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

Blog

Day 21 (Part 3) of the Pitch Wars Mentor Workshops with Stephenie Magister and Noreen

Saturday, 18 September 2021  |  Posted by Stephanie Scott

Welcome to the Pitch Wars Workshops with some of our amazing past and 2021 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 Stephenie Magister

StephenieStephenie is a transgender author turned editor turned author (and often-times mentor). Her expertise has transformed the storytelling capacity and careers for authors in a variety of genres. She has served as a mentor for organizations like Inkers Con, Impacting Millions, and Pitch Wars, as well as a senior editor for publishers.

Along with editing numerous award-winning and best-selling books across a variety of genres, she has a Master’s in Journalism and Mass Communication, as well as a PhDidn’t acquired when she left school to go full time in publishing. Her research focuses on the science behind storytelling and how to make stories more accessible, engaging, and impactful.

Like her co-mentor, she is passionate about diversity and inclusion in publishing and beyond. Stephenie believes storytelling is one of the most powerful methods to change the world. Mentoring underrepresented authors is a chance to give substance to the authors and stories we most need.

Website | Twitter

Pitch Wars Mentor Noreen

Noreen is a Southeast Asian Muslim Writer, an immigrant and a STEM nerd. She loves to cook, and whip up wonderful stories about large messy families full of hope, survival and laughter. She’s also an environmentalist at heart and works in public policy. When she’s not dreaming about HEAs she’s writing them.

Website | Twitter | Instagram

Stephenie and Noreen’s critique 

Category: New Adult: Romance

Query:

Dear mentor,

It’s been four months since she survived the accident that took two lives, including her father’s, and twenty-one-year-old Alaina Joseph’s memories still haven’t returned. Not, like she wants them to. [What are the rules of her amnesia on the page? Has she forgotten that one of the deaths was that of her father? Or has someone told her and her conflict is that she doesn’t remember how it happened? I get the sense that it’s the former…but I also love the rare amnesia story that works, so I think you can make either a good hook!] Her emotionally unavailable mother who hasn’t spoken a word to her since is enough reason to steer clear of them. [See previous note. Does her mom know she doesn’t remember? Has her mom chosen to tell her or not to tell her? The context of her mom telling her or not telling her and how her mom manages that across the story is so important to what kind of story your pitch manifests for us.] And it’s a good thing she knows just what will keep them dormant. Cue transfer student Drew Montgomery, her newly acclaimed boyfriend. [This is emotionally vital enough that I might lead with it? Her need for distraction from a dark secret she’s desperate to forget. It’ll ground the emotional stakes as you fill out the rest of the pitch.] He’s charming, future-oriented, extremely distracting, and isn’t aware of her PTA (post-traumatic retrograde amnesia). Well, until her best friend, Bryan Taylor suddenly reappears in time for Spring Semester. He’s intolerant of her new boo, self-righteous, and sees through her faux resilience. Meanwhile, Drew’s questionable group of friends and mysterious past proves he isn’t exactly the distraction she hoped he’d be. 

The pressure builds when Alaina’s memories threaten to return, barring night terrors. In juggling her love for the two men [Ohhhhhhhh. I would establish this when you mention Bryan. Was there something between them before? Or does she develop feelings for him at the same time she’s developing feelings for Drew?], maintaining her college reputation, and embarking on her consultant career, [I would cut these two details. I love the idea of evoking one of them as the background world activity so it feels lived in, but both of them feel like such different stories. Which one does the story lead with in service of her endangered sanity and safety?] Alaina risks her sanity and her safety. Her PTSD symptoms are waxing–alongside her reluctance to face them, and caught in her blind spot is a fractal of her family’s past looking to expose that weakness. [I *adore* the word “fractal” but think the phrase “fractal of her family’s past” is a little too vague to be compelling. Is the fractal a buried memory? A person? Something else? I can’t perceive the nature of it, so it’s almost like hitting a speed bump after you built up so much momentum.]

[Beyond that…WOW!!! I especially love imagining these plot beats playing out after reading below that it will evoke a similar experience as Euphoria.]

UNTITLED,  the #Ownvoices New Adult Contemporary Romance novel, draws on aspects of my life: as a former college student victimized by depression and as a woman of color who has seen firsthand the impact of self-stigmatization on marginalized communities. Additionally, Untitled is a stand-alone book with series potential. [Wonderful. I think the most compelling characters tend to give the reader a sense of “me against the world.” Really excited to see how your background informs your storytelling and voice in the sample pages.]

