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 Julie Artz
Julie Artz spent her young life sneaking into wardrobes searching for Narnia. When people thought that was creepy, she went in search of other ways to go on mystical adventures. Now she finds those long-sought doors to magical story worlds in her work as an author, editor, and book coach. An active member of the writing community, she volunteers for SCBWI and Pitch Wars and is a member of EFA and AWP. Julie lives in an enchanted forest outside of Redmond, Washington, with her husband, two strong-willed teenagers, and a trio of naughty furry familiars.
“If you’d like to learn more about how to plan a high concept story from premise to finished first draft, check out my FREE “12 Weeks to a NaNo Win” email course for three months of weekly tips, tricks, and giveaways available only to my subscribers at julieartz.com/subscribe! And follow along on Instagram as I answer your burning NaNo prep and fast drafting questions all season long.”
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Julie’s critique . . .
Middle Grade Fantasy
Tine is a lonely young dragon who has been exiled to Ireland as punishment [for what? Can you weave in a detail that gives us a sense of Tine’s personality?]. On her way down a cliff she is shocked to meet the Elf, Sean, she’s even more surprised to learn that there are many Elves hidden in Ireland [How long has Tine been on the island before she meets Sean and how does he know that he’s going to need her help to solve the issue? Puzzling through that might give this pitch’s opening more of a hook and help clarify the setup].
Sean’s parents are a problem, one he needs Tine’s help to solve. Battling it out over the legendary bulls of power his parents are in danger of ripping the land of Ireland apart and plunging it into the sea. [It’s clear that there are important stakes here, but not WHY the parents are willing to risk ripping Ireland apart or why/how Sean and Tine must stop them. Just weave in a few more specific details to ground us in the world a bit better.]
It’s up to Sean and Tine to find a way to stop the fight, save the Elves and Ireland.
If only Tine knew how to make friends it would be so much easier. [Good! High stakes friendship stories like this are great for MG. And of course, dragons are perennial favorites!]
TINÉ OF THE DRAGONS is a 57,000 word middle grade Fantasy set in Ireland, revisiting some of our oldest legends. The story has the magic of E.R. Murray with the heart of Nicole Welleby [Melleby?].
I currently manage a 15th century castle on the coast of Ireland and have been writing to sell throughout my career. I am now taking the opportunity to write the stories that have been in my head since I was entertaining my younger sister. Past roles have involved being a fire performer, working in a cemetry and running a children’s museum, all excellent sources of inspiration. [Interesting!]
I would be delighted to send further chapters or a full manuscript at your request.
Thank you for your consideration and for taking the time to meet Tine.
[The structure of this query is solid. So just clarify the opening and add more of a hook and you’ll be in great shape. Best of luck!]
It was a lovely dry crisp [beware long strings of adjectives—can you use a vivid noun/verb combo to liven this up and inject more MG voice than lovely dry crisp?] evening one of those days in summer where you think the rain is never going to come again. The light slid around the corners, bouncing off the clouds and creating dreams in the sky [I love the idea of dreams in the sky and it really sets the stage for the magical world you’re creating. I wonder if you shouldn’t start here and have your main character involved from sentence one—longing to fly up into those dream-like clouds–instead of waiting until the next sentence to introduce her]. I really wanted to stretch. On my bicycle as I pedalled to the cliffs where the light was constantly changing, flowing around the headland, running over the peaks and shallows, catching in pools before being flung from the cliff face. I abandoned the bike and raced to the cliff, I wanted to be up, floating, drifting, climbing, breathing in the air with every cell in my body [Here is your scene goal—I want to FLY! Perfect for MG–which can be central from the first sentence.]. I was running, [I would cut this because you show it so well in the next phrase: just running to be there and beginning to let my shape go…] expanding my arms, feeling bigger, freer, unfolded [.] [Cut “and”…add: Then] I was over the edge, it was all stretching out my wings, falling until the first powerful down stroke of my wings [watch the repetition of the word wing twice in this sentence] and I was….[She is over the edge already, and there’s no hint that there’s someone nearby who could grab her. Clarify. It’s OK to have a surprise, but set up for it.]
“Don’t do it, don’t do it!” someone screamed and there were arms around me, as I finished the change they gripped and dug in.
“What…?” the voice petered off[.] [Cut:, as my change completed and ]
I was full proud Dragon, lifting and flying.
“Who are you and what are you doing on me?” I felt some scrabbling on my shoulder as someone tried to grip my huge body. I turned my neck and from the corner of my eye glimpsed a green dressed figure with blond hair, clinging to my back [I’ve lost where they are in space—are they flying? Where did this green-clad figure come from?].
“You’re a Dragon!” they said. [Your instinct to include the transformation from child to dragon on page one is a good one, but there is more you can do to really immerse us in the character’s point of view, and voice in this short, intense first moment of the scene as Tine transforms, by cutting some of the wordy description and focusing on Tine’s goal in the scene—and the story as a whole—as well as her thoughts and feelings. Then just drop in the tiniest hint of where the person who grabs her comes from and you’ll have a great opening page.]