Hello, Pitch Wars hopefuls! I write YA fantasy and I was the 2016 Pitch Wars mentee of Summer Spence! Having taken part in this contest (and having been a serious stalker of the Pitch Wars hashtag) I think I have a pretty good handle on what mentors will be looking for in terms of query quality and opening chapters, and I can’t wait to see what all of you YA SFF/P writers have up your sleeves for this year!
What did you do to prepare for Pitch Wars?
In terms of preparation, I already had a completed manuscript, but it was 96K. Though that wordcount isn’t completely unrealistic for YA fantasy, it was still high and I knew the ‘sweet spot’ for agents/publishers was closer to the 85K mark. My goal was to chop 10K before I submitted it to Pitch Wars, as I figured a shorter, tighter manuscript meant less mess for my potential mentor to sift through. In the end, I cut over 23K in the weeks leading up to submission, and I never regretted ditching a single thing I tossed.
Aside from polishing my manuscript to the best of my ability, I also chose to be very active on the Pitch Wars feed. One of my main objectives was to connect with other hopefuls, encourage them, and grow my writer tribe. The hashtag was also a great place to pick up valuable writing tips and interact with the mentors I was considering. I asked them specific questions about their preferences and Pitch Wars in general. Many of the mentors offered query crits and page crits through giveaways, and I won a query critique from Nikki Roberti early on. Her one-on-one advice was so helpful and I would not have had the opportunity to pick her brain if I had not been following the hashtag feed!
How did you choose which mentors to send to?
First, I made a list of all the mentors who said they were looking for YA fantasy and then I went researching, because just because someone says they are looking for fantasy, there are LOTS of different variations! Epic, portal, gothic, low, high, etc… so don’t just see the word ‘fantasy’ and assume! You’ve got to nail down your sub-genre or flavor or whatever you want to call it. I looked for mentors whose taste in books matched mine, and if they were published (or if they were a former mentee!) I tracked down samples of their writing to see if we were of the same style. I was also interested in mentors who I felt excelled in areas I needed the most help in craft-wise and I made it a point to watch ALL the YouTube chats (even for mentors that weren’t in my category). The chats really helped with my decision. I even added mentors to my shortlist that I hadn’t considered, just because of what they said in their online interviews.
What was your favorite part of Pitch Wars?
Being part of my mentee group. Hands down! I knew there was a huge community aspect to Pitch Wars (which is the one of the reasons I was so interested in it), but the support and advice that comes from inside our mentee group blows me away on a regular basis. Everyone is so active and so willing to help. If I have a question, or if I need eyes on something, I reach out to them and I get a response within seconds (no joke!). This community is by far the best part of Pitch Wars.
What would you say to someone thinking about entering Pitch Wars?
Do it! If you have a manuscript ready to go, you have nothing to lose by entering. There is SO MUCH great craft and publishing advice on the hashtag feed, and it’s the perfect way to find and make new writer friends who are just as dedicated to this craft as you. I know LOTS of people (myself included!) who found life-long CPs just by interacting on the Pitch Wars tag.
What is one gif that represents your Pitch Wars experience?
I’m going to choose this one because I feel like my Pitch Wars experience was akin to nabbing a front row seat in a Master Class for writing. I learned so much about revision and craft, and I hope to pass on what I know. 🙂