Thursday, August 26, 2010

9 Pitch Entry # 49: Valerie Norris

Title: Shattered Glass


Genre: YA Contemporary

Shattered Glass is a young adult coming-of-age novel about Emily, a normal, happy 17-year-old from an intact family. The neighbors ask Emily to babysit their children at a lake rental for a month. They drink and argue and never say a nice thing to each other. While Mr. Locke works, Mrs. Locke messes around with the writer next door. The boy Emily likes was the object of Mrs. Locke’s attention last summer. Then Emily hears that the writer next door is writing about a woman and her teenage babysitter, and his exploits with both. The summer culminates in a drunken scene in which Emily is injured. When she finally gets home, she finds out that her father has had a relationship with Mrs. Locke.

After a summer of trying to hold together another family, Emily faces the wreckage of her own. Her parents separate and give their daughters the choice of which parent they’d prefer to live with. She chooses her mother, the person who needs her more.

9 comments:

  1. Shattered Glass is a young adult coming-of-age novel about Emily, a normal, happy 17-year-old from an intact family. (personal pref, don't waste time in your pitch with 'Title is a genre novel about'. it's bland. Hook us with your first sentence! Also -- who wants to read about normal? Not the most compelling intro - we want to know what makes her different and thus worth reading about.)

    The neighbors ask Emily to babysit their children at a lake rental for a month. (interesting)

    They drink and argue and never say a nice thing to each other. While Mr. Locke works, Mrs. Locke messes around with the writer next door. The boy Emily likes was the object of Mrs. Locke’s attention last summer. (a bit disjointed.)

    Then Emily hears that the writer next door is writing about a woman and her teenage babysitter, and his exploits with both. (So what?) The summer culminates in a drunken scene in which Emily is injured. When she finally gets home, she finds out that her father has had a relationship with Mrs. Locke. (not sure where you're going, really.. isn't the plot the time she spent at the rental?)

    After a summer of trying to hold together another family, Emily faces the wreckage of her own. Her parents separate and give their daughters the choice of which parent they’d prefer to live with. She chooses her mother, the person who needs her more. (I would cut the last two sentences. The one prior is powerful.)

    It seems kind of episodic, has the same feel as, say, Lorrie Moore's A Gate at the Stairs, which wasn't to my taste so I might not be the best to comment on this blurb, but I hope what I said helps.

    Good luck!

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  2. I'm not sure if it's just me but this list of events told me what I assume is everything. At least it seems like it's everything - which leaves me wondering why I need to read the book. I'd love there to be some question about the character of Mrs. Locke and some uneasiness about the writer next door, if possible. At the same time, I'm still struggling with the determining the actual plot of the book.

    I hope that's useful!

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  3. One thought is not to start the pitch at the beginning of the story but with the turning point - when her father reveals his affair with Mrs. Locker, her boss for the summer, Emily...
    Also peaking my interest:
    The boy Emily likes was the object of Mrs. Locke’s attention last summer.
    Hope that helps

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  4. I agree that this sounds like a list of events and that it seems to cover the whole novel. A query is more like the back matter or jacket copy on a finished novel--it should entice us to read, not tell us the whole story.

    Shattered Glass is a young adult coming-of-age novel about Emily, a normal, happy 17-year-old from an intact family. (I agree with Jess. I'm not a fan of the way this is worded.)

    The neighbors ask Emily to babysit their children at a lake rental for a month. They drink and argue and never say a nice thing to each other. While Mr. Locke works, Mrs. Locke messes around with the writer next door.

    The boy Emily likes was the object of Mrs. Locke’s attention last summer. (How is this relevant to the current story? Is he around? This feels thrown in.)

    Then Emily hears that the writer next door is writing about a woman and her teenage babysitter, and his exploits with both. (I'm confused. Is Emily involved with the writer?)

    The summer culminates in a drunken scene in which Emily is injured. (Who is involved in this scene?)

    When she finally gets home, she finds out that her father has had a relationship with Mrs. Locke. (This is where I think you're going too far into the end of your novel--unless this isn't all of it.)

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  5. I agree...it seems like you told us everything, which doesn't leave us wanting to read the actual story.

    There is a long list of events here, but I'm still unclear about what happens to Emily. What impact does this time with this family have on her? What are the stakes for Emily?

    I think getting a better sense of what the major conflict for Emily is, what is at stake, and then ending there on a bit of suspense will make this a lot tighter.

    Good luck!

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  6. Hi Valarie,
    I also agree. I think you have fallen into the same trap as me and wrote a synopsis instead of a pitch. This sound like an excellent contemporary story, but, yes, go for the heart of the story.

