#Son of a Pitch


Category: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Word Count: 83,000


Seventeen-year-old Hugo Morse is a model citizen of the 32nd century. He’s earnest and dutiful, if a tad uptight about timeship laws. Having grown up running interference between his little sisters and their demanding fleet captain mother, he’s more parent than brother, but he burns for independence on solid ground.

So, when he’s stranded in dead space controlled by a rogue AI named MAHM who’s abducted aliens from the deep past, the criminal implications make him dizzy. MAHM orders him to mentor her alien team and revive their planets, despite the grave risks to the timeline he comes from. If he doesn’t cooperate, she could space him, or, worse, erase his future and family.

Hugo tries to slow MAHM’s plans, but the aliens prove annoyingly likable. As they push back against his delays, they creep into his heart like cheerful weeds and spark his caretaker complex. He builds his own AI in secret, planning to use it to free them all from MAHM, but her time meddling attracts a worse enemy.

Moravien Tigg, a mad scientist princess from the past, will stop at nothing to get time travel for herself. Driven by a prophecy that she will save her species, she hunts Hugo across space. They clash and sparks fly, especially once a paradox casts them as reluctant allies.

Caught between the laws of time travel and his contrary heart, Hugo’s options narrow. Before MAHM or Tigg decide without him, he must choose between the utopian future he remembers and an uncertain past that already remembers him.

First 250 Words

“Harden your heart, time traveler, for the present depends on a static past.” That’s what the copper-etched warning above the nearby docking port reads, as if any of the Syndicate’s quadrillion citizens passing beneath might forget. I never will.

It’s too much pressure to dwell on, especially for my little sisters, Lorel and Nora, who stare at me with eager brown eyes. As soon as we see Earth in the forward viewing lounge of Luna Station, they push me onto a bench and drop their news bomb like luggage at my feet. They want to stay behind and party with their class while I journey to join Mother at our new colony.

At only thirteen, they’re about to achieve their first real freedom—a holiday with friends. Friends who are real people, not historical figures I program as study companions. A good brother should make them sweat this choice. Just a little.

I focus over their glossy black hair, pretending not to see hands flying to their hips. “Tell me the plan.”

“Claim human error,” Nora says in a rush. “You tell that to Uncle Bak, and convince him to tell Mother, and everything will—Why are you taking a picture?”

I lower my handheld. “Evidence for the family scrapbook. I’ll call this page ‘Nora’s descent into criminally dangerous thinking.’”

Her frown curves exactly like Mother’s. “You wouldn’t.”

“Or maybe ‘When my baby sisters pulled me to the dark side.’” I wiggle my eyebrows.

She smacks the device from my hands, but I catch it before it hits the polycrete.

==End of Sample==

spaceThank you!

I appreciate all feedback anyone cares to offer, and I will try to return critiques within a few days. If you would like to chat more about my project or yours, I’m @JessCreaden on Twitter. Thank you so much for stopping by!

For more about #SonofaPitch, check out Katie Teller’s blog.


17 thoughts on “#Son of a Pitch

  1. Hi Jess,

    It’s great to see you in Son of a Pitch! Thanks for sharing your query and first 250 with everyone. My feedback is below.


    I think you have all of the elements in place here, and your concept seems sound. My primary focus point on a future rewrite of this would center around context: both providing it earlier and changing the level of detail at which its explored.

    For example, I love the idea of a timeship, but without further description as to what it is or the implications for its existence might be, readers may not have enough of a concrete image or concept to cling to. Since timeships seem integral to your plot and who your character is as a person, I would definitely elaborate on this more with the addition of a few extra words to describe them.

    Another concept I want to know more about is “interference.” I could take a stab at what this means in context, but I’d like to be reassured since, again, it seems integral to understanding how your MC became who he is today.

    When we shift into him being stranded in space, I want to know *how* he became stranded in space. Even if you were to say something like “When a mechanical failure leaves him stranded in dead space,” etc., I think that could go a long way into better contextualizing this plot point.

    When you mention criminal implications, I again asked myself what those might be. I’m able to guess they pertain to some sort of non-interference-with-the-past clause that the AI violates, but context in this regard would again be useful to assure readers that they are reading this correctly.

    You have some solid stakes here, too, though I think it may be to your benefit to use a more precise verb than “space” regarding what may happen to your MC if he fails to obey MAHM. In this context, does “space” mean literally leave out in the cold expanse of space, or does it mean something more specific and in-world that readers who haven’t read your manuscript might not be familiar with?

