narratives come from Sandra and Juliet? I agree about reordering it so that Juliet's story is first - you could even use this to introduce Sandra, e.g. where you say until she meets a boy - but isn't this the boy Sandra has set her up with? So you could say until she is set up with or introduced to a boy by Sandra?

The love triangle seems a bit strange if Sandra has introduced him to Juliet unless he likes Sandra, Juliet likes him etc.

I'm intrigued by what made Sandra start to see (or present) herself as defender of the underdog - did her father abandon her and younger siblings - I'm not sure abandonment of her on her own is enough to convince me of this reaction. I'd like to know what else made her step up and show the tough exterior (because you make it clear this is an external front).

In response to E.Maree's comments about highlighting the paranormal element - for me, droppping the unholy and just leaving monster would help and could you just name the type of monster he is (I had to look up preternatural - that could well be my ignorance though). Just for clarity is the boy the killer, in which case where does his empathy come from?

I love the idea of the relationship between Sandra and Juliet - the protector and protected. I want to know more about how they met (if Juliet lives in near seclusion)and why their relationship means so much to them.

I think it is really hard to do a pitch this length without creating more questions than you can give answers. But to me creating questions that people want answered is potentially a good thing - shows interest.

Not sure what Nicola's advice would be on combining the perspectives of Sandra and Juliet in a pitch/synopsis or if you should keep them as two separate parts? I just wonder if a combined would add coherence to have a more linear plot described. Nicola??

Hope that is helpful Audry - really look forward to hearing more about this one.

Kirsty said...

We Took Risks

Hi Jennifer - first off I'd like to say I completely got that it would be narrated by Tess (or at least from her perspective). Sorry, not so sure the satire came through though. Can you tell us more about this aspect?

I agree with the comments from the others.

Is it Jack who has pushed Tess to go to the residential? - do the others also have speech difficulties? (if not I think we may need a clearer indication of why Jack is there). Is Courtney a long term nemesis - someone from school? I get the feeling they know each other from before the residential.

I think we need more set up about the purpose of the walk and how it fits in with the drama residential.

Also does it end with the scene on Morecambe Bay or with the drama performance - I'm guessing you don't kill anyone off ;o)

Lastly I wonder if you need a clearer intro to her drama group. At one point you say Courtney and the other 4 (which I'm guessing potentially excludes Tess and Jack) but Terry is the only other one we are introduced to. Or alternatively maybe don't name him and talk about the dare of hunting for the body.

Actually the more I read this pitch the more it reminds me of Stand by Me which I love.

Hope that's helpful and good luck with it.

Ps Thanks Emma for the Tempest link - another to add to the to read pile ;o)

JenB said...

Thanks so much for taking the time and trouble to point out all that's not clear about my pitch! I found it very hard to condense the important plot points into the word limit. It makes me want to expand and explain it all but that's not the point so I'll just try again and repost some time if that's ok. I'll comment on the other two pitches tomorrow when my brain is clearer!

Elizabeth Dunn said...

Hi Audry,
this sounds nice and freaky, I'd ratchet that up for all its worth. Juliet's mention of meeting 'a boy' threw me. I think it's the same boy that Sandra has set her up with but you were wanting to get in that the story was written from two perspectives. I don't think that's necessary,especially if it is going to make the reader confused.

Hi Kirsty,
this sounds very dark and thrilling. For that reason I'd stay in genre - I felt 'about time' at the end was a funny throw away line better reserved for humour.
For some reason 'ends up dead or in jail' made me stop and think it should be one or the other. Also I flitted over 'time police academy' and had to go back and figure. Maybe you should have a quick line explaining what it is as it seems pretty central.

Hello Jennifer,
I like the setting here, almost Agatha Christie-ish. I think the high stakes you mention at the beginning sound more like risking death on Morecambe Bay than proving her nemesis wrong. Maybe you should centre everything about that right from the beginning, the fact they are all together for the drama residential being an aside. The mention of the 'other four' felt out of the blue and threw me a little. I also agree with the others that Jack needs to be moved up further in the pitch.

Good luck everyone and thanks for letting us read.

JenB said...

Fire in the Blood
This sounds to have so much going for it with a strong title and dramatic plot line. Sandra sounds like a good champion to have as a friend (even if it all goes wrong!) and such a strong friendship should go down well with female teens. two narrators should work well.
Is the murderer someone connected with the murder of her family? Sounds a bit like 'The Graveyard Book' in that respect.
I agree with comments about it seeming v dark for a YA book but that's hard to judge from a synopsis. Also not sure about the fantasy genre for it.
But as a pitch I feel I've come away with a clear idea about it - much clearer than my own gave! I wish you well with it.

JenB said...

Training Time - I think this sounds really interesting but does leave me with quite a few questions. Maybe that's good! the phrase 'nearly ends up dead, or in jail' really confuses me! As does 'the classmates who treat her as an equal even when sabotaging her' - does this mean they are pretending to be friends?
There's a lot happening in the last para too but that's probably because there's a lot happening on your plot. Maybe try to focus on fewer plot points for the pitch?
GOod luck with it.

JenB said...

Thanks for your clear comments on my 'We took risks' pitch - I think you've nailed one of my problems with the plot as well as the pitch. Thing is, Tess sets out to prove that she can do drama well against the odds. But the school residential trip which is aimed at producing a drama piece, really gets hijacked by the others who are not as interested and set off on a series of dares, culminating in them crossing Morecambe bay on their own. How to make this clear!
Thanks again.

Nicola Morgan said...

Just stepping in with a very brief comment - NOTHING is too dark for YA! (Though it does have to be handled properly.) See Tender Morsels...

JenB said...

Kirsty, who is Stand By Me by please? I can see an adult one by that name on Amazon - will that be the one you mean?

MaggieAM said...

@ JenB, I think she was referring to the film 'Stand By Me' which was based on a Stephen King short story. It focuses on teenagers looking for a body.

JenB said...

Thanks, Maggie - I've ordered that film now!

Kirsty said...

Sorry I didn't comment before. Thanks for the further comments on my pitch.

Jen did you get round to watching Stand by Me yet?

Kirsty said...

My apologies thought I'd replied - thanks to everyone else who gave feedback.
JenB - how did you find the Stand BY Me film?