I LOVE being a mentor for PitchWars. BUT there is one bad part - having to choose just one manuscript to mentor when there are so many with so much potential.
And so, wanting to give something back to those who chose Mindy McGinnis and myself as one of the mentor teams to submit to, we decided to offer first page and query critiques on our blogs. Our decision to do this via our blogs, rather than a private email, is so that (hopefully!) everyone can learn a little bit from this feedback.
Red Mountain is a contemporary story that mixes Nez Perce Native American lore and history with the modern-day tradition of high school students painting letters on the sides of mountains found in small towns across the west. Okay, this is an interesting start. I like this info, but wonder if you might work it into the query later on instead of leading with it.
Sixteen-year-old Leia Soot wants nothing more than to be invisible comma something she was able to do with ease in Seattle, Clearly the invisible thing is not meant literally but I wasn't sure at first if this was paranormal or contemporary. Maybe a different word might work better? but impossible since moving to Salubria I know where Seattle is but not Salubria, maybe give a state to help readers place it? — population five hundred. Of course, it doesn’t help that her grandfather runs around town half-naked raving about curses like a bad televangelist. Ha. Nice funny detail.
So when four out of the five founding families suffer the loss of a child from freak accidents, the spotlight points Maybe "falls on" instead of points? to the one person predicting these deaths — Grandfather.
In order to vindicate her grandfather and save the town, she I'd use her name here, just to remind us what it is. must partner with the next potential victim, her nemesis Isaac Stevens, who would rather serve her father an eviction notice than admit to his feelings for her. Leia races against the clock, unraveling the secrets behind the curse hidden within a secret treaty signed by the native people and the original settlers in 1872. Along the way, she discovers her true self and that laying down your life for another, even an enemy, isn’t as hard as watching those you love sacrifice themselves for you. Hmm... this last sentence is a little long and lacking in specifics so it starts to feel like word soup by the end. Maybe break it up and a bit and try to use some more specific details so it doesn't feel like greeting card platitudes.
Red Mountain is a 65,000 word contemporary YA with speculative elements that could be described as Beautiful Creatures meets The Love That Split the World with a splash of Pride and Prejudice. Ok, I like this.
My short stories have been featured in Go Read Your Lunch, The Urban Liaison, and The Idaho Magazine. I am also a contributing member of the Idaho Writers Guild and SCBWI. Nice!
YA Contemporary with speculative elements
This wasn’t my real life. This was the place between. Or maybe the place forgotten. I like the voice in this opening.
My dad said Salubria was a nice place to visit, not live. And yet my new postal address stated otherwise. Well her postal address doesn't say anything about how nice it is to live anywhere. I like what you're trying to do here, but I think you need to rework it so it makes a bit more sense.
I slouched in the hard seat hiding behind an angry mullet, ringed with a sure tell sign the guy had showered and smashed his ball cap on low to his ears. love the specificity here but it sounds like the mullet is on her head. Just the addition of "guy with an angry mullet" would help clarify. The scent of soap was a nice change to his usual sweat-mixed-with-alfalfa cologne. He slumped in at would be better here. In makes it sound like he's sitting inside it - not behind his desk as low as his broad shoulders would let him as Dr. Camarillo droned on about the gold rush and its effect on the Idaho territories. Oh. She's at school. For some reason I assumed she was in a vehicle. Maybe make this more clear sooner.
“March 4, 1863, the territory of Idaho was organized and incorporated into the United States.” Dr. Camarillo’s bald spot bobbed as he scrawled the date with a nub of white chalk.
I tuned out the teacher as I wrote a few lines of a poem I’d been working on. Writing prose, especially poetry, had become a therapy of sorts, even if I sucked at it. I aced researching and composing school papers, back when I enjoyed attending class. School used to be important. When we lived in Seattle, I cared. I wondered when I would start to think of school as an important thing again. It was hard to be excited about the same classes I took in eighth grade. So the school here is way behind where it should be? But aren't there state standards? I think you're spending too much time saying the same thing in different ways (she doesn't like school but she used to before she moved) without giving us enough specific details of what school looks like here in her new town. Dr. Camarillo, the school history teacher, and father to my friend Claire offered to create a college credit course based on the classroom material he taught during mandatory eleventh-grade history. I agreed, but the idea I was stuck here until I left for college seemed unfathomable.
“With gold found in the new territories, settlers flooded to the west, squatting on the natives’ land designated by the treaty of 1855. The Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla Tribes gave up over 6.4 million acres in what is now northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington.” Dr. Camarillo’s lecture reached a crescendo. This does not feel like a crescendo. It feels like a boring recitation of facts with no stories of specific people to enliven it or make it feel more real. For a first page this doesn't grab me as hard as I'd like it to. Overall, the voice here is a good but it could be a little sharper and more precise.