Pitch Wars Retrospective

I feel like this is a long time coming, but also it’s difficult to write because I still haven’t left Pitch Wars behind. Actually, I’m not sure I ever will. The revision period was slated between September-November, but here it is, April of the following year, and I’m still revising.

If you’re reading this as you try to decide whether or not you should enter Pitch Wars (or Author Mentor Match, or Teen Pit, etc.), my advice, for whatever it’s worth, is to go for it.

I entered Pitch Wars with no expectations. I submitted a YA contemporary manuscript that was near and dear to my heart, but that I knew was riddled with problems. But the moment had come: no matter how much I stared at the document, knowing there were some things that really needed fixing, I couldn’t figure out what those things were. I knew going in that the biggest win in even entering Pitch Wars was the community, and I wasn’t disappointed.

When I got requests from mentors I was pleased, but shocked. I walked around telling myself, “This doesn’t mean anything, the mentors each got 100+ submissions, don’t get ahead of yourself.” But already I was glad I had entered, because it meant that even though my manuscript was far from done, I was on the right track.

[Note: This isn’t to say if you don’t get requests you’re on the wrong track. Contests like these are difficult because mentors choose projects based on what they’re drawn to and what they know they can help fix. Some entries are already in great shape! Some need more help than the time frame allows for. And some weren’t picked just because a mentor could only choose one project. This is a game of chance, friends. Keep trying.]

When mentor picks were finally announced, I was visiting my parents. I refreshed the page while sitting in a rocking chair on the back porch. I saw my name in a neat little box and promptly flipped out. My heart raced, I couldn’t stop smiling, and when my mom and I got to the grocery store, I found myself frantically pacing up and down the milk aisle, trying not to scream or dance. Twitter flooded with notifications of who else had been chosen and it was so easy to be happy for all of my mentee class but I felt for those that hadn’t been picked. I spent the rest of my visit home excited and ready to work.

Then I got my edit letter and had to go back to my day job, where I was working from 8:30am – 8:30pm. My commute was terrible. I had no free time to myself and on the weekends I was mentally and physically exhausted. There were other things at play, too–my living situation, my mental health–and I didn’t know how to cope. My mentor had sent me a wonderful, thoughtful, encouraging edit letter and I froze.

I tried to write and revise. I made a gameplan and figured out how much I needed to revise by day to stay on track. I deleted and re-wrote and outlined and even when I sent the revisions to my mentor I knew they weren’t enough. We talked through the changes that still needed to be made and I agreed with all of them but all of the other aspects of my life were catching up to me; suddenly there were too many balls in the air and I never learned how to juggle.

I was adamant that I would participate in the agent round. I swore I would have my revisions done by the time my month-long extension was up. And then the agent round went live and… I didn’t get any requests. It was a little disheartening, but I also felt relief.

Suddenly, there wasn’t a time constraint on my shoulders. I could focus on the billion ways I needed to get my personal life together, and enjoy the Christmas vacation I’d be taking from work. I left the job that was making me miserable and let myself breathe and found the joy in revising without the pendulum of deadlines swinging overhead, inching ever closer.

Feedback from beta readers in the 2017 mentee class just hit my inbox. They’re brilliant, insightful notes that I’m incorporating. While waiting for feedback I happily drafed a new project. The waiting was good; it forced me to slow down, get perspective, and collect my thoughts. It gave me time to update my agent spreadsheet, and work on my query. It gave me time to breathe.

Throughout the Pitch Wars process I found the writing community I’d been searching for. They are such a wonderful, creative, supportive group and I’m lucky to be among the 2017 mentees.

I don’t have any regrets about entering Pitch Wars. I wish my personal life had been a bit more cooperative and that I’d had a better support system in place outside of the PW community. I’m not sure I really anticipated (or could have) just how beneficial that would be.

But with time and perspective, I’ve gotten a better understanding of my writing process, of revisions, of craft. I better understand what works and what doesn’t. I can see more clearly what my flaws are (what do you mean I can’t just rely on plot and character, I need actual conflict?) and as I draft, I can see how my writing’s grown.

All of the roadblocks and challenges that cropped up in my personal life also helped give me perspective on what I’ll have to work around when there are actual, contracted publishing deadlines looming overhead. I’ve gotten better at predicting how long I need for certain parts of the revision process, at anticipating my needs.

