I am so excited to be back mentoring in the Adult category for Pitch Wars this year! Welcome to my 2020 wish list.
In case you don’t know, Pitch Wars is a mentoring program for unagented writers. Agented/published authors or industry interns spend three months working with one author to get their manuscript in the best shape they can, ahead of an agent showcase. All the information you need can be found right here.
Click here if you prefer a text-only version of this wishlist.
You’ve been following along on the hashtag, checked out the forums, communed with other writers. Maybe you’ve even started your own list of potential mentors. Waiting is hard, y’all! But wait no longer: the mentor blog hop is finally here, so you can see what we’re all looking for. Read along with me from top to bottom, bottom up, sideways, or whichever way suits your fancy. You can always follow The Ramones to the links that’ll lead you right to whichever part rocks your socks. You’ll be able to navigate to all the 2020 adult mentor wishlists at the bottom of this post.
About Me • I Want… • I Don’t Want… • My Ideal Mentee • How I Work • Got Questions?
Please allow me to introduce myself…
I’m a man of wealth and…oh, wait, that’s Mick Jagger. I’m Gwynne.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been creating worlds and characters to inhabit them. If you’ve run across All The Kissing (ATK), a community by and for romance writers, you’ve probably seen me there ( I’m one of the co-founders). I’m also the one to thank, blame, or cheer for the #FridayKiss prompts on Twitter.
After failing to make the cut in 2015, I was chosen as a Pitch Wars mentee in 2016 (I might have danced in celebration). In 2018 I was a Golden Heart® finalist in contemporary romance. Last year was my first year mentoring Pitch Wars. I loved it so much, I’m back for Round Two.
I’m a USA west coast person, in case you’re concerned about time zones. If you want to know even more about me, feel free to check out last year’s wish list or my Pitch Wars mentor page. Or just nose around my blog. There’s a fairly eclectic assortment of things to read. And if you’re curious about what I mentored last year, here it is!
You can also find me on Pitch Wars Live on YouTube on September 18, and on the #askmentor Twitter chats on September 12 and September 16. You can find the full schedule right here.
In case you haven’t yet figured it out…
I want YOU to want ME!
Bring it on home to me
What do I want? World peace, harmony, an end to hunger and disease, a better environment, to start with. For Pitch Wars, though, you should understand that first and foremost, I believe that love is love is love. I’m LGBTQ+, #ownvoices, and diversity-friendly.
I am only accepting manuscripts in the Adult category. Like last year, I am open to a lot! I adore ghosts. If you have one in your story and it fits one of my requested genres, send it to me! I also really love magical realism and elements of the fantastic, in any genre.
Because I’m a rebel (nothing less would make sense with a name like #TeamRebelCats), the genres I’m accepting this year are listed in reverse alphabetical order: Please know that I am equally open to all of these genres.
Heads up, women’s fic writers! Do you have a story that doesn’t read like an autobiography and that overflows with an undercurrent of strong emotion? Please send it to me. I love women’s fiction that’s cathartic, strong, with a defined plot and character arc. If I can understand your main character and her motivation—if you make me want to root for her success, no matter how flawed she might be—that’s the book for me. My favorite main characters in this genre can be anything from insecure to strong, quirky to traditional, but there has to be a viable emotional character arc. I need to see your characters grow. My preference is for deep single POV, and while the ending doesn’t have to be party-all-the-time, I’d like something on the more optimistic side. I am less likely to go for family saga WF than a story focused more on the individual or on a featured relationship, whether it’s friendship, siblings, or romantic entanglement.
You know what I love best about urban fantasy? When it blends the commonplace with the magical in a seamless way. My favorites are books where the worlds are provided as-is, without apology and often without much explanation. I’m good with sprites, fae, dream characters, elves, spectres, shifters, warlocks and witches, mages—you name it. As long as the world-building and magic are rock solid, I’ll happily read it. As with all my other requests, I definitely want to see emotional growth for your character(s).
I’m only interested in soft science fiction. I want to be more (or at least equally) swept away by the story than by the science in it. I don’t necessarily need to know the whys and hows, only that the technology works and makes sense within the scope of the story. I’m a big Star Trek fan and have been all my life, so things on that level, where the focus is less on the precise temperature required to sustain the warp core and more on “seek out new life, new civilizations, boldly go” will appeal to me. Don’t get me wrong–I love it when people geek out about science! I do it myself all the time. But when it gets too technical, I lose interest. I’m also a big fan of fun and light-hearted science fiction where the reader can go along for a fast-paced ride. So…less doom-and-gloom apocalypse, more “Yeah, Mr. White! Yeah, science!”
There are rules to romance novels. I know because I’ve tried and failed to break them. If you’re writing romance, your story needs to follow the romance arc, and the romance must be the central plotline of the book. If it doesn’t end in either a HEA (happily ever after) or HFN (happy for now), it’s not a romance. Please don’t break my heart by misrepresenting the genre.
