I didn’t get an agent during Pitch Wars. In fact, not only did I not get an agent during Pitch Wars, but I didn’t get an agent with my Pitch Wars book at all—I didn’t sign with my agent until after I’d stopped querying my PW MS and started querying my next book. And yep: That was hard. Really hard. I-came-super-close-to-giving-up-for-good hard. As fun as it was to see so many of my Pitch Wars friends get agents and book deals during or soon after the contest ended, it was also an overwhelming reminder of what felt like my big, fat failure.
And yet, even in the darkest moments, I never for a single second regretted applying to or being accepted into Pitch Wars 2015. And despite the fact that my Pitch Wars book is currently shelved, and will eventually need another big rewrite (sob) before I can show it to my agent and have hopes of submitting it to publishers, I am so grateful for the Pitch Wars experience. Because you know what? It’s true, what people say—Pitch Wars is about WAY more than just the agent round. Whether or not you get agent requests, whether or not you come out of the contest with an offer or languish in the query trenches for years more, Pitch Wars has a profound effect on your life and your writing. I promise!
Here are five reasons that Pitch Wars was 100% worth it to me, even without getting an agent for that book:
1. It gave me validation in a moment when I needed it greatly.
2015 was the second year that I applied to Pitch Wars. The first year, I didn’t get a single request for further materials from any of the mentors I applied to (though I did get immensely helpful feedback from two of the mentors—which is yet another reason applying to Pitch Wars is so worth it, even if you don’t get in!). In 2015, though, I got requests from all five mentors—and knowing that got me through a LOT during what was probably the most emotionally difficult year in my writing life. I’d already queried my Pitch Wars book quite a bit before I got into the contest, and had had a decent request rate that had within a few months turned into a lot of full rejections. I was convinced that my book needed a lot of work, and starting to feel hopeless about my skill. Getting those mentor requests reminded me that I HAD worked hard to get to where I was, and that my writing did have something it that was worth fighting for. In the months after Pitch Wars, when I was feeling frustrated about not getting anywhere with that manuscript, remembering the fact that all five mentors had loved my writing was all that kept me going some days!
2. It taught me how to really revise.
I was not a greenie writer when I got into Pitch Wars—my Pitch Wars novel was my fourth, and the second one I queried. I knew how to take a critique and how to revise. But during Pitch Wars, because my novel had serious pacing issues, I ended up revising on a completely different level than I ever had before. I don’t have an exact number for how many words I cut and rewrote during the work period, but I estimate that I rewrote about 2/3 of it more or less from scratch, and I moved all of the chapters into different places.
That level of revision was pretty enormous, and the book that I’ve fully revised since then didn’t require nearly so much work. But revising that dramatically was one of the most helpful things I’ve ever done in my writing career, because it taught me how to dig into my story without being afraid of breaking it, and it also helped me figure out how to hone in on my book’s heart and make certain that the plot was revealing that heart in the best way it could. With my next book, I was able to change up one of the timelines in the story with confidence and without panicking, because my Pitch Wars experience had taught me how effective (and fun!) large-level revision can be.
3. It gave me a community.
As I said, I wasn’t new to writing when I got into Pitch Wars. I had writer friends that spanned the gamut from close lifelong friends I’d been writing with for years to acquaintances on Twitter whom I cheered along in their #amwriting goals. But the Facebook group for the Pitch Wars 2015 mentees quickly started to feel like my online “home”—the one place I went to (and still go to) first thing every day, the place where I take all my writerly questions, and the people with whom I share both my successes and my hard moments. My Pitch Warrior buddies have brainstormed with me, encouraged me when I was this close to throwing in the towel for good, and celebrated with me when things went my way. I’ve also forged several new close individual friendships with people I met from Pitch Wars—one fellow Pitch Warrior is even my co-mentor for Pitch Wars 2016 (as well as an agent sister!).
4. It took my CP experience to a whole new level.
Before Pitch Wars, I had CPs, but I’d always had a tough time finding critique partners and beta readers who gave the kinds of critiques I needed to truly take my MSs to the next level. In writing my first post-PW book, I was floored with how fantastic the critiques I got from CPs I’d met during Pitch Wars were. My CPs helped strengthen my story beyond recognition, and even suggested a lot of ideas that I ended up incorporating during my revisions that made my book a hundred times better. That was the book that I eventually got an agent with, and among other reasons, I cite the fact that my Pitch Wars CPs pushed me to grow and stretch in ways I’d never been able to before.
5. It didn’t end in November.
Probably the biggest thing I have to say to recommend the Pitch Wars experience is this: It goes so far beyond a two-month revision fest. All of the things I’ve mentioned in this post—validation, community, revision skills, and new CPs—are things that continue in my life even now, nearly a year later, and continue to strengthen my writing and fortify my tender emotions as I continue in my journey toward publication!