Our team Pitch Wars wishlist!

wish list

Hello! It’s us, your favorites (shh, we’re totally your favorites, right?), R.K. and Victoria.

We’re very excited to be Pitch Wars mentors this year. And because we know you want to get down to the good part, we’ll skip the rest of the niceties and just list what we’re looking for this year.

To start off, we are mentoring Adult and New Adult FictionAlso, if your adult book could conceivably also appeal to YA readers, send it to us, because Victoria in particular loves books with crossover appeal.

(Please note: if you submit New Adult fiction, we will very very likely ask you to ultimately revise and query it as either Adult or Young Adult, depending on which is a better fit for your book. This isn’t because we don’t adore books with college-aged protagonists, but because New Adult doesn’t exist in speculative fiction.)

genres we want_ (1)Fantasy

  • Science fantasy
  • Epic fantasy
  • Historical fantasy (and alternate history fantasy)
  • Military fantasy
  • Contemporary fantasy
  • Grimdark (But without the fridging and gratuitous rape. And also with women. And gays who don’t die.)

Soft sci-fi

Magical realism and contemporary with speculative elements

Thrillers (Especially speculative thrillers with elements of fantasy or SF)

Literary Fiction (Particularly speculative literary fiction)

genres we want_ (3)

  • Political subversion
  • Revolution stories
    • That don’t center around white saviors
  • High concept stories
  • Non-western settings and characters
  • Enemies-to-lovers, and especially villain love interests
    • Note: in enemies-to-lovers, we especially love it when they’re enemies over something actually important, like drastically different political ideologies or one of them tried to kill the other one
  • Subverting common tropes (like “the chosen one” and “the wise mentor”)
  • Morally gray everything
  • Murder
    • In general, as a plot point
  • Military and political strategy
    • Just, pages and pages of it
      • It’s okay if it’s boring
        • We have advanced degrees
  • Unlikable characters, especially women
  • Anything faintly reminiscent of Les Mis or Hamilton
  • If there’s a romance (and there doesn’t have to be), we love a slow sloooow burn
  • Gender and racebent and now-with-more-gay retellings of common narratives
  • Retellings from the villain’s perspective
  • Intense mentor relationships
  • Rival student relationships
  • Act One enemies turned into allies
  • Parallel worlds
  • Psychopaths
    • In particular: characters you think are psychopaths, but actually the trinket they carry around is their one last reminder of someone they loved and lost
    • Victoria studies psychopaths professionally, so only if done w e l l and not just as an excuse for a cardboard cutout villain
  • Crossover appeal for both YA and adult markets
  • Doomed friendships/romances because one of them is a communist and the other works for the state police
    • Listen we know this is very specific
      • But for real
        • “Javert…we see each other plain….”

This is a non-exhaustive list, though, so if you don’t see your trope listed here, don’t assume we aren’t interested! Sometimes we don’t know what we want until we read it. (Victoria recently had this exact experience while reading The Traitor Baru Cormorant and it was religious.)

As long as it’s on our genre list and we don’t list it as an anti-want, assume we’re open to it. (And feel free to ask clarification questions on Twitter.)

We’re particularly excited by #ownvoices stories, and also for stories by marginalized creators (whether #ownvoices or not).

genres we want_ (4)

  • Hard sci-fi
  • Urban fantasy (note: not the same as contemporary fantasy!)
  • Time travel
  • White medieval fantasy
  • Paranormal romance
  • Portal fantasy

genres we want_ (5)

  • Our own books
    • We wrote them
    • We also like each other’s books
      • At least that’s what we tell each other…. 😉
  • TRAIL OF LIGHTNING by Rebecca Roanhorse
  • THE BLACK PRISM by Brent Weeks
  • The BROKEN EARTH trilogy by N.K. Jemison
  • The adult version of THE CRUEL PRINCE by Holly Black or SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo or NOW I DARKEN by Kiersten White
  • JADE CITY by Fonda Lee
  • HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES by Carmen Maria Machado
  • THE SECRET HISTORY by Donna Tartt
    • We have strong feelings about this book
    • Send us this book, but with magic
    • But gayer, and with more women
  • THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern
  • THE PAPER MAGICIAN by Charlie N Holmberg
  • DEATHLESS by Catherynne Valente
  • SABRIEL and LIRAEL by Garth Nix

genres we want_ (6)

