Pitch Wars Mentor Spotlight: Julia Nobel
In addition to being a Pitch Wars mentor for 2017, Julia Nobel is a 2016 mentee who writes primarily middle grade mystery. Her debut, The Order of Black Hollow Lane, was picked up by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky and is set for release in spring of 2019. She also offers craft-based webinars through her website at julianobel.com.
Hi, Julia, and welcome! As a writer of Middle Grade mysteries, do you have any tips for cultivating an authentic MG voice?
That’s such a great question! The MG voice can be so elusive and difficult to cultivate. But I absolutely believe that writing with great voice is a skill that can be learned. I’m actually teaching a webinar on voice through Pitch Wars later in the summer! The number one thing to do is read, read, read! Read as much MG as you can, and read in many different sub-genres to get a sense of a wide variety of voices. Along with that, here are some things I recommend:
Voice is the way your narrator thinks on the page. You need to think the way your narrator does, and dig into your inner twelve-year-old to keep the voice consistent for MG.
Keep the POV close, whether you’re writing in 1st or in 3rd. Distant POV is very uncommon in MG nowadays, and can get in the way of readers connecting with the voice.
Remember that writing with voice is a skill that needs to be practiced. You probably won’t get it right on the first draft. When you’re revising, do a ‘voice check’ where you look for words and phrases that create too much distance or that don’t fit with the way your narrator thinks.
What part of the writing process do you find most challenging and how do you tackle it?
I actually find drafting to be the hardest stage! I set weekly word count goals and schedule a handful of longer writing sessions so I can meet those goals. I also spend a lot of time thinking about what’s going to happen next before I start writing to make those sessions as productive as possible. I do my best plotting during my commute! I also always keep a notebook with me so I can write down all those thoughts and plans and have them handy when I sit down to write.
You were a mentee in Pitch Wars 2016, and this year you’ll be mentoring! Having been on both sides of the fence, what advice would you give the mentee hopefuls for 2017?
Be active on the hashtag. Follow mentors on Twitter—you’ll get a lot of great writing tips and insights into the industry. Interact with other hopefuls, and find people in your genre. Offer to swap pages for critique. I found two great CP’s that way.
What qualities will you be looking for in a mentee?
I’m looking for someone who has taken their manuscript as far as they can on their own, and is ready to work really hard to take it to the next level. It’s pretty much that simple!
What advice do you have for writers who may be attempting a major revision for the first time?
First: Get in the right head space. Take a deep breath, listen to a song that motivates you, and get ready to go.
Second: Be organized. I make a spreadsheet with all the different elements I am working on and plan out how I’m going to tackle them.
Third: Trust yourself. You can do this. It can feel overwhelming, and that’s okay. Tackle one element at a time to make it more manageable. I like to start with something easy to get my feet wet and ease in, which really helps with that overwhelming feeling.
What are you reading, or otherwise currently obsessed with?
I’m completely obsessed with the musical Hamilton! It’s like taking a course in storytelling. As for MG, I’m loving the BAD Series by Pseudonymous Bosch and the MURDER MOST UNLADYLIKE Series by Robin Stevens.
Congrats on the sale of your Middle Grade debut, The Order of Black Hollow Lane, set for release in spring 2019! What can you tell us about the story?
Thank you! The story is about an American girl who is shipped off to a remote British boarding school. She wants to learn more about her father, who disappeared nine years earlier, but gets pulled into a mystery involving an ancient secret society at the school.
What’s it like to work on your debut (and its sequel) post-sale? Do you feel like Pitch Wars prepared you for the revisions you’re doing now?
Pitch Wars is amazing preparation for large scale revisions, which are an absolutely essential part of the publishing industry. I did several really intense rounds of revision with my agent before we went out on sub, and I’ve got even more coming with my editor at Sourcebooks. You have to be prepared to make major, major changes along the way. You need to trust the experts around you, and trust yourself to know what the core elements of your story are so they can continue to flourish as other elements of your story evolve.
Remember that having a Pitch Wars mentor to help you is great, but it’s not the only way. The best thing about Pitch Wars is the community. Use the hashtag to actively look for critique partners who are at a similar stage in their writing. They can help you work through revisions and take your writing to the next level. Look for critique giveaways from established writers and agents, and take online courses, especially if they come with a critique. Trust yourself, push yourself, and don’t give up.
I hope you enjoyed this Q&A with Julia as much as I did! I love her tips on crafting an authentic MG voice, as well as the reminder to always trust yourself, push yourself, and to not give up. Perseverance is, and will always be, a huge part of writing.
For those entering Pitch Wars 2017, be sure to check out Julia's MENTOR WISHLIST HERE!
If Julia's Q&A resonated with you, or if you have specific Pitch Wars questions, please hop on over to Twitter to tweet her at @NobelJulia. You can also find her online on her author website julianobel.com, and on Facebook. And don't forget to add The Order of Black Hollow Lane to your Goodreads list now!