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.
First up we have …
Pitch Wars Mentor, Gladys Quinn…
Gladys Quinn gets through life by cracking one dad joke at a time. Her friends think that The Rock should play her in a biopic – tough but hilarious, also prone to random workouts. She writes in the broad genres of suspense and speculative fiction. She loves crime, thriller, action, science fiction, fantasy – even better if they’re somehow weirdly put together.
She’s unpredictable like her stories. As a kid, she loved to redirect her favourite movies to star her own family members. (She was the main character, of course.) She also wanted to be a business wizard who’d bring her favourite Chinese fast food chain to Australia. Then she wanted to be a rockstar, and then a mechatronics engineer. Somewhere in between, she lost her handle on reality and switched her master’s degree from robots to publishing and creative writing.
Gladys still wishes she could be all of those at once, but for the moment, she’s going around the publishing machine instead. She’s a paid author on Wattpad, a freelance editor and writing mentor, a literary agency intern, and the production manager for an academic and creative journal. Last year, she production-managed the publication of a book.
Gladys also offers editing and proofreading services on her website.
Gladys’ query critique . . .
Adult: Science Fiction
[Agent’s preference but as an intern sorting through the query inbox, which can have 20 new queries per day with a big backlog, I like a query to open with metadata so I can decide if it fits the wishlist before reading on.
“I am seeking representation for my adult science fiction novel, DETERRENCE, complete at 140,000 words.” – Rough suggestion. Genre, audience, length off the bat for someone with little time to tick boxes. They’re going to thank you.]
What would happen if instead of always trying to destroy an empire‘s superweapon, rebels tried to take it for themselves? In DETERRENCE, my adult science fiction novel, that is exactly what the would-be conspirators attempt, but for both those rebels seeking independence, and those that would prevent it, does the end justify the means? [I recommend staying away from rhetorical questions as they are vague and take up space. From the POV of the agency, they just want to know what your world is like, who your main characters are, and what trouble they’re in. You don’t need this paragraph and it would free up some room to give more context about the expansive setting.]
Marcus is a courier, cut off from his homeworld when it unexpectedly succeeds in an attempt to secede from the Alliance [More information on the setting is needed, especially on the Alliance and the homeworld. How big is the Alliance? Is he trying to get back home illegally? Is home in trouble for rebelling?]. All he wants to do is get home to his wife and baby, but when what should have been one last job to earn his passage back goes wrong [awkward phrasing], he finds himself face to face with the leader of the conspirators [be more specific about the conspiracy since he is away from the rebellion – that could be confusing], Admiral Allison, and their audacious plan. Marcus must keep himself alive [Is siding with them a risk to his life?], and face up to the fact helping the conspirators is the best way to keep his family safe, even if that means not getting home. [The stakes are vague here. What is this plan (even briefly) and why does it affect his life in this way?]
Garrick is a devoted officer in the Alliance. When an operation to catch a known insurgent goes awry, he sets out to find a leak in the military. What he doesn’t expect is to stumble upon a vast conspiracy that could lead to the unthinkable – a split in the Alliance. [This character’s situation and stakes are clear!] Garrick must fight to keep the Alliance he holds so dear together by rooting out those who would betray it, risking all-out war and the deaths of billions in the Arm. [What’s the Arm? Avoid name-dropping unfamiliar world terms without explaining them. This paragraph also seems detached from the plot you introduced above – I recommend linking it back to Marcus or Admiral Allison for cohesion. How do these storylines affect each other? How does the two main characters working against each other (supposedly) reinforce their stakes?]
Star Trek, but if Captain Sisko wanted to split the Federation [This comp sticks out oddly in the sentence], DETERRENCE combines the intrigue of James S. A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes with the empire-spanning conflict of Anne Leckie’s Imperial Radch series. DETTERENCE [Typo – proofread 10000 times!] is my first novel, it stands at just over 140,000 words and is the first in a planned series [Say it has “series potential” instead because the agent is interested in only selling this book at this point. New paragraph for the author bio.] I am an avid reader of all things science fiction, and as a civil servant working on international trade, I also draw on my day to day political experience in my writing. I write daily flash fiction on Twitter (@woody_hill), one of which is due to be included in an upcoming anthology. [This is a good summary!]
I would be delighted to send you my manuscript, in part or in full. Thank you for your time and consideration.
[Your concept is intriguing and it sounds like a high-tension book. Due to the complexity of the world and plot, I suggest going over your query and picking out what a fresh reader would consider vague and adding more specific details to provide clearer context. The world sounds cool and I’d like more information on that if I’m trying to decide if this is a project I’d want to take on, as I’d be trying to picture the premise from your query letter. I hope this helps and best of luck with revisions/submissions!]
Thank you, Gladys, 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.