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PitchWars 2018 Wishlist

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Thank you for visiting my PitchWars wish list! I’m looking forward to seeing all the shiny, sparkling, incandescent submissions appear in my inbox at the end of the month!

First, as a refresher, this is me. My PitchWars Bio is here.IMG_2820More about me: I write comedic Women’s Fiction/Chick-lit with strong romantic elements. Basically, I write big, shiny happily ever afters for brown women struggling with the modern world.

Also, I like warm puppies and cold drinks. Walks on the beach are *okay* so long as I have foot protection from creepy-crawlies. I am a city girl through and through, but am happiest outdoors. If you can’t find me, look for water. I’ll be nearby, or on one of my boats.

And finally, I love books.

As a first time mentor, I’m as nervous as you are. I don’t know what to expect, but I know it will be a wild and exciting ride. I am so honoured that writers would chose me to help guide their manuscript to achieve all it can.

First, this post may be NSFW– a little bit of cute kissing and mild profanity.

My Experience

  • I may be new at pitchwars, but have critiqued countless manuscripts and partial manuscripts in all genres. I was a judge in QueryKombat and a mentor in Nightmare on Query street, and have judged many chapter level and national RWA contests.
  • I’ve taught before– specifically at the high school level for troubled teenagers. I’ve also been an adult trainer and a psychotherapist (hey, many writers would love that!)

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  • I have personal experience in the following: querying (2 manuscripts), multiple offers of representation, revising for an agent, being on submission at big five imprints, and more. I had to have a crash course on how publishing works by doing it, and I would love to share my experiences and wisdom with a mentee.
  • I am an RWA member and never miss a meeting at my local chapter: Toronto Romance Writers. I have learned SO MUCH from them, and have made invaluable industry contacts.
  • I am thoroughly, personally and completely aware of the unique difficulties faced by writers with marginalized identities. I’ve been there. I get it. I have lived the war stories and have the scars to prove it, but I haven’t given up. If you are looking for someone to commiserate with, I’m your mentor.

So what am I looking for? First, a great big shoutout to my friend Laura Heffernan. I heavily borrowed from her 2017 wishlist. She decided to procreate instead of mentoring this year, so yay me! I get her submissions, and her guidance!

I’ll take Adult or New Adult only. Anything else will be deleted unread. If you are submitting New Adult, be prepared to revise it with my guidance to Adult to give it the best possible chance in this industry (Maybe. If it’s Romance, it can probably stay as NA). I’ll accept manuscripts in the following genres only: Commercial Women’s Fiction, Commercial General Fiction, and Romance. I’ve gone into more details below on each of these genres– I recommend reading though all of it.

Commercial Women’s Fiction

  • This means that the primary focus of the story is on the main character’s emotional journey. I like my Women’s fiction (WF) to have a romantic subplot (with a happily ever after), but the book should be primarily about the female main character. Confused? Check out my posts on Women’s Fiction here and here.  Still confused? Reach out and ask me!

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  • My preference is for commercial, humorous, stories. I WANT YOUR CHICK-LIT!!!
  • Themes and subject matter can be a little heavy, or deep (I get it, life is a pile of heavy right now, so let it seep into your writing), but heavy stories told with humour and a strong voice are my catnip, if handled sensitively. I like lighthearted escapism reading as well.
  • To me, Women’s Fiction needs to be somewhat realistic about the actual world we live in. No unlimited Louboutin budgets on an intern’s salary. No single in New York without diversity.
  • The term “women’s fiction” is not limited to those assigned as female at birth. Own voices trans women, and non-binary stories are welcome.
  • Sub-genres: within the women’s fiction genre, I’m willing to look at light paranormal, light sci-fi, or light fantasy. Even mysteries and suspense. But the focus is on the emotional journey, not world building or mystery solving.
  • Magical realism is great in Women’s Fiction. Bring it to me!
  • Multi generational is okay. Several POVs focusing on more than one woman is okay. Family stories (found families, too!)
  • Upmarket is fine, but if it’s super literary, another mentor might be a better fit.
  • Historical WF is fine. Especially if its a time period that is a little rarer in books.
  • I will take #MeToo and abuse stories. BUT- if there is any sexual abuse or assault in the story it cannot be between the main romantic pairing. I do not want to read a story about a woman who falls in love with her abuser, or about a sexual predator who redeems himself. If the story is about a woman overcoming the trauma of abuse, or coming to terms with her experiences while she gets away from her abuser, it’s fine.
  • I will consider books about infertility, abortion, still birth, motherhood, childhood illness, cancer, divorce, death of spouse, drug addiction, mental illness, racism, etc. But I’m not looking for super depressing, painful narratives. These topics are not particularly triggering for me, but I am unlikely to want to work on a project for months unless it’s empowering for the woman. If you can weave humour with those topics with sensitivity, I’ll love it.

