Lisa Leoni

Romance writer and rad humanoid

Tag: #pitchwars

Round-up: Pitch Wars mentor blog posts

Anyone familiar with Pitch Wars certainly knows by now how incredible this community is. One of the reasons can be credited to the mentors who give of their time and knowledge. This post is a round-up of craft/advice/cheerleading blog posts by the 2016 mentors. If I’ve missed one – please post a link in the comments or let me know on Twitter.

Pitch Wars

#Pitchwars: Quick thoughts before you submit (Jami Nord)
Cheat Sheet for my Future PitchWars Mentee (Michelle Hazen)
Answer to Random PW Questions (Michael Mammay)
#PitchWars Submission Window Advice (Mary Ann Marlowe)
How Does #PitchWars Work Exactly? (Mary Ann Marlowe)
How to Increase Your Odds of Getting into Pitch Wars (Leigh Mar)

#Pitchwars: What I saw in the submissions (Jami Nord)
It’s Almost #PitchWars Decision Time (Brighton Walsh)
Good News & Bad News: Trends in Pitch Wars submissions (Michelle Hazen)
Stats on Pitch Wars Submissions & Requests (Michelle Hazen)
Notes from the PitchWars Slush (Michelle Hauck)
The Awful Truth About Being A Mentor (Mary Ann Marlowe)
Pitch Wars Update (Michael Mammay)
Pitch Wars Questions & Answers Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 (Michael Mammay)
More About that #PitchWars Spreadsheet (Mary Ann Marlowe)
Thoughts (and some stats) from a PitchWars Mentor (Laura Brown)
Pitch Wars Pep Talk (E.B. Wheeler)
Etiquette and Survival in Pitch Wars (Amanda Hill)
Pitch Wars Mentor Musing (Sharon Johnston)
Confessions of a PitchWars Mentor (Carrie Callaghan)
PitchWars: Behind the Scenes (Judi Lauren)
More PitchWars Stuff (Judi Lauren)


Polishing & critiquing

Is This Any Good? (Michael Mammay)
How to Find a Critique Partner (CP) (Michael Mammay)
Critiques and Cultivating Self-Awareness (MK England)
The Importance of Critique Partners (Kelly Siskind)

Your 8-Step Plan Before Diving Into Edits (Kate Foster)
Final Editing Checklist (Kim Long)
F Words and Other Writing Mishaps (Jeanmarie Anaya)
Self-Editing Checklist (Brighton Walsh)

A Behind the Scenes Look at Pitch Wars (Michael Mammay)
More Pitch Wars Behind the Scenes Truth (Michael Mammay)
Pitch Wars Behind The Scenes Part 2: The Mentors Strike Back (Michael Mammay)


The business side

Writing a Synopsis with Voice (Laura Brown)
Pitch Wars: The Query…Simplified (Brenda Drake)
Pitch Wars: The Synopsis…Simplified (Brenda Drake)
Pitch Wars: The 35-Word and Twitter Pitch…Simplified (Brenda Drake)
Taking Your Query from Good to Great Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 (Amanda Hill)
Synopses are Actually Awesome (MK England)
Pitch Wars query critiques Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 (Kim Graff)

Being a Prolific Writer Part 1 | Part 2 (Lynnette Labelle)
Do you Want to Become a Prolific Writer? (Lynnette Labelle)

An Agent’s Perspective on Pitch Wars and Other Contests (Laura Heffernan)



Characterization-More than Paper Dolls+A peptalk for #pitchwars (Jami Nord)

Make Me FEEL It: Internalization (Amanda Hill)

Writing Sex and Violence: What your action scenes can teach your “getting action” scenes (Michelle Hazen)

Once Upon a Time…Opening with a BANG! #Pitchwars (Jami Nord)
Middles-Or how Point A gets to Point Z #Pitchwars (Jami Nord)
#pitchwars – THE END! (Jami Nord)
Tips on Strong Endings (Laura Brown)


