Welcome to our Query and 1st Page Workshop with some of our amazing Pitch Wars mentors. From a Rafflecopter lottery drawing, we selected writers to participate in our query and first page workshops. Each mentor has graciously critiqued a query or 500 word opening from our lucky winners. We’ll be posting four critiques per day (except weekends) through July 7. Our hope is that these samples will help shine up your query and first page and that you’ll get to know some of our wonderful Pitch Wars mentors. We appreciate our mentors for giving up their time to do the critiques. If you have something encouraging to add, feel free to comment below. Please keep all comments tasteful. We will delete any inappropriate or hurtful ones.
Our only workshop this post …
Pitch Wars Mentor Rachel Griffin …
Rachel Griffin graduated from Seattle University with a bachelor of science in diagnostic ultrasound, but could never outrun her love for words. She wrote her first novel in the evenings and weekends while working full-time, and eventually traded in her ultrasound transducer for a keyboard. Writing full-time has been an absolute dream come true.
She lives with her very supportive husband and schnoodle outside of Seattle, where she reads, hikes, and drinks a lot of tea. She’s also a flutist and avid macaroni-and-cheese connoisseur. She sits on the board of Seattle Arts and Lectures, a non-profit organization dedicated to championing the literary arts, because words matter.
Rachel is represented by Melissa Sarver White of Folio Literary Management.
Rachel’s First Page Critique . . .
Tonight marked the occasion Anzel had both dreaded and anticipated for the last two months; [This is a solid opening line. I’m already wondering what’s special about tonight, and it’s clear why you chose to start the story here.] on the one hand, his father would be the subject of every congratulations in the land, which meant pomp and ceremony and hours sitting on the throne smiling at the procession. On the other hand, Anzel would finally be able to escape to the top turret straight after the final banquet and spend an evening with Matei beneath the stars. [I’m a little confused here. Both of these sound like good things, so I’m unsure why Anzel is dreading one of them.]
That thought sent spirals of tingles through Anzel’s stomach. He barely controlled the needle in his fingers, putting the finishing touches to the material on his lap. It was a luscious thing – light blue silk with golden edges, the colours of Dria, and in the centre, the design he’d made all by himself: two perfect swans, one with darker feathers, intricately woven around each other, punctuated by a crown uniting them above. Its jewels blended into a generic pattern but if he relaxed his eyes he could see it;
A & M
Anzel hadn’t done much in the past he could say he was proud of [I’d love a bit more here. Is there an example or explanation you can give that would help show who Anzel is?] but this– this was a grand statement of trust and truth, a promise to a future he hoped to build, and it would start tonight.
He would play the part of the ever-present, studious son, enjoying the festivities with as much aplomb as the royal code allowed. Then, the moment the music became rowdy and the guests were invited to overindulge, Anzel would slip away from the royal table, excuse himself through the commotion and wind his way up to where Matei would be waiting.
The aide had barely left Anzel’s side since his appointment last year, which Anzel hadn’t minded. Whether it had been standing at the window, looking out over the main city or up at the stars as they spoke about everything and nothing, or the moments where they’d chosen to stay silent – the Drian boy from the corner of Halfhert had won the favour of the Prince without even trying. [I almost read right past the reveal that Matei is Anzel’s aide, whereas it really hit me in your last sentence. Maybe draw out the suspense a bit longer and reveal this in the last sentence of your first page?]
Which was why, as Anzel attempted to sew the nice pattern on a blanket, he allowed himself to get excited. He’d already set up the blankets, and instructed all staff to give the entrance a wide berth. They knew better than to ask questions, but Anzel had still received odd looks at his request. While the rest of the city drank themselves into a stupor below, he’d take in the full moon and regale Matei with stories about how the constellations got their names. [Love this!]
Then, in a moment of either bravery or stupidity, the prince of Dria would tell his servant how much he felt for him. [I think making this the first reveal of who Anzel and Matei are makes it a bit more dramatic. Great hook and fantastic way to end your first page.]
[This is a great first page! It drops the reader in a perfect place and delivers the hook right away. I’d love to see a little more of who Anzel is, even a sentence or two expanding upon why he hasn’t done much he’s proud of – just enough information so I’m really rooting for him when he meets Matei in the turret. Overall though this is really solid, and I wanted to keep reading. Great job!]
Thank you, Rachel, for your critique!
Interested in more critiques? We’ll be posting critiques through the first part of July. Hope you’ll read on. And get ready! The Pitch Wars Mentor Wishlist Blog Hop starts July 19 with the Pitch Wars submission window opening on August 2nd.