Meet the #70pit16 Cohosts!

“70pit16” is the tag for this year’s contest. You’ll still see #pg70pit (the name of the annual contest), but anything tagged with 70pit16 is specific to this year. 😘

The Band Manager

I’m just your friendly contest coordinator (and judge).

Lara Willard, editor
Host, Lara Willard

Lara Willard is a pixelsmith and wordherder, freelance editor and writer, and writing instructor at storycadet.com. She’s edited for literary agents, Marvel Comics editors, poets, authors, and comic creators. While scribbling in margins and gutters, she sometimes tweets editing tips @LaraEdits. Lara lives in the Twin Cities with her husband, sons, and dog-show dropout Havanese. Connect with her on Twitter, on Instagram (@larathelark) or here on her blog!

The Disc Jockeys

Introducing the 70pit16 cohosts! In addition to the 7 MG, YA, and Adult entries posted on Lara’s blog, each cohost will select up to seven entries to feature on their own blogs! These will also be available for agents to read. That’s a total of 42 winners!
Elizabeth Buege, editor

Co-host for Adult Entries, Elizabeth Buege
Elizabeth Buege is a writing teacher and book editor with a B.A. in English Writing. She offers copyediting services and manuscript critiques over at ElizabethBuege.com, where she also blogs writing tips and other helpful topics for writers. She’s in love with the magical way words can become living, breathing stories and extensions of an author’s voice, and that’s why she loves cohosting #pg70pit. She can’t wait to see the magic of your voices!
Kaleigh Walter, writer

Co-host for YA Entries, Kaleigh Walter

Reader, writer, editor, and Academy Award enthusiast, I enjoy staying indoors, the occasional sunshine-filled afternoon, and dreaming about Paris (the city…not the socialite). Some of my closest friends live in the pages of YA. But don’t worry, I have friends IRL, too. We eat food together and laugh over glasses of red wine.
JD Burns, writer

Co-host for MG Entries, JD Burns
Hi there! I’m JD Burns, a writer of middle grade fiction, the father of a 13-year-old reading maniac, and a man afflicted with a serious chocolate addiction. No really—I once ate an entire gallon of Rocky-Road while sitting in my recliner, watching Godzilla 1998. OK, I made that last part up—it was actually the 1956 American adaptation with Raymond Burr. BTW, anyone know where I can get my hands on an unedited 1954 version … and a stomach pump?

I’ve written two Middle Grade series, and I’m currently represented by the wonderful Rebecca Angus of Golden Wheat Literary agency. I love the writing community, and I’m a frequent contributor through forums like Absolute Write, #p2p16, and my blog (which you can read more about here: Ink2Burn). In 2015, I was a winner of the Pitch to Publication contest, and in 2016 I’m excited to be a cohost for the MG category of the #pg70pit contest run by the incredible Lara Willard.

The #pg70pit event is unique because it drops you right into the middle of a story. Evaluating a manuscript based on the 70th page is a completely different experience from judging a story’s opening. However, the one thing that will always catch my eye is Voice. That’s true of any age category, but most especially with MG. So pull out those manuscripts and polish up your 70th page! I can’t wait to see all your fantastic entries.

meet the 70pit16 hosts pg70pit

How I Chose My Pitch to Publication Writers

Pitch to Publication (#p2p16) opens up to submissions on March 5! There’s still time to enter, and I know some of you planning on entering might be worried about your pitches. Hopefully this will help you hook editors (or agents)! This year, MS Editors represent 20% of the participating editors in the contest. See the genres we will be accepting at the bottom of each of our interviews: Me, Elizabeth, and Kyra

I picked two writers last year. The narrowing-down process was brutal, one I tweeted about a couple times.

I started with 98 queries (two of the 100 were repeat submissions), and eliminated about 2/3rds on the first pass, leaving me with 33 maybes and probablys, which is very high compared to other editors’ stats. Then I narrowed those down to 10. Then I narrowed down my favorite choices by age category for my top three (MG, YA, and NA/Adult). Part of narrowing down included saying a sad “no” to two entries I didn’t think I’d be able to improve on. I encouraged these writers to query right then.

Anyway, let’s get back to my two final picks.

MG Pick

Some people were wondering about how to write the hook part of the P2P submission. This one caught my attention right away:

Oscar dreads a lot of things: oil-based shampoos, hungry giraffes, and going to school on Arbor Day. Life’s tough for a seventh grader with leaves sprouting from his head. It doesn’t help when, Matty, a boy no one seems to know shows up and declares Oscar is a wood troll. But then Matty also promises he can fix Oscar’s little hair condition – in return for a favor.