Perseverance & inspiration

The Power of Perseverance (Brighton Walsh)
In Publishing, No News is Good News (Dan Koboldt)
What to Do if You Don’t Get Selected for Pitch Wars (Michael Mammay)
10 Things About Pitch Wars You May Not Know (Michael Mammy)
Why Pitch Wars? (Laura Brown)
On Rejection and Time Spent (Machinations) (Hayley Stone)
Hope in Careful Doses: Or (What I Didn’t Expect on the Path to Getting an Agent) (Margarita Montimore)
How to Deal with Frustrated Writers (1, Stop Saying “It Only Takes One Yes”) (Margarita Montimore)
A Message to the Incoming Pitch Wars Mentees (Michael Mammay)
Pitch Wars: What will you give up? (Elizabeth Leis-Newman)
Pep Talk: You Are More Than This Moment (Cindy Baldwin)
The Truth about #PitchWars Slush (Kim Graff)
Monday Musings: On #PitchWars and Why You Should Always Keep Writing (Amy Trueblood)
#PitchWars: The Window Closes PSA #1 All My Dirty Secrets Revealed… (Lisa Amowitz)



Writing Tips & Tricks Catch-All (Brighton Walsh)
How to Turn a Partial MS Request into a Full (Michelle Hazen)
Assortment of #PitchWars and Writing Advice (Mary Ann Marlowe)
Pitch Wars Homework Assignments (MK England)


I <3 Pitch Wars

On July 19 I was just living my life. Doing my thang. Went to bed not realizing my life would change for the better the next day.

On July 20 I saw several people I follow on Twitter talking about something called #PitchWars. I started creeping on the hashtag as curiosity got the better of me. I went to Brenda Drake’s website and began reading about it. Then my face did this:

I read some more and then I was like:


I quickly learned the appeal is more than the chance to work closely with a mentor (although that is freaking awesome) – it’s the community as a whole. It’s the giving and receiving of support and encouragement.

For those who are thinking “dafuq is Pitch Wars?” It’s a contest where you select a certain number of agented/published writers to submit your completed manuscript to in the hopes they will choose you as their mentee. Then over the course of two months they will work with you to polish your manuscript before a chance to pitch it to agents.

TL;DR version: Work closely with a rad person who will give you the feedback you need, and get ahead of the agent slush pile.

Back to the topic of the Pitch Wars community. Holy hell these people are amazing. On the mentor side, these are people who have their own deadlines and careers to worry about (plus personal lives) and they dedicate a massive amount of time to help out unpublished authors. WTAF. It’s amazing. They treat your writing with such care and respect. I adore them all.

On the potential mentee side of things, you have the chance to e-meet a ton of people in about the same stage as you in your writing career. Most are unpublished and all have at least one completed book. The writers represent a wide variety of genres. Folks are beyond supportive and kind. It’s easy to find people who write the same genre and age group as you to make deeper connections.

Over the past two weeks I’ve made incredible new friends, critique partners, been a cheerleader, been cheered for, gotten to know mentors and potential mentees. In other words…

I’ve found my tribe.

This has been an intense two weeks for me outside of writing. I have to put my beloved dog, Rufus, down and I’ve had my three-year cancer remission scans (still waiting for results as I write this). The Pitch Wars community has staggered me with their support and love. Perfect strangers who care. I’m in awe.

Rufus <3

Rufus <3

There have been innumerable benefits to jumping in (albeit way late) to the Pitch Wars community, including:

