Pitch Wars: The Two-Month Journey with my Heroic Mentor

Character arcs typically include a series of events called "The Hero's Journey." While I'm no hero (I'm more of a snarky side-villain), the past two months sent me through the pits of Revision Hell as part of my Pitch Wars adventure. Looking back on everything from the head-slamming frustration to the "Eureka!" brainstorming moments, I can't recommend it enough to up-and-coming writers.

Now, if you're accepted into Pitch Wars, the only thing you're guaranteed is an Edit Letter within two weeks of your acceptance. That sets the foundation for your edits and revisions over the next two months.

My wise old mentor Natasha Raulerson went above and beyond that guarantee. Not only did she have my Edit Letter ready in two days, she spent an entire Saturday afternoon texting me back and forth to drum up ideas. Good thing she did, too, because the minute I saw that Edit Letter I was tempted to wander into traffic. She, however, threw me down in the dirt and forced me to dig through my muddied story arcs for revisions that eventually shined.

Natasha may not be green or 800-years-wise, but she taught me a ton in two months.

Natasha may not be green or 800-years-wise, but she taught me a ton in two months.

From there, she gave me a two-week deadline to implement her proposed changes. I hammered them out and emailed her the updated manuscript just days before Hurricane Irma struck Florida (Natasha's home state). Even with the burden of a hurricane evacuation and the responsibilities of a new baby and graduate classes, she needed only eleven days to read my updated manuscript, suggest new revisions, and line-edit my first ten chapters.

Natasha works so quickly, I'm led to believe she manipulates time.

Natasha works so quickly, I'm led to believe she manipulates time.

You read that right. All that in eleven days. She's that fast. Or maybe she cheated and used Hermione's Time-Turner hourglass.

During these past two months, Natasha and I developed a bunch of inside jokes. Many of them dealt with my overuse of colons and my distrust for pronouns. Our favorite involved "The Dreaded Chapter 2" (TDCH2), which was my nickname for the most frustrating and skull-splitting chapter of my novel. Ever since October of last year, TDCH2 failed to materialize while the rest of the book fell into place. When I finally nailed down TDCH2 in May of this year, I thought I was set. Then Natasha told me it sucked.

And so The Dreaded Chapter 2 rose to haunt me again. Dammit all.

Throughout October I worked on implementing her second round of edits, along with a slew of suggestions I received from horror writer Dave Dubrow at the Calliope Workshop in mid-September (expect a blog post on Calliope in the near future). My biggest challenge was recreating my villain's backstory from scratch. That took weeks of research, pre-writing, and chapter revisions to get everything right. In the end, it was worth it. Now a proper creek demon haunts the world of my novel Bad Parts.

Again, Natasha read through my entire novel, line-editing some chapters while marking comments on others. She mailed them back to me along with one final task, the Pitch for November's Agent Showcase.

"Frustrating" doesn't even begin to describe the hell of writing a 40-Word Pitch.

"Frustrating" doesn't even begin to describe the hell of writing a 40-Word Pitch.

There is no frustration like spending 15+ hours over five days trying to come up with a 40-word novel pitch. Seriously, try it. It'll drive you out of your skull. I wrote twelve different pitches before Natasha finally gave me the green light. When she did, I wasn't happy or relieved or anything. Rather, I felt more like I'd been exonerated of a crime I didn't commit--no way did I deserve such punishment. Ugh.

Now, here I stand, a changed man (though still a snarky side-villain at heart). Regardless of whether my novel gets any buzz during the Agent Showcase, the journey was worth it. Because for two months the snarky side-villain got to work with a real hero. Thanks, Natasha!