[POST READING NOTE: You have a gorgeous storytelling voice. Incredibly emotional and immersive. Visceral word choices.]

I’m seeking representation from a mentor who shares my enthusiasm for upmarket fiction driven by women’s issues. The manuscript can be pitched as HBO’s Euphoria meets Colleen Hoovers’s It Ends with Us and is complete at 150,000 words.   [GREAT comps. To me, the best comps evoke what the reader will experience when reading your story. These are a good complement to your pitch.]

The first page of the manuscript is posted below. Thank you, in advance, for taking the time to consider my art.

[My main suggestion for you is to try a version that sells us on what it will be like to go through these buried memories (and people???) emerging with disastrous but potentially redemptive consequences. One way to do that will be to be more selective about what questions you raise and what twists you reveal in the query. Get them super eager to see 1) if it all holds together in the synopsis 2) if your voice/storytelling style brings it home.

Here is an example of how I would pitch this. I beg your forgiveness for any details I get super wrong 🙂

SUGGESTED ALTERNATE QUERY PITCH

Dear mentor,

It’s been four months since Alaina survived the accident that took two lives. Four months since she desperately tried to forget that one of those lives was her father. But the past—and the truth of what really happened that tragic night—refuses to stay buried. It has, in fact, come to a boil threatening to blow.

Her new boyfriend Drew promises escape from those dark secrets. A chance to focus on love, college, maybe even a career. Best of all, he doesn’t ask too many questions. Certainly not about the past. For Drew, there is only the future. One that includes Alaina.

Until the best friend that broke Alaina’s heart returns and shatters this fragile illusion. That best friend won’t stop asking questions. First about the secrets Alaina’s keeping from her new boyfriend. Then the secrets her new boyfriend is keeping from her. Secrets tied to her past. Secrets that could change everything.

UNTITLED,  the #Ownvoices New Adult Contemporary Romance novel, draws on aspects of my life: as a former college student victimized by depression and as a woman of color who has seen firsthand the impact of self-stigmatization on marginalized communities. Additionally, Untitled is a stand-alone book with series potential. 

I’m seeking representation from a mentor who shares my enthusiasm for upmarket fiction driven by women’s issues. The manuscript can be pitched as HBO’s Euphoria meets Colleen Hoovers’s It Ends with Us and is complete at 150,000 words.   

The first page of the manuscript is posted below. Thank you, in advance, for taking the time to consider my art.

First page:

Sunday, January 28th, 2019 | 9:45 p.m.

Up calloused lungs, a cloud of grey smoke swirls before me; the cheap disco ball, hanging high above the room of staggering bodies, yielding it into the darkest hues of purples and rouges; colors that reflect off the peaks of my cheeks, whispering sacred words of life after death…The world never looks the same after you’ve seen what makes it spin. [What a voice!!! Great vocabulary choices, too.]

 “If you could see yourself right now, you’d understand my problem.” 

 The velvety voice reaches my ears just as familiar arms secure themselves around my waist. Drew. A lazy smirk possesses my lips as I watch the smoke materialize over his freckled tawny-brown skin. His fingers are warm and gripping as they travel the length of my spine, gentle as they push through the coiled hairs at the nape of my neck. 

 “You’re dangerous, Alaina,” he mutters.

  “You only say that when you’re high,” [That’s such a believable observation. Very cool. And playful in a way that suggests a hint of intrigue…!] I breathe, teasing my lips against the surface of his own.

 “Cause that’s the only time I’m allowed to see it.” 

 We’re faded. Warped by a need to sedate our fears, we’ve drawn our sails here, at the skeletal edge of Ithaca NY to celebrate, along with a few of his suite-mates the dawning of a new semester. It isn’t a place for the meek. As voices are traded in for moans and drunken slurs, and identities stripped down to the white meat; all that’s left is dark matter clinging to boneless bodies like a heavy fog. [I honestly don’t know what I’d change about these opening pages. You have a gorgeous storytelling style.]

Thank you, Stephenie and Noreen, for the critique! We are showcasing three mentor critiques each day leading up to the Pitch Wars 2021 submission window, so make sure to read the other two critiques for today and come back tomorrow for more. 

Leave a reply

Disclaimer:

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.

IMPORTANT!
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 2021

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.

Pitch Wars 2020 (Previous Year)