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.
Seventeen-year-old Kora Scott has devoured every pic, vid and science journal about the alien planet of N’dah. Especially if a colonizer posted about the green-skinned, humanoid Nah’dians. I think you'd be better served to use a dash before "especially" rather than starting a new sentence. But when her terra shuttle is shot down on approach to N'dah, it turns out none of her research prepared her for reality. Not all Nah’dians welcome colonizers. The burning wreckage of her shuttle offers Kora no refuge, but neither does stepping into the open. Unless she wants to be shot by a Nah’dian plasma gun.
Then Uncas, a sympathetic Nah’dian, comes to her rescue. Together, Kora and Uncas fight their way through Kora’s attackers, plunging desperately into the wilderness. The dense forest hides them from the pursuing Nah’dians, but stampeding amors with scythe-like horns and giant venomous spiders that eat their victims slowly, kill this comma await the inexperienced. Kora needs Uncas to survive, but when she discovers his thoughtful and patient manner make her heart burst like a N’dah sunrise, she suspects survival isn’t her only need.
With a band of vengeful Nah’dians on their trail and sixty kilometers of dense, wild forest to trek, Kora and Uncas must race to the safety of the nearest human dome. But navigating their feelings for one another may prove the biggest obstacle of all. With trouble brewing between colonists and Nah’dians, Kora’s not sure this new world is ready for a love that transcends DNA.
THEY CHOSE THE STARS (90,000 words) is a multi-POV YA Science Fiction based on James Fenimore Cooper’s unabridged THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. It features a diverse cast and reads as a stand-alone with series potential. I am working with the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation to assure a sensitive retelling of this classic story. Overall this query is fantastic - I love it.
My breath fogs the port, nose so close it's almost touching the glass, as outside the window a thin blue crescent outlines the planet. I wipe the window with my hand, and a thrill runs through me as I locate major cities, a widely spaced connect-the-dots of shining beacons against the dusky world. But Father has barely mentioned the cities. His life is a research dome in the wilderness, and so ours will be as well.
Sheets of green and gold aurora borealis leap the poles, but the blue crescent inches upward, erasing the aurora with relentless indifference. A bright diamond swells in the center, then breaks free, rays blazing into cold space like the blood pumping through my heart faster and faster. Spots blossom and wane across my vision, but I cannot look away. Your description is really beautiful, but I think the second para verges on purple prose - we need to get to a person sooner to pull the reader in.
“Mother would have loved this,” Alyss says, a breathy voice from the next port.
An involuntary line creases my brow; irritation at the interruption equal to her use of Mother. Like the word "mother" or the thought of her? But I smooth my face into a smile before my eyes shift to my sister. Her slim fingers press the glass with reverent grace as she stares in awe at the star rising in the black sky. She has not noticed my frown, not that she ever does.
“Yes.” My voice is a whisper. Talking about Mother is still hard. “But she’d never have stepped foot on a space cruiser.”
I long ago accepted my half-sister saw my mother as the only one she had ever known. Why it bothers me now is hard to explain. Maybe I am just overwhelmed by what the coming days will bring. And what the last seven months have dealt us.
Overall this is quite good. The query is polished and feels like a fresh take. I think you need to clarify the "mother" irritation in the beginning (especially if it's plot relevant) and watch out for the highlighted echoes.