Monday, August 31, 2015

Twitter Pitch Critiques!

By a show of hands, who here likes to have a backup plan?

Yeah. Me, too. Today's post is all about having a backup plan if you don't get into #PitchWars. 

On September 10th, Brenda Drake is hosting a Twitter Pitch Party called #PitMad. Because she is a goddess among us.

Agents will peruse the feed and favorite the pitches for manuscripts they want to see. Each agent's guidelines vary, so make sure you check his/her Twitter feed and/or website for submission guidelines. Check Brenda's website for more information on rules and etiquette here.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, this is a Twitter event in which you pitch your completed, revised manuscript in a 140-characters-or-less tweet. Easy, right? Ha.

It can be done.

Though I got into #PitchWars last year, and my agent participated in the agent round, she did not request pages from me during the contest. 

However, when I participated in #PitMad afterward, she did request! Something about my Twitter pitch illustrated the concept to her more efficiently than my #PitchWars entry did. 

So there you have it, folks. If you don't get into #PitchWars, it is not the end of the world. You can still get your manuscript in front of agents on the Twitter feed on September 10th.

What's in a Twitter pitch, you ask? 

Your main character, goal, conflict, and stakes

It's also helpful if the pitch conveys the voice and uniqueness of your manuscript. If you can get accurate comp titles in there, even better! 

It can be tricky to include all of this information, I know. You have to be creative and make agents read between the lines to get it all in there.

Here are the two Twitter pitches that got me a few stars, including the one from my agent.

PRACTICAL MAGIC + FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS Hidden racism rises in TX football when Dee gives her fullback BFF a love potion by mistake. #PitMad #YA


When 17yo Dee gives her BFF a love potion by mistake, bigotry tests friendship & football. PRACTICAL MAGIC+FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS #PitMad #YA

You know based on the comps that there's going to be some kind of ambiguous magic, a female family dynamic, and small-town Texas football. You also know there's a friendship that possibly turns into a romance. (Spoiler alert: it totally does.)

Riggins gifs are basically required for every blog post.
The pitch states the MC made a mistake, so even though her goal isn't expressly stated, you're pretty safe to assume she's going to try to fix that mistake. Meanwhile, small town bigotry is going to play a role in the conflict. And the stakes are that the football games and the friendship between these two characters will be threatened.

While mine is far from a perfect example, it played an important role in landing my agent. And I absolutely owe that to feedback from my brilliant CPs. In our writing group, we always prepared days in advance to get ready for pitch parties.

So in honor of the upcoming #PitchWars results, and #PitMad on the horizon, I'm going to open up the comments section for 48 hours (that's until Wednesday, 9/2 at 8pm CDT) for Twitter pitch critiques. Post your 140-character pitch in the comments section. Don't forget to include the hashtag #PitMad and your genre (i.e. #YA, #SFF, #R, etc.) in those 140 characters, and I will go through and crit them all by the end of this week. 

My CPs are going to drop by and help me critique if things get crazy, so look for these lovely ladies (all are either mentors and/or former mentees of Pitch Wars):

Kes, Janet, Sonia, Tracie, Summer, Carlee, Kristin 

I've also invited the other Pitch Wars mentors to drop by and comment if/when they have time.

Feel free to jump in and help critique each other's pitches, too. Just remember to be kind and respectful to one another!

If you need more guidance before diving in, fellow Team Fury author Ava Jae wrote a great recent post on pitching here. And another one specifically about Twitter pitching here.

*Rubs hands together*

Hit me with your best pitch!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Dear Pitch Wars 2015...

Dear Pitch Wars, 

Last year at this time, I was you. 
Stressed. Sweating. Swearing. Spiraling. Basically all the S-words. 

I do love a good palindrome. And cheesecake. And chocolate. And donuts. And...and...and...
Fun Fact: I gained 5 pounds in 2 weeks while waiting on Pitch Wars results last year.

I'd only received one lonely request. Kes and I had followed each other on Twitter before the contest began, so I figured she was just feeling sorry for me or something. A pity request, if you will. She never gave me any indication she was going to choose me. 

