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Day 12 (Part 1) of the Pitch Wars Mentor Workshops with Adrianna Cuevas

Friday, 6 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, Adrianna Cuevas … 

Adrianna Cuevas is the author of THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ, a middle grade contemporary fantasy. A proud Cuban-American, lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and son. Adrianna was a Pitch Wars mentee in 2017 and a mentor in 2018.






Adrianna’s query critique . . .

Middle Grade: Fantasy

Dear [Agent’s Name],

Drippy the Dragon has had it. [The first sentence needs stronger verbs in order to catch an agent’s attention] He’s running away from home. Enough with the teasing and bullying—all just because he can’t shoot fire like the other dragons, only water. Gallons and gallons of water.

Of course, it doesn’t help that he just flunked Flame Throwing 101. [I would reverse the order of how the information is presented in these two paragraphs. Since Drippy is your main character, you want to show the agent what he is going through at the beginning of your story. Instead of presenting effect and cause, I would try for cause and effect. It might be stronger to have the first sentence of your query be ‘Drippy the Dragon just flunked Flame Throwing 101.’ That would certainly grab my attention and make me want to read on to find out both why and what happens as a result.]

Now he’s tramping through the woods, frantically trying to avoid the Flying Dragon Search & Rescue team sent out to find him. That’s when Drippy stumbles across an eager young girl-knight, Meena the Magnificent, who suggests they should go on a quest to find a cure for Drippy’s strange affliction. [This seems to be where your story actually starts. I would recommend beginning your summary here, while weaving in the essential info from the previous paragraphs.]

They visit two quirky doctors, Dr. Death and Dr. Doom, who decide Drippy isn’t suffering from an illness—just a magic spell. They go to wise old Cantankerous the Cranky, who sends them to the kingdom’s most powerful witches—who can’t cure him, but do give Drippy a splendid new set of wings. [At this point, the query is beginning to read too much like a synopsis. I recommend condensing this down to no more than two or three brief paragraphs that showcase the stakes of your story and leave the agent wanting to read more.]

 Still desperate to find a cure and win acceptance of his fellow dragons, [These are the true stakes of your story. I would highlight this earlier in the query, take out the plot points you’ve mentioned, and allude to what will happen if Drippy fails, like you do in the last sentence of this paragraph.] Drippy learns that marauding villagers have attacked his family’s caves and stolen all the dragon eggs. Now his dragon clan is off to wreak revenge and Drippy realizes he must use his unique water-spewing talents to prevent all-out war—or start planning his parents’ funeral.

TITLE is a 33,000-word, tongue-in-cheek fantasy (think HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON meets PRINCESS BRIDE) with strong series potential that will appeal to young readers of Patricia Wrede’s DEALING WITH DRAGONS. [Excellent use of comps. They really give me a feel for the tone of your story.]

I’m a member of SCBWI and the South Bay Writers Club, a mentee in both 2018 #SunVsSnow and 2018 #WriteMentor, a 2018 SavvyAuthors Pitchfest selectee, graduate of U. of Maryland with a BA in English Lit and author of 14 tech books published by Bantam, Simon & Schuster and other top publishers. I’m also a poet, playwright, musician, composer, inventor, entrepreneur and chief cook & bottle washer. [Good bio summary]

Thank you for your time and consideration. I’d be happy to send the full manuscript on request.

Thank you, query, 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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