Saturday, August 2, 2014

Pitch Wars Mentor Time!

NOTE: I am mentoring for Young Adult Pitch Wars entries

Hi, everyone! I am beyond excited to join this round of mentors for Pitch Wars. This post is where you read all about me, my preferences and my mentoring credentials, and determine whether we are meant to be Pitch Wars besties.

I kept a close eye on the specific preferences and wishlists of our cultivated agent list. This contest isn't about me or what I like. It's about you and your book, and prepping your manuscript for agent consideration. This is your dream, and if you're reading this, it means you're willing to take the next step, even if it's scary, or will push you further than you've gone so far with your writing.

What I Like To Read
My favorite YA book
As a writer of Young Adult Contemporary, I am drawn to stories that balance themes of family, self-discovery, and romance. Think the Sarah/Saras: Dessen, Ockler, Zarr. Morgan Matson, Gayle Forman and Rainbow Rowell are also favorites. All of those authors blend romantic tension and family issues with characters who have their own desires and talents outside of love interests. Leila Sales' Past Perfect and Jessi Kirby's Moonglass are excellent examples.

I enjoy issue-driven books like Jen Mathieu's The Truth About Alice, and high-concept YA like Libba Bray's Beauty Queens, David Levithan's Every Day, and I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga (all are executed wonderfully).

I love stories where characters have a rich cultural background, regardless of ethnicity. Diverse characters are an immediate draw, both where culture and identity are explicitly explored like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, or stories that feature diverse characters but that isn't the main focus of the book, like Will Grayson/Will Grayson or Brandy Colbert's Pointe. Stories with a strong sense of place, a high-concept scenario, or a character with unusual sensibilities or family circumstances.

Beyond contemporary YA, I enjoy facets of Magical Realism (Nova Ren Suma's Imaginary Girls, or Sarah Addison Allen), mystery and gothic elements like Sarah Rees Brennan's Unspoken, and high-concept historical YA (think high stakes, big hook, like Code Name Verity or Jennifer Donnelly's Revolution).

While I tend to watch a lot of sci-fi and fantasy TV and movies, I am not a huge reader of those genres, specifically in YA. Same with dystopian. My attention has been far more focused on the genres I mentioned which is what I read, write, and where I focus a critical eye.

What I'm Looking For In Pitch Wars

Young Adult as described above. And I've done my research, folks. Familiarizing myself with the chosen lot of agents for the pitching round, I've scoured agency websites, interviews, and the manuscript wishlist tag on twitter (#MSWL). Every entry I receive I am keeping close in mind what interests our agents.

Trends in our selected agents' wishlists for YA:
  • strong voice
What is strong voice? Beauty Queens is FULL of voice. Compare that to say, the most recent book you didn't finish or thought was "blah." I would gamble part of that book ditch was due to lack of voice or a voice you didn't care for. Generic, cliche, bland = no voice. Fresh, dynamic, cliche-free, moody, funny, all of this can be voice. Believe it or not, YA voice isn't limited to angst.
  • diversity 
Multi-faceted characters. Characters who may be disabled, challenged, of a non-white race, of a unique heritage, LGBTQ. Agents are looking for this. #WeNeedDiverseBooks is making an impact.

  • Other trends: tight writing, commercial YA (great hook, pitch), YA stories that reach beyond high school/romance/shopping, mystery, fresh romance, thrillers, gothic/creepy, high concept/unique (not playing to trends), emotional and visceral YA, sports themes and/or MC has a passion beyond love interest.

Why You Should Pick Me

I found my agent through a contest. One of Brenda Drake's contests netted me agent requests, which led to revisions, which led to the Baker's Dozen agent auction contest where my entry received fast and furious bidding from several agents who were at war over my manuscript. The bidding closed in something like three minutes.

I know, it was crazy.

The real hard work came afterward with editing. For the past two years, I've taken writing craft courses both in person (Story Studio Chicago), and online (Margie Lawson Writers Academy), and through Romance Writers of America.

I've judged my RWA chapter's Four Seasons contest (which is currently open to entries), the RWA Golden Heart, and YA-RWA's YA and New Adult-only contest The Rosemary.

Contest judging made me a stronger writer, and has given me perspective on what works, what can work better, and how to shape up a manuscript. I've entered several of my own manuscripts in various contests and learned greatly from that experience.

I work with a critique group of YA writers in person and critique with other agented and published YA authors.

No Really, Pick Me

I am the contest judge who has spent hours on entries because it takes guts to get your work out there, and if you're willing to sub to a contest for feedback, I want the experience to be worthwhile.

There is no one right way to write a story. I like to point out options that will make a work stronger by using the writer's voice, not my own. I want writers to go deeper, beyond the cliche, beyond the expected.

Fun Stuff
  • I love twitter. Chat me up @StephScottYA
  • I have a zillion band names on retainer but cannot title a book even if held at gunpoint
  • I <3 cats
  • My name is shared with an up-and-coming Disney star (though she is Stefanie with an F)
  • I love Star Wars
  • My husband looks like Nev from Catfish

I'm just one blog stop among many for the upcoming Pitch Wars! See This Post on Brenda Drake's blog for submission details and the full list of agents for the agent round.

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  1. I've been waiting to see the mentor bios go up for what feels like forever! I am so excited to see yours :)

  2. That's a lovely use of a Dean gif!

    1. Dean gifs are very fun to scroll through :)

  3. So are you waiting impatiently for the new Star Wars movies? I'm not sure when they're supposed to be out (years from now???), but my son is waiting. We go through cycles where he's into watching Star Wars and we have to watch the whole series. I need to look at just buying the set, because it is a classic. But getting all of them is kind of expensive.

    1. December 2015 is the next installment! I bought the original trilogy off of Amazon and I know I didn't pay more than $30 for the set. The prequels I bought from a used DVD store for $3.99 each. I wouldn't pay much more for those since the first two prequels are so terrible :)

  4. Oh, this is exciting! It sounds like such a fun thing to do. Hopefully I'll be able to participate next time once my WIP is ready!

    1. I watched many contests go by before I was ready. It's smart to wait, there will be many more opportunities.


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