  1. Finding people who empathize with you on your writing journey. These people *get* what you’re going through and how you feel. They want to give you nothing but love and support.
  2. Having a generous and massive community to ask questions or advice. While everyone is at a similar stage in their journey, we all have different experience and expertise. For example, I asked a question on the hashtag about resources for learning how to represent diversity better in my writing and bam! People sent me lots of amazing resources.
  3. Identifying potential critique partners and beta readers. Some folks created a Facebook group for any potential mentee to join. I met some other adult/new adult romance writers in there and swapped first chapters and queries. It was so helpful to have feedback from other people! I made a Facebook group specifically for adult/new adult romance writer 2016 Pitch Wars mentees and it’s been great already. I look forward to getting to know these people better, sharing our work, brainstorming, cheerleading, and being better writers. Somehow swapping with Pitch Wars folks feels a little less cold call-y than other CP searching methods.
  4. Making new friends who you can support (and who will support you) on your writing journey. I know this post is basically a gush about this point, but it’s true. Until you’ve participated in the Pitch Wars community, it’s difficult to understand how incredible these people are and how much support you get.

Everyone has the goal of being chosen as a mentee, but that is the cherry on top of an already delicious cake. It’s like a rainbow vanilla cake with cherry frosting. Oh and a slice of German chocolate cake. Ooh and coconut cake. Wait! Can’t forget the yellow cake with chocolate frosting. MMM CAKE.

If you are considering Pitch Wars for next year, please give it a try. In two weeks it has made a huge difference in my life. I have new friends. I have writers at a similar career and skill level stage to share work with (and get feedback from). I am more confident in my writing. I’m more comfortable in giving and receiving feedback. I’ve had more practice in revising. I’ve learned I can write and revise as a quick speed.  I’ve sent a book to a stranger. That latter feels like a hella huge step to me! My first real query. *g*

To members of the Pitch Wars community, thank you! I adore you all and best of luck in your writing journey!

To those considering trying Pitch Wars next time, DO IT. DOOOO IIIIIIIT.

Pitch Wars: #pimpmybio

Oh hey. ‘Sup. I see you checkin’ me out. How you doin’?

I’m Lisa, a hopeful mentee for the 2016 #pitchwars. I write contemporary adult romance set in Scotland, peppered with some lolz.

*wipes drool*

Still reading? Sweet. Let me tell you a bit more about myself, what I write, what I’m looking for, and what you can expect from me as a mentee.

About me (stuff fit for public consumption…)

Personality: Humor is the key to my heart. I like to laugh. I like to make others laugh. I’m loyal and dedicated.

Day job: I work as the PR person for a mid-sized university (social media and media relations). I do a lot of non-fiction writing through that. I’m also working on a master’s degree in archaeology. I’m sure that’ll become part of my fiction repertoire at some point.

Likes: I adore unicorns, rainbows, Justin Trudeau, and traveling. The Olympic Peninsula in Washington is my favorite place to go when I can’t get to Scotland. C’mon, when is someone going to invent teleportation?! I’m a sucker for crime dramas like Law & Order SVU and any UK ones.

^ Yup.

I was recently sorted into Slytherin via Pottermore. I’m now in therapy – questioning my entire life.

I’m a cancer survivor and that seems to keep cropping up in my books. But in the inspirational “kick cancer’s ass” sort of way – not the “oh my god this is too sad, why am I reading something so sad when real life is awful enough” sort of way. Coming up on my three year remission anniversary assuming my tests come back clear next month *crosses fingers, toes, eyes and legs* *falls over* Don’t try that while standing.


Oh hey, that’s me as a chemo baldie. Obligatory photo of my soft coated wheaten terrier, Rufus.

902444_700999150438_1361101694_o (1)

^ Before I lost my hair I had my long hair cut into a mullet. This may help you understand my sense of humor. Not pictured: pack of cigs rolled up in my Bob Seger t-shirt sleeve.


What I write

Novel-length contemporary romance of about 90,000 words with an HEA. I’m also testing the waters of writing romance short stories. Hoping that will help me learn to write tighter. I’ve completed the first book in a series set in Scotland and am nearly done with the second. Book one is what I’m submitting to this amazing contest.

BEST LAID PLANS IN SCOTLAND: An American woman leaves her cheating boyfriend behind to serve as maid of honor for her oldest friend. Destination wedding in Scotland, holla! Guests of the intimate wedding spend a week on a private tour of Western Scotland before the festivities. Cue: sexy Scottish tour guide hero. One week. Small bus. Beautiful landscapes. Meow.

