This Is (Still) The PitchWars Mentor You’re Looking For

Thanks for checking out my bio. I can’t wait to read your awesome words when the submission round starts. My wish list has changed, so please review carefully, even if you submitted to me last year.

Here’s the basic bio: 

Laura Heffernan is living proof that watching too much TV can pay off. When not watching total strangers participate in arranged marriages, drag racing queens, or cooking competitions, Laura enjoys travel, baking, board games, helping with writing contests, and seeking new experiences. She’s ecstatic to be mentoring PitchWars this year for the second time. Laura is represented by Michelle Richter at Fuse Literary.


This is my second year mentoring Pitch Wars, but I’m a hardcore contest junkie. I am one of the hosts of PitchSlam, QueryKombat, and Nightmare on Query Street. Three of my Query Kombat entries got agents this year before the contest even ended. 

I’ve read slush and mentored in those contests, NestPitch, and Sun vs. Snow. That’s thousands of queries and first pages. On top of that, I interned for an agent who represents adult fiction for several months. I have a good idea of what works, what doesn’t work, and what agents are looking for. I’m publishing a three book series starting next year. (This sounds like shameless self-promotion, but if you take a look at the first book, you get a pretty good indicator of at least one thing I like to read.)

Last year, I wound up with three mentees, all of whom did well in the agent round. They’re even still speaking to me after I made them remove the to be verbs from their manuscripts! (Well, I let them keep a few. But not many.)

  • Finding where your story begins.
  • Big picture issues. Plot holes, pacing, avoiding the saggy middle.
  • I’m not afraid to try things that seem terrifying.
  • I call this move “the Faceplant.” (I swear, I’m holding it.)
  • Crafting a pitch to get agent attention.
  • Tightening language. Reducing unnecessary words and filtering. Finding your filler words.

  • Adult/NA fiction. Any manuscripts in other categories or non-fiction will be deleted unread.
  • Chick-lit/romantic comedies. Life is short, I like to read things that make me laugh. Send me your light/funny WF.
  • Women’s fiction. This means that the primary focus of the story is on the main character’s emotional journey. WF can have a romantic subplot, but the book should be about the character. 
  • Commercial/upmarket fiction. Basically like the above, except the main character doesn’t have to be female. 
  • Romance. My tastes tend to run more toward historical than contemporary, but send me likable characters and a bit of plot, and I’m in. 
    • No paranormal romance or romantic suspense. 
    • All types of consensual relationships accepted. M/M, F/F, M/F, genderqueer, polyamorous, etc. Whatever you’ve got with consenting adults works for me.
  • Edited, polished manuscripts. I’ve posted many blogs with writing tips. Read through them with an eye toward how to improve your manuscript before submitting. 
  • Diversity! A book full of people just like me isn’t all that realistic, and since I’m not looking for SF/F, that’s a problem. Not that I’m not awesome. All types of diversity are welcome: people of color, physically and mentally disabled characters, and LGBT* characters.
  • Appropriate word counts. If your manuscript is under 60,000 words or over 100,000, seriously consider doing another editing pass before the submission period starts.
  • I like smart characters in interesting professions. (But please try to SHOW the MC’s intelligence rather than TELLING me “Genius Temperance Brennan…” If you’re calling your MC a genius, my expectations soar.) I won’t pass on something just because the MC is a lawyer, a chef, or a party planner, but those things come up a lot in romance/women’s fiction.
  • Make sure you’ve done your research. If your main character is a lawyer or a cop, and the legal stuff is wrong, I won’t be able to read it. (And if you have a background relevant to your MS, make sure your query tells me what it is.)
  • I am ALSO looking for people who are easy to work with, positive, upbeat and who genuinely want help improving. If you want someone to tell you the book is perfect, call your best friend or your mom. That’s not what this contest is about.
  • All POV/tenses are fine. 


