Saturday, July 5, 2014

MSFV's Blog Pitch contest

If you're a writer and you haven't yet found your way to Miss Snark's First Victim, the blog of the lovely Authoress, stop reading this and head over there.  Authoress is an unbelievably supportive member of the writing community, and her blog contests have got many an author out of the slushpile.

I was lucky enough to get picked by Authoress in her latest contest where she asked for Twitter pitches of our projects.  She picked her 10 favorites, and we get to post our pitch and our first page on our own blogs for critique.  I pitched my YA novel, STUMPED.

Logline: American Pie meets The Sessions as 16 YO Ozzy struggles to dump his virginity and prove he can be a man in a wheelchair.

First 250: I splash on too much of my brother’s aftershave. Shit. I reek of whatever the hell this stuff’s supposed to smell like. Pine trees? Whatever. I never smelled a pine tree that stank like this. No wonder Finn left it behind when he went to college. It’s so overpowering, it masks the scent of chlorine that clings to me after a four hour practice this afternoon. I glance down at my watch. It’s after six, but I guess I have time for another shower. I have to have time. I can’t go meet Lainey smelling like this. She won’t be able to get anywhere near me. Not without choking. I don’t know that I can stay near me. God, this stuff’s awful.

I shuck the towel from around my waist and turn the shower back on. The bathroom’s filled with steam from the one I took ten minutes ago. At least the water’s still hot. I climb in and let the liquid sluice over me. I don’t know if that’s enough to get rid of the awful aftershave, so I grab the soap and scrub my face and neck until they feel raw. That’ll have to do. For good measure, I soap the rest of me again too. Look at me, Mr. Clean. I lean back against the wall and think about Lainey. Those shorts she was wearing this morning should be illegal. At least on her. Damn, that girl has a hot ass. Her legs aren’t bad either.


  1. I love your pitch and your first 250, Kate! Good luck in the contest! :)

  2. Awesome pitch and massive congrats on getting selected... such great news:)

  3. Haha, loved the opening lines! I definitely get that this is a teen guy; the voice is perfect. I'm wondering what his relationship is like with his brother.

    The writing is pretty clean too. Not much to crit, IMHO.

  4. I think I've seen this pitch before--not the first 250 but maybe the query in the forums on QueryTracker? Anyway, it's familiar. And yes, the voice is spot-on for a 16-year-old boy.

    The only thing I can't tell from the first page is whether he's already in the wheelchair. Does an accident happen in the opening pages? If so, you might want to hint at that in the pitch because I assume from the way it's currently worded that he's already in the wheelchair. But either way, the voice is engaging and makes me want to read on.

    Good luck with this!

  5. I think the cologne opener is funny and gets at voice. We also know the character is a swimmer and has an older brother who has moved out. We know he's seeing somebody and is particular interested in studying her anatomy.

    I don't know how this relates to the logline, so if I were an agent, I may be frustrated by this disconnection from what it says about the MC. The inciting event needs to be moved even closer to the beginning.

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. Great pitch and I liked the excerpt, too. My one nitpick would be to cut one of the two uses of 'whatever' in the opening paragraph. Best wishes.

  7. I like the action in the voice - "I shuck the towel." It is very descriptive. I also agree that flippant words like whatever can be overplayed and should be used with caution. I was a bit put-off by the description of Lainey...too graphic for the beginning of a novel. Thanks for sharing!

  8. The voice is awesome. Very funny, very teenage boy-ish. Like some other commenters, I was confused about whether or not he's in a wheelchair yet. It seems like he's not and is therefore going to have some sort of accident. If you use the pitch for anything else, maybe you can reword it to something like, "American Pie meets The Sessions as 16 YO Ozzy struggles to dump his virginity and prove he can still be a man after an accident leaves him in a wheelchair" (assuming that it at all accurate to what happens, and I may be totally wrong). I have no idea how many characters that is, so it might be too long, but just something to indicate that the wheelchair is an adjustment for him and wasn't part of his life forever.

    Great idea, great voice! Good luck with this!

  9. You've definitely got a very clear voice and concept here, a definite niche on the market too. It's not totally my kind of story, but for the people who like this kind of thing, this is pretty high-quality!

    Good luck!

