I’m doing #Pitchwars again time right now, and let me tell you, it’s so much easier the second time round. Not the actually getting selected, given the numbers and the tweets about quality, plus what I’ve seen when critiquing others, it’s tough this year. I don’t envy the mentors having to select their one. But from a mentee point of view, it’s much easier to stay calm the second time. Last year, I desperately wanted to be selected. I haunted the feed, stalked the teasers, eventually got despondent and wrote myself off. I didn’t get in; I was incredibly disappointed.
But I also grew immeasurably as a writer. I learned a hell of a lot. I read every blog post by mentors, followed links to articles. I bought books on writing and recommended fiction. I absorbed all I could and then I processed it. And finally, I applied it like a scalpel to my work.
Crutch words were annihilated, plot was tightened, voice was amplified. I think my last year’s manuscript was the first where I learned to hear every character’s voice in my head and to use this to make them come across in my word choice. I also met some amazing CPs, and joined some facebook groups. They didn’t just help my writing, but helped me as a writer, from having someone to rant to when things weren’t working, to sharing their experience and individual knowledge.
As a writer, I was more connected than I’d ever been before.
And it didn’t matter that I wasn’t chosen. Maybe, with the right mentor, I’d have improved faster and got an agent by now, and maybe I would be in the same place I am now. Nothing’s certain, so why dwell on what might have been? For me, this year, getting a mentor is a small part of the importance of #pitchwars. Of course, I want to be chosen. It would be foolish to enter something and risk taking a place from someone who did if I wasn’t interested. But it’s not the main thing. If I’m not selected, it changes very little of my plans. I still get to learn from interacting and reading; I still get the company and the camaraderie; I’ll still get CPs to help me polish if I don’t get a mentor.
What trying to say is don’t panic. That’s easier said than done, I know. I was there. But whatever happens, it’s only the end of the road if you let it. Maybe being pregnant helps the perspective – having a living creature growing and wiggling inside you changes your outlook. But it’s not a solution for everyone 🙂
If you haven’t had requests, don’t write yourself off. Still plenty of time. Even if you don’t get any, don’t try and second guess. You don’t know if your voice sucks or your first chapter is too slow. Chances are they’re fine, better than fine, really good actually, but it’s all a matter of numbers. If a mentor gets 100 entries and requests 20 per cent, that still leaves 80 writers who sadly they won’t get the time to read more from. That’s not a reflection on you, or them, simply the cruel nature of the passage of time. And mentors are human. None of them want to hurt feeling or leave people crushed with disappointment. They want to support and celebrate.
If your mentor can give you feedback after, then hopefully you’ll get a better idea, but be prepared for it to simply be “I just didn’t connect with it as much as others.” Be happy with that – someone else will connect. If it’s something more definite, sit on it first before you go making any big changes, no matter how tempting it is.
Have a plan. Know what your next step is, whether finding CPs or betas, moving to querying, taking a break and learning how to windsurf. As long as you have a plan, you’ll be okay. It’s when you’re floundering that the doubts get loudest.
Most importantly: enjoy the experience. The feed is fun. Chat with people about non-writing things. Interact with mentors you haven’t subbed to. Play the games and post lines from your work. Don’t be shy about celebrating it. You have to love your book first, before anyone else can, so love it as loud as you can.