#TEAMVENOM PITCH WARS 2018 WISHLIST

pitchwars

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Who We Are

We’ve been writer friends for a few years now and we have very similar opinions regarding the books we read, both published and unpublished. We’ve worked well together on numerous writing projects in the past and look forward to bringing our teamwork and work ethic into a relationship with a mentee. To us, being mentors means giving a writer an opportunity as well as the reassurance that they, and their novel, are appreciated and needed.


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I am Kimberly Vale, a YA fantasy author represented by Amelia Appel at Triada US and a Pitch Wars Alumni. I live for fantasy–in books, movies, video games, everything. There’s something truly special about creating new worlds and diving into worlds created by other authors.

I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I started writing full-length novels at 18 and decided to try to make it my career two years ago. I worked full-time, went to college at night, mothered my two children, and found time to write in between moments in life. I know what it means to be dedicated to success and the sacrifices you have to make to get closer to reaching your dreams.

I wouldn’t be where I am as a writer if it wasn’t for Pitch Wars. Yes, I got my agent from the showcase, but I took away so much more than that. My mentors provided me with so many helpful insights into writing, revising, editing, basically the entire process, and I became a stronger writer because of it. I want to give back in the best way and give this gift to another writer. As a teacher, I think of myself as a mentor everyday and am so excited for this opportunity to combine my passions for education and writing/reading and expand my experience in a different, more personal atmosphere.

I live in Arkansas, the home of Wal-Mart, with my husband and two children and facilitate reading intervention at an elementary school. I love coffee, sushi, Game of Thrones, and gaming.


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I’m Francesca Flores, a YA fantasy author represented by Peter Knapp at Park Literary & Media. I’m also a reader for FORESHADOW, an online serial YA anthology dedicated to emerging, diverse voices. I love all things YA, but fantasy has always been my home. I first fell in love with the genre as a child by watching Sailor Moon and reading Harry Potter. I love reading books with characters who fight to rise above their circumstances and with atmospheric settings that come to life.

A little about my own writing journey: I first started writing novel-length projects when I was about 14 or 15 (so many vampire projects) and completed my first full manuscript when I was 18. I proceeded to write another sixteen manuscripts before deciding I was ready to query with a YA fantasy assassin novel I’d written. I signed with my agent, Peter Knapp, through PitMad.

I decided to apply to become a Pitch Wars co-mentor because helping people improve their manuscripts, while being encouraging and centering the author’s vision of the book, truly makes me happy. I think Pitch Wars is a great opportunity for writers and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. While I love plotting, strengthening characters, and bringing a new world to life, you can also count on me for the small stuff. I studied Linguistics, which taught me many things about grammar, sentence structure, and rhythm.

My home is San Francisco, but I love to travel. When I’m not writing or reading, I’ll be traveling, dancing ballet and jazz, practicing trapeze, drinking a cup of green tea, or watching a new drama.

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What We Want

TEAM VENOM IS READY TO SINK THEIR FANGS INTO FANTASY.

We are exclusively looking for young adult fantasy. It’s what we both write and love to read, so it’s what we’d both be best at mentoring!

We are most partial to fantasy set in a different world than our own. Immersing a reader in a new world is important, so we’re looking for highly atmospheric settings that drop us right into the scene. We tend to prefer stories on the darker side of fantasy with fast-paced plots, unique magic systems, really strong emotional arcs, and diverse settings and characters that tackle the genre in a fresh way while still giving us all the things we love in YA fantasy.

The following are all things we would love to see in our inbox. So if you see something that fits the bill, send it our way!

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Story Elements

There are specific tropes, concepts and characters we absolutely love in fantasy and would want to see in a manuscript. These aren’t the ONLY things we’d love to see (we’d love to be surprised by some new concept that has the major setting and plot elements we described above!), but if you do have any of these, PLEASE SUBMIT TO US.

*italics recently added to list

  • Witches
  • Demons
  • Vampires
  • Monsters and creatures of all kinds
  • Girls in non-traditional roles, such as knights and warriors
  • Rich, detailed world-building
  • Girls who simultaneously kick ass and love the new boots or fancy dress they’re wearing; it doesn’t have to be one or the other.
  • Boys who show emotion
  • Unique twists on common tropes (lost princess, the chosen once, etc)
  • Fresh, diverse retellings
  • Fantasy that takes advantage of the story to deliver a social critique (subtle or obvious, either way is fine)
  • Ragtag teams
  • Characters who work their way up from nothing
  • Characters with secrets, mistakes, and major flaws
  • Enemies-to-lovers and lovers-to-enemies
  • Platonic relationships between m/f
  • Corruption and/or redemption arcs
  • Stories where romance is not the main goal; we LOVE a well-done romance in our fantasies, but not so much that it takes over the plot or becomes the catalyst in the plot.
  • On that note, a memorable romance
  • Complicated relationships (romantic, platonic, familial, whatever) that are more than what meets the eye
  • Multi-pov
  • Villains, anti-heroes, unlikable characters
  • Games, trials, races, heists
  • Girl squad/crew
  • Girls who don’t hate each other
  • Complicated family relationships
  • Unique royalty and court systems
  • Unique magic systems
  • Established relationships from the start and choices affecting those relationships
  • Different forms of love
  • Alchemy (make me feel smart)
  • DEEP CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
  • A compelling world without magic
  • Crime lords and ladies
  • Elemental magic
  • Revenge
  • Unique settings (deserts, islands, jungles, underground, in the sky, ALL THE PLACES)
  • Mermaids
  • Steampunk, industrial, or futuristic settings/elements in a fantasy world
  • Dragons in a non-western medieval setting
  • If you’ve been told your concept is overdone, but you know you’ve done it with a unique twist or if it’s told from a marginalized perspective, please send it to us!

