Romantic tension, family tension, guy-chasing-you-with-an-ax tension. If we should be biting our fingernails in anticipation, then that is the PitchWars young adult project we’re looking for.
Wait, let me back up.
This year, I’m proud to co-mentor with Kimberly Gabriel—the author of the forthcoming EVERY STOLEN BREATH, and a former PitchWars mentee. My mentee, actually. I loved Kimberly’s book, obviously, but I also loved Kimberly—her commitment to learning, her hard work ethic, and her “never quit, never give up” attitude. (There was also her love of wine and the fact that she sent me a ton of Adam Levine gifs, but I digress…)
These days, we like each other so much that we decided to mentor together.
This is us. See how friendly we look?
Okay, so back to the list. What do we want? Good question!
Young adult thriller.
Kimberly and I read a lot of genres (a lot!), but thriller is our first love—the heart-racing, page-turning frenzy of a well-written story that makes us sit at the very edge of our seats, ignore our wine, or bite off our finger….nails.
Not our fingers.
In fact, dismemberment is on the list of things we’d prefer not to see in your young adult thriller. At least not on the page. We like gritty—love it, actually—but we can do without the gratuitous gore, pleaseandthanks. We also can’t handle kids dying or animal torture, and while we’re not afraid to tackle important issues like sexual abuse, we’d prefer it happened off screen. Think Mindy McGinnis.
Think suspense. Think dark. Think psychological.
And while you’re thinking, we’d love you to also consider us for your high concept horror. We’d leap for something smart in the vein of Get Out.
Speaking of high concept, we will absolutely take a look at any contemporary young adult with a great hook, in any genre—though, we admit, there are probably better mentors out there for sci-fi, fantasy, and historical (unless you’re doing something fun and spooky with history and making it…contemporary, a la Anne & Henry or Lizzie. <– gratuitous plug for my books…)
Magical realism? Absolutely! We like books that bend the rules. Paranormal? Definitely! But we want something fresh. Yeah, we know, vampires are making a comeback (yay!)…but please don’t dust off your post-Twilight manuscripts and send them our way. Give us something new and exciting! No sparkle required. We also have a special place in our hearts for heist books. Oh, and it goes without saying, we definitely want to see your #ownvoices and books of diversity.
Not to repeat, but basically, if it makes our heart pound with excitement or fear then it’s on our wishlist.
We don’t need or want perfection. Yes, pay attention to spelling and grammar, but it’s a-ok with us if you haven’t quite nailed the voice, ramped up the suspense, completed each character arc, figured out pacing. We can help with that. We want to help you mould and shape and polish your book until it’s what you envision it to be. YOU. We want to be clear on that.
Yes, Kimberly and I want to mentor you. We’re excited to work with you on your book. We expect you to work hard (anticipate at least two edit letters and a third read-through before we hit the agent round) and to be open to learning. Make no mistake, we plan to kick your ass—but always with a loving hand, and always—always—keeping your vision in mind.
This industry is tough. We want to help you navigate it—and we’re in it for the long haul.
BUT…if we’re not the mentors for you, no hard feelings. We wish you luck and much success. There are a lot of fantastic mentors doing PitchWars this year, the list of whom you can find here. (But, um, if you have an awesome YA thriller, we’d really love to see it. Pretty please.)
~ Dawn & Kimberly
Hi Dawn & Kimberly! I wanted to clarify a point on your wishlist. I have a YA thriller where one of the victims is a teen. The body is found but there isn’t a scene where the death is explicitly shown. Is that a no-go for you?
Hi Kate! Definitely NOT a no-go. We like death…er, I mean, death in a thriller is totally fine with us!
I’ve been known to kill off a teen or two too—definitely not a deal breaker. I’m not the right person for really little kids dying- especially in a gratuitous scene. But as for death, dark, high stakes? We tend to love it.
Thanks so much! :0)
Thank you so much for sharing more details in addition to everything you provided above. You both seem like you would be amazing to work with, but I do have a young child that dies in the opening pages (though her spirit lives on inside her sister). It’s a dark, edgy YA thriller, but I get the sense that may be a deal-breaker for you. I hope it isn’t, but if it is, I completely understand and respect your wish not to have this subbed to you.
