Things I Got Wrong About #PitchWars

#PitchWars always scared the hell out of me.

As a new writer on Twitter (and one struggling to figure out how even that worked), I used to see these fun and interesting posts about something called #PitchWars. I made a mental note to check it out, but then the intimidation factor rolled in.

It had rounds.

War was in the title.

You had to get picked.

There were running conversations about what “winning” in #PitchWars meant (More on this later).

As someone with a proud tradition of getting picked last for… well, everything, that’d always been enough to hold me back from applying.

But there’s this thing that happens to writers who keep grinding away at their craft and blasting their words out in the universe, bracing for certain rejection, but stubbornly hopeful that this may be the time someone else connects with the story they’re trying tell.

It starts happening.

Suddenly, you open an email prepared for another courteous “No” and instead it’s a “Send me more,” or better still, an “I want it.”

I’d gotten a few of those, and suddenly when #PitchWars rolled around last year and popped up on my Twitter feed shortly before the deadline, instead of “Won’t be me,” I said, “Why not me?” Taking the risk to enter #PitchWars was the best gamble I’ve made in my writing career since deciding to drive an hour from my house to hang out with a bunch of crazy writers I met at a Con and join their crit group. The community, friends, and learning that I’ve taken away from the #PitchWars experience have transformed a passion I’ve cultivated since childhood.

Now, I want to address a few of the things that spooked me away before (AKA, my misapprehensions):

First, the rounds in #PitchWars are actually really simple. The process goes something like this. Check out the blog posts of mentors in the category you are interested in, and apply to the ones you feel a connection to. Then, if that mentor selects you as their mentee, the two of you work collobaritively to make your book awesome-r than it already was. Then, as an added bonus (and if you’re ready!), it goes up on a website where agents can ask to read more of your work. That’s #PitchWars in a paragraph.

Second, if there is a war in #PitchWars it is a war of writers against unrevised manuscripts—with the battleground being the pages that need to be cut, sculpted, and molded into something greater. Rather than an air of competition, the community both publically and behind closed doors is one of cooperation, support, and mutual shared purpose. To get everyone across the finish line where they can say this book is as good as I’m going to make it.

Third, getting picked isn’t some kind of popularity contest—and it isn’t necessarily even about how strong your manuscript is. To be clear, I hardly participated on Twitter prior to #PitchWars. I’d randomly read my mentor’s blog a few times prior, but had more to do with the regular Q&A sessions she was doing with agents when I was building a submission list (Michelle does a fantastic job with these and many other things, her blog here). Rather, my quirky, Western Urban-Fantasy made her laugh, and reminded her of a few places she’d visited in Arizona.

My point is, there’s still some randomness to this process of what connects to your readers and what doesn’t. The same subjective truth is true of submitting to agents. In the tidal wave of manuscripts, many of which can be good, sometimes it’s the little, random things that can make you stand out.

Every year you’ll also here about fantastic manuscripts that didn’t get a single #PitchWars request that went on to get signed while the #PitchWars class is busy revising, and sells shortly after. Getting picked or not picked isn’t the end of a work, just another beginning.

But it is an opportunity and a great avenue to practice your craft with awesome people.

Which leads into my last point about “winning” #PitchWars. Not to be all postgame Juice Boxes N Snacks for everyone, but there are no losers in #PitchWars. Those who spent their time to revise their manuscript, to stick through it and make it better have won. Those who take the risk to submit their work and share their words have won. Whether they are picked or not. Whether agents request their work or not. They have taken the time to advance their craft and moved another step forward.

To those who intend to enter this year, I hope that this can be the great experience for you that it was for me.