Guest blog by Elle Evans (Twitter: @ElleEvansWrites)
It’s pretty much impossible to tackle any huge undertaking without help. Landing on the moon, running a country, or—writing a good book. Sometimes it takes an online village, as the saying should go. As an aspiring children’s book author, this year I went looking for some serious help boosting my middle grade fantasy to the next level. Say, that level where agents go to battle over it. That’s a level, right? It should be, because I ended up finding a whole new crew of writer friends who’ve gone into battle with me.
Every August, author Brenda Drake opens up Pitch Wars, a national online contest for aspiring novelists. The goal is to get paired with a fabulous agented Pitch Wars author. These (volunteer!) authors each select a manuscript to mentor, giving advice in September and October to writers. This revision process ends in November, when hopefully you’ve got a manuscript that shines like gold and inspires agents to offer you the world—or at least representation.
It’s intense! And with over 2,000 entries, Brenda needs contest assistants Heather Cashman, Nikki Roberti, Monica Hoffman, along with mentor liaison Joy McCullough, to pull the whole thing off. This year, the author mentors chose 150 manuscripts. Sarah Cannon, author of the fantastic forthcoming middle grade fantasy ODDITY, picked my manuscript, SAMTO DIES AGAIN, a humorous middle grade fantasy adventure. She says she loved it, which I believe, given she read it four times in two months, helping me revise and tighten and polish.
So yeah, I ended up with a stupendously better manuscript to catch an agent’s eye. But what else did I get—or rather, what else am I continuing to get out of Pitch Wars? Community.
Bonding with Fellow Writers
You’ve got 150 other aspiring authors to commune with online. Writers who’ve been through the query trenches, who know a thing or two about revising under pressure, who’re familiar with the current marketplace, who understand story structure, who have practiced social media marketing, who know just the right thing to say to pick you back up to your computer … well, maybe no single Pitch Wars writer has all of this down. But as a group? We’re well armed.
Writers who needed to rewrite the last half of their book in two months? They had a place to go to ask for help. Writers who needed advice on writing their query for the agent round? We had each other to sharpen up those pitches. Writers who are now needing support as the inevitable rejections roll in? Or better yet, the many who are getting bowled over with group congrats as those offers of representation materialize? We have a community of cheerleaders reminding each other of our strengths.
Now with our Pitch Wars manuscripts out in the world searching for homes, many of us are starting new works-in-progress. Fellow Pitch Wars writers post about story ideas, plot brainstorming, book recommendations, craft exercises. And then there are those issuing writing challenges to the group, spurring us to bang our heads against our keyboards, which hopefully results in shiny new words, with minimal bruising.
You know you’re not alone, even when you’re sitting at your computer with only your psychopathic main character in sight. All your writing buddies are out there, just a click away when you need them.
So. Do you want join up with a terrific writing community? Finish your current novel, whether it be middle grade, young adult, or adult. Edit it, tighten it, polish it gleaming sharp. And next August, enter it into Pitch Wars. The 2017 schedule is already up here.
Then go into battle with your newfound friends. Writing’s even more fun when you’ve got someone to compare your battle scars with.
Elle Evans loves tromping through the Outdoors, where she gets real ideas for made-up stories. She writes contemporary fantasy and sci-fi for middle grade, and when she gets cell service, she’ll check in on Twitter @ElleEvansWrites