Pitch Wars Wish List 2021

For an accessibilty friendly version of this wish list follow this LINK.

Hi everyone and welcome to my Pitch Wars wish list!


I’m thrilled to be taking part in Pitch Wars 2021, and I’m excited to find a great mentee to work hand-in-hand with. This year, I’m a YA (Young Adult) mentor. *Please note that I’m not taking NA (New Adult) submissions as there are other mentors better suited for that category.

Before I go into my wish list, please take note of the following trigger warnings (which means these elements aren’t a good fit for me):

Animal abuse.
Rape.
Nudity.

These are due to personal subjectivity. I am, however, fine with other darker plot elements and intimacy.

Also, please note that I am VERY diversity-friendly and would love to discover stories from a diverse array of narratives, written by voices who have a direct experience within these communities.

CAVEAT: While it can be helpful to know which submissions are from these communities, please don’t feel obligated to share any personal information that you would rather not disclose.

Okay, other than that, let’s get down to business! And this is going to be a doozy of a post as I like to be thorough. However, I’ve titled each section so you can scroll to the bits that relate to you!

Who Am I and Why Should You Submit to Me?

First and foremost, I’m a book lover, devout reader, and story enthusiast. Whether it’s a scribbled piece of graffiti on an old, broken-down wall, or an epic tale on a university shelf, if it’s got words, it’s more than likely captured my imagination at some point. I’m looking for someone who gels with that.

Professionally, I am a full-time, freelance editor with Reedsy, and I have a host of clients who have published traditionally and indie to great success. Working with new and established authors gives me a great perspective on how to grow an author’s skills no matter what step on the ladder they happen to be on. If you’d like to see my past clients and their reviews of my work, feel free to hop over to the Reedsy website and check them out! I’m also a sensitivity reader for chronic illness, neurological conditions, and asexuality.

In the past, I’ve interned with two literary agencies, freelanced with a literary consultancy, and I’ve worked with a script-writing company. I’m also represented by Don Congdon Associates for my children’s fiction.

I have had the immense pleasure and honor of working with Pitch Wars mentees in the past. You can check out two of my past mentees’ amazing books here:

These two authors captured my eye because they had complex, layered characters, impactful emotional scenes, and worlds that popped to life. So what am I looking for this year?

GENRES I’M LOOKING FOR

THRILLER/MYSTERY/SUSPENSE

FANTASY (in particular odd and quirky!)

Please note: What I love to see in thrillers might not be the same as what I love to see in fantasy, so it’s good to check the wishlist fully.

Okay, so I know that’s pretty broad, so let me break it down a touch, and please bear in mind that this is only my personal, subjective opinion and is not indicative of the publishing industry as a whole. They’re simply my tastes.

Thriller/Mystery/Suspense

I am ALL IN with thrillers, mysteries, and suspense, especially those with unique settings and those that move from location to location (especially if those location changes are tied to character backstory.) I’d LOVE to find the next YA Dan Brown, James Patterson, Karin Slaughter, or David Baldacci. Give me teen heroes who have amazing, hard-earned smarts and who think outside the box, see the world in a different way, and who have flaws that both hinder and help them. And I’m keen to get some unreliable narrators, too!

Think: One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus, A Dangerous Year by Kes Trester, One by One by Freida McFadden, The Cellar by Natasha Preston, The Liar’s Daughter by Megan Peterson, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. And movies like The Orphan, Now You See Me, The Bone Collector, Hush, Memento, and Sixth Sense.

What I love in thrillers/mysteries/suspense:

  • Diversity in all its glory—culture, religion, disability, sexual orientation, etc. Give me your real, layered people and places!
  • Tight, impactful dialogue.
  • Protagonists with special skills.
  • Complex, layered clues that still have an easy-to-see logic in retrospect.
  • Unique settings.
  • Tight, fast prose that makes the story sprint along.
  • The secret society trope.
  • Psychological twists and turns.
  • Morally gray characters.

What might not suit me in thrillers/mysteries/suspense:

  • Novels that lean towards the literary end of the spectrum.
  • Villain diatribes that last long enough for the hero to escape and win.
  • Henchmen without a defined purpose outside of a plot device.
  • A protagonist or antagonist with unrealistic skills (I love special skills based on a solid backstory, though!)

Fantasy

A caveat: I won’t be taking on any Scottish mythology books as it is too close to the area in which I write and I want to avoid any conflicts of interest.

My major sweet spot in fantasy right now is anything that is super quirky and leans to the speculative/supernatural side. I love things that have witches, magic, ghosts, hauntings, gothic vibes, magical realism, mythological creatures, myth, retellings, etc.

