Pitch Wars: The Long Journey, Part I

I’ve been going back and forth over when I should post here on my Pitch Wars acceptance. I’m a very private person and really don’t like to share anything until I have NEWS. So was it too soon to post anything, before I even got my edit letter? Should I wait until after the showcase? After I (fingers crossed) get an agent and publishing deal? Next year as the submission window for Pitch Wars 2022 was underway? When I have 10 best sellers under my belt, aka, never (most likely, stranger things have happened)?

Ultimately I decided on just chronicling my experience with Pitch Wars and sharing what I can. I’ve always found such blogs/posts helpful when deciding if I should enter such mentorship programs, so maybe I can give somebody else the nudge they need to enter (and hopefully win) or just shed more insight in the process and the work required as a mentee. I’ll be writing these in the moment, but then posting once I’ve moved onto the next step. For example, this was mostly written pre-edit letter, but posted after revisions part I.

Please remember that this is just MY journey, and other mentee experiences may vary. I do not speak for every mentee, mentor, Pitch Wars, or their board. To kick my Pitch Wars Journey off, I’d thought I’d begin with my journey to Pitch Wars itself and the manuscript (MS) I submitted.

Like most writer journeys, it was not smooth and quick, but bumpy and full of blind curves, dead ends, and one that I honestly was beginning to think went nowhere (and it still might). But, as the old tired phrase goes, writing is a marathon, not a race. So despite the many obstacles, detours, and feeling like I was forever stuck to the slow lane, I continued on my journey which eventually led to Pitch Wars.

The Early Years

If you read the profile/background of a lot of authors you’ll see stuff about how they’ve always had a love of reading and been writing from a young age. Same. The first book I can remember writing was in the first grade. It got me to my state’s Young Author Conference. The only thing I remember from the experience being served McDonald’s for lunch. More books, well, attempts, followed. I was an editor for my school newspaper and even got a few articles published in my local newspaper.

But as college approached, my writing fizzled. Despite my dozen attempts at an original story I never got more than a few pages. While I did love reading and writing, I also loved science and math. They challenged me more than my Lit classes did. Also there was something appealing about being one of the few woman in a male-dominated field. So I stopped reading (at my height I could easily read a book from the school library before the end of the day) and writing. Until at my friend’s urging I began writing fanfiction for a book series we both liked.

While I prefer some of my early work to remain buried, fanfiction did teach me a lot about how to complete a story and create original characters. Without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today. After a year of fanfiction, I began attempting to write original fiction and eventually did NaNoWriMo for the first time. Writing 50,000 words was a struggle, and the story is in desperate need of editing before ever being ready to share, but I had finally managed to complete an original story for the first time since first grade. Go me. It also led to a few more NaNos with varying levels of success.

2016

2016 was important to my writing journey in that it introduced me to a hobby that would greatly define and influence my Pitch Wars MS. I’ve crocheted for years, but that was pretty much all the needlework I did. In 2016 I was a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding and we were given those cute little pouches with ‘Bridesmaid’ embroidered on them. I liked it, but thought it was a shame the black fabric didn’t really match our dresses. A month later I was engaged and knew I wanted to give matching zippered pouches to my bridesmaids. When I couldn’t find anything online, I decided that I’d just make them.

Keep in mind I had no idea how to sew. At all. So I took a class. One in which I was terrified the entire time of the sewing machine– either hurting myself or breaking the machine. But it went okay. Enough so here I am four years later with two sewing machines of my own (one is more for quilting).

Sitting on a wooden chair is a square pillow with light blue flowers. Slightly seen around the edges is the back of the pillow, a dark blue paisley print
Behold, my first ever sewing project: a square pillow that started it all

And one class soon turned into a dozen as I progressed from making pillowcases to those zippered pouches, and eventually even quilts.

Four light blue zippered pouches lying on top of another, on a tan background which is really just a couch cushion. They measure roughly five by seven inches with dark blue thread running diagonally creating one inch squares for textures and have dark blue zippers. In the lower left corner is a large silver sparkly initial in cursive which was ironed on. From left to right: T, L, K, and J.
All those lessons for these four zippered patterns, some of which are still used by their owner.

2017 – 2019

In August 2017 there was a solar eclipse and I just so happened to I live smack dab in the path.

