Welcome to July’s First Page Workshop with some of our past and present PitchWars mentors. From a Rafflecopter lottery drawing, we selected many wonderful writers to participate in the workshop. Each mentor has graciously critiqued a first page for one lucky writer. The writers are anonymous. Follow along all month to view the first page critiques. We welcome comments and further suggestions, but please keep them kind and respectful.
Here are the next two mentors and their critiques …
Kate is the author of How We Fall (YA contemporary) and a senior editor at Entangled Publishing. She earned her B.A. in English literature, then went on to teach high school English, and intern with a publishing house and a literary agency. She first edited with Month9Books before moving on to edit adult and YA fiction for Entangled Publishing. She’s represented by Carlie Webber of CK Webber Associates. She loves unusual people, good whiskey, dark chocolate, everything about autumn, bright colors, red maple trees, superstitions, ghost stories, anything Harry Potter, night skies, pie, and talking about books. She’s working hard on her next few novels, and if you see her, say hello, because she’d love to take you out for coffee and ask you what you’re reading. Follow her on Twitter or her blog, or check out How We Fall!
Kate’s first page critique …
Shayde Slaughter stood in the fog-drenched alley, a sour grimace hidden by his ski-mask. The black nylon sheath squeezed everything but his eyes, just wearing it made him feel crazy like it pressed on all the wrong parts of his brain. Like he needed any help in that department. Tucking a plastic water pistol in his waistband, Shayde crept along until he reached the end of the building and peered through the murk. Intriguing first paragraph—you’ve got some really great word choice here. I don’t feel grounded, though. I can’t tell from this if he’s a kid playing a game with his friends, or a man doing something dangerous. Really wonderful first paragraphs have a first line that encapsulates one of the main themes of the book, or a line of action that tells us something significant about the characters (see Gone Girl’s first line!). And then almost immediately we need to be grounded in what that character is doing and why. We can tell he’s in a ski mask sneaking around, but not much else so far, and that makes it a bit confusing.
Frowsy streetlights dotted the darkened streetscape. Char-winged bats swooped and flitted through the swirling damp. A lean Ford hugged the opposite curb. Mist tumbled over its rusted shell, beaded across the windshield like nervous sweat. A beanstalk<this seems like an actual beanstalk with the dubious moniker of Murf Turf slouched behind the wheel. Light from his cellphone showcased the bandana tied about his face. You have an eye for great descriptive phrases! We still don’t really know what the situation is, though, so I’d clarify that. I feel like I’m missing important information—I don’t know what to root for or what to be afraid of, because I don’t know what’s happening.
“You got to be kidding me,” Shayde muttered through gritted teeth. He raised a gloved hand, gestured frantically in the man’s direction. When Merf remained oblivious, Shayde sent over another wave and raised his voice to a whispery shout. “Hey, turn off your phone.” Ha! This is a fun exchange.
Their lookout didn’t even look up.<They? Who is with Shayde?
Shayde stood, hunched and glaring, feeling the three-am chill creep through his jacket. Two years of playing it straight and look at him. Freezing his nuts off in some piss-stained alley, toy gun poking him in the appendix…and for what? Get back some shit Bobby shouldn’t be selling in the first place? Ridiculous is what it was. Still, if a friend needed help you stepped up. That’s what loyalty was about. Great work building tension, avoiding info-dumping, and keeping a great exposition-to-action balance. You’ve also built a great setting with evocative specifics and interesting language. Really all we need is more detail about what’s happening, why we should be afraid, and a bit more about who Bobby is and what Shayde’s goal is right now. Ground us in brief pieces of information like that, and we’ll be pulled right along!
Thank you, Kate, for your critique. Interested in more first page critiques? Come back tomorrow for our next two critiques by Pitch Wars mentors, and while you’re here, check out our June posts for our mentors’ query critiques. And get ready! The Pitch Wars Mentor Wishlist Blog Hop starts August 2 with the Pitch Wars submission window opening August 17.window opening August 17.