You're still with me? Great! Let's continue.
I should've been excited for my first Pitch Wars request, but instead I was filled with dread. I mistakenly thought the mentors made their decision on who to mentor based off the first chapter, query and a synopsis, which would have provided me with two more weeks to polish the manuscript before I had to send the full. But I was wrong. They wanted the full. Now.
Lesson ten: make sure you know a competition's rules before entering.
But FOUR DEAD QUEENS wasn’t ready! The beginning was fairly solid, but the rest wasn't near where I wanted it to be. The next morning, I had another request. Something was obviously resonating with the mentors and I didn’t want to waste this opportunity, so I revised all day Saturday and all day Sunday, late into the night, ready to send first thing Monday.
By Monday morning, I was a shaking mess. I hadn't had a decent night sleep in three days and the manuscript still wasn’t ready. I'd worked so intensely I was burning out, no longer spotting the mistakes and improving my prose. My eyes were glazing over and I was reading what I wanted to read, rather than what was written.
I needed to face the truth: I had to pull out of Pitch Wars. I contacted the mentors who’d requested my manuscript and let them know I wasn’t ready to submit. One replied quickly and was incredibly kind not to admonish me with, “Silly girl, didn’t you know the manuscript had to be complete before entering? Can't you read rule guidelines???” I wouldn’t have begrudged her if she had said that, for it was what I was saying to myself, over and over. I prepared to slink away into the night, my tail between my legs, when the second mentor replied with: “Do you think you could have it ready in a week?”
My chest expanded and my shoulders lifted. Yes. Yes, I could do that. And so I continued revising frantically. During this time, I received two more requests to read the full. Of course I would've liked to do another round of revisions, but after a week, FOUR DEAD QUEENS was ready. I sent the full manuscript to the mentors who’d requested and prepared for the Pitch Wars announcement in a week.
Again I had that feeling. This is it. This is it.
This time, I told that little voice to be quiet. I’d learned my lesson and was taking this manuscript one step and a time. Being accepted into Pitch Wars would be amazing, but if I didn't get in then I would send the manuscript to a beta reader for feedback and revise some more. This was one path for my manuscript to take, and certainly not the end of the road.
But I got in!!! I couldn’t believe it, especially as I'd almost quit the competition. After so many rejections, it was the belief of one mentor which had kept me going. I owe her so much for my success in Pitch Wars. Thank you, thank you! (I hope you're reading this!)
Not only was I accepted into Pitch Wars but I got two amazing mentors, Mara Rutherford and Joan He as part of #TeamPusheen. Over the next two months, I brainstormed, revised and polished my manuscript thanks to my mentors' insightful notes. It was the kind of critique I’d craved for my previous manuscripts and FOUR DEAD QUEENS so much stronger because of it.*
It was Pitch Wars that I realized I would never give up on becoming an author. Even if FOUR DEAD QUEENS wouldn't land me an agent, I would write another manuscript, then another and another.
Lesson twelve: Don’t give up. If writing is part of who you are, then giving up will feel worse than all your rejections combined.
In November, I traveled to LA to go to Disneyland with my sister, Mum and niece for a girl’s trip. It was perfect timing as I’d finished my Pitch Wars revisions and the agent round was the same week, which meant I couldn't obsessively check my emails as I didn't have global roaming on my phone. It also meant any bad news would be buffered by Disney magic.
On November 4th, my pitch and sample went live on the Pitch Wars site. I spent the day at California Adventure, dressed in my Pusheen t-shirt for good luck, and tried not to fixate on whether I'd receive any agent requests. I forced myself to revel in the distraction of Disney, but a part of me wondered what my Pitch Wars fate would be.
At California Adventure in my Pusheen t-shirt
When I returned to the hotel that evening, I ran to my computer to check my Pitch Wars submission.
I told myself that was okay, I still had a few days for agents to read, and hopefully, request. Then I checked the Pitch Wars Facebook group and read that the submissions had only gone live 20 minutes ago. Mentees were just starting to receive requests! I flicked back over to my Pitch Wars page and there it was. My first request! I danced around the hotel, so happy to get one request. More than for myself, I was happy for my mentors as it showed their hard work had paid off.
Over the next few days, I received 22 agent requests. I couldn’t believe it! It was the most requests I’d ever received for a manuscript and having them come in all at once was overwhelming. Still, it didn't mean I'd receive an offer from an agent. I’d had full requests before and they'd all turned into rejections. I'd already learned this lesson, so I told myself to stay calm and not get too excited.
During the flight back to Australia, Brenda gave the go ahead to send off our manuscripts to the requesting agents. I'd read the email immediately after the airplane landed and couldn't think of anything else on the long car ride home. I'd taken the day off work so I could recover from jet lag and to focus on sending my submissions. What I didn't plan on was a visit to the hospital.
Lesson thirteen: don’t eat airplane scrambled eggs for breakfast.
Thanks to some dodgy eggs, I ended up with salmonella poisoning—don't worry, I'll leave out those details—and I was forced to wait a 24 hours before I could send out FOUR DEAD QUEENS. It felt like an eternity! Usually, it takes around 3 months to hear back from agents on fulls so I sat back and prepared myself for the long wait.
One week later, I had an offer.
That's it for this week! There's only one more post to go!
*Read more on my Pitch Wars experience here.