A few tips for Pitch Wars…

Hey guys!

The big day is tomorrow! The Pitch Wars mentor wish lists go live (and it’s as exciting for us as it is for you!) So, I thought now was a good time to give some insight into how to prep your submission. This won’t guarantee you get picked, but I think it will help you boost your chances. This is just one mentor’s opinion, though, so take what works for you and junk the rest!

Query advice:

  1. Remember, most people come for plot but stay for character. Which means it’s a good idea to show your character in your query. As opposed to just “teenager Jenna” or “Thirty-something David”, I find it much more compelling when I read something more personalized, such as “Teenage Star-Trek geek Jenna” or “Thirty-something, Volvo driving, V-neck sweater owning David”. These help give personality and characterization to your characters and I can see the tone you’re going for.
  2. Remember to keep the emotion in mind. What is the emotional heart of your story? What are the stakes that are super important to your character? Think about the character more than the reader here as by getting personal to your character, you’ll actually draw your reader in more. Personally, I don’t need stakes to be life or death. But what I do need are stakes that matter to the character. Is the most important thing to the character a locket given to them by the person they love who is no longer there—show me how they will be devastated if they lose that locket. Or are they so connected to their childhood home and their memories there that they’ll be devasted if the ghosts overrun it and they are going to lose it?
  3. Try not to use questions as you don’t want the reader filling in the blanks and risking it not being what you wanted to portray.
  4. If you’re unsure, I’d suggest going for being specific and concise. Speficity is a writer’s friend.

Synopsis advice:

  1. Be concise and clear. Try to only name three characters in your story synopsis so that the reader can keep everyone straight.
  2. This is one of the best links I’ve ever seen on how to write a one-page synopsis.
  3. The synopsis is designed to show three key elements: the character arc, the plot arc, and the structure of your novel. Be very clear to show what your character has to overcome emotionally at the start of the synopsis and, at the end, show what they have learned emotionally because of what they have been through.
  4. Make sure the character has agency and activity throughout the synopsis. Show their choices and then the consequences of those. Eg. Lisa did X, so Y happened, which mean Lisa chose to do Z, then A happened.
  5. Ask CPs to have a last minute read-through! Especially people who’ve never read the story as they will let you know right away if something doesn’t make sense!

First page advice:

  1. A good first line is great, but don’t stress over it. It isn’t make or break.
  2. Let us know what your character wants!
  3. Establish time and place so the reader can understand the context of your story.
  4. Set the genre expectation. Let the reader know what genre they are stepping into.
  5. Clarity is key. If the reader can understand things clearly, then you’re going to have an easier time than if a reader has to try and remember lots of characters, world-building details, or information.
  6. Your first page’s job is to hook with intrigue and raise a question the reader wants answered.

Okay, so I hope these thoughts help. Good luck for Pitch Wars and beyond, writerly friends!

Fiona xox

Published by fmclaren

Fiona lives on the sun-soaked island of Cyprus and is a full-time editor and author. She is represented by Maura Kye-Casella at Don Congdon Associates.

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