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 Tricia Lynne …
Award-winning author Tricia Lynne is fluent in both sarcasm and cuss words—a combination that tends to embarrass her husband at corporate functions. A tomboy at heart, she loves hard rock, Irish whiskey, and her Midwestern roots. She’s drawn to strong, flawed heroines, and believes writing isn’t a decision one makes, but a calling one can’t resist. She currently lives in Dallas with her husband, a rescued Cane Corso, and a Clumber Spaniel puppy that terrorizes his mean-looking older sister.
Tricia critique . . .
Category: Adult Romance
Dear Pitch Wars Mentor(s),
Everyone knows Eleanor Chase is the brains behind one of the most successful summer camps in the area, even if she’s only Assistant Director. Elle’s clear vision for her future doesn’t include her professional soccer player ex. So, when he resurfaces at work and wants to make amends, Elle is torn between wanting to punch him in the face and pleading with him to help her in the midst of a tragic staffing crisis.
[This a good opening! I think it could use more detail about Elle’s goal and motivation. Be clear about what she wants for the future, and why it’s important to her. The query touches on it in the last paragraph, but I’d consider moving it up much earlier. Same goes for why she hates her ex. Why does she want to punch him? If you give the query-reader a bit more of Elle’s motivation early on, you can set up and clearly define the conflict and stakes below.]
Javier Sanchez wants two things: to give his niece the small-town upbringing he craved when he was a kid, and to win back the love he carelessly threw away almost a decade before by ‘wanting to keep his options open.’ But Elle is proving to be a challenge–she’s determined to keep him on the sidelines even after he accepts her employment offer.
[Javier could benefit from more motivation/characterization as well. Why does he want his niece to grow up in a small town and how did she come to be with him? Does he still play soccer or did something happen to halt his career? Why does he want Elle back now?
Trimming the sentences of excess words will help keep the query the appropriate length. Look for spots where you can use one word instead of two. Ex: “Javier Sanchez wants only to give his niece a small-town upbringing…”]
Sparks fly as the two face-off at the summer camp where their original romance bloomed, especially during the legendary counselor-versus-camper kickball game. When an opportunity for her coveted promotion is presented, Elle must decide to take the chance and trust Javier to or take the job across the country without him.
[The above paragraph is where you can really make the internal conflict shine. What fear is keeping Elle and Javier apart? I think you’ve hinted at it––she doesn’t trust him––but clarify why (keeping his options open is a little vague), you need the reader to be able to deduce why trusting him is an issue for her and how that connects to the external conflict of the decision to take the other job. Also, I would recommend clarifying the stakes. What is she giving up if she takes the other job? Her home town? The camp she loves? Her family?]
Complete at 84,000 words, Title of Manuscript is a standalone contemporary romance with series potential in the vein of Well Met by Jen DeLuca with the tone of Tessa Bailey’s Fix Her Up.
[Very well done and great comps! If you have any experience that relates to the story, I recommend adding it to this paragraph. “I was a camp counselor for three years, I’m a former soccer player, and an avid fan.” Also, don’t forget to thank the mentor/agent for taking the time to read and consider your query. Really great start and fun concept! Just needs a little more detail as far as GMC and stakes to make it shine. Good Luck!]
The coffee shop’s bell chimed savagely [Different word maybe? I don’t think of doorbells as savage] as Elle swung the door wide. She wanted to rip its high-pitch little heart out. Okay, so, maybe it was a tad dramatic but, in her defense, she was in desperate need of caffeine before heading into the belly of the beast (a.k.a. her office).
Huh? [Use a period instead of a question mark after Huh, or if you wanted to make it lighter, maybe, Heh.] Beast Master. Maybe that’s what her title plate on her door should read instead of Assistant Camp Director. After all, what else would you call yourself when you work[ed] with rambunctious elementary schoolers all summer long?
Shuffling between her fellow customers, Elle scanned the names of the mobile orders sitting on the counter. Not ready yet. She retrieved her phone from her pocket and scrolled the numerous messages from her assistant, all concerning the inflatable rentals scheduled to be delivered that afternoon but would instead be arriving Sunday when no one was working. [This last sentence is a bit of a run on. Perhaps break it into two.]
Elle chewed her bottom lip for a moment. [Obviously she’s thinking, but what about, and how does it make her feel? Maybe try something like, Elle chewed on her bottom lip as she considered the to-do list from hell and all the calls she needed to return.] Without fail, chaos reigned over her schedule the closer they approached opening day [,] but it was nothing she couldn’t handle. She hastily sent off several replies as well as her promised ETA when the door’s bell signaled more business for the shop. But it was the loud thunder of laughter which caused her blood to freeze.
Her traitorous body knew the sound of that particular deep rumble as every nerve stood at the ready. [Ready for what? To dart? To do the horizontal Hula?] She hesitated before turning to confirm what she knew in her soul. “Oh, fork me.” [You’ve got an excellent chance here to paint a clearer picture of Elle’s physical reaction to Javier’s voice. Did her heart race? Her stomach plummet or roll? Is she having conflicting reactions? Really make us feel the panic or excitement, or both.]
Javier Sanchez was back in town. Shit. [Perfect stopping point. It makes me want to read on]
[ This is an excellent opening! The things I’ve pointed out are really minimal and easy fixes. The places I’ve suggested you expand on Elle’s physical reactions scene will allow the reader to really get into deep POV with your main character, That little bit extra can often get overlooked, but, when added, makes a big difference in how deeply the reader connects with your heroine/hero. Really make them experience what Elle is experiencing. You’ve definitely made a good start of it––i.e., blood froze and nerve endings at the ready––just round it out a tiny bit more. This story sounds like tons of fun, and you have a very playful voice. Best of luck this year! –Tricia]