Tag Archives: Pitch Wars

So You Didn’t Make It Into Pitch Wars

If you are a part of or follow the writing community on Twitter–especially if you follow writing contests hosted on Twitter–then you know that today, August 24th, is a pretty big day.

It’s the day Pitch Wars mentors announce who they’ve chosen as their mentees.

I was one of the hopefuls this year. That status didn’t change to a mentee.

Obviously, there’s a lot of emotions resulting from that. Sadness. Disappointment. Confusion. Hurt. Anger. Discouragement. Jealousy. And if you’re one of the many–one of the majority–who also didn’t go from hopeful to mentee in the span of an announcement blog post (a blog post that reflected weeks and weeks of hard work and even harder choices by the entire Pitch War staff), you might be feeling any combination of those emotions, too, amongst others.

You may, like me, be feeling a little like Hiccup.

Hiccup. The son of Stoick, the leader of the Vikings. Hiccup, who by his own father, not to mention everyone else in the clan, was labeled as scrawny, weak and a nuisance. Everything the Vikings stood for and valued and exhibited, Hiccup seemed to lack. He was the first Viking who refused to kill a dragon, something that was sacred to their customs and necessary for their survival.

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When you think about the Hiccup in that story, you could easily feel discouraged or sad or angry. How can the clan be so against one of their own? How could they discriminate so? How does Hiccup keep going and keep fighting, staying positive, when he seems to not fit into the world that surrounds him?

But you can’t forget that Hiccup (^^) is the same Viking who was the first to ride a dragon.

Toothless. A Nightfury, the most dangerous dragon to exist and the most mysterious. Hiccup not only took down a Nightfury with a device he created himself, but he also befriended one, created a device to help Toothless fly, discovered the real reason why the dragons targeted the Vikings and their settlement, put a stop to that reason and then completely reversed the Viking culture, including dragons within their every day life, thus improving that every day life.

When you look at this side of Hiccup, you can’t help but cheer for him and feel elated, excited, inspired. Here is someone who is capable of doing great things, of taking charge, rising above challenges and creating new paths that were unbeknownst before.

Here’s the thing, though: that Hiccup is one and the same.

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The Hiccup that everyone got annoyed with because he spent more time tinkering with experiments and less time swinging a sword is the same Hiccup that showed mercy to a dragon when killing Toothless would have erased all the negative things his people said about him. The Hiccup that set the Viking settlement on fire during a dragon attack is the same Hiccup that earned the trust of a dragon to ride one.

The Hiccup that failed is the same Hiccup that succeeded.

So…how does this possibly tie in with getting rejected in Pitch Wars?

Because we’re all Hiccups.

As writers, we all have days where we feel like the black sheep amongst the village, where we feel like we don’t fit in. How could my story about droids taking over the world and annihilating the human race make it onto the NYT #1 Bestseller List, when all of those books exhibit X trait and Y qualities, and I’m not even published yet? We all have days where we doubt what we are (writers) and question why we’re even trying when we’ve failed so many times before. Can I really claim to be a good writer when I still confuse when it’s appropriate to use “who’s” and “whose”? Or when I can never spell “virtuous” right the first time, even though it’s in the title of my manuscript? We all have days and moments when what we write is shit, our stories aren’t flowing, we misspell a word in a query to our dream agent, we vent our frustrations online, we doubt every sentence we write, we feel like claiming to be a writer is a fraud.

We all have days when we don’t get chosen as mentors.

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So right now, you may be feeling like Hiccup before he meet Toothless, when he questioned how he could even claim to be Viking when he had so many strikes against him. Right now, it’s easy to focus on those negative emotions that bubble up after a rejection.

I want to remind you that while you feel like this, the other aspect of Hiccup is still very much a core part of you.

You know, post-Toothless Hiccup. The writer who crushes 7,000 words in one day because the words wouldn’t stop flowing–or perhaps writes one sentence even though they felt completely crummy and didn’t think they could get anything written that day. The writer who comes up with a new plot idea that sends chills of excitement down to their toes. The writer who gets giddy talking with their writing group, getting (and sending) feedback notes from (to) their CP/betas, who gets a partial request from an agent–or even a personalized rejection.

The writer who doesn’t give up, despite.

