Pitch Wars 2018 Wish List #TeamTwueWuv

I’m so excited to be back for my FOURTH year mentoring Pitch Wars!!

I love this community, and I look forward to bringing someone new into #TeamTwueWuv. We are happy family.

This year, my very first mentee, Laura Elizabeth, will be helping me, which is a special thrill for me.  You can follow her on Twitter here: @lauraeliz529.


  • First and foremost, I’m an author, just like you.
  • My first two published novels SOME KIND OF MAGIC and A CRAZY KIND OF LOVE released with Kensington in 2017. My next book DATING BY THE BOOK is scheduled to release in July 2019. You can also check out all my as yet unsold wallflower books here.
  • I’ve entered many a contest starting in 2014, but I found my agent the old-fashioned way–through querying. I queried three novels before I found a home at Dystel and Goderich. I learned a lot along the way, and I’ll be more than happy to share whatever I’ve gleaned.
  • I was a Pitch Wars mentee in 2014, so I know what it’s like to be on the other side of this contest, checking out blogs, hoping to find a love connection, waiting nauseously for my edit letter, revising like a mad woman.
  • I’ve been a Pitch Wars mentor in 2015, 2016, and 2017. I was also a slush reader for Pitch Slam, a judge for Query Kombat in 2015, and a mentor for Pitch Madness in 2017. I have a ton of posts you can read about those experiences if you dig around my blog.
  • In 3 years of Pitch Wars, I’ve worked with six mentees (hell yeah, wild cards!) all of whom are wicked talented. I get to brag that TWO of my former mentees – Gwynne Jackson and Amy Kathryn Jones – were RWA Golden Heart Finalists this year! Congrats! My first mentee, Laura Elizabeth won the Rosemary in 2017. And another former mentee, Aty Besham, will be a mentor this year! I’m seriously proud of everyone I’ve ever mentored because they are the best.
  • I currently work as a computer programmer, but once upon a time, I was an academic and am ABD (PhD all but disseration) in French Literature which means I spent a decade of my life analyzing literature. I’ve worked as a copy editor for literary journals. I’ve been writing in some capacity as long as I can remember, and I read and read and read.  I can turn an MS around quickly and give you both high praise and necessary hard truths, both big picture feedback and nitpicky line edits. I like to do this in rounds so as not to overwhelm.
  • And if I pick you, I’ll be ready to throw down for you.

If you’re unfamiliar with Pitch Wars, check out the Pitch Wars website for an explanation and a breakdown of the submission guidelines, dates, and other rules.

You can also hit me up on Twitter @maryannmarlowe to say hi, send me pics, or ask me questions.



I’m on the look out for Adult and New Adult books with SEXY ROMANCE. I want leads with great chemistry who ultimately get it on. And by get it on, I mean, on the page. Ain’t got no time for Fade to Black. If you could call your romance, “sweet” or “inspirational,” I’m not the right mentor for you.

NOTE: If your book doesn’t end with an HEA or an HFN, it isn’t a romance. HFN means the couple is together, happily, at least right now. (Maybe in book 2 they aren’t, but this book ends optimistically.) If you have a cliffhanger or your couples are in limbo at the end of your novel, I’m not the right mentor for you, unless you’re willing to rework your ending. The only exception here might be for fantasy intended to be a trilogy, but I still expect the book to come to a satisfying conclusion even if a larger arc is left open-ended.


Contemporary Romance / Romantic Comedy

My preference is sexy contemporary romance, romantic comedy, or romantic chick lit. In these genres, if you’re writing 3 flames or higher and you’ve got an HEA, I have almost no limitations on what I’m willing to accept, provided it’s Adult or New Adult. Think The Kiss Quotient or The Hating Game. I’m happy to take Erotic Romance, too, but not straight Erotica. Think Tangled. I don’t want Women’s Fiction unless it’s actually super sexy romance in disguise. Also, I’m not interested in “category romance” which tends to be much shorter. Word count for contemporary romance should fall between 70-90k more or less.

I love all kinds of Romance tropes done well or subverted completely. I’m a sucker for enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, co-workers to lovers, strangers to lovers, lovers to lovers. Are you spotting a trend?

Bring me your perfect boyfriend/girlfriend or your damaged bad boy/girl. I love alphas, betas, anti-heroes, traditional heroes (just not superheroes), rich, poor, rock star, diamond in the rough, whatever you got. Surprise me.

