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Day 25 (Part 3) of the Pitch Wars Mentor Workshops with Liz Lawson

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, Liz Lawson … 

Liz Lawson has been writing for most of her life in one way or another. She has her Masters in Communications with a Concentration in Rhetoric from Villanova University, and has written for a variety of publications including PASTE MAGAZINE. When she’s not writing, she works as a music supervisor for film & television. Liz resides in Los Angeles, CA, where she lives with an adorable toddler, a fantastic husband, and two VERY bratty cats.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Liz’s upcoming release…

May is a survivor. But she doesn’t feel like one. She feels angry. And lost. And alone. Eleven months after the school shooting that killed her twin brother, May still doesn’t know why she was the only one to walk out of the band room that day. No one gets what she went through–no one saw and heard what she did. No one can possibly understand how it feels to be her.

Zach lost his old life when his mother decided to defend the shooter. His girlfriend dumped him, his friends bailed, and now he spends his time hanging out with his little sister…and the one faithful friend who stuck around. His best friend is needy and demanding, but he won’t let Zach disappear into himself. Which is how Zach ends up at band practice that night.

The same night May goes with her best friend to audition for a new band.

Which is how May meets Zach.

And how Zach meets May.

And how both might figure out that surviving could be an option after all.

Available April 2020.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

Liz’s query critique . . .

Young Adult: Contemporary

Dear PitchWars,

Sixteen-year-old reformed troublemaker Emi Hiraoka is destined to be a superstar [Why? Does she have a great voice? Can you give a bit of a reason to explain this statement?]. When she becomes a contestant on the teen special of [I’d suggest cutting this – it makes the sentence a little awkward / stumbly, and isn’t totally necessary info here] famed singing competition show Call Me A Lyre, she knows she’s going to take home the grand prize of a record deal [Again, why?]. She and her older sister, Reiko, had spent years planning for this exact moment [How? Practicing? A few more words that give us details would be helpful here!]—except that Reiko ran away from home a year ago. 

The plan never meant for Emi to be alone [This phrasing is a little awkward – is there a way to rephrase this that would make it clearer what you mean?], but she has Reiko’s advice to guide her through the competition. It all starts with befriending people who have power, like Emi’s semi-famous roommate.

But becoming famous isn’t the red carpet that Emi’s sister told her it would be [Did Emi’s sister have experience with being famous? This sentence makes it seem like maybe she did?]. Reiko never taught Emi how to deal with flirtatious competitors who have a girlfriend at home, and Emi’s roommate shows her the dark sides of celebrity life that Reiko never mentioned [Again, this makes it seem like Reiko has first-hand experience with fame.]. And despite calling her singing technically perfect, the mentors want Emi to open up about her past in order to connect with the songs. Emi would listen, except that no part of her plan involves talking about her personal life or making Reiko look like a bad sister.

When Emi finds out that she played a bigger part in Reiko running away than she thought, the devastation almost sends her home [This is good – getting to the hook here.]. As the competition thins and Emi learns that Reiko had no idea what fame meant, Emi has to decide how much of her sister’s dream she can call her own [So this was her sister’s dream, not hers? Think about putting that upfront – maybe something in the first paragraph about how Reiko had dreamed this and Emi was just along for the ride.].

TITLE is a 71,000 YA contemporary novel that will appeal to fans of Maurene Goo. I am a recent college graduate in Boston. When I’m not busy writing, I can be found obsessing over comic books and sitcoms without laugh tracks. [Perfect wrap up paragraph!]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Hi – thanks for submitting this to PWs! This story sounds really interesting, and I think your query is off to a good start. That said, whenever I talk with people about queries, I usually suggest that they think about their hook / the stakes of their book. What does your main character want and what do they have to lose? I understand that Emi is trying to be a star, but what does she NEED? Does she need to win because of a specific reason?  If you can figure those two things out – the MCs needs + what they stand to lose if they don’t achieve those needs – you’ll have a great opening sentence that should hook agents! 

Thank you, Liz, 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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