In the pg70pit contest, judges score entries based on the strength of their writing voice. These fourteen 70th pages from unpublished manuscripts got the highest scores in the young adult category.
The fourteen winners are divided equally between this blog and Lara Willard’s blog. Agents may request queries, partials, or fulls in the comments.
On Lara Willard’s Blog:
- Fantasy—The Most Beautiful Ship in the Sea
- Contemporary—You sleep between East and West
- Romance—The Girl with the Mousy Hair
- Science Fiction—in all chaos there is calculation
- Fantasy—An Open Book with a Torn Out Page
- Science Fiction—The games you played, you’d always win
- Contemporary—She will be loved
- Contemporary—Catch Me I’m Fallin’
- Contemporary—They’ll Stone You
- Fantasy—She blinded me with science
- Contemporary—Swing Low, Sweet Cherry
- Thriller—That this is not who I am
- Science Fiction—Find a light inside our universe now
- Science Fiction—Sing Softly, Above the Trees
Catch Me I’m Fallin’
7-words for your MC: Her own worst enemy, bulimic, broken, beautiful
“Oh. I didn’t know about your mom. I’m sorry,” I said.
“Why do people always say they’re sorry?” Panayis smirked and shook his head. “I mean, it’s not like anyone can do anything about it.”
I didn’t really know what to say, so I just watched the grass appear and disappear under the swing. The breeze rustled the leaves above us, and Fengari barked at the blowing grass hiding his stick.
“I didn’t mean to kill the conversation,” he said. “I just wanted you to know that I understand how you feel.”
“You’re right. Saying sorry is kind of stupid.” I laughed under my breath. “I just wanted…” I sighed. “I don’t know what I wanted. I guess to say I didn’t think it was fair that she died.” He smiled but said nothing. “When did she die?” Panayis sat on the grass in front of the swing. Fengari sidled up to his leg and sat down.
“When I was eleven. It happened kind of fast. One day she was making kourolakia and the next day she wasn’t.” He ran his hand back and forth over the grass.
“What’s kourolakia?” I asked.
“It’s a Greek cookie. My mom used to make the best.” He smiled at the memory. “I used to help her in the kitchen when I was little. I could show you how to make them some time, if you want.”
“Sure, that might be fun. If I don’t set anything on fire, that is.” Panayis laughed.
Word Count: 60K
They’ll Stone You
7-words for your MC: Lonely rebel artist who pushes everyone away
“Mary stopped talking to me,” Ms. Malvern says. “Dyed her hair. Failed her classes. Had sex with boys, and with girls. Did drugs.”
Mary hangs her head, and her blond hair swings forward to cover her face. I see where this is going. It’s starting to sound like SAFE’s website. The old Mary sounds kind of cool. I don’t think she’d like that SAFE took my sketchbook, or my Led Zeppelin t-shirt. Whatever happened to change her, I don’t like the new Mary.
“We sent Mary to one reform school after another. Nothing worked. Then, I sent her to a program in Arizona that specialized in tough cases. They had strict rules, a lot of structure. Group therapy, like this. Peer mentors, wilderness therapy, too.”
Mary looks up, and wipes her cheek. She seems small in her seat, and I can’t tell if she’s acting or really crying. “We went on this wilderness hike, and it was amazing. It was like, the mountain air made me see more clearly. I started to go along with the program. To actually try.”
“Mary told me she was ready to grow up, start taking care of herself and making better decisions,” Ms. Malvern says.
Mary nods along.
“When Mary graduated from the program, she was a different person. Calmer. More mature.”
“I told Mom we should start another program like the one in Arizona,” Mary says. “So other kids could have the same opportunity.”
Word Count: 70K
She blinded me with science
7-words for your MC: Juvenile delinquent with magic powers and ptsd
IV stands clustered around the tarp-covered table, their transparent tubes dangling like jellyfish coils.
“What are they using that stuff for?” Ninette asked.
“Experiment 36-A, obviously,” Mom said.
“No, I mean–”
A door opened, and CEO Richard Halaby walked onscreen. He looked just like his picture, handsome with the kind of all-American blandness that feels like it’s been ordered out of a catalog. He had a square jaw. Tan hair. Green eyes. His black shoes were so mirror-shiny, you could use the reflection to brush your teeth.
I heard Mom’s breath catch. A dark-haired woman wearing a lab coat and Pepto-Bismol-pink lipstick followed him in, trailed by a teenage girl in a hospital gown.
“That’s one of the girls who disappeared,” I said.
Mom nodded. “Marie Gunter. She vanished December 22, 2012 while biking home from a Mayan Calendar party.”
The girl was as bald as an eight ball. Her hair would probably be dark brown, the same color as her eyelashes.
“Why’d they shave her head?” Ninette asked.
“It’s brilliant, really,” Mom said. “Slicers can use old hair samples to find people. Like calls to like, unless there’s no hair left to trace.”
“You never told me that,” I said. “You could have done that for Liam. He sheds like a goat.”
“I did do it for Liam,” Mom said. “Nothing happened. I thought it was because he was dead. You were already so worried, I didn’t want you to lose hope.”
Does she think I’m a glass doll? “You can’t just–”
“Look,” Ninette said.