    The introduction of the mad scientist seems like a great addition, though it does feel as though this is the character that ultimately serves as your MC’s long-term antagonist. If that’s the case, I’d suggest a stronger focus on her earlier on as the primary antagonist in this plot (even though it’s apparent that MAHM and Hugo’s own reluctant like for the aliens will be antagonizing forces as well).

    You also explore well the consequences of Hugo’s success or failure. I would definitely recommend the below change to the final sentence of that paragraph, though, as it will prevent a so-called “garden path” from forming and create a more clear relationship between all of the moving pieces.

    “… past that already remembers him… before MAHM or Tigg decide without him.”

    One other prose-centered bit of feedback I’d offer pertains to the query’s first line. Something about the phrase “… dutiful, if a tad uptight…” seems off to me. I keep wanting to change it to “if *not* a tad uptight,” but that also doesn’t seem quite right. If it turns out that others stumble over this as well, it may be worth a re-write. Otherwise, it may just be how my brain is forcing me to read it!

    First 250 Words:

    These are again very strong conceptually. I love the idea of opening with that bit of in-world ethos–it not only builds the world, but also plays at theme if I had to guess. You also immediately get us in-scene with your main character in an up close and personal way, while also introducing us to an immediate conflict that will not only push the plot forward, but also reveal your MC’s character. Does he choose to go outside the law, so to speak, in order to help his sisters, or does he toe the party line and do his duty, as we’re lead to believe in the query? Great work here.

    A few suggestions:

    I would change “It’s too much pressure to dwell on, especially for Lorel and Nora, my twin sisters staring at me with eager brown eyes.” to “It’s too much pressure to dwell on, especially for my twin sisters Lorel and Nora, both of whom now stare at me with eager brown eyes.”

    This change introduces the relationship before the names (so we’ll immediately understand the importance of these characters), and also helps avoid a tense or conjugation issue with the use of the gerund “staring” in the sentence’s final clause.

    You know, I thought I’d have one more suggestion for this section, but after another read, I totally see how I was misreading something in a way that was just me overthinking it.

    So I think you’re in good shape here overall! Love the opening scene, and it’s clear you have all the pieces in place based on your query–I think there may just need to be a different focus where matters of proportion and contextualization are concerned.

    Thanks again for sharing this, and never hesitate to reach out directly if you have any questions or want to bounce ideas off of me! You know where to find me on Twitter 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, RR! Your notes are great! 🙂 It’s so tricky knowing what to explain when it comes to genre norms , and, you’re right, I’ve totally leaned on expectations that the reader would simply “know” some of those things (timeship and “being spaced”). I love your suggestions about the sisters’ introduction. I’m going to do that now! Thank you again 🙂


      1. No problem at all. I’m glad you think those comments are actionable for the most part.

        If at some point you’d like that kind of analysis on all or part of your manuscript at some point, don’t hesitate to reach out! I do offer editing services and am offering discounts to SoaP participants, too!

        You can learn more at rrcampbellwrites.com/editingdiscounts 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey there! This sounds like an interesting story. I didn’t have much to add, but you can see my comments below.

    I loved the opening line, although I’m not sure what “she could space him” means. The stakes are good as well. I’m not sure, but I don’t think you need to capitalize names in queries. That’s reserved for synopses if I’m not mistaken.

    I like this opening scene. I can feel the brotherly love with his younger sisters. I like the voice as well. I got the idea that the sisters are twins since they’re both 13. Maybe you can make this clear when he mentions them (they are twins, right?).

    This is a good scene and I would read on. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Elisa! (and I took out the caps 😀 )
      You’re right, the little sisters are twins. I keep putting the word in then taking it out, back and forth, lol. I’m always hung up on thinking it will sound like they’re *his* twin sisters, like they’re the same age as Hugo.
      O.O O.O


  3. Jess,

    First, let me start by saying I am not a typical Sci-Fi reader. I like it on TV/movies, I just don’t read much of it. I almost didn’t comment, but then I thought maybe my input might be helpful since I’m not your typical target audience. Overall, I like your concept and your voice. I read over RR’s comments and thought they were great too.

    In the second paragraph, what does dead space refer to? My first thought in uninhabited space, but the rest of the paragraph reads as if he is in the past already. You might want to clarify if dead space is not a common term. I agree about defining ‘space him’ as well, just to be clear. (To me it means send someone into space with no oxygen???)

    3rd paragraph – ‘spark his caretaker complex’ The word complex gives me a stop. I know what you mean, but maybe re-word. I know you are trying to describe this trait in a unique way, and I don’t think this is a deal breaker, just giving you my thoughts. In the last sentence, is her referring to MAHM or the secret AI he is building?