Books/Movies/Media

These are books (a couple are adult, but still fit the purposes of this example) movies and other media, that have similar tones, settings, pacing and character arcs to what we’re looking for:

  • Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom
  • An Ember in the Ashes
  • The Cruel Prince
  • Jade City
  • The Poppy War
  • For a Muse of Fire
  • Wintersong
  • Children of Blood and Bone
  • Girls Made of Paper and Fire
  • Girls Made of Snow and Glass
  • Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
  • Caraval
  • Wild Beauty
  • The Girl From Everywhere
  • Everless
  • The Night Circus
  • The Lunar Chronicles
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • Star Wars (the characters. the stakes. the family drama. kylo ren.)
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Kubo and the Two Strings

What We Don’t Want

Although there are some things we enjoy to read, as mentors we believe we may not be the right fit for them. Be sure to scour other mentor wish lists to find the perfect match for your manuscript.

  • Any genre that isn’t fantasy
  • New adult
  • Medieval-esque royalty (unless done in a really unique way, or from a marginalized perspective that doesn’t usually get the chance to be featured in royalty stories (PLEASE send these books to us) [Examples: Girls Made of Snow and Glass, Children of Blood and Bone, Girls of Paper and Fire]
  • Werewolves
  • Contemporary fantasy
  • Urban fantasy (unless done in a really unique way, or from a marginalized perspective that doesn’t usually get the chance to be featured in urban fantasy stories, or in cities we haven’t seen a lot of in urban fantasy before) [Good Examples: Heroine Complex, Dactyl Hill Squad, Labyrinth Lost, Not Your Sidekick]
  • Portal fantasy
  • Damsels in distress
  • Graphic novels
  • Toxic relationships depicted as romantic
  • Science fiction
  • Dystopians

If you’re still unsure whether your book is something we would be interested in, feel free to tweet @ us and ask (without pitching your book).

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How We Mentor {Revision Plan}

Our Relationship with You:

-We are easily accessible and plan to be available to chat whenever you need it.

-We can talk via social media, phone, text, or email (edit letters will be sent through email, but general correspondence can be through many mediums).

-We are happy to do a group chat with you prior to sending the first edit letter to discuss your vision for the story and what you think the core of it is, as well as going over all general ideas for edits so you know what to expect from us. We are also happy to help you come up with a plan to tackle edits after receiving each edit letter, if that’s something you would like. We will be available for any questions you have regarding the editing process.

What Our Editing Notes Will Be Like:

-We practically live in fantasy. Our advice will be focused on expanding world-building, deepening characterization, plotting and scene-level development, pacing, and strengthening stakes-driven, attention-grabbing stories.

-Our first edit letter will be for big picture edits. This will focus more on plot and character development, expanding the world, and deepening the story’s emotion and meanings.

-Our second edit letter will be for more focused aspects of your story. This will include line edits, streamlining any scenes that still need work with pacing, enhancing the effectiveness of your prose, assisting with concise wording and a solid rhythm, and enhancing clarity on the scene and sentence level.

-We will encourage the use of deadlines to provide our mentee with exposure to working under a specific timeframe.

Our Ideal Mentee:

-POSITIVITY AND AN OPEN MIND – Every time that edits seem impossible to tackle, remind yourself that you’re doing it to make your book better and to reach your dreams of getting published. It’s worth all the hard work, and you made it this far. As your mentors, we believe in you and will be here no matter what! We will always point out the things we love in your book, but you should also believe in your writing. Many, many writers feel doubt and fear while revising or drafting. The important thing is to push onward and to want the best for your book!

-READY TO WORK – Our ideal mentee loves their book and is excited to put in the work to make it the best it can be. We both know the value of hard work, having rewritten huge chunks of our novels and editing for months, killing many darlings along the way, and we can both say that this is 100% worth it if it’s what’s best for your book. If you feel like you don’t want to change much in your novel (which is completely valid, it’s your book and you can do what you want with it), then we are probably not the best fit. We will not force you to change anything, but we will make the suggestions we think are best, and this may include cutting scenes or characters you love if that’s what will make the book shine. All we ask is that you keep an open mind regarding this.

A good way to deal with revising a novel is to think of 1-2 things (relationships, world details, themes, symbols, whatever) that you refuse to change because they’re the core of what the novel is about (for example a sibling relationship, or the character’s backstory), and tell yourself that EVERYTHING ELSE is up to be changed. If you focus on those couple things that the story is truly about, then cutting other things will hurt less, because you KNOW what the story is truly about and you’re working to polish that core of it into the best possible book it can be.

-TRUST – You know your book better than anyone. Keeping that in mind, if you become our mentee and you disagree with something in our edit notes, we are open to talk about it! We’ll re-center, focus on the vision for the novel, and see how the edits can best help that vision come out. You shouldn’t be afraid to cut or change things, and you should know we have your novel’s best interests at heart, but we also want you to feel comfortable defending certain aspects of your novel and talking them through with us to see what the best solution is, because sometimes you just need to talk it out to figure it out. If a disagreement ever comes up, it’s not a point of contention; it’s just another step toward finding the solution. With this being said, our ideal mentee is someone who will feel comfortable talking about their book, what they want it to be, what works/doesn’t work, and who is open-minded about changes.

