Welcome to the Pitch Wars Workshops with some of our amazing past and 2020 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 Stephanie Scott …
Stephanie Scott writes young adult and romance about characters who put their passions first. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America and its online YA chapter YARWA, and a current writing mentor in online pitch contests. She enjoys dance fitness and cat memes, and Pinterest is driving her broke. Her debut ALTERATIONS about a fashion-obsessed loner who reinvents herself is a 2017 finalist for the Romance Writers of America Best First Book RITA® award.
Stephanie’s latest release, FALLING INTO PLACE …
Giving her childhood camp a second chance gives Mia new purpose, only her ex has his own agenda. Can they save the camp without destroying one another?
Mia Hammond hates her job in middle management at a soul-sucking mail-order catalog, but after her sports agent career went down in flames, well, a girl needs to keep a roof over her head, right? When a trusted friend tells her their beloved Camp Falling Pines needs help, she swallows her pride and calls her old sports contacts. Recruiting a few notable athletes to teach sports clinics could be just what the flailing camp needs.
Aaron Stanek needs a miracle to turn around his family’s expansion hockey team, before the rambunctious crew’s pranks result in losing more sponsors. Except the players only respect Aaron’s father, and his father handed Aaron the team to sort out while he recovers his health.
When Mia discovers her ex-boyfriend Aaron has a team desperately in need of positive press, it sounds like the perfect match…or it would be, if she didn’t have to work with the one person responsible for tanking her agenting career. Aaron blames himself for what happened, but in his heart, Mia is still the one who got away. For the sake of the camp, and their jobs, they vow to keep their partnership strictly professional. Keeping their feelings in check is another thing entirely.
Falling Into Place is a stand-alone romance part of a multi-author series Summer at Falling Pines Lake. If you like heartfelt romance with quirky heroines, you’ll love this second chance story.
Stephanie’s critique . . .
Category: Young Adult Contemporary
Eighteen-year-old Amber Lundgren (POV) already thinks her parents are fools with money when they lose her college fund through mismanagement. After years of booms and busts that always go bust at the wrong time, Amber resolves to stop depending on her parents for money. If she wants to move to Silicon Valley to work as a programmer she’s going to have to fund the training herself. With her dream of attending Carnegie Mellon rapidly diminishing, she enters a game coding competition that will earn her a prestigious internship, the perfect steppingstone in a career—if she wins.
[Great start! The first two lines could possibly combined for a sharper focus – clarifying what the booms and busts are with her parents and money, perhaps focusing on what that means for her personally: After years of financial insecurity, eighteen-year-old Amber Lundgren is devastated to discover her parents lost her college fund after (name the incident—bad investments, gambling, whatever it is). Then: if she wants to live in Silicon Valley… ]
Amber needs help to make her game stand out, and enlists her artistic best friend Gail to make the artwork. Gail is enthusiastic until her IP lawyer mother butts in to insist they have a contract, which requires Amber to pay Gail upfront. Amber splits her time between coding and repairing her classmates’ cell phones for cash, sacrificing sleep, her senior year grades, and her friendship with Gail, who she treats like an employee.
[I’d suggest looking for places to use strong verbs and watch for repeating words or filler – “Amber needs help to make” could be “Amber enlists her best friend Gail to make the artwork” so the line is overall more concise. I love this conflict you’re setting up as a rift between them – how does Amber feel? I’m guessing a fractured relationship with Gail could be overwhelming to Amber if she can’t trust her parents. For a book that sounds character driven, you’ll want that emotional risk and toll to be clear in the query.]
Amber can’t bear the idea of an uncertain future—or a future without her best friend. Amber must decide who future-Amber is going to be, and if the costs are worth it.
[this is great and I think it’s almost there – if you can more clearly state what the costs are – if she doesn’t do X then, or if she does X then, something spelled out so it’s clear. This can be tough but in my experience makes the most difference in a query.]
TITLE is a NN,000 word YA contemporary.
The stocking at the foot of my bed is bulging. I pick it up and feel something inside squish. Please be tartan pajamas, please be tartan pajamas…
If it’s tartan pajamas, like I asked for, that means my parents actually listened. It means they’re as happy about me getting into Carnegie Mellon early decision as I am. It means that my eighteenth birthday will start on a good note, for once.
I dump the stocking out onto my duvet. The squishy thing is stuck in the toe and I have to work to get it out. It’s wrapped in green paper—hooray, an actual Christmas present!—and I tear it open.
TARTAN. Wait. Carnegie’s tartan is green. This is blue. What the hell? I unfold the bundle to reveal a skirt that has nothing to do with where I’m going to college or what I would actually choose to wear.
Mom has failed again. I shouldn’t be so disappointed, but it still hurts.
And I’m going to have to smile about it.
[the previous two lines could be cut – the next lines detail how mom failed without explaining that she failed.]
Clearly today is going to be like every other birthday I’ve ever had. Because it’s Christmas, too, I will get half the presents and they will all be things my parents think I should want, not things I actually want. It’s so wasteful.
[I’d suggest removing the “half the presents” phrase. Some kids get nothing, so getting anything and complaining might put off some readers. The point seems to be that the parents interpret what she wants and that’s hurting her feelings rather than the quantity of gifts.]
It makes me feel like I don’t matter.
Let’s get this over with.
I head downstairs, where Bryan is making coffee, bundled up in his Rutgers University sweats. He graduates this year, too. “Morning, Rover.”
Running joke: when I was born he wanted a dog, not a sister.
“Morning, Goliath. “I have to go on my toes to ruffle his already messy hair.