Monday, August 24, 2015

Dear Pitch Wars 2015...

Dear Pitch Wars, 

Last year at this time, I was you. 
Stressed. Sweating. Swearing. Spiraling. Basically all the S-words. 

I do love a good palindrome. And cheesecake. And chocolate. And donuts. And...and...and...
Fun Fact: I gained 5 pounds in 2 weeks while waiting on Pitch Wars results last year.

I'd only received one lonely request. Kes and I had followed each other on Twitter before the contest began, so I figured she was just feeling sorry for me or something. A pity request, if you will. She never gave me any indication she was going to choose me. 

Two years ago at this time, I was also you. I entered Pitch Wars 2013 (with what I later realized was a doomed manuscript), and I did not get in. No requests that year. Zero. Zip. Zilch.

Even with a shiny new manuscript last year, just knowing the sting of rejection made me jump to the worst possible conclusion when my inbox stayed quieter than church in Texas on Superbowl Sunday. 

We highly imaginative folk tend to be good at worst-case-scenarios.

I cried to my CPs. I AM TRUNKING THIS MANUSCRIPT, I told them. So what that it had never even been queried! God bless Janet and Sonia for putting up with my stress-induced meltdowns for over two years now. 

Did I mention that I met Janet and Sonia on the Pitch Wars thread in 2013? (The year I didn't get in?) These are brilliant, beautiful women who have helped me through so much since I met them. And I now talk to them every single day, either in our writing group, or via phone calls or texts. Janet and I live 45 minutes apart, so I often get to see her in person. 

Last year, I met even more CPs. The 2014 private mentee Facebook group has been a godsend. Those people are my tribe! Really, I don't know where you can find a more positive, supportive community. Our group is special.

Pitch Wars 2014 be like...

I've received critical feedback from so many talented people that helped me grow and hone my craft. There's no way I'd have been chosen as a mentee in 2014 (technically I was an alternate, but moved up to mentee when the original mentee dropped out), and there's no way I'd have a rockstar agent right now if I had never entered--and been rejected from--Pitch Wars in 2013. 

If you had tried to tell me through my unstoppable tears in 2013 that I would be co-mentoring Pitch Wars in 2015, I would've asked you what you were smoking, and if I could have some of it. 

Don't act like you don't know the song.

Okay, enough silliness. Time to be serious.

My message to you is this: YOU ARE DOING IT RIGHT. You're putting yourself out there and networking with other writers. You're allowing complete strangers to pick your soul apart with a red pen, and you're willing to listen to their feedback. That's how writers become published authors. And that's the goal here, right? 

I know you're all struggling right now. I know that struggle. The wait is hard. Last year, all I could think about was the pure torture of waiting so long for the picks to be announced. But now that I've seen things from the mentor side of the fence, I can tell you that it takes every minute of that time for mentors to adequately read and decide. Kes and I received a ton of amazing submissions this year. And even with two of us reading and requesting, it has taken days and days of neglecting everything else to get it done. (And some mentors received TWICE as many subs as us. Just FYI.) 

So. Many. Great. Manuscripts.

So, if you like DOs and DON'Ts lists, Pitch Wars, I have one for you. 

For those of you who do get in: 

DO recognize this as an incredible honor (and privilege). You are among a very small percentage of the overall submissions received. 

DON'T squander this opportunity. Remember mentors aren't getting paid for this. They're helping you because they love your story and believe in it with their whole hearts. 

DO keep an open line of communication with them. There may be things in their suggestions you don't agree with, and if that happens, talk it out. Understand the mentor's reasoning for making changes, and talk it over with CPs if you're still unsure.

*note: I was pretty reluctant on one plot point Kes wanted me to change last year. She agreed I could keep it since it's my story, after all. Then I got agented. Guess what my agent made me change? Yep, you guessed it! That one thing Kes had already tried to tell me to change.  :) 

DO be grateful, especially to the one and only Brenda Drake. I owe a lot of the progress in my writing career to her generosity, and her genius in creating this beautiful community.

DON'T ever be disrespectful or badmouth your mentor or the contest. Doing that will just make you look like an ungrateful asshole jerk. Nobody likes ungrateful assholes jerks.  

For those of you who don't get in: 

DO take whatever feedback you're given, and compare it with notes from your CPs. Apply it. Make your manuscript shine.

DON'T let it crush you. Please refer to my sob story from 2013, and remember that your chances of getting in this contest were roughly 1 in 16. 

*note: That's not my math, that's someone else's math who is better at math than me. I'm just regurgitating.

I need this shirt.

DO keep writing, keep revising, keep querying. 

DON'T think it's because you aren't talented. Do you know how many incredibly awesome manuscripts Kes and I have to pass on this year because we only get to pick one?! Like, a gajillion. Seriously. That's totally a number.

DO remember that cold, hard querying works just as well as contests. My original agent offer actually came from a cold query. Of my offers, only one was from a Pitch Wars request. My agent didn't even request from me last year in Pitch Wars! (It was PitMad she requested in.) Which brings me to another DO...

DO get your Twitter pitch ready for the upcoming PitMad! September 10th, people! I'll be watching for my favorites and I will retweet the hell out of them!

DON'T dismiss or neglect your connection with people you met through the contest. A lot of people did a mass-unfollow of the mentors and mentees last year (and the year before) after Pitch Wars. DON'T DO THAT! 

The mentors want to connect with you on social media, even if they didn't pick you. I don't auto-follow people, so if I'm following you, it's because I think you're interesting and believe I could learn from you.

DO stay positive. A good attitude and a never-say-die will-to-succeed will take you far, no matter the outcome of this contest

DO stay positive. Yes, I realize I said that twice, because it's the most important thing on the list. Give yourself a day to cry, then get your manuscript polished and revenge query like a mo-fo.

I swear you can.

Deep breaths, Pitch Warriors. Regardless of whether or not you get in, many of you will be agented this time next year. Statistics don't lie. Or so they tell me. I'm more of a word girl.

I'm sending you all the positive ju-ju I've got.


PW 2013 Reject
PW 2014 Alternate-turned-Mentee
PW 2015 Co-Mentor

Here are the awesome #DearPW posts from other 2014 mentees:


  1. Awesome post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your experiences!

  2. What an amazing journey!!! You are a very talented writer, and I know, a phenom mentor to those upcoming!

  3. I should probably print this and tack it to my wall, but then the GIFs won't move.

    1. I can't wait until somebody invents that, though! Haha

  4. Excellent advice! Thank you for keeping us motivated and telling us to not give up. I think the mentee you choose will be in great hands.

    1. Aww, thanks, Ann! I'm really lucky to get to be a part of this amazing contest. :)

  5. I love this post (and your gif game is on point). Thanks for the advice!