The PitchWars Community And Me

If you’re not a writer in the Twittersphere, particularly a young adult, or perhaps middle grade or adult novelist, you may not have heard of PitchWars.

What Is PitchWars?

#PitchWars is a writing competition – where instead of bragging rights (that agents might not even care about), the prizes are a 3-month mentorship by an agented author and a lot of visibility to agents who are signed up for the pitch round at the end.

The Mentors

On Tuesday, the mentor blog-hop officially began. (As usual, they slipped the link up a day early). All the mentors’ blogs now have their wishlists — and what they have to offer. From their editing or publishing experience, to their tastes in novels, to their critiquing style, this is where you go to decide who has the personality and skills to level your book up and make it agent-worthy.

As you can only submit to 4 mentors, you have to make sure you pick the right ones for you and your story.

The Novels

This opportunity is for finished novels that are ready to query — or maybe you’ve already been querying and haven’t gotten as many nibbles as you’d like and you can’t figure out what’s wrong.

This is not for that rough draft you ran through spell-check. You’ve got to up your game!

The Community

For many, getting selected will improve their book, but nothing guarantees an agent. And an agent doesn’t guarantee that your book will be published.

There are thousands of PitchWars hopefuls, and 107 mentors (or mentor-pairs). The odds are pretty slim of being selected, but there’s always hope.

But, for many, the main draw of PitchWars is the community. From the forums on the website, to ‘BootCamp’ workouts provided to hopefuls to prepare themselves, to Twitter chatter, to Facebook, PitchWars has a way of taking an isolating dream and connecting writers with others at the same stage of their career.

There are tons of writers out there. Some, struggling to find the time or the words to finish a scene. Others dealing with a million ideas and fleeting focus. While others are published and working on that all-important second book.

But, through PitchWars, you can meet people with finished, polished manuscripts who are dreaming-the-dream.

Morgan and PitchWars

3 years ago, I came across the #pitmad twitter contest. Back when it was 140 characters to try and entice an agent to ‘like your tweet’ – and thereby request a query. And I saw that the next event was “#pitchwars”. I thought it was going to be another twitter contest and put it on my calendar.

As the time grew near, I double-checked the details and panicked. With 3 days to go before they started accepting manuscripts, I tore through the blog hop, and dove into the PitchWars community, whole-heartedly.

Two days later, I found myself an admin of a Facebook PitchWars Young Adult Hopefuls Support Group.

In PitchWars itself? I didn’t get a single request. At the end, I wasn’t selected, but I did win a 1st chapter, query, and synopsis critique from one of the mentors I’d submitted to. With her help, I reworked my manuscript that next Spring. Then I just started querying agents.

Then Pitch Wars rolled around again. I took a look at the mentors, trying to help my YA group find ones that suited them.

And I saw some asking for novels that sounded like mine, with books listed that reminded me of mine. (My queries having mostly resulted in form-rejections didn’t hurt) So, last summer, I submitted again.

No nibbles.

I like to tell myself that my writing is good and they just didn’t know how to fix my novel. Mine’s unique but not a sure stand-out. That there were other submissions that they knew just how to fix.

So, here I am, looking at my 3rd PitchWars. My only polished manuscript is that same one the mentors have rejected twice.

(Not that I haven’t been writing. But, 2 rough drafts and a chapter of a 3rd manuscript aren’t PitchWars material.) I intend to sit this one out.

I’ve been querying and tweaking, querying and editing all along. I’ve gotten a few nibbles from agents, but so far, no takers.

The PitchWars Support Groups

It’s been 3 years and now I’m a Facebook admin for the main PITCHWARRIORS Support Group, the YA Support Group, and the PW Query Club — for past hopefuls (or mentees) who are querying AGENTS, not MENTORS to talk about rejection, requests, and The Call.

(I might have a slight addiction to FacebookGroups. Or compartmentalizing conversations so people who aren’t in the midst of an activity aren’t subjected to a feed full of writing/PitchWars/query chatter.)