  10. I agree on the excellent voice! The pitch is great too.

    To show off that great voice, I think the first paragraph can be pared down a bit so you aren't overdoing it. The line "I never smelled a pine tree that stank like this." is really great and does a better job showing the detail than the line prior where he questions what it smells like. To me, you only need the one line vs the two, plus the extra expletives and Whatevers. Those are fine but the flow feels a little interrupted with too many of them.

    For me the second paragraph didn't present anything new, and I don't know that explaining the mechanics of him in the shower is necessary (or is it early fan service? your call!). For me, it's enough to know he took a shower and then we can move on to something a bit more engaging. I do really like the illegal shorts line, so I would move that into a more active scene to keep the voice. :)

  11. The logline would have meant more to me if I knew what The Sessions was, but I got American Pie loud & clear. And, after reading your very excellent opening page, I will get a little more critical here. Does one "dump" one's virginity? That seems like the wrong word choice to me.

    Would chlorine smell still cling to him after his shower? Other than that question, I love these introductory paragraphs. They show how much he likes this girl in a very funny and captivating way.

    The "hot ass" line did turn me off a little b/c as a romantic, I do want him to like her for something other than her looks - and then, once we as a reader have seen that, he should probably admire her hot ass b/c that does seem like a very teenaged boy thing to admire. So it's not that I don't think this is the first place a teenaged boy's brain would go. It's that I'm still working to like Ozzy (since I as the reader just met him) and now I'm not quite sure that I do.

  12. Loved it. You nailed the voice and I would follow him through hundreds of pages. My only nitpick is I work with teenage boys and they always wear too much aftershave and never think they are wearing enough. That is just me. I am hook and would read on. Wheeler1992

  13. As others have said, the voice here is great. My only concern is that the description of the aftershave and its awfulness goes on a bit too long. You could trim it down, probably in half, and still get the same effect. That would also allow you to move the action forward a little quicker.

  14. As previous commenters have said, I enjoy the MC's distinct voice, though I do wonder why he would still smell like chlorine following his shower. As a swimmer myself, I can usually rid myself of the smell with one good scrubbing!

    That said, I would just tighten the prose a bit - such as Stephsco suggested with the aftershave scent.

    Unlike other commenters here, though, I'm okay with the fact that this is just a set-up for the story - a bit of description and interior monologue and not much else. I certainly don't expect the inciting incident to happen this soon - especially since I assume that, since he's a swimmer, he's not yet in the wheelchair.

    Anyway, I'm definitely curious about this MC - and I wish you lots of luck with the novel!

  15. Great voice! I would second other's suggestions to tighten the first paragraph and make it clear in the log line that an accident puts him in a wheel chair, he doesn't start the story disabled, especially since I did get the Sessions reference.

    If you wanted to tone down the comments about her ass and legs, you could just leave his comment about her shorts. And maybe introduce something else he admires about her besides her hot body, unless of course that is all he sees in her at this point.

    Nice job.
    Keep writing!

  16. Yeah, yeah, you got me. Just like everyone else wrote, this is pretty awesome.

    I wouldn’t get from the voice that this guy was a 16-year-old virgin though. I didn’t have an issue with the “hot ass,” line, but I can see why it might rub some people the wrong way (har, har). You could change it to “Damn, that girl is hot,” and leave out the remainder about her legs if you were so inclined.

    “Dump his virginity” doesn’t bother me because I assume you’re essentially wording it the way the character would as opposed to making a value judgment on it as the author.

    I would slightly shorten the after-shave description, but not by much.

    I like the line “The bathroom’s filled with steam from the one I took 10 minutes ago.” I just like that detail.

    You’re obviously on the right track when we have to search for something to critique! Good luck.

  17. Hi Kate

    The first thing that strikes me about this is the voice. I love it! He's a very strong, and believable, character. I think you might be spending a little too much time in his head though. I'd get him to his date a little quicker. Also, I'm not sure what this character has to do with the person in the wheelchair mentioned in the pitch. He seems perfectly fine to me. I'd make it clearer right off the bat. In any case I'm very interested in this story and I'd like to read more. Good job and good luck!

  18. Really like the talk of the pine tree smelling aftershave. Don’t think you need the “Whatever”. Don’t think you need “God, this stuff’s awful” either.

    I agree that I couldn’t tell if he was in the wheel chair yet. If he is and the reveals coming just around the bend, I’d be ok with that.

    I had to look up the word sluice.

    All in all I liked this. To be honest from your log line I thought I wouldn’t like it (though I enjoyed American Pie the movie I would not want to read American pie the book) but the words made me want to read on.