Is This Manuscript Ready? Some Pitch Wars Thoughts

I’ve been seeing this question pop up on the hashtag, with hopefuls pondering if they are ready and if they will be ready in time. I have thoughts on this so I decided to dedicate a blog post to it.

First and foremost: you can’t win if you don’t try. Yes, the mentors do not want a first draft—and we can spot a first draft, we’ve written enough of them! But if you are wondering if you need yet another round of edits first or not? Stop. Pitch Wars is a mentor contest. We’re not looking for perfect. If you are chosen you’ve got a LOT of work ahead of you. Take a few deep breaths, do what you can, and enter.

If you are not sure if a part of your novel is working, then you are a prime candidate for this contest. Mentors are looking for something to love, yes, but we are equally looking for something we can fix. We want to fall in love with your stories and see its weaknesses. More importantly, we want to have the inspiration on how to fix said weaknesses.

Now, story time. In 2015 I entered for the second year as a hopeful. I was working hard at finishing up a major revision. I didn’t know if it worked. I felt like there was still some major flaw left in it. I’d lost my way in the revision process and was floundering, as many of us do during the course of writing a novel.

I ended up with requests from all but one of the mentors I subbed to, which was thrilling! I wasn’t chosen to be a mentee. And let me tell you something, even though I still worried there were major flaws, the manuscript didn’t need the contest. A month later I signed with my agent and did minor alterations before going on sub. That book sold not too long after that and my editor’s edits were not the rip it apart kind.

The novel was ready. Some of you out there are biting your nails, fighting this gut deep feeling that there is something wrong with your novels. Some of you don’t have major problems left to address. Some of you are there. You are ready. You just don’t know it yet. Because this business is subjective. It drags you down, knocks you out, and forces you to pull yourself back up again. If I hadn’t subbed to my agent, if my agent hadn’t subbed to my editor, I might still be in the trenches with all of you. It’s part talent, part luck, and a whole hell lot of perseverance.

But back to the contest: Do you have a finished novel? Does it have a beginning, middle, and end? Have you edited it, hunting for easy fixes? Have you had other eyes providing feedback? (If not, reach out on the hashtag or join the Facebook group!) Have you done what you think you can for the novel? If you are at least close, enter. The only thing you have to lose is a quick pass (not a rejection, it’s not a rejection when we can only pick one) with potential feedback (some of us do, some of us don’t, check with your mentors). And in the meanwhile you’ll make friends and learn from others. Which is a win-win.

As for me, do I still bite my nails and wonder if my work is ready or not? Yes and no. I have my close CP (Critique Partner) cheerleaders who talk me off ledges constantly, but a perk to being published, and having reviews, is learning my own weaknesses. I spot them in my own work, I self edit with my agent and editor in my head. I’ve seen my work go from creation to completion. It helps let me know when I’m ready and when I’m not. It comes from experience and not giving up. We are all always learning and we will all always have edits to do.

The real question isn’t if your manuscript is ready. The question is: are you ready to work?

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Pitch Wars Mentor Bio

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I’m back for a second year as a Pitch Wars Mentor and I could not be more excited! Many of my wish list items are the same, but there are a few notable changes, so read on to find out more!

First, a little about me: If you know me at all, you’ll know I’m a bit of a contest junkie. I’ve participated in quite a few as a hopeful, and always walked away with new knowledge, new friends, or both! I’ve entered and not gotten picked, I’ve been picked, and I’ve been on the other side helping out. Since you’re reading this you probably already know, but I’m going mention it anyways: all sides have been super valuable! So pat yourself on the back for looking into Pitch Wars, you’ll find a lot more than a potential mentor with this contest.

At any given moment my writing/editing process looks an awful lot like this (note the messy desk and wrist braces for carpal tunnel). The cat, Oreo, recently passed away, but her fur can still be found keeping my laptop warm:

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I’m a NA/A Contemporary Romance writer represented by Rachel Brooks of BookEnds Literary Agency. For how I landed my agent (I’m a slush success) check out this post. I have two NA romances out with Avon books, SIGNS OF ATTRACTION and FRIEND (WITH BENEFITS) ZONE. I’m Hard of Hearing and I write about hearing loss. I also have a degree in Deaf Studies from Boston University, which I used in my former career as a social worker, before burning out and turning to the family business (need window treatments? I’m your gal!). I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic: I married my high school sweetheart and we live with our son and two cats.

