I wanted to write a post giving advice to the people about to be selected for Pitch Wars. Because for the people who get selected, this is uncharted territory. It’s awesome, and it’s new, but it’s a little bit scary. Things are going to happen. All of a sudden, people are going to look at you a little bit differently. The resources available to you just increased by a wide margin. But it comes with stress, too. You’ve got a deadline, probably for the first time ever. People are looking at you. They expect things, and that’s hard.
I couldn’t write it alone, because everybody’s experience is different. What I have to say might not apply to you. So instead, I polled the Pitch Wars mentees from last year, and I asked each of them to give their best piece of advice. The one thing they want you to know about the journey they’ve been on for a year, and you’re about to start. We all had different mentors, and we’ve all had different results, so everybody comes from his or her own place.
Everything in here rings so true. I’ll do my best to collate the advice into topics, but really these nuggets of wisdom could all stand alone. These are the folks who have been there.
We’ll start with the initial approach:
Priscilla Mizell: Go in with a thankful heart and an open mind.
Erika Grotto: You might not get an agent out of this. You might not get an agent for this book. THAT’S OKAY. Pitch Wars is not just about this book. It’s about advancing your career as a writer, putting your work out there for others to critique, celebrating the victories, and commiserating in the defeats. You got into Pitch Wars because you have something to offer, and that something does not begin and end with one manuscript.
Suzanne Baltsar: It’s easier said than done, but you gotta run your own race. It’s easy to compare yourself to others and get discouraged, but remember writing is a marathon not a sprint. Then again, I hate running and am terrible at it, so don’t forget to stay hydrated and have some fun!
C.L. McCollum: Embrace the community! Everyone involved in Pitch Wars has been so supportive and encouraging. Both my mentor and my fellow mentees were a huge help whenever I hit a blue period and starting getting down on myself!
Heather Murphy Capps: Take your time — pause and THINK about your edit letter before diving in. The tight timeline will make you want to Go Go Go, Push Push Push. But a necessary part of good writing includes giving yourself permission to let the notes and your new ideas marinate. It’s ok to reflect before you dive in and ROCK that revision.
M.C. Vaughan: Know thy pace, and block out time accordingly. If you write best words during frequent, small blocks of time, do that. If you need a marathon session before you hit your happy place, do that. Set aside the time you need to do the work you need to be done, and guard it ferociously.
Steph O’Neil: This isn’t your big break. It will be something different to each writer who gets in, but ultimately, it won’t change your life or your writing unless you use it as an opportunity to change yourself.
Mike’s note: Can I suggest that you read that one twice? Seriously. Pin it to your wall. You’ll get out of it what you put into it.
Lynn Forest: Getting into Pitch Wars isn’t the biggest hurdle you’ll face on your writing journey. It’s a step into a larger world, a lasting community you’ll cry happy tears every time you realize you belong there. And you do belong there. No matter how many successes and failures (yes, both) you face, you’ll face them with your friends at your back. Don’t lose hope. You got this.
Your partnership with your mentor is an individual thing. Every relationship will be different. Some of you will become great friends. Some will become CPs. Some won’t. It’s important to embrace what you have and not compare it to others. It’s going to be hard. You’re going to hear about this mentee who got this, and it’s natural to think ‘oh, I wish I had that!’ But that’s self defeating. Play the cards in your hand. Some other thoughts on mentor relationships and the revision process:
David Gillon: You’re taking part in Pitchwars to gain the advice of a mentor. That advice may go counter to your own instincts. You don’t have to follow their advice, but remember, you’re doing this for their advice, and they know more than you do. Give it a try before discounting it.
Jenny Ferguson: Every mentorship is different: don’t compare and do make the very best of your experience.
Rebecca McLaughlin: You’re a writer. You like writing. You love it, in fact. But these next months aren’t about writing. They’re about revision, and revision is the hardest thing to practice because it’s at the end of the writing road, which is a very long road on its own. So take these weeks and commit to revisions the same way you commit to writing: wholeheartedly, fervently, and with a hard-won passion that toes the line between stubborn workaholic and manic inspiration. You can do this. Tackle it. Revel in it. Learn from it.
I was amazed how many people addressed self care. It wasn’t something I really thought about, but here are some ideas:
Sheena Boekweg: Calories count, even during Pitch Wars. You are going to be spending a lot of time eating your feelings in the next few months/year, and yes, your feelings taste best brownie flavored, or perhaps as ice cream, and you might think that eating the entire bag of Swedish Fish is necessary in order to rewrite your book in two weeks, but the calories won’t go away as easy as they came. Take more walks. Choose to mindlessly eat sugar snap peas, or carrots, and not the entire carton of Ben and Jerry’s.
Leigh Mar Take care of yourself! Get enough sleep, bolster your immune system. A lot of us wound up getting sick about halfway through the revision period last year. Spoiler: Revising is a little easier when you don’t feel like death.
Tracy Gold: Take care of yourself in healthy ways with all of the emotional stress you’re in for. Check out more on her post here.
