Hello Potential PitchWarriors!
So you’re thinking about applying to Pitch Wars and you’re wondering, will this blog post tell me anything I haven’t already heard a million times ? I'm going to try...
There are plenty of posts that will tell you:
DO IT, DO IT, DO IT!
It’s a ton of work but totally worth it.
(These posts are 100% correct)
Most will tell you the community you will gain will be worth any stress, disappointment, or exhaustion you may face.
(These posts are also 100% correct)
Still others will terrify you with tales describing the ridiculous amount of work you will be expected to do in a short period of time.
(It is impossible for these posts to convey the actual amount of work you will do. It is also impossible for them to convince you of your ability to do said work. But you can. They are 100% correct on both counts.)
This leaves me with the task of providing some nugget of information you may not have heard before. So here goes. (opinions stated are mine alone YMMV)
Two Quick Insights:
What manuscript should you submit?
If you have the choice, submit a manuscript you don’t mind changing.
I had two manuscripts that I felt were ready to be submitted to Pitch Wars:
With Manuscript A, I was in love with the story. All of it.
With Manuscript B, I was attached to the characters first, then the story.
If you read other Pitch Wars advice posts, you will hear over and over that you should be prepared to rewrite a majority of your story. They aren’t joking. At least half of you should expect to rewrite upwards of 50% of your book.
All of you will kill darlings—a favorite sentence here, a scene or chapter there.
To illustrate, here is a picture of me surrounded by my darlings after putting my manuscript through the first round of Pitch Wars revisions.
So what’s my advice?
Don’t enter with a manuscript you aren’t willing to change.
Don’t enter with the manuscript that has your heart and all you want to do is cuddle it, and protect it, and keep it safe forever and ever.
Don’t enter with Manuscript A.
Leave it in the drawer.
Bury it. For now.
What about Manuscript B?
I loved manuscript B too. (I love it more now. A lot more!)
BUT as long as my characters acted within the boundaries of who they were and followed the general trajectory of the story I wanted to tell, I was willing to add obstacles, and beats, and layers, and anything else deemed necessary to make it the best it could possibly be.
You want me to add a clown riding an ostrich and a vegan pirate?
Sure, no problem.
Throw in an alien ballerina?
You got it!
A cat riding a unicorn?
Here you go!
By saying all of this, please understand that YOU are in charge of your own story and you should never do anything that falls contrary to your vision. Ever.
You will not be expected to do everything your mentor suggests, or fix whatever problems arise in the specific way they suggest.
However, just as you will one day do with your agent and editors, you will be expected to come up with a plan that makes both sides happy.
So understand, you will most likely be advised to do things that will change your manuscript. And by change, I mean enrich.
Your manuscript will be different. But it will be better.
Just make sure you’re okay with that.
If the only manuscript you have is one you are desperate to keep exactly the same, Pitch Wars may not be for you. But maybe it's exactly what you need. Make a copy. Keep it in a folder. Then do the work. Experiment. Follow whatever suggestions your mentor/s give that don't go 100% against your vision. If after Pitch Wars you still think the before version is superior, you've lost nothing.
Ok, But What Do I Do If I Don’t Get In?
All is not lost.
In fact, there’s a good shot you’ll get a win just from applying.
The first year I applied to Pitch Wars, I didn’t get in. But I got a win.
I signed up for a critique group. This was hard for me to do.
Because, seriously, who are these people anyway?
At the time, I couldn’t tell you.
Today, they are some of my very best writerly friends.
Within our critique group of three unchosen hopefuls, we decided to mentor ourselves. We read the craft books that we knew the official mentees were reading, and we did the exercises. We read each other’s work, we learned to critique, we lifted each other up.
Within the year, one of us was agented—with her “failed” PW submission.
The following year, the other two submitted to Pitch Wars again, and this time, we both made it.
All three of us are now agented.
It sounds cliché, but it’s true—Don’t give up, keep working, and it will happen. Applying to Pitch Wars and involving yourself in the various activities, forums, and help sessions will lead to opportunities that will assist you on your path to publication whether you are chosen or not.
Good Luck! You got this!