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Day 6 (Part 1) of the Pitch Wars Mentor Workshops with Aty S. Behsam

Saturday, 31 August 2019  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

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, Aty S. Behsam … 

Aty S. Behsam is an Iranian writer, artist, translator, and a full-time writing mentor and teacher. She graduated in English Translation BA, and has been teaching writing and art for the past ten years, mentoring writers, story coaching, and judging in writing competitions. Aty introduced the first English Novel Writing classes in Iran, and initiating Iran’s first writing mentorship program. She has worked as an editorial assistant, cover artist, and art director. She’s also the director and producer of one of Iran’s most popular podcasts, Yuri On RADIO, with her team. Aty has published short stories in the UK, was a PitchWars mentor last year, and two years ago she was a Pitch Wars mentee with her novel Coup De Grâce.

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Aty’s first page critique . . .

Adult: Urban Fantasy

As soon as Dispatch called me to report an incident with a Mongolian Death Worm, I knew I was in for a hell of a day. [Okay, I love this opening.] Mongolian Death Worms are good at three things: killing their prey, eating their prey, and making me wish I’d been born without a sense of smell. The one we were headed to clean up had been decomposing in the sweltering mid-July heat for over twenty-four hours now, so the stench was probably strong enough to suffocate a canary.

It wasn’t like I could turn the job away, though. I was barely a month into my year-long probationary operating period, and I’d only just landed an intern who wanted to learn the business of a magical hazmat operator last week. [This is a bit long. I would break it into two sentences.] Having an intern was essential. Without official sanction that I was “giving back to the magical community,” my license to operate in the area could be revoked by the local council. I couldn’t afford for that to happen, which meant that [I would omit that. Actually most of the times the word “that” can be deleted.] this job had to go perfectly.

“Are you sure this is it, Dodge?” [Reading the rest, I think you should change this question to make it one that Jared would ask over and over again. Like a technical, professional question.]

Jared was doing his best to make perfect hard to come by. Few things in life are certain, but one of those things is this: no matter how well you explain it the first time, your intern is going to make you repeat yourself over and over again on the way to your first job together. [I would reword.  Give us a sense as to where the characters are (In the car? On foot?) and omit “on the way to your first job together.” When you don’t describe the place, you don’t pull us into the story. It’s called “white room syndrome” when it’s like characters are in a white, blank space.] I couldn’t really begrudge Jared—I’d done it to my supervisor when I interned in New York City, and now mine was doing it to me. [I would replace “it” with “the same”, and delete “and now mine was doing it to me.”] Circle of life, turn of the wheel, and so on. Tradition didn’t make it less annoying, though.

I stopped the van in front of Manny’s Reptile Emporium, its name spelled out on top of the building in big green letters shaped like snakes. “The crime scene tape is a pretty good indicator we’re in the right spot.” [Who said this? I suppose Dodge, but make it clear.] There was a lot of it, too—someone had gone hog wild on the broken front door. The operative who’d done the killing wasn’t leaving things to chance with bystanders. Still, we were lucky Boulder is a pretty tame city—in some places, that tape might look more like an invitation than a deterrent.

“Yeah, but…” Jared pouted. It seemed to be [Was it, or was it not?] expression I [I’d] ever saw [seen] on his chipmunk-cheeked face. [Suggestion: “So far it was the only expression I’d seen on his chipmunk-cheeked face.”] “They’re just worms, aren’t they? Why would a slayer get sent to kill worms? Why are we even involved in this?”

Oh[,] boy. It looked like in addition to ignoring the dossier on the job that I’d shared with him, Jared lacked a basic understanding of our role in the grand scheme of things. That wasn’t a good start for a guy who said he wanted to work across the Ambit. Nobody traveled to the other side until they proved they could handle the crap that went on over here first. [I like this, but you can make this paragraph shorter. Also, a bit less ranting about Jared, because Dodge keeps going on and on about Jared and it can take away from the impact. If you show us actually reply to his questions like a professional, then even if he kept ranting in his head it would show us more character in Dodge.]

[I love the voice, the concept, and the start. I would keep reading! Good luck.]


Thank you, Aty, 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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