My PitchWars mentor-partner Kate Karyus Quinn and I agree that we didn't read a single query that was bad - nor did we read any first pages that were unsalvageable. And honestly with as many submissions as we had, we were surprised at the quality of them. Which is why we decided to offer query and first page critiques on our blogs to everyone who submitted to us.
Quite a few people have taken us up on the offer. Through November, Kate and I will be posting these critiques on Mondays and Wednesdays. Any writer can learn from these - not just the author of the material being critiqued. You'll see my comments in green.
When criminals and beasts unite to oust the royalty, Raylene must find a way to stop them Why must she?. But first she needs to control her insatiable urge to kill. UPRISING, a YA fantasy, is complete at 85,000 words. It will appeal to fans of Kristin Cashore’s GRACELING and Marie Rutkoski’s THE WINNER’S CURSE. Good hook. I need to know more, but I'm sure that's to come. I like your comp titles.
After years of training to be a warrior, Raylene returns to her homeland. With her sword that emits fire and light, she can incapacitate fighters double her size. Perhaps a little more here - why is Rayline a warrior? Was this a choice or a caste or a destiny thing?
In her kingdom, all is not well. Prison breaks who is breaking out? are rampant and officials are being murdered. The empress insists everything is under control. But when her father goes on a ride like on a horse, or in a car? Genres are easily bent these days. and returns in a comatose state, Raylene doesn’t believe it was the accident they say it was. Slightly confusing - like he returned on horseback? But he's comatose? Like a zombie? Or he's out cold? She’s willing to break every rule to uncover the truth, even if it means torturing suspects.
As she starts to untangle the web of lies ensnaring her kingdom, Raylene discovers a master manipulator is raising an army of criminals and deadly monsters. More on the monsters please - are these unknown to the land, or just more of "skulk in the dark and we don't bother you" type of thing She knows the power-hungry elites So is this like a coup? Officials are being murdered, but the elites are conspiring? are secretly lending him their support, but whenever she starts to close in, someone turns up dead.
Now Raylene must find a way to apprehend the rebel leader. If she fails to stop the rebellion, it’ll be the end of the royal family. Her family. Wait, she's royal? Explain.
No one would rule her again, ever.
Raylene thought and gritted her teeth. Not a complete sentence. It had been four years since she set foot in Divine. She was still far from it, being several feet above the ground. But it wouldn’t be long until she reached Orion, the capital of the empire she would rule one day.
Raylene heard the pounding of her heart even though the wind whistled nonstop around her. She petted the bird-like head of her ride mount?—a zelokyte she had named Apa. She leaned closer to Apa’s massive body.
Raylene pulled binocles over her eyes and the view became so clear that she could count the pebbles below. The jagged leaves of the coniferous trees shivered as Apa flew into their midst. She raised her pointed beak and soared high towards the darkening sky. Perhaps the explanation of her viewpoint could come first. I thought she was standing on a cliff, or something, being several feet above. It explains the wind, etc., but we need to know she's on a flying steed first.
Raylene shook her head and waved away a ghost of a memory that kept growing as she neared her homeland. She wondered if it would be easier to defy the empress, now that she was a full-fledged wielder.
Easy or not, she would ensure that her grandmother paid for being the empress who ruled without mercy, and for whom her granddaughter’s wishes were as insignificant as the ashes left by a burning hearth.
Heat flushed through Raylene’s body. She hadn’t forgotten, never would. And her grandmother would soon see what she was capable of.
Raylene licked her upper lip.
Raylene stroked Apa’s rough scales, needing no bridle to control her zelokyte. Apa sensed and understood her. She straightened her scaly wings and flew faster, leaving a flock of birds squawking behind them.
The first thing that jumps out at me is that this is a lot of telling. You're entire first page her is backstory being reiterated to the reader, which isn't the best delivery. Show how Raylene feels instead of just telling the reader, exhibit these emotions through interactions instead of setting it out as explanation in the first page. Also, I highlighted use of body parts throughout - it stood out to me the amount of words that are body parts on the first page, for whatever reason.