Pitch Wars Category Archive

Interview With #PitchWars 2017 Mentee, Bronwyn Clark

2017 Pitch Wars was, without a doubt, a beautiful experience. I was able to work with Bronwyn Clark on the most lovely of manuscripts. I have to say, I’ve never met someone so happy to do extraordinarily difficult work on their writing. What’s extraordinary to me though isn’t necessarily the difficult work Bronwyn did during Pitch Wars (though she did–she dove in and re-structured her whole novel and re-worked world building without a single complaint), but rather how much she learned. While she received 26 requests during the agent round, she didn’t receive any offers of representation for that manuscript. Instead of taking that as defeat, she buried herself in another manuscript, using each of the tools she’d learned during PW. I was lucky enough to read a first draft of that new book, and let me tell you, it didn’t read like a first draft. She had nailed her plotting. It was such a gift to see how she’d grown as an author. 
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I am unbelievably proud and delighted to say that Bronwyn is now represented by agent Lydia Silver of Darley Anderson Children’s Book Agency for that shiny, new manuscript. She’s written about her writing journey over here; I highly suggest checking out that post, as it’s an incredible tale.Now, onto the PW interview! If you’d like to backtrack and read the interview with my 2014 mentee and alternate go here, or the interview with my 2015 mentee go here, or my 2016 mentee, head on over here!
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Me: There are a few parts to PitchWars, the first of which was deciding which mentors you wanted to submit. How did you decide who to send to?
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Bronwyn: Pitch Wars 2017 was my third time entering. The first time I entered in 2015 was with a YA Contemporary (not Juliana’s category). In 2016, I submitted to Juliana because she was so positive on Twitter, and I had a MG Fantasy that I believed would interest her. She asked for pages and even though she didn’t end up picking me that year, she gave me some really great advice. So, when I was choosing who to submit my MG Contemporary with magical elements to in 2017, she was at the top of my list. Juliana is one of the most positive, kind people I’ve ever interacted with. She is wicked smart, and I was over the moon happy when she and her co-mentor picked my manuscript. 
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Me: For the 2018 PitchWars hopefuls, what was it like to have me as your mentor? (Feel free to be honest :P)
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Bronwyn: It was all rainbows, and sunshine, and cupcakes! Seriously, I really did feel like the luckiest mentee on the planet! Juliana goes above and beyond the expected minimum for a Pitch Wars mentor. She doesn’t do this gig for name recognition or for the awesome Pitch Wars Mentor t-shirts. She’s believes in writers. There wasn’t a day that went by when I didn’t feel supported. She even had two of her former mentees read my manuscript for input. One of those amazing ladies was none other that Lacee Little, who also gave me awesome feedback. They will be an amazing team. Submit to them! You will not regret it if they pick your manuscript!
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Me: What was your overall experience with the editing/revising process? Was there a certain part that was particularly difficult or rewarding?
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Bronwyn: Revisions for my Pitch Wars manuscript were big. I needed to change my world building and make my magic system more unique. I needed to really figure out what my main character’s goal was and what she was up against to get there. Juliana and my other mentor walked me through what ended up being a rewrite cover to cover. There isn’t a whole lot of time during Pitch Wars for that kind of revision, but I knew they had my back and thought I was up to the task. 
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Juliana sprinkled in heavy doses of encouragement and pointed out things she loved about my writing. She was always ready to answer questions and so easy to talk to. I learned SO much from her, which is why I entered into Pitch Wars to begin with. If you choose to submit to Juliana and she suggests big changes, go for it! She knows what she’s doing. I trusted her 100%, and my manuscript came out stronger for it in the end. Even more importantly, I’m a better writer because of her. That is the biggest reward a writer can get! 
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Me: Were there any parts of PitchWars that you were surprised at? Submissions? Edits? The agent round? Post-agent round?
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Bronwyn: I think I’m most surprised by the additional bonuses of Pitch Wars. The real reason for this contest is to make new writing friends, learn as much as you can, and become a better writer. I’ve met amazing critique partners who I absolutely adore. I made writing friends for life in Juliana and Lacee. I know they will cheer me on for the rest of my writing career (and they will cheer you on as well!). There is such an amazing Pitch Wars community for those who choose to be positive and are willing to support other writers. 
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Me: If you could choose to do PitchWars all over again, would you? Why?
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Bronwyn: Definitely. Pitch Wars may not be how I get an agent, but it has made me a better writer and critique partner. Everyone gets an agent and a book deal at different speeds. Some after their first manuscript. Some after there twenty-third. What matters in the meantime is that we better our craft, and Pitch Wars is a guarantee for that. If you aren’t just looking for an agent and want to learn, then enter. You have so much to gain by doing so. 