Blurry photo of a solar eclipse taken from a cell phone. Mostly gray at bottom, darkening at the top. In the middle of the top of the photo is the sun, quite blurry, but the moon can be seen in the lower left slowly crossing with a ring of light around it. Or so the author hopes...
As it turns out, the camera on your cell phone is not the best to take pictures of an eclipse. Lesson learned for 2024.

About a week after the eclipse, I was trying to brainstorm my next project. The eclipse had just occurred, so why not incorporate my personal experience? It also lent itself nicely to some sort of fantasy story, with a solar eclipse playing a huge role. From there my brainstorming tried to include every fantasy cliché and trope imaginable to make the most ridiculous story ever. A prophecy. Chosen One. Magical MacGuffins. Old wizard mentor. His evil counterpart. An epic battle. But what started as a crack story quickly turned serious as I begin developing the characters, world, and even themes and truly exploring a world in which magic is outlawed and the implications, fuller than Disney Descendants ever did. It was a proper story. One that took me over a year to write (to be fair, I did take time off in 2018 to plan and make decorations for my book-themed wedding which is another post of its own).

By Fall 2018, I was getting into Booktube and Authortube and learned about Author Mentor Match (AMM). That MS was the first quality(ish) one I had ever completed and that I wanted to be published. Actually allowed myself to have dreams of being published. It was going to change the industry, I just knew it (spoiler, I was wrong). And Author Mentor Match seemed like the perfect place to start. So I wrote my first query and synopsis letter ever and sent it off just waiting for the requests.

They never came. Neither did ones from RevPit or Write Mentor. Which, looking back, is not much of a surprise. My first query letter was a mess, extremely bloated and named like five characters and locations. It was also trying to cram in two MCs/two timelines and that’s not even touching how messy the MS and first chapter was.

But I’m still glad I submitted. It introduced me to the writing community on Twitter. I made writing friends, swapped critiques, joined writing forums on Discord. If it hadn’t been for that initial experience I probably would’ve never submitted my MS to Pitch Wars. After the rejection, I got a CP and tried to implement her feedback. It was good, but ultimately I realized the major issue with the MS was that it was several stories in one, needed a narrator, and I had no idea how to do it. So I shelved it and took a break.

Because I needed a break from writing, I focused on other aspects of my life such as passing the Professional Engineering Exam (PE) in order to get my civil engineering license. It’s a national exam currently offered twice a year and is eight hours long with a total of 80 questions– 40 in the four-hour general morning session, and 40 in the four-hour specialized afternoon session. I had failed it my first time, and spent my entire summer studying to ensure I wouldn’t fail it again (and I didn’t! I’ve officially been licensed since January 2020). But during all that time studying, I still needed breaks, and gradually my mind went back to writing. I bounced around between different projects, different genres, until two little plot bunnies came along.

Fall 2019

The first, was wanting a story that actually portrayed traditional female skills such as embroidery, sewing, quilting, crocheting, etc. in a positive light. So many heroines tend to equate those skills with weakness. They’re not like other girls, because they prefer a sword to a needle. Some of those characters I love. But do those characters not question where their clothes come from or know how to fix their inevitable holes? Saddle and bridle for their horse? How about the belt holding their scabbard? Sewing by hand isn’t easy, it’s a strain on one’s eyes and fingers, and that’s not even touching some of the complex and intricate patterns and designs women would make. I wanted a book that celebrated those skills while taking advantage of everybody who dismissed them.

Image of a quilt. At first glance it appears like alternating black and white squares, with a small one at the middle and growing outwards. However, the strips making up the squares are actually small pieces of fabric artfully arranged by color in smaller squares to make up the larger ones.
Look at this beauty. From my 2019 trip to the Smithsonian and their exhibit: Everyday Luxury: Silk Quits From the National Collection. Technically about 100 years later than my MS setting, but the majority of surviving fabrics from that time are well to do clothes that were seldom worn and not quilts which saw heavy use.
In the background, a small corner of the above quilt and a placard explaining the quilt's origins: “Log Cabin” Parlor Throw, 1870 – 1890. Marian Frick (1829 – 1908) Pennsylvania. Pierced silk top, cotton filling and backing. Marian Frick was born in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, and lived all her life in the vicinity. Frick worked as a dressmaker; this vibrant “barn raising” variation Log Cabin quilt displays her skills in both needlework and design. The quilt includes dress fabrics popular in the 1870s and 1880s, probably scraps from clothes she made for her clients and herself.
In small print hard to see, indicates it was a gift of a Mrs. (name too small to make out in picture).
Specific info on the above quilt: “Log Cabin” Parlor Throw, 1870 – 1890. Marian Frick (1829 – 1908) Pennsylvania. Pierced silk top, cotton filling and backing. Marian Frick was born in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, and lived all her life in the vicinity. Frick worked as a dressmaker; this vibrant “barn raising” variation Log Cabin quilt displays her skills in both needlework and design. The quilt includes dress fabrics popular in the 1870s and 1880s, probably scraps from clothes she made for her clients and herself.
In small print hard to see, indicates it was a gift of a Mrs. (name too small to make out in picture)..

