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.
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 third time.
Laura is represented by Michelle Richter at Fuse Literary.
This is my third year mentoring Pitch Wars. I’m a hardcore contest junkie. I help host PitchSlam, QueryKombat, and Nightmare on Query Street, and I mentor Sun vs. Snow. I’ve also helped with NestPitch and New Agent. That’s a lot of contests. I have read a couple thousand queries and first pages. Plus, I interned for an agent who represents women’s fiction.
I have a good idea of what works, what doesn’t work, and what agents are looking for. I’m also an excellent editor and will put tons of comments all over your manuscript. As far as feedback style goes, I’m a big fan of the compliment sandwich. I’ll tell you what doesn’t work, but also what does. I try not to be mean. And I’ll help you brainstorm ways to fix things (I won’t fix it for you).
All of my prior mentees are 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.) My 2016 mentee, the amazing Tobey Forney is represented by Liz Parker at Inkwell Management, and I can’t wait for the world to read this gorgeous manuscript.
I’m a published author. If you take a look at my books, you get a pretty good indicator of one type of thing I like to read.
- Finding where your story begins.
- Big picture issues. Plot holes, pacing, avoiding the saggy middle.
- Finding the genre that best fits your story.
- Crafting a pitch to get agent attention.
- Tightening language. Reducing unnecessary words and filtering. Finding your filler words. If your writing style is more wordy, we may not be the best fit.
- Commas. Finding typos.
WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR:
- Adult/NA. Anything else will be deleted unread.
- Romantic comedies (formerly known as “chick lit”). Life is short, I like to read things that make me laugh. Send me your light/funny stories.
- All types of consensual relationships are welcome. M/M, F/F, M/F, genderqueer, polyamorous, etc. Whatever you’ve got with consenting adults works for me.
- 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 (and many do), but the book should be about the female main character.
- My preference is for light, fun stories. Help me escape into your words. But it’s a big genre, and I read widely within it. Just check my do not want list.
- The term “women’s fiction” is not limited to those assigned as female at birth.
- Upmarket is fine, but if it’s super literary, another mentor might be a better fit.
- No historical this year.
- Contemporary Romance. This year, I’m keeping it light and fluffy. There are a ton of romance mentors, but I very much prefer to laugh rather than to cry. No tear jerkers. Contemporary only. I’m afraid I’m not taking historical romance. I tend to prefer women’s fiction over romance, which means I’m more likely to pick a romance if it has a WF-type feel to it.
- Single or dual POV is fine. Past or present tense. (I’ve never seen a book written in future tense, and that feels like it would be weird, but if you wrote it, I’m curious.)
- LGBT+ pairings are welcome.
- Erotic Romance is generally okay, but with the above caveats.
- BDSM and Polyamory are also fine. Just make sure it’s a positive, functional relationship. BDSM is not abuse. Abuse is not sexy.
- Genre-straddlers: Don’t know if your book is WF, romance, or rom com? No problem! Send it to me and we’ll work out the best fit for the story.
- For all of the above genres:
- 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, LGBT+ characters, religious minorities, etc.
- Books with elements of SF/F are fine. Think The Time Traveller’s Wife or The Status of All Things. I adore contemporary books with magical elements. But keep it light.
- A mysterious subplot within a WF or romance is fine.
- If your book has any sort of a board game or convention or LARP or other geeky thing as a plot, I wants to read it. Rom com, romance, WF, gimmee gimmee gimmee. I am the mentor you’re looking for.
- Do your characters do pole fitness or aerial yoga? There’s only one adult/NA mentor who publicly admits to these things, and you’re already reading her blog.
- If your book is similar to Kristen Rockaway’s The Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the World or Ricki Schultz’s Mr. Right-Swipe, I want to read it.
- Give me strong women! This damsel is not in distress (or when she is, she can save herself).
- Women in STEM are my bag.
- My husband is Canadian. Send me your men with accents, foreign men, books set in countries other than the U.S.
