Thursday, February 19, 2015


52,000 Words
YA Contemporary


Melissa is tired of cruel photos of her circulating everywhere, and whispers about her vomiting mid-hookup last week. She wants out of Valley Pines.

So when her bestie Jack suggests they create an app based on school scandals, Melissa’s game. On “Chaos” students can anonymously post rumors for points; the more points they get, the more buzz they can access.

Then Melissa discovers Jack has his own reasons for Chaos: using it to spread a compromising video of a teacher who knows too much.  If Melissa agrees, a student’s reputation will be ruined – just like hers. Even worse, she could get handcuffs with her diploma.

Melissa pushes Jack to reconsider, but he snaps and releases the video, plants drugs in her locker, and blames Chaos on her. Melissa has to stop Jack before she ends up looking at Valley Pines from behind bars instead of through a rearview mirror.

First Page:

In high school there are girls who are gods. They command everyone’s attention with a swish of their skirt, a pout of their lips, and a wink. My sister, Stephanie, and her friends are those girls. Pay atte­­­ntion, they say. Look at me. You don’t want to cross these girls when they’re angry. These girls will key your car, spit gum in your hair, and pour diet Coke in your locker. Only diet, they’re not like you--you fatass.

No one knows, but I am above all of these girls. I am above them because I know all of their secrets. I know everything. When you know things in high school it rattles you. You can feel it in your bones when you look at someone. It’s this shuffling sound in your ears that never goes away.

My phone bleeps. ‘1 new message’ flashes on the screen.

 Anything interesting on the tangled web last night Birdie? Jack Stewart always calls me Birdie even though my name is Melissa. He says it’s because it’s good to have a little birdie tell you secrets.

 Just Gabbie Vanhout drama, and my Nathan Whettlesfield fiasco. I text back. Last night, I was reading, an anonymous gossip site made by a couple of seniors from back when the Internet was still dial-up. Mostly it’s just bullshit posts about people looking to find the latest party, or just spread lies. But sometimes you hit confessional gold.


  1. Your hook is great. It sounds made to sell. So much so that I'm surprised I can't think of a YA novel about a confessional website that's already published. Good luck with yours being one of the first. From the opening page, the rest of the novel should be a lot of fun.

  2. Your first 250 is gold. That voice is genius, the introduction had me hooked, and I read on, almost forgetting I was reading a post. I'd probably sit and read the first chapter of this while browsing in a bookstore. The authenticity of that voice, man. Genius.

    Anyway, I do have a bit of an issue with the pitch. While it's good in that it sets up conflict, a lot of it is confusing. Some of it seems a bit contrived, mainly the second to last paragraph:
    "Then Melissa discovers Jack has his own reasons for Chaos: using it to spread a compromising video of a teacher who knows too much (Who knows too much? What does she know? Why is that important? This last little description was meant to help us understand, I'm sure, but it actually confuses more than it reveals.). If Melissa agrees, a student’s reputation will be ruined – just like hers. Even worse, she could get handcuffs with her diploma (I love this line, but it doesn't quite make sense in context. I'd almost rather this line be moved to the end paragraph. Either way, it doesn't yet make sense why she could get arrested for making an app that reveals someone else's misdeeds. It does in the end paragraph, but not here, and only appears to set up contrived conflict, something you don't want. I do believe it makes sense, but it needs to be portrayed in order, then)."

    Besides that paragraph, I enjoyed the pitch as well, but I do believe that bit needs some work. :) Love that 250, though, goodness. A strong opening that sets the tone and settles into some subtle action. Love it~!

    Good luck!
    #34 :)

  3. Sounds like an interesting premise and over all the pitch is great--except she knows that Chaos will ruin reputations from the start (being a victim of rumors). So her motives don't seem to fit for me. Is she maybe out to get revenge? Or does she just agree in the heat of the moment and then come to her sense later?

    I love your opening, especially the first line. I knew *so* many girls like that in high school.

  4. Pitch: So much of this is great, but in light of the first paragraph (which is great), why she would be excited initially to spread rumors if she was suffering as a victim? I assume she is trying to get people to discuss things other than her and doesn't think they might be painful to others? If you can fix the problem with the logic of that, it's a dynamite premise. Word count seems a little low, though.

