Monday, August 31, 2015

An Open Letter To PitchWars Hopefuls...

As the mentee announcement approaches, I can't help but feel like these are the final days of hope for some people and I kind of want to kick that feeling right in the pants.

Because your lifetime writing goal isn't to get into Pitch Wars is it? If you don't make it in, does that mean you'll never get published EVER? Is this the only door open to you?
Want to hear a handful of reasons why I passed on some things? 
  • Because the inner narration felt to me like more of a narrator than a teenager.
  • Because the writing was AMAZING, but the concept involved something I wasn't super interested in.
  • Because there was a technology element I felt I wasn't the mentor for
  • Because the love interest didn't particularly appeal to me
  • Because while I LOVE LOVE LOVED the book, there were issues I felt I couldn't tackle in two months.
  • Because I didn't think the world building was as solid as I'd like to have seen it (and I'm not an expert on world building, so this wouldn't be the best problem for me to tackle.)
  • Because it felt more middle grade than young adult.
  • Same problem, but thought it was more of an adult voice.
And about 1000 other reasons. 

Do you know what the common theme there is? ME. It wasn't right for ME. And some of you might be saying, "Well you're just one person..."

AND YOU'RE ABOSLUTELY RIGHT. Mentors, agent, editors, we're just people, looking for the book that speaks to our hearts the most.

When I entered Pitch Wars I pretty much just sat around sweating for a week. I know how hard that is. It's not a small thing, and I know it sounds like a brush aside when you're faced with the possibility of not being chosen. "If you don't make it in, you're still awesome for writing a book!" It sounds like a consolation prize, right?

But it's not. The first book I wrote? Holy crap it was sad. The second one was... slightly better. The third one was where I found my voice, and that book got me my agent. Literally the only way you won't move forward from here is if you quit right now.

Submitting to Pitch Wars is a big thing. You submitted your book into a MAJOR contest to be JUDGED by the mentors you submitted to! Badge of honor. Participating in the community, finding friends, and CP's? Badge of honor. NOT making it and still trudging along? SEVEN THOUSAND BADGES!

Nobody writes a book, gets an agent, and gets a publishing deal without someone passing on them. Not one single person in the history of ever. 

Mentors pass? 

Keep going. 

Agents pass?

You KEEP going!

Editors pass? 

Are you writing this down?
It's the only way to break through and find your place in this crazy difficult industry we've chosen to be a part of. 

Think of publishing like a GIANT (but also deceptively small?) shopping mall. There are multiple floors, multiple entrances, and thousands of people wanting to get inside and buy something. Some are going to flock to the same big doors, because they're well lit, and by the food court, and that's where everyone goes in. But if those doors were broken and wouldn't open, you wouldn't walk back to your car and go home! You find another door! 

Pitch Wars is just ONE door, and it's a door that doesn't allow many people through. Is it a great opportunity? Of course! But it's not the only great opportunity! I wouldn't be anywhere without my CP's. If I had to choose between them and Pitch Wars back in the day, I would have chosen my CP's, hands down. 

That's why all of us mentors have been stressing the importance of getting EVERYTHING you can out of Pitch Wars. After the announcement, come talk to us! Don't go away, and be sad. We're here for you! Visit the #Menteemates hashtag and find a CP, or join me for my next CP Matchmaker party on September 12th. (Details in the tab above.) Listen to whatever feedback you get from your mentors, and see what feels right to you.

Make sure the changes you make are ones you agree with! Revise, or get a critique, or send a query! The world doesn't stop just because you don't see your name on that list.

And this, right here, what I'm about to say, is the MOST important thing. Are you ready?

You are AWESOME. You're the perfect mix of stubborn and talent and perseverance, and you are not going to quit! You're going to brush it off and keep putting those words down, otherwise my heart will break into a thousand pieces. (Yes, I'm guilting you now.) Don't break my heart. Don't break your own. 

Keep writing, because I can't wait to see where you go from here. 


Monday, August 3, 2015

Pitch Wars Wishlist!

It's finally Pitch Wars time, lovelies! (And if for some reason you have no idea what that is, you can go here and read all about it!)

I'm absolutely ecstatic to be a mentor this year. I participated as an alternate in 2013 as well as two #Pitmad events, the last of which resulted in me signing with my agent, the oh-so wonderful Mandy Hubbard at D4EO.

These things really work, guys, and I'm so thrilled to be involved.

A little about me:

In whatever shreds of free time I have that aren't immediately eaten up by writing, you can usually find me reading, laying out in the sun, driving too fast, or dream shopping for houses I'll never be able to afford. :-) I love tea, baking outrageous birthday cakes (and baking in general, really), skydiving, drizzly rain, and I'm pretty certain I'm not nearly as funny as I think I am.
And why should you submit to me, you ask?

1. Because I'm a plot ninja! In my critique group, when someone needs brainstorming help, they come to me. Sometimes I can't fix my own book to save my life but give me someone else's manuscript and I have about a million thoughts that at least spark some kind of new idea in whoever I'm working with.

