Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bait and Pitch Workshop: Query Pitches


Note: If you’re here looking for fishing tips, you’ve come to the wrong end of the blogosphere.

Okay, this week we are working on QUERY pitches. That means you are giving us your best pitch paragraph on a single manuscript and we will give you our communal feedback. Read the full list of rules with all their glorious explanations here

The Rules
Bait and Pitch is open to ALL fiction categories
This is open to manuscripts of any status. 
One pitch per week as a comment to THIS post. 
Bring a writer friend. The more the better for all involved!
You post, you crit. 
You edit, you critique again.
If you revise, post it as a REPLY to your original pitch. 
Critiques must include AT LEAST one piece of positive feedback. 
Don’t be an asshole. 
If you cross the line, *I* will critique your pitch in a similar manner. K? *grinz*

Formatting Your Pitch

NAME: The Jackal  (bonus points if you get this late 90s/early 00’s TV reference)



PITCH: This is where you will write the pitch paragraph from your query. NOT the whole query. Please limit it to no more than four sentences. Really, if you go beyond that, your pitch paragraph is too long. No, really; and don’t be getting all crazy with the semicolons to fit in extra sentences—you know who you are.

The Wicked Pitch of the East (aka Dannie)


  1. NAME: Jodie Andrefski

    CATEGORY/GENRE: YA/Contemporary


    PITCH: Seventeen-year-old Samantha Evans decides Trinity Academy's Hell Week is the perfect opportunity for revenge against her ex-bestie who helped put Sam's dad in jail and now taunts her daily. She fake taps three "initiates" into the high school's secret society to unknowingly complete her dirty work. The plan seems to be working, until several students get seriously hurt from different tasks her initiates perform. Sam is forced to re-examine her motives, and decide what parts of herself she’s willing to sacrifice for her “dish best served cold.”

    1. This looks like an interesting story and your query gives an idea of all the things you have cooking in your story. I think moving around your first sentence might help a little. "Samantha Evans is taunted by her ex-bestie who helped put her dad in jail. But Trinity Academy's Hell Week offers the perfect opportunity for revenge."
      That's not perfect by any stretch but the length of you first sentence, I think, mutes what's really going on-the reason Sam wants revenge etc. "She taps three fake "initiates" into the HS senior society to do her dirty as part of their "initiation." The Plan seems to be working until the initiates start hurting students. Sam must decide what she's willing to sacrifice to make her "dish best served cold."
      Again, that's not perfect but I think your last sentence needs a little more punch. "Re-examine her motives" is a little vague. Is she worried she is becoming like her now hated ex-bff? If so, maybe make that more specific.
      I don't know if that helps at all, but hopefully it gives you a little something to think about. It really seems like you have a great story in there.
      Good luck!

    2. Since I'm still reading yours, and I've looked at your query, I'll just say that your story has more "punch" than your query does when I look at it here. The story is a great, dynamic read and I wonder if a few powerful details might help here. Along the lines of....with one girl () and another(), Sam has to consider the ...... Just one idea.

    3. Thanks to both of you for the great suggestions!

      Jodie =)

  2. Name: Lucy Hallowell

    Category/Genre: NA/LGBT

    Pitch: When eighteen-year-old Louise Lomax is offered a chance to play baseball professionally she will do anything to make the team. She plays hard, bites her tongue, and follows all the rules. But as she becomes one of the fledgling league’s brightest stars she needs help shining off the field as much as she does at shortstop. The team’s owner, Walter Sterling asks his glamorous but wild daughter Victoria to help Louise become more comfortable as the face of the team. But as the two women spend more time together their friendship blossoms.

    Being the face of the league while carrying on a secret, and expressly forbidden romance with the team owner’s daughter is a dangerous game for Louise to play. It’s only a matter of time before she loses something she loves.

    1. This seems pretty tight to me. I see where the story might go and want to know the outcome. Maybe last sentence could be slimmed a bit. Carrying on a forbidden relationship with the team owner's daughter while providing the brand image for her league makes a dangerous game for Louise; it's only....... Just an idea to consider, I think it's really fine as it is.

    2. I agree with Sherry, this seems pretty tight! Nicely done. One tiny thing, I think (?) you need a comma after Walter Sterling. The other small thing, consider coming up with a new phrase for the second "face of the..." that would still mean the same thing, so it isn't repeated twice in just a few sentences.

      I think you have a winner here, with several aspects many agents are looking for!

  3. Name: Philip Ray
    Genre: NA Science Fiction
    Title: Born of Relics

    Edison's new degree in Xenoarcheology is fantastic for uncovering ancient alien artifacts on distant planets, but terrible for finding employment. Desperate, Edison forgoes his common sense and allies with a raggedy group of endearing space pirates, including the captain's intelligent and highly distracting daughter, Nef. Together, they aim to delve into dark, ancient alien cathedrals to illuminate a lost culture and find the Eye of Trafalgar - the most sought-after ancient relic in the galaxy. Edison stands to become the most renown xenoarcheologist in centuries, but with a bounty hunter in aggressive pursuit, he also risks being forever branded a galactic criminal.

