Tag Archives: word count in young adult

Behind the Scenes of Pitch Wars with Team Snickersnee

14 Nov

Behind the Scenes at Pitch Wars with Team Snickersnee

In case you missed it, Team Snickersnee announced our 2020 mentee for Pitch Wars! (But more on that below.) Since announcement day has come and gone, I thought it would be fun to give everyone a behind-the-scenes peek at what went down with Team Snickersnee. 

We asked for anything under the science fiction or fantasy sun, including young adult and new adult (if willing to age down to young adult). You can reference our original wishlist by clicking here.  

Here are our stats: 133 submissions 

Sci-Fi: 

  • Space Opera: 4
  • Near Future: 2
  • Dystopian/Post Apocalyptic: 11
  • Cyberpunk: 2
  • Steampunk: 1
  • Soft: 15
  • Military: 1
  • Science-Fantasy: 2
  • Time-Travel: 2
  • Other: 3

Fantasy: 

  • High/Epic: 21
  • Urban/Contemporary: 19
  • Magical Realism/Fabulism: 5
  • Historical: 2
  • Portal: 11
  • Paranormal: 1
  • Other: 22

Horror: 4

Thriller/Suspense: 2

Contemporary: 2

Adventure: 1

Top three trends we saw: 

  1. Elemental powers
  2. Zodiac 
  3. Witches 

We definitely had a blast reading everyone’s words! In fact, we put more than half of our submissions in the “maybe” pile. It was really hard to dwindle down to just one person. 

So how did we break it down? 

As a team, Sandra and I split the submissions in half. She read the first half, and I read the second half. We took notes on the ones we loved, and then we sent each other the list so that the other person could take a look at the submissions, too. We made it a goal to choose 5 manuscripts to request. We then read the first 50 pages of each and discussed again. (We even requested two more fulls!) We messaged each other a lot, discussing various aspects of the manuscripts, possible edit letters, etc.—until we felt that we had found the manuscript. Our final decision happened over an hour-long ZOOM call. Ultimately, while we loved so many manuscripts, we had to factor in how much work the manuscript needed in the time allotted, if our vision aligned with the author’s, and if we were the right mentors for this particular mentee.   

It was a hard choice!

There was so much incredible talent, and we definitely would’ve taken on more mentees if we could have. If you submitted to us, thank you for trusting us with your words! We truly enjoyed reading our submissions. 

Now for a fun Q&A: 

What was your biggest surprise reading through submissions this year?

Shannon: This was my first time being a Pitch Wars mentor. Going in, I thought the writing itself would be the ultimate factor in choosing which manuscripts to read more of, but honestly, all the writing was so good! I relied on the synopsis a lot more than I thought I would. It showed me how the story unfolded and if I felt like there were structural issues we could help with or not. I was definitely looking for someone we could mentor. If someone’s package was 120% perfect, I moved on. Some writers are definitely ready to query without a mentorship!

Sandra: This was my second year mentoring, and what was surprising was how different the submissions were this year from last year! I loved getting to read a whole new batch of stories from writers who might not have subbed to me last year. I was also just in awe of the quality of work submitted; there is so much talent in the world right now. There’s not one entry that I read that I didn’t think the writer would find representation, whether with the manuscript submitted or with another.

Any writing tips for those who submitted?

Shannon: Use beat sheets (like this one on Jami Gold’s website) and swap with critique partners. Most importantly, make sure each scene is driving your story forward, and that your protagonist has agency. (They should be happening to the story, not the other way around.) A common mistake I saw is a scene where we meet the protagonist’s best friend or family, and that’s it. See if you can combine your meeting scene with an actionable scene. (Ex. Could the best friend be introduced while the protagonist is dealing with an unexpected issue?) If you have any scenes that feel like your protagonist’s “regular” day, it should probably be changed or cut.

Sandra: To Shannon’s point, knowing your character’s arc is in my opinion the most important part of any story. Who is your character at the beginning and who do you want them to be by the end of the manuscript? And what turning points will help you get them there. Whether you’re a pantser or a plotter, or somewhere in between, knowing the turning points you want to hit is so important to keeping the pacing and character arc’s moving forward. And hitting them at the right places. One of the things I love doing with my work is deciding the word count I want to hit before I start to write. So if I want to write an 80K manuscript, I know I need to hit that first turning point at 25% of the book, so at 20K, and my midpoint at 40K. Aside from that, to just keep writing and reading! I didn’t land my agent till my third queried manuscript, so perseverance is key and learning what you can from other writers and published works.

Publishing tips?

Shannon: Watch your word counts. There was a surprising amount of manuscripts that were 100k and higher, which is a really hard sell to an agent or editor for a debut. Make sure that your manuscript is in line with the expectations of your age category and genre. If you’re struggling to cut, ask a beta reader to help. Consider combining characters or scenes. Don’t be afraid to take a break from your story and come back at a later date to analyze what is truly, absolutely 100% necessary. In regards to querying, I highly recommend Query Shark and Query Tracker

Sandra: Totally agree with Shannon on word counts! I’ve seen some agents and editors talk about this on Twitter lately as well!

