You be the judge: A Pitch Slam Entry for my WIP

Hey #PitchSlam peeps! As many of you know, I entered #PitchSlam last year with an MS that subsequently sold to HarlequinTeen and is currently in edits. But I really wanted to participate in the fun where judges and slashes post a sample of their own work for contestants to critique. So I decided to do and entry for my current WIP.

Here’s the thing: This is an unfinished work and nobody has critiqued it yet, so if you comment you’ll be the absolute first. I welcome any and all suggestions!! Bring it on #PitchSlam! Here’s the entry:


Name: Kelly deVos
Genre: YA Thriller
Title: 2020
Word Count: 80,000

If your main character could be any Star Wars character, who would they choose and why? Rachel would be Wedge Antilles. While Luke Skywalker gets all the glory, Wedge has been busy fighting in all the major battles of the original trilogy. Rachel is tired of doing all the work but being a glorified extra.

35 word pitch: 17 year-old Rachel Benedict spends her weekends prepping for a doomsday she’s sure will never come. When her father triggers a financial meltdown, she must save herself or risk her life to stop the crisis.


First 250 words:

Rule One: Always Be Prepared

September 27th, 2019




Einstein believed time travel is possible but as far as I know I can’t move things along by staring at the clock and willing the bell to ring.

Tick tock. I stare at a banner that reads FAIL TO PLAN. PLAN TO FAIL. SAT PREP SESSIONS THIS SATURDAY. Clock. Banner. Clock. Banner. Five minutes until the school closes for the weekend. No thanks to Einstein or Goedel, 2:40 finally arrives. I’m the first person to the door and I’ve got one foot in the hall while everyone else is still busy shoving their laptops into backpacks.

It’s weird because I am not looking forward to the weekend. I just want it to pass as quickly as possible so I can get on with my life.

I hit the computer lab on my way off campus.

“Nothing interesting ever happens. The class of 2020 will go down in the history of Desert Hills High as the most boring ever. And that’s really saying something. I mean, last year the Seniors actually chose Moose Murders as their class play.”

This is what Makeeba says the instant I step foot in the computer lab. I spot her sitting at a high table in the far corner of the room, her massive afro shooting up from behind a computer screen. Next to her, there’s a camera and flash assembly on a tripod.


More Judge the Judges:

Jamie Corrigan

Erin Hall

Laura Heffernan

Jim O’Donnell

Kimberly VanderHorst

Cindy Wilson

  • Christina D

    Well first of all it’s awesome you have a book deal! I’m definitely going to go check it out.

    Now for this one, I’ll put on my critiquing hat. Hrmmm.

    I think the pitch is pretty clear. My question is, is her father the reason she preps for doomsday? Or he’s just the one causing a financial meltdown?

    The beginning of the 250 first made me think a phone was ringing. I love the first sentence about Einstein. What about just adding a word like classroom?
    Einstein believed time travel is possible but as far as I know I can’t move things along by staring at the classroom clock and willing the bell to ring.

    The dialogue from Makeeba, what if it was broken into two, so she as the speaker is introduced sooner?

    That was fun. 🙂

    • kellydevos

      Thank you for this! I SO appreciate it. 🙂

  • nthesaddle

    I like the pitch, but I thought the stakes could be a little clearer. How will she have to risk her life exactly? The 250 is good and easy to envision. I did wonder why the MC would stop by the computer lab when she’s in such a hurry to leave though. Maybe you could give a clue as to why she’s stopping?

    • kellydevos

      Thank you!! Getting it all in 35 words is so tough! But I am working on it and definitely appreciate the help. 🙂

  • Tammy Gibaud writer

    Straight to work for me when I beta read.
    I review other peoples work as if it were my own writing put away for months and then dusted off for edits.
    Please take no offense or advise if it does not follow your particular style of writing.
    Thank you for the chance to read your wip. I am honored.

    If the bell was ringing at the beginning, then why the wait for the clock.
    Believed was or believes is
    Leave out SAT PREP SESSIONS unless absolutly necessary to the plot. Just the fail to plan, plan to fail is good enough.
    Five minutes left of Friday or Five minutes left until the weekend. Not sure if you need to give life to the school as in (till the school closes)
    Why does your mc want the weekend to pass quickly to get on with her life? She is in fast forward mode with no explaination as to why. (waiting for the bell to end class, wanting the weekend to pass quickly).
    Nothing interesting… quote by Makeeba takes up a lot of your first 250. Shorten her quote and move onto your mc’s response.
    Describe the hair, don’t cheat and call it an afto. Black, wirery foot high briar bush hair. Or hair picked to stand 8 inches high.
    Who is makeeba to your mc. Does she have any feeling when running into this character?
    I would like a hook by the end of the page. A mystery. something.

    • kellydevos

      All great suggestions! Thanks of checking out my work <3

  • Bethany Simonsen

    In the pitch, at the point where you say her father triggers a financial meltdown leading to her choice to save herself or risk herself I got a little confused, because at first I envisioned a family scale financial meltdown. And that doesn’t seem to lead to what follows. Dad going bankrupt doesn’t usually lead to mortal peril. If it’s a larger scale financial problem, I think you should indicate that for clarity and tension.
    In the 250: If the MC’s thinking to herself “ring,” like she’s willing the bell to ring, then shouldn’t it be italicized? Otherwise it does sound like you have the bell ringing before the clock hits 2:40. I’d eliminate “It’s weird because” bf I’m not looking forward to the weekend. We’ll know that’s weird; saying it makes it feel like she’s talking to the reader. Having Makeeba’s quote before we know there’s anyone there was a little jarring. I thought MC was saying that stuff out loud and it felt odd.
    Good points: I am curious about why she’s in such a hurry to get home if all she wants it she weekend to be over. And from the pitch, I’m curious about what her dad does that’s so terrible, and why Rachel has to fix it instead of him.

    • kellydevos

      This is all really helpful!! Thank you so much 🙂

  • Andrew Neil

    The pitch is a little confusing. I really think you need “either” regarding her choices because it felt like a cause/effect clause instead of a choice. In other words, she must save herself or (something bad). It would feel clearer to say, “she CAN EITHER save herself or risk her life to stop the crisis.” Then it feels like a choice. You can get a word back by saying “Seventeen-year-old” which is one word vs “17 year-old” which counts as two. If you cut Rachel’s last name from the pitch, you can clear up the financial meltdown as a “global” financial meltdown. I caught the inference, but something like that could make it clearer.

    Your 250 is nice but seems slow. Probably because you’re still telling yourself the story somewhat. I like the foreshadowing of the banner, but I think you spend too much time in class thinking about being elsewhere. I’d suggest picking up the story just as the bell rings and you can get her moving right away. The banner can be in the hall or over the door to the computer lab.

    I too am a little confused about why she’s stopping by the lab after explaining how much she wants to get out of school. I like the visual of the afro peeking out above the computer and the camera. I will say this, it feels like such a trope to have someone exclaim at the beginning of a story about some disaster, “nothing ever happens here.” Feels a little on the nose to me. Maybe couch the sentiment in something more specific and world-building like, “I got a shot of Jeffery Skinner kissing Rory instead of his girlfriend outside of Chem today, and that constitutes the extent of drama for the entire school this year.” Something like that.

    Thanks for sharing!