Skip to main content

It's a Writer Thing -- Preparing for Pitch Wars


This is a guest post by Jessica Bayliss. 

As a former Pitch2Publication success story, I KNOW what it feels like to be short-listed. I KNOW how amazing it is to read the words: And the next mentee is (YOUR NAME HERE). I want you to have that too. So please, do everything you can to help yourself before the submission window begins. 

Make it impossible for us to not choose your submission. 

I also know all the negative thoughts that go through the authors’ minds during this process. P2P wasn’t the only competition I entered. I entered several over the years that I was not chosen for, so I know that feeling too. It’s scary to put yourself out there, but I firmly believe that we MUST put ourselves out there, and I also believe the stress is totally worth it. 

So, in the spirit of combating those negative thoughts now, I’ve listed out the ones that I had back in the day in the hopes that they will help you.

I won’t get chosen, so there’s no point in doing ___________ (insert phrase as applicable: writing a synopsis, reading through my manuscript one more time, writing a 35-word pitch, etc.)

Get your submission materials ready NOW. What do you need?: 
1) Query letter and 
2) First chapter (please see Brenda Drake’s blog for more guidelines on short chapters & prologues). 

You should also prepare: 
1) A 1-3 page synopsis and 
2) A 35-word short pitch. These are things a mentor may ask for to help with their decision. 

Yes, synopsis. I know. They’re evil and torture, but they’re the only way to get a feel for the full plot of your book without actually reading the whole book. And I’ll be honest with you, when I entered FicFest, I did not follow this advice. Why didn’t I have a synopsis ready? Because I didn’t think there was any chance in hell that I’d get chosen, and yet one of the mentors loved my submission and wanted to read my synopsis. Oops.


Don’t be like me. Get your materials ready now and you won’t have to frantically throw it together at 11:45PM on a Thursday while trying to scoop frozen cookie dough out of a container. (Don’t judge. I needed something to strengthen me.)

They’re just going to have me revise it anyway.

Please be sure your MS is ready. Yes, your whole manuscript. Listen, I know you’re busy. Believe me, I get it. You’ve got lots of obligations, and you may be saying: Why bother killing myself? I won’t get picked. I’ll just get the first few chapters ready to go and call it a day. 

My response to that, a strangled GAAAAHHHHHH!!!!! The mentors you submit to may want more chapters to help them decide. If your first chapter rocks, but the rest are super rough, they may determine that, though they love your concept, your book as a whole needs too much work to get it ready in time for the Agent Showcase. 

Not to mention, no one wants to get a request for the first 50 pages and come to realize they never wrote X, Y, or Z pivotal scene. (Clears throat.) That’s a surefire way to find yourself frantically writing away at 11:45PM on a Thursday trying to jam a spoon into a frozen container of cookie dough.

So do that work UP FRONT and make it easy for us to pick you. 

We want to pick YOU.

And yes, your mentor will ask you to revise it, but the better a MS is when we start working, the better we can make it by the end. Worst case scenario: your MS isn’t selected, but you have a newly-revised MS that will blow the agents away when you query.

I don’t need a frozen container of cookie dough because I’ll get all my materials totally set to go. BOO-ya!

Listen, cookie dough comes in handy for many life situations. I highly recommend everyone keep some. Just in case. (For example, it’s a great way to celebrate when you get that request for a synopsis.)

I don’t know who to pick as a prospective mentor. There are so many. I can’t do it. Eenie-meenie-miney-mo.

Do your research on the mentors. The number of writers who donate their time is astounding (it sort of makes my heart glow &  my eyes get all watery). While they’re all great, there will definitely be some who are better matched for you and your work than others. 

The Blog Hop starts on July 19th, which gives you two whole weeks to check out all the mentors’ bios, wish lists, and info on their approach to mentoring. Brenda and the other organizers of the competition have made it super easy for you to jump from blog-to-blog. At the bottom of each mentor’s Pitch Wars Bio post, we’ll include links to all the other mentors’ pages (for that age category). They’re numbered with our pictures so it will be easy for you to keep track.