In general with romance novels, I do not love the alpha male archetype. You would be better served bringing your Navy SEALs, motorcycle club leaders, and all those other bad boys to a different mentor. However, I do want all your strong, opinionated, flawed, sassy female characters! I love almost all the tropes, but am especially fond of enemies-to-lovers and friends-to-lovers. I’m good with any heat level from sweet to steamy, but I’m not the right mentor for inspirational romance or erotica.
I’m only accepting these romance sub-genres:
- Contemporary Romance. I love contemporary romance. It’s my comfort food. As long as your characters are believable within their tropes (I know, how is a sexy single lonely kind-hearted non-cutthroat billionaire believable?), there isn’t much I want to exclude from this category. However, I’m a former stage manager and roadie so if you’re writing about rock musicians or the music industry, you’d better know what you’re talking about and your storyline needs to be extremely unique. I do adore contemporaries set in unusual places. If you’ve got a rarely-used highly atmospheric setting, I am all for it. Haunted houses, anyone?
- SciFi Romance. Send me your space pirates, your post-apocalyptic frenemies, your androids, your unusual scientists. As long as the romance is the main crux of the story, I like just about any near-future or futuristic setting. I prefer soft science in my science fiction. I don’t need to know the quark count or a detailed explanation of why transporting matter works. I only need to be able to accept that it does.
- Fantasy Romance. The same world-building rules apply for me here as they do for SciFi romance. If the romantic arc is highlighted against a backdrop of a unique world, and I don’t need a glossary to understand your fantasy terminology or a family tree to follow the lineage, send it on!
- Historical Romance. I love a good historical, and am a stickler for details in this sub-genre. Unless it’s steampunk, I prefer that my historicals aren’t filled with anachronisms. Historical romance goes beyond Regency for me, although I love a good ballroom- and intrigue-filled tale. Witty banter is a must! I am not accepting Highlander or Viking romance, or historicals written in dialect.
- Western Romance. Bring on the cowboys and cowgirls. Cowdogs, cowcats, modern-day quirky western characters, especially the ones stuck somehow in or on the past. My favorite western romances have settings as important as the characters—I want to feel immersed in the wide-open western space.
- New Adult. In this sub-genre, I prefer characters with high stakes and a lot to learn—and a plot and arc that shows their growth. Lots of sex is fine as long as that’s not all there is, and that it furthers the plot. I may ask that you age the characters up to adult, if that makes sense given the plot.
Got a version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that takes place at an American Idol-like singing competition? A version of Beauty and the Beast where Belle is the beast? Or maybe one where Cinderella is an actress and the stepsisters are rivals from another studio? My favorite thing about a retelling is when it’s so well disguised that I don’t recognize its source story right away. Like Romeo & Juliet in a zombie apocalypse, I adore smart and unexpected retellings and reimaginings of classic tales. Not just Western, but from all over the world.
I love, love, love literary fiction, especially the kind that tackles life’s bigger questions: who am I, why are we here, what is the meaning of life, of love, of death? Beautiful writing is my catnip in literary fiction, along with characters I either love to love or love to hate. The plot definitely needs to have a defined arc since I’m not a fan of literary novels where mostly only internalization happens (unless you’re James Joyce in which case HELLO), and the characters need to draw me in so much that I can’t stop thinking about them.
In gothic I’m looking for a story on the emotional/scare level of the Coven season of American Horror Story. Something on the edge, something campy, something not without humor (although there was plenty not to laugh about in AHS Coven). I prefer gothic that’s over the top and isn’t afraid to flaunt it, with a cast of characters that’s both quirky and relatable. P.S. Ghosts.
This year, I’m only looking for light-hearted or amusing contemporary fiction. Your story doesn’t have to be laugh-out-loud hilarious, but I’ll be tickled if it is! With this type of novel, voice is key. I’d love something that’s engaging, hard to put down, and with well-rounded characters. While I’m not sure I’m ready for pandemic stories…if you’ve got one that’s suitably forward-looking, has a sense of humor, and doesn’t end in tragedy, I’m game.
I know you’ll be a star in somebody else’s sky
I try to keep my “do not want” list small, but there are a few things I respectfully request you don’t send me:
- Please don’t send me stories with rape, abuse, incest, torture, gratuitous sexism, or nonconsensual or violent acts, even if those things happen off-screen. Likewise, don’t send me stories that are racist, anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ+, anti-anybody.
- No 9/11 stories, tragic pandemic stories, or stories that are politically-based.
- Stories written in second person POV are almost never my preference.
- In general, my interest in stories about bakeries, vineyards, chefs, and cruise ships is low—unless they’re in a spectacularly new setting or set of circumstances. For example: struggling bakery? No. Struggling haunted bakery in a dilapidated mansion? Yes. A chef who yells at contestants on reality TV? No. But a passionate chef possessed by the spirit of Julia Child? You get the picture.
- I’m not the right mentor for stories about religion, traditional angels or demons, or Biblical retellings.
- If I’ve worked with you on your Pitch Wars manuscript before and you haven’t drastically revised it since, please submit to a different mentor.
- If your genre isn’t specifically listed on my wish list, that means I’m not the right mentor for it. When in doubt, ask!
