PitchWars Wrap-Up

Announcement day for PitchWars has come and gone, and 180 new mentees are on the move to get their manuscripts polished for the agent round. Once again I recognized almost no one on the final picks list, but a few names stood out and I couldn’t be more excited for those folks.

When I started PitchWars this year, I knew my entry would be a long shot. I’d restructured, repurposed and repolished my story from last year as the new one wasn’t anywhere near ready enough. But I knew what I was getting into – that my story would have to shine even more to stand out against all the new entries. Zero requests and a generic form rejection later, I am not daunted. Why, you didn’t ask? Because I didn’t go into PitchWars with one goal… I went in with several.

Goal 1: Help other writers where I could.
In 2016 I was lucky enough to have another writer, Ava Quinn, take me under her wing, and I will forever be grateful for all the help she gave me. This year I worked with my critique partner, A.J. Super, to reach out to other writers and help where we could. We also worked with our other critique partners and workshop buddies by doing chapter swaps, query workshopping, and I even wrote several articles on the blog to help simplify some of the more daunting aspects of the contest. In the end, I came out with five new writer buddies and an amazing second circle of friends.

Goal 2: Make my story query-ready again.
I’ll be honest… when I queried my story in 2016, it wasn’t ready. I’d like to say that today it is, but the truth is I simply don’t know. When all you hear is “love your first chapter” or “thanks, not for me”, you quickly learn there’s not really an answer in there. The mind automatically strays between “yep, I’m ready” and “what the hell am I doing wrong, now?” This is what’s called the lonely road… or at least that’s what I call it. As someone who wants concise answers, or sometimes needs help to figure a puzzle out, this can be extremely frustrating, especially when you’ve become book-blind to your own work. As it turns out, a better answer was waiting…

Goal 3: Find a mentor.
At this goal, I succeeded in a way that was entirely unexpected. I didn’t find a mentor… I found six.

I didn’t get a spot among the mentees, nor did I gain an unofficial mentee spot (apparently this is a thing… who knew?). It was time for me to take the reins of my own career, but how? Inside my new circle of writer friends, we sparked an idea. Don’t wait for someone to love our stories enough to grant us an edit letter… write our own. So we setup a schedule like our own private book club: 7 books, 14 weeks of reading and serious workshopping.

Every two weeks, each of us digs into a different member’s book—reads it, and writes out a serious, hardcore edit letter. What did we love? What could be improved? Which characters or scenes fell flat? And more importantly… did we finish the book? If there was a DNF (do not finish) spot, where is it and why? At the end of each 2-week block, one member gets 6 edit letters and a serious discussion of what’s working and not working in their story, then we jump to the next book.

This… is how I won PitchWars.

How all seven of us won PitchWars. My book is the first on the chopping block, and in my two week layover I’m still hitting the screen hard. I have 2 drafts I’m prepping for edits, reading The Apothecary’s Poison, prepping a series of self-edit and revision articles, and gathering partners for the 2017-2018 season of Winterviews. I’m still busy, still moving forward, and toying with the 100 rejections a year idea. Because, why not?

But I can honestly say, I’m relieved PitchWars is over for me. It’s always an intense two months of hard work and self-doubt. But when the excitement and tension clears out of the air, I always look back with fond memories and forward with newfound enthusiasm. And forward is where I really want to go.

This article originally posted on my main blog: Hàlön Chronicles.


Is Your Next Project Ready to Go?

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post on getting the most out of PitchWars by setting personal goals. Having a list of goals and achievements is so important to life outside the contest. Each time you feel the pressure of not there yet, you can look back and see all the amazing things you’ve already accomplished.

But here’s a tiny reality check: in one week PitchWars mentor picks will be announced, and more than two thousand people are going to feel the sting. It hurts, and it feels like a rejection, but it’s not. All it really means is your book doesn’t have the exact ratio of awesome to need fixing elements. Seriously… here’s the math:

a : s = (n : c)m + d

a = awesome | s = suckage | n = need fixin’ | c = can fix | m = mentor love | d = dibs

This contest has zero bearing on the awesome of your book. It’s a crap shoot, but so are most things in life. If you don’t get a professional mentor, then you learn to mentor each other. And that’s where this article comes in.

Moving on. To your next project.

Another writing project. A new one, a plan of attack for your PitchWars submission, or maybe you’re already poking at Query Tracker and agent wish lists. There might even be the few of you who need to shut down the laptop and go do anything else for a few months, and that’s okay too. No matter your next steps, start planning a project now to focus on. Whether it’s the day after announcements or three months after, it’s good to have something ready to dig your typing teeth into.

Everyone has different tastes, but if you like books that take you far away from Earth, I have a few recommendations here. I also have a list of unique books here, or if you’re into more YA or Contemporary tastes, be sure to visit some reviews from Songs Wrote My Story.

Anything special you’ve been wanting to do lately? Something that will get you away from your writing space and out into the world? I know… scary peopling. Go do it, and this goes for anyone who does get a mentor spot as well. Spend the day at the zoo, walk the beach, swim with the dolphins, or go hiking in the mountains. Have an adventure and clear some of the cobwebs from your head. While we’re at it… you too mentors. You guys have made your eyes bleed with reading. Once you send off that edit letter, get out of the house and do something fun.

Oh, and don’t any of you forget to treat yourself to a nice meal. Entering a contest is daunting, but hopefully you’ve already come out of it with a new crew of wonderful friends, readers and peers. 🙂

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Original article posted on my blog: Hàlön Chronicles.