Once the shock of getting chosen for Pitch Wars finally wears off, the real work begins.
If you’re caught up on my posts, you’ll know that a few weeks ago I received the incredible news that I would be mentored by Maxym Martineau as part of the Pitch Wars class of 2019. Maxym reached out that day to congratulate me and let me know that she’d be sending my edit letter soon. I’ve worked with CPs (critique partners), so I somewhat knew what to expect; however, every person has their own way of critiquing and providing feedback.
When I received my notes from Maxym, they were even better than I expected. Detailed in-line comments, chapter-by-chapter notes, and overall major points that needed some work. She also made sure to tell me all the things she loved about my manuscript (which can be just as helpful as the things that need work), and included many suggestions on how we could possible address some of the areas for improvement.
I expected to be overwhelmed, but I wasn’t. Not because there weren’t a lot of notes (there were), but because they resonated so strongly with me. I hadn’t even made it through all of her notes when scenes started rewriting themselves and playing out in my head. My characters showed up and told me how their story was supposed to go and how to get it there. It’s the best feeling in the world when someone gets your story and has suggestions on how to make it the best version of itself.
Going into Pitch Wars I was a little nervous that if I got picked my mentor might want to dramatically change my story. I’d heard horror stories of complete rewrites and stories that, at the end, looked nothing like they did in the beginning. I knew my story needed something, but I loved it so much, I didn’t want to completely scrap it and end up with something that didn’t resonate with this story of my heart. My prayers were answered and Maxym’s suggested edits were not like that at all. She understood my story and looked for ways, not to change it really, but to make it even better. Example: This is an emotional scene, but what if we did XYZ and really got the readers bawling? More tension. More emotion. Higher stakes.
At the end of these edits, the main elements of the story will be the same, just better.
After I’d read through all of my mentors notes and suggestions, and before I started to edit, I made myself a scene-by-scene edit guide. Not only would this keep me organized and focused on what I needed to update or change in each scene, but I love being able to check things off the list as I go. This way, each scene is a small victory leading up to the overall finish line. When self-editing Ilya’s Gambit, I’d created a detailed spreadsheet to help me keep track of the novel and my own edits. It included scene names, descriptions, characters involved, word count, timeline, plot points, information revealed, character growth, plot impact, etc. Oh, and it’s color coded. For my Pitch Wars edits, I simply added on to this spreadsheet. Here’s a preview below (blurred due to spoilers):
Once I finish the heavy, developmental style edits, I’ll make a new version of this spreadsheet as I go through and do line edits. That will help me look at the final version at a higher level and make sure pacing and POVs are balance. Also, once I get the next round of notes from my mentors, it will give me a good starting point to go back in and make myself yet another scene-by-scene to do list. Putting together a spreadsheet like this is a lot of work, but it’s SO worth it for me.
Time to jump back into the edit cave! I’ll have another update on my Pitch Wars journey later this month.