You know how to use what you got
Are you my ideal mentee?
You’ve written your book. Worked hard at making it as polished as it can be. You’ve had a critique partner and beta readers look it over, but you know it needs something more. Now you’re entering this manuscript into Pitch Wars to get that final shine and polish. That’s more than half the battle–congratulations! What you’re applying for are a few frantic months of rework, editing, rewriting, learning writing tips and tricks (some of which you’ll undoubtedly hate, but others that might give you that “aha!” moment), lack of sleep, laser focus on revision revision revision, and lots of support. Be prepared to jump feet first into the fire!
If you’re willing to put in all the work required, are open to feedback, want to learn, laugh, and grow together, and won’t get tired of being cheered on, you’re the kind of person I want to work with. A keen sense of humor is a must, and will serve you well not just during Pitch Wars but throughout your publishing career.
Hello, I’ve waited here for you
Do you know what a Pitch Wars mentor really is? Someone who loves your story and has ideas on how to make it even better. We’re all volunteers who love to help other writers and have a strong desire to pay it forward.
If you’re looking for a mentor who can teach you how to make your words and story glow, look no further! You’ve found me. Welcome to #TeamRebelCats.
If we work together, you’ll get to take advantage of my years of experience as a professional copy editor, technical editor, and proofreader. Together, we’ll polish your grammar to a shine, pay attention to story flow and internal and external arcs, and to your pacing. My biggest strength is in helping you to hone your author voice, your characters, and your characterization. We might have differences of opinion, and that’s okay. From start to end, this is your story, not mine. I don’t need you to love all of my suggestions. I only ask that you give them due consideration.
I’ll provide my mentee with an edit letter up front and a thorough read of your manuscript at least twice during the course of Pitch Wars. If we decide to work together, we’ll figure out the best communication method, whether it be email, video chat, phone calls, or something else. I’ll give you a schedule with major milestones so you can stay on track. I’m good at brainstorming plot points and characterization suggestions, if that’s something you need.
I will never slam your work outright. My concrit always comes with suggestions on how to fix the problem. Warning: there will be homework! By the time we’re finished, we’ll have done our best to start the story at the right point, made sure the pacing stays on track, and turned your characters from words on the page into people who seem real. I’m a non-stop cheerleader, so you can expect an abundance of manuscript love coming your way. We’ll also work on your query and showcase pitch, along with your synopsis if time allows.
If you’re looking for a low-drama-high-compliment mentor who can help you kick ass and get sh*t done, here I am. Let’s work together.
But what I really want to know is
If you have any questions about what I’m looking for or whether your story is right to submit to me, please ask.. You can hit me up on Twitter at @gwynnejackson (my DMs are open there until the submission window ends) or at my AMA on the Pitch Wars forum. Please don’t email me directly with Pitch Wars questions unless you can’t use either of the other contact methods. Thanks!
Pitch Wars 2020 Adult Mentors’ Wish Lists
- Mia P. Manansala and Kellye Garrett (Accepts NA)
- Rochelle Karina (Accepts NA)
- Ren Hutchings (Accepts NA)
- Mary Ann Marlowe
- Rachel Lynn Solomon
- Anna Kaling
- Gwynne Jackson (Accepts NA)
- Kristen Lepionka and Ernie Chiara
- Rachel Howzell Hall
- Lyn Liao Butler
- Michael Mammay and AR Lucas
- Paris Wynters (Accepts NA)
- K A Black (Accepts NA)
- Heather Van Fleet and Jessica Calla (Accepts NA)
- Hudson Lin (Accepts NA)
- Sonia Hartl and Annette Christie (Accepts NA)
- Taj McCoy (Accepts NA)
- Ian Barnes (Accepts NA)
- Keena Roberts (Accepts NA)
- N.E. Davenport (Accepts NA)
- Elizabeth Little
- Anne Raven and Janet Walden-West (Accepts NA)
- Charish Reid and Denise Williams
- Kalyn Josephson and Kat Enright (Accepts NA)
- Gladys Qin (Accepts NA)
- Tanen Jones (Accepts NA)
- Clay Harmon (Accepts NA)
- Jake Nicholls (Accepts NA)
- Layne Fargo and Halley Sutton
- Denny S. Bryce and L. Penelope
- Roselle Lim and Farah Heron (Accepts NA)
- Morgan Rogers (Accepts NA)
- Samantha Rajaram
- Rob Hart
- Damyanti Biswas (Accepts NA)
- Maria Heater
- Cynthia Pelayo (Accepts NA)
- Gia de Cadenet
- Nicole Glover (Accepts NA)
- Rosie Danan and Ruby Barrett (Accepts NA)
- Cole Nagamatsu and Sequoia Nagamatsu
- Carly Bloom and Sam Tschida
- P.J. Vernon and Kelly J. Ford (Accepts NA)
- Matthew Quinn Martin (Accepts NA)
- Stephen Morgan (Accepts NA)
- Alex Segura and M. J. Soni
- Roma Panganiban (Accepts NA)
- Tricia Lynne (Accepts NA)