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, Layne Fargo …
Layne Fargo is a thriller author and the cocreator of the podcast Unlikeable Female Characters. Her 2017 Pitch Wars novel, TEMPER, was recently published by Scout Press/Simon & Schuster, and her second book LEARN HER WRATH will hit shelves in 2020. Layne lives in Chicago with her partner and their pets.
Layne’s latest release…
For fans of the high-stakes tension of the New York Times bestsellers Luckiest Girl Alive and The Lying Game, a razor-sharp page-turner about female ambition and what happens when fake violence draws real blood…
After years of struggling in the Chicago theater scene, ambitious actress Kira Rascher finally lands the role of a lifetime. The catch? Starring in Temper means working with Malcolm Mercer, a mercurial director who’s known for pushing his performers past their limits—onstage and off.
Kira’s convinced she can handle Malcolm, but the theater’s cofounder Joanna Cuyler is another story. Joanna sees Kira as a threat—to her own thwarted artistic aspirations, her twisted relationship with Malcolm, and the shocking secret she’s keeping about the upcoming production. But as opening night draws near, Kira and Joanna both start to realize that Malcolm’s dangerous extremes are nothing compared to what they’re capable of themselves.
An edgy, addictive, and fiendishly clever tale of ambition, deceit, and power, Temper is a timely, heart-in-your-throat psychological thriller that will leave you breathless.
Layne’s first page critique . . .
Adult Contemporary Romance/Women’s Fiction
Poppy Parker sneezed into the cardboard box, lifting the dusty flaps to reveal the potential treasure inside. [Nice opening line, but the rest of the paragraph is a lot of exposition for a novel opening. I’d recommend jumping right into the action of the scene, then filling in the rest of this information as you go.] It was the last box of five purchased at an estate auction in Long Island. The past two months she’d been scouring online auctions, estate sales, and flea markets across the Northeast in search of vintage designer merchandise for her clothing boutique, The West Garden. When she wasn’t working in the store or winning auctions, she was elbow deep in old stuff like a fashion archeologist.
Wiping her nose and pulling her ponytail tight, she dug in, pulling out a silk scarf full of holes and splotched with dark yellow mystery stains. [How does she feel about this? Disgusted? Or is she used to this sort of thing by now?] Poppy tossed it into the discard box and grabbed the next item, a crumbling straw bag. Inside the bag was a two-dollar bill, a metal lipstick tube, and a velvet pouch with a beautiful rhinestone brooch in the shape of two swans, one black and one white. [Unless this item will be important later, I wouldn’t describe it in such detail. Though again, I’m wondering about her thoughts—is she excited to find the brooch? Does she need the money, or is that amount of cash insignificant to her?] She set the sparkling brooch to the side, pocketed the bill, threw away the lipstick and reached for the next thing.
Happy came on her Pandora station and she turned it up a notch. A funny pair of brass shoe clips went in the donate box. A fabulous Dior clutch in mustard patent leather was hidden beneath a half dozen yucky polyester scarves. The music was still turned up when Sweetest Goodbye started playing, seizing her lungs and thickening her throat with memories of her first and only love, Josh. The entire Songs About Jane album reminded her of her husband, the first man she’d ever loved. The first one to break her heart by leaving her widowed before her twenty-eighth birthday, forcing her to move on alone. [Consider saving the details about what happened to her husband for a little later in the chapter, if not even later in the book. You could make the reader curious about how he broke her heart, then reveal all at a time when it will have maximum emotional impact.] Sitting back on her heels, nose stinging, she pressed the backs of her hands into her face, the only part of her not totally filthy with dust and vintage grime.
Turning off the radio, wiping her eyes on the sleeve of Josh’s old tee shirt she wore [Great detail!], Poppy finished the box. She had too much to do to be interrupted by her grief every time a song came on reminding her of the loss.
She stood and went to the kitchen for Ibuprofen and a glass of water to combat the headache crying always gave her. Next, she thought about her task, her life, everything. Move on to the what’s next. [This is excellent, it tells the reader a lot about Poppy’s personality and hints at what the conflict in the book might be.]