From June 27th through July 18th, we’ll be posting mini-interviews with most of the Pitch Wars mentors so you can get to know them. Many of the mentors also hang out on twitter. Follow the links to their Twitter accounts and say hello. They’ll be on the #PitchWars hashtag tweeting advice and answering questions.
We will also host live chats from July 19th through August 2nd, and the Pitch Wars submission window will open on August 3rd!
We asked our mentors to answer these three questions …
1. What are you looking for in a submission and what would you forgive as far as issues in the sample pages? In other words, what do you feel is an easy fix and what would be a pass for you?
2. What is your editing style and do you have a game plan to tackle edits with your mentee in the two months given for the contest?
3. And lastly, what is your all-time favorite book and how did it inspire your writing?
And here are their answers …
Ayesha was born in colorful Gujarat India, raised in Texas, and now wanders nearby Hawaiian beaches for the next breathtaking picture. With a love for literary things, diversity, culture, and food, she intends on stepping foot in as many corners of the world as time allows. Her head is always in the clouds but she occasionally comes back down to earth to pen her next multicultural piece of YA fiction. Ayesha is represented by The Irene Goodman Agency.
ONE: I’m looking for something unique, fast-paced, emotional, and preferably diverse (although not a requirement, but particularly cultural or POC, although the story doesn’t have to focus on this sole topic). Minor editorial things are an easy fix, because there are clear rules that an author can look for as they sweep through their manuscript, as well as overly descriptive passages, things that can be trimmed, but the story must have heart, an engaging voice, and fantastic world-building. I’m a sucker for some romance, but also for the gritty. Make sure your manuscript is as tight as possible, get rid of passive voice and repetitiveness, lagging parts that do not move the story forward, and dry he said/she said and no action/description in between. Those things tell me that you still have some basic writing skills to work on. We can take away from the story, we can mold the story, but having to add heavy layers will be a pass, in both creative areas and technical writing skills.
TWO: As I read, I comment and correct with everything as I go, from large picture things to missing punctuation. On top of this, I will provide an editorial letter that breaks issues down by category, depending on which issues we need to tackle, to help organize the author’s approach tactic and to divide and conquer (much less overwhelming). I’m very thorough, but I’m also extremely fast. I can do edits within days, and I hope my author can keep up (although I don’t expect them to start up their creative juices, fix issues, and return the manuscript in days). We may do extensive revisions if there’s merit and the author is willing, or there may be minor revisions (chapters, certain plot points, passages, etc.), plot holes, inconsistencies, topics that require more research, etc. And of course, technical things such as grammar and punctuation. I never expect the author to utilize all of my suggestions (just most), but I do expect them to seriously consider them and explain why they will or will not use the suggestions. They have to believe in these changes, that these changes will make a stronger story. In two months, we can do some serious work if you can keep pace.
THREE: I have a favorite series, The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I find her voice to be captivating and diverse among her many, many characters, and her ability to weave several story lines into one journey without losing my interest or my memory of what happened to the last character I read about is quite the skill. She includes characters of different backgrounds, all complex, and while I can write a good story, her talent and evolution in the progression of her writing inspires me to branch out and reach higher levels in my own writing.
A daydreamer who studied English and creative writing in college, Brian interned for a book publisher, works for one now, is a recovering freelance writer, and is currently working on more novel ideas than he’s ever had at any one time in his life. He’s repped by the perfect agent for him–Laura Crockett of TriadaUS–and loves his view of the writing world from out on the West Coast.
ONE: I want something that feels real, even though it’s not. I want to read a story that makes me believe the writer is writing the story of their heart and not just trying to be the next [insert popular YA franchise/author here]. I’m looking for a writer who is confident and bold in their ability to put forth this vision they have in their mind about what their story should be, and they have a clue about how this should be done. If you’re info-dumping right off the bat, or giving me a stock scene I’ve seen or read a dozen times before, that’s going to be hard for me to overlook unless there is a really good, really obvious reason why the book starts that way. The sample pages don’t have to be perfect; I’m most interested in seeing that someone is really trying. Readers can tell when you’re going on autopilot or not searching hard enough for the right words and are content to accept lazy writing–that’s not what I’m looking for, and if that’s what you give me then I’ll be moving on very quickly. Give me magic. Give me a voice I can’t get out of my head (Hmmm…be careful what you wish for there, Brian). Give me a premise that has so many possibilities that I salivate at the idea of spending the next few months obsessing over ways we can make your work shine.
TWO: I’m more of a big-picture guy than a line-edit lover, but I’ll certainly be doing some of both. I’ll pose any and every question that comes to me while reading, both about specific scenes, beats, etc., as well as how such things play into overall themes, narrative arcs, etc. I’ll make notes on simple things like misspellings, crutch words, words that are being used ten times per page, and I’ll challenge the writer to dig deeper regardless of whether a scene, a character, or a beat is working or not–there’s always a way to make some aspect of your book better. Good isn’t great, and great isn’t perfect, so be ready to work hard on this because I want to help you find an agent and I’m going to be very invested in making sure your book is the best it can possibly be! I expect to have a thorough edit letter out to the writer within a week after the selections are made, and we’ll work on a timeline for getting a revision back to me so that I can go through the novel again. Depending on how much work is needed, or if any serious revisions take place, I’d like to do a couple of significant edits read-throughs during the course of the preparation period. I’ll also be available by email so the writer can bounce ideas off me and we can work through any issues that might be popping up; this was an especially invaluable part of my experience with my mentor last year, so I want to keep doing this for sure.