On Plotting (Downloadable Plotting Doc Attached!)

There are a thousand-and-one ways to plot. To write. To draft and edit and tell stories. I’ll be the first to jump on the no-way-is-the-right-way train, that all ways are valid. In fact, I’ll argue that the way I write now isn’t the way I’ve written before and is not the way I’ll write later. It will always be in flux, and I think this is healthy! It allows for growth and change.

Being aware of the above has meant that over the years, I read craft books and explored techniques on plotting (I’m a reformed pantser), and through it all I’ve taken notes to refer to later and to share with friends. A few weeks back while on a writing hiatus, I started to combine those notes into a Google Doc, which turned into a fill-in-the-blank doc for myself for future works, which turned into a question of, “Huh, why on earth don’t I make this available to others?”

So, if you’re curious about my process, please check it out! I would like to emphasize that nothing you see in it is set in stone. I’m not arguing that this is how you should plot or draft or edit, it’s simply a few things I like to keep in mind when I write. I’ve found that drafting often often includes the willingness to forget certain elements now, and the necessity of remembering them later. This doc is one way I’ll help myself to remember elements for later. I very much hope you find it helpful! Please feel free to download it and use it in whatever way you’d like.

Without further ado, here’s my Plotting Overview doc, as well as an EXAMPLE Plotting Overview doc of how one might use it (I’ve used the book example HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE).

Cheers for your writing! Whatever you’re working on, may the writing-gods provide you with a day of joy.

#PitchWars 2017 Wish list

Hello! If you’re looking for my #PitchWars 2017 wish list, please head on over to Allison Ziegler’s blog. We co-mentored this year as #TeamBadPrincess.

Thank you!

