Writing Contests

#TeamWordsOnFire Pitch Wars 2018 Wish List


Hi there, potential Pitch Wars mentees, how’s it going?

First of all, congratulations on finishing that manuscript! You’ve taken that all-important first step that so many people dream about and you should be proud of yourself. As former PitchWars mentees, we’ve both been in your shoes. It’s terrifying. It’s exhilarating. It’s kinda confusing at times (which mentor do I pick? is my MS ready?), but we’ll do our very best to guide you through it.

We’re going to be there for our mentee since the moment we first send that edit letter, through to line edits (however many we may need), wrangling that query into submission, and making the whole synopsis-writing as enjoyable as humanly possible.

If you’re wondering what Pitch Wars even means, because you somehow just fell into this blog post, and the image below represents you…

…don’t worry, we’ve got your back.

Unofficial and probably unhelpful explanation:

Since we (co-mentors Alex and Renée) met on the #PitchWars Twitter feed years ago (as you can see from the tweet bellow – go here to read the complete story), we say Pitch Wars is the greatest writing mentoring program ever.

Official and much more helpful explanation:

Pitch Wars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each to mentor. Mentors read the entire manuscript and offer suggestions on how to make the manuscript shine for the agent showcase. The mentor also helps edit their mentee’s pitch for the contest and their query letter for submitting to agents. Mentors can participate solo or pair up and co-mentor. (To learn more, click here)

This year, we’ve been chosen as co-mentors and we’re SO excited to be a part of this community and find the person who will join us on this amazing ride. Don’t worry, it’s going to be a lot of fun.

At this point, you might be asking, Who are you, exactly?

You can find out more about us, our mentoring style, our skills, and random stuff over at Renée’s post on Who We Are. And trust us, you want to check that out and see if we would be a good fit for you and your MS. 

What we want

We’ll be mentoring YA and we’re open to NA* this year.

*Fair warning when it comes to NA: we’ll probably ask you to age it down to YA. That might require substantial revisions or it might mean only adapting small things, depending on the manuscript.

Give us your:

  • Diverse Fantasy: that includes high fantasy, urban fantasy, contemporary fantasy, fantasy romance and retellings

When it comes to Fantasy in general, we want beautiful writing, rich world building, vivid characters and a story that flips a trope on its head.

For retellings, we should say we’re OBSESSED with Beauty and the Beast, but we’d like to see less explored fairy tales, too. And we’d love to see something inspired in tales from different cultures.

Some of the recent YA and NA Fantasy books we loved are:

  1.    SIX OF CROWS, by Leigh Bardugo
  2.   A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES, by Sarah J. Maas
  3.   JADE CITY, by Fonda Lee
  4.   THE WRATH & THE DAWN, by Renée Ahdieh
  5.   FLAME IN THE MIST, by Renée Ahdieh
  6.   AN EMBER IN THE ASHES, by SabaA Tahir
  7.   THE FORBIDDEN WISH, by Jessica Khoury
  8. SKY IN THE DEEP, by Adrienne Young
  9.   TO KILL A KINGDOM, by Alexandra Christo
  10.  ETIQUETTE AND ESPIONAGE, by Gail Carriger
  • Twisty Psychological Thriller/ Mystery/ Thriller

Renée has a problem: she tends to guess the big twist early on, so to keep her interested, the story needs to (a) have a bunch of mini twists that are just as good as the big one; (b) have characters that are so interesting, she won’t mind knowing what will happen because she wants to follow them; or (c) prove her wrong.

Here are some examples of books we read and liked:

  1.    GONE GIRL, by Gillian Flynn
  2.   THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, by Stieg Larsson
  3.   ONE OF US IS LYING, by Karen M McManus
  4.   SOMETIMES I LIE, by Alice Feeney
  • Cute Contemporary Romance.

We want to SWOON, but it’d also be nice to read about a new culture, or maybe learn about an activity/hobby not a lot of people know about, or watch the amazing dynamic of an interesting and fun family. We’re especially interested in cute and diverse romances.

These are some of the books we thought were extremely cute:

  1.    FROM TWINKLE, WITH LOVE, by Sandhya Menon
  2.   ADORKABLE, by Cookie O’Gorman
  3.   OVER THE FENCE, by Kasie West
  • ·  Distinctive Paranormal Romance.

Yes, that means we’ll consider Fae and Vampires, but we’re looking for originality. While we tend to prefer our supernatural creatures if they are on the dark and dangerous side (and still manage not to be complete jerks), we would love to see a nerdy vampire. Maybe even both combined. That’d be a dream.

  • Light or Dark Contemporary

Here, we want all types of narratives. We’re open to issue-based stories, but we would also LOVE to find something funny and light. Engaging family dynamics and/or beautiful and complex friendships will also be a plus.

