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Day 21 (Part 3) of the Pitch Wars Mentor Workshops with Tashie Bhuiyan

Friday, 18 September 2020  |  Posted by Angel Zhang

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 Tashie Bhuiyan

Tashie Bhuiyan

Tashie Bhuiyan is a Bangladeshi American writer based in New York City. She recently graduated from St. John’s University with a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations, and hopes to change the world, one book at a time. She loves writing stories about girls with wild hearts, boys who wear rings, and gaining agency through growth. When she’s not doing that, she can be found in a Chipotle or bookstore, insisting 2010 is the best year in cinematic history. (Read: Tangled and Inception.)

Her debut novel COUNTING DOWN WITH YOU (Inkyard/HarperCollins) releases on May 4th, 2021.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Tashie’s forthcoming release, COUNTING DOWN WITH YOU

In this sparkling and romantic YA debut, a reserved Bangladeshi teenager has twenty-eight days to make the biggest decision of her life after agreeing to fake date her school’s resident bad boy.

How do you make one month last a lifetime?

Karina Ahmed has a plan. Keep her head down, get through high school without a fuss, and follow her parents’ rules—even if it means sacrificing her dreams. When her parents go abroad to Bangladesh for four weeks, Karina expects some peace and quiet. Instead, one simple lie unravels everything.

Karina is my girlfriend.

Tutoring the school’s resident bad boy was already crossing a line. Pretending to date him? Out of the question. But Ace Clyde does everything right—he brings her coffee in the mornings, impresses her friends without trying, and even promises to buy her a dozen books (a week) if she goes along with his fake-dating facade. Though Karina agrees, she can’t help but start counting down the days until her parents come back.

T-minus twenty-eight days until everything returns to normal—but what if Karina no longer wants it to?

Amazon | Book Depository | Indiebound

Tashie’s critique . . .

Category: Middle Grade Fantasy

Query:

For [seventeen-year-old] party-loving pop idol HOLLY RAY Holly Ray (17), being a ‘good citizen’ is as simple as performing in a pair of Si Alcott’s limited-edition knee-high boots [limited edition boots] in front of 50,000 [fifty-thousand] fans. And strutting across the stage in those heels is not as easy as she makes it look. Following the city’s strict rules is a no brainer, after all [brainer—after all,] the government does provide[s] everything she needs, including protection from Rabid animals lurking beyond the city limits.

But when her twin brother [and only surviving family], DANIEL Daniel, mysteriously goes missing after joining the police force, she swaps [is forced to swap] her glitzy wardrobe and Class A privileges for grey jumpsuits and a cramped cockpit. Training as an elite pilot is the only way she can search for her twin in this regimented world, Without him, her only surviving family, she’d be completely alone. [but life] at the Academy is [brutal]. [Holly] struggles with grueling lessons, vindictive peers, and a handsome, but unyielding co-pilot, TAN LAWRENCE [Tan Lawrence], who won’t refuses to cut her a break.

But it’s all worth it when she discovers Daniel’s location [at] a secret base nearby. She commandeers a training flight and persuades Tan to drop his stickler-for-the-rules mindset and help her find him. On route, a catastrophic storm forces [leads] Holly and Tan into the forbidden Outer Edges – a desolate outback where, officially, no-one has lived for 500 years. [into a desolate outback where they are captured by] nomads, [only to] discover an awful secret[: her brother is working with their world leader to kill off the population. Reeling from the information, Holly is forced to make a decision—return to her normal life and allow her brother to continue endangering lives, or fight against him and risk losing the only family she has left.] – their world leader is tackling over population by dumping families into the Outer Edges to die. Worse still, one of his henchmen is her brother.

TITLE is an 86,000-word young adult sci-fi adventure, with the attitude and humour of Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Aurora Rising and Illuminae series, and the pace of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy. A futuristic Top Gun for Girls.

I’ve been writing and producing children’s and youth television for 15 years (Disney, BBC, Nickelodeon, ABC), as well as series producing and [acting as a] social media manager for a weekly book review TV program (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). I’m on the committee for the Words on the Waves Writers Festival (Central Coast, Australia) and was recently shortlisted for the Varuna Affirm Press Scholarship. When I’m not writing YA, I blow bubbles underwater and write for a scuba-diving magazine.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

[Repasted for coherency:

For seventeen-year-old pop idol Holly Ray, being a ‘good citizen’ is as simple as performing in a pair of limited edition boots in front of fifty-thousand fans. Following the city’s strict rules is a no brainer—after all, the government provides everything she needs, including protection from Rabid animals lurking beyond the city limits.

But when her twin brother and only surviving family, Daniel, mysteriously goes missing after joining the police force, she is forced to swap her glitzy wardrobe and Class A privileges for grey jumpsuits and a cramped cockpit. Training as an elite pilot is the only way she can search for her twin in this regimented world, but life at the Academy is brutal. Holly struggles with grueling lessons, vindictive peers, and a handsome co-pilot, Tan Lawrence, who refuses to cut her a break.

But it’s all worth it when she discovers Daniel’s location at a secret base nearby. She commandeers a training flight and persuades Tan to drop his stickler-for-the-rules mindset and help her find him. On route, a catastrophic storm leads Holly and Tan into a desolate outback where they are captured by nomads, only to discover an awful secret: her brother is working with their world leader to kill off the population. Reeling from the information, Holly is forced to make a decision—return to her normal life and allow her brother to continue endangering lives, or fight against him and risk losing the only family she has left.

TITLE is an 86,000-word young adult sci-fi adventure, with the attitude and humour of Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Aurora Rising and Illuminae series, and the pace of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy. A futuristic Top Gun for Girls.

