GUTGAA: Pitch Polish Bloghop

I decided to sign up for the GUTGAA Pitch Polish bloghop, although I’m not quite sure what I can fix any more, after WriteOnCon. Still, if anyone sees any glaring errors, please feel free to point them out. Please just no “I don’t like it”s, “It doesn’t work for me”s or anything like that. They’re not all that helpful. In return, I can go over your query, if you want and you’re not signed up for GUTGAA. I’m all for quid pro quo when it comes to writing. ^_^

Deana Barnhart

AUTHOR’S NAME: Misha Gericke
GENRE: YA/NA Epic Fantasy
WORD COUNT: 112 000

Query: Please don’t crit this one. Only kept it in the post so everyone can see what the old comments were about. New pitch is below this one.

In the past five years, families from all over England have sent sixteen-year-old Callan Blair back to her orphanage. She’s not stupid enough to think her newest family will be any different, no matter how desperately she wishes to belong somewhere. Not with an evil entity living inside her since before she could remember, picking at random when to possess her and ruin her chances at happiness. The best thing to do is to go with the flow until she’s rejected and returned again.

This plan of action becomes impossible when she bumps into a sadistic asshole on her first day of school. Because he decides he’s in love and kidnaps her.

After hurting her just to prove a point, the Psycho drags Callan to a hallway where every door opens to a wondrous fantasy world she never knew existed. Before he can force her through one, however, Callan is rescued by a small army from the world beyond the doors and taken to their country. There Callan learns two things: Her parents both came from this strange world and her mother had been an elvish princess.

Lacking any knowledge of her parents’ pasts, Callan wants nothing more than to unravel her mother’s secrets. Why did she leave her country? And why did she keep her past hidden? Callan also longs to take her rightful place in her mother’s family — her family. But a series of huge obstacles stand in her way. The elves despise her. Her own grandfather marries her off to the neighboring royal family living in the country where the Psycho lays in wait. The evil within her is gaining strength and wants her to die. As if those problems aren’t enough, she must choose if she’ll go through with the wedding or not. And her choice will either have her keeping her new world’s tenuous peace or sparking a war that has been generations in coming.

DOORWAYS is an 112,000 word YA/NA Fantasy Epic with series potential.

New Query based on comments: Changed again to clarify and tighten up.

In the past five years, sixteen-year-old London girl Callan Blair has been returned to her orphanage so many times she lost hope of ever belonging with a family. Whenever there’s a chance, the evil entity inside her awakens and does exactly enough to get her rejected. The accompanying panic attacks and nightmares are intensifying, so Callan knows her newest family experience will be identical to the others.

Except this time she bumps into a sadist who decides he’s in love and kidnaps her.

He drags Callan to a hallway where every door opens to a fantasy world she never knew existed. Fortunately, a small army from there rescues her and take her to their home. Before they get there, though, Callan learns a staggering truth: the elvish king is her grandfather.

Callan longs to fit in with her true family, but the elves despise her, and her grandfather arranges her marriage into the neighboring royal dynasty — in the country where the sadist waits. Meanwhile the evil entity is getting stronger and wants to kill her as long as she follows her grandfather’s bidding. But is belonging somewhere worth risking her life? Or even marrying a total stranger? If not, her choice not to go through with the wedding will spark a war that has been generations in coming.

DOORWAYS is a 112,000 word YA/NA Fantasy Epic with series potential. 

First 150 words:

Breathe in, breathe out, spur the horse into a gallop.

Easy. Natural. Soothing. Far from the orphanage. Far from its matron and the rejects. Far from dreams of carnage and death.

The lush park was heaven in comparison, with children laughing and playing, lovers strolling and only a Boeing streaking overhead to prove they were in the middle of London.

Callan guided the gelding to where Mrs. Sotheby, her only hope at promotion, stood waiting.

She worked with the young gelding’s quirks, trotting around the older lady, letting him find his stride. He sensed Callan’s excitement and it made him a bit more tense than he should have been. Nothing to worry about. Nothing she couldn’t control. Breathing deeply, she relaxed her grip on the reins and allowed the gelding his peace.

Even though her stomach still flipped every now and then, the horse settled down beneath her.

*  *  *

So? Thoughts?


