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
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?
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.
…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
First, a personal aside: growing out one’s hair is always fraught with peril. I keep thinking why not just cut it super short again? Then I won’t have to worry. But I don’t.
I figured I’d update the progress on my beloved manuscript. I’ve been cruising along since May 19, when I went out, guns blazing, determined to write at least 2000 words a day* until I got to 60,000 words. That would bring me to a finish on 6/17. Not bad for a month’s work!
Today my word count is 52,671. I’d like to pretend I’ll finish ahead of schedule, but I’m a little off the mark in terms of where I should be with my (now a little fluid) outline. I confess, 60k seems a bit skimpy for a complete manuscript and I knew I’d have to give myself leeway. It’s easier to edit out a scene than to come up short and have to try to fight for words in the revision stage, so I’m okay with this.
The biggest news is that I’m having so much fun working on this story. I’ve mentioned this is my 4th rewrite and they’ve all been good. At this point it’s almost like writing fanfiction about my own work, which is illegal amounts of fun.
So here’s the bottom line: surprisingly, I’m not as afraid of revision as I used to think. This is me, cheering myself on with my little Go Writer flag.
*In case you can’t tell, I am hugely motivated by word count goals.
Some days I feel like the world’s worst blogger. That’s because I don’t keep a schedule for updating (oh no, breaking one of the strongly-suggested Rules for Blogging Success™) and don’t post just to fill up space. I have enough self-imposed deadlines and goals. Why give myself another?
In the meantime, I’m happy to say I have been writing. You know how people say they have The Manuscript From Hell? Well, I have The Manuscript of Joy. This is my 4th major rewrite–don’t laugh at me, they’ve all been so worthwhile–and every time I work on it, this story makes me impossibly happy. In 15 days I’ve created more than 40,000 words using an outline calling for 55-60k. Go Gwynne! All the intense writing is $%($*&#-ing with my wrists, but I’m soldiering on. That’s what I do when I go to sleep thinking about tomorrow’s writing, and wake up determined to capture my sleepy thoughts.
I still do my best writing in the morning. This is a good thing to know, love, and appreciate about myself. I also have a reinvigorated dedication to my YA novel, thanks to my lovely critique partners, so I plan on entering it in #sffpit in a few weeks. I know, I know, I said no more twitter pitch contests. I lied. That’s what writers do. We make shit up, and we lie.
Would you have it any other way?
Not even two weeks ago I swore I wasn’t going to work on this story for a long time, if ever. I needed a break, wasn’t interested, couldn’t face it.
All that changed the other day, and I’m cruising along writing. It’s too early for me to claim I’m back in some sort of groove, but it sure does feel good to be writing again…and to be enjoying what I see on the page.
The moral of the story: never trust me when I say I won’t be working on a specific piece, because while I’m probably being perfectly honest in the moment, I’ve got a Gemini ascendant and will undoubtedly be drawn to the very thing I thought I hated.