Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Holiday Query Hop Critique 3

Here to do the next critique is my Sun versus Snow co-host Amy Trueblood! Amy runs an amazing blog of her own, full of writing tips and agent interviews. 
Keep in mind that feedback is subjective by nature. What does and does not catch the eye is going to vary by person. Each writer must weigh the comments they get against their own judgement and make the changes that resonate with them.

The Holiday Query hop is still taking entries, see here for details.  
The random number generator picks 3! Another great match as Amy writes YA! 

Dear Blog Hop Critters,

Stealing painkillers is bad. Stealing painkillers from your grandparents is worse. Stealing painkillers from your grandparents’ aquarium (when I first read this I thought it meant an aquarium in a private home) while high out of your mind and then vomiting into the sea lion pool is category five hurricane bad. For sixteen-year-old Laura Angela Sweetling, it was called Tuesday night.

I love the voice here but there is too much set-up. I'd recommend cutting the first line and starting with "Stealing painkillers from your grandparents is bad." It is still a shocking hook.

Four months later and fresh out of rehab, Laura knows she has some amends to make. She just didn’t imagine making them as a volunteer. Thankfully, her grandparents are doing research on African cichlids so Laura is granted a reprieve before she has the pleasure of from drowning in their disapproving glares. She just wasn’t expecting to find her mom in the post of Volunteer Supervisor. Nepotism, much? It’s practically a family reunion and Laura’s wishing she drowned in the sea lion pool, instead.

The voice here is still strong, but you're losing me in all the detail. I'd recommend being more straightforward. Her punishment is to work as a volunteer, but grandparents are busy so Mom is now her boss.

Making new fish-loving friends (and some that are just there for something splashy to put on college apps) is a side aeffect of her jail sentence. So is a ridiculous crush on a boy that completely and totally embodies the term fish-o-phile. Then there’s summer school since her wild Tuesday night and therapy stint screwed the rest of her junior year.

But just as Laura is beginning to acclimate to new waters, (an activist protest in the walrus exhibit) challenges her ideas about captivity and the family business. Struggling to stay clean and repair her damaged familial relationships, Laura’s newfound beliefs might just sink everyone, including Laura herself.

The protest is your conflict and creates the stakes. I'd get this up into the second paragraph. I'd recommend looking at your sinker too. Identify what her change will cost not only her but her family. Will they lose their livelihood? Could Laura be in trouble again? Make it very clear what her change of heart could do to all of them and how it will change her life.

SWIMMINGLY, a YA contemporary novel, is complete at 67,000 words. I was a volunteer at the New York Aquarium my junior year of high school (this is helpful bio info). The experience has greatly aided and influenced this manuscript. Thank you for your time and consideration. (I think you could benefit from adding some comp titles here.)


Overall I'd say you have a strong start. I get a good sense of character and voice. Again, I'd recommend cutting out a lot of your superfluous info and making your conflict and stakes very clear in the beginning.

Good luck!


A devotee of reading and writing from a very young age, Amy Trueblood grew up surrounded by books. After stints working in entertainment and advertising, she began writing her first manuscript and never looked back. Her work is part of The Fall and Summer's Edge short story collections. Her recent short story, "A Seat For Every Soul" appears in Pen & Muses' Dark Carnival collection. She is represented by Roseanne Wells of The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. To learn more about Amy, check out her blog or follow her on Twitter or Tumblr

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much!! What a nice surprise. Moving the protest up is a great idea and I'll definitely work on that when I do my next edit.