  • We are Ravenclaws
    • As such, we are plotters
      • We will make you a plotter as well. You cannot escape it.
  • I (RK) write very thematically and look for big issues/motifs/high literary academic shit
    • And I (Victoria) write super character-focused almost literary fiction stuff, so I’ll be paying attention to your character arcs. I also like prose and line edits.
  • We will be straightforward in our criticism, and occasionally blunt. However, we also won’t shy away from telling you all about the things we LOVE in your book! You can expect a healthy mix of constructive feedback and cheerleading.
  • We’re happy to answer questions over email pretty much whenever…about your book and editing, about the industry and querying, whatever.
    • We will also do at least two Skype or Facetime calls–one at the beginning, and one later on when preparing for the agent round.
  • We will do at least two reads through your book–the initial edit letter and then a subsequent round of revision and comments. More (and line edits) if time allows!
  • We might ask you to do a LOT of work. You should be prepared for this if you submit to us.

genres we want_ (7)

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V i c t o r i a   L e e

Author of The Fever King 

website | twitter | insta

I grew up in Durham, North Carolina, where I spent twelve ascetic years as a vegetarian before discovering spicy chicken wings are, in fact, a delicacy. I’ve been a state finalist competitive pianist, a hitchhiker, a pizza connoisseur, an EMT, an expat in China and Sweden, and a science doctoral student. I’m also a bit of a snob about fancy whisky.

I write early in the morning, then spend the rest of the day trying to impress my border collie puppy and make my experiments work.

I’m represented by Holly Root and Taylor Haggerty at Root Literary, and live in Pennsylvania.



R.  F.   K u a n g

Author of The Poppy War

website | twitter | insta

I immigrated to the US from Guangzhou, China in 2000. I have a BA in International History from Georgetown, where my research focused on Chinese military strategy, collective trauma, and war memorials. I’m a 2018 Marshall Scholar, and I’ll be heading to the University of Cambridge this fall to do my MPhil in Chinese Studies.

Writing-wise, I graduated from Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2016 and attended the CSSF Novel Writing Workshop in 2017. I really love corgis, drinking nice wines I know nothing about, and rewatching The Office! When I’m not writing, I co-run the review blog Journey to the BEST! with Farah Naz Rishi.


If you’re excited about Team Gay Commie Mommies, we’d love it if you added our books on Goodreads! The Fever King  &  The Poppy War

We can’t wait to read your words!

xo, RK & Victoria


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12 thoughts on “Our team Pitch Wars wishlist!

  1. Pingback: Pitch Wars 2018
  2. Hi,

    Regarding your PitchWars wish lists and don’t want list.

    I am having difficulty finding a definite clear answer on this subject and I’m hoping you can shed some light.

    You say you don’t want “Urban fantasy” but then say: (note: not the same as contemporary fantasy!)
    What do you classify as Urban and what do you classify as contemporary. What is the difference that sets them apart?

    Thank you.

    1. I would say urban fantasy usually is grittier and involves “city as a character.” It always takes place in a large metropolitan city. I’d say it’s usually YA or paranormal romance, too, with the exception perhaps of the Dresden Files or the works of Charles de Lint. Another example of urban fantasy from YA is the works of Cassandra Clare, which are all urban fantasy.

      One feature of urban fantasy is that there’s often another paranormal species co-existing with humans, like werewolves or vampires. Often urban fantasy cities have a ‘second city’ of sorts–like a magical underground co-existing alongside the mundane non-magical world we all know, as opposed to magic being an accepted and normal part of everyday life.

      Contemporary fantasy is any fantasy that is set in the modern or near-modern world–not necessarily in a city, although it can be. Think Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay, The Magicians by Lev Grossman, most things by Holly Black, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Usually doesn’t involve a secret secondary society of magic-users hidden alongside the mundane world.

