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Day 9 (Part 1) of May’s Voice Workshop with Pitch Wars Mentor Kristin B. Wright

Thursday, 12 May 2016  |  Posted by Heather Cashman

voice workshop

Welcome to May’s Voice Workshop with some of our amazing Pitch Wars mentors. From a Rafflecopter lottery drawing, we selected over thirty writers to participate in the workshop. Each mentor has graciously critiqued a 500 word sample that the writer chose from his or her manuscript where he or she felt they needed help with their voice. Our hope that these samples will help you with your work 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.

And now we have …

Pitch Wars Mentor Kristin B. Wright

Kristin B. WrightKristin Wright is a contemporary YA and occasional adult WF author. She’s a transplanted Detroiter now living with her family, two beagles, two 4-H sheep, and a stray calf far out in the Virginia countryside. She was a participant in PitchWars 2014 and a mentor in 2015. This year she’s excited to mentor YA. She eats Cheezits, watches shows with kilts and/or corsets, and has worked as a living historian in a hoop skirt. She is represented by the lovely Sarah E. Younger of the Nancy Yost Literary Agency.

Website  |  Twitter




Kristin’s 500 Word Critique . . .

YA Contemporary

A car horn sounds. They’re here. [I’d like to see you amp up this first line. You only get one chance snag readers immediately out of the gate. Try for something punchier, more memorable.]

I rush to the driveway forgetting for a moment this will be different. No cacophony of Cassidy. [I like the alliteration!] No burst of confetti and escaping balloons. Only a few weeks ago, I’d stood right here delighting in her chaotic arrival.

On that day, Cassidy’d rushed toward me, falling in her haste. Sprawled on the ground, legs splayed wide, she grabbed at the balloons tangled around her legs. A bag of confetti split open and brightly colored bits scattered all along the sidewalk. “I was going to sprinkle these all over you,” she cried, her face filled with the mock- tragedy. One hand scooped up a pile of confetti, but one of the balloons slipped from her other hand. “Oh,” she howled in real dismay. “My beautiful entrance. All spoiled!” [I’m getting a sense that Cassidy has a big personality and is very important to the MC, but the concern I have is that I’m getting mixed messages about how old she is. The falling down, the balloons, the confetti, make me think she is a child. The “beautiful entrance” makes me think she’s an adult. It’s not a huge thing, but on the first page, we’re grasping for every possible thing we can find about the characters you’ve given us.]

I’d bent over laughing and reaching to give her a hand up. Her mouth curved at the corners. A yank—and I tumbled to the ground beside her. She grabbed me and tickled me and we rolled on the ground, giggling so fiercely the dog in the yard next door yelped in alarm.

Today isn’t gloriously beautiful the way the other day had been; it’s blazing hot and the sky looks like sour milk—the air even smells a little like something’s gone bad. [Beautiful image – you’ve conveyed the contrast between the earlier happy day and this with just “sour milk.” Excellent setting of the mood.]

It takes all of us—Aunt Liza, Michael, Mom, me, and even Paul to get her and her new paraphernalia into the house— a wheelchair, a walker, and a special tray to go by her bed. [I still want more: is Cassidy a family member? What is the relationship? These things are distracting me from the narrative.] The clothes as well as the gifts and flowers we leave piled in the hallway for the time being out of the way of the parade of neighbors and friends who come to wish her well.

The Cassidy who’d thrown a stuffed animal in a miasma of despair in her hospital room now glows with each hug, each proffered plate of cookies, and candy, each promise of another visit soon. She’s propped on the wide couch in the sunroom. She leans back amongst the pillows, building a wall with the offerings on either side of her. One I can’t break through. [Nice.]

I stand nearby, shifting from one foot to the other wishing everyone would leave. Until I see Derek walk in, and I pull in my breath. Cassidy sees him at the same moment. She sits up and pushes aside her gifts. Derek doesn’t hesitate; he plops down beside her, gently squeezing her shoulder. [Still stuttering in my reading because I’m trying to figure out how these pieces fit together. Who is the narrator? I need more about who she (he?) is. I have nothing to go on.]

When he whispers something in her ear, she laughs. He looks up at me, his eyes soft. “Hey, Aramay. Big day, huh?”

I nod, pushing down the lump in my throat. Derek’s dark curls bend into Cassidy’s sleek waves. He twines his fingers in hers as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. A fly buzzes past. I wave it away. It scoots away to the far side of the room, clearly not interested in breaking through the force field of CassidyDerek. I stare after the insect feeling the same way. [love the use of the insect. Very good. This is the first insight into our MC.]

This is a great start. It’s clear that you have set up a situation (an accident? a tragedy?) that changes the relationship between the MC and Cassidy and possibly Derek. Other than the above suggestions, I’d add that overall, we get very little sense of the MC here, except the name. No gender, no sense of age, no sense of how the MC is connected to the other characters. And that can be okay, but on occasion it can distract from the narrative and keep the the reader from being sucked underwater into your story. I would keep reading here to see if I can get the connections straight. Great job. Your language and writing are beautiful. You have lovely imagery and have set the mood well.


Thank you, Kristin, for your critique. Interested in more 500 word voice critiques? Come back this afternoon for another critique. And get ready! The Pitch Wars Mentor Wishlist Blog Hop starts July 20 with the Pitch Wars submission window opening on August 3.

One Comment
  • Ariadne Lukas says:

    Thanks for the great critique. I struggle with how much backstory to put in my first pages. Some say you need 100% forward motion, yet I have a bits of backstory and a flashback that I feel are necessary for the reader’s understanding. Similarly, this story’s full 3rd and 4th paragraphs are all flashback. But it seems to work here because it sets up how things used to be.

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