Our interview today is with Julie Clark, an upmarket women’s fiction writer, and member of the Pitch Wars Class of 2016. You can find her on Twitter, facebook, or her website if you want to learn more!
Since you’ve already read a lot about preparing for Pitch Wars, what to expect, how to pick a mentor, and what the best part of Pitch Wars is (The community! By far, it’s the community!), I thought I’d branch out and tell you some things I learned as a result of participating in Pitch Wars 2016.
Run your own race
While I was working on my revisions with my mentors (the brilliant Karma Brown and Susan Bishop Crispell), I listened to a podcast called Making Oprah. In one part, she talked about how easy it was to get caught up in trying to predict what competitors were going to do, and how quickly that pulled them off course. She said their mantra became Run your own race. It didn’t matter what Phil or Sally Jesse or Geraldo were doing. What mattered was the Oprah Show’s vision, what they wanted to be in the world. So they stopped paying attention to everyone else. They stopped looking over their shoulder and just focused on their work.
You need to do the same, whether you get into Pitch Wars or not. It’s easy to get caught up in the comparison game. Who gets full requests, who gets an agent, who gets a book deal. You’re constantly trying to figure out the recipe for their success so you can apply it to your own life. Pitch Wars is even more unique because it’s a contest, and a part of you is going to want to compete. It’s public, so everyone will know how many agent requests you get in the agent round, and how that compares to others in your category. You can’t hide inside of your inbox for Pitch Wars.
Stop. Run your own race.
This isn’t a zero-sum game. Someone else’s success doesn’t take anything away from you. I spent a lot of time reminding myself to keep my eyes on my work, my process, and my outcome. Yes, the community is great, and the mentee Facebook group is an incredible place to come and get support and talk about writing. I’ve met some wonderful friends in ours, and they’ve been instrumental in keeping me sane. I was lucky to have had a great Pitch Wars experience. I got requests. I fielded offers. I signed with an agent. But that was not the norm, and I saw friends struggling in the face of others’ successes. People who worked just as hard as I did were having different results, and falling into self-doubt. There’s a lot of talk about subjectivity. Agents are humans who maybe don’t get enough sleep, or they’ve got low blood sugar, or a presidential election sent them into a severe depression. So many factors that have nothing to do with the quality of your writing impact whether an agent will request or not. And none of it is anything you can control. So eyes forward. Write your best book. You win when you get into Pitch Wars. The rest is gravy.
The most important phrase you can learn: Okay, I’ll write another one.
This is what you say when your query doesn’t work. It’s what you say when the mentors you submit to write and say they’ve chosen to work with someone else. It’s what you say when agents tell you they love your writing but they just don’t know how to sell it. It’s what you say when YOUR agent tells you the beginning still isn’t working. It’s what you say when editors email your agent to say they loved the writing but the story just didn’t grab them. It’s what you say when your editor tells you the end needs a total re-write.
Okay, I’ll write another one.
Get used to saying it. Because that’s what you’re going to have to do. Regardless of whether you did/did not land a mentor/agent/book deal with your Pitch Wars manuscript.
Pitch Wars isn’t a gateway to agents. It’s your gateway to the next level of writing mastery. The writers who will be most successful are the ones who weren’t afraid to set aside their Pitch Wars manuscripts and write something new. Adaptability and tenacity are the keys to success, far more than raw talent.
What Brenda does for aspiring writers is incredible. She has created a community that pulls people up instead of locking them out. She’s laid a path to publication that anyone can follow, and she will be your biggest cheerleader, whether you get into Pitch Wars or not. So apply. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
And PS. The community is amazing.