Sunday, October 21, 2018

1st 5 Pages October Workshop- Chin Rev 2

Name: Shirlyn Chin
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Title: Weight of Your Legacy

Michi Harada has one goal in mind: establish communication with her father, who is currently jailed in a maximum-security prison. A goal more easily said than done, given Michi’s status as a fugitive and the fact that her father’s case cannot be disclosed, since it is supposedly a matter of national security.
When Michi unearths that her father has actually been working as a scientist at a classified laboratory, it is like a stab to her heart. All these years, he wasn’t in prison after all. Even worse, Michi can see how her father’s medical background makes him a valuable asset in contributing to the international counter-terrorist effort. In a world where terrorist attacks have graduated to using bio-weaponry, firearms are no longer enough to stop these attacks. Michi’s father refuses to go home, not when he knows he is making a difference, especially since his wife, Michi’s mother, was killed in a terrorist attack.
Now, Michi has to choose between staying with her father and potentially contributing to his work or going home with her best friend and leaving her only remaining parent.  


Chapter 1

There is a short queue outside the prison clinic as usual, but today, the line is made up of correctional officers rather than sick or injured inmates. Jittery on nerves, I barely notice the difference. It isn’t until I have opened the clinic’s door that I stop myself belatedly and knock.
Inside the brightly lit office, possibly the cleanest room in the entire prison, Uncle looks up, a syringe in his hand and a frown already in place. “Michi?” he says, perplexed. He puts the syringe down. “Is something wrong?”
Sitting across from Uncle, one of my more irritating colleagues raises an eyebrow. Henry has his sleeve rolled up, ready for his flu inoculation shot. He smirks at the sight of me. “Harada!” he calls with false merriment. “Having your lunch break?”
I know what he is insinuating: come to see uncle dearest? It is a long-running joke in the prison that Uncle only adopted me because he suffered from a sudden fit of loneliness eleven years ago. A perfect match, they like to call Uncle and me – aunsociable and quiet girl for an equally unsociable and quiet man, a man who looks like he doesn’t know the first thing about being a father. The joke is getting really stale, especially today, when I am anxious and irritable enough as it is.
I ignore Henry; he isn’t the one I’ve come to see anyway. Finally meeting Uncle’s eyes, I’m unsurprised at the pointed questions in them. There is nothing Uncle can do today except to act normal. I am the one who can further our plan along, so he has to trust me with this. Uncle is never good at trusting people. “Michi,” he repeats now. Is something wrong?”
I can’t help the sigh that escapes. “Nothing’s wrong, Uncle.”
His eyes remain on me, urging for more information. “Did you have your interview already?”
“No. I… I’m going there. Soon.”
“Did you want to ask me something before the interview?”
“No, Uncle.”
“Did you forget, um…” Uncle makes some vague, uncomfortable gestures, what with the presence of a third party in the room. “Did you forget one of the answers we practiced last night?”
“No, I didn’t.” I have perfected my answers to every comma and full-stop. I won’t forget.
Uncle blinks at my response. I can almost hear his thoughts: Then what are you doing here?
A little voice in me answers, Hoping for a ‘good luck’. There is nothing Uncle can do today. Everything is on me. A hug is too much to ask, but a ‘good luck’ isn’t. Is it?
Flustered, I move further into the room, noting how full the small dustbin beside Uncle is, cluttered with empty vaccine bottles. I thump the cup I am holding on Uncle’s table. “I brought a cup of coffee for you.”
“I see,” Uncle says, uncomprehending. “Thank you.” Turning back to Henry, he picks up the syringe once more. “I think it is better that you go now, Michi. It’s impolite to be late.”
As I watch, Uncle sticks the syringe into a new bottle of vaccine, pulls the liquid out, and injects it into Henry’s arm. Then, pressing the injection site with a small piece of cotton, Uncle puts a bandage over it. Everything over and done under five minutes; Uncle’s steady hands never falter. I wring my shaking hands enviously.
“All right.” Uncle angles his tablet to Henry and gives him a pen. “Sign here, please.” Uncle points to the bottom of the electronic form, declaring that the person in question has already received his inoculation shot.
There was a time when the Ministry of Health had the idea of using flu vaccination patches. It was shortly after World War III, when people were clamouring for increased health care because of the epidemics. Shaped and used like a bandage, so that people could self-administer flu vaccinations at home, the flu patches had sounded like a good solution for the problem at the time – all the citizens could be vaccinated in a shorter period without having to rely on doctors. But when imitations of the flu patches started popping up in the black market, people started buying the imitations and hoarding them, thinking that the more vaccinations one injected, the better.
The use of flu vaccination patches is abolished now. Still, there is a steady black market for government-grade flu vaccines, so Uncle takes the inventories of his vaccines and medicine supplies very seriously.  
Uncle sighs when he notices me hovering. “Michi Harada, stop wasting time. Go to your interview now.”
Henry barely suppresses his laughter. He finishes signing and hands the tablet back to Uncle. The jerk shoots me a tragic look, mouthing “aw”.
Why did I think Uncle will be different today just because of my interview? I whip around to the door, grounding my teeth. Henry saunters behind me, getting too close for my comfort.
Once we are out of the clinic, he claps me on the back before I can move away. “Good luck, Harada!” he exclaims, making sure the COs[1] lining along the hallway hears him. “I know you can’t wait to leave us to guard a maximum-security prison. So good luck!”
In response, my colleagues shoot me dirty looks. “Yeah, good luck, Harada,” one of them mutters. “You are just like your ‘uncle’,” another sneers. “Think yourselves high and mighty. I hope you get your transfer. Crestfield can have you.”
You are just like your ‘uncle’. That comment stops me cold. Slowly, I turn back and glare at them, my colleagues, a slew of words which will get me in trouble with Uncle at the tip of my tongue.
Unsociable or not, Uncle is still my family. He and I have both sacrificed so much to find out why otou-san[2] is jailed in Crestfield. If it isn’t for otou-san, Uncle could’ve worked in a hospital rather than a prison, like he’d originally wanted to. I might have become a doctor instead of a correctional officer.
Hell, if it isn’t for otou-san, Uncle and I wouldn’t have needed to run away from home and migrate to Canada in the first place.
“Swallow your own tongues, jerks,” I growl.
Veering left, I march down the hallway towards the Warden’s office.
“Oo!” they shout behind my back, sounding like a bunch of imbeciles.
I suppose I should be grateful that these twerps didn’t say anything in front of Uncle, at least. There was a time when they would’ve.
The hallway is unusually empty today. Since this is one of the hallways which lead towards the prisoners’ unit, it is usually crowded with new prisoners coming in or existing prisoners going out for their court hearings. I pass by two of my colleagues. One of them give me a sidelong glance. I catch the words “Crestfield” and “transfer”.
They think I’m a snob, I know; same as the way they think of Uncle. When I started working here at nineteen, I discovered that Uncle was well-known among these bricked walls and bars. The Warden must have blabbed about Uncle’s credentials at some point, because everybody in the prison knew that Uncle could’ve worked in a big hospital rather than a prison. A point that works against Uncle’s favour, since he is quiet to begin with.  