Relly Annett-Baker: this was my survival kit: 1)Batch cook meals 2) print a calendar of the next two months and work out what time you have AND BOOK IT IN 3) make friends on the Facebook group. They will understand you in a way your partner, friends and even possibly your mentor won’t.
M.K. England: Schedule relaxation time. Probably sounds strange, but if you relax without giving yourself permission to, your brain labels it ‘slacking off’ and beats you up for it. You need that time, though. At least one day per week, give yourself a few solid hours of video games/hiking/netflixing/whatever hits the reset button on your brain. Take care of yourself.
Kamerhe Lane: Recognize that taking time off is an integral part of the creative process. When you hit a tough spot, the right strategy is not always to power through it. Rather, the solution may be to read a good book, go see a movie, take a walk, play with your kids, go out to lunch with a friend. Let your mind wander. Sometimes the wanderings are the only path forward. That said, sometimes you *are* being lazy and whiny, and you need to just shut up and get the work done. So be self-reflective and try to figure out which strategy you need to employ when.
Kat Hinkel: Be prepared to let the experience kind of take over your life, but also try to not let it. (no good advice on the latter. I was in the former camp) … I am pretty sure that I drove all of my friends and family nuts talking about it, but that’s sort of how it goes. The mentee group will be your anchor during this time… rely on everyone in the group! Don’t be afraid to participate. Don’t get jealous or compare yourself. Offer to work as a CP early on (trade writing with people. Work together on updating your query.) And most of all–enjoy it. It’s a very special experience. It goes fast. Try to stay positive and remember you are learning a lot in a short period of time!
These next comments I decided to put into their own section. I don’t really know what to call it, but it’s super important. Everyone is going to have things happen for them at a different pace. There will be people who get agents and book deals faster than you. That’s a new feeling, being happy for someone while simultaneously wishing it was happening for you. It’s hard. You’re all going to feel it at some point. Or maybe it will be the opposite. Maybe you’ll be first, while your friends wait. Either way, it’s hard.
Heidi Stallman: Don’t compare yourself to others. It is poison. It is also impossible not to do. So forgive yourself for the inevitable comparisons and let them go. Everyone’s journey is different. Everyone’s strengths and weaknesses are different. Go the distance at your own pace in your own way and honor your own unique path.
Lyndsay Ely: Manage your expectations on all things; don’t raise them too high out of excitement. Mentally prepare yourself for a lot of emotional ups and downs—both yours and the fellow mentees you will come to know. Celebration and disappointment will happen concurrently. Don’t be afraid to celebrate, and don’t be afraid to express disappointment.
We got a few takes on how to handle the agent round (Apparently my advice to drink heavily isn’t “responsible.” Whatever. It’s a valid plan.)
Elizabeth Newman: During the agent round, schedule a trip, go to the movies, or set timers on how often you can look at the page. It is very easy to otherwise fall into a constant trap of “refresh.”
Cindy Baldwin: The agent round is very, very stressful. I really underestimated the amount of stress it would be (and I even got requests!). It’s tough to feel like you’re in limbo, and it’s tough to see other people’s posts getting tons of responses while you’re getting fewer or none at all. Schedule some serious self-care during the time the agent round is open! And keep your expectations realistic; while many in our group went on to get agents with their Pitch Wars books, only a small handful had those offers come about during or shortly after the agent round.
And several thoughts on what happens after the agent round:
Julie Artz: Pitch Wars isn’t over at the end of the agent round, and neither is the stress of the process. Even if you’re one of the few who sign with an agent in November, the stress continues in a different way as you go out on sub to editors or as you wait for that first review on your debut. So pay attention to self care now, because your ability to roll with ambiguity and stress will be useful throughout your writing career, not just during Pitch Wars. The more you can enjoy the writing process (and ignore the stressful business stuff) the happier you’ll be.
Jim O’Donnell: Write something new. You may or may not get requests. If you get a lot, write something new, and if you don’t get any, write something new. You just spent a lot of time on this manuscript, it’s time to write something new. And I don’t mean something new with your PW MS. Stop revising. Yeah, that’s a great idea for a new twist on your PW MS, but it doesn’t count as something new. Sure, your PW MC would be more exciting if they were half camel, but for now, write something new.
Maria Mora: Take this one step at a time (it’s a marathon), and make a new email address to query agents with so you don’t spend every waking our refreshing your normal inbox at work.
Eric Bell: Learn to wait. Learning to wait, to be comfortable with the silence that comes after sending your work into the world, is an essential skill you must master if you want to succeed as a writer. There will always be unknowns – responses on queries, submissions, feedback, input, reviews, you name it. Waiting is hard. You will wait at every single step of the writing process. Find your coping mechanism and adapt, because waiting isn’t going away. But neither are you, right?
And then a final, closing thought from Amanda, who more than anybody else has kept our group together. She ran our mentee Facebook page and helped steer everybody. Who better to close the post?
Amanda Hill This is exciting! Celebrate! This is humbling. Listen. This is hard work. Do it. This is just one step. It does not get easier after this, only harder. Don’t be afraid. Take what you learn and keep going. Love those you do this with. Love yourself.