      1. Hello! Based on your definition of urban fantasy, it sounds like you would not be interested in my MS. It doesn’t feature heavy involvement from a city setting (and takes place in a small Hawaiian town) but it does have a non-human species living among humans. They are a humanoid spider creature that preys on humans but humans don’t typically realize they exist. The MS is also part psychological suspense with a human who devolves into a serial killer/murderer. Does this sound like the kind of modern age fantasy you could get on board with? Or is the species-living-among-humans-in-somewhat-of-a-secret-society too much like urban fantasy for you?


      2. I think wordpress ate my reply! This has happened a couple times already….

        Urban fantasy necessarily takes place in a large city, so if yours is in a small town, it definitely isn’t urban fantasy. It sounds like either low dark fantasy or paranormal, hybridized with psychological thriller. I wouldn’t necessarily rule it out. It would probably depend on how it read.

  3. I have to say that a lot of your want list fits my MS. But are you comfortable working with a total Slytherin who literally breaks out in hives just typing the word “outline”? How would you work with a pantser?
    I am open to trying a new system, but I want to be sure that when something doesn’t work I will be able to communicate my difficulties and brainstorm ways to make it work.

    1. Yeah, we’re fine with it…but you’d just have to expect that we’d probably ask you to at least give outlining a go! Not necessarily intense outlining, though. I can’t speak for RK, but at least for me, I’m a “connect the dots” writer. I have a plan of all the major plot and character points I want to hit, but I only decide the actual scenes that happen in between them about 10k words in advance of each chunk of scenes. I used to be a 100% pantser, too, and getting to this point was an exercise in trial and error. If plotting doesn’t end up working out for our mentee, that’s fine. Different strokes. But we’d probably at least want to give it a go–mostly because by the time it’s revision stage, even the most dedicated pantser needs to start deciding which scenes really help the story, what needs to be added, and what can be cut.

  4. Hi there, R.K. and Victoria.

    Your wish list is amazing, a real breath of fresh air. It seems as though you two mentors and my manuscript were made for one another… except for one element I don’t understand. Could you shed a little more light on why you’d ask writers to revise away from NA to Adult or YA? Is it due to the tropes inherent in New Adult, making the genre unsuitable for the spec-fic market? Or is it simply the ages of the characters not lining up with market expectations?

    You write that Victoria loves books with crossover appeal. I’m often told that my MS has crossover appeal because it features viewpoints from both teenagers and adults, and a mature theme mixed with a morally gray coming-of-age struggle. I intend to pitch/market my novel—focused on a teenage protagonist—as adult with crossover appeal. Should I be concerned?

    Thanks for your time.

    1. Oh man, I typed out this whole great long reply, and then wordpress ate it!

      The thing with new adult isn’t a character age problem, it’s more of a branding problem. Publishers aren’t really buying new adult SFF anymore–and “new adult” has come to mean “erotica with college-aged protagonists.”

      I (Victoria) actually ran into this a bit when we submitted THE FEVER KING to publishers. It has a 16-year-old protagonist, but mature themes and content. Basically…it was what new adult wanted to be. It wasn’t YA with crossover appeal. Wasn’t adult with crossover appeal. It was straight NA, right smack dab in the middle. And a lot of publishers came back and said they’d have trouble getting bookstores to stock it, because booksellers wouldn’t know whether to put it in the YA section or the adult section. It ultimately did find a home, but the experience made me realize the importance of making sure your book has a base category, even if it appeals to readers from the other category. So if a mentee wrote an NA book, we’d encourage them to revise as much as necessary to make it clearly adult or YA with crossover appeal, simply for branding purposes on the agent round.

      In the case of your book in particular, it sounds like it’s an adult book with crossover appeal already. YA books pretty much as a rule don’t have adult protagonists, so that makes your case an easier one!

      1. Thank you so much, Victoria, for your thoughtful and timely response. You’ve brightened up the sky above my head.

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