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

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