Dreaming in Character

Gwynne Jackson

It’s so easy to get distracted!


When I look at my twitter feed right now, I see:


Like any good writer who uses twitter, I’ve considered all these contests. They’re all great, all different, all run by the loveliest of lovely people, all gone about with wonderful sentiment. I’ve participated in some of them before, but…

…not this time around.

See, I’ve learned a few things from twitter pitch contests. These are strictly my own opinion, so take them with a grain of salt if you’re so inclined.

  • I see a lot of the same people entering the same works in these contests.

    To my mind, this is both good and bad. It’s good because people aren’t giving up! I assume they’ve been working on their manuscripts, taking the feedback received from earlier entries, and refining. It’s bad because as these manuscripts get accepted into all the contests over and over, there’s less room for the ones who haven’t been through the wringer before.

  • I am not good at distilling the essence of my story down into 140 characters (minus character space for the contest name and genre hashtags).

    I am, however, filled with admiration for people who can do it well. I’m actually fairly adept at doing this for other people, but hell if I can do it effectively for my own work.

  • In my heart of heart I believe there’s something to be said for not saturating the decision-making market with one of my books over and over.

    I don’t have any problem doing things the old-fashioned way: querying, using all the connections I have, pulling any and all strings, and making sure my letter and synopsis are water-tight.

I’m happy for everyone entering these contests. Blessed be, best of luck, go conquer, live long and prosper. I’m trying to stay on top of what my twitter friends are doing, but I’m also trying hard to finish my editing and rewriting, tighten up my query, finish getting my beta feedback, and moving forward independently.

Who knows? I might make the exact opposite decision next time around. Good luck! As always, if there’s anything I can do for any of you, just ask.

And before I go: what are you working on, and how do you feel about pitch contests? Leave a comment and let me know so I can cheer you on, no matter which path you’re taking.


You can find me on twitter at @gwynnejackson and occasionally under the hashtags #amwriting and #amediting.

Author: Gwynne Jackson

Writer of contemporary fiction. Reader, photographer, cat wrangler. Mostly, I just like pretending to be a different person each day of the week.

10 thoughts on “It’s so easy to get distracted!

  1. You’ve given me some good things to think about. I’ve seen them around but haven’t entered any Twitter #pitch contests for the sheer fact that I don’t have a manuscript ready yet. I like the idea of getting my name in front of industry professionals, but I can see how submitting my same manuscript repeatedly might dilute it somehow.


    • Good luck with your work in progress! I will say that entering these contests is fun. It provides an instant community, and it’s a great way to meet a lot of people. It’s also a great way to have your self-esteem shattered. I remember having my entry completely trashed in public by a participant in one pitch contest last year (I’m not a big fan of “oh, we’ll give you hints by vaguely disguising entries and giving our reasons for not liking them” under any circumstance) the night before my father died. Needless to say, that didn’t help. So if you do enter, pick your time wisely.

      I also think a lot of people enter before their manuscripts are really polished just to see if they’ll garner any interest at all. I’ve heard that story from a number of people. So good for you for waiting until your manuscript actually is ready!


  2. Thank you so much for all this great advice. I really do appreciate it. I’m so very sorry to hear about your dad and that your ms was publicly trashed, ugh. Not that it probably matters at this point, but I’m curious. Without naming names, was the person with the “hints” an agent? an editor?

    I’d love to get to know more people in the writing community. If that’s one of the benefits of #pitchwars, etc., sign me up! And I have to admit, I’m emboldened to learn that not everyone enters with a polished manuscript.


    • Oh, that was a year ago. The person was an editor giving public feedback on the entries she’d received in one of the contests. A lot of people really like these teases and hints, but I’m not one of them. I’ve done my time as an editor (although it was for technical books, not fiction) but even so, I know how much goes into writing a book. My mantra is constructive criticism or no criticism at all. If you can’t see a way to fix a problem, then you shouldn’t be an editor. I know that’s impossible in a tweet, but that timing really stank for me.

      So it goes! As far as entering without a polished manuscript, beware. If your work gets accepted, do you want to submit something that isn’t your very best? I don’t, even though in retrospect the manuscripts I’ve used for these things haven’t necessarily been done. But at the time I thought they were.

      You might want to start with #pitmad! The next one is coming up next week (3/17), but they’re run quarterly. You can find the schedule at Brenda Drake’s blog. She’s an absolutely lovely woman with the highest scruples. I’m always happy to support her efforts – she does so much for her fellow writers.


      • Whoops, sorry if I wasn’t clear. What I meant was that I’m hopeful that if ms is as polished as I can make it, that will put me ahead of the game.

        I’ve had the good fortune to interact with Brenda via her blog and Twitter and, yes, she is great!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with all of your points. I like the idea of using Twitter and mentors and social connections to get ms in front of agents. And if might submit again when I have a ms that’s in the right state of polish. At the same time, I get a little uncomfortable with the underlying desperation I feel surrounding these contests. There’s hope and excitement and networking, and I know more than one writer who found representation, and a lot of other great things. But the potential for great lows is lurking below the surface. I’m not entirely sold.


    • Deep great lows. But, you know, nature loves balance, so every action has an equal opposite reaction. For all the people who get to progress in these things (and often it’s the same ones time after time), there are even more who put all their hope eggs into that basket and find themselves crushed. It’s nothing personal, because there are only so many open slots in these things. Still, right now I’m breathing a sigh of relief that I can watch the contests go on by without being too invested in the outcome. I have a very active imagination and can easily see myself with a best-selling blockbuster novel (I think we all know that particular fantasy). When other people don’t share our vision, it’s rough.

      Even harder is the “oh, you’re so close and a number of people really did consider your story!” feedback. So close, but yet so far. Hey, shit happens, what can I say.

      Beyond that, almost every agent still accepts queries! It’s a little easier to track, knowing I’ve sent a letter. Otherwise I’m left hoping My Dream Agent saw my little tweet.


      • I entered Pitch Wars last fall and I went in knowing I probably did not have the best contest ms. I ended up with were 5 more rejections at the same time 4/5 fulls I had out all came back no’s. Mostly it was bad timing, but it sucked. Especially when two mentors told me that hadn’t pursued my ms because I had fulls out. It wasn’t soul crushing, but it wasn’t fun or useful because my genre/age group was not huge and pretty varied. It made querying not seem so bad at all. At least I felt more in control and much less in competition.

        Not that I rule out entering again if I was in the right place with the right ms.


        • I think it was last fall that I did Pitch Wars. I ended up not being picked, although I did get the “we really liked this BUT” feedback from a few people. I ended up putting that book on the back burner, because it was time to step back and consider what I was doing with it. I’ll get back to it eventually. I could be juggling a handful of manuscripts now, all in different genres… but I’m putting all my focus on one right now. As my critique partner keeps telling me, it has little benefit if I don’t try to get it out there.


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