Today, it seems, is National Dictionary Day.
Made for writers, don’t you think? 🙂
When I was in elementary school, I had a Latin teacher who let us play a game she called “Dictionary” on the day before we got out for school vacations. (Undoubtedly she realized we weren’t going to learn anything on those days, so there was no point in teaching! 🙂 ) Someone would randomly select a word from the dictionary and write the correct definition on a slip of paper, and the rest of us would try to make up a definitions that sounded plausible and write them on our own slips of paper. Then the teacher would gather them up and read all the definitions aloud and we’d vote on which one we thought was the real definition. Whoever got the most votes won… and usually we did NOT choose the actual definition. It was fun!
It’s not a game we can play here, I don’t think, but instead we can celebrate National Dictionary Day by closing our eyes, opening the dictionary to a random point (this is assuming you all still HAVE an actual dictionary and don’t rely solely on online versions) and point to a word on the page you open to. Whatever that word is, let it be a story prompt for your writing today!
Maybe you have to use the word, or the idea of the word, in your story. Or maybe the theme of your story has to be what the meaning of the word is. Or maybe you play anagrams with the word and come up with three words made out of the letters from your word and include those three words in your story. Or maybe you choose the antonym of the word and write your story using that. Or maybe your main character’s name has to be the word… which could make for some interesting names… and characters… 🙂 Who knows?
Give it a try and see what you come up with!
And to fuel your creative efforts, let’s have Something Chocolate! After all, there’s nothing like chocolate to get the old brain in high gear! 🙂 I think today we should have Chocolate-Covered Coconut Chocolate Chip Macaroons. Only 4 ingredients – that’s my kind of simple 🙂
Chocolate-Covered Coconut Chocolate Chip Macaroons
Now THAT’S a breakfast that will fill you with energy and ideas!!!
Alrighty then! Onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Melissa who says, “As a girl, I roamed the hills and forests. Connecting with nature is still a magical experience that leaves me fulfilled and happy. I hope my manuscript encourages others to appreciate what lies just outside their door and inspires them to nurture our beautiful lands and creatures.”
Here is her pitch:
Working Title: Mandy’s Magical Quest
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)
The Pitch: Mandy and her black crow, Bram, journey to the four elemental Goddesses in the far corners of the earth to save their grove of trees. The journey is not easy, but they persevere. Mandy is rewarded with a thriving grove and a magical thank you.
So what do you think? Would You Read It? YES, MAYBE or NO?
If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest. If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Melissa improve her pitch. Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome. (However I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful. I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)
Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks! For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on Would You Read it in the dropdown under For Writers in the bar above. There are openings in January, so you have time to polish your pitch before putting it up for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta, but it doesn’t hurt to snag a date now!
Melissa is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch! I am looking forward to the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Fall Conference which I am attending today! I’ve never been before, so I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s all about! 🙂
Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂
36 thoughts on “Would You Read It Wednesday #339 – Mandy’s Magical Quest (PB)”
Hi Susanna. I love chocolate covered macaroons but I’ve just started a low-carb diet so all sweets are out for me. But I can still look at the beautiful pictures of those tasty treats!
Hi Melissa. As the pitch stands this story is a maybe for me. I’m a sucker for anything with crows in it but the pitch lacks specifics. And it is specifics that pull the reader into the story, and the agent/editor into the pitch. Specifics are also why it is so hard to write a short pitch. It is difficult to write specifically and concisely. But that is the challenge of the book pitch.
As far as specifics go, I want to know more about Mandy and her relationship with the crow. Are they BFF or is the crow a mentor, or maybe just a cranky side-kick there for comic relief? Knowing specifics like that make for a richer pitch and gives the agent/editor something to chew on.
I definitely want to know more specifics about their journey and what kinds of conflict they encounter. Is it a difficult journey because they forgot to bring lunch, or do they have mountains to climb and monsters to defeat (or maybe befriend)? Or maybe they butt heads and this is a “buddy” adventure. Agents and editors will want to know and giving them specifics allows you to show how your story is unique and what makes it something they should acquire.
Best of luck with the pitch and the story.
Thank you so much! This is very helpful.
Hi Susanna! You picked such a delicious choice for a sweet!
Maybe. I’m intrigued, but I would love to know more. You mention the journey is not easy. Why? What stands in Mandy’s way/ prevents her from saving the trees? While you won’t state everything in a pitch, what’s at stake? Their friendship? Their homes?
What’s the conflict that makes the story happen?
You mention they persevere- I think you could omit that sentence.
Keep at it! Your story sounds like a fascinating read! Thanks for sharing.
Thank you! Appreciate your time to read my pitch and your great feedback.
Susanna, bravo to your teacher who inspired a love of words. And Latin in elementary school? What a lucky girl you were (although you probably didn’t think so at the time)!