I’ve been writing and producing children’s and youth television for 15 years (Disney, BBC, Nickelodeon, ABC), as well as series producing and acting as a social media manager for a weekly book review TV program (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). I’m on the committee for the Words on the Waves Writers Festival (Central Coast, Australia) and was recently shortlisted for the Varuna Affirm Press Scholarship. When I’m not writing YA, I blow bubbles underwater and write for a scuba-diving magazine.]

[Hi,

Thank you so much for sharing your query with me! This book sounds great, and I can’t wait to see where it goes. Regarding my notes above for the critique, I wanted to pin down the main points that I think could be adjusted.

  1. There are a lot of extraneous details in this query, which gives us a sense of the world—but a little too much, in a way that feels slightly distracting. When you can, it’s better to get the same sentiment across in as few words as possible. When mentors/agents/etc. are reading queries, you don’t want to lose them in the details! This is why I cut the lines about Holly’s shoes, and later, the Outer Edges. I think you did a great job at giving us a lot of information, so I pared it down a little, so that we get straight to the point. Also, capitalizing names is for synopses—not queries!
  2. Some parts felt almost repetitive, where you were telling us details you had already explained—remember, the reader is paying attention, because they’re invested in your story! Trust them to remember what you’ve already said. Reiterating is not always necessary. For example, you said Tan is ‘unyielding’, but in the same sentence you also said he ‘refuses to cut her a break’. Later, you go further to explain he is a stickler for the rules. I cut one instance, because I think you do a great job of showing us, so we don’t need to be told over and over. Similarly, I cut the line about Daniel being her only family, because we can easily insert it early on without having to take up more space establishing it again.
  3. Finally, in a query, you need to assert the stakes. What is at risk for the characters? What choice are they being forced to make? What is the motivation that propels them through the end of the book? While we learn that her brother is working with the world leader to kill people, we don’t know what is at stake for Holly—what is the decision she has to make? I wrote in one version, but feel free to tweak it to what fits the entire story. The last paragraph of your query should make the reader want to pick up the book immediately, to learn which choice the character is going to make.

Overall, I think this is a strong query! It’s very high concept and has a great hook—we just need to parse past through some of the details and repetition to get to it. I hope my critique helps you, but if not – remember, advice is subjective and you should always do what feels right for your story in order to maintain your vision. Good luck!]

First page:

Chanting exploded in the outdoor arena—Silver Blue! Silver Blue!—swelling to a crescendo, until only the roar of a mark-five sandstorm could match it. Holly tottered [walked] down the sloping path towards the back of the stage, gripping her wireless microphone to her chest. Jupiter’s moon, it sounded like half the teens in the city had come to the outskirts to see her tonight. She wasn’t due on stage for another fifteen minutes and they were already flipping out louder than last week’s holo-ball championship.

She quickened her pace to catch up with her security guard, now thirty feet in front [of her]. Since leaving the make-up truck at the top of the hill, he’d stopped and waited for her twice already. But then, he wasn’t wearing a pair of Alcott deSilva’s one-of-a-kind knee-high boots with extra sapphire glitter, was he? And, his legs were comparable to a baby giraffe’s. At least she imagined they would be, if baby giraffes still existed in the world to be measured against.

She blinked twice. Baby giraffes, really? Why, in the few minutes leading up to a performance, did she always traipse into Random Town? Er, duh. Maybe because this was the biggest outdoor concert she had ever given.

[It’s not her fault she kept getting distracted. Anyone would be nervous with] fifty-five thousand hyped-to-the-max fans dying to hear her [them] drop her [their] latest album Insane. A shiver ran along her arms, dotting her bare skin with goose bumps. She would not disappoint them. Could not disappoint them.

There’s no room for failure, Holly Ray, her manager reminded her on a daily basis, [even though she was more than aware of it]. And didn’t she know it. In the past week alone, The Feed had been playing Tikoramus’s new music clip practically on a loop. The Vloggers called him ‘fresh and catchier than the meteor infection.’

She sucked in the crisp evening air. No way was she giving up her spot in the teen hall of fame. Especially not to someone with a stage name like Tikoramus.

[Hi,

This is a great first page! I’m immediately drawn into Holly’s world, and I see her calm before the storm. Thank you for trusting me with your words.

My biggest concern with this first page is that that this situation is a little distancing. Right now, the reader has to connect with the main character, and if the character is going through situations that are comprehensible to them, they’ll have a hard time feeling empathy for them. It might be better to start with Holly feeling incredibly nervous about the show—we’ve all been nervous before a presentation or a performance, and that’s something the readers will be able to connect to immediately. It also allows us to connect on a human level.

On another note, I think it might be worth getting rid of some of the references to the world-building so early on, as there is a little too much. I cut the lines about the baby giraffe, for example, because that is not immediately relevant to the narrative. Only include what we absolutely need to know to keep the story moving. Otherwise, the details bog down the writing—and your writing is so wonderful, so we don’t want that to happen! You give us so much worldbuilding with ‘mark-five sandstorm’, ‘Jupiter’s moon’, ‘holo-ball’ all in the first paragraph, which gives us a sense of the setting, but overdoing it through the first page—and through the first chapter—can push the reader away. Be careful with how much information you’re dropping into the narrative.

Overall though, I think your voice is fun and great! And we get insight into Holly immediately, which is also good. I think if you work on building a more relatable scene and cut down on the world-building, this first page will really shine. Wishing you all the luck!]

Thank you, Tashie, for the critique! We are showcasing three mentor critiques each day leading up to the Pitch Wars 2020 submission window, so make sure to read the other two critiques for today and come back tomorrow for more. 

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