Welcome to the Pitch Wars Workshops with some of our amazing past and 2021 mentors. From a lottery drawing, we selected writers to receive a query and first page critique from one of our mentors. We’ll be posting some of the critiques leading up to the Pitch Wars submission window. Our hope is that these samples will help you in shining up your query and first page.
We appreciate our mentors for generously dedicating 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 Dante Medema …
Dante Medema is an author of books for young readers. Her debut novel, The Truth Project (HarperTeen / Quill Tree Books) was an Indies Introduce title as well as an Indie Next pick, and was nominated for the YALSA Quick Pick for reluctant readers in 2021. In Spring 2021 she sat as the Writer in Residence at Alaska Pacific University where she has previously guest lectured on publishing. Her sophomore novel is set to publish in spring of 2022. Dante has spoken on a variety of subjects at The Alaska Writers Conference between 2018 and 2020, and sat on the board for The Alaska Writers Guild during those same years. She is a member of SCBWI Alaska, where she’s presented as a webinar speaker. Dante was a 2020 PitchWars mentor, and is passionate about helping authors meet their goals. She lives in Anchorage, Alaska with her husband, four daughters, two pups, and a room full of alien memorabilia—and books, of course. When she’s not writing, she dabbles in baking, cake decorating, and reading up on enneagram personality types.
Dante’s upcoming release, MESSAGE NOT FOUND …
Bailey and Vanessa shared everything together: laughter, secrets, and packets of Pop Rocks to ward off bad days. But that all changed the night Vanessa left Bailey’s, headed for home, and ended up swerving off a cliff nowhere near her house. Now Bailey, who thought she knew Vanessa better than anyone in the world, is left with a million unanswered questions, and the only person with answers is gone.
To help grieve her loss, Bailey creates a chat bot in Vanessa’s likeness using years’ worth of their shared text messages and emails. The more data she uploads to the bot, the more it feels like she’s really talking to her best friend. That is, until the bot starts dropping hints that there was more going on with Vanessa than Bailey realized…A secret so big, it may have contributed to Vanessa’s death.
Dante’s critique . . .
Category: Adult Rom-Com
Twenty-one-year-old engineering student [I might delete this first part, get rid of his age, and weave the engineering student part somewhere else in the paragraph.] Aryan Anand has had many first dates over the past few years, [I’d also delete ‘over the past few years just to tighten it] but no girl has said yes to a second date. To jump-start his love life, he decides to approach the prettiest girl in college [maybe here is a good place to add the engineering part? “he decides to befriend the prettiest girl in his engineering program” or something like that] : Nadia Khan. [Maybe tighten this next part too? “He’s not delusional. He figures the best way to send his social stock market soaring is to be next to the prettiest girl on campus”—or something like that. No, his bathroom mirror doesn’t come with an Instagram filter; he knows his loneliness makes him look less interesting than a random star charting a solitary path through the sky whereas she’s as incandescent as the moon. That’s why he only wants to be her friend. Being seen with the best will send his social stock soaring into the area occupied by girls he might actually have a chance with.
But then their eyes meet. Life stops — obviously, only for Aryan, Nadia can easily notice him gazing at her like a kid gaping a chocolate donut. He does anything and everything he can to be near her and bring a smile to her face. To his surprise, his persistence pays off, and Nadia even tells she smiles the biggest for him. (Of course, after puppy GIFs) [So the first paragraph does a great job showing where Aryan is at the beginning of the story. This second paragraph should pull us in. I’d start with something like “But when Aryan finally works up the nerve to actually speak to her, it’s all over for him. One look into her eyes, and he’s done for.” Then maybe go on to say that eventually his persistence pays off, and to his surprise, she agrees to go on a date with him.]
Aryan is over the moon — literally, since Nadia is his moon. But he forgets he’s a random star, jinxed to have only misfortune. Long-distance troubles, misunderstandings, and new love interests spring up, threatening to douse the relationship in buckets of water just as it might start burning bright. [FRIEND! We need some DETAILS here! I’d love to see some specifics about their troubles and what they face. You want the agent to be begging for more details by the end!]
Now Aryan must find and embrace a new confidence and defeat his jinx, or Nadia might move on to light someone else’s sky. [I’d add this part to the last paragraph and end the query with two small paragraphs that describe 1) what the book is about –this should include comparison titles and word count as well as genre. This tells the agent who will be reading this book and where you see it on the shelf. 2) Tell us a bit about you. Do you belong to a writing organization? Are you a student? What drew you to writing this story?
“Love isn’t enough. Relationship requires more than the mere mingling of the star and the moon. Sometimes, it also needs a go ahead from the sun,” read Sid from the “Perfect Pickup Lines,” account on Instagram. [Here would be a great place to name the main character! And can you pull us into the story without a quote from someone who isn’t the main character? What is Aryan doing right now in the beginning of the story? Is he contemplating how annoying it is that his best friend is doing this? Sitting on the edge of his seat wishing for the stars to align so he can meet “the one”? We want to see where HE is!
“That sounds more like an obituary of love.”[love this line!!!!!] I joined him at the rear steps of the assembly stage of our college.
“Yeah.” Sid unfollowed the account. “I need a nice first pickup [wouldn’t him getting the number be the time for the first line?] line to text her. We exchanged numbers in the morning,” said Sid, pointing to a girl sipping coffee at the Nescafe Kiosk just opposite the stage.
“How about this?” I said, “All these arresting muffins in the background and I still can’t keep my eyes off you. You look gorgeous.”
“Wow!” Sid’s hands jumped onto his phone’s keypad as if he’d got the cheatcode for removing ads on YouTube. [Great voice!] The girl unlocked her phone; dimples appeared on her cheeks. A second later, Sid’s phone brightened with a triplet of kiss emoji. Smiling, I shook my head and stared at the sky.
“Thanks, bro. I seriously wonder how’re you still single,” said Sid.
Well, I wouldn’t have been single if I wasn’t destiny’s favourite child (Obviously, pun intended). I had used the same pickup line on a different girl a day before, and instead of kiss emojis, she had replied, “I’m on a diet. I haven’t had sugar for a week. But now I miss muffins. And chocolates. And cheesecakes. Thanks for making my job EASY!” [HA!] In hindsight, maybe I should’ve considered her candle-like figure and a cup of black coffee in her hand before texting her. But pickup lines are meant to be cheesy and funny, aren’t they? It’s ok, don’t feel bad for me. I was used to dancing to the unjust tunes of destiny.
Really great start to the first page. 1) I’d pull in Aryan’s name *somewhere* in the text. That way the reader knows who he is, and 2) weave in some more details about him. You do a great job showing what a romantic he is and that he’s trying. Can you weave in that he’s there doing homework while his friend is picking up the girl? This will weave in that he’s a student as well. Lastly, I might try to start the story with something about Aryan commenting on how he is Destiny’s leave favorite child. Pull us into the doom and gloom he’s feeling! Good luck in PW! I can’t wait to see what happens next for your story!