First things first, I got to work with the incomparable Cora Carmack.
*If I could insert a subliminal message here it would be: READ HER STUFF! IT'S ALL SORTS OF AWESOME.*
It was so incredibly helpful getting feedback on my story from Cora. I think of all the suggestions she gave me the one I enjoyed most was to write a creation story for my world. I had general societal background already, but I hadn't really thought about how this world originated or what deities these people believed in. If you write fantasy, I highly recommend doing this when you're thinking about world building.
My origin story ended up being around eight pages. I'd say 85% of what I came up with did not make it into the book itself, but just having the information in the back of mind made such a huge difference in the way certain characters interacted and how particular events unfolded. It also has made the drafting for the sequel exponentially easier.
In conclusion, do this. It's worth every second.
Now, back for a second, to Brenda Drake. If you're a writer and not following Ms. Drake on Twitter, you need to rectify this post haste. She is a prime example of everything that is awesome about the writer community. And, as was illustrated by my PitchWars experience, there is a lot awesome about the writer community.
But one thing really stands out to me - writers care.
They care about their own work, of course. But they care about the work of others as well. Twitter is an excellent showcase of this. As writers sat at their computers waiting to see agent responses to their pitches and entries - most likely biting their nails and engaging in some maniacal nervous laughter - they did more than just keep hitting refresh on their own pages. They consistently posted or retweeted links to the work of other writers taking part in the contest. When they weren't doing that, there were countless tweets of encouragement or gratitude.
Writing can sometimes feel very isolated. While having the opportunity to get my work in front of agents was definitely amazing, I think what I really took from this contest is that though writers don't necessarily have a shared water cooler or conjoined cubicles, we are definitely still working together.
And now that PitchWars has come to a close and we're all returning to our querying/revisions/drafting/hobbit holes, it's nice to know that we have a huge cheering section out there.