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 …
Dannie Morin is an addictions therapist with a writing problem. By day she alternates between counseling teens and wrangling a very sassy preschooler. By night she writes, critiques, and edits like a boss. When she’s not doing any of those things, she’s a veteran participant of the Scribophile Ubergroup, founder of The Clubhouse writer’s support network, and a regular Snarky Sue in online Pitch Contests. Dannie pens young adult and new adult fiction in Charlotte, North Carolina.
ONE: In the sample pages, I’m looking primarily for gorgeous prose and a unique hook. It doesn’t have to be blemish free, though, really your first page should be if you’re truly ready for PitchWars.
In the writer, I’m looking for an eager-to-learn attitude and a positive energy about critique. Don’t query me if you think you’re already ready for the agent round. No, seriously. Be prepared to work hard. I promise, it will be worth it.
I’m an editor by trade. I expect to do some, you know, editing. For the candidates I’m strongly considering, I’ll also be asking for a synopsis so I can look at your story’s structure. Developmental edits are to be expected to a certain extent in PitchWars, but when I look at your synopsis what I’m really asking myself is, “can this be agent-ready in two months?” If I love your story, but it needs a lot more work that can be done–and done WELL–within two months, it’s a pass for me.
TWO: I’m an editor, not a director. I will tell you where I think the challenges are. If I have specific suggestions or a potential solution to a hurdle I’ve discovered, I’ll suggest them. But this is your story. I can sit shotgun and navigate, but you’re driving the car. I see myself as a coach. I’m not your boss. I have no desire to take over and write your book for you. I’m here to cheer you on and help you be as prepared as you can be for the agent round.
As for the editing process, this is my fourth year mentoring, so I have a bit of a routine about it at this point. What I typically do is start by raking your first chapter over the coals. This is Park Place, the most expensive real estate in your manuscript and it’s got to be perfect. Then, while you’re working on those revisions–and this will also give you an idea of line-level flaws that might be a pattern throughout your mss as a whole that you can be working on–then I’ll focus on the developmental stuff–pace, characterization, plot points and overall structure, logic leaps and continuity issues. And then we’ll go back to line edit as much as we can with whatever time we have left.
Ultimately, what the editing looks like and how extensive it gets depends on your editing style (and speed) as much as my critique style. You may not be looking for line edits. You may be great at self-editing line level stuff. In which case we’ll focus on other things that are more developmental. Or vice versa.
THREE: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, which feels like a cliche answer, but truly. Lee’s mastery of characterization made me understand how to take a character and create a world and plot that tell that character’s story. I’ve always been character-driven–way back to my first epic saga HOW THE DOG GOT ITS TAIL, which I wrote and “published” in first grade, but I think MOCKINGBIRD taught me how to truly appreciate character-driven fiction.
Jamie Howard is a legal and compliance specialist by day, author by night, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Art. When she’s not tapping away at the keyboard or capturing the world through her trusty Canon, you can find her binge-watching TV shows, devouring books, and perfecting her gaming skills. Jamie is the author of Until We Break, Until It’s Right, and the upcoming All The Ways You Saved Me with St. Martin’s Press.
ONE: What I’m really looking for in a submission is a strong, compelling voice and characters that I can get invested in. (Bonus points for strong heroines and redeemable villains.) When I read your manuscript, I want to feel something—love, hate, anger, frustration, happiness—any and all of it. Typos, pacing issues, and plot holes are all things that are fixable, but I’d have to pass on a submission where I didn’t connect with the voice or characters.
TWO: As far as edits, I plan to tackle all the big picture issues first and then work my way down to the smaller things and line edits. I’m fully prepared (and excited!) to read your manuscript several times until everything’s as perfect as can be. That being said, I think it’s very important for you, the author, to be on board with any changes that will be made. In the end it is *your* story, so it’s really important to stay true to your vision. I definitely see the editing process as a collaboration and an ongoing discussion. I’m more of a texts and e-mail girl, so I expect to hear from my mentee whenever they need me.
THREE: This question is impossible! So instead, I’ll tell you about a recent YA favorite of mine–A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. I’m a sucker for fairy tale retellings, and this is one of the best I’ve ever read. Between the rich world building, the layered characters, and the fresh take on the fairy tale, this story was inspiring to say the least.
Judi used to write only as a hobby before she realized it was her dream job and got serious about it. Even though she enjoys reading books of all types she’s drawn to writing realistic books for teens that explore a darker side to the teenage years. She works as an editorial assistant at Entangled Publishing and is represented by Tina Schwartz of the Purcell Agency. She has an unnatural obsession with Chicago, New York, Dean Winchester, and Friends (the TV show).
ONE: Characters are the most important thing in a book to me. I can fix large plot and pacing problems. If I don’t feel like I can relate to your characters, or can’t empathize/sympathize with them, it’ll be a quicker pass for me. Voice is also very important to me. If I don’t feel engaged in the story, it’s harder for me to work with it.
TWO: I’ll give my mentee an edit letter and line edits in the manuscript. Depending on how fast my mentee can turn around the edits we discuss, we’ll do a second pass through it. One of the biggest things I’ll look for in the book is adding emotion in spots. My line edits tend to be thorough, but I usually do a lot of suggestions instead of outright cutting and writing in new lines. I love to brainstorm with writers too so I’m up for helping out with that if they need me.
THREE: I can’t pick one. Why do people insist on asking me this question??? Harry Potter (for obvious reasons) and the I Hunt Killers trilogy. Both books focus a lot on survival, which is something my books tend to focus on too. I tend to like books that are entertaining, but also make people think about deeper stuff.
I’m a former attorney turned writer. After five years of hard labor on a middle grade fantasy with no success agent-wise, I switched gears and wrote a YA novel called The Weight of Zero which got me my agent and contract with Delacorte/Random House. To add even more icing, it was selected as an ABA Indies Introduce title. Bottom line: I still can’t believe that I’m getting published and I’m excited to share what I’ve learned and help another writer reach this goal!
ONE: I’m looking for a solid writing and good pacing. For me, this means the narrative is the right mix of dialogue, backstory and descriptions so that story tension is maintained. I get derailed by long descriptions that make me lose track of what’s going. I’m pretty laid back on typos (a couple are okay – I know how it is!) but constant grammar errors might get to me.
TWO: My game plan is big picture first – voice and internal and external arcs. I’d like the first month to tighten up the structure and pacing and second month devoted to fine-tuning and query polishing.
THREE: I love so many books so I can’t choose one. I can say that it was the Harry Potter series that I read long before I started writing, that sparked my initial interest, specifically in how stories are structured and how interest/tension is maintained and intensified.
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
Since there are no personal query letters allowed this year (please correct me if I read that wrong), will “Dear Mentor” be allowable?
Dear Mentor is fine! They all know. There were some suggestions going around Twitter to @ them and tell them why you chose them or leave a comment on their wish list blog. If you want to be more personal. Good luck!