What I learned from Pitch Wars last year even though I wasn’t picked as a mentee.

Pitch wars is such an awesome contest! Last year I learned so much from it and I didn’t even make it in. How? Lots of ways.

First, I received a few query and/or first page critiques from former mentors and mentees who were offering them on the Pitch Wars feed. The Twitter writing community is so generous and supportive! Keep your eye out for offers on the feed. I’ve already seen a couple. They didn’t just help me get that query to the next level. They also helped me learn to write a better query, a skill I used on my new manuscript.

I met an awesome new critique partner who helped me get through the “is my stuff really that bad?” reaction when those critiques came back with LOTS of comments. I’d already revised my query and first ten pages based on agent/editor feedback from the New England SCBWI conference and was sure they were golden. They weren’t. This new critique partner was there with the tough love when when I questioned some of the comments. She even critiqued my revised query and first chapter. We later ended up exchanging entire manuscripts. Her name? Marty Mayberry…and this year she’s a mentor for YA! Tell all your YA friends to sub to her because her crits are spot on!

Lastly, Pitch Wars opened my eye to the world of Twitter writing contests. If you don’t make Pitch Wars, it’s not the end of the world…revise and submit to the next one. These contests helped me figure out just how high the bar is for getting my writing ready to make it into contests and for submitting to agents. It’s painful to submit your words and get rejected. But for me, the worst part of early agent rejections was that they were form rejects, providing zero insight into whether my writing was awful or “not quite there,” whether the problem was my plot or characters or whatever. With contests, you can frequently read the entries that did make it and take lessons to make your own work better. That is invaluable.

Even though I didn’t make it into Pitch Wars, I improved my query and first page enough to get a spot in Nightmare on Query Street which lead to my first full request. Yay! Thanks to mentor Michelle Hauck for hosting that contest and mentor Sarah Glen Marsh coaching me on my query and 1st page! I learned enough about writing queries and first pages to get my new manuscript into The Writer’s Voice, and with mentor Monica Bustamante Wagner and Stephanie Garber’s help, got another request.

I wish I could say that after those requests I had an agent and was done with contests. I still have more to learn, so I’m back for Pitch Wars again. But this year, I’m having fun making new writer friends and enjoying the community, not stressing about it (mostly!)

In closing I’d like to send a huge Thanks to Brenda Drake and all the Pitch Wars Mentors for giving their time to help other writers take their next step towards their publishing dreams! I’d also like to  wish my fellow potential mentees the best of luck, whether you get into Pitch Wars, or just make friends and improve your writing.

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