So, here's what I learned:
- It is fabulous to have mentors. I can't stress this enough. My mentors, Meredith McCardle and Ron Walters, went above and beyond any of my expectations. We worked so well together. They picked through my MS on a chapter-by-chapter basis. They cared about making my MS better and loved any changes just as much as I did. It blew me away and did wonders for my confidence. I am so grateful for their encouragement and praise. I am also grateful for their ability to rip me to shreds and then build me up again into something so much better. Which brings me to my second point.
- Even when you think you're done, you might not be done. BE OPEN TO FEEDBACK! When I was selected to participate, I was nervous about the changes my mentors might request. I never thought it would be extensive--a little polishing here and there. Well, it was pretty extensive. I was reluctant to dive in and tear my MS to bits, but once I revised chapter one and incorporated their feedback, it was like a floodlight had been turned on. I couldn't stop until I basically rewrote the whole book from beginning to end. Well, it felt like it at any rate. ;) My MS has improved so much because of Meredith and Ron.
- Time management is key. I am a slooow writer. The breakneck pace of this contest really tested me to keep focused and productive nearly every day. I learned to revise things in sections and to leave things for later if they were driving me batty. I also depended more on plotting and outlining so I wouldn't waste time writing in circles. It didn't always work that way, but it helped.
- Lean on your fellow writers for support. I tend to be solitary when it comes to writing, but PitchWars has been an amazing outlet. I loved being able to ask questions, to vent, or to just get a (virtual) hug when things weren't going my way. It helped me through some difficulty times.
- It's just a contest. Don't misunderstand me--I love Brenda Drake, and I feel so lucky to have been part of this!! PitchWars has been surreal in that we've been isolated in our little writing caves, working hard to perfect our manuscripts until they are super shiny. But now the contest is over, and it's been a rude awakening from our incubators. Yes, I feel more prepared to face the world of agents. And yes, I am confident I'm in a much better place than I was pre-PitchWars. But at the end of the day, it's still just a contest. If an entry didn't get 20+ requests during the agent round (or any requests at all), it's not the end of the world. Now, most of us are being thrown back into the query trenches, hopefully better positioned to snag an agent. I wish all of my fellow mentees the best of luck. And remember, this is only the beginning!
P.S. - Somewhere in the middle of all this, I managed to go to Europe for my fifth wedding anniversary. (Talk about bad timing!) But I brought my laptop with me, and even though I did do some writing, my husband and I had a really great time. Can't wait to go back!