Monday, October 1, 2012

Pitch On! Pitch Critique - MAD AS A HATTER

I'm so pleased to be a host for Pitch On! It's an opportunity for writers across the internet to post an editor. The hosts are critiquing individual pitches on their blogs, and in a couple weeks they'll all go up on Down Under Wonderings or YATopia to be perused by Marisa Pintado of Hardie Grant Edgmont!

Exciting, no?

Time for my brave writer to get her Pitch On!*

 Name: Alexandra Hayman 
 Genre: YA Supernatural Thriller 
 Word Count: 51,000 

 Pitch: For fourteen-year-old Emil Aleric, the series of ‘Wonderland Murders’ ravaging London mean only one thing: his former abductor, the Hatter, is back. Seven years ago, the man took Emil to a place called Wonderland, murdered Emil’s sister, and barely missed Emil himself. Emil knows he won’t be able to hide forever—until his best friend is taken by the madman, and Emil’s not sure he wants to. 

 Hey darling!
 I've seen this MS running around the contest circuit, and this writer running around Twitter, and am seriously impressed with both. So excited you landed on my little old blog, dear writer!

 So, this is a compelling pitch. There are just a few things that were unclear or I felt could be cut.
(Re: pitches - In my experience, clarity and economy of words can't be underestimated.)

  First sentence:
I'd love to know what differentiates the Wonderland Murders from any other crime. Give me a sense of the horror.

  Second Sentence:
I think you can cut "a place called Wonderland" in the second sentence, and just tell us that he abducted Emil. That means you can take "his former abductor" out of that first sentence, too! :D

How did the Hatter "barely miss" Emil? Did Emil escape? If he did, that tells us something cool about Emil in a few words - he has tenacity and wit. See if you can replace that "barely missed" with more specific words that also tell us something about story or character.

  Third Sentence: 
I understand what your last sentence is trying to say, but I think we might be able to streamline it with some artful rewording. What about, "Emil knows it's only a matter of time until the Hatter catches him, too - until he decides that he's going to be the one to catch the Hatter?" Just a suggestion. :D

  Lastly: I'd love to see a little extra bit of voice in here - just a little phrase or a word here or there would do. What's something that Emil says when he's mad or frustrated? That might be a great way to squeeze a little voice in there. :D

*Please feel free to comment and critique for Alexandra and her lovely pitch as well!  When you're done, the other hosts and I would love it if you'd run around to their blogs and critique over there, as well! Thanks, sweet readers!


  1. This premise sounds very interesting. I love that you are applying a wonderland/mad hatter theme to a seriel killer/horror story -wonderful!

    Leigh Ann seems to have hit on the same things I would suggest. It seems like you've hit on the basic information ( props for that because its hard to do in 70 words), so I think i hve a good sense of what the book is about.

    Like Leigh Ann mentioned, I would just play with the wording a bit more, this pitch is well on its way :)

  2. I agree with the above suggestions. She's done an excellent job offering ideas on how to tighten an already wonderful premise:)

  3. I LOVE this premise. Like, love. I just read The Name of the Star and have been hungering for another murder-type story - this sounds right up my alley.

    Overall I think this is pretty strong. I stumbled a little bit over the last line "Emil knows he won’t be able to hide forever—until his best friend is taken by the madman, and Emil’s not sure he wants to." I think what's tripping me up is the "and Emil's not sure he wants to." I didn't immediately connect that part of the sentence to the line about hiding, so I wasn't sure what it was he didn't want to do anymore. I like Leigh Ann's suggestion - nice and punchy. Another option might be to explicitly say "and Emil's not sure he wants to hide anymore." Or "and Emil knows it's time to face the madman once and for all." Or something like that.

    Best of luck with this - really love the concept!

  4. Ok, first up, what a really interesting concept! This is the kind of thing that really catches my attention because it's a serious twist on something we think that we know.
    The one thing that I did notice - and I know it's nothing to do with the pitch itself - but the word count seems a little low to me, or is that just me. Most of the time I see a higher word count suggested for YA novels.
    Onto the actual pitch, and this is just one persons opinion and I could be horribly wrong, but I would consider dropping the whole first sentence. It's a bit long and not very clear. I wonder if you could start with 'Seven years ago Emil was abducted by The Hatter and taken to Wonderland. When his sister was murdered Emil only just escaped with his life. Now the Hatter is back and he's taken Emil's best friend. Emil can't hide for ever, and he's not sure he wants to.'
    Or something along those lines. Just more snappy and tight, but I'm not good at this, so this is just my opinion. Considering this is a thriller though, I think the pitch needs to reflect that and be sharper, more fast paced.
    I hope that this helps a little!

  5. Looooove what you're doing here, Leigh Ann... SO FUN. :D

  6. This sounds great, really interesting and I wish you the best of luck with it. My main critique would be to punch up the hook at the end - I really like Leigh Ann's suggestion for that. I think it needs to end more on that note of 'go and get 'em'. I also agree that the barely missed felt awkward - either he escaped or was let go and I'd swap those words out. But good luck with it in this competition!

  7. I absolutely LOVE the concept here. I'd pick it up in the bookshop in a heartbeat. The only thing I'd say is that I agree with N.S. Dorrington's critique completely. Punchier language would take this query to the next level. An absolutely great concept and I really wish you all the best with this!

  8. I absolutely love your comments and the twist to wonderland and the mad hatter.
    For me Leigh and N.S Dorrington are giving you great suggestions, you really need to show something of his voice.
    Also I had a problem with the last sentence it gets confusing.

    Emil knows he won't be able to hide forever and he's not sure he wants to when his friend is taken by the madman.Now is time for him to catch the Hatter.

    This is only a suggestion. I hope it helps.

  9. You have some great suggestions from Leigh Ann for cleaning up the pitch. I have also seen this ms around the circuit, and read the opening pages at WriteOnCon. I can't wait for you to sell this puppy so I can read it all! :) Good luck!