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Pitch Workshop – B’s critique #16

Wednesday, 15 February 2012  |  Posted by Brenda Drake


We’ve made it to the 8th day of our pitch workshop. Shelley Watters, Cassandra Marshall, and I are critiquing two pitches each per day. Click on my partners-in-crime pics on the sidebar to go to their sites and read their critiques.

Next up is …

Name: R.A.Desilets
Title: Soul Therapy (Love this title!)
Genre: YA Fiction with a fantasy twist (Pick a genre – YA Paranormal Romance, perhaps?)
Word count: 55,000


Anxiety-ridden Jessica finds an herbalist to help her calm down.  After drinking medicinal tea, Jessica falls into a deep meditation where she meets Luke, who she falls in love with.  However, Luke might not exist. 

B’s notes: Love this! I’m hooked. Great premise.


Jessica slumped in her seat.  Her mother gripped the wheel, eyes set dead ahead, unwavering. Jessica had grown to know that look so well.  It was when her mother got lost in thoughts of her father.  The divorce papers seemed to take a lifetime to go through, but really, he was just gone one day.  Her mother never really could get over that.
“Okay,well, I’m going to go inside, alright?” Other students flooded into the high school off of busses (buses).  At least her mother worked so early enough in the morning that Jessica could get a ride. “Mom?”  Jessica ran her fingertips over her mother’s white knuckles.
Her mother gave her the sideways glance and that sweet smile, used to cover up anything wrong.  

“Have fun.”  Her eyes shifted back, out (Did her eyes go out the windshield? I’d rework this. ‘Her gaze returned to the windshield, unregistering.’) the windshield, unregistering.

“I’ll try.” Jessica snatched up her bag and got out of the car.  She closed the door with a bit too much force.

B’s notes: This is written well, but it doesn’t hook. Teens won’t want to read about a mother and her divorce. You can have this later, once you’ve pulled your reader into your story. I’d start with a scene that a teen would like. Say, a class, gym, cafeteria scene. Mom can come on stage later, once your reader connects to your character and her life away from the parental units. What happens after mom leaves? Start there.

I hope this helps! 

Remember this is subjective and others’ may feel differently. So I’ll now pass it on to the readers to critique. Please leave your comments, and remember the rules of critiquing … be nice, which I’m sure you all will be, but I have to say it … you know.


Filed: Misc, Workshops

  • If the anxiety that drives her to the herbalist is mainly from dealing with the divorce, then it makes sense to start with the mom, but making the scene more — for lack of a better word — dramatic, might help. It could be as simple as showing more of the MC’s thoughts: does she slam the door because her mom isn’t paying attention to her (which might seem petty) or because she tried to reach out and got unintentionally snubbed? Or is it frustration because she feels powerless to help? Knowing the motivation behind her actions would also imply a goal e.g. get her mom to realise there’s more to life than her dad (like the MC), get her mom to open up, help her through the divorce in some way.

  • Brenda Drake says:

    Great suggestion, Sophia. Getting some teen angst in there would definitely help the scene.

  • R.A.Desilets says:

    Sophia – love the suggestions, thank you!

    Brenda – I am seriously debating between this scene and a scene shortly after it where she has a panic attack during one of her classes. It is really essential to me that people link Jess’s panic attacks to her huge feeling of abandonment – so I just don’t know what should come first?

    But I totally agree, her voice is a little weak in this part, but that’s why I really wanted the help. 🙂 Thanks!

  • Stephsco says:

    ^Maybe the second scene would work as a first scene, and there could be internal thoughts connecting her panic attack to something specific about the divorce, or that the divorce is a factor. I know with anxiety,sometimes it’s something seemingly small that can set someone off, but the larger peice is evertything else goig on. Even one line about, “it’d been 6 months since my parent’s divorce but it still felt fresh” to get the cummulative effect of everything stressing her.

    I like that you’re using something real teens face like panic attacks as a launching point for a larger story. Good luck in your writing.

  • Brenda Drake says:

    I agree with Stephsco. Try it that way and you can post it here and we can see if it works.

  • TL Sumner says:

    I think opening with the panic attack would be a good start as well. I think most readers could relate to feeling anxious and experiencing the panic attack with the protagonist would hook your reader and make her sympathetic. Then layer with the emotional hook of the abandonment issues. I think it could be a very powerful opening.

  • TL Sumner says:

    I sure did use “I think” enough in the above post… It’s after midnight and I didn’t drink my 10 o’clock coffee. 🙂

  • MarcyKate says:

    Great hook, great writing, but I agree not quite hook-y enough. However the alternate scene you mentioned sounds like just the right spot to start!

  • R.A.Desilets says:

    Alright, I will try to shift around my first chapter a bit and see what I can get. 🙂 Thanks everyone!! I super appreciate it.

    I might post one or two things in here to see which works better as the beginning.

  • This is a fantastic resource. Funny thing is, there’s very little online regarding advice for pitching. Thank you for sparing the time and detail in this blog. I am hoping to pitch to a panel of the great and the good in Harrogate this July so I’m studying this blog in detail. Are you taking on any further pitches for evaluation?

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