Some of my favorites include: The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle, The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, The November Girl by Lydia Kang, How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather, Coraline (and The Ocean at the End of the Lane) by Neil Gaiman, and I am Legend by Richard Matheson. And movies such as The Haunting of Hill House , Stranger Things, The Haunting of Bly Manor, and Blood Red Sky tick my boxes, too!

I will take a look at epic/high fantasy (though it’s not my main focus, but I’m willing to be surprised). In this area, I’m particularly interested in ones based off diverse cultures, religions, and led by diverse protagonists (and antagonists and anti-heroes!)

Favorites include: The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco, Gunmetal Gods by Zamil Akhtar, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (anything by Neil Gaiman, really!), The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Myer (though this is a rare sci-fi love of mine), and Mortal Engines by Phillip Reeve.

What I love in fantasy:

  • Diversity in all its glory—culture, religion, disability, sexual orientation, mythology, folklore, etc. Show me the world and the myriad of people in it.
  • Lush prose and evocative descriptions that use the five senses.
  • The quirky, odd, and surreal.
  • Characters with agency and heart.
  • Morally gray characters.
  • A world that is off-kilter from our own.
  • Weird, wonderful, unusual styles of writing.
  • Enemies to lovers trope.
  • Found family trope.
  • Magic with a price!

What might not suit me in fantasy:

  • The Chosen One or prophecy storyline.
  • Medieval-style settings.
  • The damsel in distress (unless there is an upended trope here!)
  • Teens who learn amazing skills very quickly.
  • Books with lots of training scenes.

PLEASE NOTE: If you’re not sure if your genre fits here or if you have a mashup genre, please feel free to touch base with me via Twitter to ask if it’s on my wishlist. I can’t answer pitches, but I can answer genre questions!

My mentoring style:
I am highly collaborative with my authors and believe that every writer needs a different approach and every book has its own, specific needs. I will read the manuscript a minimum of two times, but the process in which we go through this will be discussed and decided amongst mentor and mentee. My job is to help get your manuscript to the best possible place in the best way that suits you. I am open to email, Twitter, and audio/video calls as preferred methods of communication. AND I WILL GIF YOU IF YOU LET ME!!!

All right then! If you’ve made it all the way to here, congratulations on getting this far! I hope you’ll consider me as your mentor and I look forward to having the honor of reading your words.


Good luck!

Pitch Wars 2021 Young Adult Mentors’ Wish Lists

  1. Mary E. Roach (Accepts NA)
  2. Amelia Diane Coombs (Accepts NA)
  3. Diana Urban
  4. Susan Bishop Crispell (Accepts NA)
  5. TJ Ohler (Accepts NA)
  6. Laurie Dennison (Accepts NA)
  7. Justine Pucella Winans (Accepts NA)
  8. Zoulfa Katouh and Molly X Chang (Accepts NA)
  9. Sonora Reyes (Accepts NA)
  10. Abigail Johnson
  11. Rosiee Thor and Emily Grey
  12. Carlyn Greenwald (Accepts NA)
  13. M.T. Khan (Accepts NA)
  14. Sarvenaz Taghavian
  15. Emery Lee
  16. Margie Fuston (Accepts NA)
  17. Aashna Avachat (Accepts NA)
  18. Allison Saft (Accepts NA)
  19. Fiona McLaren
  20. Jessica Lewis
  21. Brianna Bourne (Accepts NA)
  22. Jamie McHenry
  23. Meg Long and Rochelle Hassan (Accepts NA)
  24. Laura Weymouth (Accepts NA)
  25. Natalie Crown and Angelica Monai (Accepts NA)
  26. Skyla Arndt and Alex Brown (Accepts NA)
  27. Charity Alyse and Cimone Watson (Accepts NA)
  28. Emily Thiede and Lauren Blackwood (Accepts NA)
  29. Anna Sortino and Annika J. Cosgrove (Accepts NA)
  30. Jenny Perinovic and Kyrie McCauley (Accepts NA)
  31. Carrie S. Allen and Sabrina Lotfi
  32. Jamie Howard and Meredith Tate (Accepts NA)
  33. KL Burd (Accepts NA)
  34. Jennifer Yu (Accepts NA)
  35. Hoda Agharazi and Lyssa Mia Smith (Accepts NA)
  36. Em X. Liu and Grace D. Li (Accepts NA)
  37. Carly Heath (Accepts NA)
  38. Kiana Krystle (Accepts NA)
  39. Sarah Underwood and Kat Dunn (Accepts NA)
  40. Joel Brigham (Accepts NA)
  41. Dante Medema and Liz Lawson (Accepts NA)
  42. Aty S. Behsam and Maedeh B. Saaina (Accepts NA)
  43. Kylie Schachte (Accepts NA)
  44. Gabi Burton (Accepts NA)
  45. Aaron Cole and Tamara Cole (Accepts NA)
  46. Hannah V. Sawyerr and Olivia Liu (Accepts NA)
  47. Bethany Mangle (Accepts NA)
  48. Lane Clarke (Accepts NA)
  49. Sunya Mara (Accepts NA)
  50. Karen Bao (Accepts NA)

Click here to view all Pitch Wars 2021 Mentors’ Wish Lists. To view the wish lists by genre, visit this link.

