Confessions of a Pitch Wars Mentee

Well, today’s the day. Pitch Wars. Today the pitches of the 75 mentees go live for agents to read and hopefully request more pages of their manuscripts.

For those of you who don’t know, Pitch Wars is a genius online pitch contest put on by the wonderful Brenda Drake, in which agented/published authors select one mentee and one alternate each from the many, many, many submissions (this year it was something like 1,200 entries!) and spend the next two months working on revisions to the mentee’s manuscript.

And as the title of this post suggests, I was so very fortunate to be selected as the mentee for the amazing Karma Brown. The first thing on her manuscript wishlist was “magical realism, and in a perfect world, magic AND food)”. Which, lucky for me, is exactly what my Pitch Wars manuscript, WISHES TO NOWHERE, is.

Pitch Wars (and you know, writing in general) isn’t for the faint of heart. Going into this, I knew it was going to be tough and time-consuming and possibly a tiny bit soul-crushing, just based on the nature of the contest (the “Hey, I love your manuscript so much that I choose you! But um, yeah, let’s talk about this crazy-ass plot and this character who is totally not-needed and I see what you were trying to do here, but you kinda failed. *Note: these are just made up criticisms for effect, not anything that was ever actually said!). On top of that, Karma told me point blank that she was going to rip my manuscript apart and help me put it back together.

And rip apart she did (but in the super-nice, encouraging, I-promise-you’ll-thank-me-later way that Karma has). The first two weeks were spent on the first 3-4 chapters alone. Karma helped me ground the magic in the story more, cut extraneous backstory/details that cluttered up the main story, and really focus on creating a character in those first pages who would appeal to a wide audience. (Apparently my love of snarky, sarcastic, kinda flippant characters isn’t something most of the world shares *le sigh*.) Then we moved on to working in 5-chapter chunks. I would revise my original manuscript based on those foundational changes in the beginning, send to Karma for in-depth critique and line edits, then take her comments and tweak, rewrite, and in some places throw out what I had and write something totally new. Sometimes I would email her with my reasoning for not wanting to change an aspect she was adamant about, and we’d talk it through, and then I’d get back to writing and realize she was 100% right.

Some days it was daunting to read through the comments and realize just how much work I had to do to the book. Some days, I wanted to just sit and cry and then apologize to Karma for having a book with so many problems and I would totally understand if she regretted picking me as her mentee. And some days when I was drowning in work and had so many chapters backing up for me to rework, all I wanted was to read a book, which just made the stress that much heavier because I didn’t have time to do something fun for me. The I started dreaming about Pitch Wars. One night in the middle of all this, I dreamed about getting emails from Karma where she told me the book completely fell apart in the middle and I would have to rewrite the last 40,000 words in a month. (As tough as she is, she is way, way nicer than that!)

But here’s the thing: all of that stress and self-doubt was so very worth it. Every page I edited, ever scene I cut, ever new scene I wrote made this book So. Much. Stronger. Every time I got it right, Karma was there to cheer me on. Every time I was close but still needed to push farther, she was there to talk me through what else was needed. And in the end, it’s still very much the story I set out to tell—my idea, my words, my characters, my plot—but each of those aspects is more polished, more refined. More the type of book that will *hopefully* catch and agent’s eye (and, fingers crossed, eventually an editor’s eye too).


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