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 Mentors, Alex Reda and Renee Price …
Alex Reda is a Romanian author obsessed with the eerie beings hiding in the mountain forests and is currently persuading them onto her own pages. One of her goals is to create someone’s future OTP. When she’s not glued to her keyboard, she makes sure her cat doesn’t eat her PhD thesis, writes articles about animals and all things science, daydreams about her plot bunnies and nibbles on dark chocolate. She shares all the creepy places she finds on Instagram (@Alex__Reda) and is represented by the fabulous Natascha Morris at BookEnds.
Renée A. Price is a Brazilian lawyer and author passionate about South America, its people and cultures. When she isn’t writing awesome Latinx characters, she’s reading, walking her dog, or trying to convince her husband to spend the rest of the weekend eating popcorn and watching movies with too much special effects. She is a gif and emoji addict, a romance fanatic, and a strong believer that shipping is an art form. If you can’t travel to Curitiba/Brazil, the best place to find her is on Twitter. Renée is represented by Tricia Skinner at Fuse Literary.
Alex and Renee’s query critique . . .
New Adult: Contemporary, Interracial/Multicultural
Abby Williams had been seventeen when she found a letter and learned she’d been adopted shortly after birth. It’s taken her years to forgive her adoptive mother for not telling her, and she still wants to confront her birthmother and ask why? Why didn’t you want me? Were those just empty loving words you wrote in that letter to me? [Questions rarely work in a query and you started with the past. Start a query with the present. What’s important for your MC right now? Also, how old is your MC? Since you started with when she was seventeen, we get no sense of her now. She could anywhere between 19 and 25, and those two ages have very different characteristics and say a lot about your MC and their journey in this MS.] Unable to locate her birthmother, Abby has finally decided to put her past behind her. Now a trained chef, she opens The Jade Tamale, a restaurant specializing in Chinese-Mexican fusion cuisine, with her boyfriend and business partner, Dan Wong. [Okay, so this is the beginning of your story. She’s opening a Chinese-Mexican restaurant. Focus on where she is in the very first chapter of your novel. If that chapter deals with the past more than it does with the present, that might be an issue. A lot of writers–yours truly included–start their novels in the wrong place, but it’s an easy-ish fix once you analyze the story in its entirety. See where the action of your story really starts. That’s where you need to start your query. Weave backstory–and only the parts that are crucial to your story–in a more fluid way. Pepper them along, it will have a greater impact. So, for example, if Abby’s past somehow motivates her to open the restaurant, then make sure that’s understandable in the query. Every action and decision needs to be tied somehow. Weave in backstory in an exciting manner]
The successful restaurant soon needs additional staff and a young woman answers their ad. Elena Alvarez is convinced Abby is the sister she has been hoping to locate, but when she tells Abby, she’s shocked by her angry outburst. Attempting to convince her, Elena explains she’d learned about Abby only after their mother died, but the young chef will not listen or look at the photo Elena tries to show her. [This is a long sentence and it reads like a synopsis. Trim it down and focus on the important parts – Elena tries to convince Abby they’re family, but Abby refuses. How can you translate that as succinctly and with as much oomph as you can? Voice is important when writing a query letter. You don’t want to simply tell an agent what is happening, you want them to be invested. So show them what is unique about your story] Abby is positive Elena is a scam artist trying to get a share of her successful restaurant. Will a persistent Elena finally be able to convince Abby they are sisters? [Express the stakes better and don’t end with a question. You can find examples of how to write stakes in a query on Query Shark and a bunch of other sites. Stakes make readers–and agents!–care. What happens if Elena can’t convince Abby they’re family?]
[Also, is this story told by both Abby and Elena? Because the query switched from Abby to Elena. Even if they’re both narrating the story, it would be advisable to choose one character to be the focus of your query letter. You could try this formula for your query: 1st paragraph: introduce your main character (age, name) and her state at the start of your story; introduce the inciting incident (the situation/event that forces your protagonist into the main action of your story). 2nd paragraph: show the problems that come from the inciting incident and develop her goals. 3rd paragraph: show the stakes (what must your protagonist do to reach her goal? What are her choices, and what happens if she fails?)]
Title is a completed new adult, [New Adult is a tough category. Why exactly do you believe your story is New Adult? Remember NA isn’t only about the character’s age. Think about the themes and decide if your story is truly NA] contemporary, inter-racial/multi-cultural novel of 82,413 words. In Angelina’s Journal, a separate standalone novella of 42,651 words, Abby and Elena read their mother’s journal and decide to share it with Abby’s adoptive mother and Elena’s aunt in an effort to find answers to their remaining questions. [It’s not a good idea to talk about any other works in a query. Also, why isn’t the part described in the novella included in the MS? It seems like a bonding experience for the two of them, which could help heal old emotional wounds and bring the family together]
Family secrets have a personal meaning to me. After my mother died, I leaned she and my father had not been married and I have a half-sister somewhere. My career as a high school guidance counselor has given me an appreciation of how a family influences the development of a child. I also have a personal interest in inter-racial families as my Chinese husband and I have two children.
Thank you for your time and attention and I very much look forward to hearing from you.