2017 Pitch Wars Wishlist
Hey guys! So for Pitch Wars this year, I will be once again looking for an awesome Young Adult (YA)
manuscript to mentor. I’ll get to the wishlist in a second, but first of all, here’s a little bit about me and
what to expect if I choose you as a mentee.
I’ve been a freelance editor for around four years (and it’s been my full-time job for the last two), plus I occasionally serve as an Assistant Editor over at Entangled Publishing. I’m also a YA writer myself, and love to hide sneaky fandom references (if you love Doctor Who, we’re officially BFFs!) in my quirky speculative fiction stories. I live in the rural Midwest with my husband, the most adorable three-year-old on the planet, and two pets named after characters from Avatar: The Last Airbender and Harry Potter respectively. You can follow me (and ask questions about my wishlist; though no pre-pitching, please!) on Twitter at @NaomiLHughes. You can also find out more about my freelance editing business here.
Why You Should Pick Me:
-ALL of my three prior Pitch Wars mentees are now agented and/or have book deals: Anthony Tardiff (writer of possibly-murderous Artificial Intelligence systems) snagged an agent, Lindsey Duga (writer of futuristic skater boys and swoony YA romance) used her newly-sharpened skills to snag a book deal at Entangled with her next story, and my very first mentee Casey Lyall landed an agent and now has deals for four books!
-Because I work with books as my full-time job. I’m passionate about stories and I love putting all their puzzles pieces together in new ways to figure out how to take them to the next level. Between my four years as a freelance editor and my time at Entangled, I’ve worked on books that are now published by Big Five houses, books that were named BEA honorees, and books that received 100% positive Kirkus reviews. If you’re curious, you can see what my freelance clients have said about working with me over on my testimonial page.
What You Can Expect If I Choose You as Mentee:
My goal is for your Pitch Wars experience with me to serve as practice for your future relationship with your real-life editor after you get a book deal. I’ll give you deadlines (we’ll work together to figure out which dates work best), professional-toned (but excited and friendly, and likely full of smiley faces!) email correspondence, and publishing industry guidance. Although I’m always here if you’re having a true revision crisis or need to run an idea past me before committing to it, I won’t be holding your hand for every nit-pick; I’ll give you editorial suggestions and you’ll decide how to execute them. Because of this, I’m the best match for a mentee who does well with a hands-off, structured type of partnership. I'm super friendly and approachable, but if you're looking for constant support or expect to exchange more than a few emails a week, you would probably be better off submitting to another mentor whose teaching style better matches your learning style.
As for the actual work we’ll do together, you can expect an edit letter (typically 3-10 single-spaced pages) quickly after you’re chosen, then when you’re finished with revisions I’ll go through your whole manuscript again and leave in-document notes about anything that might still need to be sharpened (plus I’ll probably leave lots of smiley faces and “OMG NO SHE DIDN’T”s, as one is wont to do). Then I’ll help you polish up your query-and-pages entry for the agent round. And then I will set you free to go forth and be awesome out in the wide world of publishing!
My 2017 Pitch Wars Wishlist:
Before I go into my general wishlist guidelines, let me say: if you have an antihero (Loki! Zuko! Snape!) with a redemptive arc and a bromance (or even better, a complicated frenemy-ship along the lines of The Doctor and The Master/Missy) in a fast-paced, high-concept fantasy or sci-fi, gimme that sucker RIGHT NOW. I'm craving these sorts of stories big time! But if that doesn't describe your manuscript, no worries. I am also looking for any story that blends literary writing and a commercial hook in the genre of YA speculative fiction. Let's break that down:
- Speculative fiction. I love fantasy and sci-fi in general. Anything set in the present-day (or slightly-future or alternative-present) world with a hooky speculative twist is high on my list lately, but I’m open to any speculative fiction sub-genre and setting. Bonus points for cool science and/or thriller-ish pacing! BUT there’s one exception here: paranormal and supernatural stories aren’t my thing at the moment, so please don’t send me witches, demons, fairies, mermaids, or were-anything.
-Literary writing. I want the meaningful metaphors, the character-driven plots, the insightful narratives, the layered characterization, and the strong, confident writing that makes me feel exactly the right feelings at exactly the right moments. This does not mean every sentence has to be perfect, or you wouldn’t need me! But for an example of the type of writing I’m looking for, read The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski or The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi.
