Hey WBPeepers (still working on that name…), there’s a certain contest coming up that has grown by leaps and bounds since it started in 2012. Pitch Wars is a great mentorship program and platform that has provided agents, book deals, and a great community to aspiring authors! Some of whom are in the WBP gang! So, we thought we’d all gather (past and present Mentees and Mentors alike) and have a roundtable discussion on the awesome that is Pitch Wars, plus a little bonus advice from our experiences.
*Note: This post is done in a roundtable style where members of Writer’s Block Party discuss a topic together.
Moderator/Editor: Kat Cho
Christine (mentee 2016): I applied to Pitch Wars in summer 2016, and was chosen as a mentee by Amanda Foody (who is also in this round table, wow, what a coincidence, almost like I forced her to be friends with all of my friends). We worked on my YA contemporary fantasy, THE DEVOURING GRAY, for two months, and those edits led to me signing with my agent in January of 2017!
Foody (mentee 2012/mentor 2016): Back in 2012, when PitchWars had a slightly different format and was all new, I was a mentee/alternate for ACE OF SHADES. I had a really great experience working with my mentor and the other writers in my team, and although I signed before the agent round, it was an invaluable learning experience. I was very excited about the opportunity to mentor YA fantasy in 2016. I actually applied to Brenda Drake a year early asking for a spot, because I was that excited.
Axie (mentor 2016): After meeting Janella for the first time at RT, we decided to co-mentor for the upcoming 2016 year. I’d watched Pitch Wars from the sidelines for years, and always found it to be such an awesome community of writers.
Christine: I mean, my mentor…? That’s the obvious answer, but that was one great thing I got out of pitch wars. I also learned how to edit on a scale I’d never considered before — it made me rethink how I approach story structure from the idea stage onwards, which has been amazing for my writing post-Pitch Wars. And, finally, the entire Pitch Wars community. I made so many friends — fellow mentees, other mentors, past mentees, etc. — who have become important parts of my life over the past year, and I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to meet them!
Foody: As a mentee, I received some really excellent revision feedback on my manuscript, as well as guidance on the querying process. When I was debating between offers, I emailed my mentor for advice, and I found that really helpful. As a mentor, I feel like Pitchwars taught me a lot about writing strong pitches and revisions. And Christine, is like, fine, I guess. That, too.
Christine: I learned that revision is never done. Ever. You’ll generally be revising a book for much longer than you’re drafting it…and that’s normal. Healthy, probably. Oh, and I learned that querying is hard even when you have an awesome group of writer friends who have your back. I was lucky in that my process was fairly smooth — I queried for two months post-Pitch Wars — but even that was a lot for my poor nerves. Basically, no matter what, it’s not going to be easy, but it’s worth it if you love writing enough.
Axie: For submissions, I get it now why agents can’t respond to every submission. It’s a lot – reading them and deciding which ones to request. It helped that Janella and I mostly requested manuscripts we both liked. Our venn diagram had to intersect.
Foody: Receiving submissions was so tough. I received well over one hundred, and we only got to narrow it down to one! I had to be absurdly picky about not just what I enjoyed–but what I would be a good mentor for versus someone else.
Axie: As for revision, I was so impressed with how Judy pretty much re-wrote her book with the suggested revision notes from Janella and me. The revised manuscript she sent in to us was her old manuscript in high definition. It was amazing and inspiring.
Foody: It’s key to remember that Pitch Wars is a mentor competition! Your future mentor doesn’t expect your ms to be perfect. Focus on showing off the parts of the book that you love! If your love comes across on the page, chances are a mentor will see that as well. A wow goes a lot further than a few misses.
Christine: It’s hard not to stress. I remember. I stressed a lot. But the best advice I can give is to focus on your query and your book — not on the social media frenzy. While yes, that stuff is a lot of fun, it’s far more important to have a strong manuscript when you submit to your chosen mentors! Focus on being proud of your book first, and use the Pitch Wars hashtags to ask important questions or find CPs to swap chapters with — don’t use it to needlessly stalk mentors and stress out! (Did I do this? Shh, maybe.)
Axie: Ooh, so true, Foody. Mentors are competing with each other. You can focus on writing the best version of your manuscript, while we do all the fighting. *But yes, love your book and it will show. Also, perhaps this was just me, but I also often skipped the query and went straight to the pages. So…first pages, to me, were more important than a perfect query.
Foody: I think it’s helpful to have a group you’re submitting with for support. Submission in particular can feel like a lonesome road. The con, of course, is that some people inevitably find success faster than others–a reality writers have to deal with 24/7 of their career.
Christine: Well, the best thing about Pitch Wars is the community — a lot of people will tell you that. It’s awesome to be included in a group of writers who are at the exact same stage in the process of publication as you. The pros are obviously that you feel like you’re all getting ready to start the submission process together. Everyone understands how everyone else is feeling. But what’s hard is how, after Pitch Wars, things change almost immediately. While this contest is incredible and has a super high rate of people who find agents compared to an average pool of ~140 writers, not everyone leaves pitch wars with an easy path to an agent/book deal.
But every mentee does leave with that community. And every mentee learns a lot about their writing process. Ultimately, that’s why I endorse Pitch Wars so heavily: because it helps you learn early on that the path to publication is rarely linear. It’s not the most talented writers who usually get to the finish line of a published book — it’s the ones who didn’t quit. And having a community helps you stick with it and remember how awesome you are.
Axie: What Christine and Foody said. I think comparisons can’t help but be drawn in such a public setting, but each book is so different and has its own individual journey. If every story was the same, we wouldn’t have Pitch Wars.
Axie: If you pick Kat and Claribel, you’ll also get the support of the WBP cult, just sayin’.
Christine: Pay attention, most of all, to what every mentor says they’re good at fixing. I picked Amanda because everything she talked about knowing how to help with was a part of my writing I knew I was weaker at, and everything she already wanted to see in a manuscript, I was pretty sure I had. Also her GAME OF THRONES gifs.
Foody: As a mentor, I feel like this is hard to answer. It’s hard to know exactly which concepts will be for me and which won’t. If your book jives with a wish list on a specific level, that’s great! If you know you write something similar to what the mentor writes, also great! You’ll never know for sure, but definitely don’t sub to a mentor who has specifically excluded your work. I got a lot of submissions for projects that fell into categories I mentioned I wouldn’t mentor, and I always felt disappointed on their behalf! Some other mentor might’ve loved their manuscript in ways I wouldn’t.
Axie: If they’ve specifically said no to a genre, then don’t send to them. But sometimes if the genre isn’t listed, it doesn’t mean we’re not interested. Case in point: Janella and I did not have horror on our list, but the mentee we chose submitted with a YA Horror manuscript. We loved that it was horror, but we also loved that it was so rooted in culture (on our list) & BUFFY/VERONICA MARS-esque (on our list).
(Bonus Answer) Kat (mentor 2017): I have it on good authority that this year’s mentors are trying to be very specific in their wish lists. Pay attention to the wish lists, they’re like agent query guidelines and they are your friends! You only get to sub to 4-6 so don’t waste one on someone who doesn’t want your genre/concept.
Kat: I’m excited to fall in love with a story and fan over it while having the honor of helping it find the right representation and home in the publishing world. Wish List will be on my website: katchowrites.com and the blog hop goes live July 19th! I’m also excited to send personalized GIF’s to my mentee.