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5 Things I learned during Pitch Wars

August 2, 2017

I cannot express how giddy I was when I saw my name on the Pitch Wars mentee announcement (actually, I didn't see my name – I skimmed over the announcement, didn't see my name, and immediately began rambling about how it was fine, I'm fine, it's totally fine. Then my husband was like, "hun, your name is right there." Oh.) 

ANYWAY, I was elated when I was chosen by Heather, and my enthusiasm has only gone up in the past two months. It's been two months of hard work, late nights, tired eyes, and mini freak-outs. It's also been two months of growing friendships, feeling proud, improving, and progressing.

I wouldn't change this experience for anything. That's why I'm writing this now, today, before the agent round. Don't get me wrong – I'm SUPER excited for the agent showcase and can't wait to cheer on my fellow mentees! But it's also the icing on this already-amazing cake. My manuscript is stronger. My writing is tighter. I've made friends and gotten involved in an amazing community that I didn't have before. 

I already feel like I've won. 

And I want to remember that feeling long after whatever happens in the agent round happens. 

And what better way to do that than make a list of all the wonderful things I've learned during this process? So, without further ado, here are 5 things I learning during Pitch Wars:

1. Having another writer critique your work is GOLD

I bet a lot of you already know this. And I likely already knew this as well, but then Heather BLEW ME AWAY with her suggestions for my book. The first of which was, "Hi, hello, this book should be in first person". After it sunk in that changing POVs was basically a rewrite, I got to work. And it became so clear so quickly that DUH, this book should be in first. My main character opened up in a way I wasn't able to achieve in third person, and it made my manuscript sooooooo much stronger. I love and appreciate my non-writer beta readers so much (and they provided some invaluable, spot-on feedback), but having a writer's eyes on the book was a game-changer. (Also, Heather is amazing. If you don't know her, go find her on Twitter and send her some love!)

2. It's hard work

But it's SO worth it. I rewrote my manuscript in first person THEN got started on everything else. I chopped, cut, and stitched this baby back together (twice!). I was working away until 3am most nights, I forgot to eat, my house got messy, showering became a lower-priority, and my workouts became less consistent. But my manuscript got better. And my enthusiasm for my book sky-rocketed. 

3. Try everything

I tried every suggestion Heather had for me, even if it ultimately didn't work and was cut. But I learned so much in the process. I can't imagine if I had just said no to trying the book in first person! I did a sample chapter, and from rewriting that first chapter, I knew first person was the way to go. 

Similarly, there was a sub-plot we wanted to add in, and I wrote a bunch of scenes and put it in the manuscript just to rip it back out again. It didn't work. But that time wasn't a waste–it helped me grow as a writer. 

This isn't to say that you should take every suggestion you receive: some won't be right for your book and won't align with your vision for it, and that's okay – we definitely can't take every piece of feedback we're given. But sitting with feedback, ruminating on it, trying it out before deciding it isn't right is a good thing! Even if it doesn't make it in your book, you're still learning from it.

4. Writers need other writers

The biggest thing I felt missing in my life when I entered Pitch Wars was a solid community of other writers. I had a few writer friends (oh heyyyyyyy, Rach! <3), but not that community I desperately craved. And Pitch Wars gave that to me and it's been everything I hoped it'd be and more. SERIOUSLY. This community is amazing and I cannot imagine my life without it now.

We need other writers to celebrate with, commiserate with, and just chat with. We need people who get it. 

*waves at all my new friends* *hugs them* *never lets go*

5. Advocate for yourself

This one's huge. DON'T SELF-REJECT. Before Pitch Wars, I never talked about my book, never entered contests, never gave myself the chance to succeed. I was so scared of putting myself out there, and I didn't realize that mindset was keeping doors closed that may have otherwise opened. I was this close to not entering Pitch Wars because it was public, and now I am so so SO thankful that I believed in myself and my work enough to enter.

You are the best advocate for your work. You can't be given a chance if you don't throw your hat in the ring. So get out there!

I want to say a huge THANK YOU to BrendaNikki, and Heather for this incredible contest and community. I am so thankful to be part of it. And to Heather for being the absolute BEST mentor. You pushed me, supported me, and taught me so much. And to my fellow Pitch Wars mentees – I cannot wait to buy every single book that comes out of this crazy-talented group of people. <3 <3 <3 

TL;DR: This experience was amazing.

Okay, I'm done now.

Floating Heads by Mychal Handley

It's a head without a body, so it floats. Mychal Handley is a Seattle-based UX designer and Illustrator. Contact to request design work or a custom illustration.

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