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, Anne Raven …
Anne Raven was born and raised along the windy coast of South Africa, and can assure everyone there are no lions roaming the streets—unless you count the feral cat next door. When not reading or writing, you can find her spending time with Luna, her giant Boerboel aka South African Mastiff puppy, taking freshly baked goods from the oven, or drinking too much coffee.
Anne loves writing in multiple genres, but her stories always tend toward darker themes with gritty edges. Her books often feature found families, resilient heroines, non-toxic alpha heroes, and vivid settings. Her romantic suspense IN THE NAME OF THE MOTHER was showcased in Pitch Wars 2017.
Anne is represented by Amanda Jain at BookEnds Literary Agency.
Ann’s query critique . . .
Sagi’s life has been defined by violence, hatred, and bigotry. After all, he’s just another Elf in the kingdom of Erehan, and therefore a slave. Benedict’s life, on the other hand, has been filled with purpose and kindness. He is a Human in the Erehinian capital, joining the King’s Army and becoming a knight [You could perhaps leave out the knight part here and stick to just the army detail as you mention Benedict as a newly-appointed knight in a below paragraph. For both Elf and Human, one thing is certain: they understand how the world works, whether they think it’s fair or not. Or so they thought. [Consider changing either “think” or “thought” so you don’t have similar words so close together.]
A secret menace has been growing for centuries, and now threatens all of Atméria. The Parsitics, bereft of souls and given power by an ancient god, will soon be ready to strike. Opposed only by the rapidly dwindling Order of Justius, it is only [Nitpicky, but you could leave out “only” as it was used earlier in this sentence.] a matter of time before the Parsitics are ready to bring Atméria to its knees.
When the threat of the Parsitics reaches its skeletal fingers into Sagi’s life, he is freed from slavery by the Order and thrown into a war against the impossible. [This is a bit vague. Clarify what the “impossible” is. I’m also curious how the Parsitic threat reaches Sagi, but you’re already at the word count limit here. If you could find a way to give specific details without making your query longer, that would be great.] A war that is being lost. On his first mission for the Order, Sagi is sent to hunt a Parsitic, and the trail leads him to the besieged fort where Benedict holds his first command as a newly-appointed knight. The Parsitic slaughters the garrison, but Sagi saves Benedict at the last moment.
Motivated first by the desire to protect his parents, then by the need to avenge them, [This is the first mention of his parents. I think you’d either need to bring this up earlier, or leave it out entirely.] Benedict joins the fight against the sinister, supernatural Parsitics. As the Order crumbles and the unlikely friends face horror after horror and loss after loss, [Specifics here would be great. Give us some clues as to the horrors and losses these two will face.] they struggle to avoid not just the death of the body, but the death of their souls as well. [Solid stakes!]
Title [Change to TITLE—the title of your book should be in all caps, while your comp titles are in italics. Weird, I know, but this is the generally accepted format.] is a dark, introspective adult fantasy novel complete at 123,000 words. [Be aware, this word count is on the high end. You have more leeway with fantasy, but for a debut, it’s best to keep it on the lower side if possible. 100-110k would be a safer range.] Touching on themes of war, racism, and religion, it will appeal to fans of Brandon Sanderson’s series The Stormlight Archives and Brent Weeks’ The Lightbringer series.
I am a waiter by necessity, a guitarist and martial artist by choice, and a writer by nature. My first story was scribbled out in multi-colored crayon and complete with written sound effects (“dun dun DUUUUUN”). Since then my writing has kept me sane, entertained friends, and even gained me a much-needed scholarship. I also was the President and Editor in Chief for The Elixir, my university’s literary magazine. Thank you for your time and consideration.
[This is a solid query—I’m intrigued!—and with a few tweaks, it could shine even better. Formatting: For query letters, there’s no need to indent the first line of each paragraph. Leave that for your manuscript. Also, it should all be single-spaced, even between paragraphs.]