This has nothing to do with Pitch Wars. I want to set that straight right off the bat. I love my PW manuscript with the fiery passion of a thousand supernovas, even though I’ve read it and rewritten it so many times I’ve lost track. No, this is the story of another book I wrote, and it’s about self-analysis and having reasonable expectations. Continue reading
Hi! I remember blogging! I remember having time to sit down and compose well-planned and thoughtful blog posts! I knew one day I’d have the time to do it again.
Today is not that day. Fooled you! I’ve been more than knee-deep in Pitch Wars revision passes, refining, fine-tuning. Eradicating crutch words, erasing bad habits, spit-shining and polishing my manuscript. Writing the supplemental material: query letter, synopsis, pitch, and as one of my mentors put it, taking a chisel to my first page so that despite the fact there’s an entire novel to follow, it’s compelling all by itself.
Not too much to ask!
During the course of Pitch Wars I’ve learned:
- how to survive on almost no sleep
- potato chips are really not a great substitute for real food
- the more you use “just a cup of coffee at Starbucks” as a reward for writing, the faster you qualify for more free drinks than you want
- I can rewrite an entire novel in a very short period of time if I have to
- When given the secret formula for supplemental material, I can take off my “I’m no good at marketing” hat and write those too
- why scene maps are important
- why outlining is a great idea
- genre-specific story arcs exist for a reason and sure, I can be a rebel, but then I won’t have the type of book I want
- this year’s mentees are a wonderful group of people and I’m so thankful to have taken this roller coaster ride with them
- this year’s mentors are a wonderful group of people. I lucked out having two (thanks, Mary Ann and Jaime!)
- It’s a real kick to find that people like my characters and stories and want more
I could go on with haphazard lists, but I have to say that this has been an outstanding experience. Yes, my house isn’t as organized as it was two months ago and sure, I ate some of (okay, a lot of) the Halloween candy out of nerves and no, the agent showcase hasn’t started yet, but no matter what happens when the Adult/NA entries go up tomorrow, I’ve already “won” Pitch Wars. Just ask the friends I’ve made, the people I’ve met, the people I’m still planning on meeting. Look at the book I’ve written. This contest makes for great common ground. Whether my co-mentees have been writing Adult manuscripts like me, or New Adult or Young Adult or Middle Grade, we all have this shared experience. It’s humbled and enlightened me. It’s rejuvenated my love of writing. It’s taught me so much… you get the idea.
There will be a playlist post soon. In the meantime, I’ll be quiet.
So… it’s been a month now, give or take, since the Pitch Wars results were announced and I started kicking into gear. I’m going to wait until it’s over to give you my overview of the whole experience, but I thought a check-in was in order.
It’s important to say right up front I’m convinced I have one helluva mentoring team. We seem to have similar perspectives on what we want for my story (hugely important) and similar taste in so many things unrelated to the story. Pitch Wars is stressful enough, so I feel extremely fortunate to have mentors who are a good fit with my temperament and personality. They’re making it easy, and they’re making it fun. That stated…
…oh man, what a lot of work this contest is! I’m learning to love parts of the book-writing process I never loved (and in some cases, never heard of) before. For someone who’s always been a confirmed pantser, I can now see the value of putting in time planning and organizing. Because I only had a month to rework my novel, incorporating feedback from my mentors and moving it into its shiny newly-outlined direction. (Oh, I also beefed it up by 20,000 words or so.) I don’t know if I’ll be able to face NaNoWriMo this year without an outline in hand!
One of my first thoughts after we got started was that despite my initial attitude last year when my manuscript wasn’t chosen, I’m glad I didn’t make it in then. I wouldn’t have been ready, either as a writer or as a recipient of critique and suggestion. I’ve never been one to write THE END and ship a book off for querying immediately. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that all the advice about letting a manuscript sit for a while before querying was right. (Also, I’m terribly shy about my writing and have a hard time sending it out… or at least, I used to.) I’ve never been in a rush to get something out the door.
That’s proved incredibly useful during this whole process. Last year I wouldn’t have had the patience to make the necessary changes. I might have fought them tooth and nail. Instead, I sat on the manuscript for most of a year, rewrote it with all the drastic changes I could muster, and guess what? I’ve rewritten it again with even more drastic changes.
Now I wait for feedback. Will it be good? Will it be horrible? Will I have to rewrite it again? I don’t know, but I’ll find out. For me, one of the joys of Pitch Wars is that it’s unpredictably predictable. I have to be on my toes. I have to be ready and willing to write, rewrite, finesse. I also have to cast off the shackles of claiming I detest the “other” pieces of writing (pitch, synopsis, query) and delve into those with an open mind and open heart.
I might have been quiet here this past month, but it’s because I’ve been busy. I’m ready for PW Part II. Whatever happens in the end will happen, but I can already say I’ve learned more about being a writer since August 25 than I had the past few years trying to work out this whole novelist thing on my own. And another unexpected bonus? I know how to use gif files with reckless abandon now. See?
