Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pitch Contest Critique - Day 2


For a middle grade novel, Ballet Dreams:Ten-year-old Melissa dreams of dancing with a well-known ballet company one day. After she leaves her Nebraska studio, where she's the best in her class, for Southern California, she accidentally bumps into Jade, the self-proclaimed class empress, during a dance exercise at a new studio. Jade mocks Melissa's training and deliberately trips her. Then their teacher challenges both to audition for a solo. Melissa vows to outshine Jade and prove she's the better dancer.

The big thing on this one is simply too much plot. All that we have in this pitch is a sequence of events that happen in the story. Remember that with a YA we need to figure out what the theme is for the story

Also, remember to include the genre and word count. I understand that the genre is hinted at but take the time to still state it. Simply saying for a middle grade novel is not enough. Middle grades imply pretty much anything from 4th through 9th grade at least.

As far as the story goes, I guess I struggled with the idea that a 10 year old would be moved to a new study across the country. If this was a move because of the family, then it needs to be stated that way. Also, you don't accidentally bump into someone that will be at your student. She simply meets her.

Two nineteen year olds spend a passionate summer but never consummate. She was the eldest of seven children in a Mormon household. He was a niƤve, intelligent, farm boy, Boy Scout - charismatic, but not Mormon. Twenty-five years with no contact. Her strong, 22 year marriage, boasts 7 children, two on missions. His failure to marry haunts him: failing to propagate, his family name ends. They reconnect, meet, and she gets pregnant.

This one is also simply plot based. Like the prior one, make sure to incorporate the title, genre and word count into this one.

With this one, we also need to understand a bit more of what we are going to get out of this story. Again, much of this is based on the fact that we really only see plot. If there is a theme here, something like long lost love or redemption, then bring that out.

Storywise, there are a lot of little loose ends to plug here. The characters just don't seem to fit together. I get how they did when they were 19 but the odds that someone with a happy marriage is willing to deal with this hero is strange.

Also, it is wise to avoid specific references to organizations and churches such as this. You will run into a lot of legal battles on this one.

Bella loves using chat to stay connected. That is, until a miscommunication with a handsome stranger sends her reeling. Best to focus instead on the multimillion-dollar negotiation of her life at work. But guess who shows up, smirking, on the other side of the negotiation table? Same stranger. Ugh! Bella rules the world at work, but two years out of college, she can't close the deal personally. Is the old maxim true? Is everything negotiable?

Focus, focus, focus. There are a lot of questions and a lot of statements that really give us no sense of the storyline, characters or the conflict other than seeing this relationship around a guy she met on a chat.

Again, genre, word count and title would help.

Finally, we deal with the characters. Sure, online relationships are common these days, but seeing this heroine in this situation just doesn't work. If she is really dealing with multi-million dollar deals, then the likelyhood of the online thing is shaky. Of course someone just two years out of college is probably not going to be put in charge of multi-million dollar deals either.

Young Lady Sarina Wakefield is abandoned by her husband. Left to pick up the pieces, she works to improve their property until Eric, her errant husbands returns and discovers that she is not the little miss he assumed but, a woman with a capable mind who could very well prove to be an a sizable asset to him. His delight is short lived, when he realizes that she is not a woman who easily forgives.

So, is this the Martin Guerre story?
This one is also plot heavy. You really don't get to much until the end. I see where you are going to with this "woman who doesn't easily forgive" but hey, I guess as I read this, I would wonder why she would want to. He abandons her, then comes back and sees her as an asset? Not very redeemable.

Genre, word count and title also.


  1. Hey Scott, how many did you receive? just curious. thanks

  2. I’m beginning to see that there are many different ways people attack the pitch process.
    Pitch A: I’m guessing this is the deserving underdog triumphing over the undeserving ‘prima donna’? I would ask, is it necessary in the pitch to mention Nebraska and Southern California or could it just be her transferring from her smaller studio, where she was the best, to a bigger studio where she would be forced to establish her place? Is this maybe a peer group pressure theme? I did get that they were dancing when Melissa bumped into her and ‘Her Highness’ didn’t like it. I would probably try to use some words like ‘Prima Donna, Her Highness/ Majesty maybe to drive home Jade’s personality type? Just a thought.
    Pitch B:
    I have a couple of questions. Is the story focusing on their history together? Or, is it dealing with the aspects of them reconnecting? And hey, like Scott I’m wondering, if her marriage is ‘strong’ what’s she doing messing with the Boy Scout? But, my biggest question is: Is her getting pregnant by him the end of the story?
    NOTE: As I said yesterday, you don't have to answer if you don't want to - no pressure.

  3. Thanks Scott: I see what you are saying. I am getting a good deal out of going through all these pitches.:)

    I like your comments and questions Murphy. I'm pitch D. Do you have any for me?

  4. I had the same question about the second pitch. What was more important to the story. Their past or their future?

    And Babs: Why is she abandoned? And why does he suddenly return? Is this the main conflict?

  5. Em: The heroine is too young when she marries the hero. He leaves her right after the wedding (with his Mistress at one of his estates and doesn't return until she is older because he wants to establish a family. The main conflict would be that he still tries to treat her like a child when he returns and she is determined that he will give her the respect she knows that she deserves.

  6. barb: Sorry, but been busy - still busy but, if I get the chance I will have a question or two I'm sure. After reading your response in comments - it did strike me that this Lady (after being left by her husband and his Mistress) should be more interested in revenge. Is this what is inspiring her to be so capable? As in 'I'll show you!" type of a deal? I love the concept of revenge - you can say so much with that one word, and people get a really good picture, don't they?

  7. Scott - appreciate the feedback. Helped solidify some thoughts for me. (I'm Pitch C)

    I had a really terrible time condensing the story down to 75 words. As the old adage says, if you can't describe in a few sentences, your story isn't clear.

    This was good exercise in working up a pitch. It's a weakness of mine and I need more practice.

    Thanks for taking a look!

  8. Barb:
    Without knowing too much of the story I think that you may be giving the wrong impression of the hero. As Scott said it would be hard to redeem a guy who abandoned you and then returned to find that you are (the way it kind of reads now, 'worthy') when I think if I'm reading your following comments right - the hero leaves her because he thinks that she is too young and when he returns she is older and has become a strong and independent woman? Maybe both of them have done some growing up? And the reader can look past his callous behavior by leaving her on her own - I don't know. The phrase 'picking up the pieces' kind of threw me - and so did the word 'errant' cause, you know, we've already established he's away and left her. Sorry about not getting back to you sooner. I was hoping to be able to really concentrate on this all week, but I will have to keep it short - as work deadlines have to take precedence. You’ve been given a great opportunity - I do hope you take advantage of it. Best of luck with this!

  9. Good luck to you too, Murphy, and thanks for the comments. And you know I'm going to ask again, are you sure you won't join the critique group? You are a very good sport to let us hound you, the way we do without losing patience:).

  10. Scott and Murphy,

    Thanks for the feedback. This will help me improve this pitch when I'm beginning to send this out.

    Author of Pitch A

  11. Just to clarify, in Pitch A, my protagonist literally trips and bumps into the antagonist. Not just that she meets her, as you suggested.

    Thanks for the notes!