Two years ago at this time, I was also you. I entered Pitch Wars 2013 (with what I later realized was a doomed manuscript), and I did not get in. No requests that year. Zero. Zip. Zilch.

Even with a shiny new manuscript last year, just knowing the sting of rejection made me jump to the worst possible conclusion when my inbox stayed quieter than church in Texas on Superbowl Sunday. 

We highly imaginative folk tend to be good at worst-case-scenarios.

I cried to my CPs. I AM TRUNKING THIS MANUSCRIPT, I told them. So what that it had never even been queried! God bless Janet and Sonia for putting up with my stress-induced meltdowns for over two years now. 

Did I mention that I met Janet and Sonia on the Pitch Wars thread in 2013? (The year I didn't get in?) These are brilliant, beautiful women who have helped me through so much since I met them. And I now talk to them every single day, either in our writing group, or via phone calls or texts. Janet and I live 45 minutes apart, so I often get to see her in person. 

Last year, I met even more CPs. The 2014 private mentee Facebook group has been a godsend. Those people are my tribe! Really, I don't know where you can find a more positive, supportive community. Our group is special.

Pitch Wars 2014 be like...

I've received critical feedback from so many talented people that helped me grow and hone my craft. There's no way I'd have been chosen as a mentee in 2014 (technically I was an alternate, but moved up to mentee when the original mentee dropped out), and there's no way I'd have a rockstar agent right now if I had never entered--and been rejected from--Pitch Wars in 2013. 

If you had tried to tell me through my unstoppable tears in 2013 that I would be co-mentoring Pitch Wars in 2015, I would've asked you what you were smoking, and if I could have some of it. 

Don't act like you don't know the song.

Okay, enough silliness. Time to be serious.

My message to you is this: YOU ARE DOING IT RIGHT. You're putting yourself out there and networking with other writers. You're allowing complete strangers to pick your soul apart with a red pen, and you're willing to listen to their feedback. That's how writers become published authors. And that's the goal here, right? 

I know you're all struggling right now. I know that struggle. The wait is hard. Last year, all I could think about was the pure torture of waiting so long for the picks to be announced. But now that I've seen things from the mentor side of the fence, I can tell you that it takes every minute of that time for mentors to adequately read and decide. Kes and I received a ton of amazing submissions this year. And even with two of us reading and requesting, it has taken days and days of neglecting everything else to get it done. (And some mentors received TWICE as many subs as us. Just FYI.) 

So. Many. Great. Manuscripts.

So, if you like DOs and DON'Ts lists, Pitch Wars, I have one for you. 

For those of you who do get in: 

DO recognize this as an incredible honor (and privilege). You are among a very small percentage of the overall submissions received. 

DON'T squander this opportunity. Remember mentors aren't getting paid for this. They're helping you because they love your story and believe in it with their whole hearts. 

DO keep an open line of communication with them. There may be things in their suggestions you don't agree with, and if that happens, talk it out. Understand the mentor's reasoning for making changes, and talk it over with CPs if you're still unsure.

*note: I was pretty reluctant on one plot point Kes wanted me to change last year. She agreed I could keep it since it's my story, after all. Then I got agented. Guess what my agent made me change? Yep, you guessed it! That one thing Kes had already tried to tell me to change.  :) 

DO be grateful, especially to the one and only Brenda Drake. I owe a lot of the progress in my writing career to her generosity, and her genius in creating this beautiful community.

DON'T ever be disrespectful or badmouth your mentor or the contest. Doing that will just make you look like an ungrateful asshole jerk. Nobody likes ungrateful assholes jerks.  

For those of you who don't get in: 

DO take whatever feedback you're given, and compare it with notes from your CPs. Apply it. Make your manuscript shine.

DON'T let it crush you. Please refer to my sob story from 2013, and remember that your chances of getting in this contest were roughly 1 in 16. 

*note: That's not my math, that's someone else's math who is better at math than me. I'm just regurgitating.

I need this shirt.

DO keep writing, keep revising, keep querying. 

DON'T think it's because you aren't talented. Do you know how many incredibly awesome manuscripts Kes and I have to pass on this year because we only get to pick one?! Like, a gajillion. Seriously. That's totally a number.

