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 …
Laura is a lover of all things swoony. A fan of romantic comedies, her own stories tend to employ a little more angst and heartbreak because life is tough but, despite that, love stories happen every day. She’s inspired by the people around her who share their own stories and give her lots of material to work with. She hasn’t, however, killed off a “fictional” character for karma’s sake.
She might someday.
Her current project, which is untitled because let’s face it, often times titles change (little fact for readers) is more in keeping with her romantic comedy interest. She’s also working on her follow-up to 2020’s Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Guild Heart Awards winning book, The Reluctant Cowboy.
Laura moonlights as a yoga instructor. When not teaching, working her day job, or writing as an independent contractor, you can find her practicing her own yoga asanas or out in natures. Like a puppy, her favorite thing is to walk. And cuddle her main squeeze. She lives in the Midwest.
Laura’s recent release, The Reluctant Cowboy
Ex-cowboy-turned-stuntman Jake Smith trudges to his hometown where he’s left behind a dream he was born into, memories of a hero dad, and his ex-girlfriend who was never supposed to stay in town.
Cassie Sullivan, an ex-politician’s daughter, escaped to Lovestruck during college and now owns the Smith ranch. She’s created a life she’s proud of, even though they aren’t her dreams she’s fulfilled. When Jake returns and lassoes her in, she’s prepared for a showdown that’s percolated for seven years. That is, if she can stay angry with him for abandoning her. Because she has a secret that would’ve ended their union long ago.
Laura’s critique . . .
Trigger warning: suicide
I am seeking representation for Sex, Drugs, and Bipolar, a commercial novel complete at 81,965 words. It is the story of Will, a queer, bipolar, broken boy. As he grows up in the early 1970s, he struggles with hypersexuality, drug use, crime and mania. These issues tear apart his relationships, and result in periods of profound depression.
When he is thirty-four, Will is hospitalized for suicidal depression. His sessions with his psychiatrist are woven throughout the novel, providing Will with an opportunity for insight and nostalgia, and through their work comes a story of redemption. [I’d explore this summary a bit more plot-wise. Furthermore, I might offer the suggestion of some sort of cliffhanger or question at the end here. Make the agent or editor needing more. For instance, maybe you leave the redemption part out, so the query reader is left wondering: “Can Will be redeemed?”]
This book has been extensively workshopped at Grub Street in Boston, as well as the Cambridge Writing Workshop, and will appeal to fans of Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett and Broken by Jenny Lawson [good comps].
Bio: [You don’t need to have “Bio:”…just start with “I am a queer, bipolar author…”] I am a queer, bipolar author. I’ve published a dozen internationally successful programming books, many non-fiction articles, and I won the Human Rights Campaign’s Coming Out Award for my autobiographical essay on being a happily married bisexual. This is my first novel [You don’t need to articulate that this is your first novel. Delete]. I have a Twitter following of 13,200, and I have extensive experience creating both web sites and podcasts that can be used for promotion. [I like that you include this. Having a nice platform is important for marketing. Agents and publishers like to see that you’ve thought about this.]
[Not that this is always necessary, but feel free on your actual queries to have a phone number listed, too.]
I look at suicide out of the corner of my eye, too afraid to stare head on, helpless to look away [What a voice! The tone and mood are set immediately. Great job.]. I can feel the tears: they’re an endless wellspring, squeezing out every drop of my energy, of my hope, of my sense of who I am. I can feel my strength running down my cheeks: lifting my arms is a chore, moving from bed a Herculean task.
“I’m not sure how much of this I can handle,” I say to my wife, feeling [bolded three instances close together where “feel” is used. Try making these moments more active. What does feeling tears actually feel like? Describe that. How does this MC feel strength? Describe it. You’re utilizing first person present POV. Bring the reader in with showing versus telling. You have a beautiful story to tell] tremendous guilt about forcing her to take care of me. Maria already has enough on her hands dealing with my fourteen year old step-son Paco
“You should never have married me.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
I’m now crying outright [Show this. Ex: Tears stream down my face quicker than I can wipe them away with my palm now…]. I talk about the feeling of loss, desperation, exhaustion. I go deeper and deeper into my despair and, unable to hold back any longer, I say [,] “I’ve been thinking about killing myself.”
Maria is wonderful and loving, but perhaps most important tonight, she also has had clinical depression and so she understands [Delete what’s bolded. Unneeded]. With medication[,] she has not had a depressive episode for years. And she is the strongest person I know [I love this line].
“How long have you been thinking about that?”
“I don’t know,” I say, “maybe a few days.”
“Do you want to kill yourself[,]Will?”
“I don’t think I can take this much longer[.]”
“Listen to me. It’s time for you to check yourself into a psychiatric facility. It’s what saved my life, and you are the one always saying how much a short stabilizing hospitalization can do.”
[I like that you’ve been bold and utilized first person present POV. This way, you are able to get very deep into the mental state of your MC, which is so pertinent to your story. Also, you’ve established high stakes right away. I mean, your MC is literally in a life or death situation.]