-Commercial hook. While I love a writing style that edges toward literary, I don’t love the typically slow, careful, almost entirely internal-change-focused pacing and plot of literary novels. For those areas, I want to see a more commercial style: a Big Idea hook, witty banter, swoony romance (even if it’s just a subplot), escalations of the stakes that take my breath away, an ever-evolving conflict, an always-active character who isn’t content to sit around and wait for their destiny, and tight, clever pacing.
-As a side note: #ownvoices books (where the author and a main character both belong to the same traditionally marginalized or underrepresented category) are very welcome! I’m also open to well-researched, thoughtfully-written diverse characters from an author who’s writing "outside their lane."
Bonus points for any of the following! These are not required—all I *need* to fall in love are the above elements—but these are other things I find myself drawn to, so if your story has one or more of these in addition to meeting my main wishlist above, I’d definitely like to see it!
-Bromance. Bring on the strong, banter-y, complicated guy friendships (or frenemy-ships, or bromances gone wrong)! If you’ve got anything like a Spock/Kirk, Sherlock/Watson, Captain America/Bucky, or Eugenides/Costis pairing, gimme. And you know what, my love of frenemies and their complicated dynamics actually goes beyond gender; I’d love to see a book featuring a relationship similar to The Doctor and Missy!
-Complex antagonist (or an antihero protagonist) with a strong motivation and goal of his/her own. I particularly love the funny and awesome (Loki!), those who struggle with a redemption arc (Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender and Rumple from Once Upon a Time), and those who have a lot of Deep Feelings hidden beneath a sarcastic, cool surface (Snape!). Note: when I say "antihero," I mean someone with a genuine and personal internal conflict and/or secret that pulls them back and forth between good and evil (or just good and some goal that requires them to do "bad" things to achieve). I do not want bad guy protagonists (Dexter) or antiheroes whose arcs are about them ultimately giving in to their darker desires (Walter from Breaking Bad, Anakin in the first three episodes of Star Wars).
-Christian characters. So I’m gonna be open with you: I don’t like “Christian” stories of the kind that are usually shelved in the inspirational section. I am a Christian, but I’m also a feminist, science advocating, progressive mostly-Democrat who identifies with Time Lords more than most of the Christians in the rural state I live in, so as you can imagine I don’t see much of myself reflected in Christian bookstores. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s a problem. So if you’ve got a story with a geeky, Real, awesome Christian character who feels authentic and down-to-earth and isn’t quite sure they’ll ever have a handle on all this God stuff but it’s important to them anyway, I’d like to see it—especially if the story has a speculative-fiction hook (which does NOT need to have any kind of allegorical relations to Christianity a la C.S. Lewis), and especially if they have a strong sense of purpose (social justice, anti-hypocrisy, mental health awareness, etc.) that’s likely to ruffle traditionalists’ and fundamentalists’ feathers but stays true to the Bible’s original message of love, justice, and mercy. These themes do not need to be central to the story’s plot; I’d love to see a Christian character like this (even as a secondary character) in a story that isn’t “about” Christianity.
Favorite Books and Movies (if you use any of these as comps, gimme!):
Doctor Who, Star Trek (the new movies), The Flash, Harry Potter, Chuck, Pushing Daisies, Avatar: The Last Airbender, most superhero movies (I particularly love Captain America and the new Spider-Man, but Batman is too grimdark/broody and although I love Superman’s moral code, he’s a bit vanilla), Live Die Repeat (Edge of Tomorrow), The Proposal, This Means War, The Winner’s Curse trilogy, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (a bit dark for me, but gorgeous), and The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.
Things I DO NOT WANT:
-Horror. Total weenie here. Nope nope nope.
-Anything with overwhelming dark or tragic themes. No rape, serial killers, cannibals, demons, evil ghosts, themes of inevitable doom (unless it’s about characters finding a way to upend or redeem that seeming inevitability against all odds), or evil zombies (fun zombies might be fine). Pyrrhic endings (stories that end with a costly victory) are cool in most cases.
-Stories that underestimate or talk down to teens. Now I know most of you guys won’t even need this stated, but teens are smart. They’re real. There have as many varieties of personality as adults. I’m not interested in anything that stereotypes them (ie, stories where every teen character is sarcastic and broody and superficial) or treats them as lesser.
-Love triangles. There are some exceptions here—if it’s hilarious and has a bonus bromance like This Means War, for example—but in general, I dislike love triangles and all the angst that typically accompanies them.
That’s it! I can’t wait to see the awesomeness I know you guys are going to send me. Good luck, and don’t forget to check out the other fabulous mentors below (but don’t forget I’m totally your first choice!).
Naomi Edits | Naomi L. Hughes