Confessions of a PitchWars Mentor

When Brenda announces the #PitchWars mentees this week, I'm going to be pretty freakin' torn. 

I'll be feeling 50% ecstatic and excited to work with some beautiful words and moving characters (oh, the characters). But I'll be feeling entirely equally 50% devastated for those whose hearts will sink, even the smallest bit, into their shoes when they don't see their names.

As I've mentioned on the feed, I entered #PitchWars twice. In 2015 and 2014 (or was it 2013? I'd just had a baby and I don't remember much from that time). The first time, I got a couple of requests. The second time, with a different and much better manuscript, I received zero requests. Both times I knew my chances were slim. 

Not getting picked still hurt. Not as much the second time, because I was more seasoned by rejection in general by then, but still. And I'm going to be feeling for you when that announcement goes out, because I've seen how much heart and love you put into your stories.

And in some cases, I really don't have a good reason for why I didn't pick your manuscript.

During this process, I've lost sleep trying to reason my way through this. I'm trying to find the perfect manuscript for me -- that one that I can love AND help, all in two months. I'm also trying not to hurt you all. I want to do justice to the hopes you've raised by entering PitchWars. (Which, let's just remind ourselves, is just one very subjective contest.)

Some manuscripts I won't be picking simply because I think my vision for the story is too different from the author's. It wouldn't be fair for me to ask you to drastically rewrite your story in two months. I will tell you in my feedback what my ideas are, and I'd be glad to chat with you about them if that's you. But I have to respect your artistic choices.

Some manuscripts I won't pick because there's something ineffable about them that just isn't my style. I'll try to explain this in feedback when I can articulate it, because sometimes other people might react the same way. Other times, it's just taste. Hey, dinosaur porn isn't my thing. But you know, it's big in Paraguay ... (I am completely making that up. Sorry Paraguay.) These are often small things that couldn't fit in my wish list, or preferences I didn't even know I had.

Some manuscripts have great concepts, but the writing wasn't strong enough for me to feel the writer could make the changes in two months. I'm going to try to give those writers some pointers in feedback. If those writers keep working, they can improve. I promise.

But then ... there are the ones that  keep me tossing and turning at 11pm. That make my stomach wrench with guilt. That I just didn't love. For whatever reason. To you, especially, I'm sorry.

For those who get that brick to the gut on announcement day (whenever that is in your timezone), some thoughts.

  • Take a break if you need to. Let yourself feel sad. The first time I didn't get in, I had a self-declared pout day.
  • When you're ready, listen to the feedback you get. If you don't get any, tell the mentors. Someone will probably have time. (But no guarantees. They're a busy bunch.)
  • Rely upon the #PitchWars community. Find a CP. Read mentor blogs on craft. Read some of the craft books I recommended in earlier posts.

And should you throw it all away?

I don't know. Maybe. It depends on how the manuscript makes you feel. Are you sick of it? Ready to start a new story? Then do that. Ready to quit writing and garden? Do that too. Ready to dive back into the MS and try to make it better? Fantastic.

The bottom line is, folks, you only live life once. There are no guarantees about getting published. Don't make yourselves miserable trying to chase some holy grail of publishing success.  Most of us won't get there, to be honest. (I have no idea if I'll get published either, but this is one thing I don't lose sleep over.)

But we CAN find success and joy in different places. Like anything in life, enjoy the journey. If you love the process of researching, creating new worlds, scheming plot twists and plumbing characters' depths, then take joy in that process. Maybe you'll get published, maybe not. But at least, at the end of your road, you can say you had fun along the way.

And I'll be looking to cheer for you on each step. Please, keep in touch! You are a beautiful group of writers. I don't know what you look like -- I'm talking about your artistic cores. From what I've seen, you're creative, thoughtful, and in love with the written word.

Or: my kind of people.

Peace.