And the Support groups don’t just sit around, collecting dust during the off-season. There’s a question-a-(week)day, encouragement, critique exchanges, and a place to vent to people who understand just what you’re going through.

Plus? One of the things I try to do for the groups is to make them a safe place.

(As always, it’s the internet, so nothing is 100, and the groups are open to any who are planning to or have already participated in PitchWars. The only people who are categorically forbidden are mentors.)

Because I like the support groups to be places where people can talk and vent and learn what is and isn’t appropriate to say online. To learn how to be professional as a writer without making a mistake in the heat of the moment that goes viral on twitter, destroys your reputation, and/or offends the very people that you want to love your work.

With members from 16 through retirement age, some are slower at learning why they should meet professional expectations.

But the real reason to join?

Friendship is Magical

Through the group, many people have found new beta readers, new critique partners, and new besties.

Honestly, the friendships and the support network that you can create by joining the PitchWars community can be an invaluable support — both emotionally and for your writing skills.

Even after you’ve stopped participating in the contest.


❤ Best of luck to ALL my PitchWars Hopefuls – past, present, and future. ❤

(Hmm, maybe someone new will be looking for my manuscript this year?)

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Accountability Time For Morgan

For me, accountability is key for me moving forward with my writing. So, here’s my irregularly scheduled check-in post, to let you know what I’ve been up to!

1. Query novel #1 at least 3 times every other week until I get an agent

(unless I’m revising it)

Well, thanks to that little caveat, I’ve only missed about 3 times this year. Because every time I hear back on a query, I take another look at my pages…

For reals, though. I’m planning on sending out another 3-8 queries in the next few weeks on WIP #1.

Although, from checking my SPAM folder with a hitherto now unknown diligence, I now know that the Nigerian Prince scam isn’t actually an urban legend. They come in ever 3-6 weeks, like clockwork.

2. Move forward with my picture book

I’ve done no research or revisions. I need to decide if I’m moving forward on this. It’s a sweet bedtime story, with little to make it stand out.

Plan? Find some picture book writers and see what they think: does it stand out, how should I edit it, or back to the drawing boards.

3. Revise at least one of my shelved rough drafts

Nope. But the year isn’t over? I don’t *think* I can count revising my WIP #1, again…

4. Write something NEW during NaNoWriMo

Well, I’ve got something new in my head. Working on getting a story ready, so I’m pretty sure I’m gonna write something new. I’m just hoping it’s more than 5,000 words.

I may start it early, but 50,000 in anything new should be reasonable for this goal.

5. Keep blogging and decide if vlogging is worth it

I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job at the blogging thing and I’m slowly building a vlogging audience.

My blog is growing – I average over 100 views a week thanks to viewers like you. I started a new Query Corner feature, that’s up to 25 queries already. I’m looking into a published author spotlight feature, so look out for that!

Plus, my vlog is growing – I average 25 views per post – eventually. Not amazing, but I remember when my blog was there.

6. Try to use  social media better

This one I think I’m doing fine at.

  • This is the year I wrote my own guide to social media
  • I hit 5,000 followers on Twitter (last night)
    • I’ve tried to use it regularly, not just for posting
  • I’ve posted 132 things on Instagram – so beating my goal of 1 thing a week
  • I’ve been using Tumblr more, joined the #writeblrs?
  • I’ve earned 81 Reddit karma – even writing a couple short stories to add to r/noSleep. Thus, practicing this whole ‘writing short stories’ thing.
  • I’m using Pinterest — we’ll see if it helps
  • I joined a couple blogger groups, but I’m not sure if I’m the right demographic

7. Read an average of 2 books a month

BAM! Got this one.

I’ve been ranking them on GoodReads – and sometimes on Amazon. No bonus points for reviewing them, but I’ve already read 23 books this year – putting me 1 away from my yearly target.

