Welcome to the Pitch Wars Workshops with some of our amazing past and 2019 mentors. From a lottery drawing, we selected writers to receive a query or first page critique from one of our mentors. Each mentor has graciously critiqued a query or first page from our lucky winners. We’ll be posting some of the critiques leading up to the submission window. Our hope is that these samples will help you all get an idea on how to shine up your query and first page.
We appreciate our mentors for giving their time to do the critiques. If you have something encouraging to add, feel free to comment below. Please keep all comments tasteful. Our comments are set to moderate, and we will delete any inappropriate or hurtful ones before approving them.
Next up we have …
Pitch Wars Mentor, Graci Kim …
Graci Kim is a MG/YA author of Korean-Kiwi extraction, currently living in Middle Earth, aka New Zealand. She has an insatiable interest in all things supernatural (witches and ghosts never get old), and writes contemporary fantasy novels about girls who are full of dreams and hungry for magic. She grew up wishing she could read books about girls who looked like her, so now she’s committed to putting her diversity onto the page.
When she’s not writing, you can find her knitting aesthetically-challenged scarves, eating all the things, and probably asking for directions. She also believes most of our daily problems can be solved by hugging a dog (or ideally, many). Graci is represented by Carrie Pestritto of Laura Dail Literary Agency.
Graci’s Query Critique . . .
Middle Grade: Paranormal
When eleven-year-old Jack’s parents [totally optional of course, but here’s an opportunity to add an adjective or two to give the agent an immediate sense of Jack’s character – e.g. “When cautious, routine-loving eleven-year-old Jack LastName’s parents…”] get their newest assignment to manage a transition program [can you elaborate on what a ‘transition program’ is so we get a better sense of Jack’s nomadic life? The first line is your best opportunity to grab the agent’s attention, and sometimes the more specific the detail, the more hooky it can be!], he’s annoyed to be moving again. This time the move takes them to the middle of nowhere [if your story is set in a real-world location, it would be great to include that here so we are grounded in a setting – e.g. “…takes them to the middle of nowhere in Carmen, Oklahoma, with…”] with nothing to do but count oil derricks and watch the wheat grow. He’s less than thrilled the building [what building? Does this have something to do with the ‘transition program’? Or is this the building they are now living in? It would be great to clarify this as it’s the first time we are learning about the ‘building’ which we later find out is a crucial part of the story. Perhaps you could consider something along the lines of: “What’s worse, Jack and his parents move into the town’s old Children’s Home that has a super creepy past.”] has an even creepier past. It’s been everything from an orphanage to an asylum.
[I wonder if this is a good place to introduce the friendly orphans first. Leaving it until you introduce the sinister spirit doesn’t leave much opportunity for us to digest the realization the building is haunted by these ghosts. For example, you could start the paragraph with something along the lines of: “It’s not all bad at the Children’s Home though. Sure, it might be haunted. But the ghosts are friendly orphans who never left after the [insert incident that trapped them there]. But after Jack receives a warning…”] After Jack receives a warning from a sinister spirit: Leave, the friendly orphans who never left rush to his side to protect him from their sworn enemy. [How does Jack feel about what is happening? Does he feel belonging with these friendly orphans? Does he want to stay forever? This is a good opportunity to add a quick line about how he’s reacting to the events around him, so we get an idea of where he is in his character arc.] Once they discover he desperately wants to live in one place, they invite him to stay forever.
Just one problem. The [sinister] spirit he’s feared from the beginning pesters him with messages of doom about his translucent pals. [I think you could unpack this more and be more specific. Does the sinister spirit tell Jack that his new pals are not to be trusted? That they haven’t told him the truth of their demise? What is it that the spirit tells Jack that raises his hackles?] Jack doesn’t know who to believe after a frenemies situation arises and a few mysterious mishaps leave him confused [Again, I think it would be useful to spell this out. What exactly is a ‘frenemies situation’ and what type of mysterious mishaps has him feeling confused? Give us a bit more to sink our teeth into so we understand how the stakes are being raised]. He sets out to discover the truth, including seeking out the one spirit who scares him to his bones [Is this the same sinister spirit that told him to leave? If so, perhaps clarify this by letting the reader know what exactly he has to do to seek out the truth. What is the task he must overcome in order to save him, and potentially his friends?]. Jack must decide who to trust and the reason for the hauntings before he finds himself buried in the next grave or [as] the next child ghost. [Nice showing of the stakes here]
TITLE OF BOOK Title of Book is a middle grade ghost story complete at 35,000 words and is for fans of Mary Downing Hahn and of Coraline [The general rule is that unpublished book titles are capitalised, while published book titles are in italics]. It’s a standalone, but has the potential for a sequel. I am a current member of SCBWI and of Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture Book Challenge. I’ve recently received the honor of being long-listed for the 2019 Write Mentor Children’s Novel Award. [Congrats! J] If you would like to see the real building that inspired this story you can find it by searching: Carmen Oklahoma IOOF Home or go to Okielegacy.net/carmenhome. I drive by it at least once a month and I’m dying to go inside. [Nice way of ending the query with the inspiration behind your story. I definitely clicked to have a look!]