Today's paragraph is from a self-published children's book, Dragonfire by Misha Herwin and is a fantasy adventure. The age range that Misha gives is 8-12, but I should point out that if this was being pitched to an agent or publisher, that range would need to be narrowed. The convention is that no more than three years should be spanned - eg 8-10, 9-11. (Though you can say "teenage" or "young adult" if you mean 12+.)
I've explained to Misha that I'm happy to put it on the blog but I won't use it in Dear Agent (forthcoming book about covering letters), partly because I've got enough example paragraphs now, and partly because if I was actually advising her how to pitch it to an agent I'd first be gently suggesting that some things about the book changed, not just the pitch, and that's not the subject of Dear Agent!
Dragonfire by Misha Herwin
"Polly Miller has never belonged. Orphaned as a baby when the firework factory exploded, wherever she goes she is followed by a trail of mysterious fires. Thrown out of every foster home she ends up at St. Savlons, The Care Home for Truly Disruptive Kids. Here she meets Courtliegh Jones and Sprog, who doesn’t speak but makes it clear that he is the little brother she never knew she had. When he is kidnapped by the evil Lady Serena who wants him for her experiments to prove that magic and science are one and the same, Polly and Courtleigh set out to rescue him. To do so they discover under the surface of this world another realm of shape changers and lost kingdoms. Courtleigh learns he can speak to animals as if he is one of them, Polly that she can breathe fire. They break into the Bioflex Foundation and face Lady Serena, who says that no one will believe kids from St. Savlons. They simply don’t matter. Furious Polly takes a deep breath and as the whole building goes up in flames, she Courtleigh and Sprog run for their lives."
OK, here are my comments:
- Nice and lively, with emotion and action. The names suggest humour and lightness in the story - fine if that's truly the tone of the book. It does label it as a particular type of story, though, so do be sure that's what you intend.
- "the" firework factory? As in the place where she lived/her parents worked? Or what? "the" is odd.
- "Courtleigh" is spelled in two different ways - this simple error would indicate to me (as a prospective reader on Amazon, for example, OR as an agent) that the book may also be full of errors.
- "To do so they discover under the surface of this world another realm of shape changers and lost kingdoms." Problems with this sentence: need commas to separate the phrases, otherwise it's hard to read first time; you don't mean "to do so" but "in doing so". Also, what do you mean by "under the surface of this world"? Do you mean underground, or metaphorically? Lack of clarity in a pitch raises flags for agents and other experts.
- "Furious Polly" - I think you mean "Furious, Polly..."
- In terms of the plot, I very much like the idea that at the core is an issue about science versus magic. On the other hand, I find the fire-breathing skill and plot device a little problematic and not fully realised in terms of character and development. Also, you say she is thrown out of every care home - does that take up much of the actual story or is that back-story? That feels ambiguous and is, again, something the agent really does need to know in order to feel what sort of book it is.
- For a pitch paragraph, we need to know something of the resolution, though I do appreciate you don't want to give that away to actual readers.
- In terms of character development, you start by saying that Polly has never belonged, yet you never refer to this again or present it as a strong element, which it could/should be. Sprog "doesn't speak" - can you develop this and make it feel important? If not, leave it out.
- I think that rather than focus quite a few words on details (such as what Lady Serena said) you could pump more emotional and dramatic content in, with more wide-sweeping dramatic phrases.
In short, there's a lot that could be done to sell more copies of Dragonfire by tightening the blurb and I do hope Misha looks at some of the suggestions and sees which she agrees with. It's her call and my comments are only suggestions.