Overcoming the Fear of Rejection

This year, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to attend a couple writers’ workshops and pitch some wonderful people. A couple weeks ago, I attended the Midwest Writers Workshop and, wow, what an event. Along with a brilliant keynote from the incomparable Janet Reid (if you don’t know who she is, shame on you! Jk. Seriously though, check out her blog, jetreidliterary.blogspot.com), there were an array of different panels. In one room, you could listen to agents and editors talk about different parts of the industry. In another, you could learn how to strengthen your descriptions and characters. There were also numerous opportunities to discuss your WIP with agents and editors.

First up, I pitched Brooks Sherman of The Bent Agency. He was incredibly insightful and helpful in the whole five minutes I spent talking with him. I didn’t get through the first sentence of my pitch before he started in with questions. It was a bit intimidating, but afterward, it was clear he was only trying to be helpful (or at least that’s how I’m taking it). In the end, he said my WIP didn’t seem to fit his list, but followed up with other agents who it might suit better. He also gave me something to think about while I’m revising to improve my MS.

Overall, I’d call it a win. Sure, it stung a bit when he said it wasn’t for his list, especially because in that short conversation he helped me analyze an important part of my MS and helped me grow as a writer. Seriously awesome individual and anyone would be lucky to have him as their agent. It speaks to the success and overall awesomeness of his clients Becky Albertalli, Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, and Adam Silvera, More Happy Than Not.

Then I had my query critiqued by Annie Berger, an associate editor at Harper Collins. Talk about encouraging! Sitting down with Ms. Berger felt like sitting down with an old friend. She was so nice and welcoming, really took the pressure off. [Did mention I ramble when I’m nervous!] She had a lot of positive things to say about the query itself, but also gave me input into how to make it stronger. She was also kind enough to say the premise was strong enough to stand on its own without all the extra details I was giving. Also (and I will probably hang onto this for the rest of my existence) said that my main character was a badass. XD It made my day!

When we were done talking about the query, we got to talk about the MS itself. Was I querying? Did I have any agents in mind? I had to tell her that I was in the middle of a rewrite post-beta readers and she made the comment, “This is your debut. You want it to be the best it can be.” Though I’ve read this advice many times, hearing it from an editor was still super encouraging, especially in the trenches of a rewrite.

Moral of this story: Don’t be afraid to pitch you WIP. Go to these conferences and workshops, get input from professionals, hire an editor. The worst thing they can do is say “no,” but even that’s not that bad. Look at each rejection as an opportunity to grow and eventually, you’ll get where you need to be.

Happy Writing!

*Quick Note: From what I’ve read in interviews and have heard from agents, pitch sessions aren’t exactly the best means to acquire an agent. They want to see the writing, so be sure to work hard on your query and perfect that. And in the words of Janet Reid, “Pitching is the spawn of Satan”. 

The Writing Slump

Well folks, I’ve hit it, the dubious “writing slump”. Granted, I’ve had a lot going on, but if you’ve been following this blog for a while, I think it’s rather clear that I don’t accept that as a valid excuse. Now don’t get me wrong, a break is good for the soul every now and again, but I look at my past month and the workaholic in me sees all the things I didn’t do. It’s a character flaw I need to work on, but in the eternal words of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “I’m cookie dough. I’m not done baking.”

Yes, that was a Buffy reference. Get over it.

Anyhoo, back to Vesuvius the writing slump (because I name things that make me angry after things that go “BOOM”), it’s not that I can’t write or won’t write, more over my brain is too caught up in what’s going on around me to focus on a new novel. Vesuvius just came in, scraped his rusted fold-out chair across the varnished hardwood floors of my brain, set up shop at the intersection of creativity and productivity and heckled me until I gave up and jumped into the next episode of Veronica Mars.

So yes, I had plans for this past month while book 1 was with beta readers. I was going to rewrite book 2 and map out book 3, along with publishing weekly posts here. The reality of this past month is as follows:

  1. 3 blog posts – skipped a week because I was coming back from a writing retreat with Raw Dog Screaming Press. It was a lot of fun and exactly what I needed.
  2. Read through book 2, made a lot of notes for changes to plot/character and such, spent the rest of the month mauling over whether or not to just start from scratch completely. I’ve rewritten the first paragraph in my head many, many, MANY times before going to sleep the past few weeks.
  3. Wrote the first chapter (that will be scrapped) of book 3. I don’t regret writing it, because of that scrap chapter, I was able to finally let go of a setting that was only half-cocked anyway. I did map out the book, but only got as far as the midpoint. Hint: Time Travel is not easy to plot.
  4. I also put together a 53-page digital magazine and put my sister-in-law and her puppy on a plane to Germany (for any of your who’ve ever flown internationally with pets through the military, you know that this is a HIGH-STRESS event).

I promise there is a reason why I chose to list out what I’ve accomplished this month. I wanted to show that just because we writers tend to fall on the side of “I haven’t accomplished anything,” doesn’t mean that what we’re feeling is the reality. So if you’re in a writing slump, take the time to make a list of the things you have accomplished during that time, it may take some of the pressure off.

Enjoying the Journey: My first writer’s conference.

Well lovely writers, I did it, I confronted my fear of the professional literary world this weekend.

Just to clarify, I don’t exactly fear the lit world; it’s more so I find it a bit intimidating. I love following industry professionals and other authors on Twitter, but being connected via web versus talking to actual people in person are two different things.

So on Saturday, I attended the Chesapeake Writers Workshop in DC. The majority of the day was spent absorbing a TON of information about the industry from Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest. From self-publishing versus traditional publishing to building your own platform, Chuck covered a LOT of topics and provided an incredible amount of insight. If you have an opportunity to attend one of his many speaking events, do so. It’s more than worth it.

He’s posted a list of his upcoming events on his website, here. Also, if you haven’t checked out his blog, Guide to Literary Agents, on Writer’s Digest, do so here.

Along with the fantastic lectures, I had the opportunity to formally pitch two agents. Both Ella Kennen of Corvisiero and Jamie Bodnar Drowley of Inklings were so sweet and knowledgeable and really made my first pitching experience so enjoyable [though I’m pretty sure I was a rambling mess!]. Leon Husock of L. Perkins was also kind enough to hear my bumbling pitch after the workshop ended, which I am EXTREMELY grateful for, especially because I’m pretty sure he was done for the day and just wanted information on getting a cab. Sigh.

Attendees of the workshop also had the opportunity to have their WIP’s first page read by the agents in a panel setting. The agents, including Mr. Husock, gave their feedback on what would cause them to stop reading the sample. Though my own first page was not read (there was a limited amount of time for the panel and there were a LOT of writers in attendance), the agents’ input was incredibly helpful. Many first pages had similar issues, so I will be sure to try and avoid those pitfalls in the future.

In conclusion, my recommendation is to do your best to attend these conferences and workshops. Even if you bomb your pitches, discussing your project with an industry professional is an invaluable opportunity. It can let you know if you’re heading in the right direction or if you need to re-evaluate and adjust.

As I said in a previous post, be gracious and kind. Sometimes the truth is hard to hear, but you and your WIP will be better for it. So even if you hear something you don’t want to hear [like the importance of building your platform], don’t argue, just accept the advice and make a decision later.

And most importantly, just keep writing!