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Day 1 (Part 2): Pitch Wars Mentor Workshop with Ernie Chiara

Monday, 26 August 2019  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

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, Ernie Chiara …

Ernie Chiara is a writer and artist from the Boston area. He loves to write about people with complex lives and hardened exteriors, people we’d pass on the streets without a second glance. When he isn’t writing or doing freelance graphic design, Ernie enjoys playing with his kids, painting, binge-watching Netflix shows, celebrating his friends’ successes, and reading as many books as humanly possible. He was a 2016 Pitch Wars mentee, and is excited to co-mentor with his former mentor, Kristen Lepionka. Ernie is represented by Michelle Richter of Fuse Literary, and is passionate about giving back to the writing community.

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Ernie’s Query Critique . . .

Adult: Paranormal

Dear [Agent Name],

As a toddler, Lara Nadeau’s mother disappeared without a trace. From that moment onward, Lara’s father never once broached the subject. The only link Lara could claim to the woman was an old picture. Now, Lara has followed in her sainted father’s footsteps to become a member of the Boston Police Department. After his unexpected passing and a hostage situation gone horribly wrong, Lara spirals into a mire of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Despite this, Lara’s intelligence and sixth sense of solving crimes keep her going, until her Captain transfers her for one misstep too far.  [Rather than beginning with so much backstory, I’d suggest condensing her history to get to the hook quicker. Something like, ‘When her revered Boston Police detective father loses his life in a hostage situation gone horribly wrong, Lara Nadeau, a BPD rookie with a legendary last name and a sixth sense for solving crimes, spirals into a mire of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Clutching the only photo of a mother she never knew—whose disappearance her father never spoke of—Lara sees her street smarts and skill set muddled by grief and addiction. When one mistake too many gets her transferred from the action of her inner city beat to a humdrum, small town assignment…”] 

Small town boredom hits Lara, until the ritualistic murder of a beloved educator sends the Eastfall community reeling, and to make matters worse the prime suspect is the police chief’s son. All eyes turn to her. Lara’s only wish is to get back to Boston and prove she can overcome her mistakes, but one death was the beginning. A sequence of peculiar murders, a revelation about her long lost mother, and a house with a mind of its own, threatens to derail Lara’s sanity, resolve, and sobriety. If she can’t solve this case in time, her chances of clearing her name, and maybe her life, are gone. [The stakes could be clearer here. Some more about what ‘in time’ implies. It wouldn’t take much—just a beat about what happens if she doesn’t act fast, and why her life is in danger if she fails to solve the crimes would help to raise stakes and increase the tension. Also, a bit more than just the brief mention of the house and her mom might do well to bookend things.]

TITLE OF BOOK is an 81,000 word paranormal police procedural with romantic elements, and has series potential. Fans of Gillian Flynn’s SHARP OBJECTS and FOX television’s SLEEPY HOLLOW might enjoy this novel.

I am a proud member of Sisters in Crime and Romance Writers of America. This is my first novel. When I am not whisked away in my imagination, I am enlightening the minds of America’s youth as a high school Social Studies teacher. I have been cobbling together stories since I can remember, and other examples of my work are available on my blog at  xxx.

[The last two paragraphs are great. Nailing down the specific genre, knowing the right comps, and wording the series potential properly are all key things you’ve done really well. And, as someone with no other writing credits who struggled with their bio paragraph, I can appreciate an excellent debut author bio, and this is definitely one. Thanks for submitting your query. I hope my critique is helpful, and I wish you the best of luck! -Ernie]

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Thank you, Ernie, for the critique! We are showcasing three mentor critiques each day leading up to the Pitch Wars 2019 submission window, so make sure to read the other two critiques for today and come back tomorrow for more. 

Filed: Workshops

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