Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Critique #3

Merry Christmas Eve! Before I start to cook the Christmas Feast I had some time to slip in some critiques. What's funny about the reader who criticized me for typos and other grammatical errors is that I did mean to comment on the last post about that. Since I am doing this on my holiday time you can definitely expect to see a typo or two. I'm not taking the time to carefully read over my work as I often do and sadly, I never have an editor for my blog. In fact, my guess is because I tend to write the blog quickly it would be the rare post in which you didn't find a typo. I think that I, like most agents, write our blog posts quickly and somewhat stream of consciously. While the blogs are important to us other things are always more pressing and if we want to keep up the blog sometime we have to ask our readers to slog through grammar and other errors. 

There were a couple of other comments from the previous two posts that I thought I should address as well. One had to do with how I choose the pitches. Again, I have not read any of the pitches other then those I've critiqued. I'm simply scrolling through and picking wherever I stop. I'm trying to pick from the beginning, middle and end. I cannot tell which might be jokes and which might be real in the same way I cannot read queries and assume that someone is just sending it as a joke. Part of my job is to give everyone serious consideration. 

To address confusion about the pitch. A pitch is absolutely the one paragraph in your query letter that sells your book. I am reading all of these as if you've pulled them straight from your queries.

And lastly, there was a reader who seemed upset that I would take the time to do the critiques on the blog when I, or other agents, can't bother to give more then a form letter on full manuscripts. I know that I for one do make every attempt to give a personal letter any time I request a full manuscript and frankly I can't think of a time when I gave a form rejection for a full unless it was sent unsolicited. The blog is a completely separate entity from submissions and I will admit one of the concerns I have about the blog is that people will start to think I spend more time on this then I do with either clients or potential clients which, trust me, I don't. I do still request a lot of partials and can't always give feedback, although I do whenever possible. I think I've addressed this before, but he truth is that sometimes there isn't much to say.

Okay, I think I've addressed most or all of the concerns readers seem to have. I'm going to continue on giving critiques and wishing everyone a Happy Holiday! If you want your pitch considered you will need to post within the original blog post.

Melissa said...

Wil Rainolds is a painter, a father, and a husband. His marriage is crumbling, his son is in rebellion, his daughter is about to run off with a military boy, and even his paintings haven’t been cooperating lately. He could also very well be humankind’s last and only weapon against the monstrous invaders known as the creatures. What is it about Wil’s painting that makes the creatures hate and fear him? Can he save the world and still manage to keep his struggling family together?
Wow, you've squeezed in a lot here and I'm not sure I make the connection between most of it. You need to break it down a little and get to the heart. Do we really need to know the specifics about Wil's family or is it more important that we hear about the creatures?  I would also avoid questions at all cost. Don't ask me what it is about Wil's paintings tell me. "Now it's up to Wil to discover what it is about his paintings that...." I'd also suggest you be careful of some awkward wording, "his son is in rebellion" felt off to me. Would it be better to see he's rebelling against everything? And the daughter and the "military boy" also sounds off. I think it's the use of the term "boy."

Nancy Naigle said...

Romantic Suspense

EXPIRATION DATE is a Nicolas Sparks meets Carla Neggers read. It has the small town moral compass of a Sparks' community, with the race against time and risk of a deadly misstep of a Neggers' story.

Riley Randalls hires Private Investigator Perry Von to prove her soon-to-be-ex is up to no good, only to find she’s in more danger with his help when a paroled serial-killer targets Riley to even the score of his personal vendetta against Von who put him away.
I'm not sure you need your first paragraph. You are telling me what your book is about and while it's okay to name authors you would compare your work too I think it's a risk as well. If I'm not a Nicolas Sparks fan or even worse, if I really hate one of those authors it's going to be tough for you to get me to read beyond that point. Instead why not simply launch into your hook/plot pitch? Which might need a little pumping up. My biggest concern is that if this is romantic suspense it doesn't feel suspenseful enough. Is the book about her hiring the PI or is it about the serial killer? And why would a serial killer target Riley to get to Von? She's just a client? Right there, in one sentence I immediately have concerns about your plot which can happen in a pitch. All too often I'll read one and think that this story doesn't make sense.

H.L. Dyer said...

Maybe if Beatrice Greyson knew someone faked her death as a child, she wouldn't wish so desperately to remember the first decade of her life.

