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Day 11 (Part 3) of the Pitch Wars Mentor Workshops with Laurie Dennison

Thursday, 5 September 2019  |  Posted by Rochelle Karina

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, Laurie Dennison … 

Laurie DennisonLaurie Dennison grew up in Florida, but she spent more time reading than soaking up the sun. A former English teacher, she now works as an editor, consultant, and web designer at The Editor Garden, embracing the motto of cultivating craft through community. Laurie writes character-driven young adult fiction filled with complicated relationships, and she loves traveling, alternative music, and stories that grab her by the heart and don’t let go. After a few years on the west coast in California, she returned to Florida, where she lives with her family and their many pets.

Website | Twitter

Laurie’s query critique . . .

Young Adult: Contemporary

Hailey Morgan lives her life based on organization, repetition, and honesty, each necessary to calm the urges of her anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. She wants nothing more than to be normal, [I feel like we get a nice view of what Hailey is dealing with in that first sentence. The desire to feel normal can be a powerful motivator but also a pretty common one. I wonder if there might be some other specific, related desire of Hailey’s that drives her?] for her mother to stop trying to fix her with internet searches, and for her father not to go to prison for fraud, [Ah, now this is interesting. Is this possibly related to Hailey’s focus on honesty? If so, some specific details might help to tie things together.] but life seems to have other plans. [I think you could cut this last clause. We see that based on the rest of the pitch.] When she is asked to tutor neighbor and compulsive liar Cole, Hailey thinks it’s a cruel joke. The two have barely spoken in over eight years, since Cole broke her heart on his parent’s front porch. [I think you could combine these last two sentences. We see the conflict in that last line. I’m curious, though—who asks her to do this? Why would she do it? Is it related to her motivation?]

For Cole, having Hailey as a tutor is like a twisted form of karma. She is his biggest weakness [Why?], but Cole is determined to keep his secret: that his grades are in jeopardy because of hours spent secretly apprenticing at a photography studio, and that his father’s lifelong dream of him becoming an engineer is not the future he wants. 

After conflict arises [What conflict? I’d love to see the specific cause here.] thanks to their opposing personalities, Hailey gives him an ultimatum: be honest, always, or she walks away. Cole accepts her challenge and honors her Honesty Policy, showing her than even he can change with the right motivation. When the two share an unexpected kiss, Hailey must decide if she is willing to risk her heart again to the only boy to ever make her feel normal, while Cole has to face the truth behind his lies, and the fact he is still completely in love with her. [I’m not sure about ending on this line—it doesn’t feel like enough conflict for either of them to me.]

[The writing is really strong in this query. We know who these characters are, and I’d love to know more about what Hailey is doing in the story and what’s at stake for her externally. I think both the first paragraph and the last could be tightened a bit to give you more room to add specific details. 

One of the challenges in a query is knowing what to include or not include. I like pitches that give specific details, where every included item is related and connected to the others. There are lots of books that have characters with OCD and anxiety—what makes Hailey’s story different? Why does she agree to tutor the boy who broke her heart? What will she lose or gain? That same question applies to the two of them getting back together—what would they be giving up to be together? Is there some tangible thing? Maybe the reason she agreed to tutor him in the first place? With Cole, we see that he is passionate about photography, and that causes conflict for him because of his father. I’d love to see the same kind of details for Hailey. Related to the stakes in the closing sentence for Cole, I’d like to know what he’ll lose by being with Hailey, possibly his father finding out the truth?

Thank you so much for sharing your query! I hope these suggestions were helpful!]  

In line with the Netflix sensation To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (Jenny Han) and the emotional hit All Our Broken Pieces (L.D. Crichton), takes you on a journey of first love, the struggles of mental illness, and the strength it takes to fight for the truth.

I look forward to hearing from you, and hope you will be interested in reading the manuscript.

Thank you, Laurie, 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. 

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