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Day 9 (Part 3) of the Pitch Wars Mentor Workshops with Stephen Morgan

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, Stephen Morgan … 

Stephen has served as an editor, writing coach, and occasional author for over ten years to produce best-selling and award-winning books. He has read every single Goosebumps book multiple times, even the bad ones. He has a Master’s in Journalism and Mass Communication, as well as a PhDidn’t when he left school to work full time in publishing. When he’s not writing and editing, he’s either hiking with his dog Sydney or creating weird alternate universe concept art for books and movies.

Website | Twitter


Here are some of the books Stephen has edited. If you want to learn more about Stephen’s editing services go to his website.

Stephen’s first page critique . . .

New Adult: Dystopian Sci-fi

Chapter 1

The blood curdling screams cut through the upbeat dance music like a hunter’s skinning knife slices through flesh [Fantastic opening line, and what a stunning description “like a hunter’s skinning knife slices through flesh.”]. Allison jolted awake [I felt jolted out of the story here. You establish such a strong sense of place and action in the first line—even while you disrupt it by saying whatever was happening, it’s interrupted by those screams. I felt like you’re clearly in control of the story. But then you disrupt THAT too with her waking up. I felt disoriented because her waking up AFTER those things happen raises new questions. Was the music a dream? Are the blood-curdling screams just in her imagination? Do they have anything to do with what she woke up to? That’s a long way of saying I think an easy fix is just to have Allison bolt upright as the first line, or to have her already awake ] Tortured cries propelled the hair on the back of her neck to attention. The shock caused her to roll off the log onto the damp, leaf covered ground. Her sleep fogged mind struggled to make sense of her surroundings. What the hell is happening? Overhead, colorful lights danced across tree tops in beat with the music. I’m at the Fall Bash in the woods with Gabby. The party area was obscured from Allison’s view, but between the horrific shrieks and cries for help [very nice language choices] she knew a nightmare was unfolding only a few yards from her. [Suggestion: Break this first paragraph up. It’s a lot of different sets of information for the reader to absorb in a single paragraph.]

She pressed to the ground, body stiff and flat, her side pushed against the log [Add a visceral reaction first. You’ve described her as having a sleep-fogged mind. What else is she experiencing? Terror? Panic?]. The bark dug into her, leaving snake skin impressions behind, as she pushed her small frame closer to the log. Her mind raced with the possible scenarios unfolding on the other side [Maybe a personal preference, but I’d cut this line. Just use two or three powerful but brief lines that make us experience her running through scenarios without needing to tell us she’s doing that]. Were there gun men? [Love you getting into her direct thoughts. Could you turn these into first-person present tense? Only for her direct thoughts like this. Let us experience these like we’re reading her mind.] The music blared, spotted with cries of agony like a sound track in a horror movie. No gunshots. Car tires spinning, stuck in the thick mud of the forest floor added to the flurry of noises surrounding her. Were they being attacked by animals? [Same here. Are we being attacked by animals?]Screams, crashes, and the roar of multiple engines echoed through the trees. No animal sounds [I love you taking us through the individual clues she encounters, as though we were making sense of this with her]. She reached out for her purse on the ground in front of her, barely snagging the strap with her fingertips as she inched it closer [great line].      

The crash of metal falling onto the forest floor brought a sudden end to the music. Without the music to muffle the sounds, the cries of death and torture echoed through the trees amplified by the sudden absence of music. Cries for help, howls of pain, and whimpers of surrender engulfed her. Her stomach rolled as the feeling of one thousand June bugs trying to [You do a great job of bringing us into her visceral experience.]

Thank you, Stephen, 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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