Hoping to never run from nest-building squirrels again, Oscar […]

Doesn’t that have a great voice? Look at those word choices and specific, characterizing details! Some people think it’s harder to get a solid voice in third-person, which is what all queries need to be written in. This is exactly how to do it.

Not only did this hook paragraph have solid voice, but it also introduced the character’s desire and the story’s inciting incident.

Now, I wasn’t sure if I wanted a portal fantasy, so I initially marked this as a maybe (see how subjective slush reading is?), but when I read the pages, I laughed and got literal goosebumps. If a book can create that much of a response in me in the first chapter, I’m going to want to read more. Turns out, an agent felt the same way.

YA Pick

This one had a solid query, and I liked the concept a lot: a YA romance with Middle Eastern Pirates? Color me intrigued!

But what really hooked me was her first page—which I tend to read first—and how she started right in the middle of things:

Make it stop. I cringed, my head throbbing from the off-key voice. It was a song that most people would sacrifice their first-born to never have to hear. Most that heard it never lived to hear it twice. Because of all the dangers of the sea…

…Nothing was worse than pirates.

As I read on, the sensory details and lush settings drew me in further, and the chemistry between the two leads dragged me right under.

Yes, you read that right. I look at the first five pages before I look at the query. The Pitch to Publication submission includes personal-ish questions so editors can get to know you better. Since I assume everyone submitting to me is totally awesome, I usually skip this part until I’ve made my choices, otherwise the sting of sending rejections is too great. But I do enjoy reading those, and what you say can determine if I end up passing (red flags=run!) or if I follow you on Twitter so we can be friends and so I can cheer you on (we have things in common).

Hooking the Reader

Part of Pitch to Publication is working together to make the best book possible. Their pitches and queries don’t look exactly the same today as they did then. But hopefully this gives you a good idea of what can hook me:

  • Specific details that set the scene or characterize
  • Word choice (this and the previous are what make your “voice“)
  • Active, not passive characters
  • A cool concept or a pitch that makes me HAVE to know what happens next.

Which of these elements does your query or first five pages have? Are there any elements you don’t have but could work in?

pg70pit writing contest logo

pg70pit is Back!

pg70pit is coming back in 2016!

pg70pit-a new kind of writing contest

This year is going to have an added feature:

7th on the 7th

Every month on the 7th leading up to the contest, I’ll share one of last year’s winning entries with a commentary talking about how it works. I’ll also do a line edit of one blog subscriber’s seventh page, on my blog, to show you exactly how to make your entries (70th page) shine.

To enter for a chance of getting your seventh page edited on my blog, fill out the form at the bottom of the page. Unlike the contest itself, this will not be a blind drawing. I’ll be picking entries that I think will be the most educational for my blog readers.

#70pit16 Schedule

February 7: first 7th on the 7th post

March 7: 7th on the 7th

April 7: 7th on the 7th

May 7: 7th on the 7th

June 1: Check-in with last year’s winners

June 7: last 7th on the 7th

June TBD: Agents announced

July 1: MG entry window opens

July 2: YA entry window opens

July 3: Adult entry window opens

July 7: Winners posted on larawillard.com and co-hosts’ blogs

Any questions? Read this post.

7th on 7th Entry

By entering, you agree that your work may appear and be edited on my public blog. Your name and email address will be used only to contact you in the event your page is chosen.

PLEASE CHANGE ALL CHARACTERS’ NAMES. I don’t want you to be disqualified from pg70pit because we recognize your entry.

 

Ask the Editor—Pitch to Publication Q&A

Pitch to Publication round two is coming! Last year I picked two writers and both got an agent. Whooooooo will be this year’s winner? I’m very excited to find out.

Here’s my interview, full of writing advice and insider information.


Bio

Lara is a freelance editor and story coach specializing in fiction and comics. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Northwestern–St. Paul in Interdisciplinary Studies (Literature, Writing, Editing, and Design). She love genre-benders, graphic novels, coffee table books, and smart, geeky fiction.

What is your writing and editing background?

I started tutoring writing and literacy in 2005. From 2008–2009, I was an acquisitions editor for my university’s literary journal. I’ve been freelance editing fiction since 2009, comics since 2013.

My passion is actually editing, to the point where I do that in my free time—hence participating in this contest!—but I do write, too. I’ve had half a dozen poems and some short fiction published in literary journals and magazines. My blog (writelarawrite.wordpress.com) gets more of my attention than the long-form fiction I’ve written.

What are your major editing accomplishments?

