Welcome to May’s Voice Workshop with some of our amazing Pitch Wars mentors. From a Rafflecopter lottery drawing, we selected over thirty writers to participate in the workshop. Each mentor has graciously critiqued a 500 word sample that the writer chose from his or her manuscript where he or she felt they needed help with their voice. Our hope that these samples will help you with your work and that you’ll get to know some of our wonderful Pitch Wars mentors.We appreciate our mentors for giving up their time to do the critiques. If you have something encouraging to add, feel free to comment below. Please keep all comments tasteful. We will delete any inappropriate or hurtful ones.
And now we have …
Pitch Wars Mentor Kate Karyus Quinn
Kate Karyus Quinn is an avid reader and menthol chapstick addict. She has lived in California and Tennessee, but recently made the move back to her hometown of Buffalo, New York, with her husband and two children in tow. She promised them wonderful people, amazing food, and weather that would… build character. She is represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary and is the author of ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE, (DON’T YOU) FORGET ABOUT ME, and DOWN WITH THE SHINE all from HarperTeen. Kate also offers paid critiques for authors looking to further polish their work.
Kate’s 500 Word Critique . . .
YA Mystery, LGBT
As of today I am a co-conspirator. Wow. This is a great first line. I’d actually let this sit on its own line instead of connecting it to the rest of the paragraph. I don’t know if you can count being the student representative for the first years a position of power but if it is I am using it to further my nefarious purposes. Oh no. You lost me. Where did the co-conspirator stuff go? What does being a student representative have to do with it? And what exactly are her nefarious purposes? You are throwing out lots of enticing tidbits but I can’t see how any of it connects, so it’s hard to be fully drawn in. Well, that’s how I imagine my parent would see it. I’m sure the school would.
The school started all of this with my parents. Started all of what? Did something here get accidentally deleted? They forced my hand. Besides, if there is a better way to raise a liar than having my parents I’d like to hear it This sentence reads awkwardly. You’re trying to say that being raised by her parents made her a liar… but why? You keep mentioning the parents, but not with enough detail to bring them or your MC to life, a few solid examples would go a long way here or just better details. Are her parents criminals or high powered business CEO’s – it’s impossible to say at this point. They could train spies for the CIA. Smile and hold the knife behind your back. If I took Latin I could translate it for a family crest. They’d love that, actually. Ha! These last two lines are funny! They’d be even funnier though if I knew more about the who the parents are – let the reader fully in on the joke.
They taught me that a Fairfax never loses. They taught me that a Fairfax always comes out on top. So really, I am only doing what they taught me to do. But what exactly is she doing? Where is the conspiring I was promised in that first line? I don’t fish and honestly have no interest in doing so, but I’m going to use it as an analogy here anyway. Ready? That first line was a great hook but then instead of smoothly reeling the fish/reader in, you jerked and tugged at the line until the fish/reader wriggled free and swam away. My advice? Go back. Let your narrator take a deep breath, slow down, and fully explain all these enticing statements she’s throwing out there – really dig into the sorta sly sarcastic humor in the voice that seems to be trying to bubble through.
I’m not sure they will see it that way.
There’s never anyone in the library on a Saturday night. Tonight is no different. Robin is behind the desk and looks to her right when she sees me. I follow her eyes and see another student. What are the odds? She’s got her headphones in and is watching something on her laptop. I can’t imagine a reason why she would come to the library when she can do the same thing in the comfort of her dorm room. What’s the significance of this other student in the library? They just like having it to themselves?
Robin doesn’t look up when I get to the counter. She bites the side of her thumb and looks around the library instead of at my face. Why is Robin not looking at her? Is she mad? Is that just how she is?
“Hi,” she says.
“Anyone else working tonight?” I already know the answer Then why ask the question? Is it just to break the ice? To say something? What is the dynamic between the MC and Robin – right now I can’t tell.. Robin volunteers to work Saturday night so she can get her homework done in peace. The upperclassmen love her for it.
“No.” She flicks her eyes back at the movie watcher. I roll my eyes at her.
“She’s not going to bother us,” I say and step around to the other side of the desk. Robin walks off and returns with a chair for me. It’s one of those heavy wooden ones with the school crest on the back in gold. My family has half a dozen in the rec room at home. One more will join the bunch when I graduate. So they get a chair when they graduate? If I don’t get expelled.
My ancient civ textbook lands with a thud on the counter and the girl watching the movie looks up.
“Jesus, Elspeth, be careful,” Robin hisses at me. She’s such a worrier. But what exactly is she worried about? I assume this has to do with the conspiracy, which I still have no idea about. If I did then all the paranoia would make more sense. It would also add a lot more tension to the scene because I the reader would be worried too. It’s sweet, really. But taking out my textbook isn’t a crime; it’s a cover. If anyone asks we can say I came by to study for our test at the end of the week. We’re in the same class, no one will think it’s weird.
“Keep your shirt on, Hardy.”
She glares at me and sits down. In the low chairs we are invisible to anyone passing by. She opens her book to the section of the Trojan War and props it open with a pen.
“Keep my shirt on? This shirt is provided by the same scholarship that allows me to be here.”
Okay, so overall there is a lot of promise here, but what’s on the page so far feels a bit underwritten and rushed. I think if you slowed it down it would also give you a chance to play a lot more with voice. Right now I get a few bits with great voice, but mostly so much is flying past that it’s hard to really grab onto anything.
Thank you, Kate, for your critique. Interested in more 500 word voice workshops? Come back tomorrow for two more critiques. And get ready! The Pitch Wars Mentor Wishlist Blog Hop starts July 20 with the Pitch Wars submission window opening on August 3.
Books by Kate Karyus Quinn . . .
ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE Goodreads
(DON’T YOU) FORGET ABOUT ME Goodreads
AMONG THE SHADOWS Goodreads