THREE: I’m not sure this is my all-time favorite book, but one of them is SKY BLUE, by Travis Thrasher (what a name, right?!). Of all the books I’ve read, this is the one that had the most profound effect on my writing because of its ability to subtly, beautifully, tragically show how far we can fall, how deep the descent into hell can be, and yet still offer a glimpse of hope that feels like the lifting of a two-ton weight off your chest the moment it comes into view. The novel that got me into Pitch Wars last year shares a lot of emotional ties with SKY in terms of how much one singular event can absolutely obliterate life as you know it and force you to start over from scratch and build something entirely new. SKY also shows how determined people can be when they are chasing a dream, wanting to believe it is true or can be true, and this is something that also plays out in my novel. I’ve gleaned so much from SKY concerning how to write dramatic scenes effectively and to up the stakes in ways the reader doesn’t expect, so it’s definitely had a big influence on my writing.
Brianna is a YA author living in Colorado with her high-school-sweetheart-turned husband and two little boys. She loves all things villainous, magical, and strange, and when she’s not writing, she’s usually buried in someone else’s words in a book. You can usually find her drinking chai and reading by her Harry Potter Christmas tree, which she will probably never take down.
ONE: Hey guys! I’m looking for something that makes me FEEL. Something I can get swept away in–that dark, or romantic, or lush, or all of those things and that grabs me by the heart and won’t let go. As far as sample page issues, I can forgive a typo here and there, issues with showing vs. telling, and starting in the wrong place if the writing and story is strong. A pass for me would be a super cliched opening, or one that throws me in with no emotional connection at all. 🙂
TWO: I tend to hit issues all at once–looking at overall plot/characters/larger writing issues, and then small ones, in one edit pass. Then I have my mentee use track changes and look over all that stuff again until we get it right! I try to be super open and available for communication or questions about edits, and there to bounce questions and ideas off of!
THREE: Oh gosh this is impossible. OK The Outsiders, if I have to pick, because that book got me to go from liking books to LOVING them in the 7th grade. What a cast of characters. Johnny forever. And Dallas Winston, man.
Chelsea Bobulski was born in Columbus, Ohio and raised on Disney movies, classic musicals, and Buckeye pride. She graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in history and promptly married her high school sweetheart. As a writer, she has a soft spot for characters with broken pasts, strange talents, and obstacles they must overcome for a brighter future. Her debut YA novel, THE WOOD, will be published by Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan in Spring 2017.
ONE: The most important thing to me in a submission is character. I will follow you into almost any genre if you give me a character (or characters) worth caring about, with compelling internal and external conflicts that keep me racing through the pages. Don’t freak out if you realize there’s a typo in your query or your sample pages after you send your submission (I understand from experience how these little buggers can slip under the radar even after a dozen proofreads by several different sets of eyes), but I do expect your submission to be professional and polished since this is what agents will expect, too. It’s hard to say what qualifies as an “easy fix” in the sample pages since a lot of things can be forgiven for a stellar voice, enchanting character, and/or a really great hook. I would pass on any genre that I specifically say I’m not looking for in my wish list.
TWO: My overall editing style is encouraging. I want to show you (through my in-the-moment reactions/comments in your manuscript) what is so amazing about your manuscript so that you can then compare those fantastic elements to whatever elements may need to be pumped up a bit. I like to tackle both macro and micro issues in my first read-through, and I will give my mentee both an edit letter and in-manuscript comments to work from. My goal is to make your book and your voice shine, not to implement my own ideas of what your book could be, so while I might give you ideas of possible fixes or brainstorm how to fix any issues with you, final decisions on what you want to change and how you want to change it will always be up to you. If we have time before the agent round, I will do a second read-through to see if any problems remain, and also look for any typos, inconsistencies, and/or grammar issues. My hope is to have your book be as polished as possible before the agent round.
THREE: If I *had* to choose an all-time favorite book (which is just cruel, let’s be honest), it would be Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling, although I would argue that all seven Harry Potter books can be grouped together into one master writing class. Specifically, Order of the Phoenix holds a special place in my heart as Rowling flips the switch on her characters and, for the first time, takes them to really dark places of the mind. It’s the turning point in the whole series (following the ending of Goblet of Fire), and it’s also the longest of the Harry Potter books—a wonderful lesson in using internal and external conflicts, pacing, and tension to keep a story flowing through 800+ pages without ever boring the reader.
Thank you, mentors, for your marvelous answers. We appreciate you so much!
Pitch Wars Schedule:
June 27-July 15 Mentor Mini Interviews
July 19-August 2 Live Chats with Mentors
July 20-August 3 Mentor Blog Hop
August 3rd Pitch Wars Submission Window Opens
August 25th Mentees Chosen and Announced