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, Rachel Griffin …
Rachel Griffin grew up just outside of Seattle, where she spent most of her time reading books and worrying that people were mad at her. Since neither of those afforded a viable career path, Rachel graduated from Seattle University with a bachelor of science in diagnostic ultrasound. She worked in healthcare for five years before making the switch to a tech startup, where she ran their PR and social media efforts. She now spends her days writing young adult contemporary fantasy inspired by the magic of the world around her.
Rachel is a co-creator of the revision-focused blog Be Your Own Mentor. When she isn’t writing, she can be found hiking with her husband, snuggling with her dog, and reading on the couch with a big cup of tea.
Rachel is represented by Elana Roth Parker of the Laura Dail Literary Agency.
Rachel’s query critique . . .
Young Adult: Contemporary
Teenager [I’d give her actual age here—details are great in a query to help us get a clear picture of who the main character is!] Stevie Albie has always considered herself a religious person. She goes to church, is active in youth group, and always prays before a big test, but nothing prepared her for meeting Mary. Like the Mary, mother of Jesus.
At first, she’s pretty sure it was [I’d change this to “pretty sure she’s dreaming” or something equivalent, just to keep the tense the same throughout the sentence] a dream, but as the visions continue, she’s convinced she’s having a special connection with God. When it’s revealed that she has a front lobe brain tumor, she [consider changing “she” to “Stevie”, since we haven’t heard her name in a while] begins to question everything, even removing the growth that may kill her. [Why is she questioning everything? And if she’s considering not having surgery, why? I think adding a little detail here regarding how Stevie feels about the visions and why she’s willing to stall surgery to keep them would help us understand the main character and her motives a bit better]
Her parents will hear none of it, wanting it removed as quickly as possible. Stevie isn’t so sure. Special for what she thinks is the first time in her life, she runs away to a religious cult that’s convinced her visions are their salvation. To gain control over her health, they persuade her to take her parents to court to become medically emancipated, but the more time she spends with them, the more she questions their motives. [Can you give a bit more detail here? What makes Stevie question their motives?] As the trial moves forward [how does Stevie feel about the trial?], she has a decision to make: does she throw her lot in with strangers [Why would Stevie throw her lot in with strangers? At this point, have they become more to her? Are they friends? I’d love to get a sense of how Stevie feels about them so that we understand why this decision is so tough for her] or the family that’s at odds with her, but swears they have her best interests at heart? [I think we need a little more clarity in the stakes. What will happen if she chooses incorrectly? Will her health suffer? Will the cult threaten her in some way? Will her parents force her into a surgery she doesn’t want? Just adding a little more detail will really make the stakes land!]
[I’d switch this paragraph with the last one—give the title/genre/word count of this manuscript, then move on to your bio] I am the author of the young adult fantasy trilogy … as well as thriller, speculative fiction, and horror short stories appearing in several anthologies for adults.
Focusing on making difficult decisions without clear answers, Title, [typically in a query, the title of the project is in all caps, not italicized, eg TITLE] a young adult contemporary novel, is complete at approximately 76,000 words. I thank you for your time and consideration. [This is a great query! I think it’s just a matter of adding a bit more detail so we really understand the weight of Stevie’s decision and what’s at stake for her. Great job!]