I wasn’t chosen. But don’t be sad, because I am not. Not being chosen to be mentored unveils the lovely part about Pitch Wars:
Winning isn’t everything. Those who participate are still in the race. But more on that in a moment.
I submitted a 250 word pitch and the first ten pages of A Fractured Land to four talented mentors I chose from a list of over a hundred, based on their genre preference and the types of stories they asked for on their wishlists.
Pitch Wars a tough contest. Most of the entrants and mentors are based in the United States, and it is a big country with many talented writers in the pool. The last time I entered Pitch Wars, in 2014, I received no requests from the mentors. Either my pitch wasn’t enticing enough, the stakes weren’t high enough, or I hadn’t matched myself with the best mentors for my work.
However, I learned a lot. I learned how to improve my pitch, that I needed to create a better hook (something to grab the reader’s interest up front) and clearer stakes (a reason to compel the reader to read on).
I decided to create a new story with less geographical boundaries. I worked on a story with wider appeal and added the influence of my American heritage, while still staying true to my South African roots.
A Fractured Land grew from there. It sputtered a bit, but then I completed it during NaNoWriMo 2015 and in a fit of delight and triumph, submitted a query to Pan Macmillan South Africa during a rare window for unsolicited manuscripts.
Well. Crickets took over my inbox. Chirp, chirp. Then a tumbleweed rolled through.
Anyway, I took that one on the chin and have been polishing and revising ever since, with the help of my clever editor friend Amelia Meyer and the lovely talented author, scriptwriter and vlogger extraordinaire, Pamela Power.
Here is an excerpt of the pitch that I submitted for Pitch Wars 2016:
Lexi returns to her small South African home town in the Karoo to patch up a broken heart and rescue her rocky finances. It’s a dull process until the arrival of Texan geologist, Carter O’Brien. He ignites the town’s hostility with an exploratory fracking license and a short temper. Lexi, tired of tedious parochialism and intrigued by the brusque stranger, decides to risk village ire and help him out. But when local anger turns to violence she finds herself already too emotionally entangled with O’Brien to back away.
Lexi needs the extra money she earns singing in a local band and O’Brien’s dark past as a musician becomes an asset. But when his fracking survey turns up a hidden crime, being close to him increases the violent threats to her safety. Then she discovers that, while his career is at stake if he fails to complete the geological survey, he stands to gain much more than he initially revealed, if he succeeds.
While Carter and Lexi are hunted by a madman over the semi desert of Southern Africa, she must figure out, if she survives, whether she has a future with this dark and complex man who has the power to destroy everything she holds dear.
I waited and waited. Were there only to be more crickets?
And then I got this from one of the mentors:
“I really like what I read here! Love Lexi’s voice. Can you send me the first 100 pages of your manuscript and a synopsis?”
And then I waited again. But this time, for me, just crickets.
The mentees were announced, and well done to them. It takes so much hard work to polish up a manuscript and then a great dollop of courage to put it out there for criticism. The Pitch Wars community on Twitter is such a positive space, where people are willing to share their ideas, tips, knowledge, insights and encouragement, as well as their time and energy. So even if your manuscript is not chosen, you come away more enriched,, connected and equipped for the literary path ahead.
I received the following, really kind feedback from two of the mentors:
Thank you for sharing your query and pages with us – we’re honored you trusted us with your words! We understand how disappointing it is to get this email – we know this because we’ve been there, too. But try to remember that while PitchWars is an amazing and unique contest, it is just one contest. While we didn’t feel we were right for your project (or that it was right for us), that doesn’t mean we don’t think you’re talented. So please, keep moving forward with your work. You never know if that one “YES” is right around the corner … we can attest to this from personal experience!
We wish you the very best with your writing, and this manuscript, and are sending you our thanks and support.
Happy writing and #KeepGoing!
And then I received this, from the mentor who had requested more:
I had such a hard decision in picking a manuscript to mentor for Pitch Wars. I so wish I could have taken on more than one person, and that is not lip service. You’re very talented and A FRACTURED LAND has such a cool vibe with a snappy voice. So, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to pick your manuscript, but I really loved it and would still like to offer you a full critique, give whatever support I can, and stay in touch! Based on what I see in your synopsis, I wonder if this story might be better positioned as a mystery or romantic suspense, rather than women’s fiction. Would you be open to something like that? If so, go ahead and send me the full manuscript 🙂
I literally (correct use of the term here, people) put my head on my kitchen counter and cried. I know it’s no publishing deal, but it has to be the nicest, most encouraging, yet believable email I’ve got so far in my little writing career. So SHOUT OUT to the lovely mentor who sent this.
(More on her at a later date… I am not sure about the confidentiality status at this point, but when I am, you will get to meet the person behind my tears of joy.)
So, I am still in the race, but let’s rather call it a journey. ALL the pitch wars entrants are still on the journey. It’s not the end of the road. We keep revising, improving and querying. And who knows? Maybe that one YES is around the very next corner.
P.S sometimes Crickets help Dreams come true