    250: The page apart from the pitch is super. Knowing the opening of the pitch, I'm confused why she's so into reading dirt on other people. Good luck! (#38)

  5. Good Morning Author,
    I think we all get excited to think we landed a big juicy piece of gossip first. I think that will be a big draw to this book. My thoughts (take it for what it's worth: not even a cup of coffee) I am not sure what the reason is that they are starting this website. Is it to spread the gossip? Is it to frame people? Is it to out a teacher?
    Then I was confused at the end. How is she going to stop Jack if he has already posted drug pictures, and blamed Chaos on her.. she should be in jail already...
    I am going to drop an opinion here and I may get flogged and disowned as a writer friend, but if my daughter was walking through a book store and the dust jacket of the book she wanted to read was about a MC who's rep is damage because she threw up while making out with a dude at a party... I may tell her to pick a different book. But the concept of apps and gossip is attractive so I understand. (don't hate me)
    They must be pretty smart to create an app.. they would be millionaires if it catches on.
    In the pitch she says "Game on" but then in the following paragraph after that you say "if she agrees" little contradiction there.
    All in all it is a tantalizing concept with what I am sure to be some juicy secrets. In the end this book is your baby and you should write it how you feel! The comments above me are pretty great, and I hope they help. Good Luck.
    Fellow Competitor & Writing Friend #35

  6. Hi,
    returning the favor :)
    I remember this from before. I loved the premise then, too. Couple of points on the pitch.
    Melissa is tired of cruel photos of her circulating everywhere, and whispers about her vomiting mid-hookup last week. She wants out of Valley Pines. - Wondering if you could give this a bit more punch. "Cruel photos' is vague. If you specify what the photos are about, it will up the ante and show us why she wants to leave. I love the 'vomiting mid-hookup'. How about - Tired of ___ photos of her circulating everywhere and rumors of her vomiting mid-hookup, ___ year-old (or grade level) Melissa wants out of Valley Pines.
    2. try 'handcuffs instead of her diploma' Actually I like this better than the hook at the end. The sentence about seeing the school through the rearview mirror reads a bit clunky. The idea is nice.It shows she is desperate to leave. But maybe reword it to make it snappier? And include stakes to show that this could mean her future (college, job, etc.) is at stake, not just leaving the school she hates.
    Best of luck!

  7. The first 250 words are really strong, great work, it's the pitch that seems to need more attention. The premise feels a bit shaky because Melissa's decision to co-create Chaos seems at odds with the fact that she's suffered so much from the "airing" of these scandalous pics and related rumors. You mention Jack's reasons for starting Chaos but what are Melissa's? Is she looking for revenge against the person/people responsible for leaking those photos of her? Establishing that we can better hook into this character and engage more with how she deals with an intense situation. Congrats and good luck!

    Author #36

  8. You've chosen a challenging topic because mean girl stories can be tricky these days. There's a lot of anti-bullying campaigns going on in high schools. Not saying it doesn't happen, just that's it's more underhanded than spitting gum into someone's hair. You're absolutely right that this behavior takes place online. After the gum, the first thing that stopped me about your pitch was Jack's reasons for his incredibly cruel behavior. Why does he have it in for this teacher? Antagonists are much more interesting, and believable, when we as readers understand their motivation. Not to say that reporting a teacher's involvement with a student would be wrong. It isn't. But why set him up like that? How is the app supposed to stop the whispers about Melissa? Planting drugs feels far fetched and a bit cliched.

    Melissa has a strong voice in your first 250, and she sounds like a teen. I can really see her struggles with high school and I'm sympathetic. Just carefully consider all your character's motivations and I think you could really make this work. Good luck!

  9. Sorry - the part with the gum is in the first 250 not the pitch. Clearly need to work on my proofreading skills!

  10. Interesting premise and pretty clear stakes! I'm curious to find out why Melissa is bullied if her sister is one of the popular goddesses and she, herself, knows everything about everyone. Is her sister one of her bullies? Intriguing. I love the idea of a student creating leverage by storing other people's secrets/setting up a public-access gossip site (oh, what a nightmare!).
    It might be helpful to contrast the mean girls' popularity with the fear they inspire. Maybe something as small as adding "but": "But you don’t want to cross these girls when they’re angry."
    I also felt that you might need a bit of a transition before: "My phone bleeps. ‘1 new message’ flashes on the screen."
    Really cool story! Good luck!!
    #44 The Land of Joy and Sorrow

  11. Pitch:
    A couple of questions. What does the teacher know? What's in the video? So the video of the teacher will compromise a student? The first thing my mind jumps to is an affair, but then why would the student walk out in hand-cuffs? I'm really intrigued, but also just a bit confused.

    First Page:
    Such a strong tone and opening! I'd love to read more =)

    Good luck!

    Domenic (#28)


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