I’m not sure I can distinguish between “major” and “minor”—I care more about the writer’s growth in their technique than their frequency of book deals. Whenever a writer says that I’ve helped his or her craft, that’s huge! But I’ll admit I get proud when agents and other editors compliment me on my editorial insight. Both of my picks from last year’s P2P got agents, and I actually cried happy tears for them. They did so much work, I am beyond proud of them.

Okay, I will add the following:

1) Seeing my name in the acknowledgements of published books. Tears!

2) Reading my clients’ names and their manuscripts I worked on in PUBLISHER’S MARKETPLACE—a very exciting thing that results in many emoji and all caps. Especially when they’re tied with names like Knopf and Tor. (Can you tell another one of my clients is about to share some good news?)

My next editorial life goal is getting a Newbery sticker on a book that has my name in the acknowledgements.

Do you have a general philosophy for how you approach your editing work?

Writing for publication is a collaborative effort with a goal of creating experiences for the reader. Editorial choices acknowledge and affirm the reader’s participation in fulfilling the fictional world.

Editing is also collaboration between writer and editor. It’s a mutual partnership. It’s a conversation. I encourage my current and potential clients to ask questions and voice concerns. Some writers need more nurturing. Others want to improve at any cost. Either way, I give honest, encouraging feedback. I’m never harsh, but I do respectfully snark sometimes. Editors and agents are snarky creatures. It keeps us sane in the slush.

What types of books do you enjoy working with?

Immersive stories populated with distinct characters. I like my tropes subverted, and I like “happy for now” endings. I do like romance, but I want just as much (if not more) time spent on friends and family relationships. No human is an island.

What are the most common mistakes you see in new writers work?

Writing the unremarkable: if it’s not remarkable, why remark on it? Summarize or cut anything not crucial to the story (a character believably interacting and conflicting en route to a goal).

Over description and underestimation of the reader: Pick a “divine detail” to set the scene. Be specific. Paint a few meaningful, distinct strokes, and let the reader fill in the rest. Readers don’t want to be lectured; they want to participate in the story.

What’s the one thing most novelists don’t understand about the art of revision?

The first draft is about exploration and expression. It’s about the writer. Revision is about creating experiences for the reader.

What’s one easy thing every writer can do right now to make themselves a better writer?

Nothing about writing is easy! But reading omnivorously (poetry, fiction, popular hits, literary gems) will improve your writing. You write as well as you read.

Regardless of skill, writers who are easy to work with will find better success. Be a good listener, be professional, respect your readers, and remember that agents and editors are readers, too.

What is the most important consideration in selecting a book editor?

Qualifications and personality are equally important.

QUALIFICATIONS—Require either formal education in the field or experience being published at a national level. (An objective, literary authority should have acknowledged the editor’s writing or editing ability).

PERSONALITY—Decide whether you’d get along with the person. Read bios, interact online, and ask for a sample edit of your work before you agree to a quote.

Why would a writer need a book editor?

Every writer needs an editor, even editors themselves! Not everyone needs hire a freelance editor before getting an agent, however. Having beta readers can definitely help iron out the major kinks. I recommend writers invest in a freelance editor if they know they need professional insight.

What do you do for fun that does not deal with the literary scene?

Besides being a constant mom of two boys? Haha. When the halflings are in bed, I like to play board games with my husband while watching TV. I’m always thirsty for stories, whether I’m reading or not.

Seriously, we need to know your favorite meal and why?

Are we talking about a specific meal, or a favorite dish? I’ll take steak and potatoes in any form. But if we’re talking specific meals, here’s my top 3:

1) My BFF’s mom’s enchiladas
2) Original Beau Jo’s pizza (Idaho Springs, CO) with honey on the crust
3) Slice of bacon and a mug full of salted caramel ice cream with crushed pretzels (the only “meal” I ate the day Alan Rickman died)
Comfort and nostalgia, that’s why. And taste. …Is this a metaphor for what I like to read?

MOST IMPORTANTLY What kind of entries are you looking for in your Pitch to Publication query box?

  • Historical middle grade
  • Historical YA involving a natural disaster, mystery, or doo-wop group (historical fantasy is OK)
  • Illustrated novels (any age category, any genre except erotica)
  • An adventure story with a plucky, geriatric protagonist
  • Any “blue hearts” or “pears” from last year’s contests (I believe in second chances!)—I do still have my list of favorites, so no cheating. In other words, if you got a request from me last year, or were one of the winners of #pg70pit, you can submit a polished manuscript to me during #pit2pub16. Use the same email address you used last year.