02 September 2014

Don't Give Up! - Pitch Wars Lesson #2

 In less than an hour, Brenda Drake will post the list of Pitch Wars mentor teams. As always, there were far more many amazing entries than there were available mentee slots. I personally had six entries that I wanted to choose for my team, and eight more that I knew I wasn't the right mentor for, but I still want to read when they hit bookstore shelves one day. And of the entries that didn't catch my attention, several others were hotly-discussed behind the scenes among other mentors.

The problem is, each mentor could only choose one mentee and one alternate. Which means only a handful of these amazing entries could be chosen. And I know I've said it before, but just in case you missed it the first hundred times or so, I'll say it again: You guys have talent!

Some of you are so close that I seriously expect to read your "I have an agent!" and "I have a book deal!" posts very soon. Others aren't quite there yet, but you're getting there, and as long as you keep moving forward, it will happen for you too. I didn't see a single entry where I would tell the author to give up. Please don't give up!!

Trust me, I know what it's like to pin your hopes on a contest, and I know how much it hurts when you don't make it in. I've been there. More than once. In fact, two years ago, I didn't make it in to Pitch Wars, and I nearly gave up on myself and my writing. I did give up on the manuscript I was working on at the time. But then I wrote something new. And if you've read my own "How My Book Became a Book" story, you know that new manuscript grew up to be my debut novel, TWELVE STEPS.

But there's more to the story.

Back when I was querying that first manuscript, I kept getting amazing personalized rejections. "I love the characters! I love the voice! The plot and pacing are perfect! But it's not for me." That's why I entered Pitch Wars in the first place. I needed to know what, exactly, was holding these agents back. What was it about my story that didn't work? So I picked my mentors very carefully. Not only did I look for mentors who wanted contemporary YA manuscripts, but those who promised feedback to everyone who applied to them. If I didn't get in, I reasoned, at least they'd tell me why.

Except it didn't work out that way.

I got an email from one of the three mentors I applied to, saying that she'd love to give me some feedback if I was interested. But even though I responded with a resounding "Yes, please!!" I never heard from her again. And I didn't get emails from the other two mentors at all. This was especially confusing, because I would talk to them from time to time on twitter, and all three made comments like, "You were so close! But I hope my feedback at least helped a little bit." (Feedback? What feedback??) I decided they must have tweeted some vague tips on the #PitchWars hashtag with my manuscript in mind, so I scoured the feed. I looked for any and all tips that might pertain to my manuscript in any way. And I applied that advice to TWELVE STEPS. Which went on to receive not one, but two offers of publication when I entered it into a couple of pitch contests the following spring.

But here's the part I didn't know until this week: Those mentors who never bothered to send me feedback? Yeah, they totally did. The emails must have disappeared somewhere in cyberspace, but yeah, those emails totally exist. How do I know? Well, when I mentioned in the Pitch Wars mentor private forum that I never received feedback that first year, one of the mentors I'd applied to went back into her "sent mail" archives and pulled up her notes. And two years late, I got to read her feedback on that first manuscript.

The best part?? Her feedback totally matched what I'd already figured out from scouring the tips on the hashtag. And because I didn't get the hand-holding I thought I needed more than anything else, I learned to trust my own gut. I learned to listen to that little voice that told me something wasn't quite right. And I learned to look for feedback on my own writing in the tips and critiques I saw given to others. In so many ways, I am who I am because I entered Pitch Wars and "lost."

Win or lose, you're stronger when you keep going.