DO remember that cold, hard querying works just as well as contests. My original agent offer actually came from a cold query. Of my offers, only one was from a Pitch Wars request. My agent didn't even request from me last year in Pitch Wars! (It was PitMad she requested in.) Which brings me to another DO...

DO get your Twitter pitch ready for the upcoming PitMad! September 10th, people! I'll be watching for my favorites and I will retweet the hell out of them!

DON'T dismiss or neglect your connection with people you met through the contest. A lot of people did a mass-unfollow of the mentors and mentees last year (and the year before) after Pitch Wars. DON'T DO THAT! 

The mentors want to connect with you on social media, even if they didn't pick you. I don't auto-follow people, so if I'm following you, it's because I think you're interesting and believe I could learn from you.

DO stay positive. A good attitude and a never-say-die will-to-succeed will take you far, no matter the outcome of this contest

DO stay positive. Yes, I realize I said that twice, because it's the most important thing on the list. Give yourself a day to cry, then get your manuscript polished and revenge query like a mo-fo.

I swear you can.

Deep breaths, Pitch Warriors. Regardless of whether or not you get in, many of you will be agented this time next year. Statistics don't lie. Or so they tell me. I'm more of a word girl.

I'm sending you all the positive ju-ju I've got.


PW 2013 Reject
PW 2014 Alternate-turned-Mentee
PW 2015 Co-Mentor

Here are the awesome #DearPW posts from other 2014 mentees:

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Welcome, potential #PitchWars Mentee!

If you're reading this, you just might be our mentee.

I am so excited to be co-mentoring this year with my mentor from Pitch Wars 2014, Kes Trester! My experience as a mentee in Pitch Wars 2014 helped me land my agent, Louise Fury of The Bent Agency.

Kes has since become a wonderful friend and trusted CP. We have no doubt we'll make a great team to help you tweak your manuscript and get it ready for agents.

For a little bit about Kes, go here: Kes Trester's Bio
For a little bit about me, go here: My bio

We're looking for YA in all genres except horror

Now for the good stuff... our wishlist!

We love:

*  High-concept stories. What is high-concept, you ask? It’s a premise that can be pitched in just one line, often with comp titles that highlight the uniqueness of a story while comparing it to titles (book or film) that have already proven successful. For example, if Lord of the Flies came out in 2015, it could be pitched as SURVIVOR meets CASTAWAY. Here’s a great article on Pitching High Concept.

*  Diversity. Narrators of diverse race, ethnicity, religion, and gender. Tell us a story we haven’t heard before. Teach us something new.

*  Contemporary works with subtle undertones of believable magic, like THE MEMORY GARDEN by Mary Rickert.

*  Edge-of-your-seat thrillers, like a YA Stephen King.

*  Fully-fleshed characters. Give us little details that make us know a character without drowning us in backstory. For example, in John Green’s AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES, Colin is constantly anagramming everything. That detail tells us a lot about how his brain works.

*  Unreliable narrators, like Alex in Francesca Zappia’s MADE YOU UP. Put us in the unreliable narrator’s shoes. Make us feel what he/she feels without manipulating us.

*  Romantic relationships with depth and emotion, like NO PLACE TO FALL by Jaye Robin Brown, or THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson.

If we love your query, we will request a one-page synopsis and possibly the full ms. 

We don’t love (so please don’t send it to us):

*  Horror. (We’re scaredy-cats who sleep with our closet doors closed.)
*  Gratuitous rape scenes.
*  Scenes depicting cruelty to children or animals.
*  Characters or plots that are misogynistic or racist.


Here's a list of our favorite books:

Jenn’s favorite YA books: Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho,
Made You Up by Francesca Zappia, No Place to Fall by Jaye Robin Brown, 
We Were Here by Matt de la Pena, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, 
The Arcana Chronicles by Kresley Cole,
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.

Kes’s favorite YA books: His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman,
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs,
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card,
Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead,
Beautiful Creatures by Garcia & Stohl.

If you are thinking about submitting to us, JUST DO IT. 
Don't overthink it.

Whether you submit to us or one of the many other outstanding mentors, best of luck in your writing journey!

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