Pitch Wars was challenging in ways I never expected, but so was my life. I’ve come out the other side stronger–as a person, yes, but especially as a writer. I know better what I need, how I operate, and I understand how much having a support system, an entire community, at my back can help. I’m constantly in awe of how talented my peers are, and grateful for their support.

Maybe my Pitch Wars manuscript won’t be the one that gets me an agent, or lands me my first book deal. But I’ll always love it for showing me I’m on the right path.

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Pitch Wars 2017: #pimpmybio

I’m in the middle of a ton of different writing projects, so what better time to enter my first Pitch Wars? I’m submitting a story I’ve written about here a lot (remember when What’s Up, Wednesday? posts were a thing?) and always affectionately referred to as That Golf Story. Now it’s shiny and polished and actually has a title: No Matter How It Starts.

It’s a YA Contemporary about Carter, a 17-year-old with aspirations of playing golf in college. Everything’s going according to plan until her moms decide to move before her senior year and her new school doesn’t have a girls’ golf team. Instead of giving up or throwing a fit, Carter tries out for the boy’s team. It’s a fun story that’s got everything: the enemies-to-lovers trope, pranks, secret make-outs, a garage band, a diverse cast, and a lot of golf.

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Like my main character, I also played golf on my school’s varsity golf team, the only difference is that I got to play with the girls all four years. I still play whenever I have the chance but haven’t found anyone nearly as fun as Carter’s new teammates to share the course with.

For potential mentors: I have a BA in Political Communication and an MA in Televison-Radio-Film (okay, so maybe I watched too much of The West Wing when I was growing up). Which is to say that I’m used to thinking creatively but also practically. I have a pretty good sense of pitch and marketing, but definitely need the help to polish and present my work. Having written multiple screenplays, I’m used to getting constructive criticism and I’m not afraid to take my mentor’s advice to heart and work hard to make my writing the best it can be.

Aside from studying and working in tv, I also write about it on occasion. I currently contribute to The Televixen. Previously, I wrote recaps at Off Color TV (covering Parks & Rec, The Newsroom, The Mindy Project, and Teen Wolf). I grew up in both Alabama and Ohio but my favorite place to live is Washington, DC. Aside from YA books, I love college football, black coffee, Captain America, and oxford commas.

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Me, hitting a shot I thought landed in a bunker but actually stuck the green.

Television Tuesdays: The Good Place

The Good Place isn’t trying to be another Parks & Recreation, though both shows share a creator. It’s happy to be a weirder, more surreal cousin. It’s easy to see how the two are related, but they are also fiercely independent. What they have in common: both are beacons of warmth and humor on days when you can’t remember what it feels like to laugh. The Good Place just finished its first season on NBC.


The premise alone – the eternal afterlife in which you exist after your death – might not seem like it’s for you. But the show has so many layers, there’s something in it for you, I promise.

At times the show can seem too surreal, too fantastical, especially in the first few episodes as the it finds its footing. The overly-fake CGI and preposterousness were a little off-putting but are definitely worth enduring. Hold on. Keep watching. Because before you know it you’ll be thinking about existentialism and ethics. What kind of good are you doing in your life? Are you living life to the fullest? What, exactly, would your version of The Good Place look like and how would your perfect house be decorated?

Maybe you don’t want to consider the ethics of your daily life. I know I don’t. But the show doesn’t force introspection, it’s too busy making you laugh. You feel good because you’re probably a better person than Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) was when she was on Earth. Or you think, “If Tahani made it into The Good Place, I definitely will. At least my altruism isn’t done just so I can brag”.

Despite making it into The Good Place, the main characters that populate it are all beautifully flawed in such relatable ways. Chidi can’t make a decision to save his after-life. Tahani’s kindness is a performance. Eleanor is the voice in the back of your brain that speaks before you can censor yourself. And Jianyu, well, he’s something else entirely.

It’s a weird show, but it’s meaningful and it’s good. It’s hard to discuss without spoiling the show and the way that the season unfolds is worth watching on your own.  The character growth is gradual and the relationships built between the characters feel organic. It carefully balances on the line between providing an escape from the real world and forcing yourself to confront your own reality.

I could go on. I can’t stop thinking about the depth and layers of friendship between Eleanor and Chidi. I could, and someday might, write a thousand words on how The Good Place is one of the most brilliant takes on a dystopia I’ve ever seen. It will take a very long time before I stop picturing Adam Scott as his character, a representative from The Bad Place. The Good Place wasn’t brilliant right out of the gate, but it had a brilliant first season. It’s definitely worth giving a chance because it’s one of those rare shows that’s delightful to watch.