Most writers would tell you they’re natural introverts. Writing is a solitary occupation, so we get used to being alone. Living up in our brains, sharing that space with a plethora of characters we know well, trying to make them come alive on the page. Writing requires an immense amount of focus, a lack of distraction, a single-mindedness.
On the other hand, authors and prospective authors are supposed to make ourselves available. Be engaging and engaged on social media. Keep up a presence. Sometimes, that balance between introversion and extroversion can be nearly impossible to achieve. I’m of the school that asks how can I focus on writing when there are so many other things I should be doing? I’m not a marketer, I’m not a social media expert. I’m also one of those writers on the extroverted side of the scale, at least for the most part. I genuinely like interacting with people at least as much as I like interacting with my imaginary friends. I’m a sucker for face-to-face meetings and for editorial/story feedback. I can’t do this kind of work alone.
Then the kind of shit that took place today with Laura Silverman and Hannah Moskowitz happened. In case you don’t know, both these authors were attacked by a group of people leaving false, derogatory, hate-filled reviews on their Goodreads author pages. This was an intentional and choreographed action by people whose intentions were to defame and destroy these women. You don’t need any more of a rehash here; if you’re interested in more details look it up online (I won’t give any more airtime to hate groups). My first gut reaction was anger, but then something more subtle crept in.
You see, I was raised on the delicate arts of compromise and putting other peoples’ happiness before mine. A side effect of growing up that way means that I’m used to protecting other people at my own expense. It also means that for most of my life, I merged intentionally into the background. I’ve never been one to call attention to myself, or even to have a particularly strong self-image, quite honestly. So when the latest shitstorm happened on Twitter–after the anger subsided–I started to hear this little annoying voice that wanted to convince me to stay quiet, to stay out of the picture.
For most of my life I’ve listened to that voice. I’ve done everything I could not to be noticed. Today, though, something in me bent to the breaking point, and I’m glad it did. I joined the fray. I didn’t just point fingers at the injustice–that’s all too easy to do–but I did what I could to help shut it down. I flagged offensive reviews. I mouthed off to the powers that be. I gladly and repeatedly added my name to the list of people standing up and saying not on my watch to the haters out there.
No more walking that fine line.
The actions I took today might seem laughably small, but I had to start somewhere. When you grow up as I did with the intention of helping everything stay calm and serene, making waves is a bold step to take. I’ve long said that the only thing I’m intolerant toward is intolerance, and in a sense that’s still true. But finally, I’m tired of sitting on my feelings. I’m tired of being quiet. I’m tired of having to walk a fine line between what’s safe/comfortable for me personally and what’s right.
Fuck it. There’s too much hatred and anger in the world for me to be any kind of silent partner. Trying to stay apolitical no longer suits me. My conscience demands I stop, and I’m so glad to do it. I’m not turning this into a political blog–I have other outlets for that, and generally speaking this is my writing haven–but I will speak my mind. I will speak up for others, particularly for fellow writers. No one can be a voice for anyone else, but at least we can stand in solidarity. Let’s show those bastards what true community means.
You can send a message to Goodreads support and let them know you won’t stand for this nonsense.
Even more importantly, we can do this consistently for any author, any female gamer, any female comic book writer–you get the picture–under attack this way. We really are stronger together.
Flag, report, pre-order, order, read. I did.
I remember how I felt last year when I didn’t get accepted to Pitch Wars. All that hope, all the excitement, all those dreams. I watched the pre-announcement show with all the mentors, and it was the sweetest sort of torment. I seesawed back and forth between I’m going to be in! and I’ll never make it in! I mean, I’d had requests for fulls, and a follow-up email or two. What did that mean?
It meant I had requests for fulls and a follow-up email or two, and that’s it. There were no promises, no hints. I spent the weeks between submission and announcement scouring what my potential mentors were tweeting about, trying to divine if any of it was about me or my book. I got swept up in the contest excitement and hype, and made some new friends and met some pretty cool people.
Then the lists of mentors and mentees was posted and my name wasn’t there. You know that sick feeling you get in the back of your throat when you realize you’ve been caught doing something really stupid? Yeah, I had that. I wanted to throw up. Then I double-checked to see whether or not I’d just missed my name.
Then I got frustrated. Really, my first reaction after the reality set in was this bitter ugly frustration. I’m sure someone’s written up Recognizing The Twelve Stages of Writing Rejection (and if they haven’t, they should). After frustration I got angry, then I got jealous. All the while, I was still happy for the people who did make it to the mentor round, but suddenly the door to the party I’d been hoping to attend got slammed in my face.