I also wanted a book where the MC wasn’t the Chosen One, had no magic, and was just a background character in a much larger world. I had just written a book with those things, and I wanted something different. An introverted girl who’d rather be left alone, but uses her skills to save the day. Somehow. Beyond that I didn’t have much. Well, other than a world and background already created from my shelved MS.

So I researched. The idea of her being a spy took root pretty early, as I’d often had the idea of how easy it would be to hide something in a quilting project, or turn crochet into code. I began with one of those basic articles about women/spies in history which soon led me down a rabbit hole. I read books on women from the American Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War II. All of which quickly shaped the plot and characters in my PW MS. I also tore through every book I could get on fabric from the 1700’s, fashion, and daily life as Colonial America/Georgian England was the setting for my MS. Maybe someday I’ll create a post with all my references.

For the plot, there was an event which was referenced and occurred between the two timelines, but the details were vague. It also worked perfectly for the main conflict and gave me a chance to further flesh out the world. I got to about Chapter 6 when I realized I needed to restructure my story as the inciting incident was happening far too late. So Chapter 3 became Chapter 1, and after reshuffling a few things, I continued working.

Spring 2020

Until Covid. March 2020 my writing came to a halt. Like so many others, I just didn’t feel like writing .There was too much going on in the world. I needed a break. AMM, RevPit, WM were clearly not an option. I distracted myself with more research. Started my Master’s. Participated in Writer in Motion, which if you’re interested, can find all my posts here discussing WIM.

It really wasn’t until Fall 2020 did I finally get back into writing and figured out how to balance it and my classes. With all the political upheaval at the time, and really for the past four years in America, writing was an outlet for all my feelings that I could channel through my MC. AMM, RevPit, and Write Mentor were in the spring, and I used those as a deadline to get my MS into shape. I found a great beta, who’s been more of a CP, through a Twitter match event. Not only did she give amazing feedback and suggestions, she also patiently waited for the last half of my MS which was still very much a WIP. The genuine interest and encouragement from her pushed me to completing my MS at last.

Spring 2021

For AMM, I didn’t any requests. I took the time between AMM and RevPit to rewrite my beginning and climax based on my CP’s comments. The version I had post AMM was much stronger than the one before. So much so I had requests from both of my RevPit editors and from Write Mentor.

It was insane. While I had hoped, I didn’t think I would get any interest, but I had gotten three requests! I was so excited and anxious over the next few weeks, I actually kept a small diary in my Scrivener MS file to get my feelings down. I began daydreaming of the announcement day. Of working with an editor/author. Of getting an agent and a publishing deal, and–

And nothing. Nothing from RevPit. Nothing from Write Mentor a week later. It hurt. A lot. One of my journal entries basically stated I wished I hadn’t had any requests. No requests meant I wouldn’t have spent all those weeks stressing and hoping for something that wouldn’t be. No daydreams. No hurt. Imposter Syndrome struck and I questioned whether or not my MS was good enough to continue. Some of the winners I knew, and while I was happy for them, I was also disappointed I wouldn’t get to be right there with them as a fellow winner.

To do something, I did a light editing again. And again. Figuring my query and first pages were decent based on the fact I did get some requests from the contests, I decided to do PitMad. Maybe some agent out there would say yes. One is all it takes after all, and I did get some nibbles. While waiting on responses, I put some distance between myself and that MS. I wrote a short story for an anthology and came really close to acceptance, but ultimately was rejected. I bounced around between projects again. And then September was fast approaching and with it, Pitch Wars.

Next Post: Pitch Wars: The Long Journey Part II (where I actually discuss Pitch Wars)

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