GUTGAA: Pitch Polish

This week’s “Gearing up to Get an Agent” Blog hop challenge is to visit as many pitches as possible and critique and comment. I appreciate your help and critique and I’ll try to read as many other pitches as possible this week.

Title: Cursebreaker

Author: Lauren M. Barrett

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

Word count: 60,000

Query: Are you suffering from unprecedented misfortune? Do you find yourself suddenly spitting up gold coins? Ever spontaneously turn into an animal? Contact a Cursebreaker. Seventeen-year-old Morgan Crowley will kiss your curse away… for a fee.

Morgan helps supernatural creatures and displaced people from other worlds and times who are affected by curses, spells, and potions. Business is on the rocks. It’s a hard way to make a living in the modern world when your supernatural clients don’t have bank accounts. Her latest client Nicholas, a prince who thinks he’s a sleeping beauty, becomes her assistant until he can pay off his debt to her. His arrival brings on a whole new set of problems. Her snake-turned-boy childhood friend Sadler is suddenly very distant and the Caelum Guard, the official supernatural police force, is interfering with her business.

Now the mysterious Collector has come calling, draining the life out Morgan’s city to add to his already expansive collection of powers, and he seems to have a connection with Nicholas. Morgan must use her alliances and everything she knows about magic to defend herself and everyone she loves.

CURSEBREAKER is a 60,000 word humorous fantasy for young adults that incorporates fairytale elements and folklore to tell an unconventional romance of a heroine and her prince in distress.

I graduated from Simmons College in Boston with a BA in English Literature and Writing. I have studied classical mythology and fairy tales from Ireland and Italy. The full manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

First 150 Words: The witch had telekinesis. That hadn’t shown up in Morgan’s research.

Morgan dove out of the way of the flying dresser. It fell out of the witch’s control and crashed to the floor. Morgan jumped up and rolled over a display couch towards the front end of the store for more cover. Where the hell was Sadler?

Even if he was late, she had a job to do here. Grabbing her supply bag from where she had dropped it, Morgan scanned the room for the Riccio brothers. You’d think it would be easy to spot a flock of swans in a furniture store.

There they were, circling at the mattress display near the entrance, hissing and sniping at each other. “Hey guys.” They stopped there strutting and looked up at her curiously as she crouched down behind one of the beds with them. “I’m here to break the spell.”

This is a blog hop.

8 responses to “GUTGAA: Pitch Polish

  1. I’m no query expert, but here are my comments.

    One pet peeve I see repeated over and over by agents is NEVER start with a rhetorical question. So I’d recommend getting rid of them all.

    Seventeen-year-old Morgan Crowley will kiss your curse away… for a fee. I think this would make for a better first line. If you want those other things in there, just rephrase to avoide the rhetorical question.

    Regarding this paragraph. “Her snake-turned-boy childhood friend Sadler is suddenly very distant and the Caelum Guard, the official supernatural police force, is interfering with her business.”

    You say these are problems, but just the way it’s written, but what is the problem? What does interfering mean? Are they shutting down her business? Taking away her clients?

    In paragraph 3. The collector is draining the life out of her city. What exactly does that mean? He’s killing people? Stealing powers? How does this affect everyone? Is she in danger by the collector? I don’t have a feeling of why this is bad and has to be stopped.

    I’d recommend cutting this line: “Business is on the rocks. It’s a hard way to make a living in the modern world when your supernatural clients don’t have bank accounts.” I don’t see it as necessary and just adds to your word count.

    Good luck with it!

  2. I loved the beginning of your query, it has a ton of voice and instantly caught my attention. But–at this point–it got a little confusing:

    His arrival brings on a whole new set of problems. Her snake-turned-boy childhood friend Sadler is suddenly very distant and the Caelum Guard, the official supernatural police force, is interfering with her business.

    I couldn’t follow snake-turned-boy childhood friend. That had me scratching my head. Was he a snake that turned into a boy and became her friend? I might re-word that into something a little clearer. Plus, I want to know how the Caelum Guard ties into what’s happening. is that another problem Nicholas brings with him? If so, I’d state that, because right now it feels a little like it doesn’t belong with the rest of the paragraph.

    The same thing with the next paragraph. It doesn’t feel like it fits with what’s happening. Why does the collector suddenly show up? Why hasn’t he bothered her before now? Is this another problem Nicholas brings with him?

    Plus this sentence feels a little long–I got kind of lost in it: Now the mysterious Collector has come calling, draining the life out Morgan’s city to add to his already expansive collection of powers, and he seems to have a connection with Nicholas.

    I’d focus on the collectors connection to Nicholas as a way of bringing him into the story. I also don’t see the tie-in between him visiting Morgan and draining the life out of her city. Has the collector been doing this all along? If so, why is she only noticing it/trying to stop him now? Or is this something that happens because he visits her? If so, I think you need to get that in there.

    Also, how old is Nicholas? Same age as her? Is he going to be a romantic interest? If he is, I’d try to get some hint of that in the query.

    So, that’s it for my critique of the query. i don’t have a single thing to say about the first 150 other than I totally loved it. I drew me in immediately. It sounds like a really fun story and if I picked it up in a bookstore, I’d definitely keep reading.

    I didn’t get to you on the meet and greet bloghop. There were just too many blogs to visit. I’m glad I found you now though. I’m always looking for new writer friends, so you have a new follower. 🙂 I’d love it if you’d stop by my blog to say hi. Good luck with GUTGAA!

