On this, the eve of Pitch Wars mentor announcements, I've been thinking a lot about what the real purpose of this contest has been. Sure, it's fun and immeasurably helpful to get help from an agented author. It's also helpful to get your query and novel polished to perfection (or as close to perfection as any novel can get). But what is the real benefit here? Learning about critiquing.
When I first started writing, this was my biggest stumbling block. I read sites that advised you share your work with your "writer friends." Hah! What writer friends? I didn't have any, and I was darn sure I wouldn't have any until I was a Successfully Published Writer. Where the heck could I meet all these potential writer friends, when I was a complete nobody who never wrote anything?
Turns out, lots of places.
I met writers online, through other contests, through their blogs (and eventually through this one right here), through Twitter, and even through Facebook. There are always writers who are in the same place in the process that you are. You just have to know where to look for them. Pitch Wars has been a great way to connect with many new writers who are in the query trenches, too. Make nice, and they might read for you if you read for them.
Initially, the thought of sharing my writing with others, and asking for their honest opinion and critique, was a little intimidating. Even more intimidating was asking to read their writing and offer my own opinions. What the heck did I know about critiquing? The idea of making with the judgy on someone else's writing gave me the cold sweats. Who was I to tell them they didn't need that comma there (BONUS COMMAS, as I call them now), or that they shouldn't use the same word three times in two sentences, or that their phrasing at a critical moment in their beloved story came across as clunky and jarring instead of inspiring and enlightening? I was terrified of saying the wrong thing, of coming across like an ass, and of not doing a good job.
To be honest, the first time I ever critiqued something, I got lucky. I wasn't the first person to edit the manuscript, and there wasn't all that much to do to make it shiny. It was a gentle introduction to the fine art of being a merciless nitpicker. Also, as I've since been informed, as long as it's done with love, merciless nitpicking is actually a valued trait in a CP.
Not only have I benefited from the opinions and ideas of a wonderful group of people who read my writing and offered advice, but my writing has improved through helping others, too. It's all good for you.
And on that note, I want to sincerely thank all the mentors in Pitch Wars, and all the writers who've jumped at the chance to earn such an experienced CP. Just remember, your fellow Pitch Warriors would also make fine CP's. Even if we don't end up with a shiny new mentor, we still have each other. Extend a hand to a fellow writer, and be patient and understand as you learn the ropes of this valuable skill together. We all have it in us to be great mentors to each other.
And now, back to the fantastic manuscript I'm helping to add a spit-shine to. Because this one deserves all the polish it can get.
**NOTE: There's a great new website, CPseek.com, set up by @Fizzygrrl's talented husband. It's a great place to connect to other writers seeking a CP (as the title should make quite clear!). Go check it out!