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  7. Shattered Glass is a young adult coming-of-age novel about Emily, a normal, happy 17-year-old from an intact family.[not necessary. Background]

    The neighbors ask Emily to babysit their children at a lake rental for a month. [Hmmm. A little slow. What about: When the neighbors ask Emily to babysit their children at a lakehouse rental for a month she gets more than she bargained for.] They drink and argue and never say a nice thing to each other. [And while] Mr. Locke works, Mrs. Locke [is busy messing] around with the writer next door. The boy Emily likes was the object of Mrs. Locke’s attention last summer. [What? I'm confused. Has she been here before? Or did she just meet this fellow and then find out his horrid past? I felt like I missed something crucial] Then Emily hears that the writer next door is writing about a woman and her teenage babysitter, and his exploits with both. [exploits makes me feel like Emily and the writer are having their own interesting scenario going on. Maybe you could provide some hint or detail there.] The summer culminates in a drunken scene in which Emily is injured. When she finally gets home, she finds out that her father has had a relationship with Mrs. Locke.

    After a summer of trying to hold together another family, Emily faces the wreckage of her own. Her parents separate and give their daughters the choice of which parent they’d prefer to live with. She chooses her mother, the person who needs her more.

    [sounds like an intriguing story to be sure. More of a telling query though, but can easily be twisted into hooking us in] Good luck!

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  8. (The story sounds interesting but you lost me a few paragraphs in.

    Shattered Glass is a young adult coming-of-age novel about Emily, a normal, happy (just use happy or normal whichever one) 17-year-old from an intact family. The neighbors ask Emily to babysit their children at a lake rental for a month. They drink and argue and never say a nice thing to each other. While Mr. Locke works, Mrs. Locke messes around with the writer next door. (Okay from this point on I was confused. You never mention a crush before or later--either expand on it or leave it out if it's not important) The boy Emily likes was the object of Mrs. Locke’s attention last summer. Then Emily hears that the writer next door is writing about a woman and her teenage babysitter, and his exploits with both. The summer culminates in a drunken scene in which Emily is injured. When she finally gets home, she finds out that her father has had a relationship with Mrs. Locke. (In these last three lines you're tossing in a bunch of events. Cut what is unimportant--remember a query is a short teaser--you don't need to give everything away. Try something like: During a drunken fiasco Emily is injured and somehow discovers that Mrs. Locke's lover is her father. ---The writer thing makes it sound like her father--if their are multiple lovers you may want to state that---also the writer's plot sounds like it'll really mess with her reputation. Is it important? If not--lose it.)


    After a summer of trying to hold together another family, Emily faces the wreckage of her own. Her parents separate and give their daughters the choice of which parent they’d prefer to live with. She chooses her mother, the person who needs her more. (Okay, this is interesting, but where is the plot--it feels like we lost the climax/resolution. I'm not seeing it here. Is her choice merely what parent to choose or does she have to pick up all the slack etc? Give us just a little more and you can probably tighten this into two lines. Try: Her parents separate and she is given a choice: her father or her mother. That feels like a bit more emphasis on the choice.

    Overall, it sounds pretty good. You just need to pick out the most important and crucial details to the plot and only tell the reader these. Good luck!!

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  9. Ok. The main problem here is that you are giving me as summary of your story, but you're not pitching it to me. I think this is a common misconception when you write a query for the first time, so here's my advice on where to start!

    Write one line, 25 words or less if you can, which states what your story is about. Who is Emily, what does she want/what happens to her, what are the obstacles, how does she go about accomplishing her goal. THIS will be the kernel of your pitch, which you expand from there.

    For example, what I get from your pitch, I'd say the one line about Shattered Glass would be something like "Seventeen-year-old Emily summer babysitting job for the Locke family becomes a nightmare of jealousy, lies and long kept secrets which threaten to tear her family apart." 26 words, but you get the idea.

    Then you need to expand, telling us some of the cast of characters and how their actions affect Emily. What you DON'T need to do is tell us every bit of the story. For example, you don't need to tell us the resolution of Emily's choice between her parents. In fact, you shouldn't. It's a pitch, not a synopsis, so you only really need to tease it, something like "As her parent's separate, Emily is faced with a choice that will alter her life." Something like that, taking us right up to the moment of crisis for Emily, but not resolving it. Same thing with you line about the party where Emily is injured – we don't REALLY need to know exactly what happens, just that the summer is a disaster, and rather dangerous, and it leaves Emily shaken.

    I think you need to start again with some of these concepts in mind. And good luck, Valerie!!!!

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