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  • It may sound like I’ll take any women’s fiction at all, so let’s narrow it a bit. It’s all about the voice, and I prefer some degree of a romantic relationship with a happily ever after. I am most likely to take a WF project with a modern, strong, fun voice, and a happy, uplifting ending.
  • Examples of the types of WF I want: anything by Jojo Moyes or Marian Keys, Bridget Jones Diary, Big Little Lies, Attachments, LandlineErotic Stories for Punjabi WidowsThe Jane Austen Book clubMy not So Perfect Life, The Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the World,  Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Austenland, and more. Of these examples, the ones that would excite me the most to see in my inbox would be Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, and Austenland by Shannon Hale. If you’ve written anything like these, please send them to me!

Commercial General Fiction

  • I added this genre because I’m also interested in stories similar to the above that cannot be called Women’s Fiction because they are not only about women. If your story is about a man, or a non-binary individual, or a group of people, and fits the qualifications above, send it my way. A strong preference for authors writing about marginalized identities in this area, (preferably #ownvoices). The manuscript must be about a character’s emotional journey and how their career, family, relationships and identity interact.
  • One POV or several POVs will work here. The story is not necessarily about one person. A fun voice is a must.
  • Again, marginalized characters preferred, and only a story about an emotional journey in the commercial general fiction genre (BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disability, or any combination of.) Not super literary, and not a suspense, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, etc. Historical is okay.

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  • Examples: The Rosie Project, No One Can Pronounce my Name, or A man called Ove. 

Romance

  • All types of consensual relationships are welcome in Romance. M/M, F/F, M/F, genderqueer, etc. So long as it’s consensual adults, I’m happy.SayAnything
  • Authors of colour writing #OwnVoices. are so, so, welcome!  I know how hard it is to break into Romance as an author of colour, and I want to help.
  • Contemporary Romance. Bring me your contemporaries with diversity!!!  I love Romantic comedies. Make me laugh! Lighthearted, low angst comedies are my jam. 

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  • Single or dual POV is fine. Past or present tense is fine.
  • Tropes? Yes! I love forced confinement, enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, second chance.
  • Any heat level is okay… but not erotica. The story is about the relationship, not about the sex. Erotic Romance is okay, but honestly, I prefer steamy romantic comedy.
  • Light BDSM is fine, but I’m not the mentor for hardcore stuff. Just make sure it’s a positive, functional relationship. BDSM is not abuse. Abuse is not sexy.
  • Genre-straddlers. Don’t know if your book is Women’s Fiction, romance, or rom-com? No problem! Send it to me and we’ll work out the best fit for the story.
  • Hisorical. Did you write a diverse Regency? Bring it here! I love historicals. And if they are diverse, I’m excited for it.

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  • I’m going to say it again, because it’s super important to me. CONSENT is everything. Safe, healthy, sexual activity only. Enthusiastic consent during sexy times is hot. No dubious consent… even if they are already in a relationship. This is a hard line for me. A romantic pairing in a Romance novel must be consensual at all times for me. Watch for power dynamics that can impact the ability to consent such as teacher/student, boss/employee, slave owner/slave, Nazi/Anyone, etc.
  • Interracial couples encouraged! I’ve been in an interracial relationship for over 20 years.

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  • Some Romance writers I love: Cat Sebastian, Alyssa Cole, Sonali Dev, Annabeth Albert, Roan Parrish, Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan, and Jenny Holiday. Bring me something like The Kiss Quotient, the Hating Game, a Duke by Default, The Lawrence Brown Affair, Ayesha at Last, When a Scot ties the Knot, One and Only, or Level Up and I’ll love it.