Some YA Contemporaries we liked:

  1.    THE HATE U GIVE, by Angie Thomas
  2.    AMERICAN PANDA, by Gloria Chao
  3.    THE PROBLEM WITH FOREVER, by Jennifer L. Armentrout
  4.   UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES, by Louise Gornall

Here are some of the things and themes that will make us cry tears of joy, so send them our way:

  • VOICE! Not the singing competition, but your character’s voice should be distinctive, engaging and it should make us want to keep reading right from the start.
  • Diversity. By that, we mean diverse authors and/or characters. Diverse worlds. Diversity in all forms. All we ask of authors is that they make sure the diversity in their stories is respectfully represented.
  • Feminist books
  • Strong female characters
  • Smart main and side characters
  • Underrepresented characters in familiar tropes. P.S.: We’re not the biggest fan of the Chosen One trope, unless it’s super unique.
  • Romance (or at least great tension)
  • Slow burn
  • Enemies to lovers
  • If you can compare your heroes to Kaz and Rhysand, we want it. Desperately. If you have a YA version of Jericho Barrons, then Renée wants it, even if Alex hasn’t been officially introduced to him, yet.
  • Ensemble cast. We want interesting characters with different personalities coming together to get stuff done. We want tension between them, too. We tend to get bored if everyone gets along fine the ENTIRE time.
  • Complex and/or adorable friend dynamics
  • Serial killers/psychopaths. Give us the YA Dexter or Gone Girl, please.
  • Family drama and coming of age stories
  • STEM
  • Humor
  • Great relationships with grandmas and grandpas. Bonus if it makes us cry or laugh really hard
  • Please don’t make the love interest an asshole/abusive/inconsiderate. It’s not sexy/cute
  • We’re open to both to character-driven and action-driven stories
  • Something weird. This one is hard to explain. But if you think you mixed themes well and it looks a little weird, but reads like a lot of fun, then we want to see it.

Here are some of the things and themes that will make us cry tears of sadness, so please DON’T them our way:

  • Sexual assault
  • Animal abuse
  • Cheating
  • Insta-love
  • Slut-shaming/girls hating on other girls for no reason
  • Shifters
  • Special snowflakes
  • Portal Fantasy

We think that’s it.

We’re looking forward to Pitch Wars 2018. We can’t wait to see all your amazing stories in our inboxes and we hope you’ll consider us as mentors. If you have any question, please leave a comment on this post or contact us on Twitter (our DM’s are open). Even if you don’t, come say hi! We’re friendly and we love meeting new people.

Now that you’ve read our WishList and think your MS might be a good fit, be sure to check out more info about us over at  Renée’s beautiful blog (if you haven’t already), to see if we might be a good fit personality-wise. 

You can find us on Twitter here: @ReneeAPrice and @Alex__Reda (and it’s the same handle on Instagram, too)

Thank you for stopping by and come join #TeamWordsOnFire!

2018 Pitch Wars Young Adult Mentors

















































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Writing Contests


(Originally posted in 2015)

A long time ago, a creative genius decided to start the #PitMad contest. If you’re not sure what that is, check out this link – http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad/.

Short version – Twitter pitch contest for aspiring writers.

Confession time. After the amazing time I had with #PitchSlam, I have become a writing contest enthusiast, and I just had to enter #PitMad. Great decision.

First of all, I think it’s the largest pitching event on Twitter (don’t quote me on that). Someone actually said 31.4k tweets invaded the feed in a 12-hour period. 31.4k. To put things into perspective, San Marino has a population of about 33k. A small European country’s population rivaled the number of tweets in a feed. That is all.

I got 4 favorites (plus one from a spam account that wanted to know if I wished to be well-hung and offered a very financially reasonable solution, but that’s a different story). And the professionals who actually thought my small pitch was worth a second look are some of the most appreciated in the business. Talk about a confidence booster right there.

Buuuuuuuuuuuuuut….it also showed me that I have a long way to go before I start thinking like an agent. I had a total of 5 different pitches prepared in advance and I thought one of them was the sure winner. To me, it had everything – stakes, character, flavor. I was sure that one was the show stopper right there.

It didn’t get a single favorite for it. Nada. Zilch.  Not even a re-tweet from my fellow hopefuls lurking on the feed alongside me.

The most popular pitch was actually the first one I had written – and wasn’t in love with. I didn’t think it would go very far. And yet, it was the only one who managed to grab the agents’ attention. Talk about an underdog.

Looking back, I saw why. I put my advertising student cap on and analyzed it as objectively as I could. It managed to condense my 90k novel into 139 characters. My quiet baby turned into the prom queen and I couldn’t be prouder.