-RELATIONSHIP – We are open to talk about anything and we hope our friendship and writing-relationship can continue long after Pitch Wars is over! Writing friends are the best friends to have because of the passions we share and the dreams we chase.

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Connect With Us

Also, check out our query and synopsis tips for some pointers before the submission window opens!

We are so so excited to get started and find the third member of Team Venom!

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#TeamVenom Synopsis Tips

pitchwars, writing

#TeamVenom is back with synopsis tips! If you missed out and have no idea who Team Venom is, who we are, and what is the meaning of life and queries, peep back to our last post.

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This year’s Pitch Wars submission requires a synopsis, along with a query letter. Writing one for the first time can be overwhelming if you’re unsure of what to include, but they are important to both you as the author and the agent looking at it. The in-depth summary shows if a character isn’t growing, or if they’re too passive in the plot, or if the plot meanders. The very structure of synopses can reveal these things, so it’s important for you to examine it and see if it reveals anything missing in your plot.


TIPS:

  • If you’re stuck on where to even get started (welcome to Kim one year ago), writing chapter summaries can help a lot. It’s even better if your manuscript is split into acts. You can even think of that as a “very long synopsis”. Since agents all have different preferences for synopsis length (we’ve seen as short as a paragraph and as long as 2 pages), we suggest having one longer version that can be shortened depending on requirements. A good standard length is simply one page.
  • Focus on the cause and effect of your story, so “When her sister is chosen for the deadly Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to take her place.” Think of your story as the scenes proceeding with “therefore”s and “but”s between them to show their relation, rather than “and”s (one thing happening after another). Seeing your plot events in this light can reveal to you whether your story’s threads all tie together, rather than just things happening to your character one after another.
  • Focus on turning points in your plot to decide how to organize it; what makes your character switch their objective, their opinion, their desires. Stray away from showing too many subplots or extraneous details in the synopsis; only the plot-lines and details that contribute to the main action and emotional storylines should be shown.
  • Should exhibit your character’s internal arc and how they change with the plot and how the plot challenges them.
  • Use basic descriptions. This isn’t the place to try out new prose. If your character decides to move onto the next plot point because they’re frustrated, simply state the emotion, and keep it focused on the plot. “Frustrated her mother will not let her leave the tower, she forces Flynn Rider to escort her safely to the Festival of Lights.”
  • SPOIL THE ENDING. The synopsis is where you reveal all the major things. Most importantly, the way you present the ending should reveal the protagonist’s growth.
  • Don’t worry if it sounds dry when you read it. You’re summing up your entire manuscript in one or two pages, so you don’t have the space to include all those gorgeous descriptions and heart-wrenching emotions. But you should still try to convey the tone of your novel and you can fit that by being purposeful with your word choice.
  • Ask a few people to read it and see if they can point out anywhere that your protagonist loses agency, or where the plot derails, or if it seems like any major plotlines are left unresolved.

    Good synopsis links:

    1. Marissa Meyer – 6 Step Book Synopsis
    2. Jane Friedman – How to Write a Novel Synopsis
    3. Jericho Writers – Synopsis

    MOCK SYNOPSIS

    We wrote a synopsis example for Mulan at standard length.

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    After a failed and dishonorable attempt with the matchmaker, FA MULAN receives even worse news–her father has been conscripted by the Chinese EMPEROR to fight against the invading Huns. Unwilling to let her elderly father go to war, she steals his old armor and disguises herself as a man to enlist instead, despite the risk that she might die in war or get caught and executed. Upon her departure, Mulan’s ancestors convene and order MUSHU, a small dragon and disgraced former guardian, to awaken the great stone dragon to protect Mulan. When he accidentally destroys it instead, he takes on the role as his own and resolves to protect Mulan himself.

    As Mulan struggles in military training, Mushu attempts to teach her how to behave like a man. She gradually becomes a trained warrior under the command of LI SHANG. In an effort to see Mulan succeed and prove himself as a guardian, Mushu fakes an order from Shang’s commander father, ordering Shang to follow the main imperial army into the mountains. When they arrive, they see the camp has been burned down and learn that the troops were killed by the Huns. As they leave the mountains, they are ambushed by the Huns. Mulan, using her ingenuity and new military training knowledge, fires a cannon to cause an avalanche which buries most of the invaders. The enemy’s captain, SHAN YU, slashes her in the chest, and her deception is revealed when the wound is bandaged. She waits to be executed.

    But Shang, who is grateful for her friendship and witnessed her brave fight against the invaders, spares her life and expels her from the army instead. Alone, Mulan watches the other recruits head to the imperial city to report the destruction. However, she sees that several Hun warriors, including Shan Yu, have survived and are on their way to the city to capture the emperor. When Mulan arrives with the news, Shang is angry to see her and is unconvinced that she’s telling the truth about Shan Yu’s survival. The Huns capture the emperor and seize the palace. Shang finally believes her, but they now stand alone against the Huns.