Because here’s the thing: yes, not getting chosen as a mentee sucks, because we feel like we’re missing out on the chance to get our writing noticed and learning from such amazing people. We feel that getting into Pitch Wars is a validation that our writing is good enough and now that we haven’t, how is anything we write any good? Or, we feel like we’ve missed our one chance in achieving our dreams. I, for one, am definitely getting a hot fudge sundae after work, eating healthy be damned. Because yeah, I’m bummed.

But here’s the other thing, the more important thing: the only way you’ve lost your chance; the only way that your stories don’t get told; the only way your writing isn’t good enough; the only way the door closes on your dreams, is if you stop. If you let rejection halt your tracks. If you stop believing in your stories.

And why would you do that?

How many dragons would have been killed if Hiccup gave up after Toothless was taken by his father, wrongly accused of hurting Hiccup and being dangerous? How long would the Vikings have lived in ignorance if Hiccup had given into his own despair and didn’t believe in himself–or Toothless?

So do you what you need to, Pitch Wars hopefuls, to help heal from rejection. Because it hurts and it does suck. Eat ice cream. Watch your favorite movie. Hang out with friends that make you laugh. Hug puppies. And then get back to work, whether it’s sending the manuscript you submitted into Pitch Wars to betas for feedback, brainstorming a new idea, plotting out a novel, writing character sheets, beta reading for someone else, reading a book from your genre, reading your mentors books in support of their dreams, or a plethora of other options to get back into the routine of writing.

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Because you are just as much a writer as Hiccup is a Viking.


Now it’s time for you to figure out exactly what that looks like.



Respect the Stages

I entered into Pitch Wars. Since, I’ve been trying (<— read, failing) not to just stalk all my potential mentors’ feeds and see if they say anything that resembles my book at all; trying (<— read, still failing) not to refresh my email every ten seconds in hopes that a request for a partial or a full might come through; trying (<— read, forever failing) not to get lost in the feed while glancing at my calendar and wondering why it isn’t August 25th yet. Those nervous, contest butterflies fueled by fragile threads and hope and anxiety are in full swing and it’s only been two days.

So, this morning, I thought, Hey. Instead of obsessing over a book you can’t do anything with at the moment, perhaps you should work on polishing up another novel? Hmm? 

When I made a call for beta readers for ARTEMIS last year, I also asked for betas for the only science fiction novel I’ve written, THE RESISTANCE, so that when I was done editing one, I could go straight into editing the other. I hadn’t looked at that feedback yet (because I wanted to look at it when I actually had time to implement it), so I figured that was as good a place to start as any. Look at the feedback, see how people felt about the novel, make an editing game plan, maybe start getting into the actual manuscript next week.

And then I read the feedback.

The consensus was clear.

The book sucked.

That was…hard to swallow, especially right now, when I’m pillaging through the teasers from the contest and that nefarious doubt is in the back of my mind, whispering lies like, You know your book isn’t good enough, why even hope at all? I didn’t read through the feedback in-depth, yet, just glanced through the general summations they gave, but the trend was the same: my main character was annoying and didn’t have enough to work for, the pacing was slow/off, the world-building was confusing, none of the characters had enough depth and the ending was disappointing, if not downright depressing.

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Cool premise, though.

Seeing that kind of response, I immediately felt deflated. My stomach twisted in knots, an overwhelming wave of disappointment washing over me. My mind panicked, thinking about the other manuscript I’d just entered into Pitch Wars, one of the most prestigious and well-known Twitter contests you can enter. Had I just made a huge mistake? Is ARTEMIS truly as bad as RESISTANCE? Have I bitten off more than I can chew?

Before I let myself completely give into despair and woeful lies, I had to pause and recognize another emotion in the mix, buried beneath all of those questions and sick feelings of shame.

Non-surprised expectation.

Though I hadn’t glanced at that feedback before today, in the back of my mind, I knew it wasn’t going to be positive, in the sense that there would be a lot more constructive criticism than there would be praise. It’s not that the feedback itself is negative or that receiving only criticism is a negative thing (quite the opposite, in fact; how can we improve if we only experience praise?). It’s just that I knew RESISTANCE was not going to receive glowing reviews from my beta readers.

I knew without admitting it that book wasn’t ready for the eyes of others yet. That was only the first draft I’d written. Hell, haven’t even read it more than once. I hadn’t edited anything yet, hadn’t done anything to it beside try and get the ideas I had in my head down on paper in some sort of comprehensible fashion. In every sense, what I sent out to my beta readers was the worst possible draft I could have sent them. Yet I was putting out a call for my other book, so in my brain, I was like, Hey, why not get feedback on two books at once? 

