As the mentoring section is in full swing, I thought I’d take a moment to relate back why I picked who I did in Pitch Wars, in the hopes that anyone who wasn’t picked might be able to learn a few tidbits about what can improve their chances in the future.
Let’s start with my main mentee – C.M Franklin with BIG BOYS DON’T CRY (currently renamed as Hope On A Feather).
The first thing that struck me about this book was the character. The character literally spilled off the pages. This author did a wonderful job of showing me the heart and soul of her character, so much so I felt they were real. How did she achieve this? By giving each character a completely different personality, but by showing why these characters had bonded together. She made them multifaceted. They laughed, cried, joked around, and stood by each other. Everything about them made it feel as if they had known each other for years. In order to achieve this, you need to know your character inside and out. You can’t just open the page and write from page one. You need to know what this character has experienced in their life, what they believe, and why they do. It’s like knowing someone else entirely different from yourself. You need to make sure you’re not just writing from your POV (which a lot of new writers fall into automatically by default). As a new writer, you want to delve into your character and find out who THEY really are.
The second thing that struck me was voice – it felt YA (which is the genre I mentor). The writer focused on what matters to teens, how they see the world, and how they bond with each other. This helped create a believable voice. It’s not just an adult looking back and narrating what it’s like to be a teen. It’s a teen talking on the page.
Thirdly, emotion. This book dug deep into the emotion of each character. It looked at not only the surface emotions of happy, sad, angry, etc. It looked into jealousy, anger, envy, empathy, understanding and spite. It went through the spectrum. A lot of writers forget to really delve into the emotional spectrum. This writer did, and she did it from page one. I’d recommend all writers do the same.
Next, let’s look at my alternate – Gwen C. Katz with AMONG THE RED STARS.
Style. Style, style, style. This writer’s pages grabbed me because they were confident, stylish, and made me believe in what she was saying. Style means delving into the world of your book and describing the people and events in it with confidence. You have to know your world inside out. You have to live and breathe it. My alternate did just this. She showed that this was her world and she had full command over it. I believed everything she said because she picked out details unique to her world, she confidently described her characters, and she moved through her text with the skill of someone who knows where and when they are, and with whom they’re with.
Secondly, she picked out a unique story with unique characters. She didn’t just opt for an average story. She took a quirky historical moment in time and really developed it into the character’s story. This event in time didn’t stay just about the event – it became about a specific person in that event. It focused on how it affected them and why the reader should care. And care I did. Very much so.
Third, the thing that struck me about Among The Red Stars was the sheer mastery of scope at the same time as focusing on the personal. She managed to encompass a huge world building breadth in her book, but tie it down to a personal, easy to relate to situation between one girl and her immediate family and friends. This brought a great contrast to the book, which swept me off my feet.
So there you have it. I hope this little insight into what made me pick my mentee and my alternate helps you hone in on where you can work on your own writing. I will say, I am blessed that I have found two such amazing, talented and dedicated writers to work with. I have faith they will both find their agent homes. And I have hope that you all will too!