Try Because You May Fail
Pitch Wars is coming up fast, and I know there are a lot of people out there who are nervous or unsure about entering. It’s the same fear that paralyzes so many writers. The one that keeps us up at night, telling us that we need to be perfect, that to try and to fail would be worse than not having tried at all. It’s the one that tells us that rejection means we’re not good enough and never will be.
And it’s completely wrong.
Many others before me have written about the incredible benefits of joining Pitch Wars, even if you don’t get a mentor. There’s an awesome writing community, amazing advice shared freely on Twitter, and an atmosphere full of inspiration and hope. All of that on its own makes joining Pitch Wars an invaluable experience, even if you don’t get in.
But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today.
Because I’m not here just to say that Pitch Wars is worth it even though you might not get in (it is). I’m saying that Pitch Wars, and other opportunities like it, are worth it especially because you might not get in.
Don’t get me wrong. Being chosen would be incredible. There are countless success stories that prove that Pitch Wars can do astonishing things for a mentee’s writing career. But trying and not getting picked isn’t necessarily the loss you’d think it might be.
I entered Pitch Wars last year hoping that I was at a stage in my writing where I was ready to be published. I knew there would always be more to learn, but my skills had reached a plateau and I thought my manuscript was about as good as I could make it. We can all laugh about it now, but I actually thought I knew something about plot structure and tension and keeping the reader hooked. Turns out I was wrong in the absolute best of ways.
Let’s be clear about one thing before we go on: Pitch Wars has a limited number of spaces for mentees, and that means that most people won’t get in. Many won’t get in because a mentor simply subjectively liked something else better, or because their book was so good that mentors didn’t feel they could offer anything more, or because of a myriad of other factors that have no reflection whatsoever on the quality of their work and really amount to bad luck. You can always improve your skills, but not getting chosen for Pitch Wars absolutely does not mean that your writing isn’t ready yet.
But that wasn’t the case for me.
I was close. I had interest in my first chapter, but ultimately it didn’t hold up, and being rejected was tough. I’d been so excited about Pitch Wars when I’d entered that the disappointment hit me harder than I’d expected. My biggest fear was that my writing might never be ready, never be good enough. But there was no way forward except forward, so a few days after the results came out, I picked myself back up. A very generous Pitch Wars mentor named Michael Mammay had given me a critique despite passing on my manuscript, and it was the best feedback I’d ever received. I knew this to be true because I didn’t understand it at the time. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe it — I just didn’t have the skills yet to understand the problems he’d pointed out to me, even though I knew they were there.
I began to read all of the advice that mentors had shared on their Twitter feeds. I made friends and looked for critique partners. I studied my manuscript and searched for advice online. Slowly at first, I began to see the issues in my manuscript that I couldn’t see before. Not only that, but I began to see how I could fix them. And that’s when it hit me: I could make my manuscript so much better. Whatever plateau I had thought I’d hit in my writing no longer existed, and that meant that I could be better. A lot better. And if you’ve ever experienced it, you know what an incredibly exciting feeling that is.
When I first planned to write this post, I thought it was going to be about entering Pitch Wars. But the truth is that this is about more than that. It’s about encountering rejection, about facing fear and self-doubt as a writer. More importantly, it’s about growth.
Being rejected is hard. It really is. But it’s not a true rejection. Not from everyone, and not forever. Sometimes rejection is just about one person’s subjective taste. Or bad timing. Or bad luck. Or a number of other things that have nothing at all to do with how well you write. But if you’re lucky, you’ll experience the special, amazing times when you realize that you were rejected because you can do better, you can still improve. Because you have more to you than what you’ve already written and what you think you can do.
Sometimes a rejection is just a voice saying: You have more potential than that.
Let’s be honest. That’s hard to hear when you wanted to be ready now, when you thought you were closer to achieving your goals. But in the long run, you might find that you’re happy you were pushed harder, further. Because being rejected now might drive you to improve in ways that you never could have imagined if you’d had the success you’d wanted early on.
So if you’re thinking about joining Pitch Wars but are afraid of not getting in; if you receive a rejection or you find out that maybe you’re not quite as far along on your writing journey as you thought you were, remember this:
All it means is that you still have better in you. You have more potential. And your moment is still ahead.
Keep trying. Keep writing. You might join Pitch Wars and not get in. You might get rejected by all the literary agents you query and have to start over. You might have to do more revisions or begin again on something new. But keep putting yourself out there and don’t be afraid to fail. Because failing isn’t really a failure if you take it for what it is: an invitation to improve in ways you never knew you could.
I will forever be grateful for my experience with Pitch Wars, not despite the fact that I didn’t get in, but because I didn’t get in. As hard as it was to realize at the time, I wasn’t ready. I grew more as a writer in the months following Pitch Wars than I had in the previous five years combined, and it was all thanks to what at the time felt like a failure. I’m no longer afraid to try again, because now I know the secret to rejection: you win even when you fail. And it’s so worth it in the end.
Don’t try despite that you might fail. Try because you may fail. You might just realize that you have more potential than you ever dreamed possible, if you’re willing to do the work.
You might just astonish yourself.