That was a mistake.

Because both of those books were at different stages.

With ARTEMIS, I had written a draft and then went back through and edited it once myself. I know that may not seem like a lot, but trust me, that second read through makes a huge difference. I’d already worked out a lot of kinks that typically result from a first draft attempt before I sent it out to betas, whereas with RESISTANCE, all of those problems were still present. I hadn’t given RESISTANCE the time it needed and deserved to make it at least resemble a story, not just being the bare, confusing bones of one like all my first drafts are.

So of course my betas had tons of problems with every aspect of the book.

Similar to how I wasn’t surprised when there were more aspects betas liked about ARTEMIS than they found to critique about it.* And what they did critique was exactly what I needed, locating the places I was blind to, things I hadn’t even considered would need improving because I was at a loss as to how to make the story better, hence looking for an outside opinion.

With RESISTANCE, if I would have paused to really think, I could point out many of the same weaknesses my betas did. I was just so excited about the idea of someone else reading my work and offering feedback that I didn’t stop to consider whether my novel was ready for that kind of attention.

And for that mistake, my RESISTANCE betas, I apologize profusely. It was not my intention to waste your time and your feedback is valued to me. I will read through everything, thoroughly, and incorporate your thoughts into my next round of edits.

I learned a couple different things this morning, I think. The most important lesson was figuring out how to know when my book is ready for beta feedback–not only so I never waste anyone else’s time again, but also so that my book has the chance to benefit the most from another pair of eyes, i.e., if the obvious, glaring issues that I would have caught aren’t there, my betas can actually look for more complex, complicated issues to help elevate the story.

I have been reminding myself (and seeing the reminder in the Pitch Wars feed) that so many writers who entered are in different stages of their career, so I should stop comparing myself to them. Similarly to how, if I don’t become a mentee or, if I did become a mentee and didn’t become agented afterwards, I can’t consider that a failure when I look at those who did win or did become agented; because every journey is different and we’re all at different stages. Yet I was also reminded that I’m at different stages across my own works. 

I know that probably seems obvious. One book that has been undergone twelve drafts is obviously different than a book that’s only been written once. Yet, for a moment, I assumed that because RESISTANCE is still in such a bad shape, that obviously that means ARTEMIS sucks just as much. And that’s simply not the case, because I’ve put so much more work into ARTEMIS. Multiple rounds of revision, including a round implementing beta feedback. Not to mention that I understand that story so much more and feel so much more confident about it. My writing reflects that, whereas my writing in RESISTANCE shows my hesitancy and uncertainty I have for that narrative.

This is a really long post to basically say this: recognize the various stages your writing and your career are in and then respect them. Take the time to work on a novel to get it ready for betas. Rewrite as many drafts as you need to, to make it work. Don’t forget that your first draft usually sucks and that’s okay. It’s also okay if your tenth draft sucks. Every book is different. Every career is different. Focus on yours and doing everything you can to make it the best of your ability. Recognize your mistakes, admit them and then keep pushing forward.

And never give up. Our world needs your stories.


* When I say this, I’m not trying to come off as conceited and say that I assumed my book was so great, all my betas would love it. What I meant was that my gut was telling me ARTEMIS was ready for their eyes, whereas RESISTANCE was not.

#PimpMyBio: Pitch Wars 2017

Welcome, friends.

I’m new to both the Pitch Wars community and to this awesome #PimpMyBio blog hop, but I’m really excited to be a part of both. If you want to learn more about Pitch Wars, read this. If you want to meet some other fantastic writers participating in the blog hop, click here.

If you want to continue learning about me and the book I’m entering into the contest, you came to the right post.

The Writer 

My name is Nicole and I’m an Elven scout who’s actually really horrible at her job because I have no sense of direction and no survival skills whatsoever I’m a 24 year old nerd who only gets more quirky with age.

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As far as writing goes, I wrote my first story in the sixth grade, where all the characters were my classmates and we had to fight skeletons with glowing red eyes with buckets of daggers. Flying pigs were also somehow involved. Thankfully, my imagination hasn’t stopped, but now my stories actually have real plots and characters and conflicts. I have five completed manuscripts: a YA fantasy trilogy about a destined chosen one who fails anyway and an Adult sci-fi standalone that pits the natural desire to fight for love against the innate instinct to destroy during the extinction of the human race. My fifth book, the first in a multi-book series, I’m entering into Pitch Wars (read about Artemis’s adventure down below).