Seriously, give your MS the BEST chance of getting chosen by really taking the time to visit each mentors’ blog. Not only that, but come and say hi on Twitter. We want to get to know you. That’s a huge part of the fun. You can join the #PimpMyBio Blog hop and tell us all about yourself. (Do it! It’s fun!) Also, check out the #pitchwars hashtag and look out for the live chats (July 17th through August 1st).

There’s no way THAT AMAZING MENTOR will want to work with ME. 

But we do! We do!

There are some seriously talented and successful writers in this mix. And, I can tell you from experience getting to know them over the last few months, they’re all wonderful, down-to-earth people. We’re just as excited and nervous as you are. 

Your submission will literally make our day. 

If I don’t get chosen, that means I’m not good enough. 

Not at all! Please don’t self-label. If your MS doesn’t get chosen, that means nothing about YOU. Maybe your MS wasn’t ready, but you—as a person and writer—are good enough. Even if you still have room to grow (and who doesn’t?) as long you keep working, practicing, and getting better, then you ARE good enough.

If I don’t get chosen, that means my MS isn’t good enough.

My agent recently did a Twitter Poll, asking the worst news a writer can get from their agent. I selected the option Being Told a MS is Truly Bad. But I’ve been thinking about that, and I’ve changed my mind. 

No MS is truly bad. Why? Because a MS that’s not ready NOW can always be improved. Some writers go so far as to literally open a new doc or Scrivener file and rewrite the whole thing. (I’m not saying you should do that!) My point is, no MS is beyond hope if an author is committed to their concept and is willing to do the hard work to make it awesome.

So, maybe your MS isn’t ready YET, but it still may be “good enough” with more work. It may take longer than we have in this competition to get it ready for the agent showcase, though. Or, the mentor may just not be confident they understand what your MS needs to bring it to the next level.

Sometimes manuscripts aren’t chosen for other reasons. 

It may not be quite right for the mentors you sub’d to. You know, that whole subjectivity thing. Sometimes mentors pass on a submission because they happen to know something about trends in publishing at the moment, and they worry that concept might have a rough time in the Agent Showcase. Trends change all the time, though, so a book that might be a tough sell today can be an easy sell in 6 months. I’ve also seen cases where a mentor feels the book is ready now. Remember, this competition is about mentorship; if your MS can’t be improved upon, then go query.

Finally, the mentors you sub to may LOVE your book, but they may love another MS too, and at the end of the day, they can only pick one. (That said, it’s not unheard of for a mentor to be so undecided, they opt to take TWO mentees. I’m not saying it will happen, but you never know.)

If my MS isn’t chosen, there’s no point in keeping up on what’s going on with Pitch Wars.


Submitting to Pitch Wars isn’t just about a chance at nabbing a slot, it’s also about learning and building your community. Even if your MS isn’t selected, you still come away with something from being here.

Mentors will post on the #tenqueries hashtag, giving tips and suggestions based on the submissions they receive (anonymous, of course). 

I met a bunch of authors every time I entered a competition. I followed the mentors even when I wasn’t selected. Connecting with other writers is literally the thing that helped me progress. There are so many opportunities I wouldn’t have known about (calls for submissions, competitions, resources to become a better writer). Pitch Wars is also hosting a webinar series with tons of different topics on writing.

And, don’t forget, if you aren’t selected for Pitch Wars 2017, you can participate in PitMad, a Twitter pitch party, on September 7th.

So, your mission (if you choose to accept it):

1) Get those materials ready.
2) Create a kick-ass affirmation for this process. Need some help? Here’s one you can use: My MS has just as much chance of being selected as anyone else. I will approach this as if I know my MS will be chosen. Pitch Wars Mentors, here I come!
3) Come say hi on the #pitchwars hashtag, hang with us during the Live Chats, maybe join a webinar or two. And don’t forget the #PimpMyBio Blog Hop!
4) Buy some frozen cookie dough OR make some cookie dough and stick that bad boy in the freezer.
5) Eat said cookie dough.
6) Repeat Steps 4 & 5 as necessary.

Jessica Bayliss is an author of commercial fiction who loves nothing better than getting lost in a good story, whether in print or on film. When not busy with her latest fiction project, she can be found loving her friends and family—especially her husband, Eric—playing with one pesky Havanese, or trying to appease an ornery cockatiel, typically with a cup of coffee near at hand. 

