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, Julia Nobel …
Julia Nobel is a writing coach and middle grade author. Her childhood obsession with The Babysitters Club turned into a lifelong passion for reading and writing children’s literature. She offers writing masterclasses and courses for writers in all genres, and was a Pitch Wars Mentor in 2017. Her 4-year-old daughter likes to help her write by unplugging her computer and pressing the escape key.
Her debut middle grade novel, The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane, is being published by Sourcebooks Jaberwocky on March 5th, 2019.
Julia’s recent book release, THE MYSTERY OF BLACK HOLLOW LANE …
The first in an exciting new series, this suspenseful debut brings readers on a journey filled with secrets, mystery, and unforgettable characters.
With a dad who disappeared years ago and a mother who’s a bit too busy to parent, Emmy is shipped off to Wellsworth, a prestigious boarding school in England, where she’s sure she won’t fit in.
But then she finds a box of mysterious medallions in the attic of her home–medallions that belonged to her father. Her father who may have gone to Wellsworth.
When she arrives at school, she finds the strange symbols from the medallions etched into walls and books, which leads Emmy and her new friends, Jack and Lola, to Wellsworth’s secret society: The Order of Black Hollow Lane. Emmy can’t help but think that the society had something to do with her dad’s disappearance, and that there may be more than just dark secrets in the halls of Wellsworth.
Julia’s query critique . . .
VANISHING MESSENGERS is a 45,000-word paranormal novel intended for middle-grade readers. It is a stand-alone book with series potential. [I’d suggest making this the third paragraph so you can hook the agent with the premise right from the start]
In the wake of a nearly fatal car accident, the veil to the afterlife is partially lifted for twelve-year-old Angelita. Every day, she sees ghosts at the exact time the wreck occurred, and for the five-minute duration her heart had stopped beating. This unusual ability to perceive the departed also comes with newfound responsibilities and rules. She can’t hear what the dead are saying, and an apparition’s efficiency to pantomime can be tricky to decipher. Especially after learning one boy’s death may not have been an accident. [This is a fascinating premise! I absolutely love it!]
Relaying information to total strangers about loved ones who’ve passed is a tough position to step in to. Keeping what she’s doing a secret from her classmates so as not to be labeled a total freak is harder still. [These two sentences are a great hook—I would put them right at the top of the query] Now, finding a way to balance both realms has Angelita in one giant pickle. [The stakes need to be higher, more specific, and more intense. What is her goal, what is she trying to accomplish? What is getting in the way of her reaching this goal? Does it relate to the boy’s death? I would revisit that here if it forms a key part of the plot, because that’s a huge part of the hook in the first paragraph]
I belong to the League of Utah Writers, and my articles have been featured on BluntMoms.com, AltaMusicGroup.com, as well as in print for both The List and Transformation Magazine(s).
Thanks for your time and consideration.
[You’ve got a great premise here! For the first paragraph, I would focus on infusing it with more voice—right now it feels quite formal, and you can show more personality in an MG query. For example, ‘Relaying information to total strangers about loved ones who’ve passed is a tough position to be in. Keeping it a secret from her classmates so she doesn’t get labeled a total freak is even harder.’ Small changes that are focused on shifting away from formality will make this stronger.
Expand the second paragraph to really amp up the stakes. Focus on three things: what’s her goal, what’s getting in the way, what will happen if she fails]