  1. Hi everybody,
    I don’t know how this is possible, but since my first submission, I have added almost 2000 words before the interview scene, so thank you so much for all your input.

    Note: The numbers are actually footnotes explaining the meanings of these words. Unfortunately, the meanings didn’t show up in the text. I apologise for that.

    I would really appreciate it if, in addition to your critique, you can also comment on these issues:

    - As recommended by many, I have revealed the stakes in the first 1250 words. I would like to know if the whole story flows or if there is any part that reads like an info-dump.

    - Are the stakes high enough in these pages now? Or do you think it can still be higher?

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Ack, I accidentally deleted my comment when I was trying to edit it. Lemme see if I can retrieve it.

  4. Dear Shirlyn,

    Your pitch is pretty punchy, but it's lacking one essential thing...word count! You still can squeeze in a few lines before hitting that 200 word limit.

    Now that there are at least two footnotes in your story, be careful of them stacking up and scaring off the reader. Perhaps you can slip in the meanings more naturally? Such as:

    -he exclaims, making sure the correctional officers (COs)...
    -my father, otousan, is jailed in Crestfield

    In THE KITE RUNNER, the MC also calls his dad another name, Baba, besides the usual American variants for dad. The author first introduces Baba as a character, and then clarifies who he is in a defining sentence later ("Everyone agreed that my father, my Baba, had built the most beautiful house..."). The first several pages are publicly accessible on Amazon if you want to take a look.

    As for the less nitpicky stuff, I want to know more about the bioweapons and bioterrorism! You could write in a few lines or words about that in the WWIII and epidemics paragraph. If I didn't read the pitch, I'd have assumed the diseases were naturally caused. Bioweapons is such an interesting concept, and I'd love to see you utilize it more to your story's advantage.

