There is nothing like diving right into something you are passionate about head first, but I was completely naked with flailing arms.
Like other writers before me, I had a story in my head that needed to be released onto paper. My story (about a girl who finds a portal in the basement of a coffee house that leads to a mystical realm) soon evolved into a novel of thousands of words and eventually into a planned trilogy with an epilogue. I felt so proud of myself! I wrote a book. I found beta readers and an editor. I was overly confident that I was on the right path.
Of course, I am an infant in this world of writing, but I started where anyone else would in a new industry; social media. I was on my own, floating on this raft of writing in a vast ocean of publishing. I slowly built my online presence, a website and a Twitter account. I interacted and discovered other writers and such. Basically, it was like trudging through molasses.
Then, I got this wild hair and sent out some query letters. I was elated about taking this next step or, at least, until I got my first form rejection within a week, which said, “Unfortunately, after carefully reviewing your query, we’ve determined that this particular project isn’t the right fit for our agency at this time.” And the last sentence read, “…we wish you all the best in your publishing endeavors.”
I was crushed. So, what did I do? Of course, I tweeted sarcastically about it, using a trending hashtag, #PitchWars. Then the weirdest thing happened. I had 9 favorites about my rejection tweet. At the time, I honestly didn’t realize it was part of a major social media contest by Brenda Drake. I entered and found myself among more than 1,500 hopeful mentees. If selected, you would work with a mentor to get your MS into shape for an agent round. Awesome!
So, I entered with too much expectation and hope. Then there were two weeks of painful waiting, tweeting, Google hangouts with ‘amazeballs’ new writer friends, sleepless nights, eating and drinking nights, stalking, inside jokes, gifs, and mentor teasers that we tried to interpret. I’m not going to downplay the fact that #PitchWars was excruciating.
At some point it hit me and I knew I wasn’t going to get selected by a mentor. I had zero requests for my partial or full MS. That part was tough. I asked the ‘amazeballs’ and got tremendous feedback that was super constructive. Writing is only supposed to get better. So after accepting this, I did what any hopeful would (and should) do, I cheered on my friends, whom I realized were further along in their writing journey. I barely made it to middle school and they were entering college or graduating. My two weeks of waiting ended up being a crash course in writing and publishing. I wouldn’t change that for the world.
But I never believed I lost. I never believed that my MS wasn’t good enough. I only believed that I have a different journey of writing.
Through this entire #PitchWars experience, I learned that the true writer’s community is about encouragement, celebration and reflection. It is also close-knit. Writing may seem like an individual journey, but you will cross paths with so many opportunities for collaboration. These opportunities can come in the form of other writers, CPs (thank you Claribel Ortega!), mentors, agents, story ideas, revising, friends and more. I suppose that’s why the acknowledgements may be the hardest part to write for your book.
Another important lesson from #PitchWars is that there is a certain way to handle rejection. Basically, don’t let social media be your warpath or show that you are having a bitter party of one. You will only end up hurting yourself.
Don’t let any amount of rejection block your path. Take a moment to sit on that log of rejection and reflect. Then, after a quiet pity party and a good, hard cry, get up off your ass, grab some friends and burn that damn log to continue your journey.
Here is my game plan:
- Snuggle up with my CP
- Revise the heck out of my MS
- Beta read for others
- Really use The Emotion Thesaurus to show, not tell
- Seek other contests and critique opportunities through Twitter
- Connect to more writer friends on Twitter
- Buy/read books to support the community I met from #PitchWars
- Stalk Writer’s Digest and other such resources
- Use Query Tracker for potential agents
- and finally…never give up!