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Day 15 (Part 1) of May’s Voice Workshop with Pitch Wars Mentor Pintip Dunn

Friday, 20 May 2016  |  Posted by Heather Cashman

voice workshop

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 Pintip Dunn

Website  |  Twitter

Pintip cropped.jpgWhen my first-grade teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I replied, “An author.” Although I have pursued other interests over the years, this dream has never wavered.

I graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. I received my J.D. at Yale Law School, where I was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL. I published an article in the YALE LAW JOURNAL, entitled, “How Judges Overrule: Speech Act Theory and the Doctrine of Stare Decisis,” and received the Barry S. Kaplan Prize for best paper in Law and Literature.

I am represented by literary agent Beth Miller of Writers House. I’m a 2012 Golden Heart® finalist and a 2014 double-finalist. I’m a member of Romance Writers of AmericaWashington Romance WritersYARWA, and The Golden Network.

I live with my husband and children in Maryland.

Pintip’s 500 Word Critique . . .

MG Contemporary Fantasy

Hi! This was a great submission! I think you have a good voice, and it is very fitting for middle grade. You made me laugh and smile, so bonus points for that! Best of luck with this novel, and thanks for giving me the chance to read your first page!

Mom promised to be home by six and it’s almost six-thirty. [I would go with a more interesting first line. I like the “jack-in-the-box” reference a lot — perhaps use that line or even replace with something simple like, “Mom’s late. Again.” It gets across the gist of your first sentence in a more direct way.] I sit on the stairs and look out the front door, doing my jack-in-the-box imitation. I hear a car, I jump up. It’s not her, I sit down. [Great.]

My mind fills with what-ifs. [I would delete this sentence. It states the obvious.] What if her car broke down? What if she forgot it’s sixth grade Earth Day Night? [I know what you’re saying, but “Earth Day Night” reads weird. How about something like: “What if she forgot tonight is sixth grade Earth Day?” Something that removes Day and Night from being next to each other.] What if she’s in a meeting that’s more important than me? My stomach churns. [Typically, physical reactions come before thoughts. I would move this sentence to replace “My mind fills with what-ifs.]

A car. This has got to be her. I run to the door. It drives past. My shoulders droop and I d rest my head against the screen door. It smells musty. [I love the first four short stacatto sentences. However, I would change the structure of this last sentence, “It smells musty,” just to vary it a bit and also to show that the first four sentences were intentional by the contrast. I also would love a little more detail and physical description as to the setting, and this would be the perfect spot for it.]  

Another car. Headlights sweep across the lawn as it turns into the driveway. [The “it” here feels confusing to me because at first I thought it was referring to “headlights,” which is grammatically incorrect. I then realized you were referring to “car,” but you want to avoid these little speed bumps as much as possible so as not to pull the reader out of the story. I would replace “it” with the specific car, so as to avoid repeating of the word. Is it a grey mini-van, for example?] Finally, Mom’s home!

She gets out holding her phone to her ear and opens the back door. My little sister, Taylor, shoots out and races toward the house, dark curls bouncing. She struggles to open the door. [In these last three sentences, you’ve repeated “out,” “opens,” and “door.” It took me a moment to figure out that Taylor was shooting out of the car instead of out of the house. I think you at least need commas around the phrase “holding her phone to her ear,” but I would suggest moving the entire phrase to the end of the sentence because it feels a little awkward in the middle.]

“I have to pee!”

“But we’re late,” I say, pushing the screen open so she can wriggle past.

“It’s not my fault I have to pee.” She’s good at kindergarten logic. [Fantastic.]

She disappears around the corner while Mom hurries up the steps. I hold the door for her, too. She’s got her purse and Taylor’s backpack on one shoulder, a reusable shopping bag on the other, and her phone at her ear. [You’ve already told us she has her phone to her ear, and there’s a lot of holding doors open in these last few paragraphs.]

She holds up a finger when she sees me, but puts it down right away so she can slide the shopping bag off her arm. [I think you could delete the second half of this sentence. The action of sliding the shopping bag off her arm doesn’t add much, and it’s implied that she’ll put down her finger eventually.]

“I know,” she says to her phone, twisting around to get Taylor’s backpack disentangled from her purse. “I had a meeting at the courthouse and then I had to pick up my little one at afterschool because I have to be at Megan’s school at—,” she looks at me and mouths, “When?” [Capitalize “she.” This is a new sentence. You also don’t need a punctuation after the dash. Also did you mean “aftercare” instead of “afterschool”?]


Mom makes a little face that means I’m sorry, but keeps talking. She sits on the stairs and uses the toe of one sneaker to push off the other one, without untying it first. We’re not allowed to do that. [Lol. This made me laugh.]

She clicks off her phone without saying good-bye. She never says good-bye when she’s talking to her office. [Great characterization.]

“Where’s your brother?”

“How should I know?” He’s a junior in high school. He could be anywhere. [Love this.]

“Don’t worry, honey. I’m sure he’ll be here any minute. Have you heard from your father?” She reaches for the shopping bag and spills her work shoes out. [This is a tad bit confusing. You mean her work shoes are in the shopping bag? I don’t understand why you included the detail. Is she changing her shoes?]

“I reminded him this morning. He said he’d be here.” My voice trails off. If we were going to something for Matthew, Dad wouldn’t be late. He’d probably be early. [Great. I’d probably use ellipsis to show the voice trailing off, though.]

The back door slams and Matthew comes into the hall carrying Taylor.

“What’s for dinner?” he asks.

“We’re supposed to be at my school for Earth Day Night right now!”

Taylor wags her finger at me. “Use your inside voice,” she says, mimicking Mom. Like I need another Mom. [Good]

“Shoot, I forgot. So what are we waiting for?” [Who’s speaking here? Mom?]


Thank you, Pintip, for your critique. Interested in more 500 word voice workshops? Come back later this afternoon for another critique. 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 Pintip Dunn . . .


Amazon  | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo


Out June 28, 2016 from Kensington Teen


  • An enlightening critique, and an enjoyable excerpt, too.

  • Judy Mintz says:

    Thank you so much, Pintip. I’ve been holding my breath for my critique and I can let it out now. Your kind words puffed a bit more air under my wings, and your critique was excellent. Now it’s time to go back to work!

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