I entered Pitch Wars in 2021 with the first novel I’d written and felt was any good. In the simplest terms, Pitch Wars was (it’s no longer running) a competition where you could apply to be mentored by a successful writer who was producing work in a similar category, with the chance to have your work seen by agents at the end of the process. You sent in a submissions package similar to that you’d send to a literary agent, with a sample of the opening to your novel. If the mentor was potentially interested they’d then make request for a full. This is the rest of the novel for them to consider. If they were really keen, you might get follow up questions, to learn more about you and edits you might consider.
I didn’t get any requests, but I had fun with the twitter prompts designed to help everyone who had entered get to know each other. One of the mentors I’d applied to ran a scheme for those who didn’t get through, which grouped writers with similar interests together, in the hopes we’d get along and be good critique partners. I put myself in for it, and between this and critique swaps with other people I’d got to know online during Pitch Wars, I prepared for the next big mentoring competition, Author Mentor Match. This is similar to Pitch Wars, but it’s more open ended and doesn’t have an agent showcase.
This time, I got a full request. You aren’t supposed to publicize this until after the competition, because understandably it can make others who entered nervous. The writing groups I was in were buzzing with speculation about who had one or was going to get one as the deadline drew ever closer. I soon worked out just how rare it was to get one, and that among those in my writing networks it seem to only be me.
This should have been exciting, and it was, but it was also much harder than not getting a request at all. Not being able to tell anyone who would really understand what a request meant made it easier for me to over think and obsess, as I had no one to talk to about it, to check my thinking. Knowing I was under consideration also upped the stakes. I was closer to my goal but I felt like I had so much more to loose. I didn’t know which mentor who I applied to had made the request, either, so I spent ages reading their twitter posts and re-reading their Author Mentor Match bios, speculating.
Then, I got follow up questions. I knew I had to really be in the running. There was a fast turn around for a response. With work, the time difference (I’m UK based the the team behind Author Mentor Match is based the the US) I struggled to get everything back quickly. I didn’t want to put the wrong thing and rule myself out but I also knew I had to be honest, as well as quick, so I couldn’t over think it. More obsessing followed.
The winner announcement day came, and I didn’t make the list.
I cried. I got myself some ice cream, and I congratulated the winners. I’d prepared for if I lost out, because I knew it was going to hurt and I’d need to plan things to cheer myself up, and that I’d need some time to grieve the lost opportunity. While I felt bad for myself I also genuinely felt good for the those who did win, because I knew what that had to mean to them. It was a strange feeling, but I had this sense it just wasn’t my turn yet, and it had still brought me that bit closer to my goal just through taking part. Rejection is inherent to working in the arts professionally, and so learning to deal with that in a healthy way was something I chose to see as useful, too. The bonds I’ve made with other writers alone have been so valuable and I’ve improved my craft. I also got a very kind and encouraging message from the mentor who had considered me and my story. That matters.
I’ve decided I’m going to enter Author Mentor Match again the next time it runs, with an new novel. I’d been working on prep for it during the agony of the wait for the winners announcement. I already feel it’s a stronger book and I’m only on the first draft.
Wish me luck! While hard work comes into this, so does chance, and I’ll take all the luck I can get.