PitchWars 2019 Wishlist


Please Note: this wishlist might not be safe for work. There is some swearing and kissing gifs, plus a cat with a mustache, because I absolutely cannot resist.

Very happy South Asian woman happily tossing a poor dove in the air


It’s PitchWars  Wishlist time again! I’m so, so thrilled to be an adult mentor once again in 2019! In case you’re not familiar with the program, PitchWars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns each choose one writer to spend three months revising their manuscript with. It ends in February with an Agent Showcase, where agents can read a pitch/first page and can request to read more

So much has happened since I announced I was a mentor last year. At the time I considered myself a baby writer– I had an agent and a book deal, but the book deal was still a secret, and while I had helped many friends with their manuscripts, I felt pretty green in the industry. Since then? I announced my debut novel – The Chai Factor. Then the book came out, was everywhere, got great reviews, and best of all, I had a launch party with a Barbershop Quartet. And I announced a new deal: my new rom-com The Right Spice, will be out before you know it.

Me and the the Yonge Guns, the real Barbershop Quartet that sang at my book launch. I’m the teeny tiny one in the middle.

And most importantly, I started and finished my first cycle as a PitchWars mentor. I was so lucky to mentor two amazingly talented writers, and hold their hands guiding them through 2 significant rounds of edits each. And I stood by beaming with pride as they both signed with agents in the showcase. Check them both out: Meryl Wilsner and Nam Patel. And one of them, Meryl, is a mentor this year, too! I adore Meryl, but I’m fully prepared to go to war with them if we both fall in love with the same manuscript…

Me and my 2018 mentees

And I am significantly narrowing the genres I am accepting in 2019. I am accepting Adult and New Adult manuscripts, and am specifically looking for:

Romantic Comedies, Contemporary Romance, or Funny Women’s Fiction with Central Romance ONLY.

Romantic Comedies & Contemporary Romance

Overly cheerful couple being silly and playing airplane I think

This is hopefully self-explanatory: I want romance genre manuscripts that are fresh, preferably funny, and modern. If it’s funny, and at times irreverent, and has a satisfying, swoony love story, it’s for me.

Does that mean I want fluffy books? Nope, not necessarily. Some of my favorite rom-coms tackle serious issues. I wrote a whole article on this topic.  By the way, I’d love to see anything like the recommended books in that article. To me, rom-com is more about the language used rather than zany hijinks or humiliation. Lots of banter, close friends and witty language.

rom com
Man excitedly saying “I love rom-coms! Love them!”

Some writers in this genre I love: Alyssa Cole, Sonali Dev, Annabeth Albert, and Jenny Holiday. Bring me something like The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang, The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez, a Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole, One and Only by Jenny Holiday, Well Met by Jen DeLuca, How to Hack a Heartbreak by Kristin Rockaway, Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, Get a Life Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbart, or Intercepted by Alexa Martin.

Funny (Commercial) Women’s Fiction with Central Romance

Aunties in saris dancing together

This is pretty much exactly the same as above, but the focus of the story is a little more about the woman’s journey than just the romance. Romance is present, but we see deeper into the woman’s desires, driving force, and see her her character arc stronger than the love interests. These books tend to have only one POV, instead of the very common alternating POVs in romance.

Examples of the types of Commercial Women’s Fiction I want: anything by Jojo Moyes or Marian Keys, Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Fielding, Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal, Austenland by Shanon Hale, or The Wedding Clock by Zara Raheem.

There is a lot of overlap between these two genres. Sometimes I can’t even tell where a book would fall, but if you’re not sure if if your manuscripts sounds up my alley, ask! More than anything, the humour, a strong voice, and a satisfying ending are the most important things for me. Mostly, I want fun, high concept projects.

