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.