    Great job on your revisions! You honed your revisions skillfully each time and always tried to take everyone's comments into account. I wish you the best with your future writing endeavors! :)

    1. Also, I loved some of the details you added, such as "I have perfected my answers to every comma and full-stop." It really shows Michi's fastidious and perfectionist character!

    2. Dear Mayee,

      Thank you so much for the critique and your well wishes!

      What a good suggestion on how I can incorporate the meaning more naturally! Thanks for that!

      As for the diseases, a lot ARE actually naturally occurring, so I suppose it's a good thing that's what the readers will assume. The bioweapon and bioterrorism are another aspect of this world I created. They are not why the COs are having the inoculations. Is that what you thought based on my pitch?

      Lastly, regarding my pitch, I sort of assumed that this pitch is focusing on the gist of my QL, so I didn't put in my comp and word count on purpose. Don't worry though, both are in my QL.

      Again, thank you very much for the critique, Mayee. I wish you all the best in your future writing endeavours too.

    3. Yeah, I misunderstood that the inoculations were caused by some bioengineered disease. My bad! You do you and carry on.

  5. Hi Shirlyn,

    Amazing work on the pages revisions! The voice is spot on now and I love how you've revealed the stakes. As a reader, I definitely care about Michi and I want her to get this transfer. I also want to applaud you on being able to take critique, choose what you felt was right for the story, and run with it. That is no easy feat, so congratulations!

    As for the pitch, I'm missing the stakes again. Why does she want to connect with her father? What will happen if she doesn't? I feel like there's an answer, it just isn't in there. Also, there's no mention of Uncle and he seems pretty important. Sometimes boiling the pitch down to one sentence and then expanding out from there can help.

    Good luck,

    1. Dear Christina,

      Thank you very much for your feedback. All the critiques I have received have been invaluable; I cannot thank you enough for yours.

      You are right that I missed the stakes in my pitch. In my effort to make it more succinct, I accidentally took it out instead. I will be sure to add it in again.

      Thank you so much for taking the time out of your schedule every week to comment on my pages, Christina. I couldn't have done this without your input. :)

  6. Good job doing so many revisions! We’ve got a completely different set of pages here, and it’s come a long way. I have a few suggestions:


    I would reword the pitch to shorten the first part and leave room to clarify some of the questions raised.

    (Age) Michi Harada is desperate to make contact with her dad who’s rotting away in a maximum-security prison. But she’s a fugitive (from whom? why? how did she become one?), and she can’t even access details about her dad’s case, since authorities claim it’s a matter of national security.
    Instead of “medical background” (which sounds like medical history of illnesses) I would say “medical expertise” or “medical research expertise.”

    The stakes at the end are pretty good, but I was under the impression her best friend was also her love interest? So I would work it in somehow that she either has to abandon her father or her best friend and their blooming romantic relationship.


    I think Michi’s voice is stronger and her goals are more clear. It’s unclear from both the pitch and the pages why or how she is a fugitive or why she is separated from her father. I know it’s so hard to fit everything in the beginning, but it would be good to know.


    Change “Why did I think Uncle will be different” to “Why did I think Uncle would be different.”

    Change “making sure the COs[1] lining along the hallway hears him” to “making sure the correctional officers, or COs, lining along the hallway hear him.”

    Change “If it isn’t for otou-san, Uncle could’ve worked” to “If it weren’t for otou-san, Uncle could’ve.” Also change again in the next sentence down.

    Change “One of them give me” to “One of them gives me”

    1. Dear Mary,

      Firstly, thank you for your advice on the pitch. I never thought how medical background might sound to another person; yikes!

      Regarding the fugitive part, I honestly have no idea how I can incorporate the reason in the QL and still maintain the word count at around 300 in total (including my comps and word count). In the pages themselves, I intended it to be a mystery to be revealed later. In my personal opinion, I feel that revealing she is a fugitive ups the stakes in Chapter 1, but if I also reveal the very long reason in the same chapter, it will read like an info-dump. I could be wrong though. Please, anybody who have any insight to this, I would love to hear it.

  7. Pitch

    Great job on your pitch! It sounds like you have done a good job capturing all the essential details to your story. The only suggestion I have is to make the sentences a bit more simpler so it reads smoother.