More details about what I’d love to find:

  • Themes and subject matter can be heavy, or deep (I get it, life is a pile of heavy right now, so let it seep into your writing). Heavy stories told with humour and a strong voice are my jam, if handled sensitively.
  • I like fluffy lighthearted escapism reading as well.
Woman saying “I am single because the only good men are fictional” while two handsome men look on.
  • To me, the story 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.
  • 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 will consider books about abortion, divorce, drug addiction, mental illness, and racism. 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 characters. If you can weave humour with those topics with sensitivity, please send it to me.
  • All types of consensual relationships are welcome. M/M, F/F, M/F, genderqueer, etc. So long as it’s consensual adults, I’m happy.
Two snuggling Indian women in a kitchen.
  • Authors of colour writing #OwnVoices are encouraged! I know how hard it is to break into Romance as a racialized author, and I want to help in any way I can.
  • Single or dual POV is fine. Past or present tense is fine.
  • Subgenres: if you have a historical rom-com, paranormal rom-com, or even a sci-fi rom-com, I am open to it. It needs to be modern with a strong, fun voice. Examples: books similar to works by Tessa Dare, Gail Carringer or Cat Sebastian.
  • Tropes? Yes! I love tropey stuff. Favorites are: forced confinement, enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, second chance.
Image result for I hate you bollywood gif
Woman saying “Yes, I really hate you”
  • Any heat level is okay, but it needs to fit the book. Rom-Com tends not to be as high heat as other romance, and WF tends to be closed door. You’ll need to be open to changing your heat level.
  • 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. Watch for power dynamics that can impact the ability to consent such as teacher/student, boss/employee, slave owner/slave, Nazi/Anyone, etc.
Woman saying “When I say no, it means no.”
  • Diversity! (have I mentioned that enough, yet?) All types of diversity are encouraged: racialized characters, any disability status, mental illness, LGBTQ+ characters, religious minorities, neuro-diversity, etc.
  • Interracial couples encouraged! I’ve been in an interracial relationship for over 20 years.
Related image
Two women with different skin-tones kissing.
  • Resistance! Bring me your stories about fighting back against the evil isms– fascism, racism, sexism, ableism, etc. 
  • I’m a serious foodie! Food themes are very, very welcome!
Image result for samosa gif
Samosa being dipped into green chutney
  • 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.
  • I love the geeky stuff! Bring me your nerds finding love! STEM characters! Music nerds! Gamers! Cosplay! Even obscure nerdy pastimes! Pens! Barbecue! Tabletop miniature games! knitting! Needle-felting Star Wars characters!

Two men playing video games who keep kissing each other.
  • I’ll take New Adult manuscripts– but I might ask you to age them up to adult if I think the story and genre warrants it. New Adult works in the romance genre, so if your rom-com has early twenties characters, it might be okay. New adult is rare in women’s fiction, though. And in either genre, it would be a hard sell to a traditional publisher, so I advise you to be open to changing your age demographic if we decide to.
  • I love ensembles! Found families! Big friend groups!
Image result for Austenland gifs
One woman and four men in Regency costume dancing