And if this doesn’t give you a hint about what I’m looking for…I want all the romance!

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NA-A Mentor MugOkay, not all, I can’t have them all. Specifically I’m mentoring NA/A and what I’m looking for is pretty universal across the two categories. Here are a few things high on my wish list:

  • Diversity. Whatever that means to you: race, sexuality, gender, religion, disability, etc. I especially would love some own voices as I’m super sensitive to authentic portrayals. Note that I’m white/cis/straight, so I’m counting on you to bring a respectful and accurate diverse element across. Also note that I want diversity to be an is, part of the make up of the character not a plot point (own voice issue books the exception). If a disabled character is “cured,” I’m not your mentor.
  • I’m a sucker for a second chance romance, or friends to lovers. Show me either of these and you’ll have my attention. Secret babies (or babies/kids/pregnancy) also strike a cord, but must stand out from the crowd.
  • I dig unrequited love finally getting their chance.
  • I’m also a big fan of the underdog.
  • I like a story with meat to the plot, that is more than the romance. A story that knows the rules and breaks them just enough to be unique.
  • One of my favorite parts to a story (or movie or television series) is the interpersonal relationships. I love to see those relationships grow and change over the course of a novel.
  • I like characters who are real. Sure, we all love the tattooed bad boy, but the hot guy who reads a book at the coffee shop is just as hero worthy!
  • While I tend to fall in love with a little of everything, I’m a best match for contemporary stories.
  • That said, I’m game for some light fantasy, thanks to an overwhelming obsession with Once Upon A Time (did you catch the gif above? *swoon*). Got some fairy tale lore or True Love, gimme! Just keep in mind that another mentor is your best bet for full on fantasy novels.
  • Got a Women’s Fiction novel with a strong romantic component or RomCom? Send it my way!
  • A few other sub genres I’m open to: Romantic Suspense and some Paranormal (I had a ghost story high on my list last year but I’m not a big vampire/werewolf gal).
  • I want amazing chemistry between the two main characters. That can be off the charts or a slow burn.
  • In regards to chemistry…I prefer my sex on page, please. You may be able to tease me with no sex but good build up, however full on BDSM makes me blush far too much!
  • Ultimately, it’s voice that will seal the deal for me. And That’s not something I can explain beyond: I’ll know it when I see it.

Things I am not a good match for:

  • Historical
  • Science Fiction
  • Heavy Fantasy
  • Non HEA or HFN, I need my happy endings!
  • Spiritual
  • Many instances of rape. It’s a gray area for me, but I’m getting a lot of questions on it so I’m adding it in here: if you have a good reason for it being in a romance, I’m okay with it. But if it’s heavy on the rape or a lot on page, I’m not your mentor.

So why should you choose me? I intern for a publisher and have learned a lot from this experience. I’m a plot hunter. I love nothing more than to find plot issues and point them out. And I will go back and forth happily over issues until they shine! I love seeing how things can be made better and stronger. I’m a revision nut. Some of my best work has come from revisions and I’m not afraid to rip things apart and put them back together. I have a soft spot for kick-ass romance black moments. I may have also developed a fondness for torturing characters.

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As for grammar: if I had a time machine I would go back and re-assign my English teachers, as I got the easy one every year. It took until middle school Spanish for me to understand verbs enough to play MadLibs (hangs head in shame). I’ve come a long way, but after having commas added, removed, added, removed by my agent, editor, and copy editor, I’m not your gal if you need help placing them! That being said, I will hunt down all instances of tell, search for passive language, and absolutely mark up what I’m confident in.

I communicate mostly via email or messaging due to my hearing loss. However, I’m happy to work with what form is best for you!

