Personal Lessons from #Pitchwars 2017 #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

giphy6Fair warning: Some of these lessons might be carryovers from 2016, while I was lurking and cheering on friends. And there are a gazillion great lessons to learn from a contest like Pitchwars, but these are mine for now (and counting!).

  1. Subjectivity in Story

I thought subjectivity was something I fully understood. I’ve even *gulp* blogged about it.

But I was wrong. My thinking was incomplete, flawed.

giphy5Subjectivity is more than how one person perceives in general, it’s how perception slants taste and attitude on a rolling basis. This brilliant thread was key to helping me see that.

So, as I prepare to query my complex and quirky time travel paradox space opera, it’s important for me to remember that many potential readers may not be in the mood for what’s on my pages. giphy4Even if they are, my early pages and query (or pitch) need to alert them to the tone of my story quickly, or else I’ll be facing a wall of not-what-I-expected reactions.

  1. Punctuation

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I’m a huge grammar and punctuation junkie. But just because I was using punctuation correctly in my manuscript doesn’t mean I wasn’t drawing all the wrong kinds of attention. After a particularly enlightening mentor comment, I took another look.

Look at this madness, y’all.

giphyEllipses = I had 195, but now 34 and falling

Seems I love ellipses. Cutting these was tricky, because there are some moments in speech or internal dialog when the thoughts cannot connect, when the character is reaching for, but failing to find, their answer. So, in order to trim 93% of these pesky, disruptive punctuations, I looked line by line at what effect the ellipses had on the scene’s pacing and flow. I kept a lot of them, I think. And 34 may still be too many, but I’m alert to the problem now, at least.

giphy1Semicolons= 9, now 4 (totally OK with this)

That’s not so bad, right? Well, I hope not, but, writing YA, I decided none of my semicolons were necessary unless they were used within a list. Two long lists in one book? I’m OK with that.

giphy2Emdashes= 314, now 134 and falling

Emdashes are definitely an issue I have. Why do I have all these broken thoughts, and, better yet, why do my characters? I trimmed 58% of these, but I’ll take another look in my next editing pass to see if I can cut further.

The tricky part with this count is that I also used dashes for some of the epistolary logs, but maybe I shouldn’t, and importing from Scrivener makes em-dashes into “double dashes” instead. (Also, maybe I should remove the dash key from my laptop, because my pinkie aches to reach for it so often.)

  1. Attitude

giphy3Anyway–Back to the list! In every contest I’ve participated in, I’ve seen the same hopeful soar and desperate crash mentality. There are so many giving pep talks and reminders of “This is how the industry works,” that nothing I have to add matters. Still, keeping my own attitude in check (this time, at least—I’m no angel) has made this the best contest yet for me.

giphy9Emotions happen. Acknowledge and understand them, but don’t let them dictate personal interactions or spill out as vitriol into public spaces. Sounds easier than it is.

giphy10Meanwhile, support each other! There’s room for all our stories, not in this one contest, but in the world.

Those are my most valuable lessons learned through this Pitchwars experience so far. I can’t wait to see what else I learn once mentees are picked and celebrated, and more lessons and trends from the slush pile emerge.

giphy7How about you? Has lightning struck to help you with your writing process? Have you learned anything about yourself, your writing, or the community recently? Comment below!

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2**This post is part of the #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop writing superhero Raimey Gallant. To find more monthly craft bloggers digging through writing craft, process, and life, visit her site or watch Twitter for our hashtag midmonth on Wednesdays, though I’m a few days late posting.**



  1. Jake says:

    Solid tips… keep writing–all day; every day.

    But seriously, thanks.


  2. ECR says:

    Great post! I can relate to ALL of the grammar stuff, haha. >_<

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Paul says:

    Fantastic post! I’m looking for CPs and Beta Readers and think you and I have some overlap (Maker? Me too!). DM me on twitter if you’d like to exchange a few pages. @paul_janus You can also check out my bio here If not, no worries! Glad to make a new twitter friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m super partial to em dashes. Uh oh! I hear you on the ellipses and semi-colons though. This said, I see big authors who are partial to all sorts of distracting punctuation, and it works for them. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m currently editing a manuscript with similar punctuation issues. It’s all correct – there are just too many ellipses and em-dashes. Now I’m worried about my own manuscript …


    1. jrcreaden says:

      Thanks for your comment! I may need to do a follow up post on this soon, because I’m not quite “there” yet either. I think it’s more about balance and invisibility than it is overuse, if you know what I mean. Using these (correctly) is fine, so long as it’s not so often or common that the reader notices. All thoughts welcomed!


  6. Victoria Marie Lees says:

    This is my first time here. I’ll follow your blog and connect with you online. Wow! Writing is tough, but your blog and all the funny moving pics are great. Thanks for sharing this with Author Toolbox followers. Never stop writing and trying. Lord knows it takes time and perseverance.
    Victoria Marie Lees,


  7. We should together join Em Dashes Anonymous. It’s a two-hyphen program.

    Always a good point to make, that contests are subjective and the main thing is to just support each other 🙂


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s