So I let myself wallow. I stopped following the Twitter PitchWars hashtag. I stopped reading the people I followed who’d made it in, because I didn’t want my low-level frustrated anger to turn into some full-blown depression. I told myself it didn’t matter, it was just another contest, the odds were stacked against me (I guess Stage #4 is Rationalization). I put my manuscript aside, went about my business, and in time the piquant sting of rejection faded, as it always does. I unmuted people. I stayed in touch with some of the mentors I’d submitted to, but not all. There was too much glee about the contest from some of them.
You know what I did get, though, that a lot of people never get from those they submit to? Feedback. Two of the mentors I submitted to took the time to send me thoughtful feedback about my work and about their decision-making process. Once I wasn’t feeling so hurt by their rejection, I was able to read that feedback and let it rummage around in my brain. Although I set my book aside for the better part of a year, working on a different story or two in the meantime, I never forgot that two mentors who didn’t owe me a thing took the time to send me sweet and gentle encouragement and suggestions on how to improve my manuscript.
When I finally revised (make that rewrote) the book, I reread their feedback and integrated their suggestions.
This year, I was accepted. Is my manuscript perfect? Hell no, but that’s one reason I was picked: there are things in it my mentors know how to help me fix. Three days in, and I’ve come to understand that getting into this contest means I’ve signed up for two intensive months of plotting, planning, and rewriting with two new generous critique partners (since I’m being mentored by a team) with more industry experience than I have. It’s not a magic pill or a fast-track ticket to anything.
But it is nice to know someone else has faith in my writing.
Writing contests. Love them or hate them, they’re about as nerve-racking as a thing can be. They’re right up there on par with being called for jury duty or watching the minutes tick away on a delayed flight with a tight connection. So what am I doing to distract myself during the final countdown for Pitch Wars?
- Mind games. As always, I’m trying to psych myself into accepting that I won’t get in. The odds are not remotely in my favor. Almost 2000 entrants vying for the attention of 100-something mentors? Those odds aren’t great. They’re incrementally better than having a query letter pulled out of a slush pile, but they’re still daunting odds. But really, what’s the worst thing that can happen? My manuscript isn’t selected. Maybe I get some feedback on it, maybe I don’t. That only means I’m sitting in the same position I’m in right now: no better, no worse. I remember how I felt last year when I didn’t make the cut. Disappointed, sure, but I was still so happy for those who did. I know how to do disappointment, and I do it well. Wallow for ten minutes, then get on with things. Humans are a fairly resilient race.
- Reading. Yesterday I devoured Balaraba Ramat Yakubu’s Sin is a Puppy That Follows You Home, which I want to review on Goodreads when I gather my thoughts sufficiently. I’m not sure which book I’ll start today. Maybe I’ll finish reading Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (I’m more than halfway done). With the Olympics over, the TV is on less in our house and that means I have more space to concentrate on reading.
- Binge-watching. I started watching Stranger Things on Netflix. I’ve heard the buzz about it, but am relatively unspoiled for how it will play out. Three episodes down, five to go. That ought to last another night or so.
- Cooking. I’ve pulled out all the recipes I want to try and have been stockpiling ingredients. I have one recipe for vegan (avocado & cashew) peppermint cacao-chip ice cream sandwiched between raw chocolate “cookies” from the My New Roots cookbook. All I have to do is remember to soak the cashews first, but I have the rest of the ingredients. This ought to be fun! I also have a recipe for vegetarian peanut soup (most is made with chicken stock) that looks delicious.
- Playing. For me, it’s endless Solo Play matches of Words with Friends. Okay, I am a word nerd, I admit it. It’s great to have something that provides a moment’s focus, now and always.
There are plenty of other things I should be doing, but my delicate flower of a psyche can only take so much at once. I’m trying not to stalk the Pitch Wars hashtag, because it feels too much like gift-rattling. Or like being drawn toward an explosion or train wreck and not knowing how to look away.
If I don’t get selected (notice I didn’t say when, I’m still an optimist at heart), I plan on setting up a community for people seeking beta readers on imzy, which I find I’m liking more than I expected. By the way, if you’re interested in imzy and need an invite code, I have several. Just let me know.
Long story short: no matter what happens, life goes on. Friendships and relationships forged won’t simply disappear based on the outcome of a contest. I’ll still be dreaming about my characters and plotting new and ever more devious ways to put them through the wringer so they can come out stronger on the other side.
How about you, fellow writers? How are you holding up?
…but I do have more experience waiting.
If you’re following along, you know it’s Pitch Wars time. You probably also know this is my favorite contest of all because as I mentioned in my last post, it’s nice. Being nice and behaving politely is a cornerstone of the contest, and I appreciate the hell out of that.
On August 3 — the one day I was home between two very different trips — I entered my manuscript in the contest. Decisions won’t be announced until August 25, so by my calendar I still have another two weeks to go before I find out if I’ll be working with a mentor. So what am I doing in the meantime? I thought you’d never ask.
Here’s where I talk about maintaining my sleek calm plush-velvet demeanor (also about why I love Pitch Wars, beyond “nice”). Continue reading