Sunday, February 23, 2014


Title: Punishment Summer

Genre/Sub-Genre: YA/Crime


Sent to live with her grandfather in the Mendocino forest, sixteen-year-old Nicki Steele faces a new world. As if the dead animal heads hanging on the cabin walls aren’t bad enough, there’s also no electricity or cellphone service.

Nicki doesn’t trust easily, but she and Grandpa’s German shepherd become fast friends while she learns to fish, hunt and tend vegetables. She tries to fit in, hoping good reports about her behavior will encourage her dad to bring her home before summer’s end.

The prospect of romance with a neighbor gives Nicki hope for some fun, but she soon starts to doubt his honesty. Adding to her unease is the belief Grandpa is living under an assumed name. From secret pot farms to human trafficking, Nicki discovers nothing in the ‘Mendo’ is what it seems. Before the summer is over, Nicki learns there are some choices you cannot undo.

Opening sentence:

Fingers dug into my shoulders, strong hands shook me.


  1. This sounds like a cool concept. I love the part about Grandpa using an assumed name! In the first paragraph, consider changing "grandfather" to grandpa to keep it consistent with your usage in the second and third paragraphs.

    The third paragraph of your pitch is where all the action is at and it really drew me in. The first two paragraphs, imho, are all setup and could benefit from being trimmed down to two sentences. Also, the first two paragraphs feel light in tone so I wasn't expecting it to lead to secret pot farms and human trafficking, I was taken back a bit by the dark turn the pitch took.

    Consider giving us a better sense of who Nicki is from the start. Why was she sent away? Knowing this might give the reader a better understanding of her difficulties adjusting to her new life in Mendocino and why she doesn't trust easily. Did her parents die? Or had she been hanging with the wrong crowd and getting into trouble? Some other reason entirely? Knowing the scenario may help set the tone for the rest of your pitch.

    I enjoyed your first sentence. It definitely has punch and raises immediate questions. :)

    Hope this helps some.

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  3. I really love this premise. I love the sense of setting, and the fish out of water vibe. I agree that you need to get to the third paragraph a little sooner. I'd take out the bit about the german shepherd- it slows down the pitch. And I'd like some character details about the neighbour rather than just "the prospect of romance with a neighbour"- that line's a bit too vague. Even just his name would help, and maybe what attracts her to him.

  4. The concept is intriguing, but I am concerned that I don't know why she was sent to her Grandpa's initially. Is it just for the summer, or is it permanent? Does her dad have any idea about the risk the grandpa's life poses to his daughter? I know there's limited words for the pitch, but I think these questions are more important to answer to the pitch than the fact she befriends her grandpa's dog. There's also no mention of the stakes, which I'd like to see more of.

  5. You've created a soft, intriguing voice here. I get a sense of what type of person your MC.

    I am a little confused as to what her goal is. What are her stakes and why? I believe you also need to tell the reader why she was sent to her grandpa's place. I get the vibe about it probably being something disciplinary, but that needs to come off from the onset and more specifically. Is she your typical rebellious teenager, sneaking out at night? Or is more going on with her. You could also add the reason why she's not trusting-is that because she suddenly believes grandpa is living under an assumed name? - to that beginning, too. Again, that would set a firmer foundation for the reader to build on. Answering these questions will up your tension and urgency. She 'tries to fit in'. With whom does she try to fit in with? Is it just moving in with grandpa or others, like your love interest, etc...?

    You can do this. Just think about the questions I've raised and tell me what's most important and most unique to your story. Best of luck!


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