PREPARING FOR PITCH WARS
What Should You Be Doing In June
You may have heard, Pitch Wars is coming up. Sure, it’s still a couple months away, but obsession season starts in like four weeks. What’s obsession season? That’s where we spend all kinds of time talking about it on the #pitchwars hashtag and dreaming of success instead of actually writing. Or maybe that was just me.
I was thinking about what I could write this year leading up to the contest, and I was originally going to start the series in July. But then I remembered I don’t have a job right now, and my manuscript is off with readers, so I don’t have anything to do. So hey, what if there are people who are already thinking about it? What can we do for people who want to start preparing NOW.
So, here’s what I did for you. I polled people who successfully got into Pitch Wars over the last three years, and asked them a series of questions. The majority of the answers came from the class of 2016, because they’re still kind of new and probably think it’s a good idea to do what I say. They’ll learn. But I digress. Here’s what our successful entrants had to say about what they’d being doing in June:
1. Prepare your materials and trade pages with Critique Partners.
This is by far the number one answer. I got 70 responses to the poll, and this came up in some form in about 60 of them. Trade your query, trade your first chapter, trade whatever you can get somebody else to read. More eyes on your manuscript can only help. With that said, I’m going to include some of the different takes on that answer:
Ashley D. MacKenzie said: [Get] critique from trusted critique partners — even if you haven’t actually finished the MS by June. I was about 3/4 finished in June both years I got in, but waited until I was this close to done (in July) before sending it out for last-call feedback. Do it earlier, even if you aren’t finished.
Laura Creedle, the author of THE LOVE LETTERS of ABELARD and LILY (Coming December 26th) said: Having multiple beta readers before I did pitch wars helped immensely. I still had a lot of work do do with my mentor, but not an insurmountable pile of revisions. There’s only so much you can do in a month.
Rachel Griffin said: I’d get involved early. Swap queries and first chapters with other hopefuls, follow the hashtag, and ask questions when you have them. The community is one of the absolute best things about Pitch Wars, so don’t be afraid to jump in!
When you’re working on your pages, you want to polish the entire thing, but the first chapter is the most critical, as that’s the first thing mentors are going to see.
Another mentee from last year said: I would ask a trusted CP to look over my MS and be really honest with me about what shape it is in. I would also be putting my query and first chapter through as many readers as possible (especially readers who have not read the story yet). Finally, I would be working on a synopsis. I always hope I won’t need one and I am always wrong, leaving me scrambling to put one together at the last minute.
And critique partners do more than just help you polish your work. They share the experience with you. One of the best things that ever happened to me in my writing journey was when one of my CPs and I got our agents the same week. We went through that process together and always had someone to talk to, which made it way less stressful.
Tricia McKee said: Searching for a critique partner. I’m so glad to have found my awesome CP, but we both wish we’d hooked up a little sooner. She was invaluable during the process. And not just to my writing, but to lean on each other during the contest. We’ve both said it would have been much more difficult if we hadn’t had each other to turn to.
Here’s my take: Even if you don’t make it in, if you find great critique partners, you win. I met several of my critique partners during Pitch Wars 2014. None of us got in. But we stuck together and made each other better, and many have seen success since then, finding agents, book deals, and a lost treasure map that led to the Holy Grail. Okay. Maybe I am exaggerating on that one thing.
Megan LaCroix said: I wouldn’t change anything I did, but I would say that two of the most important things are to finish polishing your manuscript and interact on the hashtag. You need to put your personality out there and connect with as many writers as possible because even if you don’t make it into the contest, you CAN connect with some really great CPs who will be able to help you bring your MS to the next level!
Maxym Martineau said: Find a critique partner! I didn’t have one until Pitch Wars of last year, and her advice and constant support made the journey so much easier. I met her because of a Pitch Wars hopeful group, so don’t be afraid to reach out. Even if you don’t make it in, you’ll have gained an invaluable resource for your writing moving forward.
So that’s the bulk of the advice, but it’s a rule that if you make a post and it has a 1. In it, you have to have a 2. So on that note:
2. Don’t be afraid to take a break.
Sometimes you just need some time off to refresh. Especially if you’ve been working on a manuscript a lot, a break can get you the distance you need to come back at it later with fresh eyes.
Anna Brittain said: I would have probably put my MS in the vault, so I could start another round of revisions in July with fresh eyes!
Ernie Chiara said: I’d clear everything from my schedule for the next few months; prepare myself mentally for the inevitability of scrapping half the words I’d already written; and get ready to work hard, take criticism, be open-minded, and to absorb as much knowledge as possible from my mentor.
Zoje Stage, the author of BABY TEETH, coming in 2018, said: To the degree that’s possible, I’d be looking ahead and clearing my schedule. Make sure you have time to polish the manuscript, query, and first pages. But I think equally as important is making sure you have time to participate in the Twitter feed once it becomes active. For me, that was one of the most enjoyable things about Pitch Wars – interacting with everyone in the weeks ahead of submission, and learning all sorts of helpful things from previous mentees and current mentors!
And for those of you who have read this and are looking at your manuscript which is half done, thinking that it’s impossible, don’t despair. Despite what I’ve told you here, you’re the norm. Maybe your book isn’t complete yet. Maybe you’ve got just a first draft. It’s okay. Remember this:
3. It’s not too late.
Maybe you’re just discovering Pitch Wars. That happened to me. It was July 25th, 2014 when I found it. I promptly hit submit with my completed manuscript. I didn’t get in. But I did get involved. And as I’ve written before (you can find it at michaelmammay.com) not getting in was more instrumental in my development as a writer than getting in the next year.
Marcia Hoehne said: Last June I was getting beta reads, revising the manuscript, and drafting my query. For me, that turned out to be a good time frame for these steps, and I’d personally aim for the same again. But don’t decide you’re too late if you’re not quite this far by June. You still have up until that August submission window closes to revise and polish your entry.
Mary Ann Marlowe, Author of SOME KIND OF MAGIC said: [In 2014] I started writing my Pitch Wars MS about 8 weeks before the submission window. I was using PW as a deadline to get my MS finished, revised, and query-able. Bear in mind, I didn’t expect to get picked. It was just my motivation. This was only possible because 1) I draft fast, but more importantly 2) I have lightning quick CPs who were able to turn around notes in a week. I wouldn’t recommend this approach for most people, but everyone’s process is different, and the advice that you have to be done with so many revisions already by now to even consider entering Pitch Wars might not apply to you. You do you.
In the end . . .
For every single writer who ever got into Pitch Wars, there has been a different path. People have gotten in with no CPs, some people have used ten. Someone was working on their novel for four years, someone started theirs in June. So while it’s great to look at what worked for some people who were successful like we did here today, there are any number of ways. If you’re considering Pitch Wars, good luck. Come back in July when I’ll have some more advice, and probably make some jokes about the romance mentors.
Michael Mammy writes Science Fiction, and sometimes fantasy, usually revolving around military characters. A lot of the ideas that go into those books come from having served in the Army for quite some time. There will also probably be explosions. On the page, not necessarily in real life. He’s represented by Lisa Rodgers of JABberwocky Literary Agency.