  • Any genre that’s not listed above. That includes, but is not limited to, fantasy, sci-fi, thrillers, mysteries, romantic suspense, literary fiction, westerns, and historical fiction. 
  • I’m not entirely clear what “military” fiction is, so please don’t send me that. 
  • YA, MG, chapter, or picture books. 
  • Non-fiction.
  • NO rape as a plot point.
  • NO abused women.
  • Do not send me anything that portrays being LGBT* as a bad thing. 
  • NO inspirational or religious-themed manuscripts.
  • No slave/master or Nazi/Jew romances. All characters must be able to consent. In fact, I don’t want any slaveowner or Nazi heroes, period. 
  • Anything that’s already been published. A self-published book is published. Agents won’t take these books, which means they’re not right for this contest. (But good luck, because self-publishing is hard work.)
  • I’m not interested in writers who bash traditional publishing on Twitter, who vent negativity toward the process or complain about contests/mentors. 
  • If I’ve mentored/read your manuscript before, you’re better off getting a new set of eyes and choosing other mentors. You’re welcome to submit a different manuscript to me. It’s OK if I’ve done a free query or first chapter critique, but I prefer you submit to someone else if I did a paid critique for you.

  • World-building. I don’t read fantasy or sci-fi. I read very little historical that isn’t Regency romances. I’m not the best mentor to help you build your world.
  • Jokes. I love funny books, and I’ll tell you what makes me laugh, but I’m afraid you’ll have to write your own.
  • Coddling. I’m not your mom. I’ll give you feedback and answer clarifying questions, but I’m not going to hold your hand while you make all the changes. I don’t expect you to email me every page as you work on it. I will have your back and help you any way I can, but you have to be willing to do the work. I won’t be checking in every day.
  • Setting. If you happened to notice that I didn’t do the setting workshop (and I’m sure you didn’t), it’s because this is not one of my particular strengths. If you’ve got something setting-heavy with a lot of description (or that needs more), I may not be the best fit for you and your manuscript.
  • Dirty Talk. I’m not a fan, and can’t help you add it to your romance.
  • Tear-jerkers. Life is sad. I read to escape. I can enjoy sadder books, but when we’re talking about something I’m going to read at least 2-3 times over a few months, happy books are better for me. That doesn’t mean you need a Happily Ever After (outside of romance). I just don’t want to cry. Example: I love Thelma and Louise. I can’t stand Romeo and Juliet.
My favorite authors in genres I’m accepting include: Sophie Kinsella, Emily Giffin, Michelle Gorman, early Jane Green (think Mr. Maybe or Babyville), Kristin Hannah, Leah Marie Brown, Amy Reichert, Allison Winn Scotch, A.J. Pine, Brighton Walsh, and Renee Bernard.

Shows I never miss include Married at First Sight, UnREAL, RuPaul’s Drag Race, The Flash, and Scandal. Yes, that’s a lot of reality shows (This should not surprise anyone who has heard of my book). I’ll watch almost any superhero movie (old or new), I saw Rent! live seven times, I like Playstation Lego games, board games, yoga, spinning, pole fitness, chocolate chip cookie dough, and traveling with my husband. There are more gay romances than straight on my DVD rack. I never got used to saying Blu-ray instead of DVD (and have stopped trying).

If you have questions about whether something falls into my wish list, feel free to leave me a comment or ask me on Twitter. No pre-pitching! A legitimate question is, “Would you maybe be interested in a romance that takes place on a camping trip?” A pre-pitch would be, “When Wilma agreed to go camping with Fred, she never dreamed he’d make her heart Bam-Bam and ultimately smash it into Pebbles.”

Good luck with your submissions! Now head on back to the blog hop.

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  1. Thanks so much for doing this. If I might ask for some clarification: would you consider Hist ROM set in the Old West (not a genre western)? And what about a plot that involves healing from abuse or rape that happened in the past (before the story starts)? Non-graphic & handled with empathy.

  2. Would you be interested in historical romance set during WW2? Since you expressed some uncertainty about "military" fiction, I wasn't sure if the sections from the bomber pilot hero's POV would appeal or not.

    • Military fiction is actually a type of futuristic SF (I think). But for historical, I really prefer books set before the 1900s.

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