Interview with Michelle Iannantuono

Our interview today is with Michelle Iannantuono, a member of the Pitch Wars Class of 2016. You can find her on Twitteror her website if you want to learn more! 

What did you do to prepare for Pitch Wars?

I went through all of the mentor wishlists and interviews extensively. Made a spreadsheet with all the people who could possibly like my manuscript (which I had been working on for three years, didn’t really write it with the intent of entering it into PW, but saw the contest and thought I might have a shot). Then narrowed that down to the top 6 based on a lot of factors. 1) Their twitters and interviews, which sometimes revealed other interests they had. 2) The books THEY had written, which told me a bit about their style preferences and interests. And of course 3) their bios and what they specifically said they wanted. Granted Adult SFF is a narrow category of mentors, but there were a few wild cards in there. Michelle Hazen, who ended up becoming my mentor, wasn’t really an Adult SFF mentor as much as she was a romance mentor who was open to SFF elements.

So I was basically a giant stalker 😛

How/Why did you decide to enter Pitch Wars?

I really just stumbled across it in early July of 2016. Added a note in my calendar about the submission date. I was undergoing a present tense to past tense revision at the time, but otherwise, the manuscript had been edited to death already! So I didn’t feel too pressured to finish many edits. I just submitted my materials on the date and waited. To say it like that undermines my excitement though – I stalked the Twitter thread for weeks during the contest!

What was something that surprised you about Pitch Wars?

The community. During revisions, my main “community” was my mentor herself, who was incredibly patient and always willing to lend an ear whenever I DM’d her about “so what if I tried this?” We still chat to this day, and just having someone who is sharp, honest, and who believes in you is something every writer needs.

After PW, I sort of rediscovered the mentee Facebook group and was sucked right in. I’m a bit of a loner and an introvert, but yo, the query trenches are hell when you’re alone. Having people to commiserate with means everything. And getting to celebrate the successes of the ones who climb out of it is a perpetual source of hope and optimism. Almost half of our PW class is now agented. It’s joyful to see those “omg I have an agent!” posts and squee with people. It’s useful to have a group of people who are always game to CP or look over a new draft of your query. And it’s just all around awesome to have found “my people”, especially when some of my other artistic pursuits (like film) are a lot more cutthroat and every-man-for-himself. It’s nice to be able to slip into that PW Facebook group and just be like “thank ya’ll for existing.”

Another thing that surprised me was the variety of revision experience. Michelle gave me reasonably easy revisions that we tackled in two or three passes during the 2 month revision round. I saw other mentees basically have to rewrite their books from scratch though. A lot of people have said that it’s very intense – I would say your mileage may vary. Prepare for it to be exhausting and nuts, but you might luck out.

What is one thing you wish everyone knew about Pitch Wars?

Don’t self reject! If I could shout that from the rooftops, I would.

What would you say to someone thinking about entering Pitch Wars?

There is nothing to lose and everything to gain, so if you’re on the fence, go for it! However, I’ll give some advice that might heighten your chances.

I think the perfect person for PW is one who has a polished manuscript, yet is still falling short of “good enough to be published.” So, not a perfect manuscript, but something beyond a first or second or even third draft. Something that has been read and critiqued by at least two other people. Something you have applied that critique to. That is what I mean by polished – something you have fixed up, revised, improved to be the best version you can make it on your own.

That does not mean it must have “a solid plot” or “the best characters ever” or anything like that – YOU CAN HAVE WEAKNESSES. Weaknesses are human and encouraged! My weaknesses are voice and characterization, personally. The MS I entered had the best voice and characterization I could manage without help….so, in other words, MS had pretty weak characterization and meh voice. That’s what my mentor helped me with. That’s how PW *could* help me. It’s not for perfect manuscripts. But it’s for people who try really hard, who put in the work, and who know they’re falling short in one area or another and they need that extra boost to raise their craft to a pro level.

What is one gif that represents your Pitch Wars experience?

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