  3. first off, Hello. I’m doing #GUTGAA but not the query polish dealy. I do have a Meet & Greet post up on my blog.

    I agree with the comment to not start with questions as it always comes up as one of the top irritants of agents reading through the slush. I think the rest of your query flows well, but I would challenge you to add on to this statement:

    Morgan must use her alliances and everything she knows about magic to defend herself and everyone she loves.

    … or what? If she does not do these things, what will happen? This will define your stakes and show what the core conflict is. Agents want to know this. Right now this is the start of setting up the stakes, but we don’t know what the cost is to your character yet or why we/agent should invest in this story.

    If you’re looking for a comparative work, for instance, “for fans of x…” I would suggest Kiersten White’s Paranormalcy. It sounds like a similar genre (which I love — a lighthearted paranormal send-up).

  4. The only comment I would make has been made. Sometimes questions work, but I’ve heard many agents don’t like them.

    I would also up the stakes, but this too has been mentioned already.

    Hello through GUTGAA and I hope this month is the month you have been waiting for, with smiles and happiness tagged on for good luck:)
    Talynn

  5. My $.02!

    Are you suffering from unprecedented misfortune? Do you find yourself suddenly spitting up gold coins? Ever spontaneously turn into an animal? Contact a Cursebreaker. Seventeen-year-old Morgan Crowley will kiss your curse away… for a fee.
    Morgan helps supernatural creatures and displaced people from other worlds and times who are affected by curses, spells, and potions. Business is on the rocks. It’s a hard way to make a living in the modern world when your supernatural clients don’t have bank accounts [SO HOW DOES SHE EAT, ETC.?].
    [NEW PARA HERE, I THINK] Her latest client, [ADDED COMMA] Nicholas, a prince who thinks he’s a sleeping beauty, becomes her assistant until he can pay off his debt to her. His arrival brings on a whole new set of problems. Her snake-turned-boy childhood friend Sadler is suddenly very [YOU CAN LOSE THE “VERY,” I THINK] distant [DOES THIS HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH HER BUSINESS? BECAUSE IF NOT, IT SEEMS OUT-OF-PLACE AMONG ALL THE OTHER THINGS HERE] and the Caelum Guard, the official supernatural police force, is interfering with her business.
    Now the mysterious Collector has come calling, draining the life out [OF] Morgan’s city to add to his already expansive collection of powers, and he seems to have a connection with Nicholas. Morgan must use her alliances and everything she knows about magic to defend herself and everyone she loves.

  6. Query: Are you suffering from unprecedented misfortune? Do you find yourself suddenly spitting up gold coins? Ever spontaneously turn into an animal? RHETORICAL QUESTIONS ARE A PET PEEVE TO AGENTS, AND THESE DEFINITELY WON’T PULL A READER IN. SO I’D CUT EVERYTHING BEFORE “SEVENTEEN”. Contact a Cursebreaker. Seventeen-year-old Morgan Crowley will kiss your curse away… for a fee.

    Morgan helps supernatural creatures and displaced people from other worlds and times THESE TWO “ANDS” DON’T WORK FOR ME. DO YOU NEED TO SAY “FROM OTHER WORLDS AND TIMES”? YOU CAN PROBABLY JUST GET AWAY BY SAYING “FROM OTHER WORLDS”. who are affected by curses, spells, and potions. Business is on the rocks. <– ON THE ROCKS FEELS A LITTLE CLICHE-EY. COULD YOU REWORD? It’s HARD to make a living in the modern world when your supernatural clients don’t have bank accounts. Her latest client, <–NEEDED A COMMA. Nicholas, IS a prince who thinks he’s a sleeping beauty. SPLIT THIS SENTENCE. HE becomes her assistant until he can pay off his debt to her, BUT HIS PRESENCE CAUSES a whole new set of problems. Her snake-turned-boy childhood friend Sadler is suddenly very distant and the Caelum Guard, the official supernatural police force, is interfering with her business.

    Now the mysterious Collector has come calling, draining the life out Morgan’s city to add to his already expansive collection of powers, and he seems to have a connection with Nicholas. Morgan must use her alliances and everything she knows about magic to defend herself and everyone she loves.

    CURSEBREAKER is a 60,000 word humorous fantasy for young adults that incorporates fairytale elements and folklore to tell an unconventional romance of a heroine and her prince in distress.

    I graduated from Simmons College in Boston with a BA in English Literature and Writing. I have studied classical mythology and fairy tales from Ireland and Italy. The full manuscript is available upon request. OBVIOUSLY IT IS. OTHERWISE YOU WOULDN'T BE QUERYING.

    Thank you for your time and consideration. SEPARATE THOUGHT, SEPARATE PARAGRAPH.

    Yours is another story I remember from WriteOnCon. I love the sound of it. I still think your query lacks focus. A query should concentrate on: Introducing the character. (you did very nicely)
    Stating the main goal. (lacking. also, you need to lead up to it.)
    Explaining the conflict. (there, but not in a way that makes me think it's anything important, so you might want to check your wording. That important main goal, what's keeping Morgan from it?)
    Explaining her choice. (not there. either she can go toward the goal or walk away from it. You need to make sure the agent knows how this can be done.)
    Stating the stakes. (not there. What's the worst case scenario based on her choice?)

    Also note that you build your query around one goal. So you can't split off and focus on anything else, unless you mention it tangentially because it has something to do with her conflict, choice or stakes. But it must revolve around the goal.

    Hope you find this helpful!

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