- Send me your beta heroes. Alphas are fine, but I tend much more toward the sweet, sensitive guy than the military man or cop.
- I love The West Wing and The Newsroom. Do with that information what you will.
- I’d love to read an updated twist on Pygmalion, especially if it’s gender-swapped. This is one of my favorite old stories. (Heck, I’d probably read an updated twist on Medea, too, but am not sure how anyone would pull that off for a 2017 audience.)
- Healthy relationships, please. If your love interest’s defining characteristic is that he refuses to take no for an answer and keeps coming back when the main character tells him no, I’m not the mentor for you. (Unless you revise this before the sub window opens.) (See also: why I will never like the Buffy/Spike episodes.)
- Enthusiastic consent is a big plus if you’re writing sexy scenes.
- If you have a dystopian WF or romcom, that would make me unbelievably happy.
- I like smart characters in interesting professions. I won’t pass on something because the MC is a lawyer, a chef, or a party planner, but those things come up a lot in romance/women’s fiction. Think outside the box.
- As a card-carrying Mensa member, when you tell me your character is a genius, that means something very specific. Your character has to live up to my expectations. But I do love books that show me an intelligent main character. (I also love Shopaholic, though, so don’t think you have to write a smarty pants to hook 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
WHAT I’M NOT LOOKING FOR:
- Any genre not listed above. That includes, fantasy, sci-fi, thrillers, horror, mysteries, literary fiction, westerns, and historical.
- YA, MG, chapter, or picture books.
- Please do not send me books about abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth, infertility, IVF, characters trying to get pregnant, etc. Even if it’s not a major plot point. These are important topics, and there are some excellent books about them, but I am not the target audience.
- I’m honestly not the best fit for books about motherhood. It’s fine if your characters are parents, but when the plot revolves around the children or what it’s like to have kids or the funny things about pregnancy–I have no frame of reference. I won’t get your jokes.
- If your ultimate goal is to make readers cry, I’m not your target audience.
- I’m not really into family sagas or multi-generational stories. Family secrets revealed when a family member died or dark pasts might be more suited to another mentor.
- NO books about cancer, please. I’d prefer to avoid terminal illness.
- If your main character is a proud pothead or struggling with addiction, I’m not the best fit.
- I’m only looking for books with human POV characters (well, okay, I might consider a robot if it were like Small Wonder). No vampires, werecreatures of any kind, pets, zoo animals, aliens, unicorns, zombies…. I want adult humans.
- If your only POV character is a child/teen or male, I may not be the best fit. I want my women’s fiction to be about adult women. And I’m not a big fan of books that start when the MC is young and span decades.
- NO rape or abused women. Even if the book is about escaping the abuse and starting over. Even if the book is uplifting. It’s just not something I personally want to read.
- Do not send me anything that portrays being LGBT+ as a bad thing.
- NO inspirational or religious-themed manuscripts.
- NO cliffhangers. When I got to the end of Lord of the Rings after three hours in the theatre only to find that NOTHING HAPPENED, I was pissed. I’m still annoyed. You can leave threads open for a sequel, but I want a complete story. If your main character walks around for 300 pages and then stops at the top of a hill and goes, “Oh, hey! More walking!”, I will drive to your house and hit you with your manuscript. (© Michael Mammay) (See also: why I will ask you for a synopsis.)
- NO slave/master or Nazi/Jew romances. All characters must be able to consent. In fact, I don’t want any slave owner or Nazi heroes, period. Since I’m not accepting historical, this shouldn’t be an issue, but the world is a flaming dumpster, so I want to be clear.
- 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. There’s a time and a place to let off some steam, and that’s in private.
- If I’ve critiqued/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 or if we’re friends.
- If you support Trump, we’re not a good match. Also, if you voted for McConnell or Ryan, you can’t sit with us.
OTHER THINGS I LIKE:
Shows I never miss include Married at First Sight, UnREAL, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Are You the One?, 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).
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.
* For the colorblind: the word “because ” appears in red above.