For all of the above genres:

  • Resistance! Bring me your stories about fighting back against the evil isms– fascism, racism, sexism, ableism, etc. Not overly detailed with regards to politics, though. I’m Canadian. American political stories will probably go over my head. But if you wrote a sexy Justin Trudeau story, bring it here.

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  • Diversity! (have I mentioned that enough, yet?) All types of diversity are encouraged: people of color, any disability status, mental illness, LGBTQ+ characters, religious minorities, neuro-diversity, etc.
  • I am a South-Asian Muslim Canadian Woman. If having a mentor with any or all of those identities is important to you, keep me in mind. That being said, I am not here to be your sensitivity reader. And if I feel that some aspect of your story is problematic, I won’t be shy about telling you. And I will help guide you toward fixing it. Also, I am cis, straight, married, and a mother of two, just so you know.

Feminist

  • I love the geeky stuff! Bring me your nerds finding love! STEM characters! Music nerds! (I’m a huge music nerd.) Gamers!
  • I’m a serious foodie! Food themes are very, very welcome!
  • I love ensembles! Found families! Bring me your adult Scooby Gang!
  • I want intelligent, strong, characters.
  • I mentioned it above, but any heat level is okay. Swearing, crude language, snark is all okay. BUT– depending on your genre, we may end up changing these to fit the norms. eg., less explicit in WF than contemporary romance, etc.
  • Healthy relationships, please. If your love interest’s defining characteristic is that he refuses to take no for an answer and keeps coming back when the main character tells him no, I’m not the mentor for you.
  • Self-edited, polished manuscripts only. I’ll probably make requests fast. There are plenty of places to learn to revise and self-edit. Read through them with an eye toward how to improve your manuscript before submitting. 
  • Appropriate word counts. If your manuscript is under 60,000 words or over 100,000, seriously consider doing another editing pass before the submission period starts. My sweet spot would be anywhere between 70k and 90k.
  • Make sure you’ve done your research. If your main character is a lawyer or a cop, and the legal stuff is wrong, I won’t be able to read it. (And if you have a background relevant to your MS, make sure your query tells me.)
  • I am looking for people who are easy to work with, and who are positive, upbeat and genuinely want help improving. There’s a lot to love and hate about publishing, and it can be challenging for marginalized writers, but I’m looking for optimists who are willing to keep an open mind about the progress within the industry.

What I’m NOT looking for

  • No genres not listed above. That includes, high-fantasy, sci-fi, thrillers, horror, mysteries, action-adventure, domestic suspense, paranormal, literary fiction, and anything else. Very light elements of the above are okay in Women’s Fiction only.
  • No YA, MG, chapter books, graphic novels or picture books.
  • No military heroes or war stories please.
  • No billionaires. I like to be grounded in reality. Rich characters are okay, jut not stinking-rich characters.
  • No unreliable narrators or intentionally unlikable main characters. I want to love them. BUT– I like a strong character. They can be strong willed. They can swear, drink, sleep around, etc. They just can’t be selfish, or a down-right mean person. Honestly, if I feel the need to throw the MC off a moving train after the first chapter, I am unlikely to pick the book. Even if they are redeemed at the end.
  • No Romantic suspense, Amish romance, Urban fantasy, paranormal romance, sci-fi romance, or fantasy romance. (light elements of the above in WF only). Unsure? Ask me.
  • Prefer no cops or law enforcement, but I might budge on that for a great story.
  • No polyamory, or romantic relationships with more than two people. My emotions get confused. But platonic love among friend groups are great.
  • If your book is very serious story about one bad thing happening after another, after another, it’s not for me.
  • If your ultimate goal is to make readers cry, I’m not your target audience. Also, don’t make me fall in love with a character and then kill them.
  • No assholes. I’m not a fan of Alpha heroes, but sometimes they work for me. But Alphas don’t necessarily have to be dickheads. I’ll take Alphas. I won’t take dickheads.

