I'm back as a Young Adult Pitch Wars mentor! Hello, all you wonderful writers deciding to make the nerve-wracking but so, so brave jump in your writing careers by putting your work out there. I know exactly where you are right now, because I've been there multiple times myself. It never gets any easier to submit your work--whether it be to contests, querying, or even with critique partners--but the first part of being a writer is never giving up.
You've made it this far. We want to help you go farther.
This year, I'm working with my dear friend and writing aficionado, Megan Lally.
|Look at those faces, yo. WE WANT YOUR WORDS.|
As such, our wishlists are going to be a little shorter and a little different this year than what we were after last year. The quick and dirty of what we're hoping to receive is simple: dark, strange, magical, romantic. Regardless of genre, if you have all four of those in your manuscript, we want to see it. We're less picky about genre, and more after specific elements prevalent in books. We want dark undercurrents, gritty atmosphere, harrowing tone, sweeping romance, and, above all, characters so real they feel like people we could pass on the street. But, because that's not as specific and can be subjective, I'll go into more detail.
Contemporary: While we both enjoy our fluff, we don't want to edit it. Fluff, for us, is something we'd rather enjoy as a reader. So, in contemporary, we're both looking for the dark and gritty stuff. The tough decisions, the hard relationships, the life or death, however metaphorically or literally that is present in the manuscript. For example, books that make you question right from wrong like in If I Stay by Gayle Forman, or books that pack punches between every relationship like in I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios, or as dark and strange as The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin. (Fun fact: IMYT is my all-time favorite contemporary novel...and I rarely, if ever, pick favorites.)
Fantasy: Because fantasy is such a saturated market, we're both far pickier about what we're looking for here. First and foremost, though, is that we don't want any hard fantasy, a la Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas. We'd rather have fantasy where the conflict encompasses the characters and plot over the world. Essentially, we're looking more for low fantasy than high or epic. Worlds like those that exist in The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, or The Scorpio races by Maggie Stiefvater. (Incidentally, all three of those are some of my favorite fantasies!)
Historical/Horror--WITH MAGIC: What should be a recurring thing you notice now (😉) is we want the dark stuff. The things that go bump in the night, that make you want to shut your curtains lest you see a face on the other side of the glass, what makes you run from a room when you turn the lights out. And if all of that can be found in a gorgeous historical setting with a splash of fantasy, you've got us hook, line, and sinker. Gothic horror is a genre we'd both love to see more of! If you can re-imagine historical events with a fantastical element, we will love you forever. Something like where the Black Plague is not actually a plague, but an infestation of demons ravaging through Europe. Or where the 1918 Spanish flu is not actually the flu, but something creepy that causes people to go mad. Or something as simple as a dark retelling of Jane Eyre or Pride & Prejudice--or a supernatural version of Peaky Blinders! We love books like The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman (one of my all-time favorite historicals!), A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly, Grave Mercy by Robin Lafevers, or Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco.
Smaller specifics: It is no secret I'm a complete and utter sucker for any and all bromances. On the flip side, lady friendships are some of the most important things that can exist in YA fiction. Do you have LGBT+ characters, romances, etc? GIVE US THEM. We want the gritty stuff, not the no-conflicts-ever friendships. Friendships that fall apart, that come together, that strive through all conflict even if it tears them apart for a time. Do you have a dark carnival or circus, with witchy ringmasters and dangerous magic? PLEASE send it our way! We love claustrophobic environments, when survival does not seem certain. We want circumstances that push characters to the extreme and make you question not only their survival, but what they do in order to survive. Make us feel trapped. Make our hearts race. We love when you make us question a villain's motives: could they actually be the good guy? Could we fall in love with them (a la the Darkling? OMG YES)? Villains are their own hero, and we want to feel that.
Things we don't want: novels in verse, vampires, werewolves, angels, dystopian, princesses, slasher stories, abusive relationships, and love triangles (or squares, pentagons, hexagons, etc). When in doubt, reach out to me and Megan! We're both very active on Twitter, my email inbox is always open (via the Contact Me page above!), and you can always comment down below.
Most of all, though, we want someone who is ready to work. Pitch Wars is not meant to be exclusively about the agent round. The agent round is merely a bonus to the two months of rigorous work we put you through to get your manuscript in tip-top shape. Last year, for example, my mentee had to cut 20k, change one narrator's plot, and re-imagine her villain. You need to be prepared to have your manuscript torn apart and pieced back together.
A little about me:
I've been writing for nine years, across contemporary, historical, dsytopian, and fantasy, and have been involved in the YA community for going on five years. I also blog occasionally on the Writing with the Mentors blog, where I and many other Pitch Wars mentors share writing tips, Pitch Wars do's and don'ts, and much more! I've participated in many contests--in Pitch Wars alone, I've been both mentee and mentor!--and thus know what it takes to get books in tip-top shape for catching the eyes of agents. When I mentored last year for Pitch Wars, my mentee Jo Hathaway went on to sign with an agent from Curtis Brown, Ltd. Both of Megan's mentees from last year--Sheena Boekweg and Isabel Davis--have signed with agents, too.
My strengths for editing lie in line edits, action scenes, intrigue, romance, character arcs, world-building, and slam-dunk endings. If you want brutal honesty, I'm your gal--but I always cushion my critique with advice.
Megan's strengths for editing lie in big picture problems, character emotion and stakes, and romance. Beyond that, she is one of my biggest champions and never fails to make me feel confident about myself as a writer.
We are ALWAYS open to questions you may have, and are happy to talk you through problems and help smooth out plot knots, both during and after the contest. I'm afraid once you're our my mentee, you're stuck with us.
Beyond my writing credentials, I'm a senior in college, getting my Bachelor's in history with an emphasis on museum studies. I've been kickboxing for five years, absolutely love hiking--especially in national parks--and am an absolute introvert at heart. My favorite TV shows are Black Sails, Peaky Blinders, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Reign, Supernatural, Outlander, and I Love Lucy. I blog and tweet about music of all genres (check out my Monday Music posts if you're after some new songs!). I am the middle child of five: two older brothers, and two younger sisters. My favorite animal is an elephant. Oreo cookies are my weakness. And I have a betta fish named after a character I killed in one of my books--he has been immortalized in my fish.
I hope you choose to submit to me and my co-mentor Megan Lally (and hop over to her blog for a surprise!). We have our editing styles down to a science, and are determined to bring our mentee the best of what we have to offer. Please do hop over to her blog and check out her bio and wishlist! And here is your letter for the scavenger hunt:
Please do check out the other mentors' bios in the space below! Megan and I can't wait to get your submission!!