For several years now I’ve half-watched the #PitchWars contest, devouring blogs about craft and enjoying authors and professionals encourage one another in an exceedingly tough industry. This year, I decided to jump in. Hopefully after reading this brief account, you might decide to take the plunge, too!
What is #PitchWars?
Brenda Drake’s website (click HERE) offers an incredible explanation since she is the genius behind the contest. But in a nutshell, bring a polished – but not agented or represented – draft novel to the party and pitch to mentors who each select a mentee to spend months with working to create a finished copy, ready to market to agents.
What are the benefits?
Many! First, the process of getting your manuscript ready to enter is a wonderful motivation. Researching the mentors introduces you to amazing new authors (and books, I have a list I’m working on now!) Both mentors and prospective mentees promote the contest with blog posts, query and first page contests, and other resources all wrapped up in the neat hashtag. And honestly for me the best benefit has been allowing myself time to invest in my craft. Let’s face it, most of us are not writing as our primary career, and it’s easy to shortchange the profession. The way the contest is structured, information is distributed bit by bit, making it so easily digestible and a neat, ongoing project to feed your writer soul.
What do I need?
As mentioned before, a full manuscript draft in good condition. Sure, the mentor will help you, but you have to bring something formidable to the table. And you also need a query that will be persuasive enough to entice mentors. Click HERE if you need a good Query 101.
How do I select mentors?
When the mentor lists come out, in various categories based on what you write, on Brenda’s blog, it’s sort of like Christmas in July. (Take a look at this year's mentor lists HERE.) Read their tweets. Check out their blogs. Start creating a list of favorites, BUT wait to make your final choices until their manuscript wish lists come out. My absolute favorite mentor of the YA batch isn’t looking for what I’m writing, and as much as it broke my heart to scratch his name off my list, I did it.
How do I get started if I have no idea what I’m doing?
That was me initially. Search #PitchWars and take it all in for a day or two. Then ask questions! The community is welcoming and will help you. Once you’ve done this, write a query, research mentors, and get ready to submit a query and first chapter to four (or six if you donate) mentors of your choice once the contest opens.
Were you successful?
I have absolutely no idea. The contest submission period starts August 3rd (so if you have all the right stuff there’s still time!) I have my dream mentor list set, I’m ready to send off my work, and fingers crossed by the end of August I’ll be selected as a mentee. But even if that doesn’t happen for me this year, I still consider the whole process a win. I’ve discovered new authors, received valuable feedback, and given time to my career as a writer, which means a lot.
Writing has always been an escape, a passion, and a friend. And I love the fact that in my free time and through my career I can help others discover their voice, too.