Have questions about submitting to Pitch Wars or just want to know what it is? Start here!


Day 2 (Part 2) of June Setting Workshop with Pitch Wars Mentor Jenni Walsh

Thursday, 2 June 2016  |  Posted by Nikki Roberti


Welcome to June’s Setting Workshop! From a Rafflecopter lottery drawing, we selected over thirty writers to participate. Each mentor has graciously critiqued a 500 word sample chosen by the writers from a place he or she felt needed help with setting. We hope that not only you’ll learn a little bit about setting that you can apply to your own writing, but that you’ll also be able to get to know some of our wonderful Pitch Wars mentors and their editing styles. We appreciate our mentors for giving up their time to do the critiques. If you have something encouraging to add, feel free to comment below. Please keep all comments tasteful. We will delete any inappropriate or hurtful ones.

And now we have …

Pitch Wars Mentor Jenni Walsh 

Jenni Walsh

Twitter | Website

Jenni L. Walsh spends her days knee deep in words in Philadelphia’s suburbia. Copywriting, freelance editing, blogging, mentoring for Pitch Wars, and authoring—she does it all, and loves every second of it.

Jenni’s passion lies in transporting readers to another world, be it in historical or contemporary settings. Becoming Bonnie (Tor, 2017) is her debut novel, telling the untold story of how church-going Bonnelyn Parker becomes half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo during the Roaring 20s. The novel has been optioned for TV/film by Edyson Entertainment.

The 500 Word Critique . . .

YA Contemporary Romance/Suspense 



The last threads of sunlight were bleeding away under a violet brushed sky (what time of year is it? Is your book set in a specific state?). Amanda bumbled along (from where? to where?) with her head down, her mind racing. She had been careless lately, taking chances in school, setting herself up to be found out. But there was no way she could get through the day without her crutch.

She continued to shuffle along the sidewalk (Suburbia? City? What are her surroundings?) until the peal of screeching rubber shattered her thoughts, jolting her insides. Her head snapped up, as a car (old? Shiny new? Expensive?) careened to a stop in front of her (Is this the only car on the street?).  

A cacophony of hoots filled the air. “Hey,” a shrill voice squealed, “Wonder if loser Amanda is on her way to Joe’s again, trying to get him to like her.”

     No…Jessica Martin. Go away!

Amidst the loud music, giggles and finger pointing (Can Amanda tell how many are in the car?), Jessica’s nasty glare fixed on her from the back seat (what does Jessica look like?). “Don’t even think you’ve got a chance with Joe Finelli. I told you to stay away from him. He is so out of your league, freak! Stop wasting his time.” Shrieks of laughter rose into the air, as the engine roared and the car sped off (Did anyone else witness this encounter? Crowded sidewalk? Or is Amanda alone?).

She stood there (what are her surroundings?), numb. Blood pounded in her ears. Her heart thudded in her chest. Of course Joe was out of her league – (a super-nice guy with brilliant green eyes and an alluring smile) See if you can avoid this structure to include a description. It’s a dump of info—a small one, but still a dump—and this type of info should be worked in a bit more organically/naturally). And a friend. A friend who felt like much more, more than just someone helping her with a problem. This was ninth grade, though. And she was an outsider (Is there something about her physical appearance that adds to the fact she’s an outsider? I’m looking for a visual representation here so I have more to picture. For example: She tugged on the ends of her purple hair.). She’d always been an outsider. Who am I kidding? He’s just being nice. She balled her tattooed hands (she probably doesn’t have ink covering her hands, but just wanted to show how adding one little word can add so much visually) into fists. The ache in her chest intensified. (Try to add in little details where they naturally fit. For example, if she wears glasses, you could add something like this: Through her smudged lenses,) She gazed up and down the empty street and drew the knife (like a steak knife or a swiss army knife? Big difference) out of her pocket, popping it open. She pushed her sleeve up (can be more specific here about her clothing), set the blade to her flesh (freckled, light, dark? Paint a picture: The red was vibrant against her pale skin, running over freckles and down her arm) and dragged it through her skin. Her heartrate accelerated. A tear dribbled down her cheek, as the pain throbbed beneath the surface and the blood streamed down her arm. Relief! But then hurt and humiliation swelled inside of her. She sank to the curb and descended into sobs. Should have been you, the voices taunted. She slumped over her knees (Pants? Dress?). The smell of blood, salty and metallic, filled her nose. A wave of nausea rolled through her. She wrapped her arms around herself, drew in a deep breath and exhaled. She gingerly rose from the curb. She would tell Joe she figured everything out and no longer needed his help. Right.

After the short walk to her grandmother’s, she climbed the front steps and peeked in the window. Bailey’s furry blonde visage filled the glass pane. He rose on his hind legs, wagging his tail and jumping up and down. He was always happy to see her. He was a dog. All he wanted was to shower her with affection – and go for long runs.

Good job! As far as setting goes, the bones of your scene are here: walking down a street, ambushed by a car of girls, showing up at her grandmother’s house. Now I suggest taking a closer look at each mini scene within this larger scene and adding more visual oompth to bring it to life. I want to hear any birds, imagine the wind swaying any trees, picture Amanda stepping over any cracks on the sidewalk, etc. What details can you add to make the scene uniquely yours and fleshed out? As you can see, I added a bunch of prompts within your excerpt. It obviously may be a disservice to answer ALL of these, so tinker with your sentences until you’ve clearly depicted the scene to your reader. Look for those spots where adding a quick word or phrase says a ton visually. Also, I know your book is contemporary because it’s labeled as such J but what about this scene would show the reader it’s current day, and not, for example, the 1950s (or whenever)? Keep going! This is a great start! 🙂

Thank you, Jenni, for your critique. Check back every weekday for the rest of our June Setting Workshop. And get ready! The Pitch Wars Mentor Wishlist Blog Hop starts July 20 with the Pitch Wars submission window opening on August 3.

Filed: Workshops

  • Susan Dalessandro says:


    Thank you so much for your critique. You gave me some great ideas to make my scene more ‘real’, make it come alive. I am going to work on it right now…and look at other scenes in my book which could use more detail to flesh out the scene.

    I really appreciate your advice. By the way, I’m also in the Philadelphia suburbs (Central Bucks County), so I guess we’re like neighbors!

    Thanks again and best of luck with your book coming out next year.

Leave a reply


We’d love your comments but ask that you please keep it polite. Although your views are definitely your own, we do not condone harassment or bullying and don’t want to see it here. We reserve the right to delete any comments for any reason, including being abusive, profane or off topic.

We're thrilled at the different ways those in our Pitch Wars community are giving back—and we encourage them to do so. However, please keep in mind that Pitch Wars is not affiliated with any of these various contests, promotions, etc., including those of our mentors and mentees. Promoting any such opportunities via our social media channels doesn't imply endorsement or affiliation. We encourage you to do your research before participating.

Pitch Wars takes a stand. ANTI-BULLYING. Click here to review our policy

Pitch Wars 2020

Blog Archives

Blog Categories

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.