What I’m NOT looking for

  • No genres or sub-genres not listed above. That includes, dark romance, high-fantasy, thrillers, horror, domestic suspense, literary fiction, upmarket woman’s fiction, romantic suspense, and memoir. Fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal, and historical are okay as long as they are both funny and genre-romance.
  • No billionaires. I like to be grounded in reality. Rich characters are okay, jut not unrealistic stinking-rich characters.
  • Not overly detailed with regards to politics. I’m Canadian. American political stories will probably go over my head. 
  • Please no books about serious illness, parenting challenges, childhood illness, childhood death, infertility, cancer, death of spouse or parent, or childbirth. These elements can be present in the story, but not what the story is about.
  • 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. 
  • No inspirational or religious-themed manuscripts. I don’t mind religious characters, but no overall inspirational themes.
  • Prefer no cops, law enforcement, or military characters, but I might budge on that for a great story. No war stories please. 
  • No assholes. I’m not a huge 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. 
  • Also, no cheating on significant others, please!
  • 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 cliffhangers. I need a full story– beginning, middle and satisfying end. (I will read your synopsis and ask clarifying questions if I have any.)
  • No twisty, unstructured, literary, or upmarket works. I love them, but I’m not the right mentor for them.
  • No series books. Standalone 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 program (But good luck, because self-publishing is hard work, and I really respect self-published authors).
  • 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), please 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. Please understand I wouldn’t have picked your manuscript if I didn’t LOVE it, though.
  • My strengths are characterization, complex relationships, pacing, and dialogue. I will help you increase the emotional impact of your characters, and help make their reactions believable. I’m great at banter, and at adding nuance to relationships.
  • I’m not great at grammar, world building or detailed settings. I’m also not as strong with action scenes. If you are looking for someone to help you in these areas, another mentor would be a better fit.
  • I plan to do two passes of the entire manuscript with you, so be willing to do a lot of work in a short time frame.
Mustached cat staring at a computer, then typing really fast. I imagine he is waiting for his mentor’s edit letter, then gets it and starts furiously revising.
  • This process will not just be copy-editing, or polishing up some grammar and word choice. It will be closer to a full developmental review. I may ask you to practically re-write the book. We might gain or lose scenes, POVs, and even entire subplots. I trust my instincts, and sincerely want to make your book the best it can be, but you should be willing to do major work on your manuscript before submitting to me.
  • Be prepared to hate my edit letter at first. If you want a cheerleader, or someone to tell you that your special baby is nothing but perfection, ask your grandmother for a critique. If you’re you’re looking for someone who will be tough and won’t mince words, ask my grandmother. Or better yet, submit to me.
  • 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 here for you. I have a busy life outside of PitchWars, but I am confident my mentee and I will find a balance that works for both of us.
  • I plan to ask for full manuscripts from any of my submissions if I want to see more, instead of asking for partials. I may not read all of every full manuscripts I request. You’ll get an email from me requesting the manuscript, and asking a few questions about you and the manuscript if I want to see it.

Some extra information

  • 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. I will help guide you toward fixing it.
  • Also, I am cis, straight, married, and a mother of two, just so you know.
Related image
Lady saying “I’m not like a regular mom, I’m a cool mom.”
  • Self-edited, polished manuscripts only. I’ll probably make requests fast, so your manuscript needs to be ready to go.
  • Appropriate word counts please! 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.
  • 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. I will be your biggest cheerleader, and will be there for you if anxiety about this business creeps in.

Related image
Woman saying “I need you to text me every 30 seconds saying that everything is going to be ok.”

This wishlist is much narrower than my list last year– so if you have questions about whether something falls into my wishlist, please feel free to reach out. My preferred communication with regards to this wishlist is for you to leave a comment below, or ask me on Twitter, rather than through the contact form on my website or DMs.

Please keep your questions vague– no pre-pitching. For example, asking me if I am open to a women’s fiction with a 80+ year old protagonist is okay, asking if I want a story about an 80 year old woman who takes up nude sky-diving after her husband dies wrestling a bear is too specific, and is pre-pitching. (Although honestly? I want to see that story.)

A huge good luck to everyone entering, whether or not you are submitting to me! Getting this far in your writing career is a massive accomplishment in itself, and I am rooting for you! You got this!

giphy (2).gif
Woman saying “One must champion oneself and say I am ready for this”

Good luck with your submissions! I can’t wait to see them!

To see the other mentor wishlists on the PitchWars blog, click here. Or check out the links below of all the Adult Mentors.