    Mulan helps disguise a few soldiers as concubines to sneak into the palace. With Shang’s help, they defeat Shan Yu’s men. Shang stops Shan Yu from assassinating the Emperor. Mulan then lures Shan Yu onto the roof and engages him in combat by herself. As the fight turns dire, Mushu fires a large rocket at Shan Yu. It strikes, sending him into a fireworks launching tower, where he dies in the explosion.

    The Emperor and the citizens praise Mulan. She accepts the crest of the Emperor and the sword of Shan Yu as gifts, but she declines the Emperor’s offer to be his advisor and asks to return to her family. Her father is thrilled to have her back and safe. Shang, who’s fallen in love with Mulan, comes to the house and is invited to stay for dinner. Mushu is reinstated as a Fa family guardian by the ancestors for his valiant efforts to help Mulan and protect the imperial city.


    We hope our tips were helpful. Be sure to peep in for our next post where we will be revealing our mentor wishlist!

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    #TeamVenom Query Tips

    pitchwars, writing

    SURPRISE! This blog post contains the dual-voices of Pitch Wars Co-Mentors #Team Venom (aka Kim and Francesca)!

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    Welcome to the first of our #TeamVenom series, a weekly co-post dedicated to helping Pitch Wars hopefuls and querying writers in their search for mentorship and representation. In the upcoming weeks, we will be sharing our best tips for the PW application requirements, including crafting a query letter, synopsis, etc. If you’re interested in our mentor wishlist, stick around for the Pitch Wars Mentor blog hop where we’ll be listing everything we would kill to have in our inbox and what we offer as mentors.

    Lettuce start out with a short intro about ourselves. We are extremely excited and honored to be chosen as YA mentors for Pitch Wars 2018. The event itself is an inspiring mentor program that has changed the lives of so many. If you’re new to the PW realm and have no idea what we are talking about and just came here for the query tips, you can find some extremely helpful and detailed information here.

    #TeamVenom is a YA co-mentor team that includes:

    • Kimberly Vale (Follow her on Twitter)
      – Writer
      – Teacher
      – Mother
      – Gamer
      – Pitch Wars 2017 Mentee
      – Represented by Amelia Appel at Triada US

    • Francesca Flores (Follow her on Twitter)
      – Writer
      – Dancer, Trapeze Artist
      – Linguist
      – Traveler
      – Reader with Foreshadow: A Serial YA Anthology
      – Represented by Peter Knapp at Park Literary & Media

    If you’d like to know a bit more about us, please view our mentor bios on the Pitch Wars site or wait for the mentor blog-hop in mid-August!


    THE QUERY

    For this blog post, we will specifically be talking about the query.

    Whether you’re submitting for Pitch Wars or you’re querying agents, you need a good query letter. This is often the first thing agents see from you. The query is usually split between the pitch, the novel info, and the author info. Below we’ll break down each part and provide examples, along with a full example of an effective query letter. After reading this post, if you’re querying with a multi-pov novel and aren’t sure how to incorporate the different character motives and how they tie to the central plot, you may find a previous post of Kim’s helpful.

    PARTS OF A QUERY:

    1. Hook/Pitch: This is the meat of the query and is usually between 200-300 words. An effective pitch shows a character we care about, their goal, what’s preventing them from reaching that goal (internally & externally), and the consequences that face them. If you have all of this, the agent will see that you have a coherent plot with an intriguing protagonist. Now, to make it sound fresh and appealing, our number one tip is to be specific.

      NOT SPECIFIC:- The world will end.
      Terrible things will happen.
      – She will be tested.

      SPECIFIC:
      Her family will be killed if she doesn’t work for the mafia.
      – He loses his home in a fire and his brother gets kidnapped.
      – They’ll have to decide between the love for each other and the love for their country.

      Being specific will help you bring out what makes your novel original and interesting. For example, “they used magic” is significantly less interesting than “they rose skeletons from the earth and animated them to do their bidding.” Of course, don’t go into so much detail that you present subplots and extra information that we don’t need in order to know what the story is about. Everything mentioned in the query should tie to the central conflict.

    2. Novel info: Audience, genre, word count, title, and applicable comps are all pieces that should be included in your query. The standard format includes this after the pitch, however, some agents prefer this in the beginning of the query. Research not only the guidelines at an agent’s agency, but also what they prefer (look through blog interviews, twitter posts, etc).

      Audience – young adult, adult, new adult, middle grade, chapter/children’s books, picture books. Audience describes the average age range of readers to whom your book should be marketed. It helps in placing your book on a shelf in a bookstore.

      Genre
      -This is typically your umbrella genre, like fantasy, contemporary, science fiction, historical fiction, etc. You can be specific and list your exact sub-genre (for example, western romance or urban fantasy), but it’s not necessary.

      Word Count
      Make sure this fits into your genre’s guidelines. There are usually exceptions, like how a YA fantasy is typically longer than a YA contemporary. Use math and round your word count to the nearest thousand. For example, if your novel is 75,678 words, you can just round up to 76,000.

      COMPS
      These should be books related to your own. Try to use comparative titles from recent releases (published within the past couple years is best) to display that you read in the genre you’re writing and you know what’s currently being sold. The comps can be related to your book in many different ways, including similar concept, writing style, character dynamics, world, etc. Try to keep your comps in the same genre and audience as your book. However, if you have, for example, a book that uses gem magic and has gangs and conspiracies but you don’t know what to comp it to for YA, you could say a “YA Jade City”. Do your best to stay away from overused comps like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, or even more recent releases like Six of Crows (because it has been used so often in YA fantasy), unless it is extremely similar…like a heist novel.