2018BooksJuly

* Bonus – Networking!

Okay, this one wasn’t a written goal, but I’m giving myself points for attending 3 different writers groups in the last 2 months, joining 2 of them, and reading my work aloud to an audience. Plus volunteering to help judge a writing contest.

Note to self: Remember to make time to write your fiction. Not just blogging, networking, and all the rest…

#25 Query Corner: NOGITSUNE TO GAIJIN (“The Field Fox and the Foreigner”)

Welcome to:

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Morgan’s Query Corner:

Fresh Eyes For Your Query Quandaries

NOGITSUNE TO GAIJIN (“The Field Fox and the Foreigner”) is a YA contemporary fantasy.

In this modern retelling of Momotaro, Jin is sent to his aunt’s in Japan. Can he trust a shape-changing fox to protect him from the bullies–and save the island?

NOTE: If you submit your query to me (morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com), and you are selected for inclusion, I will give you a high-level review, in-line feedback, and my own draft of your query. If this is your query, feel free to use or ignore as much of the advice and suggestions as you wish.

[Disclaimer: Any query selected for the page will be posted on this website for perpetuity. I am an amateur with no actual accepted queries and a good number of form rejections. This does not guarantee an agent or even an amazing query, just a new take by someone who’s read The Query Shark archives twice and enjoys playing with queries.]

Overall Impression:

NOGITSUNE TO GAIJIN (“The Field Fox and the Foreigner”) is coming into a market hungry for stories like this one.

I’m going to leave the query in this order, but know that some agents prefer the story to come first and the stats to come last.

A couple of things to think about:

  • 100,000 is a bit long for YA, even for a Fantasy, and may make it a harder sell.
  • Keep the background only as much as needed to set up stakes and goals for the main character.
  • You don’t need quotes to kick off the story portion of the query.

Querist’s Original:

[my comments are in blue/italics/brackets]

Dear [Mr./Ms. Agent Name Here],

I am currently seeking representation for my young adult novel, NOGITSUNE TO GAIJIN (aka “The Field Fox and the Foreigner” in English) [can just use the English translation], which is complete at 100,000 words [Hopefully not too long]. A stylized retelling of the popular Japanese fairy tale Momotaro, my novel is a witty, action-packed adventure similar to Rick Riordan’s series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians[GREAT comps]. With a diverse and colorful cast that will appeal to audiences across the gender and sexuality spectrum, NOGITSUNE TO GAIJIN is a story about a reluctant hero in a modern world.

[<<unnecessary]Sixteen-year-old Jim Smith has always come second to his father’s career, so it’s no surprise when he’s sent away on a one-way flight to Toyohashi, Japan. Despite praying his Japanese features will help him blend in, Jim’s American roots make him an easy target for bullies. When a sympathetic shrine keeper offers him a bit of luck, he never expected Nogi. An eight-tailed fox who can shapeshift into a fiery young woman or a flirtatious young man, Nogi promises the impossible: a way to fit in. Despite the myths painting kitsune as untrustworthy tricksters, Jim believes in his new friend—but for how long?”

NOGITSUNE TO GAIJIN was inspired by Japanese myths involving the sun goddess Amaterasu-ōkami and the first emperor of Japan, Jimmu-tennō. Although it was written as a standalone novel, there is potential to weave additional myths into the world if the story were continued. [a little clunky, there’s some standard wording for this.]

To summarize my related experience,[<<unneeded] I have a certificate in Japanese Studies specializing in mythology, history, culture, and language. Additionally, I have traveled to Japan to personally explore locations featured NOGITSUNE TO GAIJIN. As one of the first students to study under [College] [Program] undergraduate program, I achieved a BFA degree in [Year] and currently work as a [Job] in [City], [State].

Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you. [<< Some agents find this line presumptious. I opt on the safe side and just skip it.]