As a young girl, she collapsed in an unfamiliar house in rural Illinois. No one knew where she came from or how she ended up on war widow Thea Greyson's front porch that stormy night. Thirty years later, Beatrice is devastated by the death of the woman who took her in. But her grief turns to a sense of betrayal when she finds the letter from her birth mother that Thea claimed was lost. Leaving everything behind to search for her birth parents, Beatrice follows the railroad tracks across the Midwest. She never imagined the fate suffered by her parents, but there are darker family secrets. Uncovering them will force her to confront a violent murderer. And maybe miss out on the love of her life.
Your opening line is brilliant! Absolutely perfect. Immediately you sucked me in and, if I wasn't in the mood to read further that could be enough for a request. Well done.  I think this is a great pitch. I read this and know clearly that it's women's fiction. I can see how it's one woman's search to find herself in many ways and I can read your voice in this which I like. A couple of words of caution though, because nothing is ever perfect, some of your wording seems awkward. for example, "She never imagined the fate suffered by her parents, but there are darker family secrets." doesn't make sense. I think you could cut out the sentence before that, about her following the railroad tracks. Instead once you mention that she discovers the letter you need to launch into more of what she learns on the journey. Something along the lines of, "On her search for her birth parents, Beatrice learns the awful secret of their death and the family secrets that now haunt her. Worse yet, she is forced to confront the violent murderer who first took her life from her..." or something along those lines.

Okay, that's all I have in me today. I'm excited about some of these and of course want to remind everyone that a pitch critique is not a submission and we at BookEnds look forward to hearing from all of you.

I'm off to cook the roast beast!


Parker Haynes said...


Thank you for doing this. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading through the pitches and learning something from each, especially your critiques. Heck, having a few classes over the holidays ain't bad at all.

Your explanations at the beginning of this post are certainly appreciated. Yes, it would be a wonderful world if every agent query a writer sends could get a full critique, but that's not about to happen. Still, we can dream.

And what is this "beast" you're going to cook? Sounds, somehow, primitively exciting.

Happy Holidays, and thanks again for all you do!

Ann Victor said...

I second what Parker Haynes said!

Have a great Christmas and thanks four youre blogg whitch is very well ritten.

Carley said...

How sad that you should have to explain yourself when you're doing everyone a favor. Tisk, tisk overly critical readers! One should never look a gift horse in the mouth, so the saying goes. Anyway, thank you for dipping into your own time to do this, it's been very helpful so far. Happy cooking and Merry Christmas! (gosh, hope I didnt have anee typos, lol)

nlnaigle said...

Thanks Jessica! I was one of the lucky reads.

Great feedback. Funny when we pare down to the nitty gritty we don't realize the holes that leave others wondering --- because we know the story!! I was thinking that those holes is what would make you want more.

I guess the part about the PI being someone who once broke her heart would help. The fact that the killer had murdered the PIs wife and now that he's in love with Riley (again) the killer plans to do the same to her ... hmmm important.

Got it --- as always ... excellent feedback, advice, mentorship.

Thanks for the Christmas present!

As for the complainers, I bet they are on Santa's naughty list. Lighten up folks, she's doing us a huge favor!!

Mistletoe and Merry Memories!

H. L. Dyer said...

Wow! Thank you so much for your thoughts, Ms. Faust.

Deeply appreciated and a perfect Christmas gift. :)

Have a great holiday!

-- Heather
(H. L. Dyer)

Psst... Parker Haynes... "roast beast" is a Grinch reference. ;)

linda hall said...

Have fun with that roast beast, I'm doing a mexican style Christmas this year! Never done it before, one roast beast was good enough for me this year. :)

And again Jessica thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to give insight into these pitches. It helps enormously. Hope you have a Merry Christmas Eve!

Julie Weathers said...



Just when I was feeling good about people again, the grinches pop up.

You clearly explained in the first post the entries would be chosen randomly. Sad that you have to explain it again.

I am always mortified at the mistakes I see later in my blog posts. Sometimes I will correct them and sometimes I just leave them. Unfortunately, I don't agonize over them. They are usually dashed off when I get in from work in the wee hours of the morning. I would much rather agonize over my wip and enjoy my blog. When the blog turns into a second job, it loses the fun appeal.

Sorry. someone has to be so anal as to complain about typos, when I think you and Miss Janet are about the only agents blogging at all right now.