A few tips for Pitch Wars…

Hey guys!

The big day is tomorrow! The Pitch Wars mentor wish lists go live (and it’s as exciting for us as it is for you!) So, I thought now was a good time to give some insight into how to prep your submission. This won’t guarantee you get picked, but I think it will help you boost your chances. This is just one mentor’s opinion, though, so take what works for you and junk the rest!

Query advice:

  1. Remember, most people come for plot but stay for character. Which means it’s a good idea to show your character in your query. As opposed to just “teenager Jenna” or “Thirty-something David”, I find it much more compelling when I read something more personalized, such as “Teenage Star-Trek geek Jenna” or “Thirty-something, Volvo driving, V-neck sweater owning David”. These help give personality and characterization to your characters and I can see the tone you’re going for.
  2. Remember to keep the emotion in mind. What is the emotional heart of your story? What are the stakes that are super important to your character? Think about the character more than the reader here as by getting personal to your character, you’ll actually draw your reader in more. Personally, I don’t need stakes to be life or death. But what I do need are stakes that matter to the character. Is the most important thing to the character a locket given to them by the person they love who is no longer there—show me how they will be devastated if they lose that locket. Or are they so connected to their childhood home and their memories there that they’ll be devasted if the ghosts overrun it and they are going to lose it?
  3. Try not to use questions as you don’t want the reader filling in the blanks and risking it not being what you wanted to portray.
  4. If you’re unsure, I’d suggest going for being specific and concise. Speficity is a writer’s friend.

Synopsis advice:

  1. Be concise and clear. Try to only name three characters in your story synopsis so that the reader can keep everyone straight.
  2. This is one of the best links I’ve ever seen on how to write a one-page synopsis.
  3. The synopsis is designed to show three key elements: the character arc, the plot arc, and the structure of your novel. Be very clear to show what your character has to overcome emotionally at the start of the synopsis and, at the end, show what they have learned emotionally because of what they have been through.
  4. Make sure the character has agency and activity throughout the synopsis. Show their choices and then the consequences of those. Eg. Lisa did X, so Y happened, which mean Lisa chose to do Z, then A happened.
  5. Ask CPs to have a last minute read-through! Especially people who’ve never read the story as they will let you know right away if something doesn’t make sense!

First page advice:

  1. A good first line is great, but don’t stress over it. It isn’t make or break.
  2. Let us know what your character wants!
  3. Establish time and place so the reader can understand the context of your story.
  4. Set the genre expectation. Let the reader know what genre they are stepping into.
  5. Clarity is key. If the reader can understand things clearly, then you’re going to have an easier time than if a reader has to try and remember lots of characters, world-building details, or information.
  6. Your first page’s job is to hook with intrigue and raise a question the reader wants answered.

Okay, so I hope these thoughts help. Good luck for Pitch Wars and beyond, writerly friends!

Fiona xox

Writing tips—my website guide!

Hey everyone, this post is a short and sweet one. For all writers, and for Pitch Wars hopefuls, here is the collated list of my ultimate favorite craft websites! I hope you find some diamonds that shine for you in here!

How To Write A 1-Page Synopsis | Pub(lishing) Crawl

Dialogue tags & Action beats

Character Arcs

11 Common Writing Mistakes To Avoid

Passive voice

Filter words

Show vs Tell

Midpoints

Writers helping writers

The Snowflake

The Dan Harmon Story Circle

Subtext in scenes 1

Subtext in scenes 2

Info dumping

Active setting

Writing a Series

Plotting backwards

Murder mystery motives

Whodunnit

Writing With Color

The Query Letter

POV

Press kit

Writers helping writers

Should you give up writing—the other side of the coin?

This question has preyed on the mind of almost every writer I know, and it’s something I discussed in my last blog post. The doubt of not being agented yet, a book not being good enough, no forthcoming deal when on some submission to publishers… the turmoil and angst can seem endless. Of late, I’ve seen many a writer ask the question “Should I give up writing?”

