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Day 1 (Part 3) of the Pitch Wars Mentor Workshops with Lyn Liao Butler

Sunday, 29 August 2021  |  Posted by Stephanie Scott

Welcome to the Pitch Wars Workshops with some of our amazing past and 2021 mentors. From a lottery drawing, we selected writers to receive a query and first page critique from one of our mentors. We’ll be posting some of the critiques leading up to the Pitch Wars submission window. Our hope is that these samples will help you in shining up your query and first page.

We appreciate our mentors for generously dedicating 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 Lyn Liao Butler

Lyn Liao Butler

Lyn Liao Butler’s debut, The Tiger Mom’s Tale, was published on July 6, 2021 by Berkley/PRH, and her second book, Red Thread of Fate will release on February 8, 2022.

She was born in Taiwan and moved to the States when she was seven. Before becoming an author, she was a professional ballet and modern dancer, and is still a personal trainer, fitness instructor, and RYT-200 hour yoga instructor. She is an avid animal lover and fosters dogs as well as volunteers with rescues.

When she is not torturing clients or talking to imaginary characters, Lyn enjoys spending time with her FDNY husband, son (the happiest little boy in the world), their two stubborn dachshunds, and trying crazy yoga poses on a stand-up paddleboard. So far, she has not fallen into the water yet.

Website | Twitter

Lyn’s recent release, The Tiger Mom’s Tale

The Tiger Mom's Tale

In The Tiger Mom’s Tale, personal trainer Lexa Thomas must confront the scars of her past in order to embrace her true identity or turn her back on her Taiwanese heritage forever.

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Lyn’s critique

Category: Crime Fiction – Adult


Dear Mentor,

When the offer is made [What is the offer?], Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constable Debrah Thomas immediately wants to say yes. It’s an opportunity rarely afforded someone of her rank and experience [I’m still wondering what this offer is. Don’t keep the agent guessing]. But her husband, RCMP Major Crimes Investigator Liam Thomas, wants her to say no. If it were any other time, he’d help pack her bags with a supportive Atta girl, you deserve this [I like this glimpse into their marriage]. But he’s deeply embedded in a Hells Angels sting and is counting on her to be there for him and their five-year-old daughter.

[You don’t need an extra space between paragraphs for the query letter]

With mixed feelings and a crush of conscience, Debrah accepts the posting [we still don’t know what the offer or post is and I’m starting to lose interest because of that] and within weeks of arriving in Iqaluit [because I don’t know what kind of post she accepted, Iqaluit also makes me ask, what’s that?], identifies key players and methods used in a diamond smuggling operation. But the more difficult challenge – securing Bad Elf, an aeronautical GPS log – takes her to the fringes of safety and marital fidelity [How? And her own marital fidelity? Or another character’s?]. Back home, Liam’s cover is blown and Hells Angels retaliate by kidnapping their daughter, abruptly ending his fifteen year stretch of sobriety and a promise made to Debrah. The couple’s grim trajectory eventually turns around but not without unexpected casualties and trauma. [You should be more specific – tell us what the casualties or trauma is. Basically, what are Debrah’s stakes, and what would happen if she doesn’t get it? Or if she does? I’m not getting a clear picture of what this book is about. Give specifics to draw us into her story.]

(Book Title) is a completed 75,000 word crime fiction novel, was written as a sequel to my first book, but it also stands alone. [Reword this sentence – it’s really awkward. And what happened to the first book? Was it published? Did it not sell? If it didn’t, I wouldn’t mention it. This is something you can tell an agent once you have signed with one.]

My short story non-fiction credits include a publication in BioStories Literary Magazine, and Writer’s Digest contest winner. I’m an active member of Crime Writers of Canada and Sisters in Crime.

First page:

May 24

There was a time when dreams about Jess would leave Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constable Debrah Thomas feeling as if she’d been drawn and quartered. Now, five years later, the dreams filled her with comfort. Constable Jess Beckett was an old friend coming to visit, an intimate connection that death had not been able to sever. Always without speech, their living-to-dead contact was distinguished by a strong sense of knowing what they were saying to each other. Except for last night. The vivid details, vaporizing with the rising sun, left her unsettled and confused.

She was running a marathon, the path beaten and uneven, her footing unsure and unsteady. [I like the alliteration here!] In the molten light ahead she could see her colleague Andy Arnason quietly pacing the floor of a large, padlocked iron cage. He looked forlorn and defeated, like a tired circus animal that had been bred for an indentured life. She wondered why he hadn’t noticed the key in the lock, puzzled that a clever cop like Andy couldn’t escape his prison. Her husband Liam was on the path too. At first, he seemed animated, cheering her on, but as she drew closer she realized he was on his cell, absorbed in conversation. And then she saw Jess, at the top of a small hill, waiting for her at the finish line. She waved and he waved back, his smile radiant, his eyes full of love, seemingly unaware of the gaping, bloody wound in his skull where the bullet from the gun of Frank Vernon had penetrated his brainstem.

Jess had been with her at the start of this, and the one certain message she could take from the dream was that he’d be with her today at the finish. She could almost hear him whisper as she entered the lobby of the glass and metal building on the corner of St. Mary’s Avenue and Hargrave Street in the heart of downtown Winnipeg⎯endings always bring beginnings, my friend.

[I’m not sure you’re starting at the right point in your story. From this sample, I don’t know much about Debrah or her story. Most of it is a dream, so as the reader, we’re not even sure if any of the events happened. What is happening? Who is Jess to her and why does his presence or not in her dreams matter on this day? In general, I don’t think it’s a good idea to start with a dream when we don’t know anything about the MC. Get us grounded into the MC’s world or mind. Show us what is happening, so we are immediately pulled into their world. It’s okay to be vague about Jess’s involvement in whatever is happening to Debrah today, but the dream doesn’t ground us and pull us in.]

Thank you, Lyn, for the critique! We are showcasing three mentor critiques each day leading up to the Pitch Wars 2021 submission window, so make sure to read the other two critiques for today and come back tomorrow for more. 

One Comment
  • Kadie Peters says:

    Great critique. You asking questions is teaching me plenty when it comes to writing blurbs which we all suck at. I like how you break it down and how you kept putting emphasis on how important that offer is. Thanks for sharing these. I really learn a lot.

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