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Day 20 (Part 3) of the Pitch Wars Mentor Workshops with Kyle T. Cowan

Saturday, 14 September 2019  |  Posted by Annette Christie

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, Kyle T. Cowan … 

Kyle T. Cowan is a gay Actor & Author. He’s appeared in The Short History Of The Long Road, Better Call Saul, Preacher, War On Everyone, Manhattan, and Odd Thomas. Sunshine is Forever, Cowan’s debut indie novel, is available in most US bookstores and Worldwide on audiobook via Audible.

Cowan is also recognized for Writing, Directing, Producing, Editing, and Starring in the indie feature film Camouflage, available via Vimeo.

Cowan graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Writing and Directing from the University of Colorado Denver in December 2010. He resides in Los Angeles and Albuquerque.

Website | Twitter


Kyle’s query critique . . .

YA: Contemporary

Dear [name],

EVA & ALEX [This title doesn’t say much about the manuscript. Would you consider changing it to something that fits a more modern YA style?] [is an]80,000-word YA contemporary romance with [alternating?]dual-POV, [and]was selected for mentorship in the 2019 #WriteMentor program. [With]offbeat humorandfamily intrigue, [comparable to] Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ Little White Lies [, this manuscript]will appeal to fans of Jessica Pennington’sLove Songs and Other Lies. [This sentence is a mouthful. Is there a way to streamline for flow?] 

[New to Austin,]seventeen-year-old Eva is trying to help her older brother stay sober, [MOVE THIS: when she meets a college freshman named Alex.] [I am not sure who you are talking about here. Alex isn’t a gender specific name, so her* could be him*]With a supermodel mom and rock stars in herfamily, [Eva prefers anonymity]to avoid the media attention surrounding them. [Who is them? Again, maybe try to be more specific] [When she meets a hot Texas college freshman cowboy named Alex, Eva]can’t get him off her mind [,]and takes a chance at letting him into her unconventional life. [From this paragraph, I am not sure I’m understanding the correlation between Eva helping her brother stay sober, meeting a guy, and her family. There is a lot packed into this opening, so I am wondering what the stakes are? There might be a bit too much character development in here for a query, and not enough plot.] 

Alex finds Eva more genuine than anyone he’s ever known, [This is a super general description. How is she genuine? What does this mean to Alex?]and he isn’t daunted by her unusual family. But [when]his ex-girlfriend pops back into the picture, his attempts to avoid her lead to [her]threatening to go public with [the scandal of] their past relationship. Alex is afraid it’ll humiliate his small-town, conservative family [,]and jeopardize Eva [‘s perception of]him. [From this second paragraph, I’m wondering if you need anything about Eva’s older brother’s sobriety? I’m also a bit confused. I understand this is alternating POV, but I am not sure I understand all the stakes. How are the stakes interconnected? What does conservative mean to Alex’s family? Can you give us some clues as to what happened in this scandalous relationship? Perhaps shorter character introductions leading into the stakes of the story would improve the query? Every action described should lead to the next action.]

As Alex tries to keep a lid on things, Eva learns some shocking facts in her family background that send her reeling. [So they both have complicated pasts? Can you allude to these facts? Are they connected to Alex? Perhaps this is a way to lead into the query? How do their pasts corelate?]Making matters worse, there’s a celebrity gossip reporter who’s hell-bent on revealing her identity. [I understand she tries to stay anonymous, but I did not gather the information about her having an alternate identity. I find this information to be interesting and believe it should be better integrated into the query]Secrets push Eva and Alex apart until they must [OMIT: choose to,]either face the truth together, or let their feelings for each other be swept away by the media storm. [I wonder if there is a way to heighten the stakes more? What themes are explored in the manuscript? What questions are you answering with this piece? I am not sure I am getting enough out of this final statement to grasp what the story is actually about.]

I’m a SCBWI member, volunteer, and critique group facilitator. I live near Austin with my musician husband. [One of my contemporary YA novels was selected as a finalist for the Joan Lowery Nixon Memorial Award at the 2018 Houston SCBWI conference. [I am not sure you should include this information, as it does not pertain to this WIP] 

Thank you so much for your consideration.

Thank you, Kyle, for the critique! We are showcasing three mentor critiques each day leading up to the Pitch Wars 2019 submission window, so make sure to read the other two critiques for today and come back tomorrow for more. 

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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.

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