It’s no secret I’m a huge Pitch Wars fan and was lucky enough to land a mentee spot in 2018. It was, without a doubt, the most challenging, and rewarding, process in my writing career to date.
So when this PW Advice Blog Hop thing came up – I jumped at it! The idea of PW prep and survival is near and dear to my heart as year after year I’ve seen the stresses take their toll.
It’s understandable. It makes sense.
But it’s something that can be minimized. Sort of. Buckle up, this post is gonna be long. But I try to be funny. Sort of. And there are gifs – sorry, not sorry. I used to be a hater. Not anymore.
We’re a week away from mentee announcements. Woot! You’ve (hopefully) read some craft books (if you haven’t, check out here for a whole page on that). You’ve polished your manuscript until it’s as shiny as you can make it.
The wait is almost over (for now).
By the way, most of the following stuff applies whether or not you “get in”.
My biggest advice?
And I mean YOU. Not your story (you’ve done that already, right?). Seriously.
First things first, the part you’re already painfully familiar with… The waiting.
This is a huge game of hurry up and wait. And I don’t mean just Pitch Wars. I mean publishing. In general.
You’re gonna push and rush and stress to meet a deadline. Then you’re going to wait. Then you’re going to push and rush and stress to meet another deadline. Then you’re going to wait.
Waiting sucks. Waiting is hard. But maybe you’ve had some experience there… like querying. Send it in. Hit refresh on your email forty-bazillion times while drinking too much caffeinated something… Just me?
Here’s how to wait:
Find something else to do!
Yup. That’s it. Find something else to work on. That is NOT the manuscript you just submitted. Start something new. Edit an existing piece. Catch up on your reading (we all have a TBR pile that’s longer than it should be, right?). Do some beta reading for a friend. Critique something for a friend. Whatever. Just take your creative energies and pour them into something else for a little while
The next big piece of advice?
Writing is work.
And Pitch Wars is hard work.
Someone is about to take your creative darling and (lovingly, gently, kindly) guide you to making it better. And if you aren’t ready for that, it can feel like everything you’ve put into that book – your very heart and soul – are being ripped apart. And then stomped on.
Ouch. And hey, let’s avoid that, okay? Because I promise, no one is actually doing that. Really.
And it’s gonna happen again when you land an agent – they’ll likely have edits for you as well. As will your publisher. Get used to revising.
Be open to suggestions & ready to put in effort.
One of the most heartbreaking things I ever heard from someone struggling to process critique was that they were at a complete loss for what to do with the suggestions. They had never received anything but praise on their writing. Never taken critique from anyone. And had never revised their work (they basically edited as they drafted and called it good).
OK. If that works for you. Great. That’s cool. But if you want to be traditionally published, you’re going to have to learn to work with an editor. Or editors.
No matter how uncomfortable a suggestion may be at first, sit with it for a bit. Let it sink in. Process it. If you still don’t like it, ask WHY. Critique usually comes because something isn’t working, or isn’t clear to the person reading and critiquing. So find out what that is – their suggestion is simply THEIR solution. Given the information about WHY that particular passage is a problem, you might have a different solution.
Bottom line: have the conversation and be ready to put in the work.
Find your people
Yeah, you’ve heard this a million times. But I’m still gonna repeat it. Find or create a support network. Every year, there’s a PW mentee’s Facebook group for that year’s class – I cannot emphasize enough how valuable that group can be. These are your peers!
You need a safe place to vent. To stress out. To scream into the void. To crow and cheer.
And public social media is not always the place for that.
Whether your support network is in real life, strictly virtual, or (most likely) a combination, forge those ties. They will help you keep it together when you’re on the umpteenth round of revisions. When you’ve cut and edited and rewritten a scene so many times you’re ready to throw the entire book (and your computer) out the window. (I know I’m not the only one who’s been there!)
Taking the “find your people” advice to the next level… Writing (for publication) is a business. Along the way, you will be working with a variety of people.
