Earlier this summer I spent a frazzled two weeks putting together my submission for Pitch Wars, a contest where published/agented authors and editors (mentors) choose one writer each (mentees). Over the next two months, the mentors help their mentees polish their manuscripts in readiness for the agent round–each mentee’s pitch and first page is presented to a panel of participating agents. This year there are 125 mentors for 1957 hopefuls.
That’s a lot of hopefuls for not that many places. Even with 12 last minute bonus spots that’s 137 mentees out of 1957 entrants. A 7% chance of getting a spot. It’s not high, I’ll grant you. But when historically 50% of the mentees land agents, it puts that 7% in a much more flattering light.
Submissions closed on the 6th August, and the picks announced this morning at 2am London time. (I’m feeling a little gritty now since our little kraken is the household 7 am wake up call. Pass the coffee, please.)
That’s three weeks of waiting around between submitting and pick announcements. I think the most savvy and level headed among the hopefuls might have continued with revisions. I wasn’t one of those–all I could do was obsess over the #pitchwars feed on Twitter where all the conversations were happening between mentors and hopefuls. Lots of teasers, and the inevitable agony of wondering “Are they talking about me?” Pleasant enough torture, but torture none the less.
I lived with my phone stuck to my face.
First thing I did on waking was check the #pitchwars feed AND my spam folder, just in case I missed a request for more pages from a mentor. I did have two emails end up in there–neither were requests (more on that later) though. They were emails from fellow pitchwars participants. I stayed up late reading the feed hunting for clues as to how I might fare, but as a bonus I got to know a lot of the writers hanging out on the thread. It was amazing to be able to reach out through Twitter and connect with writers from all over the world. Mauritius, Scotland, Indonesia, Singapore, Canada, US, England…(*cue music to ‘It’s a Small World’).
Writers tend to be loners. We spend our time in heads, pouring out thoughts and feelings and actions into our keyboards. Writing is, by necessity, a solitary activity. It’s also sometimes difficult for non-writers to understand the whole process. It isn’t a case of banging out a story and then submitting it to an agent. A manuscript goes through several iterations–think first draft as lump of clay, then each iteration a gradual sculpting of the work into its final form. There’s the macro stuff–making sure the plot works and the character arcs are there, streamlining the cast so each character has its purpose, making sure the setting is pulling its weight, then the micro stuff–dialogue, language, flow, cadence. Once that’s done, beta readers and critique partners go over the work and highlight stuff that doesn’t make sense, falls flat, is unbelievable. Then more revision and polishing. Rinse, repeat.
Lest you think that’s the end, once the manuscript is as polished as can be the next step is submission to agents, hoping and wishing someone loves your story enough to take it on. If that happens, more revisions from the agent. And if the agent is successful in selling your story to a publisher? You guessed it. More revisions. A few rounds of developmental edits (macro) followed by line edits (micro) then copy edits (what’s smaller than micro? Nano? Anyways, spelling, punctuation, grammar etc).
All that work happens in the company of your own thoughts and not much more. So to have found a 400+strong tribe is damned fine. A tribe of people who understand the thrill of cutting 108 ‘just’s from a manuscript, or the frustration of needing to cut 10 more words from an already bare-boned pitch or synopsis.
I lost 3 weeks of revision time while I behaved like a social media obsessed squirrel jumped up on caffeine, but the tribe I gained in exchange was so worth it. I had my first introduction to the writing world and I was floored by the generosity and willingness to reach out TO TOTAL STRANGERS. A friend of a friend introduced me to a client who then introduced me to an author friend who was super helpful in honing my query letter. Lyla Lawless was one of the editors offering free query reviews for Pitch Wars participants and she gave me some really helpful tips to whip my query in shape. Not to mention the valuable feedback from my fellow hopefuls. Everyone pulling together to help everyone else. And the craft tips and encouragement gained through Pitch Wars is like an Aladdin’s cave of wonders. Intrepid fellow hopeful Lisa Leoni compiled the most amazing list here of mentor’s posts, and I discovered new mentee Tomi Adeyemi’s writing website. So many shared stories of perseverance, to keep trying, to not give up. Ah it makes me teary just thinking about kindness and cupcake deserving goodness of the Pitch Wars peeps. 🙂
I wasn’t picked, but I’m okay with that. I got enough requests to tell me my MS was at least interesting to some people. That’s a nice boost. My plan whether I was picked or not remained the same–ready my manuscript for querying agents, and then send it out and start work on the next one. And that’s what I’m going to do.
And about the generosity I mentioned earlier–well Pitch Wars itself is run on feel-good fuel and a pay-it-forward ethos. Brenda Drake, the PW team, and the mentors all donate their time and expertise. The only way to come close to paying back what they put into the contest and give to the community is to buy their books as a thank you and pay-it-forward whenever I can myself. My kindle is now bursting with Pitch Wars mentors’ books, and I have a ton more books-to-come on my wishlist (here’s the whole list; go forth and feed your kindle). I’m cheering on the new mentees, excited to see their careers unfold.
Pitch Wars was a fantastic ride. Now I’m on another one–in a boat full of writers riding the white water rapids of their dreams. There will be ups and downs and people falling out of the boat, and getting hauled back in. It’ll be scary and wonderful and heart stopping and exhilarating. I’m excited for this journey and glad for the company because we’ll have the best things on tap: Encouragement. Writer friends. CPs. Tribe. I couldn’t ask for anything better.