    For instance, you can say:
    “Michi Harada has one goal in mind: establish communication with her father. A goal more easily said than done, considering he’s currently jailed in a maximum security prison.” Then, I’d go into how Michi is a fugitive, etc.


    I really love your revision. We have a better insight to Michi and how she doesn’t want to be compared to her uncle, but regardless, is like him. I just wish I knew why people didn’t like Uncle so much. Why do they see him as a snob if he turned down a hospital position to work at a state prison? Wouldn’t that make him more of a hero and more likable? And I get why they’re at a state prison, but why do they need inoculation shots there? I feel like it would make more sense to get those if they were at a military base? Just some suggestions, you can take or leave!

    Great job!!

    1. Dear Kaylynn,

      Thank you for your suggestions on how to make my pitch and my pages clearer.

      Regarding the Uncle, most people in the prison attribute Uncle's quietness to being proud, especially since he is over-qualified for this job. It made so much sense to me while I was writing it that I didn't realise I wasn't making it clearer. Thanks for pointing it out to me!

      Regarding the vaccination, however, I've added this as a new culture in my world, to prompt the readers to question it and realise this is set in the future after reading the WWIII detail.

      Thank you for all your feedback throughout these three weeks, Kaylynn. I wish you the best of luck in your future writing endeavours.


  8. Hi, Shirlyn,

    AMAZING job. I love the details you've added to set the story in the future. I still think that you need to figure out how the world has changed--because it WILL have changed--so that we SEE that change in the story rather than simply being given an explanation for one aspect of why it hasn't changed despite so much having happened. That said, I found the explanation wonderfully clever and I love it. But as an example, maybe use something other than cotton balls--make up something. Cotton may be too valuable as a food source in the future to be used for something as mundane as this. (See news article this week about gene editing of cotton.) You do have to give us some different things in order for the rest to be believable.

    Apart from that, I think you're nearly there. Focus on showing as much as you can, especially when--as always at the beginning of a story--there is so much telling that has to occur. Let us SEE why people don't like Uncle. Does he wear a habitual frown. Is he congenitally unable to keep from barking his questions? Is he unable to understand why people give in to inner pain or show his own sensitivity? Why? How can you reveal that in actions or through Mitchi's description of those actions? How can you show her relationship with the other guards in a way that lets us understand why they dislike her and how hard getting along with them has been for her? Does she note the camaraderie between them and wish, for a moment, that she could be as easy with other people as they are? Or does she hate their shallowness? The easy way that they say good luck without meaning it? I'd make their interactions a little deeper, if you can. Show them wishing her luck but not meaning it, then her reacting badly, then them reacting resentfully to her poor reaction. It will tell us more about her and the relationship.

    Same thing with her conversation with Uncle. There are some contradictions in the text:

    Finally meeting Uncle’s eyes, I’m unsurprised at the pointed questions in them. There is nothing Uncle can do today except to act normal.

    If Uncle has pointed questions in his eyes, he's not behaving normally. Tell us instead that he's trying to hide them, or that he doesn't ask them aloud, or something like that. Then again, with the line about Uncle never being good at trusting people -- SHOW us that he isn't trusting her. Why else would she say this? Does he move with agitation? Jab Henry too hard? What?

    “Michi,” he repeats now. “Is something wrong?”
    I can’t help the sigh that escapes. “Nothing’s wrong, Uncle.”

    She repeats Uncle too many times. People don't use names that often in conversation. And would uncle really ask this in front of Henry? Would he urge her for more information in front of Henry? (Although I do love the line about his eyes urging her. : ))

    “Did you forget, um…” Uncle makes some vague, uncomfortable gestures, what with the presence of a third party in the room. “Did you forget one of the answers we practiced last night?”

    I feel like he would definitely NOT say this in front of Henry.

    “No, I didn’t.” I have perfected my answers to every comma and full-stop. I won’t forget. (LOVE THIS)

    There is nothing Uncle can do today. Everything is on me. Be careful of repetition and restating. This is one of several places where you give us the same information in different ways throughout this piece.

    A hug is too much to ask, but a ‘good luck’ isn’t. Is it? LOVE this and the way she doubts herself. Fantastic.

    1. Basically, I do think you're almost there. Apart from the repetition, this moved really well and there was good conflict. I think that you can UP the conflict by using the fact that Henry is present to force her and Uncle to have a really awkward interaction that in turn brings out both their character flaws and culminates in one or the other doing something that is exactly the type of thing that the other guards make fun of them for. That then leads to a more natural scenario where she blows up at Henry and Henry in turn blows up at her, which then lets the other guards side with him and leads to her showing even more vulnerability as she feels isolated or whatever you want to reveal about her personality.