    3. Author info – It’s good to include any previous publications, rewards, etc. But if you don’t have these, do not fear, just put a little bit about yourself. Maybe your job, maybe that you’re a student, or maybe that you have other projects in [insert genre/audience]. No need to say this is your first book or that you haven’t been published before (if you don’t mention another book, it will be assumed you haven’t been published).
    4. We’ve provided a few more links below if you’re interested to learn more about crafting an effective query:

      NYBookEditors – How to Write a Darn Good Query Letter

      Jane Friedman – Query Letters

      Writers Digest – Query Tips


    MOCK QUERY EXAMPLE

    For the purpose of Pitch Wars, we will be addressing this query letter with ‘Dear Mentor’. The applications for mentorship do not allow for personalization, but will be sent to the appropriate mentors based on the application form. When querying an agent, DO NOT PUT ‘DEAR AGENT.’ Instead, personalize. (Hint: Most agents prefer their first names as opposed to Mr. or Mrs. Smith).

    Dear Mentor,

    When her mother died in a shipwreck years ago, Ariel, a seventeen-year-old mermaid, was forbidden from swimming near the ocean surface. Curious about the humans she’s been kept away from her whole life, she disobeys her father and ventures near the surface, soon witnessing a ship catching fire. She rescues a human boy, who is enraptured by her voice, but returns to the sea before he sees her.

    After a fight with her father, who discovers her hidden trove of human inventions collected from sunken ships, Ariel flees his rage and encounters the banished sea witch, Ursula. The sorceress offers the mermaid a deal: she’ll give Ariel legs to walk the earth and win the heart of the human boy. The catch: Ariel must give up her voice. Before Ariel’s time runs out, she must share true love’s first kiss with the boy or the sea witch will keep the mermaid’s poor unfortunate soul for herself.

    THE LITTLE MERMAID is a YA fantasy complete at 85,000 words and features themes of freedom, love, and acceptance. It has the romance of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST with a villain comparable to MALEFICENT. In addition, I’ve completed four other YA fantasy projects. I am currently a student at Disney University, studying merpeople history and creative writing.

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

    Sincerely,

    Judy Hopps


    We hope you were able to improve your query letter using our tips! Check back next week for our synopsis guide.

    – Kimberly & Francessssca

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    Tackling a Multi-POV Query Letter

    writing

    Developing an effective query letter is a necessary skill in the publishing world, but that doesn’t mean we all feel like we’re good at it. I am here to tell you that for me, writing a query letter is more difficult than writing the actual book.

    Me: How can I possibly sum up everything that happens in this book?
    Rational Me: You just need to focus on the main plot of the book, of course.
    Me: But you see… the way the plot’s set up… with these three main characters…
    Rational Me: No excuses! Make it happen. Stare at the blank document for three hours if you have to!

    And that’s typically what happens any time that I try to summarize anything I write. Maybe this is because I still feel so new to writing even though I’ve been writing since I can remember. If you write a book, you should certainly be able to sum it up and pitch it easily, right?

    Not exactly.

    It does come easy to some people, just as narrative voice and strong world-building come easy to others. We all have our strengths, we all have our weaknesses. One of mine is talking/writing about my books. I can squeal to my close writing friends about my finished manuscript or a new idea, but when it comes to breaking down my story into its foundations and developing an enticing pitch with strategic diction and just the right amount of information, I fall flat on my face.

    Don’t even get me started on writing a synopsis. We’re not on speaking terms right now.

    While a query letter includes personalization to an appropriate agent and an author bio of sorts (more of that another time), I’m only going to be talking about the pitch portion. More specifically, a query pitch that involves multiple POVs.

    When I was querying, I scoured threads and blogs about how to write a multiple POV query, and the advice ranged, but A LOT OF PEOPLE said that even a story with ten POVs has one main character and you should choose the most prominent MC, then work your pitch around that character’s story and their connection to the plot.

    I thought long about this, even mocked up a few query letters revolving around just one character, while still mentioning that the story was a multi-POV. But if your plot is told through two or three equal viewpoints, how is a one-sided pitch going to display that revolving POV aspect that brings your plot together as a whole?

    My answer as a Slytherin: break the rules.

    I included all three POVS of my main characters in my query letter. This was helpful, yet made it more difficult in a way, because now not only did I have to struggle with summarizing one character… I had to tackle three. And I did so in three steps.

    Step 1:

    I asked myself three simple, yet important questions about each character.

    1. Who is the character?
    2. What do they want?
    3. What is stopping them from getting what they want?

    Step 2:

    I wrote it ugly. Literally typed it out like I would to my friends.

    Csilla is a badass captain who wants to be the first Pirate Queen, but she has to beat a bunch of dudes, including her ex-lover, in a treasure hunt. Stabby-stab.

    Kane is the ultimate brood-master who wants to be the next Pirate King so that he can live up to the legacy of his asshole dad, but his chance at winning the crown gets screwed up by a stowaway who changes basically everything.

    Lorelei is a cool chick who is on a hunt for revenge, but when she starts hearing creepy ass whispers in her head, she learns she’s someone else’s target for revenge. CUE THE DRAMA FOR YOUR MAMA.

    Thennnnnnnn one I got it all out, I made it prettier.