46 thoughts on “GUTGAA: Pitch Polish Bloghop

  1. I like the first 150. A few questions, though:

    *Does “asshole” serve a purpose in a query? It doesn't bother me, but it did seem an odd choice for a query.
    *The last sentence reads oddly. Perhaps: “DOORWAYS is a YA/NA Fantasy Epic with series potential and complete at 112,000 words.”
    *Also, for the last part, it seems there should be something more. I'm not exactly sure what, though. Just, seems to be lacking in information.

    I hope that helps.

  2. “asshole” was a voice-choice, so it could go, although I'm not sure what would replace it.

    I'll play around with the last paragraph and see what works better. Funny how no one bothered to crit it before. 😀

    As for the something missing: yeah… there's about two thirds of the story missing that impacts on the plot I'm referring to in the query, but would muddle things up because it's told in other POVs. Not sure if I'll ever be able to write a one-page query that does the story justice. It's a bit… well… huge.

  3. Sorry, I meant it felt like something was missing from the last paragraph, but I'm not sure what. Everything before that deals with the story is fine. As for the last paragraph, I don't know what to suggest other than looking at the query crits Matt MacNish does and see the notes he leaves on the last paragraph.

  4. Oh yeah! I actually have an About Me paragraph beneath the last one that kind of makes for a better ending, but I left it out for now because I saw in WriteOnCon that if people didn't comment on the rest of the query, they picked on that paragraph. Sneaky, I know, but it works for me. 😛

  5. Because I come from a strong Catholic faith and my grandparents thought it best to scare us grandkids with stories of demons and stuff like that, possession is something very real and it frightens me to no end. But you handled it well here because it's not about the demon inside her but the emotional struggle of the MC to find herself.

    This was very well done (this coming from a guy who thinks demons is going to possess him every other Tuesday. Oh god, what day is it…?)

  6. You had your query on TQQQE, correct? I like the changes you've made. The first two paragraphs are very strong! They drew me right in. I wonder if the last two paragraphs can be condensed into one? Just pick out the key events that entice us to read more? Clearly you have a lot of really cool stuff happening in your MS, but maybe cut down on what you share in the query? (Admittedly, I'm a terrible query critiquer – keep that in mind.) I love the voice in your opening scene – the first several lines especially. Good luck with this! The premise is very intriguing!!

  7. Thanks! I'm glad to know that readers can see this aspect to the situation. I didn't want to make the story about the demon since it feels over-done. To me it was so important that I never refer to the demon as such in my ms, although this is done for another reason as well. I just chose to use the word in the end because none of the alternatives worked for the query. 🙂

  8. Misha, the query looks good. But, I feel you can just add a line about what the evil entity inside her does, how does it ruin her chance of happiness. It will pique the reader's interest.

    Loved the first 150 words. I also feel a little odd about the word asshole being used in a query.

  9. Solid query.

    You might want to consider changing “her grandfather marries her to” to “her grandfather arranges a marriage to”. I was confused for a moment when she had to decide whether to go through with a wedding I assumed had already happened.

    The other thing is that I almost feel that there are three plots going on here–the evil being, the Psycho, and the difficulties in her real world. If they can't be more firmly tied together, then I'd suggest narrowing the query to just the most important. That would give the query more focus.

  10. I think you've got a great start here. It's a little long if you're trying for the 250 number that Query Shark is firm about. As Alex says, Matt's great with queries. He stresses the 3 Cs: character, conflict, choice. So I would ask if you could tighten up what you have and focus on those three.

    Great premise!

  11. “Arranges a marriage to” < -- brilliant. Missed that one completely. Evil being is responsible for her real world issues. Psycho is the reason why she's taken to the other. Real world issues influence how she makes decisions in the other world. So I can't really tie them more together without another page, and I can't leave any out because then everyone's going to ask “but why” for every little thing I write. :-/

  12. Thanks Donna… Hmm… I'm almost exactly 100 words over. I could possibly narrow the focus a little more, but every time I do that, the critique I get keeps making me explain more and more until I said no more.

    Now I'm not quite sure how to cut down….

  13. “she must choose if she'll go through with the wedding or not.” I thought he'd already married her off. Apparently not.
    Also you don't need the 'or not'; you can end the sentence with the word 'wedding.'

    I'd change the 'asshole' to something more specific. You could just say “sadistic boy.” But it might be stronger to give a feature of his sadism (how does she know he's a sadist at this point?) “when she bumps into a boy who slaps her…” I don't know. It could have more color to it.