Basically, I’m writing the books I want to live, err, read. The ones that let me explore fantasies of traveling to Scotland and meeting a hunky, wonderful man. With a panty dropping accent, of course. I want my books to pack an emotional punch while being humorous. I want ya to laugh, cry, laugh again then go out and book airfare to Scotland because you *absolutely* have to see it for yourself. I mean, c’mon, look at this place:


*No filter. Photo I snapped in Ullapool last September. The header of my website is also a pic I took. THIS IS A REAL PLACE PEOPLE. NOT PHOTOSHOPPED.


What I’m looking for in a mentor

Someone who will be straight with me. I want to make this romance publishing career dream a reality. I’m comfortable with direct feedback, in fact, I embrace it. I know I have a lot to learn and I’m desperate for a fresh perspective and guidance. I want someone to be friends with as much as to be mentored by. This seems like an incredible community and I’m in it for the long-haul. I’d love to make some lasting relationships and build a support network.

I’m currently working with a mentor over the summer on a variety of things related to my fiction writing (through Savvy Author’s mentor program). See? I’m serious about this stuff, yo. The mentor-mentee relationship works well for me. I’m ready to take this book to the next level with the Pitch Wars mentor of my dreams to get this MS ready for prime time. Halp pweeeeez!

Specific areas I’d love extra support in: pacing, characterization, deep POV, sexual tension, realistic dialogue (especially of male characters), better incorporation of diversity (of any form).


What you can expect from me as a mentee

I’ll work hard. I’ll put in the time and effort. I’ll listen to what you have to say and take your ideas and feedback seriously. I’ll bust my ass. I’ll be a good friend and support for you too! I’ll send you gifs and try to make you laugh.

Let’s do this.

* * *

Pssst, hey mentors I submit to (or submitted if you’re reading this after Aug. 3), I have a special message for you.

BEST LAID PLANS IN SCOTLAND is the first book I finished. And by finished I mean took it beyond a dialogue heavy draft, pushed through the sagging middle, really dove head first in to revisions. I’ve been writing off and on for a while, but life experience has led me to this point. I have the drive and desire to do this. I’m there. I understand it’s going to be brutal. It won’t be easy. I will likely cry regularly throughout my career.

I’m still game.

My polish of this MS is no where near perfect. I’ve gone through and color coded the whole thing for dialogue, narrative, internal dialogue, action, and visceral action/emotion. This helped me trim down areas that were overwhelming and beef up parts that were scarce. I did a find-replace to change all kinds of weak words (felt, seemed, was, just), -ing words, and -ly words to caps so I could spot them (and cry over how much I rely on them). I have gone line-by-line through it to try and tighten, show more than tell, clean up those lazy words, and more. I say this to tell you that while revision is hard and scares me, I put the sweat in.

With that said, I still need help. In many ways I know where I need help and I am desperate for someone with more experience to help me see how things can be fixed. I’ve been so far in the weeds that I can’t see the forest (did I use that metaphor right?). I’m a fast learner and when someone points things out I am good about remembering and improving. For example, the mentor I mentioned above taught me about deep POV. She showed me a few places where I could use it – I learned it – then incorporated it in the rest of the book (still could be better though).

I would love your opinions and suggestions to help me improve areas like:
-picking up the pace
-upping the stakes
-improving GMC to boost tension
-torturing my characters more
-increasing sexual tension
-identifying my crutches (my characters nod, grin and smile too much and I start too many sentences with “he” or “she”)

The list continues. What I’m getting at is – I know I need help. I want your help. I have the attitude, dedication and heart to take this seriously. I have the time to dedicate to revisions during the contest period. I’ve made timelines, done character worksheets, created beat sheets – but it’s so in my head I’m not sure what’s coming across the page well. That’s where you come in with your smexy brain and good ideas.

I want this. I’m ready.

^ My game face.



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