Meet fantasy writer and Pitch Wars alum Ian Barnes. Ian was a mentee in 2016 under his mentor J. C. Nelson.
You were a 2016 Pitch Wars mentee. How did you prepare for Pitch Wars?
– Wrote a book. I wish I had some grand, insightful answer to this question, but nah, that’s pretty much it.
I’d entered in 2015 with a book that was all kinds of a mess. No requests, but I connected with other hopefuls on the hashtag and Facebook groups. They helped me see why it was a mess, and how to fix it. I ultimately scrapped it in favor of writing something completely new with the goal of having it ready to enter into Pitch Wars the following year. I put what I’d learned into practice, and here we are.
Any preparation advice for mentee hopefuls?
– Find critique partners. As many as you can handle. They’re invaluable. If you don’t have any yet, stop reading right now and go find some. Seriously, I’ll wait.
What was it like to find out you’d been picked as a mentee?
– Exhausting. Anxiety plus constant worrying and wondering? Suffice it to say, I’d been a nervous wreck during the entire submission window. Sleep and I were only casual acquaintances. The kind who nod as they pass in the hall, then hurry on so they won’t have to make actual eye contact.
When picks were announced after that final live show, I didn’t even see my name at first. My eyes glossed right over it. Twice. It wasn’t until my wife pointed it out that my brain decided to play nice and retain information. My edit letter arrived shortly thereafter. Between revision wheels spinning and the adrenaline high, I didn’t sleep that night.
So, yeah: exhausting. And awesome. Exhauwesome?
A lot of authors enter Pitch Wars expecting it will get them an agent, but that’s not always the case. Some later get an agent through querying while others don’t get one until a later book. You were one of the authors in 2016 who didn’t score an agent via Pitch Wars. Any advice to those who may wind up in the same position on staying motivated?
– Not gonna lie, it can be tough. Having a support network of friends and family who’ll be there to help pick you up after you get kicked in the junk helps. A lot. But staying motivated to set yourself up for another kick? That’s the truly tricky part, and no one could do that for me but me.
What worked was finding something new to write that I was passionate about. It’s true that what lands you an agent/book deal could be your first book, your tenth, your twentieth, or even later. Writing something new helped me say to myself, “Self, if this book dies in the trenches, so be it. It was better than the last book, and the next will be better than this.” It’s all a learning process, and keeping that in mind kept me forward-focused.
Any advice on keeping realistic expectations for mentees going into Pitch Wars?
– If you go in with the goal of getting an agent, you’re doing Pitch Wars wrong. The agent round is a nice parting gift, but it’s the community and the chance to improve your book that are the real prizes. Go in expecting to learn, don’t be an idiot on the hashtag (which, I’ll admit, is something I still struggle with because I have a tendency to get carried away), and you’ll win whether or not you’re actually selected as a mentee.
You are part of #menteeshelpingmentees in which past mentees give critique advice to current hopefuls. What made you decide to get involved in mentees helping mentees?
– It sounded like a good opportunity to pay it forward. When I was a hopeful, getting feedback from anyone was hugely important. Even if it was from a no-name nobody like me, I appreciated any insights. Figured I’d do what I could to help out.
Do you think you’d ever be interested in becoming a Pitch Wars mentor?
– Absolutely. It was a great experience on the mentee side, and I’d imagine the mentoring aspect must be incredibly rewarding. Who knows if I’ll ever be qualified to do so, but I would love to be a mentor one day. Whether I’d be any good at it or not is a question you’d have to ask my CPs.
What are you currently working on?
– An adult epic fantasy starring a husband and wife team of middle-aged assassins. To cure a plague, they’re tasked with kidnapping a god, all without starting a war in the process. Science vs divinity in a late 1800’s-inspired setting. Plus, shadowy eldritch puppet masters and frame story shenanigans. Think DISHONORED meets THE ALLOY OF LAW with a dash of STARGATE thrown in for good measure. Been a lot of fun to write.
You can find Ian on Twitter @imbarnes