    Step 3:

    Lastly, I did one final bit to bring together all three characters’ stories and why they’re all equally important to the plot. Also, I had to be sure to not rattle on because I was already going to make my query a little teensy bit on the longer side because of the way I set up my muti-POV pitch, but I kept each section relatively short to make up for it. Each character got 2-3 sentences each, Csilla’s a bit more lengthy to bring in the world aspect.

    Now, I am not saying my query letter was perfect because it wasn’t. But somehow it, paired with my first pages (equally important), garnered many full requests, which lead to an offer of representation within a day of sending out the manuscript.

    Here is the final pitch portion of my query letter:

    After barely escaping her execution with a shattered ankle, and losing an eye in a barter with a witch, seventeen-year-old Csilla Abado yearns to prove her strength to the seasoned pirates who balk at her youth. When the Pirate King dies without an heir, she gets her chance to compete in the Trials—a bloody competition where the winner takes the island throne. Csilla could become the first Pirate Queen, but she’ll have to conquer the crooked swords of the greatest pirates of her time.

    Kane Blackwater comes from a long line of pirate captains and he’s ready to prove once and for all he doesn’t need dirty gold or shady deals made on innocent blood to win the crown. But he doesn’t expect his chance to appear in the form of a surprisingly attractive stowaway that could flip the Trials, and the island kingdom, on its head.

    After witnessing an evil pirate captain murder her mother, Lorelei Storm joins a crew and enters the Trials in search of revenge. But when she starts hearing the whispers that caused her mother’s madness, Lorelei learns that she’s a target too…because the Pirate King didn’t die without an heir after all.

    While battling their own demons, Csilla and Kane must decide if they’re willing to give up their chance at the crown to help Lorelei, and how much they’re willing to sacrifice for power. Facing battles at sea, a vengeful land god, and dirty deals made amidst a deadly treasure hunt, they must remember the most important rule of all — never trust a pirate.

    YOU CAN DO IT

    If you’re struggling with a multi-POV pitch, or with writing queries in general, I hope I could be of some help. And if like me, you have severe trouble articulating the possible awesomeness of your book, I truly hope my experience can be of some encouragement. You’re not alone. We all struggle. Especially me who stress eats hot cheetos.

     

     

     

    A Letter to Time

    Uncategorized

    Dear Time,

    Why do you leave without saying goodbye?

    I wait for you to come, for you to pass, our fingertips brushing against each other in the narrow hallway of life. But when I blink, you’re gone, and I can’t get you back.

    ticktock

    When I was a child, waiting for you seemed like forever. Christmas morning felt like it would never come. The school year dragged on, while I impatiently wished for summer. I dreamed of the day that I would grow up and be free of being thought of as ‘just a kid’.

    But I blinked, and you were gone. I didn’t even realize how many times you’d passed by.

    Now, I ask you—no, I beg you—please stay a while. Slow down.

    Sit back, relax, put up your feet. Take a break from rushing through my life like a hurricane, sweeping away each day as the clock in my living room tick-tocks at me.

    ticktock

    I look at my daughter and I can’t remember what she looked like as a baby until I pull out old pictures. I look at my son and wonder when on earth did he get so big. I look at my husband and see the crinkles in the corners of his eyes from the years we’ve spent smiling and laughing together.

    Can you stay a while? Can you give me some more time to cherish what I have?

    My heart can’t beat fast enough to keep up with you. It seems like just yesterday that my children still fit snug in my arms, that my son needed to hold strands of my hair in his little fist so he could fall asleep. My children are too big for me to carry now, and it hurts. It hurts so much knowing that my little bugs will never be that small again and that those moments with them are gone.

    Sometimes when my children are sleeping, I find myself watching them, my gaze lingering on their faces as I try to memorize the way their long eyelashes tickle their cheeks and the way the tips of their noses curl up just the littlest bit.

    ticktock

    I know that I need to be here—in the moment. I know that to make this life worthwhile I need to savor every little piece of each day, even on days that are so bad I just want to forget them. Yet somehow, when I try to make each moment last, you—Time—still slip through my fingers like grains of sand.

    I remember hearing my children’s cries for the first time, and hearing my husband sob with me as we experienced their births together. I remember my babies toddling as they learned to walk and their big round eyes when I would play peek-a-boo with them.

    If I hold my breath, will you stop, Time? Can I grab your hands and hold tight, stopping you from walking out the door and leaving me choking on memories I want to live again? Do I have to grip your coat-tails with white knuckles to get you to stop and just give me one small moment to catch up—to catch my breath?

    But you won’t wait for me. I know that. You go forward, gaze ahead towards the future without letting me stay in the past.

    I blink, and you’re gone.

    ticktock

    You took it from me, Time. I take back all the moments when I said that I couldn’t wait. I can wait. I will wait.

    If you just stay a little longer.

    Always,

    Kimberly

    How I Got My Agent… and Survived

    Uncategorized, writing

    I’m going to be blunt.

    The past few months have been the hardest, most stressful time of my entire life. First, you should know that stress and I are long-time rivals. I have two soon-to-be-seven-and-five-year-olds. Stress comes with the dual-child package.

    Let me clarify that I do not claim my journey to representation as more difficult than anyone else’s individual journey. There were many of outside contributing factors to my stress acne and late-night Eggo waffle binges, such as my minions, my student-teaching internship and finishing college (graduated with a B.A. in Education December 2017), and a little thing called Pitch Wars(More about my entry here.)

