A few months back I was lucky enough to be accepted into an online program called Pitch Wars. Each fall, hundreds (maybe thousands?) of authors submit manuscripts and just over 100 are selected to be paired up with mentors in adult, middle grade, and YA groups. It’s all free and put on by a great group of people who give their time to help authors find agents (and eventually maybe even a book deal).
I didn’t know a lot about Pitch Wars going in. But after a few months in the program, it’s crazy how much I’ve learned.
My mentors, the amazing SFF authors Michael Mammay and Dan Koboldt, have spent the past few months working with me on my near-future techno-thriller MIXED REALITY, both at high levels (plot, characters, etc.) and down in the grammar weeds. We’ve gone through two full edits of the manuscript combing through everything from character development to plot points to the fact that I have bad writing habits with filters and comma splices.
So, what was the result?
The story now reads 10x better than before (even after five full edits before even submitting.) The ending has changed. I’ve learned to recognize when tension is missing in a scene and that I start writing scenes too early in the timeline. I’ve learned that I really enjoy writing too much filler (“navel gazing”) that doesn’t move the plot along and bores readers. How much filler? My story went from 100k words to 89k. And, if you’re wondering, I’ve been in complete control of which changes to make (accepting almost every single suggestions from Michael and Dan because, well, they were right).
Michael and Dan have also spent a lot of time giving me an inside scoop on their experiences with agents, editors, and SFF book deals. They have a full roster of connections and great ideas about which agents would be a good fit for my manuscript. But more than anything else, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about expectations for the SFF genre and the realities of publishing—the good and bad.
The Pitch Wars class of 2018 is amazing. I’ve gotten to (virtually) meet a variety of authors from different genres and backgrounds. I have new critique partners in my genre and have connected with a ton of other great writers. They are people I hope to stay connected with for years to come. I know there are a few breakout stars in the group and I can’t wait to cheer them on.
It’s all added up to one of the most rewarding writing experiences I’ve had. As we approach the Pitch Wars agent showcase on Feb. 6th (where agents review our queries and ask for more if they’re interested) I’m feeling less pressure than I did going into original submission round for the contest. I’ve learned so much about the craft and business. If the agent round doesn’t work out, that’s okay. I’m more connected the community, I’m writing better stories, and having more fun doing all of it.
If you’re wondering if you should submit to Pitch Wars the next time it rolls around, do it. You’ll thank yourself later. It’s a no-brainer.
Thanks to Brenda Drake (founding director of Pitch Wars) and the whole team that does such an amazing job.
Please go check out some of my mentors’ books. I’ve read the list below and thoroughly enjoyed each one:
Planetside by Michael Mammay
–“PLANETSIDE is a smart and fast-paced blend of mystery and boots-in-the-dirt military SF that reads like a high-speed collision between Courage Under Fire and Heart of Darkness.” – Marko Kloos, bestselling author of the Frontline series
The Rogue Retrieval by Dan Koboldt
“A great concept and lots of fun. One of those books you wish you thought of yourself and wonder why you haven’t read it before.” -Auston Habershaw, Writers of the Future winner and author of The Iron Ring
Putting the Science in Fiction by Dan Koboldt
“This book is a natural choice for writers of medical dramas and science fiction, but even writers of historical fiction will find important advice within its pages. Putting the Science in Fiction is definitely a resource every writer should have in their toolbox.” –Girl Who Reads