Friday, September 7, 2012

My Entry for the Pitch Polish Blog Hop-GUTGAA

Terri . Rowe

Mystery at Half Moon Lake

Chapter book/Mystery

132 Words

     Books were my earliest friends. My family moved often when I was a child and the school and local libraries were my sanctuary. It was while tucked away in a cubicle there that I discovered the first loves of my life while reading The Three Investigators Mystery Series.
     My story is a mystery that is reminiscent of the classic old tales, yet set in a current time frame. There is an emphasis on family, friendship, working together all wound around a well told story. The adventure of the Mystery at Half Moon Lake follows Leah and her friend Becca as they vacation with Becca's family at Becca's grandmother's cottage on Half Moon Lake.
     Historical fact will be tied in with story as the girls and Becca's younger brothers try to figure out what is behind the strange events that are disturbing the peace at this tranquil lake shore community.

                                                            The Mystery at Half Moon Lake

     Leah was wondering what she might do once she was finished with her cereal. She had been dawdling. It was her day to clean the bathroom she shared with her brother. It was her least favorite chore. She preferred going out to the chicken coop out back and collecting eggs. She also liked to pour out the feed in the containers for the chickens and give them fresh water. She loved to watch them as they ran to greet her. One of her favorite things in the world was watching them run. The thought made her laugh.
     “What?” asked her brother Noah.
     “Nothing. I was just thinking,” answered Leah.
    “Why? We’re not in school any more. My brain’s on break. I don’t have to think any more,” said Noah.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Oh my entire comment just got deleted. Let's try again. I hope this helps!

    What audience is this aimed at? Middle grade? The subject matter seems on the younger side (I was just clarifying for myself).

    The first three paragraphs, if they're supposed to be a query, tell too much about you. You need to paint a picture of the plot. The agent you're querying will look at your writing style, so maybe a better start would be:

    Vacationing at Half Moon Lake holds promise now that Leah's been invited to tag along with Becca's family. They'll chat with Becca's grandmother, try to avoid her little brothers like the plague, and ...(something else interesting they do). But when (mention something that goes wrong because "strange events" is too vague, then go on with the rest of the plot. Your bio should be short and saved for the last paragraph.

    As for the writing, take out some of the she's in the first paragraph. Four sentences start with that word, which leaves little beginning sentence variety. Also, the first two lines of dialogue almost don't seem important and don't catch my interest. What about:

    Leah's brother Noah shot up an eyebrow. "And you are laughing because...?"
    "Just a funny thought." (You don't need to mention she's saying it because we know only two people are in the conversation. Unless this is middle grade or meant for a young audience, then you could add Leah said.)
    "When school's out, I shut off my brain. You should try it," said Noah.

    Now we have more personality from Noah right off the bat. He's snarky and sarcastic. If he's not that way, pick something that shows how he acts with his sister.

    Remember, show, don't tell. Paint a picture for the reader with words. Also, you have two outs in the third sentence. Anymore is one word and also is repeated twice on the last line.

    Good luck with your writing!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read through my piece! I appreciate each of your suggestions-and will for sure have them at the front of my mind as I go edit the story. Becca's grandmother will be one of the main character's so I will have to emphasize that in a better way in a future query letter.

  3. Hi there! Thanks for sharing with the GUTGAA community. I'd say for starters that you ought to format your query in the standard way: a logline, the complication, then go into the details of the plot. Only at the end should you give your bio.

    As for the story, I'd love to see you show us your main character's love for the chickens and coop rather than stating it.

    Best of luck!

    1. Thank you for stopping by to read my piece. Those are great suggestions that do illustrate an area I very much need to work on for sure. :)

  4. First, I'll say that I love Noah. I can tell from his two lines that he and I have a lot in common- my brain was on summer break too!
    Now, for the pitch. I 'd remove the entire first paragraph. While you love of reading and books inspired your writing, it is not a necessary part of your pitch. Your pitch should jump right into the action of the story. Something like: Becca and Leah find themselves surrounded by strange events unraveling during summer break at an old family cottage. Give an example here of what some of those mysteries are and the sticky situations that Becca and Leah find themselves in. Also, unless Becca's grandmother is a main character, I wouldn't even mention that the cottage belongs to her. You'll be able to show that in the story as it unfolds.
    The pitch, IMHO, should read like the book with action adventure and leaving the reader wanting more, which would hopefully mean reading the full MS.
    Hope this helps. Great to meet you through GUTGAA!
    A2Z Mommy and What’s In Between

    1. Thank you for appreciating Noah's personality. :) Becca's grandmother is a main character, the cottage is her's and there is something about her that complicates the mystery that the girls must solve. I do need to do a lot of work of a query.

  5. Hi there, and thanks for sharing.

    I completely agree with AG's comments - particularly in relation to the query reading as a longline with teasers of what's to come, rather than telling us outright. I felt you saying instead of showing in the opening paragraphs too, but I still loved the quaint idea and the adorable Noah. Fantastic line to have squeezed into such a short space. I'd also like to see some variation in sentence structure in that excerpt - there were a lot of very similar sentences which stuck out for me.
    Hope that helps, and I'd love any advice you can spare on my entry,

    1. Thank you for reading my opening paragraph! I love the ideas. I do need to take a lot under consideration as I re-write and edit.

  6. Miss Terri, I will be back, but one thing which absolutely jumped out (aside from not listing MG) was your word count list. 132 words? 132K? 13K? *Typically* MG fiction runs from 25-40k (source; ) Just an FYI.