    Every Pitch Wars mentee selected can agree with me when I say that during the two-three month editing period, you feel every single emotion possible. AT ONCE.

    tenor

    I decided to join Pitch Wars after querying with no success with two different manuscripts. Looking back now, I can’t believe I thought those manuscripts were ready for agents to see. THE EMBARRASSMENT WHEN I LOOK BACK AT THOSE DRAFTS.

    THE HORROR.

    By some miracle, after submitting to Pitch Wars mentors/mentor teams, Rebecca and Stacey saw something in my characters and story. They wrote me the most amazing edit letter, identifying all those pesky weak spots and helped me take my manuscript to a whole new level. I couldn’t have asked for two better mentors and friends and it’s because of them that Pitch Wars was a success for me.

    But there was the half-way point.

    giphy

    The point where you’re debating whether or not to just drop out and say you can’t do it because you still have so much editing ahead of you and everything you wrote feels like it’s crap, but it had felt brilliant when you’d had written it after drinking one too many cups of coffee.

    THE SELF-DOUBT.

    There were tears. There was anger toward myself and my procrastinating habits. Late night thoughts of why I ever thought that this crazy dream of mine could ever be reached. But when I reached out to my mentors, I found kindness and understanding. When I reached out to a group of fellow PW mentees, I found out I was not alone. Turns out this doubt is a common step for many writers. So if you’re at that same place right now in your own writing journey, take a deep breath with me and repeat these High School Musical lyrics because they’re highly appropriate.

    We’re all in this together
    once we know, that we are
    We’re all stars,
    and we see that.
    We’re all in this together
    And it shows when we stand,
    hand in hand
    Make our dreams come true.

    If I could sum up the Pitch Wars experience with one word, it would be:

    perseverance

    After two months of revisions and line-edits, scraping by with barely any money in my bank account thanks to a non-paying, student-teaching internship, while still finding time to be a semi-conscious parent and wife, I made it to the Agent Showcase round of Pitch Wars.

    THE EXCITEMENT/ANXIETY/OBSESSIVENESS.

    Create a 50-word pitch? Write a brand new query? And a synopsis in case any agents request one? If writing a query already wasn’t the bane of my existence…

    While studying for state licensing exams and preparing my teaching portfolio.

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    The excitement and possibility of it all drove me through it. I mean, this was what Pitch Wars led up to. Yes, my manuscript improved. Yes, I was finally ready to query. But the showcase was like the chocolate lava cake the waiter/waitress tempts you with when you know you’re already completely satisfied with the meal you just devoured. It was the cherry on top of that cake, glistening, teasing me with the possibility of sweet success.

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    The showcase opened and I exploded with nerves. Would my pitch click with any agents? Would they like my writing style? Is my title catchy enough? The questions were never-ending.

    I received requests from agents, and I spent my downtime refreshing my browser for more. When I watched other amazing entries receiving heaps of requests from agents, I was over the moon for all of my new friends. But I couldn’t deny that the cherry on top of my chocolate lava cake didn’t taste as sweet as I’d hoped.

    BUT IT WASN’T OVER.

    I stayed up late the night the flood doors to send out submissions opened. I sent out my requests. I sent out my revised manuscript to agents who’d previously had a full request before I entered Pitch Wars. I sent out cold-queries to agents who didn’t request during the showcase. Then I went to sleep with a little flutter of hope.

    And in the morning, at 9:49 am, I had an offer of representation from Amelia Appel at TriadaUS. She had had a previous draft of my manuscript before Pitch Wars and had also requested the new draft during the agent round. She had read the manuscript overnight, so I knew the excitement from her was 100% genuine. I had been nervous about THE CALLSo nervous that my phone shook in my hand. But Amelia and I connected the moment we started talking, joking about my southern accent, swooning over characters, and in a blink, my nerves were gone, and I knew I wanted Amelia on my side, cheering for me and my work. Accepting her offer of representation was one of the easiest things I ever had to do.

    EVERYONE’S JOURNEY IS DIFFERENT

    The road to my dream has just begun, the first true steps finally taken. I was privileged enough to be a part of Pitch Wars and my struggles laid in the expectations of the contest. I have friends and know many who have been querying for years or face heavier obstacles and struggles of their own. I leave this post with some advice, even though I am no advice columnist.

    Don’t face it alone.

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    Find someone to share your brightest and your darkest moments with. There’s a wide community of writers out there with arms wide open, ready to listen and help you in any way they can. Take the opportunity to meet new people and learn about what this evergrowing, beautifully diverse community has to offer.

    I sure am glad I did.

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    I am a Pitch Wars Mentee!

    Uncategorized

    I still feel like I am in the beginning of my favorite Queen song.

    Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

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    In all seriousness, someone pinch me (but not too hard), because I must be dreaming. Not only did I get chosen for Pitch Wars, but I am also lucky enough to have snagged a dream team!

    Agent or not.
    Publication or not.
    I am so incredibly grateful to be given this opportunity to not only improve my book, but also my writing abilities. I intend to work my ass off and push myself further than ever, but I did not get here on my own. 
    I have a few people that I want to thank.

    Rebecca Sky and Stacey Trombley, I cannot thank you enough for believing in my book. After years of entering contests and years of coming close to winning, but not close enough, this means that much more to me. Thank you for spending your time on little ole me.

