Saturday, November 23, 2013

Are Online Pitch Contests for You? Prepping for PitchWars and Should You Enter?

This is my first year as a mentor for Brenda Drake's PitchWars contest and already I can feel the buzz of excitement and anxiety in the air as I follow the #pitchwars thread on Twitter. Because I've been in the shoes as a contest participant before (not PitchWars but others), I thought I'd share a few thoughts.

Are Contests For You?

Is your manuscript truly finished? As tempting as it may be to fling that Nano project to the winds, it's probably not going to stick. In my own process for No Place To Fall, I went through a rough draft, my first pass draft, front line CP who did chapter by chapter, beta readers, and agent R&R's before I signed with Alexandra. My first draft wasn't ready and it's the rare writer's work that will be. For myself, I wouldn't want to enter a contest like PitchWars if I hadn't had a few other sets of eyes on my work first. If you feel like your manuscript is truly ready, then YES!

Can you handle rejection? Because here's the thing. Readers are subjective. Agents have personal tastes, good days, bad days, bad hair days, whatever. Same with PitchWars mentors. You may have a perfectly good manuscript but YOU CAN'T KNOW what other candidates are showing up on the same day as you. So if you can approach it with a zen attitude of "hey if this works, great, if not, move along", then YES, you are ready.

This is about a mentor/mentee relationship. Can you work with another writer? Do you thrive on feedback and suggestions or do you bristle at the mere thought of someone thinking your work isn't perfect? There's no point in entering if you're not willing to take and act upon sound advice. (But you also need to be true to your vision - and the relationship should be a two-way conversation)

That's what it really boils down to. And if you can say yes to these questions, then why not go for it? What I love about PitchWars is that all rejection takes place off the airwaves. No one has to know you've entered, no one has to know if your mentors passed. But if chosen, either as the pick or as an alternate, it's an opportunity to get your work in front of agents quickly.

And, I think agents pay closer attention to contest requests than slush requests. Why? Because they know other agents are reading, too. And that, my friends, is a very powerful reason to be brave.

Now, here are some tips on what I'll be looking for. 

  • good writing mechanics
  • the ability to show, not tell
  • voice, right off the bat
  • a sense of space and time and what I can expect within the first page
  • something that snags me immediately
What will make me request more pages?
  • All of the above
  • Plus, a character that I care about.
  • Or a world that intrigues me.
  • Also, gorgeous sentence structure.


  1. Great advice! Much luck to the Pitch Wars participants (esp the ones you're mentoring!).


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