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 These fourteen 70th pages from unpublished manuscripts got the highest scores in the adult category.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—I do the best imitation of myself
- Contemporary—We’re not broken, just bent
- Fantasy—I am Music
- Thriller—The Music Is in My Blood
- Fantasy—Only then am I human
- Romance—Cool Wind in My Hair
- Contemporary—I know right where I went wrong
- Historical—I Should’ve Worshipped Her Sooner
- Science Fiction—Coming at you like a dark horse
- Mystery—Trade Your Heroes for Ghosts
- Contemporary—The waking up is the hardest part
- Romance—Love isn’t all that it seems
- Thriller—The price of my love
- Fantasy—Take your life and make it right
I Should’ve Worshipped Her Sooner
7-words for your MC: Priest with another secret falls in love
*This excerpt is in the POV of my MC when he is a boy.*
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.” Joseph could scarcely breathe. He knew how this would begin, but he was terrified about how it would end. “Since my last Confession, which was four days ago, I accuse myself of impure thoughts. For this, and all my other sins which I cannot now remember, I am heartily sorry, and humbly ask pardon of God, and Penance and Absolution of you, Father.”
The Priest sighed. “How old are you?”
“Did you entertain impure thoughts about women generally, or about someone specific? Don’t give me a name.”
“I—I have to, Father.”
“Now you’re being disobedient!” Father Laroche barked.
Joseph started. He hoped no one else had entered the sanctuary, or at least that they didn’t understand French.
“I don’t need the foul details, boy; I just need to determine the gravity.”
“But—my impure thoughts were… about Our Lady.”
“There’s a new painting in my father’s office of the Holy Family. Our Lady, she’s nursing her Son, and you can see…”
“You looked upon the Blessed Virgin, the Queen of Heaven—the pure, inviolate, undefiled Mother of Christ and the Church, the only woman who never sinned—and instead of falling on your knees and praising her, you sinned against her?!”
Joseph had wanted to fall on his knees and praise her, too. He’d wanted to worship her. “Yes,” he managed aloud. “And I—I envied Our Lord.”
Word Count: 120k
Coming at you like a dark horse
7-words for your MC: Genetic engineering failure with emerging mind control
“How’d you get that scar?”
Dana’s fingertips darted to the two semicircle ridges above her hipbone, finding their roughness under the water. “I got bit.”
“One of the failures.”
His head turned halfway toward her, the curved sweep of his eyelashes shining in the light from the lavatory, but he didn’t look.
“They keep them locked up, you know—the failures? There’s a wing in Security with padded cells.” She tipped her head back to dunk her hair in the water, working out the mud and tangles. “Anyway, I was gathering laundry for my rounds, and this woman was sitting in her hoverchair near the bed. When I reached over to get the sheets, I felt this sharp pain.”
She didn’t tell him how the incident had rattled her. How she fled the room with the woman shrieking, “You’re an animal! Get out!” How she wondered if this woman with hopelessly flawed DNA saw something no one else saw, that Dana was something less than human. If she spoke those things, she would give them a power she could never take back.
“I didn’t tell anyone. That’s why I have a scar. No binding serum.”
His aura rippled with mild interest—and disapproval. “You should have reported it to your supervisor.”
“Maybe.” She propped herself up in the tub again. “But I felt sorry for her. You know the failures are why Genexcel lost a big chunk of government funding, right? They tried to engineer—” She stopped herself suddenly.
Word Count: 124k
Genre: Science Fiction
Trade Your Heroes for Ghosts
7-words for your MC: Psychic girl loses father, catches a killer
Kit rolled her eyes. “Ugh, Penelope? She’s exactly the kind of person that makes this place annoying.” She whipped her head to face me, her green hair flapping. “Don’t worry though. Honestly, Donn’s Hill is great. Just stick with the cool kids like me, and you’ll love it here. I promise.”
“Okay!” I shouted and waved my hands forward, indicating the road ahead of us, which Kit was currently ignoring. “I promise. Whatever. Just watch the road.”
Kit turned back to the wheel. “So why’d you move here if it wasn’t for the ghosts?”
I frowned. I’d liked the conversation a whole lot better when it was about her.
“It’s a long story,” I said at last.
Kit pointed out the window as we passed a sign that read MOYARD: 56 MI. “We’ve got time.”
I grimaced. This is what you wanted, I reminded myself. A friend, which typically involves long conversations and getting to know each other.
Minutes ticked by as I gathered my thoughts, and I stared out the window at the scenery as we passed. The road between Donn’s Hill and Moyard was a two-lane highway that cut through a dense forest. Compared to the dramatic mountains that surrounded the Salt Lake Valley, the terrain was flat and unvaried. I thought it had a drama of its own, though. With no mountains to orient myself by, I imagined it would be easy to get lost in the wilderness here.
Kit waited without speaking until I finally began.
Word Count: 83k
The waking up is the hardest part
7-words for your MC: Reviving her dreams in wake of tragedy
Annabeth liked Jenna. She found the girl’s enthusiasm strangely contagious. The scenes they shared were some of her favorite, partly because Jenna gave more than she took. A rare gift in anyone, much less a girl of sixteen.