I don't mind form rejections. As long as I get some kind of response so I know the submission was received and read, I am happy.

My favorite form rejection?

"Ouch! This is a form rejection...."

Julie Weathers said...

Ah, premature posting.

Merry Christmas. I'm still sorry your plans were messed up, but I hope you have a nice Christmas nonetheless.

Your efforts on your blog are always appreciated. After visiting with some agents at Surrey, I came away with a new appreciation for how hard you all work.

Whenever any agent takes the time to blog and offer help to writers, it's a gift that gives back every day of the year and not just one special day.

We are very thankful that you care enough to share your time, expertise, and often, your humor.

Merry Christmas to all.

I hope the roast beast turns out just right.

Julie Weathers said...


Whoo hoo! You go girl.


Robena Grant said...

Thanks, these are great comments.

Don't burn the beast.

Merry Monteleone said...

Thank you again for doing this. I've noticed the comments in the threads here and it really just makes me shake my head.

I hope the roast turns out fantastic and you have a lovely holiday.

Aerin said...

Ahhh, we are also doing roast beast. With Yorkshire Pudding.

If you like, I will happily roast anyone who's giving you a hard time. Whatever. I can't believe they would do that.

Thank you for your time & humor & grace -

Jennifer McKenzie said...

Thanks for doing these crits!!!! I get so much from seeing what you say about the ones that work.

Merry Christmas!!!!!!

Steve Ulfelder said...

Go Vikes!

Anonymous said...

No doubt Jessica is a kind, thoughtful, generous, wonderful person and agent. But often busy people, like most of us, take on more than we can handle--to use another cliche, we often "bite off more than we can chew" or get "stretched too thin."
Happy holidays and thanks for the great advice as always!

Maire Jolie said...

Merry Christmas Jessica!

Good luck with the feast and you're a gem to do this during your holidays. It just shows you must really love your job.


Anita said...


I think your blog is great and I've never wondered whether it's taking time away from clients/potential clients. I'm sure your blog takes time to write, but it's also saving a lot of people time...your blog is helping novice writers learn things about the industry which would take them many hours to research, otherwise...and the blog is probably saving you time by letting potential clients know what you're seeking and thinking.

Thank you for your blog!

And Merry Christmas!

Kathleen Peacock said...

And lastly, there was a reader who seemed upset that I would take the time to do the critiques on the blog when I, or other agents, can't bother to give more then a form letter on full manuscripts.

I think (or, at least i hope) that most of us realize that you are doing this on your own time, off the clock from the agency.

Comparing what you are doing in your own time to what agents do on the clock is a bit like comparing apples and oranges.

Happy holidays and thanks again for doing this!


I also really appreciate your crit of Nancy Naigle as the question of whether or not to mention other authors and books is one I have been wrestling with.

Vacuum Queen said...

I think it's wacky that people want to nag you about form letters and bad grammar. Geesh people! This is just something for fun and is a BONUS for a lucky few.
Merry Christmas everyone. :)

ChristaCarol said...

I pretty much agree with what's already been said. I'm up playing Santa right now, I should be sleeping. Eep. Anyway, I wanted to thank you as well and just let you know I agree with everyone else above me. Also, I was confused about the pitch thing. Since it was mentioned one paragraph, I cut my query plot (you know, the thing in the heart of the query about your book) from 3 small para's into 1 slightly big one that cut several sentences out. I guess if it works I can always replace what I have! (but I'm sadly not that optimistic).

Merry Christmas again! Hope the beast was scrumptious!

Anonymous said...

My thanks as well for this holiday treat! I'm looking forward to "unwrapping" it every day.

I note that one reader appreciated the advice not to compare her work to a well-known writer. I would like to see the answer to another petitioner's question: how much should be disclosed in a pitch vs. the text itself? How do you judge when you are too general vs. when you are taking away from the plot's suspense and giving away too much?
Joyous Noel!

P.S. to blog critics: Wouldn't you rather have Jessica using her limited time with us to critique pitches instead of responding to complaints?

Anonymous said...

Yes, we all think it's great that Jessica is spending her holidays analyzing pitches. But it must be very frustrating to writers who have passed that first hurdle with requested mss. to wait so long for a reply from busy agents, positive or negative... Sometimes writers just need a timely response so we can move on to the next agent or the next novel. Happy New Year!

Windsong said...

Thanks so much for your time and comments. This has been very helpful. :)

sexy said...