February is a big, big, BIG moment for the PitchWars community! Honestly, November to February every year is. BUT February is probably the most anticipated. Why? Because it’s when the mentees finally get to showcase their polished manuscripts to agents between the 9th – 11th!
To help everyone who’s new to the writing community understand PitchWars and those who haven’t passed through the mentoring event understand what goes on behind the scenes, we’ve put together this interview with a PitchWars Mentee!
Path2pub: Welcome to Pathtopublication! What is your name, your mentor’s name and your genre?
AD: My name and genre: Aimee Davis, adult fantasy. Mentor’s Name: Rochelle Karina.
Path2pub: What is PitchWars for the writing community newbies?
AD: Pitch Wars is an all-volunteer run mentoring program that pairs unpublished authors (the mentees) with published/agented authors, editors, or industry insiders (the mentors). Each mentor (or mentor pair) selects one mentee and works with them one-on-one for a couple months to shine up their manuscript, query, and pitch for an agent showcase. During the showcase, each mentee is featured online in a post that includes their pitch and (roughly) the first page of their manuscript. Participating agents view the posts and make requests for more materials from those pitches that interest them. You can learn more here.
Path2pub: Great insight. Now let’s delve into the juicy stuff! How did you feel when you found out you got into PitchWars?
AD: This is my FIFTH attempt at Pitch Wars. I stayed up until midnight with a few of my fellow hopefuls to wait for the results to drop. I didn’t even find out from the list, I found out from them screaming into my DMs that my name was on the list (and so were theirs!) When I finally saw it for myself, I screamed and screamed, and I couldn’t stop shaking. I am pretty sure I cried. As to how I felt, I’m honestly not sure. I have C-PTSD so when I’m in states of heightened emotion I tend to disassociate from my emotions. I can guess I was pretty excited though. Definitely overwhelmed. And certainly honored.
Path2pub: That’s so sweet! How has the experience been?
AD: My Pitch Wars experience has been incredible. Rochelle has been the best mentor, and friend, anyone could ever hope for. She has made not only my manuscript stronger, but me stronger. I’ve made some great new friends (both those who made it in and those who didn’t), and after many years of searching I feel like I’ve finally found my place in the writing community.
Path2pub: It’s so beautiful to know, as the sense of community also correlates directly with why Path2pub was formed. How much changes did you have to make to your MS? Major or minor?
AD: This book definitely does not look the same as it did when it went into Pitch Wars, and I am so glad it doesn’t! The first step for my revisions was to cut 19,000 words out of the manuscript to tighten the pacing. After that, I had to add 15,000 words back in without slowing the pacing, so that took a lot of carefully placed words. It was a smattering of 100 words here, 50 there, painstaking work of fleshing out emotion (that disassociation thing associated with my trauma? Yeah, it carries into my writing), touching the corners of my literary side without going all in, learning to finesse my craft. It was a lot to do in a short amount of time, but it was well worth the effort! Oh, and I had to rewrite the ending… three times.
Path2pub: Woah. 3 tips on how to approach big editorial notes!
- Reverse outlining: A lot of the mentors suggest this, and I had never heard of it! Many of them have different methodologies but the basic concept is going through your book and for every chapter or scene outlining the major plot points and major character arc moments for each scene or chapter. This gives you a good idea of where your pacing is slowing and where your arc isn’t arcing. It allowed me to cut about 8,000 words from my book a weekend. I have a template I’ve been sharing with people including examples from my actual Pitch Wars manuscript, so if anyone has any questions they can DM me on Twitter @writingwaimee and I’m happy to discuss this further!
- Nothing is a darling. I know this sounds a little harsh, but honestly, separate yourself from your books. You are not your writing. You’re so much more! Publishing is a business and your books are your product. Cut with abandon. If seeing it go is too hard, save it in another document for later (another book, bonus material for when you hit it big to send out in a newsletter or special edition, etc.). Just find a way to let it go, as Elsa would say.
- Let them rest. Sit on your notes for a minute. Getting critique (even nice, well-intentioned, compliment sandwich critique) can be tough, so if you find it has stung or you’re feeling discouraged, walk away and let it rest. Come back to it later and see if you’re still feeling disheartened. Then try to figure out why. Not all critique is made equal. Good critique that is right for your manuscript should make you excited to start revising!
Path2pub: “Nothing is a darling” made my heart crack a bit, haha. Give us a bit of inside scoop about how the PitchWars community is!
AD: The community is awesome! It’s big though, so I think finding your people within it is key, or at least it has been for me. I struggle in large groups, so I’ve found a smaller group of folks I vibe with super well, and I’m so glad to have them to cheer me on and vice versa!
Path2pub: What are a few lessons you’ve learned from the process?
AD: I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that everything the mentors say during the Pitch Wars waiting period is in fact true. This industry is SO subjective. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet so many people who applied to Pitch Wars and didn’t get in or mentees from previous years who haven’t found their agents (yet!) or their publishers (yet!) and honestly, they’re all knock-your-socks off talented. It has really made me realize how true the subjectivity line is. But I also really believe each one of them will have their time and place and it will be the perfect moment for them and that’s why the universe waited for that moment.
Path2pub: Lovely of you to share this. It’ll surely resonate with many. How do you feel about the agent showcase?
AD: While my feelings about the showcase are conflicted, I’m generally pretty calm about the whole thing. The practical part of my mind is already in the query trenches. I know I’ve done everything I possibly can to make this the best submission packet I’ve ever produced: I have a killer book (a fairy Godmother who hates her job and her sexy but villainous ex trying to get in the way of her saving her best friend, c’mon, who isn’t into that?), a great query, a fun pitch, a synopsis I don’t want to burn, and a thoroughly researched agent list. All my boxes are checked. I know the stats for my genre. I know the realities of the showcase. Now, all that said, do I harbor a secret little hope balloon that casually floats to the base of my throat every once in awhile pressing in on the I want to be one of the ones with 50 requests and agents clamoring to get their grabby hands on my manuscript? I mean, sure. I think we all do. But realistically, I am more than grateful to have had the opportunity to work with a genuinely kind, smart, talented, woman like Rochelle who gave up so much time, effort, and advice to drag me through to this point. Showcase success or not, when my name showed up next to hers on November 6th, I already won Pitch Wars.
Path2pub: That’s beautiful! What advice do you have for writers hoping to enter PitchWars this year?
AD: Get as many eyes on your manuscript as you can! Preferably readers in your genre who understand your genre conventions. Romance writers, read Romancing the Beat. Everyone, Save the Cat Writes a Novel! Is your friend. Pick up a digital copy of Goal, Motivation, Conflict. Read the craft books. Do a reverse outline. Cut fearlessly. Participate in the events on Twitter during the waiting period to meet your people. My closest writing group friends were ones I met during the wait and they’re not PW mentees. Doesn’t change a thing. I don’t know what I’d do without them. And even when it’s so hard to forget, try to remember that what the mentors say is true: It’s all subjective. Oh and never, ever give up on yourself.
Thank you for stopping by Aimee. This was super insightful and we wish you all the best in your journey! You can follow Aimee on Twitter @writingwaimee and check out her showcase page here!