HOW TO PITCH WARS

You’ve written an entire manuscript and submitted to Pitch Wars. CONGRATULATIONS! This means you were persistent enough to write a book and brave enough to receive criticism on it. You. Kick. Ass.

A lot of you writers probably don’t think you’ll get selected. You’ve queried and gotten all the rejections, and you’re natural pessimists by now.

But you might get in. I didn’t think I would, and I did.

In case you’d like to prepare yourself for that possibility, here’s a list of steps mentees take after announcement are made:

  1. Some mentors hand over THE EDIT LETTER right off the bat. Lucky you! You can get started. See Step 2 below. For the rest of you, your mentor is reading through your manuscript again, doing the edits, making comments, and writing THE EDIT LETTER. During this time:
    1. Come down from the natural chemical high of getting selected. This may take days.
    2. Your mentor may give you homework. Mine did. It involved exercises on Goal, Motivation, and Conflict (GMC), Character Questionnaires (to help you get to know your characters better), and beat sheets (to see where the key plot points of your novel are taking place). I strongly recommend doing all the homework. Isn’t this what you wanted? To learn?
    3. Get to know your fellow Pitch Wars mentees! You will be invited to join your Pitch Wars year’s private mentee Facebook group. Join! Be active! Make friends! These people will be your support group during this wild contest because–guess what?–they’re going through the same exact thing as you.
    4. It could take weeks to get that letter. Longer even. Be patient. Guess what you do a lot of in publishing? Waiting. See this as practice for the future.
  2. You receive THE EDIT LETTER.
    1. Read it! Every word, with shaking hands, dry mouths, and pounding hearts.
    2. What’s the next thing you do? SAY THANK YOU TO YOUR MENTOR! Should you write them an essay justifying why you did everything the way you did? Should you defend your work before you’ve had time to process their comments? No. Just say THANK YOU.
    3. SIT ON IT. I thought my mentor’s feedback was spot on, but I needed to let it percolate through my brain for two weeks before I could do anything. If you’re having a negative reaction to your mentor’s comments, really contemplate WHY. And if you’ve thought about it good and long and you still feel that way, TALK TO THEM about it. Come up with a solution you both can live with. If that’s not possible, then this contest, this year, with this mentor, isn’t for you. Sometimes, that’s the case, and there’s no shame in that.
    4. Work with your mentor to establish due dates and a revision plan. How many read-throughs are they going to do? When? Figure out for yourself how you are going to tackle changes. One slow, thorough pass? Or are you going to do a large rewrite first, and then do several smaller passes later? Arrange your life so you have the time to work. Get the babysitter lined up. Bribe your significant other with their kryptonite (sex, candy, both, whatever) so they help you with all the pesky life stuff like bills and groceries and cleaning.
  3. REVISE REVISE REVISE. Revise like you’re dying.
  4. You send YOUR REVISION to your mentor. I did this just before midnight on my due date after revising in a frenzy for days on end. I was delirious from lack of sleep and caffeine overdose, and I was about 90% in love with my mentor after hearing her talk to me through her comments in my manuscript for weeks. I think I offered to write her a love song. I don’t know where that came from. I’ve never written a love song.
    1. Guess what you do after you send in the revision? YOU WAIT SOME MORE. Weeks, months, who knows? Remember, it’s practice! Don’t you love to practice?
    2. During this time: write/rewrite YOUR PITCH, rewrite your query, swap manuscripts with your fellow mentees (seriously, do this, it’s so fun), read mentor books, relax.
  5. Repeat Steps 2-4 as many times as agreed upon by your mentor until your manuscript is as perfect as you can get it and polished to a shine.
  6. THE AGENT ROUND. For the agent round, you enter YOUR PITCH plus YOUR EXCERPT. In the past, added together, they could not exceed 300 words. YOUR PITCH is the short catchy blurb for your manuscript. YOUR EXCERPT is the beginning pages of your manuscript. You can read previous years’ entries if you Google “Pitch Wars Agent Showcase.”
    1. Agents might request material during this period, and you’ll have to wait until the agent round is officially over to send.
    2. Zero Request Club. Don’t be too disappointed if you don’t get a request. Some books shine best through query. Most people will query after Pitch Wars, anyway. I did.
    3. Guess what you do during the AGENT ROUND? You got it, you wait some more. You’re getting pretty good at it by now. Use this time to spit-shine your query. Your mentor will probably help you with this.
  7. LIFE AFTER PITCH WARS. This is when you’ll get the true value from your Pitch Wars mentee group. You and these people are now going on an adventure together. Join the Facebook group if you haven’t yet. Here, you can cheer for each other and support each other as you each journey toward publication via your own individual paths, whatever those may be.

As you can see, Pitch Wars is not a guarantee of success. The best part about it is the opportunity to learn and make friends, and you can do that without a contest. Stay in contact with the writers you’ve met on the hashtag, keep trading work, and keep writing.

GOOD LUCK! And may the words be with you.

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