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!
First up, Molly Kaperek!
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’m always happy to talk about Pitch Wars! I’m honestly not sure when Pitch Wars actually popped up on my radar but I went back through my email and at least knew of it way back in 2014. I can say with absolute certainty, though, that I found out about it through twitter because I am Extremely Online. Back then, I wrote it off as “just another pitch contest” because I wasn’t very involved in the writing community and the only manuscript I’d finished I knew wasn’t strong enough to do anything with. Querying wasn’t even on my radar except as a “maybe one day” kind of thing.
Cut to: 2017. Pitch Wars kept showing up on my twitter feed and I finally did my research. That’s when I knew what a great opportunity it was and I hyped myself up to submit. I finally had a manuscript I thought had potential I knew I wanted to give it a try. I knew my MS wasn’t ready to query and that it needed a lot of work, but I’d stalled out and didn’t know how to fix it myself or with the few betas that I had. Knowing that I might be able to get some real mentoring and learn how to revise? Knowing that, even if I didn’t get in I’d have found this amazing writing community? It was basically all reward, no risk. Except for, you know, the stomach-churning anxiety and self-doubt. I decided to submit mid-July, spent the next two weeks reading mentor posts, creating my sub list, and jumping into the critique threads on the message boards, and submitted when the application window opened August 2nd. I was extremely, extremely lucky to be chosen the first year I applied to Pitch Wars.
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?
Oh boy. I was working 12 hour days in television production and didn’t have the luxury of free time to worry about it! My coping mechanism was allowing myself to get excited for any/all requests, telling myself that those meant I was on the right path, and that even if I didn’t get chosen, I had taken a huge first step toward seriously pursuing my goal of getting published. I also think the window between applications and notifications were also shorter in 2017, so that definitely helped.
Once you were chosen, what happened from there?
After I finished my happy dance? I got kind of nervous! I knew that my mentor really liked my book because she choose it! Out of a lot of entries! But the self-doubt crept in and I worried about how much work was ahead of me. How I’d be able to balance it all with a demanding job. I’d never gotten an edit letter before, never tackled a major revision and I worried that I wouldn’t do enough.
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?
I think I walked it off because I was so energized. I remember nodding along a lot because my mentor was so dang insightful and all of the ideas she had for my story were great. And then I made a huge mistake which is that I tricked myself into believing that I would need much less time to make the changes than I really did.
The first thing I did was re-write my outline with all the changes–what was getting cut, what was getting moved, what was getting rewritten, and what could stay the same. That went well! My mentor approved that and I got to work, creating a little timeline for myself to make sure I have enough time to do a second round of revisions. But my personal life kind of imploded. I actually started therapy for the first time ever during Pitch Wars which was a great choice, personally, but I feel like I was spending so much time doing damage control in my life that it was hard to stay the course on revisions. I also moved during the revision window. So, ultimately, I completely missed my self-imposed deadline. When I did get my first round of revisions back to my mentor, we agreed that I needed to dig even deeper and take another swing. I was adamant about making the agent showcase (in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been) and we decided to put a month-delay on my MS when the showcase went live.
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 day YA entries went live was probably one of the most stressful days of my life.Definitely worse than the day mentees were announced. I set up shop at a Starbucks near my apartment and spent the entire day revising since, you know,I still wasn’t done with my project! I put on my writing playlist and tried to stop frantically refreshing the Pitch Wars website. I kept glancing at the gchat window I had open with my mentor, since she’d promised to keep me posted.And I wrote and revised and refreshed the page and… came to terms with the fact that I wasn’t getting any requests! That was a tough one. I wondered if the delay was one of the reasons I wasn’t getting requests. I wondered if it was getting buried behind all of the YA fantasy that were(rightfully) getting a ton of attention. But I did my best to put it out of my mind and get to work,because if any requests did roll in, I wanted my MS to be ready to go. When the showcase closed and I still had no requests, I was kind of relieved. The timeline of revisions and the showcase had stressed me out, on top of an already stressful time in my life. When I didn’t get any agent requests, I knew I could take a breath, take my time, and query when I knew I was ready, not just when the time arrived.
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 absolutely agree. I don’t know if I have enough time or space to sing everyone’s praises, honestly. From the message boards where everyone work-shopped queries and first pages before the application window even opened, to announcement day, to now it’s been unreal. We’re TWO YEARS out from the mentor announcements from Pitch Wars ’17, and I still talk with my fellow mentees almost every day. I’ve beta read and had beta readers,gotten and given query feedback, and celebrated so, so many pieces of good news, and sympathized with bad news with my classmates. Having this writing community was a big part of the reason I applied to Pitch Wars and it’s paid off roughly a trillion-fold.
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?
If you’re even considering entering, just do it. Forget the odds, and apply. Use the message boards to get to know other applicants, start to create your network! Jump in to the critique threads. If you’re not good or confident at critiquing yet? Compliment what you do like. Find the projects that you’re excited about, and let those writers know. Find the projects that are similar to yours and reach out! This is a great way to find beta readers and critique partners, even if you don’t make it into Pitch Wars.
When it comes to picking mentors, do your research. I made myself a little spreadsheet of mentors that were interested in my category. From there I narrowed down who might be interested in the type of book I was submitting. Pay attention to what a mentor wants! And respect what a mentor says they absolutely don’t want.Don’t waste their time or one of your entries. Also, try not to be too precious about people you already know/like from social media and really dig in to all the mentors available in your category. Then, trust your gut! Don’t brag about any requests that you get on social media, but do take the time to celebrate yourself. And, if you don’t get requests, take a moment to be bummed, and then think about what you want to do next. No matter what, it’s going to be hard.But it’s definitely going to be worth it. Good luck!