Pitch Wars 2019 Adult Mentors’ Wish Lists

  1. Paris Wynters
  2. Kathleen Barber (Accepts NA)
  3. Ian Barnes
  4. Mary Ann Marlowe (Accepts NA)
  5. Elizabeth Little
  6. Hayley Stone and Erin A. Tidwell
  7. Gwynne Jackson (Accepts NA)
  8. Maxym M. Martineau (Accepts NA)
  9. Katie Golding (Accepts NA)
  10. Ava Reid and Rachel Morris (Accepts NA)
  11. Carolyne Topdjian
  12. Natalka Burian
  13. Tim Akers
  14. Alex Segura
  15. Michelle Hauck and Carrie Callaghan (Accepts NA)
  16. Laura Brown (Accepts NA)
  17. Mia P. Manansala and Kellye Garrett (Accepts NA)
  18. Kerbie Addis and Ren Hutchings (Accepts NA)
  19. Susan Bishop Crispell (Accepts NA)
  20. Kelly Siskind and Heather Van Fleet (Accepts NA)
  21. Janet Walden-West and Anne Raven (Accepts NA)
  22. Kate Lansing (Accepts NA)
  23. Kristen Lepionka and Ernie Chiara
  24. Alexa Martin and Suzanne Park (Accepts NA)
  25. Gia de Cadenet (Accepts NA)
  26. Rob Hart
  27. Layne Fargo and Halley Sutton
  28. Michael Chorost (Accepts NA)
  29. Sarah Remy (Accepts NA)
  30. Nicole Glover (Accepts NA)
  31. Farah Heron (Accepts NA)
  32. Samantha Rajaram
  33. Keena Roberts (Accepts NA)
  34. Rebecca Enzor (Accepts NA)
  35. Matthew Quinn Martin (Accepts NA)
  36. Denny S. Bryce (Accepts NA)
  37. Meryl Wilsner and Rosie Danan (Accepts NA)
  38. P.J. Vernon and Kelly J. Ford (Accepts NA)
  39. Gladys Quinn (Accepts NA)
  40. Diana A. Hicks (Accepts NA)
  41. Damyanti Biswas
  42. Stephen Morgan (Accepts NA)

16 thoughts on “PitchWars 2019 Wishlist

  1. Hello Farrah!
    Thanks for the detailed wish list. Would you consider an MS that’s not outright funny as long as it follows the other parameters? My novel has “oy vey!” moments, but not what I’d consider a humorous voice or bent.

    Faerl Marie

    1. Hi Faerl! I am really looking for humor, but I might pick a manuscript that is not funny if it falls in the contemporary romance genre, and I really connect with it. In women’s fiction, it’s unlikely I would pick something that isn’t funny. Hope this helps!

  2. Hi, Farah,

    Would you consider a Woman’s Fiction Novel (funny with a romance subplot) if it has an ambiguous ending (no HEA or HFN?)

    Katherine Caldwell

    1. Hi Katherine! If it meets all my other requirements, and is clearly a WF and not a romance or rom-com, then yes, I’d like to see it. I’d also made sure the synopsis clearly outlines what happens at the end. I don’t want to expect an HEA and then not get it. Good Luck!

    1. Hi Laralyn! Thank you for asking, I’ll be perfectly honest with you, I am not at all sporty so I might not connect… but that being said, I wouldn’t rule it out just because it’s a sports story. I have loved sports romances before, if they are high on the romance and banter and low on long descriptions of sporting events. And I adore the enemies to lovers.

  3. Hey Farah,
    My novel seems to hit a bunch of your wish list items, but it is a little over 100k works. I’m right around 115k. Is that a hard pass for you?

    1. Hi Bridget! That word count wouldn’t be an absolute hard pass for me, but it is on the upper end of what I would be willing to work with word count-wise. With a word count that high, I would be concerned that pacing might be off, or there were too many sub-plots. If my chosen mentee’s manuscript was that long I would probably work with them to get it under 100k during the revision period. Good luck!

  4. Hi Farah,

    Would you be open to a 50-something narrator in funny women’s fiction? The book includes a central romance, but the character’s views about being middle-aged are at the heart of the story.

    Thank you for answering questions–it’s so kind of you to give us this guidance!

  5. Hi Farah! I’ve been thinking for a few weeks that my manuscript needs more diversity, but have not had time to go back and re-write. It’s currently (embarrassingly) very white. Are you open to the single white girl in NYC if I’m open (and wanting!) to explore diversity more with my characters in the next revision? Or does that just not do it for you?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Kate

      Without seeing the manuscript it’s hard for me to say whether or not it would be for me, and unfortunately I have to take each entry at its face value instead of assuming that you would be willing to add diversity during revisions. I would most likely have a preference for entries that already represent diversity, as that is the world I live in. Thank you for your interest, though, and good luck!

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