Melissa, I love your title, the elements of fantasy & the premise of trying to restore a grove of trees. Is this a fable? An origin story? A reminder to protect our environment? I can’t really tell from the pitch. Like the other two commenters, I would suggest providing more information to let us know where & when this occurs, the stakes for Mandy and/or the crow, and the role the Goddesses play.
I hope my questions help you revise this pitch to provide more clues to entice readers and to attract agents & editors.
Thank you so much!
I’m not a coconut fan–so I can take a break from goodies this morning. 🙂
Melissa, the other commenters have mentioned adding “more” but I want to say add less as well. You give away the ending! A query pitch sets up the character, stakes and conflict but doesn’t tell the reader what will happen. (a synopsis tells everything). Just whet our taste for your story and make us read to find out what happens.
I hope this is helpful. Good luck with your story.
Thank you, Wendy 🙂
Strikes me (in a good way) as a lot of sci-fi/fantasy depth – esp. for a PB. As in, I’d not be surprised if this was a MG or even YA pitch. The first sentence is very word-efficient (low count with a lot of key info) Yet, I’d like a bit more urgency in that first sentence. The facts are there, but if destruction looms, maybe the verbs can be punchier. I’m definitely wishing for an example or 2 about what makes the journey so hard. And I suggest switching the verbs in the last sentence from passive voice to something with zip. I like the name Bram (from Stoker?). I’d like to know if Bram plays a key role since he’s mentioned in sentence 1.
Hi Katie! Yes, “Bram” is from Stoker 🙂 And it means raven. Even though my Bram is a crow, I just loved it.
Yes, he does play a key role as he is her guide to the Elemental Goddesses.
Thank you so much for your feedback!
I love it when people infuse their own experiences into ideas for/in their stories. As a picture book, this is a no for me.
For me, this pitch, while concise, is plot driven. Only, I don’t know the issue. Why does it have to be Mandy and her crow? What can Mandy do that a goddess can’t? Is the crow magical or a prop? How old is Mandy? You don’t have to say her age, but the way she acts or talks will give you an idea. I feel she is older (10-12).
I am also concerned about the arc of the story. How will the character change in 32 (29) pages? Traveling to the 4 corners to solve problem(s) upsets the rule of three. Albeit the rule of three is not a fast rule, it is difficult to break.
To me, this story feels like a chapter book similar in style and age to The Magic Treehouse.
Help me understand who Mandy is. Let me hear her voice, or in the least, yours.
Thank you, Matthew. Yes, the rule of 3 is used in the PB and the character arc is def included. Thank you for your help.
I got sidetracked checking out the recipe and nearly forgot to reply! LOL.
Yes, I would read this! I’m currently interested in crows and would love one as a pet. It sounds like Bram is a friend/pet and I would like to know more about this partnership. This pitch and story scope almost sound like a chapter book, as the journeying to four different locations would take a long time (for me it would!). I would like to see more about Mandy, Bram, and the grove, and why she has to journey to save the grove.
Great idea! Love to see how this turns out. 🙂
Thanks so much, Angie! It was a lot to fit into a PB, but did seem to work (at least, I really hope so). You are more than welcome to take a read if you like.
Just checked out your blog and it is awesome! Signed up.
Thanks so much for your help.
Thanks for signing up for my blog! 🙂 You have your story complete? This week I am swamped, but perhaps next week I could read it? I have feast or famine with my schedule. This week is famine…all grands one week, some grands the off weeks. Kind of crazy. But I love them. 🙂
Hi Angie! That would be great. Let me know when you are ready and I’ll be happy to send it over.
Hi again, Melissa. I might have time later this week to read your work. If you want to send it, I’d love to read it. It might be closer to the weekend…
I won’t say add more, but I’ll say be more specific: “The journey takes them through haunted forests and they persevere against trolls, bears, and evil unicorns.” You don’t see may fantasy PBs so it’s interesting!
Thank you, Lauri! Trying to mix fantasy with STEM. Hoping others like it 🙂 Thanks so much for your help.
You have some great comments so far. Why do they need to visit the four corners? Add a specific example of what makes the journey not easy. To me, it sounds like it would be a chapter book or possible middle grade. But I am interested in seeing how it would play out as a picture book. Good luck!
Thank you, Gregory. I’m starting to think this could be revised later to a chapter or middle grade book 🙂 For now, hoping it works as a PB. 🙂 Thank you for your help. 🙂
Hi Susanna and Melissa! I just might give those macaroons a try! Looks like more chocolate than coconut, and chocolate is definitely the determining factor for me! Plus they look really yummy 🙂
Melissa, this is a maybe for me. I want to know WHY they have to save their grove of trees. What is threatening it? Do they live there? And who/what is standing in their way. Does Mandy resolve the problem herself? Or do the goddesses jump in and rescue?
I don’t think you need to tell that she perseveres, because I think that’s an expected end. And I don’t think you need the last line as it gives the ending away, too.
What if you write this with some of the fun language in your manuscript and tantalize the reader into that “just HAVE to read this book” feeling.
Best wishes on your project.
