My #Pitchwars Experience: How Taking Part in This Cool Experience Enhanced My Completed Novel by Brad Windhauser
Up until three years ago, I didn’t have a Twitter account. I’d heard plenty about how and why people used it, but, after exploring it, I didn’t grasp how to make connections with people nor why 140 characters created an opportunity to express myself in a useful way. Not for me. Then, when I began my Bible Blog Project, I needed additional ways to reach potential readers. So I returned to Twitter, and in so doing, I forced myself to learn how to use this platform. Specifically, I experimented with tagging, and this taught me to think about connections with my content that I would not have otherwise. Then, the more I spent on the site, the more I paid attention to trending topics. A number of these topics are beneficial to writers looking to make connections with other writers (or people in the publishing industry).
One of these trending topics, #Pitchwars, provides one of the coolest and useful networking opportunities for writers that I’ve encountered.
Unlike other writing opportunities set-up through Twitter—like tweeting your manuscript to potential agents in 140 characters or less—Pitch Wars is a contest, one designed to help writers get an agent (with the help of a mentor). First, the Pitch War organizer publishes a list of links to the potential mentors (authors who have an agent and have been published—or at least sold a book). Working within one of four categories—Young Adult, Middle Grade, New Adult, and Adult—mentors avail themselves to fledgling writers. Following these links to the mentors’ personal blogs, prospective mentees can read where each writer’s interests lie and determine if their manuscript would be a good fit for a particular mentor. Mentees gather the names of the top five mentors that are an ideal fit, complete the official entry form, upload a query letter (one you would use for an agent), the first chapter of the manuscript, and cross their fingers. On the other side, the organizer sends the materials to the prospective mentors, who comb through the material in order to determine with whom they would want to work—each mentor selects one author.
In the next round, the mentor provides feedback on the completed draft and helps their mentee then find a good agent for their work. At some point, a “winner” is determined, although I’m not sure how that stage of this whole process works.
I jumped on this opportunity. But I struggled with what to do where—for me, finding the master list of mentors proved challenging. However, as a testament to the benefits of Twitter, I tweeted my confusion, tagged it with #PitchWars, and then received multiple messages offering advice—all of which got me on the right track.
Once I determined the best five potential mentors for me, I dusted off my manuscript, one I hadn’t looked at in over a year. I had struggled finding an agent for this work, and since I needed help, this seemed like the best chance to find this work a home. This is when the first benefit of this contest kicked in: I was compelled to see the story with fresh eyes—what would entice a mentor to pick me? Although I should have thought like this when pitching agents before I set the manuscript aside, I had been too caught up in the revision process to review it objectively.
The result: a much better first chapter, one with a streamlined plot, sharper characterization, and tightened prose.
The moment the submission portal opened, I uploaded my materials and crossed my fingers.
Then the second benefit of the contest kicked in: I was inspired to keep revising as opposed to waiting to see if I got picked or not. Rather than quell this momentum, I dove back into the draft, and in so doing, I cut, cut, cut, revised, added, sharpened—everything that getting excited about the contest had inspired.
The morning the decisions had been announced, I learned I had not been selected. Was I bummed? Sure. And it’s easy to get discouraged whenever you put yourself out there; however, my writing improved just by going through the motions associated with this opportunity. Even better: the encouraging note I received from one of the five mentors.
Not only had she taken the time to review my work (and the large amount of offers she’d received (over a 100), but she also sent me a personal email saying she’d gone with someone else but that I shouldn’t give up, to keep going. More than anything, she stressed, was that this context was about developing and fostering a supportive writer community. The best part: none of the mentors are paid for their time: they do it because it means something to them to extend a hand to other writers.
There might not be a large amount of opportunities for budding writers—particularly ones that don’t cost money—but it’s nice to know that this is at least one available, and all through Twitter. As far as this contest, my experience proves that you don’t have to win just to get something valuable out of it.