In my last post, I looked at the heart and soul of why I think that writing should be first and foremost your passion and the publishing should be a secondary goal. But today, I’d also like to see some of the examples of authors who have been in the shoes of those doubting writers and have pushed on and fought their way to success. So for a little inspiration, here are some success stories that can light the way on your dreariest of days:

SOME OF THE MOST REJECTED YET SUCCESSFUL WRITERS

Chicken Soup for the Soul: 144 rejections.
Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: 121 rejections.
Elmore Leonard, The Big Bounce: 84 rejections by publishers and producers.
Marlon James, John Crow’s Devil: 78 rejections from publishers.
Heidi Durrow, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky: 48 rejections from publishers
Donal Ryan, Spinning Heart: 47 rejections from publishers.
Samuel Beckett, Murphy: 40 rejections from publishers.
Daniel Handler, The Basic Eight: 37 rejections from publishers.
James Patterson, The Thomas Berryman Number: 31 rejections from publishers.
Stephen King, Carrie: 30 rejections from publishers.
John Grisham, A Time to Kill: 28 rejections.
Dr. Seuss, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street: 27 rejections from publishers.
Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time: 26 rejections from publishers.
Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife: 25 rejections from agents.
Frank Herbert, Dune: 23 rejections from publishers.
Joseph Heller, Catch-22: 22 rejections.

AUTHORS WHO GOT A LATE START IN LIFE

Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye: 40 years old.
Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer: 41 years old.
Bram Stoker, The Snake’s Pass: 43 years old.
Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep: 44 years old.
Helen DeWitt, 2000’s The Last Samurai: 44 years old.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit: 45 years old.
Richard Adams, Watership Down: 52 years old.
Anna Sewell, Black Beauty: 57 years-old.
Mary Wesley, Speaking Terms and The Sixth Seal: 57 years old.
Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes: 66 years old.
Harriette Doerr, Stones of Ibarra, 74 years old.
Millard Kaufman, Bowl of Cherries, 90 years old.


As you can see, writers find their success at all ages and after all amounts of rejections. As long as you are learning, polishing your craft, building relationships, and enjoying your writing, I truly believe you can get there.

Fiona xox

Are You Meant to be a Writer?

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my life’s purpose and how that looks in relation to being a writer. The publishing industry, as everyone knows, can be a tough one. However, it can also make it easy to forget why we write and what it truly means to us to write.

In today’s capitalist society, it’s easy to fall into the mindset of rating ourselves by what we deem as success (either self-imposed or societally based). In publishing, that can be whether you’ve gotten an agent or a publishing deal, whether you’ve won a contest, or whether you’ve met a sales quota. A lot of writers scan Twitter contests and judge their own concepts against others. They read published works with envy and admiration at the same time. They can find critique hard to take, even though they seek it out with a genuine desire to improve. As people, we are constantly judging. Yes, we remind ourselves that failures bring us closer to success… but does that really make us feel better? Some of us, perhaps. A lot of us, no.

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in my life questioning. In relation to writing, a lot of that was “is this really my purpose?” And I think a lot of writers can resonate with this. It’s easy to determine our worth as a writer based around our “success” within the industry. But I’d like to encourage you to look at this from a different angle. When you think back to your youngest, happiest childhood memories, everything was play, fun, in the moment, joy, creation, and imagination. This is where your life’s purpose is, I believe. The joy. So, if writing brings you joy, then why isn’t that enough to be your life’s purpose? Why do you need “more”?

So how do you get to a stage where joy is what supersedes the need for societal success and validation?

I won’t claim to be all-knowing or infallible in my answers. However, I know that what I’ve learned so far in life is this: meditate. This doesn’t have to be spiritual if that’s not your thing. But the key is to be silent. Still. Listen to your breathing. And then ask yourself questions about who you really are: Why do you need the validation? What or who in your life influenced this? Why have you carried these beliefs for so long? How do they serve you? What do you need to do to work through them? Or what can you do to acknowledge them and turn your focus elsewhere?

I believe you need to let go of your self-constructed identity. The one that comprises all your expectations, experiences, fears, worries, societal pressures, other’s opinions, etc. That doesn’t mean to abandon who you are. Actually, far from it. It means to let them go and examine them. Find the authentic truth. Question yourself and see what it is you want to be and then ask yourself which beliefs serve that purpose. And when you ask yourself who you want to be, ask yourself this: why do you want to be this? Who are you trying to please? I believe the answer should be yourself. And the reason should be joy.

If you believe your life’s purpose is to be a writer…. then all you need to do is write and let the universe take care of the rest. Does that mean you’ll publish? Maybe, maybe not. Does it mean you will have a readership? Again, maybe, maybe not. But it does mean you will feel the joy of the life you’re supposed to live. And that is what counts. Because when you shine your joy, it will shine onto other people. Perhaps you think the only way you can touch someone’s life is when they read your work. But maybe you’re looking at things all wrong. Perhaps, through the act of writing, you shine your light from inside and that’s what touches other people’s lives. That by discovering the stories inside of you, you become closer to your authentic truth and that act radiates out from you and brings light to the world. So whether someone reads that story or not, the act of writing it brings love and joy into the world by you simply following your authentic truth.

Remember, we all come from the stars, and stars are meant to shine.

Love and light,

Fiona