Check out Jessica's other posts:

Popular posts from this blog

El Deafo | Cece Bell

And being different? That turned out to the best part of all. I found that with a little creativity, and a lot of dedication, any difference can be turned into something amazing. Our differences are our superpowers.”
Genre: Middle Grade Graphic Novel/Memoir. Number of Pages: 233. Perspective: First. Location: Virginia.
This graphic novel follows the author throughout her time as a young girl in the 1970s and her experiences losing her hearing from meningitis at the age of four. She learns how to make friends and accept herself. For a complete summary, you can go here.
This was a beautiful story about someone who copes with becoming deaf. I took an American Sign Language course in college and we talked a lot about the deaf culture; it was interesting to learn about some of the daily challenges that someone who is deaf faces. This book explains those challenges in a way that children can understand and relate to. We have come a long way with accessibility since the 70s, but we all could use …

5 Reasons Why I Hate Book Series

Many of you know that I hate book series. If at all possible, I try to stick to stand-alone novels. A few rare trilogies land on my bookshelf and an even rarer few get a good review. Here are my reasons why I hate trilogies: 

1. The first book is perfected.

Authors have an unlimited amount of time to perfect the first book. They may have many rewrites and rejections before it is finally accepted by a publisher. By that point, the book should be pristine. The author may not have a deal with the publisher for a series yet, but once the first book proves its worth, the publisher will definitely ask for the rest of the series. Depending on the popularity, the author will be forced to get the next books out quickly—unless you are George R.R. Martin. There will be less time to perfect the story and it will be sent out without many rewrites, as to appease the fan-base. As a result, the rest of the series suffers in comparison to the debut. 
2. The waiting is torture. 

Part of the reason why the …

My Journey with Scoliosis [and related book reviews]

I have scoliosis. That is a fact and it is a part of my identity. I am on a continuous journey to correct my spinal curve. Part of this journey is educating myself and figuring out which approach I should take next. So I received and reviewed several books on scoliosis ( I will be adding more as time goes on). But before I can begin my reviews, I think it is important that I share my own personal journey with scoliosis. 
I was diagnosed with scoliosis, a curve in my spine, when I was about eight years old. It was purely an accident. My mom was seeing a chiropractor for her own slight curvature, and I was playing around on the scales when the doctor noticed that when I stood on two scales, one foot on each, one side of my body weighed significantly more than the other. So he decided to give me an X-ray. My curve was noticeable at that time, but it became more severe as time went on. The worst was during puberty when I hit a growth spurt. In several years, my spinal curve increased almos…

Hex | Thomas Olde Heuvelt

“Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay 'til death. Whoever settles, never leaves."
Genre: Horror. Number of Pages: 384. Perspective: Third. Location: New York.
Hex is the story of a town that is cursed by a witch with her eyes and mouth sewn shut. She shows up in houses and just stands and stares for days at a time. The people of the town can never leave and are plagued by the fear of what would happen if the witch’s eyes and mouth are ever opened. For a complete summary, you can go here.
This book started off kind of funny and light-hearted. The middle starts to get a little creepy and suspenseful, and the end is downright strange. It was an enjoyable book, but you’ll have to wait a long time for the climax. The bulk of the action happens in the last 50 pages. For me, that felt rushed and left me with more questions than answers. 
Hex was originally written in Dutch and translated to English. With that in mind, I am utterly impressed with the flow and readability of the story. Th…

Ten Things Writers Need to Know

This is a guest post by Heather Weidner. I was asked recently what advice I would give to someone who wants to write. Here’s my list…
1. Read. Read. Read. 

Read everything you can get your hands on. Learn about the genre. Learn about techniques and style. See what works and what doesn't.

2. Seek out writers like you. 

Find a writers' group. I write mysteries, so Sisters in Crime was a perfect fit. I am also in the online community, Guppies. They have tons of resources and advice. And they are so supportive and helpful. 
3. There are a lot of books out there on the craft of writing. 
My favorite is Stephen King's On Writing. Invest in books that help you. But use your library too. FREE is good.

4. If you are serious about writing, find a critique group. 
It's an investment in your time to read the submissions. Make sure that the feedback is helpful. Critiques need to be constructive and not personal. My critique group specializes in mysteries and crime fiction. And that works fo…