Q25


My Revision:

Dear Agent,

I am currently seeking representation for my young adult fantasy, NOGITSUNE TO GAIJIN (“The Field Fox and the Foreigner”), which is complete at 100,000 words. A stylized retelling of the popular Japanese fairy tale Momotaro, that should appeal to fans of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. With a diverse and colorful cast that will appeal to audiences across the gender and sexuality spectrum, NOGITSUNE TO GAIJIN is a story about a reluctant hero in a modern world.

Sixteen-year-old Jim Smith has always come second to his father’s career, so it’s no surprise when he’s sent away on a one-way flight to Toyohashi, Japan. Despite praying his Japanese features will help him blend in, Jim’s American roots make him an easy target for bullies. When a sympathetic shrine keeper offers him a bit of luck, he never expected Nogi: an eight-tailed fox who can shapeshift into a fiery young woman or a flirtatious young man, Nogi promises the impossiblea way to fit in. Despite the myths painting kitsune as untrustworthy tricksters, Jim must either trust his new friend or go it alone against the bullies.

NOGITSUNE TO GAIJIN was inspired by Japanese myths involving the sun goddess Amaterasu-ōkami and the first emperor of Japan, Jimmu-tennō. Although it was written as a standalone novel, there is series potential.

I have a certificate in Japanese Studies specializing in mythology, history, culture, and language. Additionally, I have traveled to Japan to personally explore locations featured NOGITSUNE TO GAIJIN. I have a BFA degree in Creative Writing from [College] and currently work as a [Job] in [City], [State].

Yours Sincerely,

Q25

***

A great sounding fairy tale reimagining!

Best of luck to Q25!


And for the rest of you out there?
Best of luck in the query trenches!

7 Tips For Writing Better Villains

Write The Villain Your Story Deserves

As I’ve discussed before, there’s a difference between an antagonist and a villain. Your story doesn’t need a villain, but if you’re going to have one, you should have a memorable one.

  • Prince Humperdink/Count Rugen
  • The Joker
  • Voldemort
  • Emperor Palpatine

These are the names and the stories that stick with us. And sometimes? We love them anyway.

But how does one create a memorable villain, worthy of one’s story? Here are some tips.

#1 – Avoid under-developed villains

Remember, villains have their own lives, outside of thwarting your protagonist. They need to be 3-dimensional characters with motivations that make sense — even if you disagree with their decisions.

#2 – If you must use a cliche, add a twist

The childhood trauma, the revenge on the government/mob/whatever, the delusion that they’re doing good…make sure you’re not following the formula too closely.

#3 – Make Sure Your Villain Isn’t Underpowered

The protagonist has to work for their win, you don’t want to just hand it to them. There has to be credible belief that the villain might win. Readers appreciate (while they’re cursing you) the anticipation and anxiety they experience during a narrow win, much better than the easily thwarted villain.

#4 – Flawed Villains

Villains are only human. (Most of them) Typically, it’s their own personal flaw that leads to the protagonist’s ability to win the day–or at least a stalemate. Pride is traditional, but something has to get them to lose control of themselves and/or the situation.

NOTE: The flip side to this is that the protagonist should win by CONQUERING their own personal flaw. Maybe not permanently, but facing it and accepting it during the story’s climax.

#5 – Villain Doesn’t Need To Mean Evil

Bad guys don’t have to be evil to oppose the protagonist. Was Mr. Smith evil (at least at first)? They just need to have conflicting goals. The teacher who’s trying to get the class to behave, the parents who just want what’s best for their children, the dedicated priestess of Cthulu who just wants the ancient ones to devour humanity… Oh, wait. Ignore that last one.

In one recent movie that I won’t name for fear of spoilers, the protagonist ends up agreeing with the villain’s argument–albeit, not their methods. Just because you’re the bad guy, doesn’t mean you aren’t right.

#6 – The Villain doesn’t have to be there in person

Often, your protagonist doesn’t even know who they’re up against when they start out on their journey. They just keep running into impediments and/or conflicts without finding the source.