It’s also interesting seeing trends as well and what ideas seem to spread like wildfire and become popular. This is also really hard to see because it means the market is saturated in these stories, and you’re likely competing for an agent’s attention who has already received several stories with the same general idea. One of my biggest publishing tips and something I’m working hard to do myself, is how to take a common idea and have a twist to it. So if your book is about vampires, how can you freshen up a trope that an agent has seen often? Same if your story has elemental magic. Can you do something in your manuscript that sets the story apart so there’s a good spin in the query you’re sending out? Just making sure that your story is as unique as you can make it, and that you’re showing off what makes it unique to the fullest! Genre-bending is also very popular and a great way to freshen up tropes!

What are we most excited about?

Working with our mentee, Miranda Sun! She wrote an amazing heartfelt #ownvoices YA contemporary fantasy filled with magic forests, generational secrets, and humor! Did we mention the slow-burn hate-to-love romance with a ghost? Give her a follow on Twitter and stay tuned! (Fun fact: Miranda’s submission was #31!) 

~SAT

Editing Tips: Word Count

7 Jul

Word count matters. As writers,we’ve all heard this. Although there are exceptions, this rule is especially true for beginning writers applying to publishers. Because of this, I thought I’d talk about it today since I know many of my readers are looking at publications opportunities.

1. Target Audience: This is a big one, because it often decides what the word count will be in a publisher. The numbers are decided based on average reading ability and popular novels. These numbers are considered the target range for that specific audience. I’ll get in more detail later on, but here are the main three I’ve come across in discussion with publishers:

  • Children: Chapter Books: under 20,000
  • Young-Adult: under 80,000
  • Adult: 80,000+ (This genre is interesting, because it differs extremely within publishers and the genre you’re writing. A lot of publishers still encourage under 80,000 for first time, but they are often more willing to expand, especially for science-fiction and mystery.)

2. Publisher: Every publisher is different. That being said, you can search among publishers that are willing to publish new authors with larger and/or shorter novels, including series. If you haven’t started writing a novel yet, I’d highly encourage checking out numerous publishers in your genre and looking up their word count preference. This is an easy way to set a clear goal for your novel, and it will help move you forward to the next steps. I once attended a writing conference with Rosemary Clement Moore, author of Prom Dates from Hell, and she hosted a word count workshop. She talked about figuring out your word count before using math to split up the basic plot line graph to figure out where you should be on your word count during certain events. For example: if your novel is 80,000 words, your climax should be anywhere between 60,000 and 70,000 words (depending on how quickly you’d like the resolution to happen.)

3. Consider Cutting and/or Adding: This is a big one. Once you finish a novel, you’re attached to it.

Correction: once you’ve retained an idea or seriously began it, you’re attached to it. Changing it, especially after the product is completed, is a scary thought. It’s tedious work–often more tedious than actually writing it. But I like to think of editing as another writing process, because editing seems to be a “dirty” word; it holds negativity–like everything before wasn’t good enough. That’s why I think of it as writing. It’s still creating. It’s fun, and things that change are often wonderful.

Click here to check out Minutes Before Sunset's Facebook page!

Click here to check out Minutes Before Sunset’s Facebook page!

To be perfectly honest, I write really large novels. Minutes Before Sunset was originally 136,000+ words. The final product, however, is right below 80,000. All three novels of my trilogy have gone this way, and I love it. Minutes Before Sunset is more fast-paced, and I even added more information than the first. I did lose a few scenes, but I’m not saddened by this. I’ve kept all of them, and maybe one day I can share them as an extra! In fact, many authors are doing this now, especially young-adult authors. Examples include Cassandra Clare and Lauren Oliver. Side stories have even been mass produced. (Stories that aren’t even told from main characters.) I think this is a great sign, because it shows how much readers want MORE, even after the books have been completed. However, it’s often safer–as a beginning writer–to keep in mind that keeping these stories and scenes can be risky when applying to publishers who are looking for smaller books. Look at Lauren Oliver. Her first novel, Before I Fall, was much shorter than her Delirium trilogy. This happens a lot in the publishing industry. They want a “first” book that’s smaller and not as risky. They can see if your work is good in the industry, and then they can release longer books or even series (which is another risky move when applying.)

One last piece: this advice is advice. What I mean is this: I am not saying to give up on your longer novels or series. I’m only clarifying what many publishers have deemed risky when considering first-time authors. But I would suggest, which most artists do already, to keep an open mind. If a publisher loves your long novel but wants it shortened, you might be surprised by how much you enjoy condensing the art. You might even like the final series being one book.

I am planning on writing about series in general or I would expand further on that topic.

I’ve also created a list of questions to consider about word count:

How long are your novel/s? Is there an average length? Consider trying to write something outside of your range. Ex/ write a short story if you write novels.

Did you have a word count goal set out when you started? Did you go over or under your goal?

What about your chapters? Are some longer than others? Considering splitting the sizes. This creates a shift in rhythm readers often enjoy. Ex/ one short chapter among numerous long ones can be a bit of a breather and speed things up.

Feel free to answer below. Sharing your experiences within our community can help other authors and writers. 

I am excited to announce Minutes Before Sunset climbed 150,000 ranks in two days. AEC Stellar Publishing is still giving away free ebooks, and it’s also available for $3.89 to celebrate being awarded Goodreads Book of the Month! Comment, message, or send me an email to shannonathompson@aol.com if you’re interested 

~SAT

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