Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Pitch Wars Advice Blog Hop

So you’ve entered Pitch Wars?
And now you’re waiting.

Hold on tight and get ready for the ride of your life.

I write this with a mischievous smirk because I know what the waiting is like. The anxiety, the pacing, the sweaty palms, the restless nights, the double portions of ice cream, the worry that you misspelled the last name of your main character. All these feelings are agonizing and real. And they’re okay, everything will work out okay.

So a bit of backstory here. I first entered Pitch Wars in 2016. I had a shiny manuscript, polished and ready to take on the world. This book had been through beta readers and even a couple of professional edits. I’d self-published a few books years prior so I knew what I was doing. I was good at this writing thing, I was confident. I, I, I. Me, me, me. Not chosen, not chosen, not chosen. That’s right. I didn’t get into Pitch Wars in 2016 and I felt every emotion the day of the announcement. I might have even cried, though you didn’t read that on this blog. This many years later, I can admit that I thought about giving up writing that day. But I didn’t. Which is why I’m here. Stay tuned and I’ll explain.

In 2017, the Pitch Wars chatter started up again on my Twitter feed. People I followed were excited to enter, they were polishing their manuscripts and preparing for the grand entry. Excited future applicants were posting their queries and pitches and first pages on the forum. There were a lot of fantastic posts and the eagerness was palpable. I wanted to be a part of that, I wanted to fit in. Writing can be lonely and this was my chance to be a part of something special, although I felt especially secluded that year because I didn’t have a finished manuscript and was spending all of my time writing and revising, rather than joining in on all of the fun. So I posted when I could and kept working hard.

Then I did it, submitted my entry and waited.

And waited.

Waiting is the hardest part.

Yeah, I agree.

Because this is a big deal, we want to think that having perfection on the page is the key to getting chosen by a mentor. Our careers depend on it, our lifestyles want it. No agent or editor will touch my book if I don’t get chosen. Pitch Wars is life!

Yeah, no. Sorry to disappoint, but life will go on if you’re not chosen for Pitch Wars. It will.

Remember how I wasn’t chosen in 2016? I didn’t give up like I wanted to. I told myself that the book was the problem, not me. I want you to remember that because it’s so true. I’ll repeat it. The book was the problem, not me. When I found out I wasn’t chosen as a mentee is 2016, I immediately started on another manuscript I called SARAH’S BREATH. It was like therapy to me. This book was everything my Pitch Wars entry wasn’t and it helped me escape the doldrums of what I considered failure at the time. I dabbled with it, plotted some chapters, wrote some more, and then got bored and let it sit on a shelf. This wasn’t the book I needed to write. But my Pitch Wars entry from 2016? What if I fixed it and revised it some more, changed the main characters favorite color, moved around some scenes, alternated POV’s, added less supernatural? That would fix it, right? No, none of those things. Remember what I mentioned about the book?

So, you’re wondering what to do, right?

You’ve submitted your entry and want to occupy your mind.

Good news! This is a rare opportunity to feed your creativity. Don’t touch that manuscript you submitted, don’t you dare. It’s fine where it is. Go do something else. Read, watch a movie, go outside and re-introduce yourself to your loved ones. Find that spark that keeps you writing because if you are chosen as a mentee, all that time is going to disappear. Know that. Expect that.
The time waiting should not be spent second guessing every word you submitted because those specific words don’t matter.

What? Yes they do, every word matters. You might be worried that if you misspelled your main character’s last name on page six, you’ll never get chosen. Believe that if you want, but it isn’t true. Mentors will fall in love with your story first and then decide if they can help it. A wrong word here or there, a misspelling? Those are tiny details that won’t matter at this point of the process. What matters is that your story is well conceived, well written, and well received.

That’s right, well received. Take a moment now and think about your favorite song. What’s the title? Who wrote it? Who’s the artist? What album is it on? Can you sing it on demand? Will people throw books at you if you sing it on demand? Now answer this question: is that same song everyone’s favorite song? Why not?

Art is subjective and because of that, not everyone is going to love your creation as much as you do. It’s not your fault and it isn’t theirs. Think about that favorite song again and imagine that you were given a list of 150 songs to choose from, including that one, and were allowed to pick only one as your favorite again. Would you pick the same song? Would that make the other 149 songs bad? It’s not a rhetorical question. The answer is no.

Chances are, you chose a particular song as your favorite because of some sort of connection you’ve made with a part of the song, its tone, the lyric, the artist, and the album, whatever. That process of choice is going to be the same for the Pitch Wars mentors. Right now as you’re reading this, they are agonizing over many great manuscripts and trying to decide which one will become this year’s choice for them. They can only pick one.