And if they do figure out who’s to blame? Often, it starts with just a little whisper. A rumor.

Voldemort. Fisk. The Serpent Queen.

wpid-img_7917-1024x1536.jpg

#7 – The Villain can be representational

Sometimes, the villain isn’t a distant bad guy. Sometimes, the true bad guy is an organization. And, be it the government, the mob, or some other sort of societal aim, you can use an agent of said organization to embody the villain for your protagonists.

The Operative in Firefly, Ms. Coulter in The Golden Compass, they’re both stand-ins for the true enemy.

 

And there you have it. 7 tips for writing better villains!


***

Good protagonists deserve great villains.

Who’s your favorite villain?

3 Tips for Deciding What Point-of-View to Use

Picking a POV

All The New Things

This has been a weird week for me. Between Amazon Prime Day last week, a little space in my budget, and my beginning dealings with a new story, I’ve been trying something new every day this week.

Last week, during Amazon Prime Day, I finally replaced my fitness tracker that I broke up with 2 months ago. If you’re gonna make me un-pair/re-pair every time I want to sync my tracker? AND not save any data from previous days? You’re not worth it.

So, this week has been full of reminders to get up and walk around every hour while at day-job. And me actually using the My FitnessPal App to track my meal intake. Which of course led me to put in for that standing/sitting desk topper that my work offers to get people if they put in a request. Which led me to finding a $50 elliptical on Craigslist. Which is now sitting in my sunroom, awaiting time to see if it can fit into my tiny spare bedroom of a ‘workout room’.

AND? I picked up an Instapot. A friend came over and we (mostly she) experimented. I’m still getting used to my new grocery store and I might have to switch because this one didn’t have everything I wanted. But the honey-garlic glazed chicken was AMAZING. (Plus, we finally got back to watching Grace and Frankie on NetFlicks for the first time since I moved!)

And? Remember that story I was talking about last week? That new one that I was scared to write, worried it could never measure up? Well, I’m about 900 words into it and I, for the life of me, cannot decide if I want to use 1st-person or 3rd-person point-of-view (POV).

True, I could also debate tense, but I’m comfortable in past tense and not looking to switch it up for a novel.

You’re more likely to see, “The welcoming aroma of a savory stew drifted past the cupboards and made my stomach grumble, but CHARACTER politely ignored it.”

than

“The welcoming aroma of a savory stew drifts past the cupboards and makes my stomach grumble, but CHARACTER politely ignores it.”

Morgan looks stressed and confused

POV Decision Factors

    1. What are you most comfortable with?

      Me? I’m most comfortable with 1st-person. It’s how I think, how I see my world and characters. When I’m first learning about a character and world, I make notes, but when I’m starting a story, I fall directly into 1st-person.

    2. What are the genre expectations?

      Traditionally, novels were written in 3rd-person.

      You have options in 3rd that you don’t have in 1st.

      • You can have outside information.
      • If you have more than one Main Character, it can be less confusing to the reader.
      • You can be all-knowing. OR.
      • You can do what’s known as ‘3rd-person close’, in which your story is told from basically a GoPro watching over the main character(s), that can also dip into your main character’s head and share their thoughts.

      But I write YA (and maybe MG? A chapter book? What is this new thing turning into) These days, 1st person is becoming more and more popular.

      Look at your genre’s trends.

    3. What Feels Write Right For Your Story?

      When all else fails, just see what works for your story!

      If you need to, write a chapter in one POV, and then switch it to the other.

      Personally, my 3rd-person still feels clunky, but I’d like my story to have a fairytale sort of feel to it, so I’m going to keep on trying and see if I get it right. So, this is a case of ‘wrong for me, but maybe right for the story.’

      I’ll just have to keep writing to find out if I made the right call.


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How do you decide what point of view and tense to use in your stories?

Have you ever gotten it wrong?