Word Count: 87K
Sub-genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Swing Low, Sweet Cherry
7-words for your MC: Superstitious teen wants her Hollywood happy ending
I allow my eyes to wander about the room as he trails lazy kisses across my abdomen. There’s a photo of us from New Year’s Eve tacked on the bulletin board over his desk, which I haven’t seen before. I’m smiling and toasting the camera and he’s kissing the side of my face, and we look like we could be the lead hot couple in some teen romantic comedy.
And then I see it. Just as I’m about to close my eyes from the sheer bliss of having my incredibly hot boyfriend kiss every inch of my body, I catch sight of a VHS on his desk with a title scrawled in marker. I gasp and push Paul off of me.
“What is that?” My throat feels tight from too much sensation and the sheer desire to cry.
“What?” He’s looking around wildly, probably wondering if he left some of his porn collection in plain view, and then his eyes follow to where I’m pointing.
SCREENER COPY: SAVING PRIVATE RYAN
“Why do you have that?”
Paul’s eyes widen. “Oh, hell no, Liv. You are not going to get pissed about this.” His mouth, which had been warm against my skin only moments before, is now set in an awful tight line.
“Tim’s aunt has connections. I wanted to watch it again,” he says.
My whole body has broken out in goose bumps. Not the good, I’m-so-turned-on kind, but the bad my-skin-is-totally-crawling kind.
“But why does it have to be that one?”
Word Count: 72K
That this is not who I am
7-words for your MC: Assumes sister’s identity to find her killer
“It sickens me to think of how this place is ruined.”
“It doesn’t have to be. I don’t think a place is evil. I think people can be, but what did a tree or a river ever do to you?”
He held out his hand, his smile helping me focus on the present and not on the hopeless memories of last minutes lived, last breaths taken.
We were almost to the car when I asked him, “Why do you hide how smart you really are?”
He jumped over a log, keeping me steady as I walked along the edge. “I don’t hide. I just don’t talk about certain things with everyone. It’s easier that way.”
“You’re a computer genius who reads about psychopathy for fun. Then you pretend all you’re about is football and driving fast. You don’t think that’s lying?”
“I told you,” he said, with a lazy grin. “I would think you would understand more than most.”
I frowned, his zing finding its target. “I understand why I’m lying to everyone. It’s to find a killer. But you hide how smart you are to fit in and be popular. Mia did the same thing. Why do you do it?”
He was quiet while we walked to the car and piled back in. I snuck sidelong glances as he backed out and dodged a pack of bicyclists.
“I’m sorry,” I blurted, hugging his jacket to me. “I was out of line. It’s your business and I didn’t mean to say–”
Word Count: 88K
Find a light inside our universe now
7-words for your MC: Socially handicapped, species challenged, and intergalactically pursued
Marcum stood at his locker with an armload of books. He had no intention of leaving such valuable intelligence locked in the flimsy blue metal cage. He would ask Selina—he meant the time-bender, he had to stop thinking of her too personally—he’d ask the time-bender for help with the homework as a way to lure her away. The words to woo her to his spaceship were poised on his tongue, but he was going to lose focus with all the attention he was receiving from several passing students. They flung multiple idiomatic salutations his way. Friendly species. They were quickly growing on him.
“Catchya later, Marc,” a girl who’d been at his lunch table called.
“Later,” Marcum echoed, reflecting on the marvelous pies. He had eaten two red, two blue, and one called apple.
“Don’t forget to do the math homework,” another girl called, a slim female much taller than Sel—the time-bender.
“Homework,” Marcum nodded.
“Hey, dude, you should come on down to the gym for B-ball tryouts.” A lanky boy from an earlier class slapped him on the back as he went around Marcum to open the locker on the other side.
Marcum sprang into a defensive pose then relaxed and repeated the last word under his breath. What the Gleezhe was a tryout? And where on earth was the time-bender? A chill went up his vertebrae as he imagined Coreg whisking her out of the building right under his nose.
The chill reversed course as he spotted Coreg coming down the hallway with her.
Word Count: 68K
Genre: Science Fiction
Sing Softly, Above the Trees
7-words for your MC: Girl gets second chance with dead boyfriend
The jacket was worn in the elbows and the collar, and while I wasn’t close enough to touch it, my fingers distinctly remembered the grainy texture of those faded spots. The boy’s hair, an overgrown mess, curved around his jaw, and though I couldn’t see his face, I could imagine the way that hair fell across his eyes so perfectly lazy. My hands itched to brush the stray strands away, even though I couldn’t have possibly known they were there. I blinked hard to force the mirage to go away, but nothing happened. The boy made his purchase and tucked a paper wrapped book under his arm as he darted out the front door. It took exactly one second for my legs to begin sprinting after him, charging in hot pursuit of the stranger wearing the cologne Jack’s mother had bought him one Christmas and the bomber jacket he had been given by his grandfather eight years before.
He doesn’t exist, Joanna. My brain was protesting but my legs continued their chase. I kept a few paces behind as my guide piloted me down the crowded roads. He coiled around the first corner, slipping past the afternoon foot traffic, and wound his way from street to street until he stopped in front of a gated garden. Hiding myself behind a stop sign, I kept my eyes fastened to the boy’s jacket, waiting silently as he lifted his left hand and opened the entryway. Jack was left-handed.
Jack is dead, Joanna.
Word Count: 79K
Genre: Science Fiction