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Day 25 (Part 1) of the Pitch Wars Mentor Workshops with Hoda Agharazi

Thursday, 19 September 2019  |  Posted by Rochelle Karina

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, Hoda Agharazi … 

Hoda Agharazi is a YA writer who loves storytelling in all its forms. She has worked in the publishing industry as a literary intern and an editorial assistant. Currently, she is doing her PhD in English Literature. Her non-writing related interests include photography, film, and traveling.

Hoda is also a freelance editor; visit her website for more information and to book her services.

Website | Twitter

Hoda’s query critique . . .

Young Adult: Science Fantasy

Dear Pitch Wars Query Critique Team,

 It’s been five thousand years since the Quietus, a war between humankind and Fiends on the Earth-like planet ‘Astraïas.’ Now, Astraïas has recovered and bleeding edge technology is flourishing, so life in the year 5023AQ isn’t too bad — unless you’re Lukas Lara. After the eighteen-year-old discovers he has cosmic powers while defending himself against Metalheads — cyberware-obsessed gangbangers — the authorities mistake him as one of them. He doesn’t understand why they’d convict him, but he knows he doesn’t deserve to be thrown in prison. Unable to bear his tiny cell, he’d do anything to prove his innocence and be reunited with his family — even if that means getting his hands dirty. [I’d spend a bit more time focusing on your main character. Who is Lukas? What are his powers? How are they a threat? Right now, there are a lot of things mentioned – Quietus, Fiends, Metalheads – that we’re not familiar with so it can get a little confusing. Try to focus more on Lukas here and get us invested in his story]. 

Ciréne — a mysterious, free-spirited young woman — comes to him with an irresistible offer: helping him escape and clear his name [why would she make this offer? What’s in it for her?]. Surprised to see the megapolis of Eidan City instead of his home [I’m a little confused. How did they reach this city without him realizing earlier he wasn’t going home?], he finds himself stuck in a safehouse with other wrongly-convicted teens Ciréne rescued while she handles other business. When this business [This is a little vague. Can you clarify what her ‘business’ is?] causes her to abandon her morals, she’s forced to get blood on her hands [Again this is vague. What did she do exactly?] to keep her family safe from the Metalheads leader as Lukas becomes desperate for answers [answers about what?]. He sneaks out to explore, not expecting Fiends to appear and wreak havoc [can you be more specific?] Conflicted on whether he should keep his powers hidden or risk getting into more trouble, Lukas runs into Ciréne and a runaway prince with technomancer abilities named Khian, who was falsely accused of killing his own father, the king of Laanra. [I don’t know if this last part is necessary. Does it really add anything to the query? I’d suggest revising the second half of this paragraph to really study Ciréne and how her story interconnects with Lukas’. Do they have common goals? Conflicting goals? I think the key to strengthening this paragraph is specificity. Be as specific as you can. Also, try to end the paragraph on a note that leaves us wanting more.]     

After fighting the Fiends together, the media labels them as criminals and they become wanted. They flee in fear, then agree to search the world for six sacred monoliths [Hm, I wonder if this element should have maybe been mentioned earlier?] that each hold a divine power they can use to eradicate the Fiends and prove to Astraïas that they’re heroes. However, they aren’t the only ones after these monoliths. Khian’s uncle is hell-bent on using their power to strengthen the Fiend-worshipping cult he leads. If they don’t stop him, their chances of clearing their names will be tarnished as Astraïas veers toward the brink of another war. [Aha! I feel like this paragraph is where we really start to get into the story. It feels like it’s a significant part so it would be worth it to dive more into detail. Could you maybe incorporate these elements earlier – maybe the second half of the second paragraph – to allow more time to explore this? I’d also suggest focusing more on the characters’ personal stakes. As I said, there are a lot of concepts/elements mentioned that we’re not yet familiar with, so it can get a little bit confusing. Focusing on the characters’ personal stakes might make the story easier to follow. What do they want, what stands in their way, what do they stand to lose if they fail?].

Told from three perspectives (many elements being #ownvoices,) TITLE is an inclusive and diverse YA science-fantasy epic that’s complete at 165,000 words [The wordcount seems high. I would suggest going back to see what you could cut to lower it. The following blogpost is great for suggested wordcount based on genre: http://literaticat.blogspot.com/2011/05/wordcount-dracula.html].  Earning my BFA in Creative Writing at Full Sail University was a critical step in helping me improve my craft and this WIP [manuscript?], and now, I’ve fully dedicated my life to writing so I can achieve my dream of becoming an author who helps allow those who aren’t represented enough in books to be seen and feel represented.

Thank you for your time. 

[I hope my feedback has been useful to you! These are just my notes so feel free to take what resonates with you and leave behind the rest. Good luck!]

Thank you, Hoda, 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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