    1. Oh, Raiders of the Lost Ark meets Star Wars, two of my favorites. I completely understood and found it a book I'd like to read, and a movie I'd love, too. Did you mean renowned? And somehow the word forgoes in that context doesn't seem smooth, not sure why, though. Good luck!

    2. I love the sound of this! I think you did a good job explaining Xenoarcheology in the limited space given, and the plot definitely sounds interesting. A few things to tighten this: I agree with Sherry that "forgoes" isn't the smoothest word; maybe something like "abandons" or "surrenders"? Also, "they aim to delve into dark, ancient alien cathedrals" could be "they delve into dark, ancient alien cathedrals"--as it's worded now, it sounds like they might possibly go in at some point, but when you cut "aim to," it creates more of a sense of immediacy. You don't necessarily need to answer this in your pitch, but something to think about: who is the bounty hunter pursuing Edison? It's generally a good idea to introduce the protagonist, antagonist, and love interest (or another key character), and with just the fleeting mention of the bounty hunter, the stakes feel a bit rushed to me here.

      Otherwise, I genuinely love this. It sounds like you've got a strong, interesting story, and everything you need in a pitch is here. I look forward to seeing more from you!

  4. NAME: Sherry Howard

    CATEGORY/GENRE: YA Contemporary

    TITLE: Coach Hart's Fumble

    PITCH: Sixteen-year-old Hunter has a friend in critical condition; he knows why. Hunter and his oddball friends turn sleuths when their locally famous high school football coach threatens to bring disgrace to their team and small town. Unorthodox coaching and wild partying with students worry some kids even while the townspeople idolize Coach. When a friend nearly dies Hunter's crew is determined to expose the dangerous truths behind Coach Hart's public persona. In a town where football is the heart of the community, Hunter treasures his roles as the man of the house, a football standout, and the man of Keesha's dreams. Hunter fears the wrath of the town if he breaks the conspiracy of silence; he must decide if he'll risk his peace, status and his promised college scholarship to investigate the secretive Coach and search for the truth before someone dies.

    1. In the first sentence you say Hunter knows why his friend is hurt, but in the next you say he becomes a sleuth. Does he really know why, or is there more to the mystery?

      Other than that this seems like a great story. One where a young man's idealism is confronted by his status as a football player. I'm curious what he thought of the coach before the start of the mystery.

    2. What about changing the second half of the first sentence to .... and Hunter may be the only one, besides a killer, who knows why.

      You've already got my other comments in email. Again, nice revise!!! =)

    3. Agree with the above comments on the first sentence. Great concept and I hear that sports themed stories are in.

      I think you can cut this down significantly. You tell us several times that the coach is beloved and the town loves .football. Once is enough. You also repeat that someone was injured a few times.

      Who's Keesha? That bit comes out of left field and isn't addressed again.

      And if his scholarship is already promised, how would he lose it? Having knowledge of a real-life case involving a football loving town, whistleblowers, criminal activity and kids with scholarships, I am not sure that element of your story rings true... at least based on what I see in your query.

    4. Thanks for suggestions, all three of you. It makes me see that I need both less and more.

  5. NAME: James Fox

    CATEGORY/GENRE: Adult Space Opera

    TITLE: Raiders in the Rings

    PITCH: Young Lt. George Scott is torn between two worlds. Humans live on one habitable moon, and aliens live on the other. Between them is a vast planetary ring system where George finds himself leading a Cavalry troop. There he finds his enemy is not what he expected. The raiders are half human and only want freedom from their alien masters. Now George must make a choice. Stay and fight for the alien he loves, or rescue a half human slave who's found a place in his heart.

    1. Hi James,

      Thoughts as I read:

      The first sentence is a bit generic. Maybe tie the first two together. Or something less cliché. "George Scott is torn between two moons--one full of aliens and the other full of humans."

      Do the rings matter?

      Are the Raiders the humans? Wait, this is romance?

      Overall thoughts:
      LOVE the space opera idea. That's awesome. And I can kind of see where you are going here and it feels deep and dramatic, but fun.

      The query is a little bit confusing. The conflict doesn't become evident until the very end and I am not sure how a lot of the facts you've included are relevant. I think you need to really focus it around the choice between the alien he loves and the half-human slave.

      Just spit-balling here, but a good structure might be: Introduce George, One sentence on alien love, one sentence on slave love, last sentence on his choice. And make consequences of that choice clear.

      Hope that's helpful.

  6. Name: David
    Genre: MG Fantasy
    Title: Nomags vs Gifted

    Molly, a gutsy Nomag girl, knows that her nerdy, day-dreaming best friend, Christian Derling, is a cracked nut. He often pretends he has magical powers like the Gifted—a people feared by most Nomags and hated by her overbearing father. When Gifted magic appears to save Christian from a deadly fall, Molly’s world gets turned upside down. As she tries to hide her best friend’s secret from her father and other Nomags, she learns that a pair of traitors in her father’s militia plan to sacrifice her as part of a Machiavellian plot to trick her father into starting an unwinnable war with the Gifted.

