NWBE and #LV14!

Hi, everyone!

So, I found out I made it to Round II of the Like a Virgin Contest! Tres excited for results!

Very thankful for the Pitchslam folks for opening up their critiquing to the #LV14 finalists. Just thought I’d post my info below; going to try to critique folks’ entries in a bit. (Been a hectic day)

Title: Nikita Whitfield and the Butterfly Eater

Genre: Upper Middle Grade Fantasy

Word Count: 84K

►Consider reevaluating your category. As Cherish mentioned, this really does read like an upper MG pitch/excerpt—which definitely isn’t a bad thing!
►The only thing that really confused me was the second paragraph in your 250. Nikita said graduation was exactly as she had imagined, but then she mentions mythical creatures before moving on to elaborate. That little tidbit might be better suited for later


Thirteen-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 gets there, she realizes Pemberton is more than just uniforms, trust fund kids, 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 the help of 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 so much more. It will mean standing against some of the strongest Technicians ever. It will mean confronting death for the first time. And it will mean choosing her new role in life: the avenger or the damsel.

First 250:

My sister’s graduation was exactly as I had imagined.

I didn’t know about gnomes, pixies, or talking bears back then. Needless to say, I didn’t think I would see any of them there.

Instead, I imagined that the day would be hot, that my older sister would look amazing, and that spending the day with my parents would give me a planet-sized migraine.

And I was completely right.


It was a long drive to my sister’s campus. My mother and father buzzed back and forth between themselves and the time evaporated into the warm air. My father held himself together as best he could. Operating a vehicle and answering all eight thousand of my mother’s questions was no small feat.

“Yes, I made the reservation, Lynn,” I heard him say. As good as he was at hiding his annoyance, I knew better. He only used my mother’s name when he was angry with her. Usually it was just “baby” or “Lynnie”.

My mother wasn’t as attuned to his moods. Or, more likely, she just didn’t care. Two minutes later, she had a question about the camera batteries.

The questions didn’t end. After two hours, I’d had enough. I pulled my laptop from my backpack on the floor and my hands swam around a pouch for my headphones.

No luck.

I checked my dress pocket and pulled out the black cords. For the rest of the ride, I tried to drown out my parents in bass, drums and gruff Japanese growls.


7 thoughts on “NWBE and #LV14!

  1. I really like this. Your query is intriguing and short. It gives the reader the desire to read more, and also lets us know this is a book meant for kids who are probably upper middle grade. I honestly don’t have anything to correct in the Query or the first 250.

    Good job!

  2. Terry says:

    This is going to be such a cool book. It sounds exactly like what middle-school me would have loved to get my hands on. Both the query and the first 250 are pretty solid – the main suggestion I have is to look for opportunities to pack a tighter, simpler punch. For example, take this paragraph:

    “Yes, I made the reservation, Lynn,” I heard him say. As good as he was at hiding his annoyance, I knew better. He only used my mother’s name when he was angry with her. Usually it was just “baby” or “Lynnie”.

    I love this detail, but I think you can trim it to be more powerful while pushing the reader directly into Nikita’s head. (If that makes sense.) Like this:

    “Yes, I made the reservation, Lynn.” Dad only used my mother’s name when she was on his last nerve. Usually it was just “baby” or “Lynnie”.

    Oh! And I don’t know if you have room for a line about who/what the Butterfly Eater is, but I feel like sliding something in towards the end would help the query close really well. But again, younger me would be all over this book like a cheap suit. (And older me is just as excited, without the social acceptability.)

    • Thanks for that suggestion Terry! I think it throws the next line a bit (“My mother wasn’t as attuned to his moods”), so I think I’ll have to play around with it. Wordiness is a permanent issue with me, so good catch, @_@.

      I’m unsure about the Butterfly Eater– while it’s a crucial point at the end, it’s not ultimately what Nikita’s journey’s about, but I also realize the query doesn’t address it…I’ll have to think about that, though, :-\

      Thanks again– super-excited for yours as well! 🙂

  3. Miss Alexandrina says:

    I’m not sure about “Since either of the two would quell her near-constant anxiety attacks”
    Firstly, I’m not keen on the ‘either of the two’ – ‘since both’ instead? Or ‘since these’?
    Secondly, are anxiety attacks actually ‘near-constant’? From what I know, they’re episodic, whereas anxiety itself (which, of course, is one of the major factors in leading to the actual attack) tends to be a constant, low-running illness that affects mentality and physicality.

    “It will mean standing against some of the strongest Technicians ever.” Why? I didn’t get any sense of tension between the Technicians in the previous mention of them. Is it kids competing to be the best? Or is there more of a Voldemort – external threat?

    Other than those, I think the query is good. I like how you’ve taken a concept that will no doubt have comparisons to Harry Potter and given it a twist.

    The 250 is great, too. The only thing that you might take into account if you later revise is that agents/readers might prefer you to start straight with the action, since the first three paragraphs have a kind of ‘this is what you’re going to get in the story’ feel to them.

  4. Hey! Thanks for the critique.

    Agreed on the :”either of the two”– it reads oddly to me. I’m playing with it now.

    The anxiety attacks bit was an exaggeration– the character’s a little dramatic, so I was slipping in some voice there. That said, I’m playing with this still and might strike.

    Interesting point on the Technicians bit– I’d already pointed out that she’s fighting against kingslayers and classmates, so I’d thought this wouldn’t seem too left-field. I’ll have to think about this.

    And Lord, to even have this mentioned in the same breath as HP, haha. We’ll cross that bridge when I don’t want to shred this MS.

    Thanks for the bit on the first 250. I’ve since played with this as well, but I don’t think I’ll be able to start with the action, unfortunately. I’m tied to a concept that is giving me a headache, haha. I’ll just have to cross that bridge when I get there…

    Anyway, thanks so much for the feedback– very much appreciated! Hope your Sunday is going well, 🙂

  5. Thanks for the critique on my query and 250. I’m sorry it’s taken so long to get back, but here’s my feedback on yours.

    First and foremost, this sounds like a wonderful tale! Your query is clean, as well as intriguing. My only critique is that I’m not sure where being a damsel (I’m thinking damsel in distress, which doesn’t seem like an option at all) comes into the whole story.

    For the 250:

    I’m not sure about your opening. I like the setting – driving to perfect sister’s graduation with overbearing mother and exasperated dad. I wonder, though, if you’d be better off opening with anticipatory, rather than reflective, thoughts. By starting with “my sister’s graduation was…” and then putting us in the car on the way to said graduation, you’re messing with chronology and telling us before the event that it’s pretty unexceptional. (So why should we read on?) I wonder if you could find a way to convey Nikita’s irritation with her sister and parents, and maybe throw in a stray fantastical creature on a billboard or something just for foreshadowy fun… The point is, put us right into her head. Let her grumble a bit – maybe out loud, if that’s something she’s prone to do – but definitely in her mind. The more you can SHOW (vs. tell) of the family’s dynamics, the better.

    Don’t give up. You’ve got a GREAT concept here! It sounds like a book my boys and I would love to read!

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