Monday, October 31, 2016

Michelle's Pitch Wars Story

Over the weekend, I got a huge surprise involving Pitch Wars, a contest I entered about two months ago. Many of my friends have asked how the heck this all came about, so here’s the low-down:

The contest, for those who don’t know anything about it, is run by the fantabulous Brenda Drake and an army of angels. Mentors (published/agented authors, editors, and industry interns) each pick one mentee (writers with completed manuscripts) with whom to work. After two months of crazed revising, the mentee’s work is presented to literary agents in a blog post consisting of a pitch and the first page of their manuscript. Agents view the posts, and, if they so desire, request to read more.

I blame author Dan Koboldt for convincing me to enter Pitch Wars. We interviewed him this summer, and during a conversation about pitching contests he kept saying, “You have everything to gain. Just try it!” Dan was right. I had nothing to lose, especially since I was already planning to query this fall.

Being the uber-competitive person that I am, I went into the contest determined to believe anything that happened would count as winning*. I was blown away by the Pitch Wars community. I never felt like I was running a race against each of the other mentee hopefuls—it felt more like we were on a soccer team together. Each time one person did well, the entire team grew stronger.

When Brenda posted the names of all the mentees and their mentors, mine wasn’t there. I read it three times, wondering if there could’ve been some kind of mistake. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t spend a couple of hours wallowing. It was a rough day. 

And then Sharon Johnston, a mentor I’d been talking to during the choosing period, emailed me and asked if I’d like to be her unofficial mentee. I didn’t even think—I typed “Yes”, hit “Send”, and then went, “Wait, what did I just agree to?” I hadn’t read the entire email, and I had to go back and make sure I hadn’t agreed to anything too crazy. Turns out, I’d agreed to the most intense revision in the universe. Holy Giant Editing Letter, Batman. The first chapter ended in the wrong place. I had three gazillion instances of “look” and “suddenly”. Someone else had published an award-winning book with my title. It was too long (Draft One was a hefty 103,000, the draft I sent in to Pitch Wars was 91,000**). The foreshadowing for one of the twists was weak.

I wasn't sure I could go through with it. I really liked Sharon, but how could I know if her ideas would actually help? Even though I had some initial uncertainty, Sharon’s comments on the first page calmed my doubts. I knew after editing for five minutes that no matter how painful the edits, my book baby was going to be better. I didn’t mention the entire story of Sharon working with me to anyone but my in-person critique group; I didn’t want it to seem like I was waving that fact in anyone’s face. I wish I had known there were other “secret” mentees—we could’ve banded together for support before this morning!

After about a month of intense editing, life became…difficult. Family chaos, lay-off announcements…essentially four weeks of sh** hitting a room full of fans.  I was only a few chapters away from re-finishing the book I had entered in PitchWars, but I simply couldn’t do it. I was spent. I tried to hit “Refresh” on my brain, but all I got was the little hourglass flipping over and over on a blue screen. I decided to switch gears and work on a novel I’d finished in May. It's not like I had a deadline for the other book. Who cared?

And that brings me up to Friday afternoon, when Sharon messaged me about a possible mentee spot—if I could have everything done by the 31st. Cue all-out panic.

With 26,000 words to go through, I had no idea if I was going to make it or not. Besides that, I still had some timeline issues I needed to clean up throughout the entire manuscript. Plus, Beyond the Trope was supposed to be at Mile Hi Con all weekend! I ended up sitting at our table typing like a madwoman (and guzzling triple shot mochas) for two straight days. 

I'm not saying you should do what I did, but my panic paid off, and now I can't focus on anything because THE AGENT SHOWCASE IS THIS WEEK, and I'm so dang excited to read all the pitches and watch everyone's requests rack up.

I don’t know if this will lead to agent, but I’m happy to say that even if it doesn’t, I’m thankful to be here. This experience has taught me so much! If an experienced author tells you to try something new, try it. If an amazing mentor offers to work with you, say yes. If a door unlocks, kick that thing open and keep going.

Michelle is so excited about Pitch Wars she can't concentrate on anything else. Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks to find out what happens with her manuscript!

*Because I’m so competitive that it has literally taken years of mental preparation to teach myself not to be a sore loser. Pitch Wars has been really good for me in that way--it's not as simple as First Prize and Second Prize.
**I’m such an over-writer. Good grief. But I hate trying to find places for new scenes in Draft Two, so you could say I put in ALL THE POSSIBILITIES from the get-go.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations!

    I knew of a few people that had entered Pitch Wars and was saddened to see nary a one in the winners’ announcements. Now it makes me happy and hopeful to see that you were snatched from the jaws of defeat and thrust into the arms of victory. It is doubly hopeful, to see someone soldier on, despite the sh** storm. Maybe I’ll get off my sorry butt, and get back into the writing game.