I also manage three blogs: the one you’re reading now, which is my personal blog. I post about anything ranging from the latest writing woe (or wonder) to my quest for self-love to my video game obsession to my attempts (but usually failures) at adulting. I also write book reviews that discuss the experience of reading a book rather than the book itself over at Erlebnisse. Finally, me and three other writers post short stories at Muse in Pocket, Pen in Hand, which is a fairly new venture we started this year.

In the writing community, I try and stay active on Twitter (@thought_stained), with various degrees of success (I do have some Luddite tendencies that make me and social media not always on the closest terms). I participated in both #P2P15 and #P2P16, the second time making it on an editor’s shortlist (woo!). Currently, I’m the contest assistant for #ShoreIndie, which is a contest for emerging Indie writers to win free editing on a manuscript and guidance through the journey of self-publishing. I also intern remotely for Naomi Davis at Inklings Literary Agency, whom I absolutely adore and wish I could intern for permanently.

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The Story

When your stories are plagued with tropes, sometimes, the only way to beat them is to live them.

Artemis Smith is the walking representation of the starving artist trope. He’s old, works at a miserable job and has no family of his own, with only his service dog and rejection letters to keep him company. He’s never realized that his novels mirror the same problem his life exhibits: Predictable. Routine. Overdone.

When he meets a strange, blue-haired man outside the library, Artemis believes he’s only a new source for character inspiration. But when the man reveals that he knows not only everything about Artemis’s life, but also everything he does wrong in his writing—and holds the power to fix it—Artemis immediately jumps at the opportunity to escape his mundane routine and chase his publishing dream. He did not realize how literal that escape would be.

Transported into a fairy tale world as Terrowin, Artemis becomes torn as he not only faces deadly creatures, complicated codes of chivalry and an opinionated squire, but also the tropes attached to them. To escape the fairy tale, he must survive—and conquer—both.  

ARTEMIS SMITH AND THE VIRTUOUS MARRIAGE QUEST is an Adult urban fantasy. The idea sparked at my own frustration writing plots too overdone and filled with tropes to make it in today’s market, and it became, through numerous drafts, rewrites and beta readers, my favorite story I’ve ever written. 

I can’t wait to share it with you.

The Goal

My goal entering into Pitch Wars 2017 is to catch the attention of a mentor with a similar vision as mine; a mentor who loves Artemis and Terrowin as much as I do, but also sees ways to challenge them and make them even more real. A mentor who believes in my story and believes in me, who isn’t afraid to push me, doesn’t hesitate to point out areas of improvement or praise, and who is willing to not only help elevate my story, but help prepare it (and me) for the eyes of the world.

As a mentee, I can promise an old-fashioned work ethic, positive and prompt communication, a willing, patient ear, relentless optimism and dragon GIFs. In a mentor-mentee relationship, I’m hoping to form a bond that goes well past November, where we can continue to encourage, support and inspire one another to not only achieve our dreams, but to enjoy every moment as we do so.**

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The Juicy Stuff

  • I have a degree in Creative Writing and a minor in film.
  • I work as a circulation supervisor at a library at my alma mater.
  • I believe dragons exist.
  • I’m straight-edge.
  • I’m obsessed with Tolkien and his works.
  • I have five tattoos and have no plans on stopping.
  • Video games are my social life.
  • I have a wanderlust that no bank account could ever sate (and certainly not mine).
  • Dogs are the best thing the world has to offer (especially Golden Retrievers).
  • My favorite cheese is extra sharp cheddar.

So…yeah, I think that covers the basics. Thanks for checking out my bio. If you’re entering PitchWars, tell me about your story in the comments (I’m working my way through everyone’s bios, but it’s gonna take me a while). And please say hello on Twitter, especially throughout the contest. I can promise you puke-level positive tweets (think unicorns and rainbows level support), random GIFs, your typical awkwardness and epic nerd out sessions.

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**Quick note to potential future mentors: I will be out of the country August 25th through September 11th (yay wanderlust sating!), which I realize is right at the beginning of the editing round (I made these plans a year ago, not thinking about any awesome contests I’d want to enter later). If I get on your radar, I hope this is something we can discuss, as though internet access isn’t planned at the moment, I could make things work if chosen (but also, that work ethic I mentioned? Yeah, I’d work my ass off to ensure those two weeks, if editing wasn’t an option, felt like I was still working the whole time).