Thank you! This helps a lot 🙂
Melissa, though I like the idea behind your story I am a maybe based solely on your pitch. I think “four elemental Goddesses “ is complex. Apart from that the scope is too large. Perhaps narrow it down and simplify it. Rather than saying that the journey is not easy can you give us examples of a few obstacles Mandy and Bram need to overcome along the way. “Rewarded” is another “big” word. You could use verbs to highlight the action (show don’t tell). What do Mandy and Bram do? How do they overcome the obstacles? I think the ending could be a surprise but that’s personal. With a few changes I could easily become a yes. I am a nature person so I can relate to this. Good luck!
Here is an example: When Mandy notices the trees in her family grove are dying she and her black crow, Bram, journey to a far corner of the earth to ask the rain goddess for help. Along the way they ……….. and …………….and…………….Can they save the trees? I hope that helps.
Susanna, what a fun game. Good idea:)
Thank you so much, Corine! Yes, this helps 🙂
Susanna, I love your dictionary game and writing prompt. I have been sort of participating in Inktober (Making drawings and writing poems.) I often found it very helpful to look up the word of the day in my online dictionary to get inspiration.
I would like more and less from your pitch. I recently heard an agent say that she likes knowing the ending of the story when she reads a pitch in a query letter, but that is only one type of pitch and for a limited audience. I think kind of giving away the ending feel like a let down. You hint at the magical gift (something for the reader to be curious about), but knowing that all is well in the end (even though most picture books stories do end on a positive note) leaves me thinking I don’t really need to read the story.
Your pitch should make the reader curious to read more. What makes me curious about yours if the four elemental goddesses and the journey that Mandy and Bram embark upon. (I like your opening line.) I would also be curious to understand why their grove of trees is failing so I understand why they take the journey. Then I want some hints as to why the journey is not easy. You could share one of the difficulties that occurs.
Is there magic throughout as implied by the title or is the magic just in the thank you? Give me some hints to the magic. Is it real magic or spiritual magic?
You have me quite curious, but I want to see you punch this up and tantalize readers into wanting to discover this magical world you have created.
Your pitch is very short, it make me curious if you are working on a pitch for Twitter. If it’s for Twitter, you need to make each word and letter and space really count. If it’s for a query letter, you have some room to add more to it.
The old Russian Vasilisa and Baba Yaga tales come to mind as does Neil Gaimen’s Stardust. (An adult book with a journey and purpose along with magic and fantasy)
Thanks, Sarah! This is great feedback and helps quite a bit.
Aye matey, like many of yer other comments, I be a maybe too. I love love loves me the earth-centered aspect of yer story, Nothing be nobler than saving trees. But yer pitch doesn’t have the urgency it be needing. What be they saving they trees from? Why be they the ones to do it? What obstacles does they need to overcome? And since you always oughts to leave them wanting more in a short pitch like this, you doesn’t want to tell them how it ends. Hope this helps
Hey There, Baba Yaga! Love your writing voice! Checked out your blog and loved it too.
Thanks so much for your feedback. This is very helpful.
Good luck with your books!
Susanna, I’m going to take a pass on the treats because I’m not a coconut fan. I’m pretty sure I’ve lost a few pounds just saying no to dessert!
The pitch has me a bit confused. It sounds like MG to me but you specified ages 4-8 so I’m missing something. I think this is an environmental story which is awesome but I’m not sure how this fits the PB format or age group. Also, a bit more information about the journey and its obstacles without giving away the ending could make your pitch stronger.
Hi Laura! Yes, this is a PB book, mixing fantasy with STEM. Thank you so much for your feedback 🙂
Good luck with “Aliana Reaches for the Moon”; I hope it is the first of many published books for you. It sounds great!
This PB has a lot of great elements in it. I would love to know the stakes. Save the grove from what? What happens if they don’t? I think those two elements would change your pitch from Maybe to YES!
Best of luck!
Hi Brittany! The stakes are that the trees will die 😦 I was a bit hesitant to put this into the pitch. Thanks so much for your feedback and help!
You’re welcome, Melissa. Your pitch did a great job of letting me know that the trees were in danger I just wasn’t sure why. Is it the elements that are causing the danger? Is it something else entirely? That info can help let us know what your MC is up against. Good luck!
Susanna- YUM! You got me with this one! Plus, have you played Balderdash? It has been one of my favorite games for years. It sounds like it is essentially your teacher’s Dictionary game in a box. For Melissa- I had to go back and check that this pitch was for a picture book. I noticed its for children 4 to 8 years old. It seems a little involved for your typical 4 or 5 year old. But the premise sounds intriguing for a slightly older audience. I agree it sounds like there might be enough story for an early chapter book at least! Best wishes with this and thanks for sharing! 🙂
Thank you, Ingrid! Based upon the feedback, I may expand to a CB in the near future 🙂 It is a completed PB with lovely fantasy mixed with STEM to intrigue children of all ages. Thank you for your feedback 🙂