These past few weeks, Malachi had been curiously cheerful. Not necessarily out of character, but something not often seen since Ben died.
“Hey, Annabeth.” Jenna sidled up to her with a cheeky grin. “When you find me in the woods all messed up, should I like just totally lose it? Or should I play it quiet like I’m a zombie and like not talk and just, you know, act traumatized?”
Annabeth considered the question. “I think it would depend on how you feel. How would you react if that really happened to you?”
Jenna tilted her head. “I would lose it,” she said finally. “You’d have to scrape me off you because I’d be clinging like a frickin’ spider monkey.”
“Then that’s how you should play it.” Annabeth glanced to where Malachi stood watching. “You’re friends with Malachi?”
“Is that a question?”
“I see where he gets his longwinded answers.” Jenna shrugged, shoving her bangs off her forehead. “Yeah, we’re friends. He’s an okay guy, your son. I don’t want to punch him in the face as much as I do most people.”
“A raving endorsement.”
“Yeah, well, it totally is for me. But, just so you know, I rarely want to slap you either… so it must be hereditary.”
Word Count: 77k
Love isn’t all that it seems
7-words for your MC: Determined feminist. Drunken, Victorian heiress. Accidental bride.
“Have you an answer, Joanna?” he asked. His eyes welled with a love so deep, I feared it might drown me. “Will you have me for your husband, your lover, your friend?”
A haunting silence lingered between us as I weighed my decision. It was the worst decision I’d ever had to make, as accepting would mean pinning another man’s child on him, yet denying him would mean crushing both his heart and mine.
There was no doubt I loved him. This moment was merely a drop in the bucket of Henry’s constance, and I’d valued his companionship, in the highest regard, ever since I could remember. But this. This was a different type of love. I swallowed, and dared look him in his eyes, the weight in my heart heavy enough to sink a ship.
“Have you an answer?”
I nodded, my chest aching as I searched to find the words. “Forgive me,” I whispered. “I do love you, Henry, but I… simply cannot accept.”
After his departure, I sat at Father’s desk in a strange fog, at a loss. I couldn’t guess how long it had been before Vi came to check on me.
“Are you all right, Joanna?” she asked.
“No. I’m afraid not. Not at all, Vi.”
She nodded, resting her wrinkled hand on my shoulder. “I am so sorry, dear. But you’ve done what you thought was best, and I cannot blame you. Though I daresay you may have passed on the only chance at true love you may ever be granted.”
Word Count: 77k
Sub-genre: Victorian Romance
The price of my love
7-words for your MC: Scheming, antiheroine wife of a British dictator
Julien and I had always used the Seaman’s Hall for state dinners and balls or as a kind of throne room for large assemblies. The small circular table, laid for two with a crisp tablecloth and a flowing arrangement of lilies, looked as out of place in the centre of the room as a medieval feasting table would in a suburban bungalow.
I reached out to touch one of the lilies, then spun round at a noise from the terrace behind me, as though caught in a crime.
“I thought you’d like them,” Julien said, stepping into the room and closing the glass door firmly behind him. “I want you to like this lunch. I want you to like being back here. I want you to forget what happened. But before you forget, and before we eat, I want you to tell me about it.”
I nodded, numbly. I still didn’t have my story straight in my head. Tell him the truth and throw myself on his mercy, or build on the tale of Treaty captivity that some people already seemed to believe?
“You look so beautiful,” he continued, crossing the space between us in seconds with the lopping, greyhound gait I remembered so well. “I always used to think it’d be a shame if you cut your hair, but it suits you like that.”
I couldn’t help but smile, even through my panic. I’d seen him charm prisoners before having them executed, but I always enjoyed being charmed.
Word Count: 81k
Take your life and make it right
7-words for your MC: Cynical detective meets disguised monster, endangering both
[dual POV novel; only one is shown here]
Detective Jackson rapped her knuckles against Ian’s desk. “You look like hell, Rinaldi.”
Ian rubbed his eyes. It did absolutely nothing for his alertness level. “Feel that way too.”
“Is the witchcraft case bothering you that much?”
“It’s not witchcraft.”
She crossed her arms. “You sound pretty convinced.”
At its worst, witchcraft involved animal sacrifices, not human ones. But he didn’t have enough energy to start that argument. “It’s a deranged person who thinks killing innocent people will give them something they want.”
“There’s more to it, isn’t there.”
He bit back a sigh. Jackson’s perceptiveness had served her career well, especially during the first few years when her dark skin had brought more derision than support, but he didn’t enjoy that skill being directed at him. “Have you heard of Nick Steele?”
“Who hasn’t? He sounded like a damn good detective, even if he was a bit odd.”
“He was, on both counts. My first case with him looked similar to this one.” He didn’t want to say it was identical. Jackson could make that conclusion on her own… if she chose to look into it further. “We never solved it. I’d rather not repeat the experience.”
“Tough break, but we both know some cases don’t get closed.” Her forehead furrowed. “Is that all that’s bothering you?”
“Isn’t that enough?”
“For most people, yes. You’re not most people.”
Like he’d admit the truth: the woman he’d almost called his best friend had turned out to be a monster. Literally.
Word Count: 82k