Like the crispness of autumn, Pitch Wars is in the air and there’s an excitement buzzing around Twitter. The mentor blog hop is over. The submissions are in from the applicants to their mentor picks. At this point, the hopefuls are receiving some requests to read their full manuscripts. Or they haven’t. They’re hearing crickets, as I like to say.

Either way, there’s fear and self-doubt swirling like a gathering tornado.

I will tell you, those feelings are still fresh for me. You’d think after three years since I applied to be a Pitch Wars mentee, those emotions would subside. But they don’t because Pitch Wars is simply a small glimpse into the entire publishing industry and what we writers face regularly when putting our work out there.

When I was asked to impart words of wisdom to the PW hopefuls, I wondered what to say. I could talk about how to handle the rejection. Or how to win graciously. Lord knows I’ve had plenty of one, and a bit of the other. Truth is though, you’re going to handle it the way you do, and it will be different for everyone. But I did want to share a couple of things I learned along the way, and hope that something will resonate.

Feel the Feels

First, feel the feels, whatever they are. Some days the excitement about being part of Pitch Wars will overwhelm you. Relish those days. Give yourself a high-five for submitting in the first place because on those other days, you’ll want to bury yourself under a cover and lament about why you’ve tortured yourself. Yes, pity parties will happen. The rule I live by is I get to feel as angry, disappointed and sad as necessary for no longer than one day. Then I’m sick of hearing myself talk about the subject, and I move on. (Okay, sometimes it lingers, or shows up a week later… but keep the moments as brief as possible.) The point is, giving myself permission to not be happy 100% of the time works for me. Maybe it can work for you, too.

During the wait time, I found distraction helpful. Massages, long walks, movies and reading were part of my “diversion” routine. Mostly, I kept on writing. Blog posts, short stories, anything to keep my fingers moving.

I also stayed connected to the Pitch Wars community and the other hopefuls. They have long since become my family. If you haven’t done much of that yet (yes, you introvert in the corner, I see you), then do it now. This shared experience with others who totally get the angst you’re feeling is powerful.

Don't Put All Your Hopes into this One Moment

Whatever you do, don’t put all your hopes into this one moment. Out of the thousands who have applied, only 130 or so will be chosen. No way around it, there will be hearts broken. But like anything in publishing, it says nothing about you. Your book might not have resonated with the right mentor. Or who knows what. The good news is Pitch Wars is only one, out of countless ways, to find representation and move onward to publication. And it is certainly not even guaranteed.

I had a few requests for my manuscript in the Pitch Wars agent round. I also received rejections from every one of them. I entered #PitMad—and got zero requests. Yes, it stings. But you can either use it to give up, or you get back to editing. Which is what I chose to do.

It would take several more months, and equal amounts of additional rounds of edits, then more querying, before I received an offer of representation. It would take another year and a second round on submission before I had the book deal. And I’m not alone. I have PW class friends whose Pitch Wars books were picked up later and unrelated to the contest. Several more who are either still querying, or on submission and haven’t yet been published. Others have gone on to write another book and that’s the one that got them in the door.

Enjoy the Ride

Lastly, all of this is to say—regardless the outcome of this contest, enjoy the ride and take the opportunity to make new friends. It truly is the only thing you can control. Everything you learn during this process will serve you well down the road from networking to editing your stories. And the self-confidence you gain for taking this brave step is something you can fall back on time and time again.