I applied to Pitch Wars in 2014, 2015, and 2016. I received zero requests until the last year. That’s when I received one, and that mentor, Judi Lauren, ended up choosing me as her mentee. Sometimes one is all it takes.
I made no effort to connect with other Pitch Wars hopefuls in 2014 and 2015. This was before I was active on Twitter. I would pick my mentors, throw my application into the abyss, then attempt to forget about it until that gut-wrenching day when mentees were announced and I knew for sure I wasn’t picked.
In spring of 2016, a few months before the submission window for the third Pitch Wars I would apply to opened, I made more of an effort to get feedback on my work. You see, I was an ego writer before 2016. I figured that trading work with other writers didn’t work because only established writers or publishing professionals gave quality feedback. Upon finishing my third manuscript, however, I figured why the hell not and went looking for my first critique partner.
I learned a lot that spring. First, that you probably don’t know as much as you think about your own book when only your grandma or parents are reading them. You need other writers for feedback. It doesn’t matter if they aren’t published. They can articulate feedback in ways family and friends never will. Also, you can learn a lot about your own craft by looking at someone else’s work with an editorial eye.
I considered myself a writer in the years leading up to spring of 2016, but it wasn’t until then did I realize I was finally taking my craft seriously.
I found more critique partners to trade work with. I became more active in the writing community. I engaged with Pitch Wars hopefuls during and after the submission window while I waited to hear back from the mentors I submitted to. My excitement built when Judi asked to read my full manuscript.
Online activity is a double-edged sword. Out of sight, out of mind can work wonders for mental health, and watching all the positivity rain down from the Twittersphere when mentees were announced in 2014/2015 made me sick, miserable, and full of a hard need to delete my Twitter account. Even now, I caution filling your feed with too much Pitch Wars content. A lot of hearts are going to break come November, and a bit of distance will make it easier.
But being connected with the writing community for me meant I was finding people to trade work with, which meant becoming a better writer. Which meant mentors didn’t have to dig as hard to see the potential in my work. Judi saw it, and when she emailed me the evening before my birthday to let me know I was her mentee, it felt how I imagined The Call with a literary agent would feel. It was amazing.
I knew I never would have reached that point if I hadn’t started searching for critique partners the previous spring.
There are writers out there who want to believe they’re the exception, that they don’t need feedback. Or that only an expert will do for collaboration. They’re severely underestimating their peers. Every writer begins as a reader, and I’ve never met a reader who didn’t wonder how to improve at least most of the books they read. It creates an eye for critique.
The best writers work with feedback, whether from a trusted CP or their editor. Feedback is an essential part of the writing process. I’ve lost count the number of times a CP gave their two cents that made me want to kick myself. Can you pick up a paintbrush and replicate a hyper-realistic image from your head? You can’t expect to write tens of thousands of words and expect them to come across the way you expect them to.
Want the best possible chance in Pitch Wars? Find other hopefuls and trade work with them. Don’t like how Twitter formats their content and want to find a CP elsewhere? Join websites like Absolute Write Water Cooler. You’ll meet some amazing people in the process, or just one if that’s your style. Sometimes one is all it takes. They’ll help you improve the words in your work that you’re blind to. They’ll ensure agents and editors see the potential in you that made you start writing.