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  • Also, no redeemed racists, Islamophobes, homophobes, etc. I’m not the mentor for a story about a main character who sees a marginalized person as undeserving of human rights, even if that character is redeemed during the course of the story. (If a side character is a bigot who is redeemed, fine. Great, even.)
  • No inspirational or religious-themed manuscripts. I don’t mind religious characters, but no overall inspirational themes.
  • No cliffhangers. I need a full story– beginning, middle and satisfying end. (I will read your synopsis and ask clarifying questions if I have any.) I love twisty, unstructured, literary works, but I’m not the right mentor for them.
  • With regards to memoirs— If your memoir follows my preferences in the genres mentioned about, I may take it. That is, if it’s a diverse story with a strong emotional arc, has a great voice, is well researched, etc. A memoir to me should have a proper story structure, like a novel. I am not interested in a series of stories, or vignettes. I am going to be picky about this, so you may want to save your submission slot for a mentor who is more excited about memoirs.
  • Standalone books only . Standalone with series potential is fine.
  • Nothing that’s already been published. A self-published book is published. Agents won’t take these books, which means they’re not right for this contest. (But good luck, because self-publishing is hard work, and I respect self-published authors a lot.)
  • If I’ve critiqued/read your entire manuscript before, you’re better off getting a new set of eyes and choosing other mentors. If I’ve looked at a chapter, a partial or query of yours, by all means, submit. I will give no special consideration to works I’ve seen before. If we’re good friends (regular DMs or coffee dates), don’t submit to me. It would be inappropriate for me to select you, so why waste a submission slot!

My Critique Style: 

  • I don’t mince words. I will tell you everything that is working about your manuscript, as well as everything that is not working. I’m a little wordy– as you can tell by the length of this wishlist. Please understand I wouldn’t have picked your MS if I didn’t love it, though.
  • My strengths are characterization, relationships, pacing, and dialogue. I will help you increase the emotional impact of your characters, and help make their reactions believable.
  • I’m not great at grammar, world building or detailed settings. If you are looking for someone to help you in these areas, another mentor would be a better fit.
  • I hope to do at least two passes of the entire manuscript with you, so be willing to do a lot of work in a short time frame.
  • Be prepared to hate my edit letter at first. I am ready to make you sweat! If you want a cheerleader, or someone to tell you that your special baby is nothing but perfection, ask your great aunt Esther for a critique. If you don’t have a great aunt Esther, you can borrow mine. She’s lovely, but you may want to act fast, she’s one-hundred and three. (I’m kidding– she’s not much of a reader anymore.)
  • If you want someone who cares about you and your manuscript enough to make it  shine brighter than the sun, I’m your mentor. I will only pick something I love, and I will do everything I can for it.
  • I will communicate as much as you are comfortable with. I’m not a phone person, but will probably schedule a Skype session to go over the first edit letter. I’m there for you via text or DM. BUT– like many writers, I’m an introvert. I may not be overly chatty, or respond immediately, but I am still there for you. I have a busy life outside of Pitchwars. I am confident my mentee and I will find a balance that works for both of us.
  • My current plan is to ask for full manuscripts of any submissions that I want to see more of, in order to keep things simpler than having fulls and partials hanging around. I may not read all of every full manuscripts I request. You’ll get an email from me requesting the manuscript, and asking a bunch of questions about you and the manuscript if I want to see it.

 

I think I’ve left this wish-list pretty broad. If you have questions about whether something falls into my wish list, please feel free to reach out. My preferred communication with regards to this wish-list is for you to leave a comment below, or ask me on Twitter, rather than through the contact form on my website. And please, no pre-pitching on twitter or below.  

HanGoodLuck
Good luck with your submissions! I can’t wait to see them.
To see all the other amazing Mentor Wish Lists, click here to see them on the PitchWars blog. Or check out the linky below of all the other Adult Mentors.

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3 thoughts on “PitchWars 2018 Wishlist”

  1. Hi Farah,
    I’ve got a humor with heart romance, told in close 3rd person from both the male and female MC’s POV. Thing is, it’s set in 1988, so it’s not quite contemporary and not quite historical. I believe there’s an audience for it but I need help convincing agents of that. Does this maybe work for your wish list? Thanks!

    Like

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