Hi Dave! Is it more of a “reference” to the child dying, or a graphic portrayal? We’re fine with death — we’re just not comfortable with gratuitous gore in the killing, especially with young kids. I admit, though, the words “dark edgy YA thriller” kind of have me salivating, and if you were to sub this, chances are I’d screen it first to see if it’s something Kimberly could get behind…my personal boundaries are a little more broad than hers 😉
Exactly what Dawn said. I love dark, edgy YA thrillers so much!!!! It would come down to how the death is handled. I kill off my characters all the time. I’ve even had young siblings die in my own writing, so that’s not necessarily a deal breaker. But I couldn’t handle a book like Lovely Bones, which is brilliant and fabulous, but no longer for me. I hope that helps!
Thank you so much for the responses. I have three teenager daughters and wouldn’t write something too upsetting for them to read. I ran your comments by my CP just to be sure. Looks like one of my final four is all set. 🙂 I hope you enjoy the opening pages!
I tried to submit this previously, but not sure it went through.
I read your MS wishlist. Can you please advise if you would accept the below story threads:
-ABUSE: Backstory/surmized flashbacks of my virgin protag shows attempted/implied sexual abuse situations (no rub or penetration occured) – mostly emotional baggage to confirm her wariness to trust & her don’t-touch-me reasonings.
-ANIMALS: 1st villain (rat creature) abducts animals and links energy cord to their chest to feed off their lifeforce to increase his power. None die. Protag thwarts him, releases feeding threads & heals animals.
-VIOLENCE: At book end, my Protag has fought badger creature wanting to eat her soul to steal her magic. Protag is wounded from being gouged by his claws, he poises for fatal strike, she grabs hatchet and swings upward, slicing into his arm which makes badger release her. Then, he runs away wounded. Neither die.
-MORALS/BIBLICAL: My work has sprinklings of how to manage anxities, etc as my Protag experiences obstacles/struggles (like deep breaths, meditation, flicking your hands open to expel unwanted emotions, etc). It’s not based on biblical preachings or citing verses. My protag befriends a demon-girl with horns (half demon, half angel) and there is an Archangel who shows up to enhance my Protag’s hand chakras so she can push more healing energy from her hands into someone who’s hurt.
Magic + Portal Fantasy + Seeing auras + Energy work & Healing
Hi Christina! Sorry for the delayed response — for some reason I didn’t realize my blog was set up that I had to review / approve comments. We’d totally accept all of the story threads you mention (as a Princess Bride superfan I’m intrigued by the rat creature ;-)) — but thank you for checking.
I agree with Dawn. None of this crosses into our “no” list. I’m not the best for killing off little kids—especially in a gratuitous scene. Animal cruelty (think cute little puppies) for no reason? Meh- probably not best for me either. We definitely like dark, dangerous, twisted, and tension!!
Hi, Kimberly 🙂 Can you please confirm your response? Dawn stated “We’d totally accept all of the story threads you mention” but your comment mentions ‘killing off little kids’ (which isn’t in my story) and ‘animal cruelty’ aren’t your things with your end comment reading as though you agree with Dawn and will pass on my MS, but Dawn is okay with the items listed. I do apologize for my confusion.
Please Note: The animals the rat creature abducts – the reader never sees him taking anyone, but my Protag gets sucked through hole and finds cavern with animals lying down, tired, etc. She goes to find villain and witnesses him take clear energy out of his chest, fashion a hook on the end and stick it into a horse’s chest. Protag then fights rat creature, almost fails, wins, heals all animals. No animals bleed or die — they’re just shown tired so reader understands the rat was feeding off their vitality.
Thanks! Have a great day 🙂
Sorry- To clarify, I don’t see anything from what you mentioned that makes it an immediate pass. At the end of the day, we’re looking for good writing, an awesome concept, and a manuscript we think we can help take to that next level. 😉
Hi Dawn and Kimberly,
Thanks for your time tonight in pitchwars. I wanted to clarify something on your wishlist. Magical realism… what about a little fabulism? Also, you first mentioned romantic tension but is that only if is it incorporated within a thriller/horror story?
Thank you for everything!
Not going to lie — I had to look up fabulism! Ironically, I think I have a project that *I* am working on that fits that category. Ha. So yes, definitely, that sounds intriguing. The key word for us is tension, so if you have a killer contemporary romance with a solid hook and tons of tension, we’d absolutely take a look.
I also have a project that fits that description. *High fives all around* (Where’s my favorite Tina Fey GIF when I need it?) So, yes, absolutely! We love tension in all its forms. Romantic tension *might* even be a favorite.
Hi! I have a YA that’s more mystery than thriller — about a girl hunting her father’s murderer — would you still be interested?
Hi! We’d definitely consider a mystery with a great hook and…clearly…lots of tension 🙂