Interview with #PitchWars 2016 Mentee, Lacee Little

Another year has flown by and we’re heading into my fourth year with #PitchWars (ahhhh!). This year is going to be an extra spacial year, because I am co-mentoring with the extraordinary Allison Ziegler. We’ll announce our 2017 wishlist soon enough, but for now, I have a post about my indomitable 2016 mentee, Lacee Little, and her experience with PW!
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Lacee Little’s manuscript, AN IMPOSSIBLE MAGIC, is honestly one of the more creative, adventurous, and surprising historical fantasies I’ve read in recent years. Her query and pitch snatched up my heart immediately when I read it during the 2016 submission process. She turned out to be an absolute joy to work with, and over the course of two months, she was miraculously patient and hard-working while we made her MS shine. She’s become one of my dearest writing friends in the past year (#PitchWars can be a blessing in many different ways!), and I am eternally grateful to have a friend whose undying love for Diana Wynne Jones matches my own <3
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Read below for Lacee’s thoughts on Pitc.h Wars 2016 and what it was like to work closely with me in preparation for the agent round (umm, have I mentioned yet that the girl garnered 24 agent requests during the agent round? It was an absolute whirlwind)! Also, if you’d like to read the interview with my 2014 mentee and alternate go here, or the interview with my 2015 mentee go here (eh em, this lady–Julie Artz–is a mentor this year, too!).
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Me: There are a few parts to PitchWars, the first of which was deciding which mentors you wanted to submit to. How did you decide who to send to?
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Lacee:  I treated it very similar to looking for an agent. Mostly I looked at the MG mentors’ wishlists, and what books they enjoyed, and found the ones that closest matched my MS. Also with you, I had followed you on twitter since 2015 PW, and I really thought you seemed like an enjoyable and encouraging person to work with.
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[Me: Lacee was an alternate in PW2015 which is what she's referring to above!]
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Me: For the 2017 PitchWars hopefuls, what was it like to have me as your mentor? (Feel free to be honest :P)
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Lacee: The best ever!!! Seriously though, my answer is “Beyond my wildest dreams,” and I really mean it. I did not expect such detailed attention, encouragement, and just general helpfulness. Instead of just offering feedback, you talked things through with me, too, which helped accelerate the revision process.
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[Me *blushes furiously* Really though, the feeling is mutual!]
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Me: What was your overall experience with the editing/revising process? Was there a certain part that was particularly difficult or rewarding?
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Lacee: This was actually my best revising ever, I think. It certainly was the most enjoyable. Usually I revise extensively, then send to a CP, then revise a ton more, and send to a CP. It takes months. This time, I feel it was so much more collaborative, which I loved! I discussed ideas with so many people in the MIDST of revisions, and had people look over stuff before I’d completely “polished” it, which I’d never done before. Plus, I had more people read over and critique my MS than I’d ever had before, and I loved getting so many expert opinions. It was really interesting to see how everyone notices different aspects that need help.
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Me: Were there any parts of PitchWars that you were surprised at? Submissions? Edits? The agent round?
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Lacee: Like I said above, I was surprised how much support you gave me! I honestly did not count on such generosity! Also, I was very surprised by the community. Last year [in 2015] I was a last minute addition, so I wasn’t on the facebook group. It was such an essential part of my PW experience this year, not to mention the support from other mentors, and your past mentees. It totally felt like being adopted into a tribe/family, which I definitely hadn’t expected!
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Me: If you could choose to do PitchWars all over again, would you? Why?
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Lacee: Honestly, I would feel a bit greedy since it would be my 3rd time. ;) But hypothetically, for sure. I would encourage anyone to participate. I have yet to find an opportunity for better community and mentorship, and Pitch Wars handles things so professionally. It’s the best ‘writers helping writers’ organization I’ve ever seen!
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If you’re interested in finding Lacee over on twitter, you can find here; she really is a remarkable writer and friend, and I know she’d love to say hello!

Pitch Wars Wish List 2016

Hello, Warriors, Dreamers, and Wordsmiths! I will keep this post as short and sweet as I can, but I want the very first thing you read on my blog to be this: For PitchWars, I am not looking for a manuscript that is perfect. I am looking for a book that is filled with potential, and for a writer who has already done the hard work and is prepared to roll up their sleeves and dig in for two months with me. I am looking for someone who is open to critique and who is ready to have an open dialogue about what darlings of theirs might need to change. I am looking for someone who’s excited to learn. I am passionate about this process, and I will work so, so hard for you, if you are ready to do the same.

You are all bright, brilliant things, and I cannot say enough about the courage it takes to submit your work. I wish very much that I could take on each and every one of you who submits to me, but alas, since I can only choose one, let’s move on!

MG Mentor

Why You Should Choose Me!