Stuff I particularly like: 

  • Geeky premises — gamers, developers, fandoms, etc. For some reason I almost never get these. It makes me cry.
  • Musicians. I’ve mentored two rock romances, but you should know I desperately try to resist this weakness. I pretty much fail in this attempt.
  • Foreign settings, the more unusual the better. Immerse me in a new world.
  • All the LGBT — see below for more on this.

Hey, I warned you about the kissing!

Stuff I’m not keen on:

  • Summer/winter romances with a huge age gap.
  • Dual timeline romance
  • M/F Historical
  • M/F Romantic Suspense
  • Sexual assault
  • Cheating

Fantasy Romance

Note: that says Fantasy ROMANCE. I love A Game of Thrones and The Name of the Wind, but I don’t want to mentor non-romance fantasy.

The emphasis is still on super steamy romance here, please. Think A Court of Mist and Fury. Or maybe Princess Bride but with sex! If you have that, I want that.

Stuff I particularly like: 

  • Contemporary/urban (not paranormal)
  • High fantasy
  • Portal fantasy
  • Retellings
  • Magical realism
  • Near future
  • Dystopian/Utopian
  • Post-Apocalyptic (though somehow … sexy?)
  • Alternate Earth
  • Second world gaming like Sword Art Online or Ready Player One
  • Space opera (not heavy sci fi — more fantasy and characters and romance, less science if you will)
  • Did I miss something? Ask me on Twitter!

Stuff I’m not keen on:

  • Paranormal
  • Angels/Demons
  • Other supernatural creatures
  • Superheroes
  • Zombies (Love them on my TV. Have yet to find them compelling in print.)
  • Pure science fiction


LGBT … anything

I want more or less any genre if it has a super sexy central romance between LGBT main characters.

Why am I widening my wishlist for LGBT submissions? Because I always ask for LGBT entries, and last year out of 107 submissions, I got 7 LGBT entries. Of the 6 mentees I’ve worked with, 3 were LGBT. I’m serious about being grabby hands for LGBT MS.

NOTE: Please please please be aware that your best bet is always going to be with a mentor specifically looking for your genre. But if you can’t figure out which mentor to stick in the fourth slot for LGBT smoking hot historical, think of meeeeeee!

(But for your LGBT contemp romance and fantasy romance, think of me first!! I want it alllllll.)

General preferences:

I want books that are sex positive, diversity of sexual orientation positive, diversity of gender positive, diversity of race positive, diversity of religion positive, diversity of nationality positive, and diversity of abilities positive. If that sounds like a political statement, it’s not. I’m not looking for books that preach, but basic respect for others shouldn’t be up for debate. I’m happy to work with authors who fit any of the above demographic and on books that fit any demographic. Just send me good books.

Similarly,  while I want to know if a book is #ownvoices, I don’t expect authors to “stay in their lane” provided they are willing to do the requisite research to get a differing point of view as accurate as possible. But when writing outside your own experience, the question should always be asked: Why am I the person who should be writing this?


But above all, I want great writing. I look for voice and compelling characters and general competence when it comes to putting words together in a pleasing manner. I don’t tend to teach how to improve basics. So you may wonder, what good am I? I like to help with structure, plotting, and general craft. If you keep running into issues of pacing or emotional pay off or saggy middles, those are the areas where I hope I can guide someone.

Show me your voice, and make me feel like I can settle in for a page-turning ride. Make me laugh or make me cry. Just so long as you make me really care about your characters and root for their happy ever after.

If I like what I’m reading, like get to the end of your chapter and start shaking my laptop to see if it knocks out more pages, I’ll likely be asking you for a partial to see how things continue. I may follow up with a request for a full. Just FYI, I do many, many rounds through my inbox, so don’t lose hope if you don’t hear from me immediately after submitting. It takes a lot of time to dig through the avalanche, and I’m usually still requesting stuff up to the last minute. Keep the faith!

Genres I really do not want*

Mystery/crime-based fiction
Sci Fi
M/F Historical

TRIGGER WARNING: I do not want anything based in a true life tragedy, such as a terrorist event or school shooting, unless it happened so long ago anyone affected by it is no longer around to read it. Having survived such an event, it is not something I want to read as the basis of a romance.

