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 Maedeh B. Saaina …
Maedeh B. Saaina is an Iranian author, artist, writing mentor, editor, and university professor. She has a PhD in Water Science and Engineering, and starting at the age of twenty-seven, she has been one of the youngest university professors in Iran. Maedeh is a children’s book and young adult writer, and has been mentoring writers for years in classes and competitions. Together with her 2021 Co-Mentor Aty S. Behsam, she is working on the upcoming manga DARYAN, the novel DIME A DOZEN, and the comic WHITE SATIN. The two are also introducing Creative Writing major in the universities of Iran. Maedeh is also the director assistant and co-producer of one of Iran’s most popular podcasts, Yuri On RADIO.
Check out Maedehand Aty’s Daryan Saga’s Instagram page here:
Maedeh’s critique . . .
Young Adult Paranormal Sci-fi
Dear [Literary Agent],
When Earth became uninhabitable, and blood thirsty vampires emerged from the darkness, the last humans built two space stations. [Honestly I love this concept, but I would start the query with my MC] Those who boarded the NexGen remained human, while those who boarded the NorthStar received an injection that made them immortal. [So the first paragraph of your query is the hook, and we need to know whose life the story is affecting and following. But here we have no idea who the MC is. I would reword this into introducing the concept through MC’s POV.]
Onboard the NexGen: [This makes me feel like I’m a camera and not inside the MC’s mind and personal space in the book, which takes away from the query.] Fourteen-year-old Lennox Lewis wants nothing more than to prove his glitch heart won’t keep him from following in his family’s legacy of ace pilots. [I would make this the first sentence] But when the oxygen scrubbers on the NexGen space station fail, and he’s forced to fly or die, crash landing on Earth and being attacked by vampires wasn’t part of the plan. Neither was being left for dead.
Three years later, Lennox struggles to survive Earth’s trying environment and stay off the vampire’s radar. [Wait, so up there we got a backstory instead of the actual story? In the query we put what makes our story interesting, and about the MC’s current journey. You can hint backstory and stuff, but you don’t want to dedicate your entire second paragraph to it. It’s where you put in what the story is about.]
Onboard the NorthStar: [This again takes away from this query.] A scientifically engineered vampire, Ari Sinclair, dreams of completing her mom’s life mission of returning to Earth, where they will reclaim their home planet and take the injection that will make them all human again. But her dream is endangered when a mysterious illness threatens the space station, infecting her best friend. Worse yet, after years of failed exploratory missions, Ari soon learns of the council’s vote to abandon Earth in favor of a distant planet. With Earth the only hope for those already infected, Ari steals a dropship to prove the planet can once again support life. [This needs to be shorter. The query is too long and episodic, and doesn’t give a sense of having a plot. I would fix this by mixing the two POVs.]
Once on Earth, Ari desperately searches for proof, but when a storm throws Lennox and her together, Ari tries to deny that his blood calls to her. The iron injections that have sustained her for the past five hundred years barely suppresses her rising hunger for his blood. Lennox is both captivating and dangerously irresistible. Despite his warnings of vampires on Earth, Ari knows what she must do—leave him behind. Stealing a plant from his dropship, Ari flees. However, Lennox isn’t about to be left behind and stows away on her dropship. With secrets between them and stakes higher than either first realized, both must soon decide who to trust and what is more important: her dreams or his life. [This is telling me too much of the story, and again, it’s too long. Make it shorter by giving each paragraph a purpose: the hook, what the story is about, your bio and book information.]
Complete at 91,000-words, TITLE is a young adult paranormal sci-fi with romantic elements. It is Disney’s WALL-E + vampires and will also appeal to fans of the 2017 movie The Space Between Us.
By day, I am a graphic designer and a book nerd in every other waking moment. A mom of two teenagers, I rarely lack unique and inspiring ideas, because of them. When I’m not writing, I like to read, watch too much TV, and play Pokémon Go.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
[I love your concept, but the query needs some revisions. I hope my review can help a bit.]
The Year [I don’t think you need “The Year”]2805
Onboard the [I would omit “Onboard”. You don’t need it.] NexGen Space Station
I stare at the red light on the access panel, hands trembling with hesitation [Omit “with hesitation” for more effect. You’re showing, you don’t need to add telling.] My grip tightens around my rolled tool kit. There is no movement on the other side of the pressurized sliding doors. Just semi-darkness. [I suggest mixing your sentences together more here. Sometimes cutting off sentences into two is not as effective as we think.] Everyone is still asleep, their day just a few hours from beginning. [You don’t need the second part.] It is an eerie quiet that amplifies the normally slow rhythm of my heart into a steady beat. [This sentence almost makes no sense. Your heart rate is jacked when you’re stressed and normal otherwise. The first one is not implied, and the second one doesn’t need to be said. I would reword.] No one is coming to stop me. [Is better to put “no one has come to stop me” because he doesn’t know if someone is coming or not. And the next sentence fits better with it.] Not yet. I steal a steadying breath.
I’ve got this. I’m a Lewis for sky’s sake! A glitch-heart won’t keep me from flying! [Try not to use too many exclamation marks, especially close together.]
I drop to a knee, and I [You don’t need the second “I”] unroll my tools on the floor. Among them is the chip I borrowed from my grandpa’s Neurolink headset. He hasn’t used it since retiring months ago. It will provide the essential code to bypass the lock on the door. The security panel stares back at me like a set of accusing eyes. [lol, though I would replace “like a set of accusing eyes” with “accusingly”] I push past my guilt and set to work. Within minutes, I have the cover pried off, and the chip tied into the circuitry. [Oh, that was anti-climatic lol You set it up to be detailed but ended it with a sentence.]
“This is it.” I replace the cover and roll up my tools. Blood pounds in my ears. [A better display of anxiety than the one with the heart] I hesitate, but only for a second [hesitate only for a second has no effect and can be cut] before I press a metal key card against the access panel. It will sync them and allow me wireless access. The lights flip to green, and the doors slide open. My lips jump into an exhilarated smile as the lights automatically flip on overhead, illuminating the space. [I love this shot!]
[Overall I love your concept, though the writing needs work for a better flow. Sometimes when I want my writing to have more impact, I use MRU (The Motivation-Reaction Unit) for my sentences. This way I don’t forget the sensory details and the flow the writing needs. Good luck!]