If it wasn’t for Pitch Wars, I don’t know if I ever would have finished my latest novel. I had queried it around for a while and was coming to the conclusion it wasn’t working in its current form and needed a facelift. I envisioned a completely new angle for the material (something I would do multiple times for this project…it’s been a long road) but felt weary and submitted to Pitch Wars, hoping for a mentor to help me figure out what to do with this material. While I didn’t get accepted, I was a finalist with a couple people and got some very encouraging and helpful feedback. Around the same time, I also won a Writers’ Digest query contest. It was enough to motivate me to dig back into this material and get it out in queries a few months later, eventually landing me multiple offers of representation.
What I’m saying is, as you enter Pitch Wars, I encourage you to take everything as an opportunity to better yourself and your work. Whether you get accepted or not, just participating in the process can be a helpful learning experience.
To start, use the submission process to read mentor requests carefully. Select folks you can make a compelling argument to work with. Consider mentioning why you chose them in your query. This skill will help you in the querying process with agents. A personalized query can be the first step to catching an agent’s attention.
Also use the submission process as an opportunity to tighten your query and first pages. Swap with friends. Re-evaluate every word—does this make a strong case for why someone should pick my book? Does it hook them right away? Can I condense, tighten, focus even more? I find that these kind of events motivate me to edit and really get my materials in tip-top shape because there’s a concrete, tangible deadline. They can also motivate me to reach out for help, resulting in swaps that have led to long-term critique partner relationships (Facebook groups are particularly great for this).
Don’t throw away your rejections. Do your best to not despair over them. I got some very kind, thoughtful and personal rejections from Pitch Wars. I got feedback that helped focus me as I returned to rewriting and gave me insights on what I could do better. Rejections can sometimes be the best gifts for our craft. Some of my rejection letters have been the start to longer correspondence and relationships. Have a flexible spirit and be open to feedback. Rejection letters do not equate to failure. Make the most out of them and see if you can learn from them. Sometimes that lesson is: this person does not understand this project. And that’s ok too.
Finally, don’t let Pitch Wars be the end of this journey for you. If you get in, that’s awesome and you’ll get an incredible memorable experience with a fantastic mentor. But if you don’t, don’t stop here. Persist! There are other Twitter pitch contests (#pitmad perhaps being the largest) and other mentorship opportunities (Adroit comes to mind). Join a local writers’ organization. If you do kidlit, make sure you’re a part of SCBWI. Submit to Pitch Wars next year. Sometimes I’ve submitted somewhere, sure my project was ready, only for things to not move forward and for me to realize it still needed to grow. I’d get additional feedback and experience relevant things in my life that helped make the material richer than it was to start. I’m so grateful for that extra time I received and am glad it didn’t get published on my timeline.
Writing and publishing can be a long game, so never lose sight of why you do this. You are a writer, and publication is irrelevant to that identity as a writer. Do not let Pitch Wars or the publishing business define you. Just keep writing, learning, and persisting.