    4th paragraph – MAHM is an acronym for the AI. I assume all AI’s names are in caps. Is that why MORAVIEN TIG is in all caps? It confused me for a moment because in a query, your title is usually all in caps, so since this was towards the bottom (and I hadn’t paid attention to your title at the top of the blog) it threw me. This may be unavoidable for you, but wanted to point it out.

    Last paragraph – I like your last sentence but when I first read it I didn’t realize he was already in the past so, I would definitely make it more clear in your 2nd paragraph that he time travels from the get-go.

    For your 250 words – I liked it. You have great voice and character. You jump into the dialogue and interaction between him and his sisters. I read RR’s suggestions and I agree there. I don’t see any big issues here and if there had been more, I would have kept reading 🙂 Well done.
    Hope any of this helps. If you have any questions, contact me on FB (think we are friends through PW YA) or twitter @kimberlyhayle.

    Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Jess! Swinging through, as promised 🙂


    Para one: perfect as is!

    Para two: “criminal implications” is a bit vague for someone who hasn’t read the book, IMO. Is there someway to make it more clear the what MAHM did–abducting the aliens from the past–is VERY bad and VERY illegal? Then readers can put two and two together (since you mentioned Hugo being uptight about timeship laws in para 1) and conclude that Hugo is freaking out. (That being said, I still think it’s a good idea to explicitly mention that Hugo is shocked/panicking when he discovers what MAHM has done)

    Para three: “they creep into his heart like cheerful weeds and spark his caretaker complex.” “Caught between the laws of time travel and his contrary heart, Hugo must choose between the utopian future he remembers and an uncertain past that already remembers him.”

    Looks like a solid query, Jess! Gotta run now but I’ll be back for the first 250


  5. This one definitely has the YA version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy vibe (which is a great thing). Just as a note, I avoided the other critiques, so my apologies if I repeat anything.

    Your query touches on all the needed aspects. There are only minor issues in my opinion (and it’s probably just my opinion). It starts a little slow. We don’t get the hook until paragraph two. It might work to simply drop a word or two of description and get the first sentence paragraph two into paragraph one.

    As for the hook itself…fantastic. Intriguing and it adds that 2001: A Space Odessey feel to the HGG vibe.

    I was a bit confused as to whether he was in the past or the present, but it became clearer on a second read (and after reading the opener of the 250) that he’s in the present, but because the aliens are removed from the past, that could change things. Furthermore, if I understood it correctly, he’s worried MAHM could go back in time and erase him. I only write this because I want to make sure I understood the dilemma. I guess my concern is I’m not 100% clear. If I’m the only one, then no worries!

    I’m not sure you need a few of the extra adjectives and phrases. “Like cheerful weeds” was one that felt unnecessary. Overall, it felt a bit long as there is a lot of character description. On the flip side, it is well-done in that I feel like I know every character already!

    As far as the first 250 go, anything I’d change would be nitpicky at best. I think the only line that felt awkward for me was a 17-year-old boy wiggling his eyebrows lol

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi, Jess. Great job with your query. I am not the best to give advice on queries (I suck at them), but here goes (sorry if these are repeats from comments above):

    Maybe I’m not familiar with the vernacular, but I don’t know what this means: “she could space him”

    I’m not sure these two are related: “Hugo tries to slow MAHM’s plans” and “but the aliens prove annoyingly likable”. What does the likeability of the aliens have to do with slowing MAHM’s plans? More details would be good here: how does he try to slow their plans? Does he go rogue, break rules, take risks?

    I don’t know what this means either: “Caught between the laws of time travel and his contrary heart, Hugo’s options narrow.” Something more concrete here would really cement your query.

    Maybe something more here – seems to be a big part of the story: “They clash and sparks fly”

    From what I understand, the query should provide the following:
    – Inciting event (Hugo trapped in deep space with MAHM)
    – The problem (MAHM has abducted aliens from the past and broke laws)
    – Transitional moment/decision point (Hugo delays MAHM, build own AI)
    – Unexpected event (Moravien Tigg enters picture w/ sinister motive)
    – Things go south (???)
    – Plan (Ally with Moravien Tigg? Go his own way before Moravien and MAHM decide for him)
    – Climax (Hugo must choose between the utopian future he remembers and an uncertain past)

    The better you can clarify each of these steps in the book, the better.

    DM me if you have any questions or want me to look at a revised query.


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