And yes, agents know best.

Checking out other popular pitches, seeing how agents think, cheering for your fellow writers. It’s a fun experience, where you can learn so much about your strengths and weaknesses as an author. Y’all shouldn’t miss it.

Be sure to get your manuscript ready for the next #PitMad. Trust me, it’s something you’ll want to be part of.

ramblings, writing, Writing Contests


(Originally posted in 2015)

Note: Spoiler alert, I didn’t get in that year. 

So. Whether or not I get a mentor (though we all know what I’m crossing my fingers for, right?), I decided to make a little #PitchWars daily diary.

I. Thank the Twitter gods I remembered when this contest is being held. With everything going on in my life right now, losing the deadline was a very real probability. Buuuut I even managed to remember the contest before the mentors’ bios went up. Yey me, all adulting and stuff.

And the best part of it is that I managed to find an awesome CP. I have someone to critique my work AND go through the #PitchWars jitters with me.

Also, I got a bit of fabulous advice that I should change my NA into an A submission. I’ve been seeing a lot of tweets that also give me pause. What to do, what to do, and what ice cream to eat while deciding.

II. The mentors. My God, the mentors. So many to choose from. I think I have a list of about 20, but it largely depends on whether I submit my MS as A or NA. Some of my favorites accept both genres, but three of them don’t. And I thought writing the damn novel was the hard part.

III. Tweeting like mad on the #PitchWars thread. Got to talk with some amazing mentors and I even found out a potential mentee is visiting my country. So if anyone has any doubts about this contest being about community first and foremost, I’m the perfect example right here.

IV. I think I might have overtweeted my share and I’m starting to annoy some of the mentors I like. Time to scale it down and relax. Breathe.

On the plus side, my wonderful CP has sent me her notes on my query and first chapter. I can’t believe how many things I overlooked the first time. I’m still waiting to hear from my beta on the full MS (second round and all), but I don’t think the feedback will arrive in time.

I also participated in the #WWWriting live twitter chat. I’m going with A. Hope I’m not making a huge mistake.

And editing is kicking my butt. I now realize that the first edits I did were superficial at best. I guess I always knew, in the back of my mind, but being confronted with that reality is kind of hard to swallow. However, even if I don’t get picked, my MS is going to be stronger. That’s the point of the whole thing, isn’t it?

Also found out what a beat is. I’ve been using them for years but had no freaking idea what people were talking about. Hey, I’m already learning some new stuff.

V. Finally have my short list. So many amazing mentors had to be cut simply because my MS didn’t fit their wishlist. Once again, hope I’m not making a huge mistake. They all seem like amazing people to work with, but if they don’t want romantic suspense, well, they don’t want it. I hope I get to interact with some of them after the competition’s over.

VI. Starting to doubt my decision.

I don’t know if I should enter or not. I’ve been seeing a lot of #PitchWars games, like #firstline, #lastline, the song that embodies your MS. For the life of me, I can’t think of ONE song that’ll fit. I have about five that I keep using while editing, but none of them capture the entire feel of the MS. Does this mean mine’s fragmented? That it’s not cohesive enough? That I have this huge glaring problem that I just can’t see and that my CP is too kind to point out?


I’m also starting to doubt my voice. I checked my MS. None of my first and last lines seem strong enough. I know I have a few good turns of phrase here and there, but I don’t think it’s enough.

With that being said, I added a few new pages to my MS. Needed to hash out some things and I think they work.

VII. Reading other potential mentees’ first lines and realizing mine sucks.  Golly gee, ain’t I the smartest pea in the original pod?

VIII. Is it okay to freak out that I’m gonna miss the 12-hour submission window because I might miscalculate the time zone differences? No? Just me? Alrighty then.

IX. One of the scenes between my MCs is giving me a headache. I’ve edited it 5 times. I don’t know what’s not working. And for a romantic suspense, this is problematic.

X. Holy crap. The window opened earlier. That’s the best news an anxious writer can ever receive. I’ll wait a day and then buh-bye MS.

XI. Sent.

Time to start eating shitloads of chocolate and brainstorm the next WIP.

XII. Requests!!!!!!!!!!!!!

XIII. Okay. I kinda wanna interact with the mentors, but I’m afraid they’ll think I want to suck up or something. Decisions, decisions.

XIV. Interacted with some great writers. Possible CPs. Life’s good.

XV. Okay. Some of these teasers from potential mentors are so freaking far away from my MS that….I don’t think I’m getting in. But it’s fine. It was fun.

Got to meet some great people. Found some awesome books, films, and gifs.

XVI. *Sigh*

Next year it is.

writing, Writing Contests

July 2015 Critique Blog Hop

Because Michele Hauk is a genius, she’s started a really exciting and very useful critique blog hop. Basically, you post your query and first 250 words, get critiqued by other writers (hello y’all!) and do some critiquing of your own (which is extremely helpful for everyone involved).

