Thursday, February 19, 2015

Entry #10: RECRUITED

64,000 words
YA Science Fiction


David’s having a bad day, moving to Mars with his abusive father and hapless mom. The day only gets worse when he’s abducted to an off-world martial arts academy where the studies are strict, the workouts exhausting, and the expectations menacingly high. And he thought things were tough as a chronic runaway on Earth! Taking on a new identity and fictional past, his best option is to earn the last spot on the school's prestigious competition team.

No problem! All David needs to do is gain the trust of his teachers and fellow students, uncover the truth about his abduction, navigate the perils of teen romance, and find out who's betraying the school--not too much to ask from a smart-mouthed fifteen-year-old. Luckily he’s got a sense of humor, because his past catches up with him at the Interplanetary Martial Arts Association’s biggest annual tournament, and it could cost him everything.

First page:

As your luxury transport liner speeds through space, you’ll be rocked back and forth gently. Pleasant music accompanied by the sound of a beating heart lulls each traveler to sleep. Sensors alert our droid staff to your well-being. In case of unexpected wakefulness, you’ll be comforted back to sleep for the duration of the voyage. Fear not, intrepid traveler! The chances of that happening are a scant 0.02%.

Discovery Transport boasts the best record of any fleet, shuttling thousands of travelers annually to their preferred off-Earth locations. You can rest assured that your trip will be over before you know it and you’ll be no worse for the wear. Many travelers are delighted to find they’ve even shed a few of those pesky extra pounds during their journey!

When you reach your destination we greet you with a cleansing shower, a fresh-squeezed glass of orange juice, soft music, and gradually increasing light. You’ll wake up refreshed, as if you’ve had the best night’s sleep you can remember. At Discovery Transport we take pride in our work and assure you that your trip will be more than restful: it will be restorative.

—Discovery Transport’s Interplanetary Travel Guide, Page 8

I’m not sure if what wakes me is the oxygen flooding my pod or the computer contacts withdrawing from my skin, but there’s no welcome to Mars, David Brown, no cleansing shower, no soft music. I’m cold and clammy, and as the clear lid disengages from the pod’s base, my stomach lurches.


  1. The pitch has great style and voice but it is a little confusing. First David is moving to Mars with his parents, but then he's abducted, but really he's a runaway with a new identity??? I'm lost...

    But I love your first page, so original and quirky... restorative... I'd definitely read on...

    Best of luck with it,

  2. Wait? He is moving, but then abducted, but he wants to be abducted because it sounds like he doesn't resist the workouts yet tries to join the competition team? Karate Kid meets interstellar travel? The pamphlet at the beginning is a bit mundane as well. I may have skipped a little bit to get to the first paragraph. Is there a prologue? I have a prologue that I didn't include which takes away some of that edgy punch to the pitch. I am curious if this is what the reader sees first? Teens seem to have a very short attention span when it comes to something catching their attention.
    I did, however, like the Matrix like feel of his coming out of his sleep chamber. The part where Neo is unplugged from the Matrix? I would like to read the next few pages to see where it goes.
    A fellow contestant and writing friend.

  3. I like the pitch and the premise. But I'm confused why he is "abducted" and why his first reaction isn't to try and get away.

    I love the opening except I wonder if the travel guide part is a little long. I think you could probably just cut the second paragraph and it would work a little better. But work in the "pesky extra pounds" part if you do--because that's funny.

    But love the part when he comes too.

    1. Oh, fantastic idea. Sometimes when we've already cut something to shreds, we overlook the obvious. I know just where I can fit the pesky extra pounds line and still take out the middle paragraph altogether. Thank you for the great suggestion.

      Also, I'll fix up the pitch so it's less of an emphasis on kidnapped (his first reaction is to try to get away, but that was beyond the first 250 words) to make it less confusing all around. I appreciate your help.

  4. I just wanted to say you did a great job here, and I want to read more. I have a soft spot for the stories set in space, when it comes to YA and MG. I think there aren't enough!

    As far as quality of writing goes: I loved the pitch, even though I am a little bit confused, like the rest, about the abduction vs. being at the academy. I also found myself skimming thought the intro, to get to the story itself. I wouldn't take it out completely, I like how it sets the scene, but I think it might be twice as long as necessary.

    Hope that helps!

    Pitch #40: NANNY MORTO

  5. I always wanted to travel to Mars. I am confused about the abduction mentioned in the Pitch. I thought David was there with his parents. The writing is great. I can actually visualize myself on the flight. This sounds like a great read.

  6. Love your first 250! Clearly this is the start of something where nothing will go as planned. Pitch: The last line "will cost him everything" threw me because I'm wondering what he has that he wants to keep? It doesn't sound as if he likes the school or that going back to his mom and dad would be any better. But I really like the concept of an "off-world martial arts academy". Just raise the stakes so David stands to lose something important to him and this should be a fun read.

  7. Oh, we need more adventures in space!! I would've devoured this as a teen (and would read it in a heartbeat as an adult). Your pitch promises a ton of action and intrigue, and I love, LOVE the fact that your mc intends to sabotage his placement on the team. That clever, crafty boy. The element of mystery is a welcome addition to all the adventure -- I tend to have a soft spot for brainy, smart-alecky characters. And his history of running away makes me curious and hints that this kid is a survivor. Well done!

    A suggestion: in your pitch you use "smart-mouthed fifteen-year-old" and "he’s got a sense of humor." Not sure if you need both. What if you show what's at stake for David, besides his identity being discovered. (A very minor observation.)

    I love your mc's voice and want to hear more of it right away (man, the 250 words curse!) One thing I'd recommend is to change "you’ll be no worse for the wear" to something slightly more formal in your Travel Guide section. Otherwise, I only wish I could read more of your story.

    Best of luck!!

    #44 The Land of Joy and Sorrow

  8. Pitch:
    I'm not sure if "abducted to" is grammatically correct. Maybe abducted and taken to? I agree with MVB--I'm also confused that he's a runaway who moved to Mars and is abducted. That's a lot to throw at us in two sentences! The last sentence is also a bit vague. I'm left wondering what exactly will happen to him should he not attain his goals.

    First Page:
    I like the first page, but I find myself more interested in the MC's voice than the travel guide. I'm torn, because while the guide is a cool way of giving that exposition, I almost think the story may have a bigger impact if it were to start with: I’m not sure if what wakes me...

    Food for thought =) Good luck!

    Domenic (#28)

  9. I love what MPEagles suggested - 'Karate Kid meets interstellar travel' and I'd love to see that in the pitch!

    I'm kind of itching for more details in the pitch, in particular - who abducted him, the name of the academy, what kind of workouts, and what the expectations are, the object of his affection, etc.

    For example; "After being abducted by a gang of sock-sandal wearing mercenaries, the Martial Academy is a breeze - if David can master a side-kick to the throat while pretending he is not Earthen. Or in love with the girl who gives him a knee drop to the heart."

    Rather than say humor, or tell us he is smart-mouthed, show us! And I think we need to know exactly what it will cost him if he loses the tournament.

    Good luck! I love the voice that comes through in the first 250, but wished I didn't have to wait three paragraphs to get to it. I would do what others have suggested - condense the beginning and get right to the good stuff, David's voice.

    Rose #32 TRACKED


Please leave your courteous and professional comments for the writer! We'd love to hear from you! : )