Friday, February 27, 2015


79,000 words
NA Contemp​​ (no romantic elements)


It takes a lot to break 24-year-old Mariella. Even the depression pseudo-coma that delayed her graduation last year and terrified her family only phased her for a few days. But when she’s slammed with a family suicide and a melodrama-plagued funeral during her last round of finals, she doesn’t just break—
She shatters.
Mari and her family have always battled bipolar disorder—what they call la strega—but her zia’s suicide is the first casualty of their decades-long war. To keep Mari from suffering the same fate, her husband encourages her to start seeing a shrink. But when she meets Oliver, a counseling intern with a mysteriously dead bipolar brother, she becomes obsessed not with her own brokenness, but with Oliver's. After all, it's much easier to fix someone—anyone—else.
But when Mari's misguided plan to give Oliver closure breaks him instead, la strega swoops in to destroy what's left of Mari's life.
1st page:
I tell myself a lot of things every day. That my aversion to people is just a product of hormones. That someday I won’t wake up in some kind of pain. And that, even if both of those are a stretch, I’ll definitely make it to every single class.

Today, like most days, I lied.

 “You skipped all of your classes again?” Jason’s tone is stern, but he’s definitely holding back a laugh. “Sweetie, come on. You’re not in frosh or soph classes anym—”

I’d counter that even junior classes are nauseatingly easy, but he hates it when I brag. “I’m sore! And I was tired.”

The excuse sounds lame even to me, but Jason’s laugh is worth it. “You’re always tired. All of us are. It’s called ‘being in college.’”

I groan and flop back on the bed, putting him on speakerphone. I’ve only been up for three hours, but it feels like it’s been three days. “I know, I know. But I played a little more SynthLife for you. You might want to tell Uproar their dialogue guy was probably stoned when he wrote the intro.”

“Hey, it wasn’t that bad.” I can hear the frown in his voice, definitely real this time. “Especially considering Griff pulled three all-nighters in a row to write and code that on deadline.”

“Psh.” My cheeks heat up as I bite my tongue. My life seriously needs “save” and “load” buttons for these kind of foot-in-mouth situations. “I’m just saying if Uproar’s putting out a game that bad this year, maybe Griff would be better off joining you at Spigot instead of the other way around.” 


  1. Love the bipolar aspect. I think it will be hot with the agents.

  2. Pitch: The mental illness element is intriguing. If Oliver is supposed to be helping Mari, how does she wind up turning the tables on him? (I know 150 words doesn't let you give as many details as you want, but that would be good to include.)

    250: Great voice and showing the illness without a lot of telling. I still wish you could tell us somehow Jason works for a video game company before the dialogue about it to make that clearer. Mari's problem is a great hook. Good luck! (#7)

  3. I agree with Melissa about the pitch-how does she break a counselor. I was surprised she was married so early, you definitely have me hooked. I wanted to know her ethnicity too is she italian? Just guessing.

    For the 250 I'm confused about where Jason works? Is he leaving Spigot to go to Uproar? That could be more clear, otherwise why would he care about dialogue in a game made by a company he doesn't work for?

  4. Pitch: I think this story is marketable because lots of agents on MSWL are looking for stories about mental illness. I suggest streamlining the pitch and starting it with a hook sentence. IMO, the whole first paragraph can be removed, as well as the first two sentences of the next one. It's not essential for us to know her family refers to bipolar disorder as "la strega" and it can be misleading for readers who know "la strega" means "the witch." This is straight contemporary, right? No magical realism or fantasy? Maybe start with something like this: "Mariella, a young woman with bipolar disorder, begins counseling only to discover her psychiatrist is harboring a secret -- the mysterious death of his own bipolar brother."

    +1: The only suggestion I have is to move this line to the first sentence --> "Today, like most days, I lied." It's a great hook. This sentence right at the beginning of the story sets the expectation that this is an unreliable narrator. I hope she is! Premise and voice are interesting. I'd like to read it.
    (#14 OSN)

  5. Hi there! Overall, I really like this. Love the premise and the first 250. Just a few nit-picks if I were to line-edit...In your pitch, I'd change melodrama to drama. Melodrama can be a turn-off to people. Also, watch out for filler words like: just, of...unless absolutely needed. And I wasn't sure why she bit her tongue at the end.

    Good luck to you!


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