Thursday, February 19, 2015


79,000 words
YA Fantasy


Fourteen-year-old Nikita Whitfield thinks there are only two good things about going to Pemberton Academy. One: it’ll give her some space from her overbearing mother. Two: no one there will compare her to her superstar older sister.

When she arrives, she learns Pemberton is more than just uniforms and English essays. It’s also a training ground for budding Technicians: kids who can cast illusions, smash concrete, and control other people’s minds.

She’s determined to become one of them. Even if that means enlisting help from a dwarf with a temper as short as he is, holding court with a king grizzly bear that can stop time, and fighting against kingslayers and classmates alike.

But Nikita doesn't realize becoming a Technician will mean much more. It will mean standing against some of the strongest Technicians ever. And it will mean choosing her new role in life: the avenger or the damsel.

First 250:

My mother's voice pierces my ears like a sharp knife.

“Did you remember the extra batteries, Dean?”

The thumping in my head is so loud that I almost don't hear my father's answer. I focus on counting the balloons but I barely make it to six before I feel another painful throb. My sister's graduation should be a happy day, but all I want to do is curl into a ball.

For one thing, my mother's been doing what she always does when she's anxious: making everyone else anxious. I can barely stop myself from screaming at her nonstop questions.

But, when I close my eyes to calm myself, the strange images I see are even worse. My mother’s staring at me, but not like she should be—with a worried look in her eyes, agonizing about something else my father forgot. Instead, in my mind’s eye, tears stream down her face, a silent scream rips from her lips and she’s showered in blood.

My eyes snap open and I rub the image away. I immediately hunt for my mother and she’s back to her normal, nervous self. But what was that image about?

Thinking about it makes my headache even worse, so I bury my face in my program. The words swim in front of my eyes and sweat dribbles down my neck from the summertime heat.

“And graduating magna cum laude, Thomas Kim!” the provost shouts.

We’re only on ‘K’ so it’ll take us forever to get to my sister, Kaia Whitfield.


  1. I absolutely love the concept here but I'm not sure you are starting your story in the right place. I'm not sure what her sister's graduation has to do with Nikita's journey. I'd love to see a glimpse of this amazing sounding world in the opening.

    Good luck in pitch plus one!

    1. Hi Jamie!

      Thanks for the comment. I've gone back and forth on the starting place in the past, actually. My issue is the inciting incident happens in this chapter, and this chapter comes back at the end, so I've been reluctant to cut it. But I'll keep this in mind as I edit.

      Good luck to you in the contest as well!

    2. just a thought but maybe trim it closer to the inciting incident. I know you need some grounding and connection to the MC before you jump into all the crazy but maybe getting closer to the point of tension will help.

  2. Pitch: It has lots of intriguing details, but I’d like to know more specifics about what sets things in motion. How does she get to go to the school without knowing what it is? What pits her against all these enemies? It’s true there’s a word limit and you don’t want to give too much away, but it would help to understand a little more about the stakes/obstacles. If the mother and sister don’t figure much in the story, they might be minimized.

    First page: You might consider landing the reader in a more concrete place/scene. It took me until the end to realize the setting was the actual graduation ceremony. Is she sitting in a row of seats? Is her mother not sitting near her, making it necessary for her to hunt for her? The upsetting vision is intriguing, but it would help to have a clearer picture of what it’s juxtaposed against.

    1. Hi Lesley,

      Thanks for the comments.

      Pitch: Absolutely hear you on the questions/vague stakes. The word count is an issue, but I was also finding that including those answers was bringing on more questions, so I ultimately scrubbed it. I'll continue to think about these as I revise, however.

      To answer the questions: Her uncle shows up and convinces her parents to send her there at the graduation. And, in becoming a Technician, she gets involved with Bear King, who in turn has enemies--these are the folks alluded to.

      Playing around with the pitch, still--thanks for the comments.

      First page: I thought the comments on the balloons and the graduation in the first full paragraph were sufficient grounding, but fair comments as well.

      Things to think about as I revise. Thanks and good luck in the contest!

  3. I really like your pitch and your premise. I found the repetition of the word "means" towards the end of the pitch a little distracting.

    Love the opening.

  4. PS. Would love to connect with you so give me a follow on twitter and I'll follow you back :)

  5. The pitch sells the Technicians and the academy well. If I was fourteen, I'd want to go there. I feel like the pitch would be stronger if it was more specific about the conflict mentioned in the final paragraph. Why does she have to oppose that group of stronger Technicians?

    Although it's only a one sentence description, I want to see that dwarf and bear.

  6. Good Evening Author,
    First must say I like the Harry Potter meets the Xmen feel of this one.
    Why is she fighting other Technicians? Need some beef on the 'what's at stake'
    Does everyone have the power to become a Technician or is this something that can be learned by anyone... if it's anyone I'm going back to school. Do you have an address?
    The word mean is used a lot towards the end of the pitch.
    I wasn't sure what was going on at first. All I knew was that she had a headache. Consider a setting that gives a more personal feel to the story instead of someone else's exciting adventure ie graduation.
    I am a fan of both HP and Xmen, so this has some potential, but may need some polishing.
    Good Luck
    Fellow Competitor & Writing Friend #35

    1. Hi MPEagles,

      Ha! Yeah, I think the HP comp is inevitable with this kind of story (not that I'd ever mention it in a pitch) but even as a huge X-Men fan, my mind didn't go there. I'm a big manga/manhua fan, so more of the inspiration comes from that side, but interesting comment.

      Pitch: I hear you on stakes and am playing around with this stuff again. I was finding that answering these questions was either tough because of the word count or because the answers only brought out more I'll have to ponder this some. I'm throwing some ideas around.

      Unfortunately, not just anyone can be a Technician without some qualifications, ha.

      And re: "means"--the repetition does seem like it might be off, agreed. Working on that as well.

      250: Comment heard loud and clear. I commented above, but it's where the inciting incident happens and it comes back at the end (and Nikita's sister is supposed to be a foil for her, so the chapter is to bring that out as well). Still, things to think about as I revise.

      Thanks for the comments and best of luck!

    2. Great stuff! Isn't it amazing how much our writing takes on our passions ie Xmen etc. The info you provided is spot on to my questions... bummed that I can't learn super powers... wha whaaa.. excited to know what 'the incident' is! Good Luck my friend!

  7. Pitch:
    Wow, cool idea! I'm not sure what "fighting against kingslayers and classmates alike" means. Also, how will this make her choose between being a damsel or an avenger? I think some more details about this process may make the stakes clearer.

    First Page:
    Who's Dean? I was confused, because your MC is named Nikita. Is Dean a nickname? I'd make the first name you mention that of your MC. Also, I've always heard that agents don't want stories that start with dream sequences. Yours doesn't really do that, but the bit with her mom sort of toes the line. I think it's a really interesting portal into your character's mind, but just something to think about.

    I'd read more--good luck!

    Domenic (#28)

  8. Also, I LOVE the dwarf and the bear =)


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