-If you’re curious about what it’s like to work with me from a mentee’s point of view, check out this blogpost to read an interview with my mentee and alt from 2014 and this blogpost with my mentee from 2015.
-Stacy Hackney, my mentee from 2014, received a whopping 12 agent requests during the agent round and is now represented by the lovely Katie Grimm! Julie Artz, my mentee from 2015, received a solidly stupendous 6 requests, and is now working as the talented editor she is! Both of these lovely ladies will likely help me read submissions and have said they would be excited to help my 2016 mentee :D
-I have extensive critiquing experience: my editing strengths are in plotting (I adore plotting!), character arcs, defining the rules of magic systems, world building, writing at the sentence level (show vs tell, inserting emotion into the text), and honing queries until they shine. I work hard to have precise, thoughtful feedback, be it for bigger overall issues or close in line issues. Two months is, of course, not enough time to teach someone how to write from scratch, but it is enough time for a crash course in some writing elements. We’ll work together to figure out what you need.
-For the past two years, I have done editing with my mentees in two waves. The first being larger issues (plotting!) and the second closer issues (line edits!).
-I have written 10 books, eight of which have been fantasy and the other two were contemporary (this is the main reason why I am not the best fit for a contemporary novel–see below in the “what I’m looking for” section–as I don’t have as much experience writing and critiquing it). I am passionate about the drafting and editing process, and have learned a lot through each of my books. I am so excited to share what I’ve learned with you <3
(Please do come find me on Twitter @julianalbrandt. I would love to chat and “meet” you! Or feel free to write any comments questions on this blogpost! I will be happy to respond:)

What I’m Looking For!

I’m looking for MG fantasy this year, both high and low. I am a massive fan of weird magic, unique magic systems, and worlds that haven’t been seen before. I love darkness tinged with humor, characters that form close relationships, mythology that’s woven into plot, quests (QUESTS, I LOVE QUESTS), villains that resonate, and clever main characters who use their wit to escape from tricky situations.

To give you an idea of my reading tastes, check out the list below:

-Otherworld fantasy: HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE (or anything by Diana Wynne Jones, for that matter), THE REAL BOY by Anne Ursu, TUESDAY’S AT THE CASTLE by Jessica Day George, THE HOLLOW KINGDOM by Clare B. Dunkle, THE WITCH’S BOY by Kelly Barnhill, THE THICKETY by J.A. White.
-Fantasy that is NOT magic-based: THE THIEF by Megan Whalen Turner, THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer Nielson, PRINCESS ACADEMY by Shannon Hale.
-Dark fantasy: THE PECULIAR by Stefan Bachmann.
-Horror: THE NIGHT GARDENER by Jonathon Auxier, DOLL BONES by Holly Black.
-Historical Fantasy: SERAFINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK by Robert Beatty.
-Magical, adventure stories: THE MAP TO EVERYWHERE by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis, LIESL & PO by Lauren Oliver, PETER & THE STARCATCHERS by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.
-Stories with beautiful mythology: WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON by Grace Lin. (I would fight tooth and nail for books involving local mythology!)
-Magical Realism: RULES FOR STEALING STARS by Corey Ann Haydou.
-I would shove aside other mentors for a diverse cast of characters set in a tight fantasy world. (Send me all the diverse MSs!)

*As an interesting thing to note, the manuscripts I’ve chosen to mentor in recent years have been about children discovering that magic (or something strange and wonderful) exists in the every day world. (This is very clearly NOT chosen one stories or children coming into some secret power (please see below at the “what I’m not looking for” section).) While this is noted, I would be very interested  in a MS where magic already exists at the beginning of story (ie: “discovering magic exists” is not the inciting incident).

What I’m Not Looking For

*Sci-fi & contemporary novels are not my strong suit. There are other, incredible mentors who shine in those genres, who you should look at submitting to before thinking of submitting to me.
*I am not as good of a fit for “chosen one” stories, magic systems that have been seen before (such as elemental magic), retellings (or stories using fairytale characters), or portal stories. If your MS has any of these and you still want to submit to me, these elements will have to be very uniquely written for me to be interested.

As a note, I will not be able to respond to everyone who submits to me. I will do my best to respond to the people I request material from. The school year is just beginning though, and I know it would not be healthy for me to promise to respond to everyone’s submissions. I do apologize for this.

The Letter "O"

The Letter “O” for the bloghop!

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