      Remember. Cause and effect, action and reaction. You've got the core of everything here. Just make sure that everyone is acting like themselves and that you have the reasons for those actions clear so that it's a chain reaction. Ideally, we would then be anticipating that whatever has gone wrong here is going to carry forward into her flubbing the interview, and if the stakes are clear from the outset, the reader is right there with her. You might even bring up the stakes into that first paragraph, jittery on nerves about the most important interview of my life, or whatever. Grab the reader and don't let go.

      As far as the pitch goes, I think it's great overall, but again make sure that the stakes are right there and both clear and concise. A fantastic pitch gives us the character and her wound, her goal, the obstacle that she has to overcome, and the stakes. If you can make it clear that the choice she has to make is between two things she wants or the thing she wants and the thing that she needs, then so much the better. But again, I think you're nearly there!

      I'm so proud of you for all you've accomplished and how well you've taken the critique. I've seldom seen anyone work harder or accomplish more, and I truly believe that you're on a really solid path for success with this story.

      All best,


    2. Dear Martina,

      As always, thank you for your generous comment. You have really helped pushed my first chapter to the next level. I think I know how I can address all the (terrific!) points you have given me, and I will work on it, but I have to admit … there are several comments I’ve received this week that leaves me very unsettled because I have no idea how to address them. It will mean a lot if you can help me with this, Martina.


      (i)My biggest worry – out of everything – is the comment that my pages are too formal. Is it because my sentences are too long? What do contractions mean? I know that the tone of my writing tends to veer towards the more somber side, but … this is my writing style. I admit to be tearing up as I type this, because if my writing is too formal, I feel like that’s a fundamental flaw that I will have a very difficult time to correct. Also, personally, I think it actually works quite well for Michi’s and Keaghan’s characters. They are two kids who have grown up with tremendous amount of pressure. To me, at least, this is their voices. This is how they think. This is why they are so close to each other and they don’t have other friends.

      [By the way, the repetitions for ‘Uncle’ at the end of many sentences are actually deliberate. It is not a writing style but a form of respect. Of course, I won’t go so far as to say that all Asians talk this way, but most of us are taught to be extremely polite when addressing our elders. In fact, this is how I envision Dr. Harada to bring up Michi, especially towards himself, the father figure who raised her. Personally, I don’t want to pull back the Uncles, but I understand that my readers might not understand and will think it odd instead.]

      (ii)Also, it is pointed out to me that it is difficult to understand Michi and her uncle’s relationship and that I should start at the interview. I’m trying not to be alarmed but I can’t help it. I agree that I can up the tension between Michi and her uncle, but I don’t know how to reveal more details about their relationship without it being an info-dump. Which brings me to…


      I agree that the stakes aren’t as set out as I initially thought it is. Several people have suggested that I insert the detail about Michi’s best friend being her potential love interest, and Christina has suggested that I add in what will happen if Michi’s goal fails. Both good points which I know how to add in without going over the word limit for a standard QL. BUT, I also read comments asking me about (i) why Michi is a fugitive and (ii) how does she discover her father’s location.

      For (i), do you think I should just leave it out? I put that detail in to up the stakes, i.e. to show that it is VERY difficult for Michi to establish communication with her father. I thought that it is all right not to explain, since this is a pitch. But if it is creating more confusion than stakes, maybe I should just take it out?

      For (ii): Again, I thought it is all right not to explain in a pitch. Maybe I’m wrong, which is why I’m asking for more opinion.

      My sincere apologies for taking up so much of your time with such a lengthy request.

    3. Hi, Shirlyn,

      Okay, cards on the table. Not every manuscript is going to work for every reader, so always take comments with a grain of salt. Didn't connect with the voice is a very common response from agents and editors, and usually that just signals a personal thing. That said, Kaitlyn had two excellent points.

      1) Mitchi and her uncle speak more formally, and that works for them and signals the culture. I personally liked that. However, what I should have noticed is that not everyone is going to speak like that. Show the contrast in the way Henry speaks casually and the more formal way Mitchi and her Uncle speak. What Kaitlyn meant by contractions was really as simple as saying "haven't" in place of "have not" and "don't" in place of "do not", etc. But thinking this through, is the contrast in cultures part of the reason that other people find Mitchi and her uncle "unsociable?" If so, go ahead and own that. Play it up not only by creating a contrast in speech but also a contrast in gestures. Does Mitchi have specific body language that she could use in place of repeating Uncle so many times? Is there something she could say after the word uncle, something akin to Uncle-san (sorry, I haven't a clue here) that would signal to the reader that this is due to politeness? Do you see where I'm going with this?

