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.

Hi! *waves*

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