If you’ve stopped by the blog in the last couple months, you’ll have noticed I only posted once. And if you’ve been by repeatedly, you’ve noticed that one post was edited like, a bajillion times.
Yes. Writing is a never-ending process, one I have learned a crap-ton about over the past fifty days.
It all started when I saw a tweet about Twitter contests for new writers. I read up on all the contests, and found one which was going to start in August. I had two months to go, and thought, “I have a finished manuscript. I can polish it and whip it into contest-worthy shape by then.”
Have you ever had one of those moments where you laugh and cry at the same time? That.
The contest I found is called Pitch Wars. If you haven’t heard of it, you need to check it out. Even though the submission window for this year is closed, you still need to check it out, and dive in. Find other writers who are doing the thing like you. (More on the Pitch Wars community later). But seriously, go check it out. You can even click the linky thing above and I’ll wait patiently for you to come back. (If you click over, feel free to skip the next paragraph, if not, read on like nothing happened).
So in a nutshell, writers have the opportunity to submit their polished manuscripts to a group of 4-6 mentors. These are writers with more experience, who have been in the trenches and who have learned a thing or two from their own publishing journeys. They are lovely, wonderful, hilarious friends who want to help those of us who are coming behind them. Step one is submitting a query and your first chapter. Sounds easy enough, right?
A query, though not as horrifying as a synopsis, is not an easy thing to write. Especially, when it highlights a major flaw in the manuscript you’d planned to submit.
Enter: critique partners I found along the way.
I had the opportunity to send my query to several Pitch Wars people I’d met on the hashtag, both mentors and hopeful mentees alike. Through their feedback, I learned a lot about my manuscript:
- It was NOT a romance.
- It–or at least my query–lacked a clear goal, motivation, conflict
- I had some technical crap that needed work (passive voice, distancing words, not knowing how to properly use tags vs. beats in dialogue – to name just a few).
- My main character lacked that unique thing which would make she and my book standout.
Well, crap. With thirty days to go, I figured it was impossible, but then I saw a few writers who were still FINISHING their manuscript, and I thought: “Well, if they can do it…”
So I started revising. I’d revise the manuscript, rewrite my query, and see if it tightened things up. And I was making baby steps, but not the leaps I needed.
Then, I got feedback from a new friend which changed the game for me. Suddenly I saw something I’d not seen before. It required almost a complete rewrite – weaving a new theme throughout which would tie a pretty red bow on the top of what was otherwise an unfinished package. I also eliminated the cliffhanger, and changed the ending of my book to push it back over into the romance genre. At this point I had a little less than two weeks to go. I would be pushing it at best.
So, I wrote. And I wrote. And I wrote. I wrote during the kids nap times, early in the mornings and mostly after everyone else was in bed. I would open my laptop, in my bed, with my husband snoring next to me, and write until the wee hours of the next morning, and do it all over again the next day. And this went on until days before the submission window closed.
Then, I sent my revised pages and query to some new friends and a few old. And guess what? I’d hit a homerun. Based on their feedback, I had made huge improvements and I’d made my promising book, into one which people were saying they’d buy right away if they could.
I not only proved to myself I could write, but that I could revise and respond to feedback in a way that might actually make me a good author for a publisher or agent to work with someday. That alone, was worth all the blood, sweat and tears.
Not that it was easy. Self-denial is real, and it’s a bitch. I counted myself out more times than I care to admit. But this was the part where the amazing Pitch Wars community became real to me. Sure, I’d found critique partners, “met” a few other writers from my alma mater, and home state, and found people who understood me in ways I had never been understood, but the difference maker was when they weren’t just there, but they cared.
Words of encouragement filled my inbox, sometimes they were intentional, most times it was simply honest feedback, which was just what I needed to hear at the right moment. Support, and similar stories of time in the trenches filled my timeline. Cheerleaders emerged and not once, did anyone ever hint at or tell me what I’d been telling myself all along: “You might not be cut out for this.”
Days before the submission window closed, I managed to finish a synopsis, though I am certain it is still significantly lacking, I polished the crap out of my first chapter and query, and at the last possible minute (less than twenty-four hours before the submission window for Pitch Wars closed) I uploaded my stuff and hit send.
What in the actual hell had I done?
I know what you’re wondering. Did I get chosen? Did I hit the homerun I thought I did? Am I well on my way to having a book published?
I have no idea. If my doubts have anything to say about it, probably not, but if the sliver of optimism inside is right, I have a chance, which is more than I had this time two months ago.
And ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because guess what? I did it! I wrote a book. A whole, friggin book! I put it out there and finally opened myself to rejection, which means, I’m officially an author. Not an aspiring author… an actual, wrote-a-book, got-a-rejection (and likely a hundred more), A-U-T-H-O-R.
Win, lose or draw, at the end of the day, Pitch Wars pushed me out of my comfort zone and into the real-live writer’s world, where we put our words out there and brace for impact.
And most importantly, I now have writer friends and critique partners. I “know” authors who I adore and who make me laugh and encourage me, even when they don’t know they’re doing it. I am fluent in gif (if you don’t know, just poke around on the Pitch Wars hashtag and you will). I made my manuscript the best I knew how to on my own, and I even started another–mostly to keep my mind off the Pitch Wars waiting game. If that’s not a win, I don’t know what is.
So that was a writer’s way (read: too long and verbose) of explaining where I disappeared to.
I’ll hop on again soon to write a post about my newest work in progress, share a bit more about my Pitch Wars experience, and maybe, if I’m luckier than I think I will be, tell you I got chosen as a mentee. (Fair warning: if that happens, I’ll be disappearing again for a couple months while I work my butt off with my awesome Mentor to re-polish and rewrite and revise my manuscript and get it ready to submit to actual agents!?!)
Thanks for bearing with me when I disappear, and for coming along on the journey with me! I’ve never had so much fun. Now, I’m off to go make some peanut butter & jelly for the kids, while I drink a Diet Coke and do some more research for my latest work in progress. (Friendly tip for any writers out there: Choose your subjects and character’s careers wisely, otherwise you’ll end up researching trigonometry and variables of spherical triangles, just to perfect three lines of banter between your main character and her love interest.)
Tata for now,