      Part of this is also a question of the same world-building that I was referring to earlier. What is the world like at that point in terms of cultural differences? What is the power dynamic between Mitchi's culture and the cultures of the other guards? How does this play into their attitude toward her and her uncle and their attitude toward the other guards? This is why writing Sci Fi and fantasy, speculative fiction, is hard because you really have to think all of these things through and they have to be visible for the reader.

      Another thing to remember is that narrative voice is about letting the reader in to the character, putting the reader into the character's shoes. A formal narrative voice a close POV is hard to pull off, but I think you've actually done that well. Just remember to SHOW us Mitchi's vulnerability. As Kaitlyn said, make us feel her wounds, her nerves, her hope, her struggles. SHOW us how she wipes her sweating palms on her uniform pants (which gives you the chance to show us what that uniform looks like a little bit), SHOW her clearing her throat, crossing her arms, dragging her eyes up to meet Uncle's, hurrying her steps to escape the jeers of the other guards, squaring her shoulders so that she doesn't give them the satisfaction of seeing how their words effect her. Do you see? SHOW her forcing herself to be brave and you hook the reader. THat's why that tiny bit of information about her wanting to see Uncle and hoping for just a "good luck" is so, so powerful. It's a key to who she is.

    4. Okay, and Kaitlyn's second point. She wasn't here for the first draft. Which is GREAT because since the rest of us were, we've been privy to the evolution and we didn't see that we've all been reading this piece informed by what's not here. Kaitlyn came in with fresh eyes, so she approached this the way any new reader would. So, I would suggest a couple of things. One, right in paragraph one, define what the interview is. Jittery with nerves (although you could do a more visceral reaction here) Hands shaking at the thought of the upcoming interview that will make or break the plan Uncle and I have worked years to put together, . . . And then in the next couple of paragraphs, work in the goal--to transfer to the maximum security prison where her father has been held for XXX years. Then a few paragraphs after that, tell us why she NEEDS to see him. (Which also reminds me, when you say otou-san, and COs, I would recommend not using the footnotes, just stick with something simple like: otto-san, my honored father, or something along those lines. You could use the same format for Uncle the first time she mentions him: oji-san, my adoptive uncle. Take every opportunity to make it easy for your reader. And as far as CO's go, again, same format. Just also remember that you titles, uniforms, weapons, and so forth are the perfect places to infuse that little bit of "difference" that comes from the temporal shift into the future and gives you the opportunity to remind the reader that this isn't the world they are familiar with but something speculative and slightly different.

      As far as the pitch goes, focus on the basics. No pitch is perfect. You absolutely HAVE to have Mitchi, her character flaw, an adjective that sums up her personality, her goal, her need, her opposition and the stakes. If her love interest becomes her accomplice or her opposition and is central to the story, then have him and an adjective that best describes him in there as well, mentioning him as her love interest and defining their relationship--i.e., uneasy or evolving or transitioning from best-friend to something more. If this is part of the story question and defines a change in Mitchi, then absolutely, he needs to be part of the pitch. You also need to have a sentence about HOW the world is different. Consider something like:

    5. In a world where bio-weapons blah-blah-blah, Mitchi, a socially-award young woman raised as an orphan, gets a job as a prison guard to penetrate the maximum security facility where her father is being held. With the help of blah, blah, blah. Personally, I don't mind a few intriguing questions in the pitch. Sometimes those invite an agent to request the manuscript to find out. Just be clear about the set up and include the word count and type of story and infuse as much personality and conflict into the pitch as you can. Conflict is story--and there's tons in your setup. Play that up in the pages and the pitch--Mitchi's internal conflict, her conflict with the other guards, her conflict with her uncle, the conflict in reaching her goals, the moral conflict she faces, the conflict between her and the powers that be, the conflict and tension created by her surprising reactions to the things that are happening to her. All of those are right there for you to reach for, and you need to make sure that one or more of those appears on every page of your story. Do that and literally picture yourself in Mitchi's shoes, what she's seeing, what she's feeling physically and emotionally, what she's smelling and hearing--not the mundane stuff but the surprising things that would help clue the reader into the unique world and personality Mitchi is inhabiting, you will carry the reader with you from page to page.