Take a look at the acknowledgements in whatever you’re currently reading. Those are evidence of relationships built – from the short-term and transitional/transactional (so-and-so who helped with the research for thus-and-such) to the professional (editors, agents, etc) and the personal (family and friends). But there are also often a lot of “others” in there… mentors, fellow writers and critique partners. People who are more than just friends or family and edge into the professional side of things.
The people you connect with through PW – from mentors, to mentees, and folks within the PW community – are amazing resources. And so are you!
You’ve got a host of subject matter experts at your fingertips! And plenty of people to hit up for that “Hey, what kind of music was popular with teens in 1985?” question.
And the last bits of advice…
OMG, there is so much more. So very, very, very much more… but here are a few little things I really want to impress on anyone reading this:
You. Are. A. Writer.
Not “an aspiring author”. Not “trying to be be a writer”. You’ve written a book. You are an author.
Celebrate your victories
Little ones. Big ones. Middle size ones. Celebrating your victories will make those tough moments of rejections (they’re gonna happen) and writer’s block (also gonna happen) easier to get through.
Finished your first draft? Yep. That’s a victory? Hit the “submit” button for PW? Victory.
Take every positive thing you can and savor it. Store it up for those days when things don’t look so sunny.
Do your homework…
When it comes time to query, pay attention to what an agent asks for and their submission guidelines. Agents comment frequently on social media about how often they receive queries for genres they do not represent, or that don’t follow their guidelines. Every Pitch Wars mentor I’ve ever spoken to has received subs in genres they specifically said “no” to or things outside their wish list.
Do your homework. That means knowing your genre (think about where your book would be shelved in a brick and mortar store). And don’t trash talk your genre – trust me, you win no points by saying anything along these lines: “I really hated how most books in ___ genre do/are/have ____, so this book breaks that mold!” A little secret: the agent you are querying makes their living selling those very books. Maybe not such a good idea to dis their living, yeah?
Treat this like it’s your job. Am I sounding like a broken record yet? Sorry, but selling books is a business.
Don’t be a …
A dear friend of mine used to host a lot of “adults only” type events, and his one standing rule was simple: don’t be a di@&.
And those who know me are now baffled at the lack of profanity in this post. Hey. Sometimes I can keep it clean. Don’t get used to it!
Seriously. Not just to other writers (or agents, or editors), but also to the PW team and mentors. These are volunteers, putting in hours upon hours of their time. To help you. Because they’re awesome.
And they’re also human. They have jobs, families, books, and deadlines of their own. Please be respectful of that.
Put it another way, and stealing from a far more famous source.
Be excellent to each other.
And that’s it. You can stop reading now. Unless you have a mad desire to know a little more about me. Or, y’know… check out what others have to say on the subject: Pitch Wars Advice Blog Hop list.
No, really, I mean it… the PW advice is over. Stop now.
A little personal info…
I said at the beginning I’m a huge PW fan. The part I didn’t bore everyone with was my history: I watched PW from afar for a while before finally submitting in 2015. I didn’t get in. But I did get requests. And some great feedback. Ditto 2016.
About that time, I also got involved with the PitchWarriors Facebook group. They’re amazing!
I took 2017 off. Long story. And submitted again in 2018 and… gasp! Holy crap! (whoops. so much for no profanity) I got in. And had the two most amazing (for me) mentors ever. Laura and Tif took me through some massive changes to my manuscript. And then we did it again. Because they went above and beyond the call of duty. If you love romance – go check out their books. These two rock!
That manuscript landed me my agent – no, not via the showcase, though I did get requests. I queried Jana Hanson at Metamorphosis after Pitch Wars, and she and I just clicked!
I’m also currently heading up the Pitch Wars blog team. Yeah. I like this thing so much, I got involved.
And just in case you’re wondering – I spent much of my career as a magazine or newspaper editor. Which may explain why I’m such an opinionated and bossy cuss.
Oh… and one last thing, if you’re still reading: