It’s that most wonderful time of the year: PITCH WARS! It’s an awesome, amazing mentorship program designed by the incomparable Brenda Drake. Seriously, check out the site and become a part of this community.

I had the tremendous honor of being a Pitch Wars mentee in 2017 and it was incredible. I loved my mentor, Natalie Mae, loved the community and met some of my best writing friends during the competition. I had a blast during the agent showcase and it was just such a learning experience and one I’ll cherish. 

So in honor of Pitch Wars being right around the corner, I’m going to have a bit of a party here on the site and feature past mentees to share how they got ready for submission, revised, and survived this crazy lil’ thing called PW. 

Read on, friends!

Next up, Erica Waters!

Thanks so much for chatting with me today. Alright, let’s start from the beginning!Tell me about your Pitch Wars PRE experience. How did you find out about it,and what made you decide to enter? 

I learned about Pitch Wars through the writing community on twitter. I decided to enter because I knew I needed a mentor who could help me learn to revise deeply and to navigate the confusing world of publishing.

I know it can seem like a super long wait between submission window and actually seeing if you were chosen. How did you stay sane? 

I honestly don’t remember! That time is such a blur. But I’ve since learned the only way to survive a wait like that is to work on something new. Anytime I’m waiting to hear back from my agent or editor about a project, I start writing a new book or pick up an old backburner story idea.

Once you were chosen, what happened from there? 

Once I was chosen, there was definitely some celebrating. (A bottle of Scotch might have been involved.) My mentor and I talked about how we wanted to communicate and what I could expect during the mentoring process. Then she sent me a very long, very detailed edit letter that nearly killed me dead. I had gotten feedback from critique partners before, but never anything like this. I was looking at a MAJOR revision that would basically make me a cold-hearted killer of all my darlings. It was honestly terrifying. 

After you got all your notes or phone calls from your mentor, what was your game plan? How did you take all of your mentors advice and boil it down into doable steps? 

Well, first I proceeded to disagree with half my edit letter. Then I let the letter sit for a few days and came back to it to discover that my mentor was right about almost everything. (Of course!) I pulled myself together and made an outline of my revision goals, breaking them down into categories and actionable steps. I did several rounds of revision, concentrating on a different category of revision goals each time. This system made an immense amount of work feel manageable.

Alright! The fun/agonizing part! The agent showcase! How did that go for you and what did you do to pass the day? It can definitely be a whirlwind!

The agent showcase was honestly a little painful. I watched dozens and dozens of requests pour in for other Pitch Wars mentees while my little showcase entry sat alone and unloved. Eventually, I did get requests, and each time I cheered at my desk. It would have been much healthier to get out and do something productive, but I think I spent most of the day glued to my computer screen. In the end, the showcase wasn’t hugely successful for me, but that didn’t matter much. Thanks to my mentor, I had an excellent manuscript. I queried the traditional way and ended up with five offers from agents and then sold my book to HarperTeen.    

The PW community is one of the best, most generous writing communities out there! I highly encourage everyone to enter and be a part of the community. How was your experience with all the writers in PW? 

I love PW writers! They truly are a generous, big-hearted bunch of people. We looked at each other’s queries and pages, cheered for each other’s successes, and consoled each other when things weren’t going well. I still go to my Pitch Wars class for advice and help on a regular basis.

Finally, what advice would you have for someone thinking of entering this year’s Pitch Wars? How can they best go about it, increase their chances of success, and overall have a great time participating? 

1.    Write the best book you can. Get it into as good as shape as you’re able before submitting. That’s more important than everything else.

2.    Choose mentors you submit to carefully. Make sure they are looking for what you’re writing! Don’t only choose flashy, fancy names to submit to—choose someone who is going to love your book.

3.    Find at least one other Pitch Wars hopeful to get to know. Even if you don’t get picked as a mentee, if you make an effort to reach out to others in the PW community, you’ll walk away with friends and critique partners. And that’s immensely valuable.