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 These fourteen 70th pages from unpublished manuscripts got the highest scores in the young adult category.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 Kaleigh Walter’s blog. Agents may request queries, partials, or fulls in the comments.
On Kaleigh Walter’s Blog:
- 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
- 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
The most beautiful ship in the sea
7 Words for your Main Character: Brilliant with automobiles, wolves; sucks with people
This is my method for fixing anything and everything: Step one, take it apart, piece by piece. Step two, figure out every piece’s function. Step three, realize the problem. Step four, fix it.
This method has never failed me before. But I’m starting to question it now.
I stare at the auto, and the auto stares back at me. It’s almost like it’s alive. I’ve worked on bicycles, radios, alarm clocks, and pianos, but none of them had eyes to see me like this. They were all easy to rip into. But this—gods, if I screw this up…
I try not to think about that. By mid-day the auto’s innards are laid out around it like a tree skirt, and I’m up to my elbows in grease.
I look up from my pile of spark plugs to find Eyelashes and Reid staring at me.
“She’s destroyed it. Reidy-boy, I think you’re gonna have to pay for this.”
Reid says nothing, only surveys my work as though he’s found the pinnacle of insanity.
Eyelashes continues. “Sky, darling, tell me the truth. Are you trying to get Reidy-boy here hauled off for a debt he’s never going to be able to repay?”
It’s not a bad idea.
“See that? See that face she made?” he says, giving Reid a nudge with his elbow.
Reid pushes him back. “You’re giving her ideas.”
Word Count: 77K
You sleep between East and West
7 Words for your Main Character: Army Brat, Berlin, 1961, sophisticated, ruthless, longing.
After a moment the waitress was at Chet’s table, settling a full stein in front of him. He stared at the beer. Though he was still underage by American law, the drinking age in Germany was fourteen – a fact he wasn’t able to take advantage of when his folks were around.
She returned with a couple of brötchen, a smear of goose fat and a stein of dark beer. “These are from this morning… a bit stale.” She pulled a chair around and sat down.
Chet grabbed one of the stale rolls and pulled it apart. He ate it in three bites, then self-consciously polished off the fat with a spoon.
The waitress was watching him with an amused look. “So, what’s your name?”
“Chet,” he said, wiping his mouth. “Vickery.”
“Uh-Hmmm.” The waitress shook his hand across the table, then leaned back in her chair. “And what’s your mom’s name?”
“Why are you asking me?” Chet’s brow furrowed. “What’s your mom’s name?”
“We have to be careful.”
“Yeah? Well, me too.”
She tilted her head and gazed at him through her bangs. “Here’s something you need to know.” She snapped her fingers in the air behind her head and a cigarette miraculously appeared between them, delivered by a passing busboy. “Your tunnel — the Stazi found it. Ten minutes ago. Poured concrete into the hole. It’s still wet, but you won’t be able to dig your way through it back to Friedrichstrasse.”
Word Count: 60K
The Girl with the Mousy Hair
7 Words for your Main Character: Awkward girl stays awkward; still finds happiness
We opted to leave the dance after the Brandon fiasco. My smeared mascara had left me with raccoon eyes, and Ari’s dress had begun to smell suspiciously like a urinal. Despite my profuse apologizing, she assured me that I had not, in fact, derailed her entire evening.
“What did I say earlier, Jena?” she said on the drive home.
“Never be the first person there, and never be the last to leave,” I mumbled. “I know, but I still feel bad. Maybe carpooling wasn’t the best idea—at least you could have stuck around a little while longer.”
“And do what? Entice everyone with my alluring fragrance?”
Ari certainly had a way of lifting my spirits, and I added ‘selflessness’ and ‘a good sense of humor’ to the mental checklist I kept of her. If she wasn’t already, she was quickly becoming my new favorite person.
My parents were still up and about when we arrived, and Mom gave me a questioning look as we walked in. “How did it go?”
A part of me wanted to snap at her for encouraging me to attend Homecoming in the first place, a big fat I-told-you-so hovering on the tip of my tongue. “It could have gone better,” I told her glumly.
She frowned. “Want to tell us about it?”
Dad padded over and kissed me sweetly on the head. “I’m sure you knocked everyone’s socks off.”
I would have rather knocked Brandon’s teeth out, but I restrained myself from mentioning it. “Something like that.”
Word Count: 90K
Sub-genre: Contemporary LGBTQ
In all chaos there is calculation
7 Words for your Main Character: Completely done with all this alien nonsense.
“Uh, where’s the fork?” Alex asked. There were only knives of various sizes by her plate.
“Fork?” Darnimmi blinked. “Oh. You mean those cute little knives that have the smaller knives at the end?”
“That’s—that’s actually kind of a good description, yeah. Do y’all not have those?”
“No. To be honest, they don’t seem very useful. Can they even cut through meat?”
“They aren’t for cutting.” Alex thought, This is what it must be like to talk to the little mermaid. “They’re for eating with. You know, you stab the food and, uh, put it in your mouth.” There had to be a better way to say that, but now it was too late.