I love to watch romantic comedies (While You Were Sleeping, Stardust, Penelope, Sweet Home Alabama) and a romantic plot or subplot has addicted me to more than one television series (Frasier, How I Met Your Mother, Coupling (British version, American doesn’t exist), Once Upon A Time). In books, I range from sweet to angsty. On the sweet side: I love me some steam. On the angsty side: too much can be too much, I like my happy moments! My favorite author list is seriously lacking in diversity, and I’ve been branching out over the last few years. But my tried and true authors include: Jennifer Crusie, Jill Shalvis, Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Briggs, and Tracey Livesay.

Any questions? Tweet me! @AuthorLBrown or comment below! And be sure to check out the other mentors posts! *note, the scavenger hunt word is a red “That’s”*

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Hearing Loss Terminology

There are lot of different terms used to describe a person with a hearing loss, and a lot of acceptable and not acceptable terms are widely misunderstood. As a writer of books regarding hearing loss, I often have to bite my tongue when the wrong term is used. I know the terms are not being used with any negative intent. I’ve experienced the wrong terms being used my entire life (try being in the hospital and having your own preferred terms ignored and not feeling good enough to correct the nurses).

So, here’s a rundown of some of the terms:

Hearing Loss: Blanket term that covers all forms of hearing loss, from mild to profound.

Deaf: This term implies that a person’s hearing is in the profound range, meaning they have “absence of useful hearing.” Some deaf people can still hear sounds, some hear nothing at all. Some speak. Some do not.

D/deaf: In the Deaf Community there is a thing called “little d” and “big d.” Simply put, someone who identifies as Deaf (big d) is a culturally deaf person. They are a part of the Deaf Community. Someone who identifies as deaf (little d) is just that, deaf. They are probably in the hearing community and might not know ASL, prefer speaking to the best of their ability. There is no right or wrong here, but with every book I write I am explaining my usage of D/deaf. Because when discussing deafness as a disability, there is no “big d,” that term is reserved for statements involving identity.

Hard of Hearing: This is a term for someone with some hearing loss. This person is not deaf, this person is not hearing. Often times they will wear hearing aids to help boost their hearing abilities. Like the D/deaf above, a person can capitalize to denote identity and being part of the Deaf Community. As a whole, being hard of hearing is a very vast term. We range from an older person with a little late onset hearing loss, to a person who has significant loss and has worn hearing aids most of their lives, to many variations in between.

Late Deafened: This is a person who normally is born hearing and loses their hearing later on in life. Could be they started losing their hearing as a child, or a teenager, or in their forties. Regardless of when they started losing their hearing, they are now deaf.

Hearing Impaired: Uh uh. No, just no. Unless you use this term to self-identify—and rock on with your bad self if you do—please do not use this term. We are not impaired. There is nothing wrong with us. And many of us feel our ears make us part of a linguistic community. This term does not encompass all forms of hearing loss. This term is hurtful to most of us. If you pay attention to my writing, I only use this term in the negative sense. And even when I have a character who would self-identify this way, I opt not to.

Mute: Another term to avoid, especially when using a combination of deaf mute. Many deaf people opt not to use their voice. Many have also been forced to speak and go through hours upon hours of speech therapy. Like “impaired” it is often frowned upon.

Deaf-Blind: This is a person with a hearing loss and vision loss. Like the hearing spectrum, this person could still have usable vision, but often times meets the legally blind criteria.

As for me, I was born hard of hearing. My identity wavers between Hard of Hearing and Deaf, and in ASL I often use both signs simultaneously. For one main reason: my right ear is considered deaf. Now, I still wear a hearing aid in that ear. I still hear with that ear. But I also don’t listen with that ear. If someone is talking to my right ear, I have to move them to my left ear in order to comprehend. Yet that ear does okay in speech recognition tests, mainly due to my hearing loss being moderate in speech areas of sound. Another big thing about me: I grew up without the community. It wasn’t until college that I sought out an ASL class that changed my life and brought me home.

Any terms I’ve skipped over that you want an answer to? Comment on it below. I love questions and am happy to discuss. Just please don’t assume what terms I prefer.