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Day 9 (Part 1) of the Pitch Wars Mentor Workshops with Janet Walden-West

Tuesday, 3 September 2019  |  Posted by Rochelle Karina

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, Janet Walden-West … 

Janet Walden-West lives in the southeast with a pack of show dogs, a couple of kids, and a husband who didn’t read the fine print. A card carrying Crazy Dog Show Lady, she’s easily distracted by great cars and bad coffee. A founding member of the East Tennessee Creative Writers Alliance and The Million Words craft blog, she is also a member of Romance Writers of America. She pens Urban Fantasy that escapes the neat confines of the city limits in favor of map-dot hillbilly towns, and inclusive Romantic Suspense and Contemporary Romance.
A 2X #PitchWars alum and Golden Heart® finalist, her debut multicultural Contemporary Romance, SALT+STILETTOS, is due out Spring 2020 from City Owl Press, along with two unapologetically feminist Urban Fantasy shorts from Prospective Press out Fall/Winter 2019. She is represented by Eva Scalzo of Speilburg Literary Agency.

Website | Twitter

Janet’s first page critique . . .

Winter was unrolling on the vast lands of Sweden, spreading its frosty winds with the coming of an impatient night. The coastal town of Farlev wasn’t spared the thin layer of rime eating the earth when the sun retreated behind the hill, nor the bite of the breeze through the bare branches. Mist felt and suffered those and more as her feet turned purple and her breath birthed white clouds of heat. It hurt, it froze, it pained with every step, and yet she could not stop. [This paragraph is well done, and evocative. However, the following paragraph is the stronger of the two, and by dropping a few details from the first in to ground the reader, could make a better opening hook.]

The drum called her—louder and louder as she strolled [strolled doesn’t match the tone of the rest of this page. It implies leisurely and a choice, while this MC is being compelled against her will, under harsh conditions] to its source. Its booming voice pulled her deep within the trees, taking her away from the warmth of the great hall, and breaking the skin of her soles. There was no escaping it. Resisting the calling brought another kind of pain—one that stretched the soul and shattered the mind, as it did [had] when she meant [tried/attempted] to defy the rhythmic beat somewhere at the edge of the woods. She [had obeyed] obeyed since then, once more enslaved by someone else’s will [love this glimpse of backstory]. The young woman had removed her shoes, which seemed to shrink with the cold. She had unfastened her fur, untied her dress, and continued naked on the moonlit path of the forest. [This caused me to stop and reread. It needs moved or otherwise incorporated into the first paragraph, since here, it’s more of a mini-flashback that stops the action cold.]

The drum beat faster, as if it too ached for her presence. She gave in and strode, then ran, jumping above the root of a pine tree to land in a puddle of mud. She could feel the flat skin of the drum as the mallet pounded its surface, sending tremors of woe pulsing through her veins.

She ignored the burn in her lungs and the flaying skin on her fingers from when she had leaned on a trunk in her pursuit. She heard not the hoot of the owl above or the yapping of the white fox peering from behind the cover of a rock. [You are almost changing POVs here. Since she didn’t see or hear these, don’t include them]

But she did feel her heart spread with awe when she came upon the cabin.

The silver of the moon glistened on the thin strands of the thousands of spider webs that spiraled from tree to tree around the small wooden house, creating a maze of silk into which Mist stepped without fear. She circled the cabin, each step taking her closer to its center where the drum kept beating. [Given the switch from Mist being in pain and afraid, brought to this place against her will, to her walking in unafraid (many readers are going to see thousands of spider webs as creeptastic, not beautiful), I’d like to see a bit more about why her feelings change—it could be one line, it could be expanding on the ethereal beauty of the webs—but something.]

[For me, this is a strong opening. With a few tweaks, the action feels as if it’s inevitable and rising incrementally, matching the beat of the drum. I would continue reading, to see what happens next. Good job, and thank you for submitting.]

Thank you, Janet, 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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