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#Pitchwars Data Analysis

posted Jul 23, 2016, 5:30 AM by Timothy Vienne   [ updated Jul 23, 2016, 7:25 AM ]

So there are now 139 writers participating as mentors in the #PitchWars contest... what can we learn from their interview questions on Brenda Drake's blog? For anyone who doesn't want to read through, there aren't any incredible surprises here, but it would make sense to pay attention to the themes that are emphasized across all of the mentors: character arcs, plot lines and plot holes, voice, and grammar. Also, we need to be ready to receive critiques: no grouchiness, please. That does sort of sum up what preparing a manuscript is all about, isn't it?

Here are the top 50 two-word phrases from all of the mentors (excluding prepositions, etc.). Notice how important characters are, occupying several top 10 spots, and also how worldbuilding (#62) is far less mentioned than "fall love" (i.e., to fall in love). People want stories they connect with and feel some sympathy for the main characters more than they are impressed by your command of geography.

It's still a lot of information to take in, though. What if we could reduce all of the mentor's answers to a single dimension? I.e., some kind of editing style scale? That's what I did (for those interested in the technical details, feel free to tweet me a question). I used counts of words and word phrases in all the mentors interviews to try to place them on a scale using a statistical algorithm. The result is below, and it is interactive. Note that the scale has no inherent meaning: it is based on which people emphasized the same concepts in their writing. To see an interactive version of the chart, simply click on it.

To make things clearer, I divided the mentors into four categories based on their position on the chart: far right, right, left, far left (note: this has nothing to do with politics!). Then I made word clouds for each of the four kinds of mentors:

Far Right:



Far Left:

As you can see, all of the mentors tend to emphasize similar issues, with some subtle differences. As to whether these differences matter, well, that's for us all to decide as we prepare #PitchWars submissions. Best of luck to you all!