What I Learned from #PitchWars – Part 2

This post is mostly aimed at those looking to enter #PitchWars in the future. I’ve mentioned things that struck me on an earlier post, which covered a variety of aspects, but in this one, I want to focus on emotions, feelings, and mental health. I’ll start by saying the experience was amazing, and if you took me back to 2020 knowing what I know, I’d dive straight back in. I have a much stronger manuscript, great friends, a better network. But I’d be more prepared.

Edit Letters Hurt

It’s the morning after the announcements, your notifications are going mad, you’re buzzing. And then the edit letter comes in and it’s pages and pages of things that need changing. Work that needs doing. You thought your manuscript was great and reader, it is not.

That’s not true, of course. It is great; you were selected. But in that moment, the doubts come rushing in. Why did they pick it? Can I do all of this? Ian was very sweet and specifically asked how soon I wanted my edits, and also told me I was allowed to hate him in the notes. Being excited and eager, I wanted it now, and only gave myself a day of celebration. I think if I went back, I’d give myself the weekend to enjoy and prepare myself.

Stopping Really Hurts

I finished my second revision around Christmas. I had the week off after Christmas. No revisions, no work, a time to relax, maybe get some new words down. And my mental health crashed. Seriously, dangerously, crashed. I couldn’t do anything but lie on the couch. The intrusive thoughts were loud. Dark thoughts that had been banished for years resurfaced. It was only later, speaking to someone familiar with academic students and similar experiences when dissertations are finished that I realised how much stopping something you’ve devoted yourself to for months can affect you.

I’m sure it doesn’t happen to everyone, but it happens to enough. Be aware of it it. Make sure you have trusted people who are aware it could happen. It was not something I’d ever considered, but knowing it happens and being prepared helped massively so that when I finished the line edits and stopped again, the impact was not nearly so bad.

The Showcase Can Really, Really Hurt

If you write in a category that doesn’t tend to do well in the showcase, there comes a point where lots of twitter threads and blog posts go up saying what it’s like, how the showcase doesn’t really change anything, how cold querying is how most people got their agents anyway. If you’re like me, you’ll read them, digest them, believe them. Tell yourself you’re prepared.

Reader, I was not prepared.

The first few days of the showcase were, frankly miserable. No matter what anyone says, it’s hard not to compare your work to others, to say, why does this agent like that one and not mine? And at the same time, you’re feeling happy for those celebrating (hopefully you’ve made friends and are desperate to see their books succeed because they sound amazing), and those positive emotions can really highlight the negative ones.

There are lots of rational, positive, “this is not the end of the world” posts out there. I want to take a slightly different track.

Feel your feelings. All of them. Cry, scream, despair. Your feelings are valid, and all the rational words won’t take them away for most of you. Sorry.

Find your people who are also suffering. You won’t be the only one. During our year, several of us with low requests got together for zoom chats. It was a safe place to vent our frustrations, without feeling we were stepping on other’s cheer, or having someone accidentally say something that pushed our misery further.

Know it gets better. I cried every day Wednesday to Saturday. By Sunday, I was calm. I was ready to read those calm, rational, “it’s not the end of the world” posts again. To work out who I was going to cold query. It might take longer for you. But you’ll get there.

Overall, the experience was amazing. I’d definitely recommend it, but go into it with your eyes open. It is A LOT. It is one hell of an emotional rollercoaster. It is not the only the road. Make sure you’re prepared. I’m always happy to discuss my experience so feel free to drop a comment or a message on twitter.

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