Winter Update and Pitch Wars

After months of burying my head in the sand, I finally have the mental capacity for a blog update (cue Mushu rising from the flames yelling “I liiiiiive!!!”)! The past few months have been quite a rollercoaster. In DC, we started inching out of quarantine, only to hole up again when the numbers went back up. I also got to reunite with two of my best friends who live on the other side of the Atlantic! It was the most stressful trip I’ve had to date, but we played it safe and a good time was had by all!

In writing news, I hit over 30 rejections. I know that’s not a lot on the grand scheme of things, but it felt like a lot. So I was struggling to figure out what I needed to do to get this book off the ground. And then I got into Pitch Wars!

Pitch Wars 2021

For anyone not familiar with Pitch Wars:

Pitch Wars is a volunteer-run mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each to mentor. Mentors read the entire manuscript and offer suggestions on how to make the manuscript shine for the agent showcase.

Unfortunately, we just found out that this was the last year they will be running it, but it was a fantastic program for which I will be infinitely grateful. When I applied, I was starting to feel like no one wanted this novel and that maybe it was time to focus on a new story about sea monsters. Maybe it was time to let the witches fade quietly into the woods. And then I got a partial request for the manuscript. And then I got a FULL request for the manuscript! And then I woke up to a text from my beta readers telling me that I’d gotten in!!!!

In early November, just as I was shifting focus to a NaNoWriMo project, Jake Nicholls selected my manuscript for the Pitch Wars mentorship program and I could not have been more excited. Someone was going to help me revise my novel! I had a little time for breathing room, and then it was time to dive back into my woodsy world of witches!

The Revision

The Pitch Wars process started out with a bang. While Jake worked on my edit letter, they kept me busy with character sheets and notes about worldbuilding to help me dig in deep and really think critically about how I was shaping this novel. And when the edit letter arrived I was chomping at the bit to get to work. Jake’s feedback was exactly what I needed! They were super excited about the story, but also had really actionable critiques for what I could change. And from the beginning, they made sure I knew that the decision to change anything or not was in my hands.

Most of the editing I did focused on ramping up the tension in the novel. Essentially, things were just too easy for my main character. “Sorry, Deirdre” became a common refrain as I added obstacles to the plot. On top of that, I needed to make sure my villain had a bigger presence in the world. Jake and I also had some great discussions about the gender expression in this world since I have a major nonbinary character and I wanted to do them justice. In the end, I added 4 brand new chapters and drastically reworked several others. Not quite as big of a haul as some other mentees who are absolute champions and rewrote large portions of their novels, but still plenty to keep me busy! After a round of line edits and working on my pitch and query materials, it was time for showcase!

The Showcase

For anyone unfamiliar with showcase, at the end of Pitch Wars everyone has the opportunity to submit the pitch for their book and a sample of their first page. All of the pitches appear on the Pitch Wars website, and for a short period of time, agents are able to comment on the manuscripts they would like to request.

Showcase was a wild week where the other mentees and I were going out of our minds waiting to see how our pitches did. Jake checked in with me once a day to let me know if I had a request and to cheer me on, which honestly kept me from truly losing it. And then at 9pm on February 14th, we got to see who requested us. And you know what? I got some requests! And I am really excited about them!

After Showcase

And now? It’s back to the querying trenches! I’ve heard all kinds of stories from former Pitch Wars mentees. Some who got their agents through the program, some who got them shortly after, some who are still looking. It’s not a silver bullet to getting an agent. I’m sure there’s plenty of rejections coming to my inbox in the near future, so I’ll be stocking up on chocolate and bath bombs. But no matter what happens, I will always be grateful to Pitch Wars and to Jake. Because I learned SO much, not only about how to make this novel better, but how to apply what I learned to future novels. And even if this novel doesn’t get picked up, I am so in love with it and I can’t wait to finish the next one. I’m honestly so sad to see the program go. I know everyone had different experiences with the program, but mine was so incredibly positive. So thank you Pitch Wars, for running this program over the past few years, and thank you Jake for picking me and my witches.

My queries are out. And now we wait.