*See above caveats regarding LGBT. Hey – I know. It seems unfair that a wishlist can make exceptions for this or that, but it’s like this. My MIL, she’s really nice, but she’s never asked me what I want for Christmas. And so, she gets me things I won’t ever wear. If she’d just ask me, I’d say, “Yeah, stop buying me yellow sweaters because I don’t wear them.” It would save her some money and me some angst about what the fuck to do with a drawer full of unwanted, just-gifted mustard yellow sweaters. Now, let’s say she gave me a yellow CASHMERE sweater? I’d wear the fuck out of that. Cashmere is pretty damn comfy. Wishlists are mentors telling you, “Don’t buy me a yellow sweater.” Or a turtleneck, frankly. You’ll just waste your submission on someone who isn’t likely to pick you. And believe us when we say, “UNLESS….” We’re trying to help you navigate us and find a love match. Honest.

My editing style

I like to read through a first time to help identify the overarching issues with plot, tension, character arc, chemistry, and your opening and closing. I’ll be sending an edit letter with my opinions on how you can tighten or re-arrange or slash and burn. I’ll also mark up your MS with in-line notes (and smiley faces) so you can zero in on trouble spots (and know where things are working because that’s also important).

Be prepared to do some extra-novel work, too. I’m likely to make you write a scene map or an outline. I’ll have you read articles on craft, beat sheets, and character journeys. We’ll compare these to what you’ve written and look at ways these tools can bring out the most in your novel.

Time permitting, I hope to read at least once more to vet the revision and also to give you line edits. In addition, I’ll be helping you hone your pitch and query to get you completely ready to hook an agent.

I hope this will be a partnership, but if I pick you, it means I think there’s work to be done. That means you can expect critical feedback that might hurt like a mofo. Please don’t submit to me if you’re not open to criticism or if you don’t want to do the work. I promise I’ll be open to your rational counter-arguments, but not heels-dug-in resistance to consider changes. There will be hundreds of applicants who are eager to improve their novels.

Also, I’ll be stalking you on twitter. Be kind. Be respectful of the other applicants, other mentors, traditional publishing in general, agents, people you don’t know from squat, etc. It’s a small community.

Please note: As a general rule, I *try* to follow anyone back who talks to me on Twitter. So say hi or wave at me, and I’ll try to follow you! (And if you don’t know what to say, shoot me a hot pic of your MC — or you know, any hot pic.) Please don’t read anything into it if I DO or DON’T follow you. It’s never a secret code that I’m reading your sub or planning to request or pick you or ask you out. It’s just a follow.

My communication style

I talk a lot as you can see, but almost always through writing. I’m not likely to phone or skype (though I’m learning to be better about that), but I respond psychotically fast via email and at normal speeds via Twitter. If you are socially awkward and have developed the perfectly normal hesitancy about irritating agents, which then translates into a fear of irritating me, you’ll have to get over it. We’ll be in constant communication. Hopefully I won’t irritate you.

More random stuff

Here’s a list of some of my favorite books pertinent to my wishlist:

Andre Aciman, Call Me By Your Name
KJ Charles, A Seditious Affair
Sara J Maas, A Court of Mist and Fury
Choderlos de Laclos, Les liaisons dangereuses
Sally Thorne, The Hating Game
Sophie Kinsella, Can You Keep a Secret
Emma Chase, Tangled
Rainbow Rowell, Carry On
Tiffany Reisz, The Siren


Other random things about me, not totally germane to my wishlist, but maybe it will help you decide if your MS is right for my particular …. idiom:

Next to writing, maybe ahead of writing, I’m a music freak. Like, embarrassingly so. I currently work as a computer programmer and have my geek card. I have a Zelda addiction. I love Monty Python, Doctor Who, IT Crowd, Community, Parks and Rec, Gilmore Girls, This Is Us, Hamilton, Douglas Adams, and lots of other nerdy comedy. I also love all things Pixar. I read a ton of fantasy and wish I could write it, but alas, I keep trying to make everyone kiss. I’ve lived in a dozen states and several countries. I love to travel. I love foreign languages and books/movies that transport me. I speak French and German, and I spent the last year learning Spanish solely to be able to be able to sing along convincingly to the only version of Despacito that matters (hint, there’s no Canadian involved) and now have an addiction to Reggaeton.

I also love Chris Pratt. He is the best Chris. I shall brook no argument.

You can find out a little more about me (more books I love, more pop culture stuff I’m into) here. Click around my site — I have a bunch of tips on contests, query writing, PitchWars, etc.

And good luck! I hope to see you in my inbox!

2018 Adult Mentors

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