It could be your book.

I believe that hope and a positive attitude are powerful. Despite not having any sort of control over the fate of your Pitch Wars entry, believe that you have 100% control over the fortune of your writing. The same creative habits that helped you finish a manuscript and edit it will be useful as you venture into the querying world. Chosen for the contest or not, you’re going to need a catchy pitch, a well-written query, a professional synopsis, and a polished manuscript. That’s what agents and editors will be looking for, and that’s what we’ll all need to prepare.

Get ready to work hard.

If you’re chosen as a mentee, please have your schedules clear for many writing/editing sessions in the coming months. Some of you might re-write your book, others might change the POV, and still others might cut/add significant portions of your manuscript. That takes time and willingness to adapt. The mentors aren’t going to do the work for you which means all this time you’ve been preparing to send work to them was good practice for the much harder work ahead. While I didn’t keep track of all my time spent, I remember spending at least 20 hours one weekend finalizing edits. Most of that was one scene. ONE SCENE! I sometimes shiver with dread thinking back on it. That was a lot of work.

There’s a community of support.

You’ve heard it plenty and I’m going to add to the chorus of voices that cry out “Pitch Wars is about the relationships you build.” Because it’s true. If you accept it, there’s a large family of writers ready to support and guide you along this publishing journey. They will cry with you, cheer you on, praise the pictures of your pets, beta read, offer feedback, brainstorm ideas with you, help with pitches, send you encouragement, and so much more. Those who embrace the community find that the value of the contest is gauged by their willingness to become a writing partner and friend. Everything else becomes secondary. Chosen for the contest or not, friends will still be there. Relationships will still exist.

Praise and Progression.

Admittedly, my expectations were low after rejection in 2016 which meant that finding my name on the mentee list in 2017 was a surprise. I was shocked at how much my mentor, Destiny, loved my book. Her vision for the story was exactly what I had planned to do but had been afraid to put on my submitted version. Her edit letter, which was 10 pages, made me giggle because I was excited to discover that someone fell in love with my project and was willing to help me improve it. That was a fantastic feeling. In fact, it still feels great.
That said, be ready to find out that your book isn’t perfect. You might get some tough love and it could hurt a bit. Be ready for that. Remember that your potential chosen mentor is going to be in love with your book and it’s their job to help you improve it. I learned long ago to wait a day before responding to an edit letter. Your emotions are tied into the book, it’s your baby. How dare someone claim it needs fixing. Let your emotions simmer for a bit after you get your edit letter, then think about the changes and how you can best implement them. Talk to your mentor and establish a relationship built on trust. If you fire back a hastily written response, you might come across as combative and difficult, which might not be your intention.

Enjoy the journey.

During the agent round in 2017, I was a bundle of nerves wound so tight that the slightest of things set me off. That year, we were able to see comments on everyone’s posts and the initial reaction to mine was nothing but silence. Take the feelings while waiting to see if you’re chosen as a mentee and multiply that by 100 and that’s what the agent round could be like if you don’t take a step back and enjoy the fact that you succeeded. Regardless of how agents react to your book, you’ve accomplished something great and there’s a future for you. Because of market trends and editor requests, demand might be high for certain books over others. It’s not about the authors or the mentors, but rather the market that’s building an expectation for certain subjects and genres. Don’t let that stress you out. It’s out of your control.

Who are you again?

It’s been two years since my Pitch Wars experience and you might be wondering where my book is, or who I am. I'm Jamie, a writer. My Pitch Wars book is alive and well, looking for a home. All these feelings, all the emotions of waiting to see if someone likes your work is still happening, only there’s some finality with every response. I’m happy to have an agent who manages the business part of things because that means I get to keep my mind on writing, which is what I’m good at. Recently, my agent and I had a long conversation about my current projects (there are 6 of them). We ranked them in order of potential value. Third on the list is SARAH’S BREATH, that book that I started way back on the day after not getting selected for Pitch Wars 2016. Sometimes it feels good to receive validation and hearing my agent tell me that she loved the concept of that story made me realize that I had made the correct choice back then, that writing is my journey.

Rejection can be hard, but the way we push on determines our future success.

I believe that. I live it. Oh, if I had more time to share stories—I could go on forever. Anyway, here’s My 2017 Pitch Wars Entry from the Agent Showcase. It always makes me smile.

Happy Reading.

~ Jamie

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