    'the Psycho drags Callan to a hallway where every door opens to a wondrous fantasy world she never knew existed. Before he can force her through one, however, Callan is rescued by a small army from the world beyond the doors and taken to their country.' the word 'wondrous' bothers me. Wondrous means wonderful, doesn't it. If he's a sadist, why would he drag her to a wonderful fantasy world?

    These are just some thougts of mine. Also, why do you use so many non-sentences. It actually confuses me. Again, just my thoughts. Good luck.

  14. I sent in my pitch but I think I'll have to post mine on the blog as well.
    Wow, your idea sounds really interesting! I like the opening words a lot too, but I'm not sure how much the query captures the same tone as the opening words. Using the word “asshole” in an otherwise lush fantasy rich setting kinda threw me – that sounds more inner city ish. And I wasn't clear why the guy who kidnapped her had access to these worlds and why he'd let her choose a pleasant place after torturing her. And how did the evil get in her?
    Someone once gave me a great tip – the query doesn't have to include everything in the novel, but can describe the story right up to the first turning point. If you pick the first big conflict and focus on that, it might be stronger.
    Hope this helps!

  15. That's great advice, although I don't think I'd be able to apply it, since it would look like a contemporary YA instead of Epic Fantasy if I did that, since the first turning point is still on Earth.

  16. Pretty good query, but this line: “Callan wants, needs…
    ” seemed a little off to me. Otherwise, pretty good pitch. I like it. Especially the doorway stuff. Doors into another dimension are cool.

  17. I love the new query. The 150 words are good too, although the “Boeing” and “asshole” puts the story in the now whereas I thought it would be a story from ancient times. From the query, it sounds like a fascinating book.

  18. You had me for the first bit of the query (although I would cut some of the wordiness and give more of what the evil does and also how it affects the sadistic guy). It felt like a contemporary fantasy with portals and good character development. I think you lost me about halfway when you first mentioned the grandfather elf. This seemed to jump out of nowhere and led to a completely different direction and plot. Did she know about this other world? did she know her grandpa? why do the elves hate her all of a sudden? Is the plot about the sadistic guy or is it about the grandfather arranging her marriage? Are those two things connected in any way?
    I've seen agents and workshops that say to focus on the first third of the book (like Deniz suggested). I know it will make the book seem more like contemporary fantasy rather than “epic”. But since there is a “real world” and an “other world”, then I would probably veer more towards calling this contemporary fantasy anyways (depending on the time period).
    Oh, and how does the evil thing play into the rest of the book? it seems to disappear.

    The other option could be to start the query with her escaping from the creep's house in the first paragraph and discovering this new world and meeting her grandfather.

  19. Misha, I think the changes you made in the second query work much better. It is more concise, more specific with regards to plot. There was just one sentence that made me stop and say, “Wha'?” Here it is: “Now the evil within her’s attacks stretch her to the limits.” Perhaps something like, “Now the evil attacks within her have stretched her to the limit.” Just a suggestion.

    The first 150 words seemed to be paced well. The shorter sentences work to show urgency and the longer sentences imply that she is slowing to ease the horse's tension.

  20. I know how late I am in commenting, but there are so many blogs signed up! After yours, I only have 2 more and I will have visited all the pitch polish blog hops! Yeah!

    Hello, also, from GUTGAA. Now, that list is even larger. IT may take a month of Sundays to hop around to them all, but Iw ill at least say hi to everyone!

    Now, for my comments: The query was great and I loved it all. The last paragraph could use a little more tightening.

    My suggestions are:

    Callan wants to fit in with her true family. But the elves despise her, and her grandfather arranges her marriage into the neighboring royal family – in the country where the madman waits. Now the evil within her attacks stretch her to the limits. She must choose if she'll go through with the wedding. Her choice will either keep her new world's tenuous peace or spark a war that has been generations in coming.

    Best wishes this month:)

  21. The ms starts in the present and then moves over into fantasy. Think Chronicles of Narnia. So the maybe the first fifth of the book leads up to her kidnapping. The rest is epic fantasy all the way. So imagine if I relable the book and the agent asks for a full. She'll be pretty pissed. Same thing if I take either section of the query out.

    Also: “learns the staggering truth” = she had no idea. Hence the word “staggering”.

