Sunday, July 26, 2015

1st 5 pages July Workshop - Murphy Pitch

Julie Murphy
Young Adult
I Hate My Life (On the Edge)

Lexie makes good grades. She’s involved in church activities and school clubs. So why is she depressed and cutting her herself?  It could be because her mother is busy with the newly adopted baby brother and her best friend has a new boyfriend. Or maybe it goes a little deeper.

Lexie knows she in deep trouble when she thinks suicide or running away is her only option. As a last resort, she texts a random number hoping there is someone else out there like her. To her surprise, there is. Not only can Sandi relate to Lexie, she already has a plan.

But when Lexie agrees to meet with Sandi at a bus station, their plan goes awry. The events that follow puts Lexie’s life in real danger. She must draw on her own inner strength to fight her way back but will that be enough? It’s not easy but Lexie learns that there is a strong support system to help her if she can only be brave enough to trust.


  1. So I'm sure this depends on the agent, but I've seen a loooot say they don't like rhetorical questions.

    'Lexie knows [she's] in deep trouble'

    I really like the second paragraph, particularly the first line. I wonder if it would make a better hook? On top of that, I think you can make some of the sentences in the first paragraph punchier. Something like:

    Lexie knows she's in trouble when suicide or running away seem like her only options. She makes good grades, she's involves in church, and yet she can't stop cutting. Maybe it's because her newly adopted baby brother is all anyone cares about, or maybe it's because her best friend couldn't won't give her the time of day. As a last resort, she texts a random number hoping there is someone...

    I took liberties with rephrasing some of those lines, and maybe mine are too dramatic lol but I feel like the way they're currently phrased doesn't make them sound as emotionally impactful as they are.

    This line needs reworking 'She must draw on her own inner strength to fight her way back but will that be enough?' -- I'd drop the rhetorical question and end at 'fight her way back.'

    I like the idea that she finds someone by randomly texting a number!

    Also, what is Lexie and Sandi's 'plan'?

  2. This reads a lot like a summary of her inner struggle, but it needs a lot more plot and conflict. What does Lexie actually want in this story? It sounds like it may be this "plan" you allude to. We need to see this outer goal so we know what the story is about. Her inner struggle with depression is important, but it has to be woven through her outer struggle so we can see how the two both fight each other and resolve.

    Good luck!

  3. I'm not big on the questions. I think the pitch would read stronger if the questions were reworded into statements. I need more about the conflict. Who is Sandi (is she Lexie's age, is she criminal). I'm not invested because meeting Sandi at a bus stop and things go awry doesn't give me much details.

  4. I personally like the first paragraph. I don’t think the rhetorical question is bad considering where you have it placed. I think if it were the first sentence, that’s where you would have to be careful. I do agree that adding her age could be beneficial. #-year-old Lexie makes good grades… I especially like the sentence, “Or maybe it goes a little deeper.” It fits nicely with “On the Edge.”

    However, I do think you need to explain what “goes a little deeper” means at the start of your 2nd paragraph. Are you referring to her depression? If so, the phrase “deep trouble” is a little vague to me. What about, Lexie knows her depression is serious (or clinical-level, or something like that) when suicide or running away are her only options to do what….? Escape the sadness within? Feel accepted in her family? This is where we need to know Lexie’s goal.

    I think the third paragraph needs more specifics. What is the plan? How does their plan go awry? Can you give some examples of how Lexie’s life is in danger? When you say find her way back - back to where? Be sure to include the obstacles that are preventing her from reaching her goal and the stakes if she is not able to reach her goal.

    I hope this helps!

  5. You’ve gotten some fabulous advice already.

    I’ll see what I can add. I think you’ve given us information about your main character, so you've done great job with that. And you’ve told us some about Lexie’s inner journey, so that’s great! You’ve told us your plot catalyst, which I think is Lexie connecting with Sandi. Great!

    I agree with the other suggestions to describe the plan and the outer conflict.

    Maybe you could clarify Sandi a bit. I wondered the same questions about Sandi—is she a creepy older person? What makes Lexie trust her? (Maybe that’s not necessary for the query…) And is the first time Lexie meets Sandi in person at the bus station when they decide to run away?

    I think one of your challenges is going to be evoking reader sympathy vs having Lexie sound as though she feels sorry for herself. You're off to a strong start. Keep it up!

  6. Hi Julie,

    I definitely agree with the advice here so far. Rhetorical questions are frequently mentioned by agents and editors and something they don’t like to see in queries.

    Furthermore, I recommend you don’t tell us what Lexie learns—oftentimes, it tends to give the impression that the writing is about a LESSON to teach TEENS and it can come off kind of preachy. I know that’s not your intention—it’s best just to stick with the events in the story rather than talk about lessons your characters will learn.

    Some questions you want to make sure you answer in your query:

    What is Lexie’s goal?
    What is standing between her and her goal?
    What will happen if she fails to achieve her goal? (That is, what are the stakes?)

    I think if you focus on the plot like others suggested, remove the rhetorical questions and bit about the lesson Lexie learns, and make sure all of those questions are answered, you’ll have a much stronger query.

    Also, I know I said this before, but I really think you should consider changing the title. I like “On the Edge”—I’d go with that and remove “I Hate My Life” altogether.

    I hope this helps! I wish you all the best with your writing and querying! :)

  7. I like this a lot. There is a typo in the first paragraph with her and herself.

    I think you can tweak the ending to leave the prospective agent or editor in want of more, instead of sounding like the book is trying to impart a message of trust.

    You could lose the last line and end with: She must draw on her own inner strength to fight her way back but will that be enough?

    I think that leaves her quest open. Will she get the help she needs, or something more tragic...

    You're going to have thousands of opinions on your query. It's up to you to decide what advice will stick. Agent advice is most salient, because they see queries every day.

    Good luck with your story, Julie!