Pitch Wars came along at the perfect time. I was in that sweet spot between thinking there was nothing wrong with my brand new MS and knowing everything was wrong with it. If I’d had any more or any less faith in my novel, I probably wouldn’t have entered it. It’s that delusional place you get to where if someone tells you it’s perfect, you believe them. And if someone tells you you need to trash it and start over, you believe them. If I hadn’t made it into the contest, I would have believed it was simultaneously awful and ready to query immediately.
The initial fun of any contest is just entering. It’s like playing the lottery where you pay to dream big. The odds of being selected were long (1200 novels were entered), but I allowed myself to have high hopes. And I allowed myself to prepare for ultimate disappointment. Everyone knows that not getting selected for a contest should never be taken as a rejection. There are too many slots for too few people. And in Pitch Wars specifically, people were being rejected for being TOO good. See above in re: sweet spot.
As much as I loved all the mentors and would have been happy just to be chosen, I had my sights on one mentor in particular. There was something delightfully mischievous and fun about the way Jaime Loren approached the entire pre-contest that drew me to her specifically. And the minxy vixen went and posted fake hints prior to the reveal just to throw me off. That’s the sort of hilarious antics that will win me over every time.
And when she picked ME, I’ll admit to some giddy fangirling.
Just by picking me, Jaime gave me a huge boost in confidence that my novel had *something* going for it. And that right there is worth the price of admission. But of course, getting selected for Pitch Wars also means *something* isn’t working. The whole point is for our mentors to help identify and fix problems to a) make our novel better and b) make us better writers.
So… I shipped off my MS without delay and fretted over the many things one frets over. Will she immediately regret having picked my MS once she turns another page? Will she ask me to rewrite from a third person omniscient point of view? Will she ask me to set it in 17th Century Gallifrey? Nails bitten. Hair pulled.
I could have told you some of the problems right up front. The denouement was handled poorly. Some of the subplots lacked plausibility. I had faith in myself to fix the issues, but I didn’t know how to attack them. And honestly, I wasn’t sure anyone would be able to quickly zero in on structural issues so fundamental.
Jaime’s initial feedback pointed out some weaknesses I hadn’t seen. She had me double down on the emotional aspects of my characters’ development in order to amp up reader sympathy. And in every scene where I did this, I grew to love my own characters more. She also identified some of my personal tendencies I’d never even noticed — things like failing to use contractions and a tendency to overly break up scenes. So huge win already with the above.
When we got to talking about the denouement, she came through with ideas that would cause me to completely overhaul the last third of my book. We worked together to hammer out the best course of action to remain true to the story, but still deliver a bigger payout. Rather than cram the resolution into a single scene, it now plays out over several chapters, like mini tremors before the earthquake. It’s the same ending, just with more there there.
Apart from the novel development, this experience has been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve made a huge number of new friends who have been incredibly supportive throughout this process, through the stressful editing and the stressful revisions and the stressful pitch writing and the stressful waiting. And as a bonus, the alternate Jaime selected, Kelli Newby, is a BAMF with an amazing novel that I got to read. Thank you to all of these writers for making this experience way cooler than it would have been without you. I hope we’ll all keep in touch after PW2014 comes to a close. (So soon!)
Major thanks to my mentor Jaime Loren. I cannot wait to get my hands on your novel Waiting for April in the Spring. I’ll be first in line at the digital bookstore.
And Brenda Drake, what you do for writers is immeasurable. Saying thanks seems wholly insufficient to show the gratitude that I and all the other Pitch Warriors feel about your generosity of time and spirit. But words is what we got, so HUGE thank you, Brenda. I am forever grateful to have had this opportunity. What an amazing experience it’s been.
Let’s go Team Twue Wuv!