“I see,” Darnimmi said in the tone of someone who didn’t see at all.
“Never mind. Knives it is.” Alex picked up what looked like a steak knife and cut the meat, using a smaller knife to hold it still.
Once she started eating, Alex forgot all about how weird the utensils were. The meat tasted like something between beef and pork, and the spicy sauce covering it all was perfect. Even the vegetables were delicious.
When Alex asked what kind of animal it was, Darnimmi gave a vague answer about the name being hard to translate. Alex stared at the meat, hoping she hadn’t fallen into a Soylent Green situation. At least it wasn’t likely to be human flesh.
Word Count: 74K
Genre: Science Fiction
An Open Book with a Torn Out Page
7 Words for your Main Character: Lover of strangeness. Disappointing mom since 1999.
For a while we sit in silence. Jake speeds around the lake, and I see boats dotting the water every so often, divers leaping off and disappearing, looking for her. I’m almost afraid to look now. If we find her, she’ll probably be a body, not a girl.
I look away from the water and down at my legs. A large bloodstain adorns the knee of my pants. At my feet lies a floppy purple hat. I pick it up and look inside at the tag. *Roxie.*
“Was this here yesterday?” I yell to Jake over the splash of the water and the roar of the motor.
“I’m not sure. I think so. Is it wet?”
Bone dry. I shake my head. “Do you think I should give this to the police, just in case?”
“I don’t know, Laur. Maybe you should hold onto it.”
He’s right. This is the only thing I have of her. She wore it only yesterday; it’s my link between then and now. I cram it onto my head, even though it’s too small for me. The wind gusts hard, so I take off the hat and run my fingers along its crushed velvet.
Jake gently brings us to a stop and sits next to me, and I’m glad I’m not alone. The silence between us spans out across the miles of water. Together we watch the sun climb over the mountains. Even though we don’t talk the whole time, Jake’s presence is like a familiar song, its melodies filling the emptiness.
Word Count: 64K
Sub-genre: Magical Realism
The games you played, you’d always win
7 Words for your Main Character: sister, granddaughter, soldier, avenger, immortal, prime vector
“It belonged to my sister,” I said.
“Of course,” she said, with a pleasant nod and sad eyes. “Thank you for your sacrifice.” She surveyed my face before she gestured for me to begin the Ukruum creed.
I hid a trembling hand behind me. “By the grace of the Forever Queen, we are granted eternal life.
Our bond with the Ukruum virus shall heal us.
It shall give us strength, abilities beyond what is human.
We are the keepers of the peace.
We are the protectors.
We pledge our bodies to serve as hosts.
Forever young, we belong to her and her alone.”
I thought of my sister, laying in a pool of her own blood in the middle of the Wharf District. My hands covered in her silver blood, until the Ukruum left her body and she bled red again. This was for her. I was one step closer to finding her real killer.
“Go on,” she said.
“Until the blood runs red.”
“The Virus is a gift, a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. Catita Johns, do you accept the immortality I offer to you now?
“I do,” I said, heart thudding. “Without hesitation.”
Our gazes locked. “First time. It has to be the eye.” She showed me the syringe filled with a clear liquid that appeared to be boiling.
Standing tall, I nodded twice.
“Don’t forget to breathe,” she whispered.
Trying to ignore the hypodermic needle coming at me, I focused on her young face. The sharp point plunged into my pupil.
Word Count: 86K
Genre: Science Fiction
She Will Be Loved
7-words for your MC: Noir-obsessed teen searches for absent father
Jill pulled at a red dress on the rack with one sleeve, slipping off the hanger. When it fell to the ground, she didn’t pick it up. Conscientious employee that I am, I ignored it.
“What’re you looking for?”
“A homecoming dress.”
“Are you going with Chris?”
She dropped another dress on the ground, hanger clattering. Looking up, I saw her cheeks flush so red her freckles blazed through her layer of Cover Girl.
I could have told her, she had nothing to fear from me. I wasn’t going to tell. Not when she was doing such a bad job of keeping the secret herself. Kissing under the stairwell, slipping notes into each other’s lockers. It didn’t take a detective to see there was something between them. Which begged the question, why was she trying to hide it at all?
Sometimes I wished I could be like Jill and go get a boy of my own. There were a few I was interested in, and, if the stares Eddie Robinson was shooting me in art class were anything to go by, at least one who’d die for a chance with me. But I wouldn’t go out with anyone, wouldn’t let them see any part of me. Not till I was sure what—if anything—it was about me that had driven Dad away.
I ignored Jill’s dirty looks and ambled over to the back wall rack, the one with the formal dresses. I skimmed my fingers over the gowns I knew so well from hours spent organizing them, quickly finding the one I had in mind. A painfully trendy dress, with its red carpet skirt and swooping neckline, green as alien blood. It was the exact color of Chris’ eyes.
“You should,” I said, offering her the dress. “Go with him. You guys look good together.”
Word Count: 62K