2. I give really detailed edits. I like to start off with a big picture kind of chat about the book and the places I think need to be worked on. That's not to say you have to change everything I point out. This is more of a conversation about your book as a whole and what we both agree needs to be worked on. Every bit of the editing process should be working toward making your book better, but always staying within what YOU want it to be. It's your diamond, I'm just shining it up.

3. Once the big picture stuff is resolved I like to line edit, offering suggestions and comments as I go, and I LOVE pointing out the parts that made me laugh out loud or cry or scream at my computer. Like a running commentary on your book as I read it.

SIDE NOTE: If you're not ready to do some real revisions, please don't submit to me. My job is to work with you and make your book as perfect as possible in time for the agent round, not flatter you and tell you everything is fantastic just the way it is. Working with me requires actual WORK. :-)

4. I have a serious knack for romantic progression. It's not always easy to take two people from first meeting to falling in love without losing that... spark. If you feel that's something that might need to be worked on, I'm definitely your girl.

5. I have a quick email turnaround, and I'm a huge fan of Google Hangouts. I'll be available pretty much always to answer questions, brainstorm, vent to, whatever, because I know what it's like to be on the other side of things and have worries about the contest or how things are going to work.

6. I plan to give feedback to everyone who submits to me. With so many people entering and so few slots available (especially this year, since there are no alternates) I want to be able to offer something to everyone who takes the time to send their writing my way.

ANOTHER SIDE NOTE: Feedback may take a while to put together depending on how many submissions we're talking about, but I'll eventually get to every single person. Just be patient with me.

7. I give some great pep-talks (and lets face it, who doesn't need one of those every once in a while?) Contests and agents and querying can all be stressful and I've got your back through it all.

Okay! Now for the wish list.

I am mentoring YOUNG ADULT ONLY. I'll have to automatically pass on anything else. :-(

In YA, I'm looking for gritty, intense plots, terrifying unexpected twists, sudden deaths, original characters, and achingly beautiful love stories fleshed out in rough circumstances. I'm a sucker for a fantastic love story. Forbidden romances, love triangles, secrets, kick-ass kissing scenes, and super sexy love interests, in all forms. But it's not just about the sexy. Show me characters WORTH falling in love with and you'll hook me.

Give me psychics that prey on people’s dreams, terrifying plantations and chases through swamps, or serial killers picking off teens at a Halloween party. Give me epic, fantastical worlds that are seriously messed up. Give me dark and twisted. Give me heartbreak, and misunderstandings, and betrayals.

Bonus points if you make me gasp, cry, laugh out loud, or jump for joy.

More specifically:

Horror/Thriller- The book that got me my agent is a YA horror about a demon train that abducts its passengers from all over the world and tortures them with their worst fears. Horror is my go-to genre. Give me ghosts, urban legends, cults, psychos, hauntings, possession, the occult, southern gothic (I LOVE southern gothic!). I'm interested in horror based in reality as well as more fantastical twists and settings (like my train.) However, I steer clear of gore/slasher/mutilation type horror, where people are chopped up and tortured for no reason other than the shock factor. I want to be creeped out, not disgusted.

Concerning thrillers, I'd rather see manuscripts that embody the psychological side of things, rather than the heist/mystery/hunted-by-a-secret-government-organization kind of stuff. Think Vanishing Girls, The Tenderness of Thieves, etc.

Fantasy/Magical Realism/Steampunk- New approaches to magic, especially when it's there but not the whole focus of the book (a la, The Scorpio Races.) All original urban fantasy, alternate histories, portals. I want super creepy high fantasy worlds, truly terrifying antagonists, new twists on old tropes, and jump-off-the-page, gritty settings that feel as real as the characters.

*I have a soft spot for pirates too. The more original the concept the better.* 

Historical- Historical thrillers (again, psychological), original approaches to time travel, retellings, and historical fantasy. I love, love, love magical/paranormal elements in historical settings. (ex- The Infernal Devices or Pirates of the Caribbean.) 

*Bonus points for Regency era or anything resembling Pride and Prejudice but with a paranormal twist.*

But Most Importantly: Sometimes I don't know what I want until I see it. I don't know how many times I've read a synopsis for an upcoming book and thought "Holy crap that sounds good" and it's something I normally wouldn't have gone looking for on my own. When in doubt, ask me. I'm very active on Twitter.

And at the end of the day, if your book embodies this quote, I'm probably game:

Things NOT for me:
  • Dystopian, mystery, or science fiction.
  • Novels told in verse.
  • Vampires, werewolves, angels, or any other played out magical creature. If I roll my eyes, you’ve lost me.
  • Books involving graphic rape scenes, clich├ęd boarding school type settings, or torturing babies/children.
  • Your bubbly, happy, contemporary about true friendship might be a future bestseller, but it’s also not for me.

And that's it! Check out all the other awesome mentors below and then send me all those amazing manuscripts! :-)
You know you want to...