    Molly wants to protect Christian and change her father’s mind about the Gifted so her life can go back to the way it used to be, but first she has to escape the traitors and prevent a war.

    1. Hi David,

      This sounds like a fun, interesting story. I think you've really got a unique but commercial concept. I do feel like there are some things you could change to make this even stronger, though. First of all: what is a Nomag? Who are they, what do they do, and why aren't they like you and me? Or are they like us? "Day-dreaming" can be cut, since it doesn't really add to the pitch. I like the "cracked nut" bit. Whose Gifted magic saves Christian from the fall--his own, or someone else's? "Molly's world gets turned upside down" is a little generic, and while I feel like there's nothing cliché about this book, this particular phrase has been used ad nauseam. This part feels disjointed to me: "As she tries to hide her best friend’s secret from her father and other Nomags, she learns that a pair of traitors..." What does Molly have to protect Christian from? She's the one the Nomags want to sacrifice, right? So why does he need protection?

      Aside from this, I really do think you've got something good here. The stakes are high in this pitch, and I can definitely envision this in print. Good luck!

  7. NAME: Mark O'Brien

    CATEGORY/GENRE: YA contemporary


    PITCH: It's two hours to Christmas, and seventeen-year-old Aidan is going to jump off the Ben Franklin Bridge. Really, it's perfect timing—his dad did the same exactly a year ago, and in his mind it'll be the present his mom always wanted. But then he realizes he's not alone.

    1. Well I'm intrigued. It's vague, but I like vague. That said you'll probably need to add more to the query to answer questions like: How is he not alone? Who did he meet? etc. That's the advice I was given when I tried to make my query vague for the purpose of creating suspense. If you don't want to go that route you could try the comparison tactic: It's like 'It's a Wonderful Life but with fairies!' (I'm just throwing that out there).

      Brandon Brown

    2. Hi Mark,

      I agree with Brandon's review. I'm also hooked and left going, whoa! But it is quite vague. One thing I'm left wondering is, why in the world would any mother in her right mind think her son jumping off a bridge is a present. I realize it's from his perspective so is probably not true. We might need to know: What does Aidan want? What stands in his way? What happens if he gets it/doesn't get it? Good luck!

  8. NAME: Brandon Brown

    CATEGORY/GENRE: Adult/Paranormal


    PITCH: What do you see when you're a blind psychic newborn vampire? For Leah the answer is everything. She sees her surroundings through the minds of those around her. She sees the dreams of her vampire companion, Daniel, wherein he tortures himself over his past demons. She sees the memories of Emma, a vampire older than Daniel, who is driven by both rage and a lust for power and absolute control. What Leah can't see is the connection between them all. Leah knows her dreams hold the key to uncovering that connection. But unless she can master her powers and her bloodlust: Daniel and Leah both will fall prey to Emma’s power and lose everything.

    1. Hi Brandon. I think this is clear and well written. I was left wondering what her power is in the end that they will fall prey to. Maybe you can be more specific about that? Also, a little nit-pick, there should be commas after the three words in the first sentence describing 'vampire.' Also, I've heard that agents don't like rhetorical questions at the beginning of a query. Not sure...maybe someone else can confirm that or not. Good luck!

  9. Name: Shari Schwarz
    Genre: MG survival adventure
    Title: THE LEDGE

    Pitch: It's finally summer break, and thirteen-year-old Bryce can't wait for his backpacking trip to Grandpa's remote mountain cabin, even if he does have to go with his big brother, Jack. Bryce wants to hone his budding survival skills—and prove he's not just a little kid anymore. But the last thing Jack wants to do is trek through the woods with his annoying little brother. Their sibling rivalry interferes with Bryce's plans for an epic adventure when Jack almost drowns, a bear grubs on their supplies, and a tragic climbing accident leaves Bryce in an out-of-body experience. Their separate journeys, one set in the physical world and the other set in the supernatural, lead them to the root of their strained relationship where they are desperate for a second chance. Bryce and Jack must learn what it means to be brothers if they want to live to tell their tale.

  10. Hi Shari! Overall, I think the set up details are good, but it seems like it's from two different POVs. Jack wants/Bryce wants...That makes it a little bit confusing as I read it to keep straight which is which. I assume this is dual POV? I'm not an expert in these things, but I've been told repeatedly that one should stick to one POV in the query.

    I appreciate that some of the story gets left out and that it's really hard to do... I'm in the same situation--see above for my Dual POV query.

    The only other things I'd add, is that the I'm not sure how their "learning to be brothers" is going to help one of them come back to his body. That's a pretty big leap without giving the reader any steps. And as I think about it, that the challenge of your MS, so it needs a bit more detail. Maybe stick to one POV--I'd use Bryce since he's got the more interesting journey, and give us a touch information on the challenge.