WRITE Wednesday

WRITE Wednesday is a blog hop hosted by my dear friend Poppy Simeri and Vera James every Wednesday. As What’s Up, Wednesday has wrapped up, I’m excited to jump into this new feature! It will focus on writing & reading, regular blogging, and blog friendships.

W: Writing

I’m wrapping up the first round of edits on Delia this week so I can send them to some friends for initial critiques. I can’t believe I’ve managed to cut over 30,000 words already. (It was depressingly necessary.) But I’m more excited about the story than ever since it finally has some coherency. And just yesterday Poppy herself texted me about an exciting new writing project for us to work on together. It’s going to be fun and challenging and I’m already frantically brainstorming fun things to put into it.

R: Reading

I still haven’t finished my Great Harry Potter Re-read, but I have made it to the 7th book so. It’s on the horizon. I’m hoping to be done by September 1st so that I can have read them in one year.

I also just picked up City of Bones by Cassandra Clare on a couple of friends’ recommendation. I’m about five chapters in, and I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m not 100% sold, but it’s something I can read pretty quickly, so I’ll stick with it.

I: Inspiration

I’m inspired by good writing. Books that are so good I have to set them aside to write something of my own. Books that are so beautifully written I want to do yet another round of edits to make my writing stronger. Having author-crushes makes something warm bloom in my chest that pushes me to be better, better, better.

T: Thinking Ahead

Having these Delia edits done! Seeing what wonderful and terrifying and insightful notes my friends will have for me and how I’ll possibly manage to do them while balancing grad school.

E: Encouragement

Writing friendships and crit partners! Knowing there are people cheering for me that are excited about what I’m doing is the best inspiration to keep me writing. They especially help push me toward the finish line and make the best version of the book possible. I try my best to be my writer friends’ cheerleader as well, because they’re all so amazing and I am so amazed by how talented they are.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

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Cripes, I’ve been busy. Since the last time I’ve posted I feel like my life has gone from boring to stand-still to FULL THROTTLE. I can’t stop effusing about how happy I am and it’s such a great change, it feels so wonderful, that y’all are just going to have to deal with good-mood Molly.

Let’s see. I guess the last thing I mentioned about life changes was that I’d heard back from grad schools. I was fortunate to get in to every school that I applied to (all three of them), and I settled on Syracuse University where I am happily, besottedly studying Television, Radio, and Film. I’m half-way through the summer semester and head over heels in love with it.

Which means that since my lease in DC ended in May, I have moved twice. First was a short stint at my parents’ house back in Cleveland. It was nice to be home. I think being able to spend some quality time with my family and have some semblance of a summer vacation was the best thing I could have done for my mental health. Then, on the first of July, my Dad and I each packed up a car and I moved to Syracuse, the place that I’ll call home for the next year. My house is super cute, and I’m more than a little in love with the front porch. (I will admit to desperately missing air conditioning.)

Clocking in at eleven months, 160 pages, and 67,000 words, I finished the first draft of That Golf Story. Kate and Bailey kept convincing me to add more make-out scenes, but I am done! It feels great to have another manuscript under my belt and it’s given me a chance to really sit down and focus on editing Delia. I managed to shred the first half and really rebuild it. With 50 pages left to edit, I’ve already cut out 30,000 words. I’m hoping to get the rest done in time to send it to K & B by the end of the month for preliminary feedback.

Life is almost moving too quickly, but I’m loving every second of it. I’d managed to forget that productivity breeds productivity, so after having a quiet six weeks at my parents’ house, I’m getting an absurd amount of work done. Aside from my personal writing projects, I just revised a script that my production class and I will be turning into a short film over the next three weeks. I’ll also be starring in it!

I’ve never felt a closer kinship with my heroine Hermione Granger in my entire life. We’ve been sorted (into production teams), the class selection is so overwhelming I feel like I need a time-turner, my hand snaps into the air at every opportunity, and there’s even a castle-like building on (the surprisingly gorgeous) campus!

Also, I keep forgetting and then remembering that Aaron Sorkin went to school here, and I keep dying little happy deaths. I hope you, too, are having the best July of all time.