      Don't worry. This writing thing is hard, but I do believe you have the talent and skill to bring this story to life. You do have some hard work ahead of you, but that's what makes it fun--and ultimately rewarding. Trust yourself. And feel free to write me through my website if you have more questions!



    6. I feel like you should write a book on how to craft a story, Martina! I will definitely be the first person to line up and buy it. I cannot thank you enough for your reply, your continuous support, and all the wonderful feedbacks you have provided me throughout these weeks. I have a much clearer vision on what I should do as I head towards my third round of edit. :)

      Thank you for believing in me, Martina. Writing is hard, but persevering is even harder, especially since this is my second manuscript in the span of one year. I really treasure your encouragement.

  9. Dear Shirlyn,

    While I enjoyed the tension of this query, I felt it left a lot of questions to be asked. Why does she think he's in jail in the first place, and what has classified her as a fugitive? What leads her to discover the truth about her father's location? The stakes also aren't quite solid enough yet. She either stays with him or goes. If she goes, her life just goes back to the same old thing as when we started, so it doesn't feel quite as compelling as you intend.

    I'm finding it hard to connect to these pages, mostly because we're referring to an interview the reader doesn't understand the details of, and also you're establishing a tension the reader can't understand yet because we don't know the details of the relationship between Uncle and Michi. Perhaps begin at the interview itself, let us see her nerves and desperation for this to work, to help both her and Uncle, to finally learn answers. There was a formal tone to this, too, because of lack of contractions. Don't be afraid to use contractions and voice in your prose to make it sound more natural.

    Kaitlyn Johnson

    1. Dear Kaitlyn,

      Thank you for your critique. I'm sorry to hear that you found it hard to connect to the pages. May I know what does contractions mean? English is not my first language, so I'm afraid I'm unfamiliar with this word used in this context.


  10. Hi Shirlyn,

    I like the first paragraph. It clearly states Michi’s goal from the beginning.

    I think the second paragraph could use some clarification. We know that she ended up in an orphanage because her Dad went to go work in a prison, but you just state that it’s a stab to her heart. The reader of the query won’t know this, so I think you should explain why she is so upset about it.

    I was also confused by this sentence, “Even worse, Michi can see how her father’s medical background makes him a valuable asset in contributing to the international counter-terrorist effort.” Why is this worse than him being in prison? I had to read it a couple of times because at first I thought he was doing something bad, but he is contributing to a worth goal “counter-terrorism” so why would this be worse?

    I think you can do without the second sentence about bio-weaponry and add that to the sentence before - you could say he’s a valuable asset because he’s creating an antidote for bio weapons for the international counter-terrorist effort.

    For the last sentence, if her best friend is a romantic interest, you should state that because if she’s in love with him, it gives her more of a difficult choice between going with him and staying with her father.


    I really like this revision. I think it's a much more effective opening than the interview. We get more of Michi's interaction with Uncle and more details about he and Michi are working together toward the goal of contacting otou-san. I also like that you mentioned WWIII because know it's clear that this takes place in the future.

    A few suggestions:
    - I think that you can add to the tension between Michi and her colleagues by having them be resentful that she’s getting special treatment because her uncle also works there. That would help explain why they think she’s a snob.
    - I suggest cutting out some of the explanation of the flu patch and vaccine. It doesn’t really add much to the story at this point and slows down the flow.
    - I was wondering why Uncle was working in a different prison than otou-san was in if he’s trying to get in contact with him. If he’s so influential in the prison system, why couldn’t he work in the max security prison. If there’ s a reason for this, it should be explained.

    Great job on the revision, Shirlyn!

    1. Dear Lisa,

      Thank you for your feedback. What interesting questions you raise! I’ll be sure to work in the explanations for both your concerns regarding my pitch. I was too close to the project and thought that they made perfect sense.

      I’m relieved to see that you like the opening. I do worry about the flow with the added 2000 words before the interview. I will see if I can shorten some of the explanation on the flu patch or work it in more organically. Have to admit, I love that paragraph myself so it’ll be tough. ;)

      Regarding your last suggestion, it is actually mentioned later on in Chapter 1 but thanks for pointing it out! In fact, thank you very much for all your critiques over the last three weeks. You have pointed out so many flaws to my logic in Chapter 1 alone! Haha. All the best of luck to your future writing endeavours.