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POINT OF VIEW: After the War

war - deposit photos

So I didn’t “win” Pitch Wars.

My regular readers will know that I first entered this annual mentorship contest last year with “Dropnauts,” hoping to snag a mentor who would help me rework the manuscript for the Pitch Wars Agent Showcase in the spring. I didn’t even get a request from my four chosen mentors last year, and it sent me into a spiral of despair and not-writing that lasted for months.

I wasn’t even going to enter this year, but a friend encouraged me to try again. So I buckled down and powered through my latest novel, wrapping up the manuscript (and a second draft) a comfortable two days before the Pitch Wars submission deadline.

I went into this year’s competition expecting to lose. Maybe that sounds defeatist, but I just couldn’t let myself get my hopes up again. After a crushing “loss” last year and a fruitless year-long agent search, I needed to adjust my expectations.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I got a request this year? And not just a request, but one of the first four this mentor sent (out of 225 submissions he received)? He asked for fifty pages, and I sent them off, along with the answers to his questions about myself, my work, and my willingness to really go deep in the editing process. And then I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Honestly, the waiting is the worst part of these things. Pitch Wars has a twitter component called #PWTeasers where mentors hint at what they are looking at, liking, etc, and I spent untold hours there, reading the tea leaves. I also have a small group chat with a couple other Pitch Wars participants, and we held each others’ virtual hands and held out breath.

No more requests came in from the other three mentors.

Eventually, as the announcement date approached without a request from the first one for a full manuscript, I knew it was over.

I’m disappointed. There’s no way around that. It felt like I had a real shot, and in the end it didn’t happen.

But I’m not crushed this year. And I’ll tell you why.

First off, I was genuinely thrilled to be chosen from the 225 submissions to this particular mentor. That’s a huge pool of entries, and the fact that my submission/query was singled out from such a huge pile says something good about what he thought of my writing skills.

Second, it really did help to go in with a losing attitude. I know that sounds strange, but when you’re expecting the worst, it’s hard to be deeply disappointed when it happens

Third, I made good use of my waiting time. As soon as I got the request, I shelved plans to start on the next book – why plow ahead when I might be spending the next three months ripping the first one apart? Instead, I pivoted to writing more shorts for the spec fic magazine circuit, and put together three great 10K stories to hopefully provide a bit more income and exposure for my work.

And fourth, I had a solid plan to follow if I didn’t win. I’m about to pull “Dropnauts” from agent query at the end of the year, and will prep and self publish it – my first new novel since October 2019. I’m really excited about it, and hope all my fans will appreciate this new entry in the Liminal Sky universe.

I’m also pressing ahead with book two in the Tharassas series, and book one, “A Plague of Earth and Fire,” will be going out on the agent query circuit once I complete a third draft, incorporating the wonderful feedback my erstwhile Pitch Wars mentor sent me. He gave me some great, specific advice that I think will help make the book even better, and I am grateful to him for it.

As part of that feedback, he included this:

“You’ve got a real gift for worldbuilding, and I love all the little touches of it here and there… You are a great writer, and your story has these fun, grand ideas in it….I fully expect to see PLAGUE on shelves one day.”

I’m a great writer! That alone is good for a week or two of impromptu happy dances!

So hang in there with me on this wild ride, and I’ll be sharing more work and news with y’all soon!

To my writer friends: Have you ever participated in Pitch Wars? If so, how did it go? What did you learn about your writing or yourself?

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