What’s Up, Wednesday? //10\\

Welcome back to WHAT’S UP WEDNESDAY,hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. To learn more about it, you should really visit their respective pages. I use it to keep me writing, to make myself think about writing, and to force myself to think positive and find things to look forward to.

What I’m Reading

Well, let’s see. As predicted, I cried my way through the last 50 pages of Code Name Verity. It was agonizingly beautiful and I already picked up Rose Under Fire from the library.

I’m almost done with Adverbs by Daniel Handler. I loved A Series of Unfortunate Events by Handler (written as Lemony Snicket) and I didn’t expect Adverbs to be the same, it’s an adult book after all. But I don’t love it the way I wanted to. The vignettes are all woven together with a common cast of characters, but none of them feel compelling. None of them feel fleshed out nor the world well-developed enough for me to really be hooked.

The Great Harry Potter re-read is still underway, and I’m currently working my way through Order of the Phoenix. I expect to sprint through the first four hundred pages and have to force myself to finish it. I’m not ready for that kind of emotional pain.

What I’m Writing

That Golf Story – I’m making some serious progress! Just about three chapters to go if all of my plotting and pacing in my outline is accurate. Everything’s coming together and it’s equally exciting and nerve-wracking because I’m not ready to let go of these characters yet. But only one more golf match to write (thankfully – you can only make them so interesting) and there are relationship developments happening between the main characters. It’s all coming together.

Delia – I’m trying to use the weekends to revise, but *insert panicked laughter here* oh boy is that difficult to dive into. So I’m still just trying to jigsaw the plot of the first half together, re-tooling character introductions and meet-cutes alike.

What Works for Me

Bribes. I’m not even kidding. Once, I put off writing a kissing scene for literally weeks until Kate bribed me with a bottle of wine to finish it. And now it’s not been explicitly stated or anything, but I really revel in it when Bailey and Kate send me positive feedback and general exclamation points as they read new chapters. It gets me excited to keep writing and to think of how they’ll react to what’s to come.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

I heard back from grad schools! I got in! The relief and joy have now taken a back-burner to my frantic list-making. I have a spreadsheet of pros and cons and costs and benefits for the two programs I’m seriously considering, so that’s been my main focus.

What’s Up, Wednesday? //9\\

Welcome back to WHAT’S UP WEDNESDAY,hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. To learn more about it, you should really visit their respective pages. I use it to keep me writing, to make myself think about writing, and to force myself to think positive and find things to look forward to.

What I’m Reading

I just finished The Wonder Boys. It was like reading a mid-life crisis.

Tonight I’m very excited to re-start Code Name Verity. I started it last summer and put a pin in it because, while I loved it, it had to go back to the library. Then, because I couldn’t bear to see the story disappear from my life, I bought a copy. Unfortunately it arrived right after I got distracted by my Great Book Marathon of 2014 when I got Unmade, The Retribution of Mara Dyer, and Blue Lily, Lily Blue and had to re-read all those series before I could sink my teeth into the new additions. But now I’m ready to start it again and give it the attention it deserves because I was so in love with it last summer and I can’t wait to revisit that feeling.

What I’m Writing

That Golf Story – Last night I finished up a super fun chapter for Bailey and Kate. I can’t wait for them to read it for a lot of reasons, but mostly because I know something about how the chapter ends that they don’t. Making them wait for the next chapter will be really fun for me to torture them with.

Delia – I think I might implement a system where I force myself to revise a chunk of Delia for every chapter of TGS that I finish. Since there aren’t that many chapters of TGS left to be written, this might be a good ramp-up to the serious revision this story needs.

What Works for Me

I’d been using Google Docs to work on my WIP while away from my laptop and it was fine. Sometimes it got laggy, but on the whole it was good. My problem was actually that I kept my outline and draft in the same document and it felt cluttered. Last week I switched to using Celtx as my browser platform and I really like it. It feels cleaner and more efficient than GDocs. I also like that I can insert chapter breaks that correspond to a handy navigator. I’d only used Celtx for screenplays in the past, but it’s really easy to use and I’ve been really productive since switching to it.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

Despite having the cold from hell last week, Friday was a great day! I woke up from a nap to an email that notified me of my acceptance to grad school!!! Immediately after, my roommate invited me to go see Jupiter Ascending (which was a-mah-zing), and on the way to the theater we stopped at a book store so I could finally get my hands on a copy of VE Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic.

I’m also obsessively refreshing the Classic Alice indiegogo page. Please donate if you can!