So, without further ado, here is my entry for the 2015 Critique Blog Hop:


Name: Amelia Creed

Genre: NA Romantic Suspense

Word Count: 70K


Junior estate agent, Olivia Abate, the walking cautionary tale for fresh starts, has one goal – to get the Bolton Manor listing before her dolt of a coworker. Their unethical rivalry takes a grim turn when the old woman who owns the property suffers a mental breakdown, and Olivia must spend a week at the manor if she wants a signed contract and the coveted promotion.

Ignoring her hesitation, Olivia deals with quaint guests fond of collecting serial killer memorabilia, perpetually hung-over nieces, and apathetic servants, one rehearsed smile at a time. Her only escape is the dry-humored heir of the estate, Thomas Bolton, who appears to be as starved for companionship as the manor is for renovation. His odd disdain for newcomers and Olivia’s fear of gaining an unjust advantage barely keep them from crossing the professional line.

Her moral dilemma vanishes along with her coworker, and Olivia faces the gut-wrenching possibility that she might lose not only her career and the promise of an uncommon relationship, but also her life.

BEWARE OF BOLTON MANOR is complete at 70,000 words and is a standalone novel with series potential.


The faux leather on the backseat was peeling off and Olivia Abate’s best stockings already had two holes in them. Served her right for cheaping out on her last shopping trip and fidgeting since she had jumped into the cab. The driver’s road manners didn’t help either.

“Is there any possible way we could go faster?” she asked. The driver looked at her in his rear-view mirror, using his tongue to clean the remnants of his lunch from his teeth. Olivia pretended she didn’t notice. “Or find a shortcut?”

“No can do, Miss. We’re on the shortest road and I ain’t keen on getting a flat tire,” the driver said.

Olivia nodded and looked over her shoulder in the rear window, biting the inside of her cheek. Still no sign of another car. That could only mean two things – either her coworker had gotten lost on the muddy roads or he had already arrived at the manor. Or maybe he had given up on the challenge altogether.

Gazing down at the single sheet of paper in her file, marked ‘Bolton Manor – potential listing’, Olivia tried to find some sort of detail that could give her an advantage. Apart from specifying the size of the domain, the number of rooms and adjacent dwellings, such as the boat house, and the current owner, there wasn’t much written down. Not even a picture of the estate.

And for a junior estate agent, such as Olivia, that meant trouble; taxing, exciting, and career-defining trouble.

Thank you to all the writers who will take the time to critique my work. You guys are awesome for doing this and for having the courage to put your work out there and receive feedback.

And have an awesome day!

Writing Contests


It’s 2 am and I don’t know if I can do this story justice. I’ll try.

For those unfamiliar with #PitchSlam, I’ll try and break down the rules for you (or you can, you know, check out this link: http://llmckinney.com/pitch-slam/).

Pitch Slam is a writing contest where aspiring writers enter a 35-word pitch and the first 250 words of their (finished and edited) manuscript. A panel of judges (made up of other writers and absolutely amazing people), choose the finalists and agents browse through the entries and ask for sample pages.

Sounds pretty standard until this point, yes?

But what truly differentiates Pitch Slam from any other contest I encountered is the incredible support the community offers. This year’s edition even had a feedback round (which I missed, because I found out about the contest one day before the final deadline), where the judges offer advice on the pitch/250 words AND writers can then resubmit their work for the final judging phase.

Not enough? The #PitchSlam feed was constantly full of encouragement from everyone – finalists, writers, judges (even the occasional agent). We supported each other, laughed, came together for a common goal. Each one of us is in the same boat and wants to get to the same place. Instead of ignoring each other or showing off, we gushed over our favourite entries and lurked on the feed at the weirdest hours.

You know how they say writers are bitter people who prey on each other? Those people need just a half hour amidst us Pitch Slam-ers to see the reality. And some chocolate. Chocolate makes everything better.

And that atmosphere, more so than the finalist title (go #TeamDoubleAgent), made me want to keep writing. If judges and competitors can take time off from their busy life to say a couple of nice things per day, then there’s still hope.

On a side note, I got a partial request from an agent. Yey me! But I won’t give too much info about that.

There was only one thing this experience lacked – some of my favourite entries didn’t get a single request. I know some manuscripts work better in a standard querying process and I’m sure all of them will find representations soon. But I wanted all of us to have a success story in the competition.

With that being said, my confidence has sky-rocketed. Somebody thought my entry was worthy of a second glance. A writer can’t ask for more in the first stages of his/her career.

Thank you, Pitch Slam. You gave me the boost I needed.