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, Sam Taylor …
Sam Taylor grew up in Arizona’s deserts and now lives among Connecticut’s trees. She spends her days writing, being mom to the world’s cutest baby, whirling through dance workouts, and baking too many cakes. She does not possess fire magic, but does have one fire-colored cat.
Sam’s upcoming release…
Flint, Flare, Flame
Coming Winter 2021, Swoon Reads/Macmillan
Oksana and Pran weren’t born fire-breathing monsters. But the Vesimaan Empire kidnapped them. Transformed them. Demonized them.
Now spitting flames and with eyes stained black, they are forced into the army. They must burn anyone who opposes the empire … or be incinerated themselves. Their only comforts are the kisses they steal in shadows as they dream of a life together in freedom.
In this land of ashen-gray morals, the more Pran and Oksana chase the murky paths to freedom, the more they torch their ties to each other.
Sam’s query critique . . .
New Adult: Fantasy
Dear Pitch Wars Staff,
LITTLE STAR, BRIGHTLY BURNING is an 85,000 word NA fantasy for fans of WESTWORLD, THE 100, and interested in gay HUNGER GAMES. [You have my attention! … Though after reading the whole query, I’m not sure how the gay HUNGER GAMES comes into play. Be very clear about that in the query itself, so readers can envision the story that pairs with these awesome comps!]
Nova Kennedy’s family died when she was eight years old. Now, twelve years later, she finds a home with the Raiders, a nomadic group of fighters who live off the land and steal what they can’t scavenge. They took her in, protected her, and taught her strength. Her only goal is to become a true member of the tribe [Avoid appropriative language. Instead of tribe, how about group, crew, or their name, Raiders]–a life-bringer. [I definitely get the gist of Nova’s background from this setup, but I feel her Story Goal could be established more strongly to hook readers’ interest and help them connect to Nova: What does becoming a life-bringer mean, personally, to her? What will she lose if she doesn’tbecome a life-bringer, or a true Raider?]
To do that, she must capture an outsider and make them a Raider. When she sees the handsome man alone in the grasslands, she knows this is her chance. But Krew is not a normal stranger. The other Raiders fear him, though Nova doesn’t understand why, and will not permit him to join their ranks. [This could benefit from more detail. The Raiders seem a hardy bunch, so I’m very curious what kind of a person Krew must be to scare these folks! Give us a vivid, specific detail or two about Krew so readers get a sense for who he is—and most importantly, want to know him better!] Instead, they demand Nova remove him from their presence or face banishment. With the help of their fiercest warrior, Thoa the Bonecutter [This name is AWESOME! This is a character I want to meet. That said, she’s never mentioned again in the query, so I’m not sure what’s her role is in this story, or whether she *needs* to be mentioned, alas], she must take Krew to the City of Trials. [Needs a bit more setup here. I’m confused why they have to take Krew to this city, why the Raiders don’t just chase Krew away if they don’t want him around. Above all, how does this turn of events play into or complicate Nova’s own Story Goal? Everything in this query must point back to that.]
Along the way they encounter floating steampunk cities, sky-pirates, intricate mysteries, stolen children in need of rescue, mountain homes full of heart, and a family no longer lost, yet no longer trusted. [You mention a lot of great stuff here (Steampunk cities! Sky pirates!) but again I’m not sure how these factor into Nova’s Story Goal. In particular, “intricate mysteries, stolen children in need of rescue, mountain homes full of heart, and a family no longer lost, yet no longer trusted” is too vague to be compelling. In a query, there’s no need to list every obstacle a character will face along the way. Ultimately, the query must establish: 1) What does Nova want? 2) Who/what is keeping her from getting it? 3) What happens if she doesn’t achieve her goal?]Thrust into this torrent of dangerous adventures, Nova must come to terms with her feelings of abandonment, and find a way to protect her chosen family. [This is the first time feelings of abandonment have been brought up. While that’s a compelling emotional wound for a character to heal in a story, it’s not clear how these concerns play into Nova’s overall Story Goal. For everything mentioned in the query, be sure to establish how it affects/impedes that Story Goal.] As the City of Trials looms closer, the secret Krew has been keeping could bind them together, or rip them apart. [Again, this is too vague to be compelling. I *think* this query is setting up for a romance between Nova and Krew, but ultimately it’s not clear what Krew means to her, and therefore I don’t know what’s at stake if she loses him.] Either way, their lives are forever altered when they find out how their world really looks to the gods who live above. [Once again, too vague, plus this is the first mention of these gods in the query. I recommend leaving this last line out and ending the query with Nova and her dilemma: the new choices she must make, or the escalating obstacles that now stand in the way of her Story Goal.]
I’ve self-published three SFF novels and have more than two dozen short stories published or upcoming with Black Hare Press.
Thank you for your time and dedication to helping authors.