    1. I am used to entering short, short story contests-where there is a limit of say-600 words. Then when you enter your piece-you have to give a count-say 452 words. I just misunderstood the instructions-it seemed to me to say that the amount of story we could post was 150 words or less to be reviewed-and when it said word count-I gave the count of what I posted-132 words.

  7. I also noticed the 132 words and at first thought it were a picture book, but then I saw that it's a chapter book. Was this a misprint, or is 132 words in reference to the words of the query?

    I agree about putting more meat into the query and making it less about themes and what kids can learn. Right now, it doesn't tell us much about the actual plotline.

    I liked the old-fashioned writing style you used. I actually don't see too many writers these days putting the speaking verb before the speaker. I know I used to do that all the time, since it was what I was used to thanks to reading so many old books.

    1. I do read a lot of older books-and books set in a variety of times. I suppose that does influence how I put words down as I write. :)

    2. And yes, I did misunderstand the directions. I often enter short, short story contests and I thought that we had a limit of 150 words we could post-so I ws stating that I was under 150 words at 132.

  8. I think your idea is great. I grew up on old mysteries like the Box Car Children. I think your query could use a little less about the book though and more about the story. Tell us in the query about the main character. Why should we care about her? What is this mystery that she must solve? What are the stakes for her not solving it?

    I loved the sample words. Especially the brother's dialog at the very end. Perhaps in the very first sentence, show her wondering and show her stalling. is she chasing the last cheerio around the bowl with her spoon? Is she drinking the milk one spoonful at a time? Has she stared at the cereal so long that it is a soggy lump in the middle of her bowl? More details will make it richer for the reader.

    1. I love those ideas! It is always great to get a fresh view of a scene that has been stuck in your head and may not be on paper or screen in a very effective way. Thank you for reading my piece and sharing your ideas. :)

  9. I agree with the other comments, and wish you the best of all things.

  10. This would be a story my kiddo's would love! Mysteries are a favorite at my house and the Magic Tree House and A to Z Mysteries were followed by The Boxcar Children and Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys:)

    I love the first 150 words. Noah has character and voice, I can tell:) And Leah sounds like she'll give her brother a lot of teasing!

    For the query, agents want to know about the story, the characters, and the conflict they face along with how they choose to overcome that conflict.

    It's so nice to meet you through GUTGAA. I'm still trying to get around and say hi to everyone! Best wishes this month:)

    1. Thank you for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts with me. I appreciate it!

  11. Hi, I'm a fellow GUTGAA bloghopper. This sounds like a fun kids book. Queries typically should read like the blurb on the back or inside cover of a book, so you might want to rework it in that format and give a little more detail about the story. Otherwise, I think you're off to a great start! Good luck!

    1. Thank you for reading my story starter. I do have a lot to learn. The query is really a bit different than the style that I have done in the past for screenplays. I am a bit out to sea! :)

  12. This doesn't really come out to a query. The pitch portion of a query should be about the story, not about you. A sentence or two about you, usually at the end, is fine. Also, as much as possible in only 250 words, you need to try to show the story--or at least the first part of it. A query only needs to go about as far as the inciting incident.


    1) Who is the main charactare and why should we care about him/her?

    2) What does the main character want or what problem must he/she solve?

    3) What obstacles stand in his/her way? What choices does he/she have to make?

    4) What happens if he/she fails? What are the stakes?

    Then a paragraph or so of housekeeping: title, genre, wordcount. Possibly another book that is similar to yours. And then, maybe, a couple of sentences about yourself.

  13. Terri,
    I admire your bravery for posting this. I know how hard it is for me to accept query critique!

    I think you have a lot of good stuff here, but revising will make it shine. Meredith pretty much covered my query structure recommendations. The one thing I'd add is that I like to use a fill-in-the-blank form to get my plot down, then revise to add voice. It goes like this:
    This is a story about _________
    who more than anything wants ___________
    but can't because ____________, _____________, and ____________
    until finally.

    I also think your first 150 is very good. Everyone, myself included, seemed to connect write away with Noah. I think that is because he has a personality we can readily identify. I'd be willing to bet that Leah also has a great personality, but we can't see it yet. The chicken thing might be a good way to add what she's like. Perhaps it would help to think "What would Leah say about the chickens or the coop that would reveal the most about her?" Even if she only "says" it in her head, giving her something for the reader to identify with will really hook us.

    Deana posted some links to queries in her pitch polish post. I also like SCBWI's query info under resources (you'll have to sign in). Keep up the good work!

  14. I love the last part of your Query, where you really get in to telling the story about the story...also agree that perhaps you could start here and add a second paragraph instead of the first. Eeck. Sorry but I really really want to know about the story. :=). The first 150 words remind me of being in a big family, with chores and brothers, too. I would like to know more about the room they are sitting in...the chipped white-painted table, the smell of bacon and the sound of percolating coffee...I just can imagine myself sitting there in the morning. It would be great to get a sense of the mystery in the first 150 words, like whispers could be heard from the stove, where Mom and Dad ducked their heads, thinking no one could hear them. Love the chickens running to her feet; are her shoes brown boots with tattered shoe-laces, or are they shiny black Mary Janes, ready for morning church? Just trying to get a feel, that's all. Hope this helps and wishing you the Best ! Can't wait to know about the Mystery!

    Dr Margaret Aranda
    From Menses to Menarche: A Journey Through Time