    Also. She doesn't get to the creeps house. She's rescued in the hallway to the other world.

    So I guess what I'm saying here is, how do I improve my query without actually removing any of the elements within it?

  22. Hi, thanks for stopping by at Beyond The Hourglass Bridge. You've got a great cncept here and solid worldbuilding – the only sentence which stalled the flow for me was: Now the evil within her’s attacks stretch her to the limits.

    Also, shouldn't it be a lower case 't' after the colon because it's still the sae sentence (for the elven king)

    Good luck in GUTGAA!

  23. Oh, now I'm starting to see it a bit more. At first sight I was a bit confused. I see why it's important to have a focus on the new world. But how to make it feel more like one plot arc … If it is possible it might help to shorten the first paragraph to a couple lines and get to the doors sooner. (callan Blair is kicked out of yet another foster home, all thanks to the evil entity inside her that loves freaking everyone out. On her way to her next home callan expects the worst but she didn't count on being grabbed out of her car by an obsessed creep.) haha, not the best wording, just giving an idea.
    My other thought was to make it more clear that she has entered a new world. For some reason I was under the impression that the sadistic man was trapping her in this hallway and th army broke into one of the doors and set her free. Right now there's a jump between doors and elf king arranging marriage and I'm trying to see how she got from a to b. I'd like to know a bit about this world, why the elves hate her, and what exactly this evil thing does.
    Sorry, it's difficult writing this on my phone.
    I think the story sounds so good, I can't wait to see how things go.

  24. I should add that I waited to read the original query until now (I wanted a blind view of the new version). Now I see you had a lot more detail. I actually prefer the old version… The voice was good and it flowed a bit more. Maybe there's a balance somewhere between the two?

  25. Yep had a ton of detail because everyone kept saying I had to add something or the other until the query was 100 words too long.

    Now I added some in to explain things a little more. What do you think of the new version now?

  26. Yeah, I think those small changes help for sure with the transitions. And it hints that she's trying to develop a relationship wih her grandpa. So that's good.
    I think too, seeing the words “possess” and wording it later that the entity wants to kill her (in the previous version) gave us more of a clue what this entity does (and that it's not just her own powers) Is it possible to keep a bit of that feeling?
    What if you said “a small elvish army” (if they are elves)? This would help paint the kind of fantasy world they're taking her into and might also make “elvish king” seem less random. If you don't eat two “elvish”s, maybe you can just say “their king”.
    I'm still curious why the elves hate her (the elves hate her for being an outsider)?
    I think it's looking pretty good. I think that with fantasies like this you're allowed just a tiny bit bigger word count (not 350, but as long as its under 300?).

  27. Hehehehe sadly the army isn't elvish, but explaining what they are will be a pain in the butt for a query, so I'm leaving it for if someone asks for a Synopsis. 😛

    I added the phrase about it wanting to kill her back, and linked that better with her choice at the end, I hope.

  28. Yes, I think the last paragraph looks better. The stakes seem more balanced (rather than just worrying about marrying a stranger).
    With the other part you changed, i think I would replace “before they get there though” with something like “on the way” just so it makes more sense with the previous sentence. OR, if you wanted a bit of world building maybe you could put something like … On the way she discovers/sees/meets real life dwarves and faeries and learns a staggering truth … Etc” of course only if it's really in there, haha.
    Anyway, it looks like you're making progress (of course now you need fresh eyes to just see the new one because I know too much now, haha).
    Good luck with everything!

  29. I think the question has to be, what does evil do that creates real world havoc? Speak through her? Make things dance in the air? Talk to her and make her answer nonexistent questions? Just a hint would answer that.

    You mentioned the last paragraph as a problem area, and I think there are several reasons for that. The biggest thing is that you've tried to cram the majority of the story into this paragraph, and it just won't fit. Decide what NEEDS to be there and what can be cut. Just the basics. I don't know the story so I can't say what's most important, but this is my guess.

    Callan longs to fit in with her true family, but the elves despise her, and her grandfather arranges her marriage into the neighboring royal dynasty — in the country where the sadist waits. Is belonging somewhere worth risking her life? Her decision may spark a war that has been generations in coming.


  30. The hint about what the entity does to her is in paragraph 1.

    I'm going to have to put some serious thought into your suggestion for the final paragraph, since the evil is a pretty big source of conflict for her.


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