Hi, Paul, and thanks for having me on your blog!
Writing started as my therapy outlet, but passion took over. Before last summer finished, I had cranked out a rough draft for my first novel, a middle grade fantasy. After a few rounds in critique groups and my husband’s general seal of approval, I threw a wide net of query letters out into the literary world. Rejection after impersonal rejection swamped my inbox.
When I heard about Brenda Drake’s giant writing contest and the chance it gave for some one-on-one mentor/mentee novel critique with a professional writer or editor, I quickly rewrote my novel and submitted it. (For more info on #PitchWars, go to Brenda Drake’s blog here.) In my head, this seemed like the best way to get my novel in tip-top shape and resubmit it to agents.
For two weeks, I joined the herd of hopefuls stampeding twitter with feeds and re-checking inboxes for page requests. By the time I scrolled through the finalists list and realized I wasn’t on it, I’d learned so much that I already expected to be excluded. I’d made dozens of friends, a few new critique partners, and connected virtually with many of the mentors. I’d clicked links to read blog posts about character, plot, pacing, and how to write query letters and pitches that sell. I began to understand the market and what agents, and ultimately publishers, were looking for.
That first manuscript never went far. (From what I’d heard at that first Pitchwars, setting aside the first novel is totally normal.) I placed it sadly on a hypothetical shelf, and I still ponder what it could be. Maybe someday, I’ll tear it apart and make it something worth an agent’s time. I sidelined it just before National Novel Writing Month 2014, and my in-laws had spent three and a half weeks of hunting season in mountainous Idaho regaling me with tales of my husband’s scarce upbringing.
On the few occasions my phone’s hotspot worked, I caught an interview with an agent on my submit list, and he said he wanted a retelling of something unique, something middle grade that would appeal to boys. ROWDY DAYS OF DOM SANDERS, the novel I am entering in this year’s Pitchwars competition, helped me finish my first ever NANO based on his suggestions.
The morphing of that first fifty-five-thousand-word NANO project into the novel DOM is full of tears, frustrations, flash card plot shuffling, and thousands of emails with my amazing critique partner Libby Webber (if you don’t know her, send her a nod and wave on twitter @libbywebber and tell her Emily sent you!) I got DOM into a middle grade word count range with just the right amount of voice and hook.
It took two months of rapid reading to find a comparison title other than its classic re-telling twin THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER. Another set of query rewrites with Dannie Morin on her blog-based Bait and pitch workshops on Thursdays all summer got it contest ready. All the while, I felt a surge of energy and excitement for August. Pitch Wars was coming back around!
This year’s Pitch Wars seemed to have amplified from last year’s experiences in so many ways. I’ve met twice as many diverse and amazing people. Just in the weeks leading up to submission day (August 18), I’ve deepened friendships and really got to know the mentors who volunteer their time and expertise to Brenda Drake’s cause.
And even as important, I’ve continued to click every link offered by those who’ve been where I sit. (Not literally, after all, my office doubles as a vehicle parts storage shed, and I think only I could find comfort in that.) But their suggestions have pushed me beyond my limits and abilities, making all my writing, both novels and freelance work, better.
I’ve learned the value of beta-readers, found out what filter words are (and deleted nearly 500!), and learned how to use action as a dialog tag and not the word “said”. I’ve learned how to shorten a query, removing fluff and dividing up comma-filled sentences. I’ve learned how to write a synopsis with just the right amount of detail and how to be professional in the literary world. These are the things any writer willing to participate in contests can receive if they fling themselves in the fray and absorb everything like a crusty, dry sponge.
Entering Pitch Wars is easy. All you need is a manuscript you think is perfect and a strong work ethic. But what you gain from it is entirely up to you. Taking part in the community this contest blossoms will benefit you as much as selling that novel. If a mentor picks you, be prepared to work hard to make that story ready for the world. And if no mentor does, then gather all that Pitchwars offered you and put it to good use on your current work in progress. There are no losers in Pitch Wars, only those who walk away having wasted a magnificent opportunity to make their writing even stronger.
About E.G. Moore
Emily G. Moore is a poet, freelance writer, and storyteller (the first of which her mom still has recorded on a cassette tape.) She’s been an active member of Kitsap County Writer’s Group, For Pete’s Sake Writers Group, and an email writer’s response group for about three years. When she’s not telling “Mommy Made stories” to her two daughters or nagging her husband to edit her latest manuscript, she can be found researching healthy recipes, attending bible study, or on a long, plot-refreshing jog. You can find her on twitter (@egmoorewriter), Facebook (facebook.com/emilygmoorewriter), and her blog E.G. Moore Freelancing and Fiction
Thank you, Emily, for a GREAT first guest post on Stories are the Wildest Things! I hope our readers get as much out of it as I did. Readers, please leave a comment about your experience and success and/or failure with Pitch Wars and make sure you drop by Emily’s blog and say hi to her on Twitter.
Have a great writing day!