    Francesca Grandillo, Einat Segal, and Tara (TK) Yeager have been my biggest supporters and motivators.  Without your encouragement and your advice, I’m not sure I would have had the faith in myself to enter Pitch Wars.  Your endless support means the world to me and you deserve ALL of the cookies.

    Thank you to Brenda Drake, Heather Cashman, and all of those behind the scenes of Pitch Wars.  The amount of time and effort you put in to this contest is amazing. You and your team are selfless, inspiring, and a blessing in the writing community.

    ALL of you kick ass.

    So, what now?

    I will be attempting to blog about this journey–my struggles, my triumphs, and everything between.  Attempting is the key word here, because my edits, school, and teaching come first. Well, and time with my family of course, but they’re always number one.

    To start off, my mentors sent me the most amazing edit letter ever. My strengths and weaknesses became more prevalent to me than ever before, their ideas for new scenes are off-the-charts, and the letter is so organized that breathing became easy again.

    After reading their letter, the first thing I did was completely restructure the chapter outline.  New chapters and scene ideas were added, previous chapters were moved around and restructured, and I cannot tell you how satisfied I am already. I feel like I know my characters and story more and I haven’t even started REALLY editing/rewriting/writing/throwing my coffee mug at the wall in frustration.

    I’m confident in Team Gingersnaps and what we are going to accomplish these next few months.  Having experienced authors help guide me into making my book better than ever is truly a blessing.

    So, come with me on this journey.  You’re in charge of bringing snacks.

    #PitchWars 2017 – Pimp My Bio

    writing

    Oh boy.  I’ve done it.  I’ve officially decided to enter Pitch Wars, which then made me decide to create a blog, which then made me decide to perform the pimpage of the bio.  Breathe.  We will get through this together.

    (I have no professional headshots, so here is an amazing Snapchat filtered version of myself.)

    Who Am I?

    I am an avid YA fiction reader in all genres, but most specifically fantasy. There’s just something about young people facing dire circumstances with brave faces. I live vicariously through them because I’m an adult that is still afraid of the dark. I see you smiling. Don’t laugh! The night is dark and full of terrors.

    I’m a student, an educator, a wife and a mother of two children who don’t look like me.

    My first story was a zombie book that I posted on Wattpad. The writing is absolutely atrocious. But I have decided to keep it posted for aspiring writers to see because I’ve come a long way, like galaxies long, and I’m proud of it. I hope my experience can inspire others to keep writing because practice is everything.

    When I finish my middle school education degree, I want to open an elective course for students to explore creative writing as an expressive outlet.  Middle school is a rough time and I want to give kids a healthy way to express themselves and dive into an imagination they might have never thought they had.

    MY BOOK

    I’ll be entering my YA fantasy, A CROWN OF BONES.  It is PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN meets THE HUNGER GAMES with a diverse cast of characters, romance and kickass heroines.

    Because I love aesthetics:

    Show him you’re not a damsel to be trifled with.”

    Illustrations by AgataFiszer can be found on the art page.  Here is a delicious taste:

    A CROWN OF BONES EQUATION

    Pirates of the Caribbean + The Hunger Games + Six of Crows + Moana + girls who kick ass + girls who save themselves + romance + hot kissing scenes + an asshole named Pudge + angry land gods + sea sister goddesses + witty banter + betrayal + a pig on a leash + epic action scenes + love/hate relationship + best friends + island witchcraft + crafty metaphors

    Feels Soundtrack Includes:


    ME, THE MENTEE

    What I offer as a mentee:

    • Never-ending gratitude
    • Fierce determination.  I am a Slytherin after all.
    • An open mind to critiques
    • Gif magic
    • Game of Thrones references

    ALL THE FAVS

    MOVIES

    • Armageddon.  ALWAYS. BRUCE GETS ME EVERY DAMN TIME.
    • Kill Bill 1 & 2.  The Bride is my dream level of badass.
    • Everything Marvel.
    • Sound of Music (with Julie Andrews).  That movie is everything a musical should be.

    TV SHOWS

    • Game of Thrones.  Team Jon for the crown.  But I would still be happy if somehow he and D somehow split it.
    • The Walking Dead.  Richonne for life.  Carl needs to die already.
    • True Blood up to season 4.  I refuse to acknowledge the rest of the mess of that show.  YOU RUINED IT HBO.
    • My Little Pony.  After watching with my daughter, I’ve become addicted.  I’m a Pegasister and proud.
    • Stranger Things.  If I were a little boy, I would be Dustin.  He channels me.

    BOOKS

    • Harry Potter, obviously.  Slytherin in the house.
    • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
    • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
    • Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
    • The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Mayer
    • Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas
    • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
    • Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes
    • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

    EXTRAS

    • Pinapple/Canadian bacon pizza
    • Bacon burgers
    • Maple bacon donuts (I’m noticing a theme here…)
    • Football.  Arkansas Razorbacks. Green Bay Packers.  MY BOYS BETTER KILL THIS SEASON.
    • Moana is the best Disney Princess.
    • I can bend my pointer finger all the way back.
    • I grew up with a lisp and was bullied throughout school for it.
    • Video game wise: love the Sims, Assassin’s Creed, and beating my husband’s ass at UFC.

    I have done it!  I have finally created my first website and blog post.  Good luck to everyone in Pitch Wars!  Thank you to all the mentors for dedicating their time to help others and to Brenda Drake for her brilliance.