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”. 

Break It Down: Revising Your Manuscript Line-by-Line

Recently a friend of mine introduced me to Jennie Nash’s “How To Edit a Complete Manuscript” and it was revealing in a lot of ways. One thing that really stood out to me was an anecdote comparing editing a novel to learning a new sheet of music. Granted, this may have hit home more with me as a musician than it would a non-musician, but it illustrated the point extremely well.

You see, when you sit down to learn a new piece, you start with the rhythm and intonation (making sure the notes are the correct pitches) and once you’ve got those down, then you start to add in the musicality, what makes your audience “feel” the piece.

I had a friend, a phenomenal violinist, who would practice a new piece bar by bar. She broke down each line individually, making sure she’d mastered it before moving on. As writers, we must do this sentence by sentence.

After reading Ms. Nash’s guide, I went back and read through my first chapter aloud, keeping the above in mind. When there were hitches in the flow or a sentiment wasn’t quite right, I stopped, rewrote the sentence/paragraph, then started reading again from the top of the scene.

Many darlings were killed, I now hate the sound of my own voice, and I’m pretty sure my neighbors think I’m crazy. BUT the writing is better. And when the writing is better, the reader experience is better.

You’re not going to be the next [Insert NYT Bestselling Author of your choice here] by simply throwing words on a page. It takes time and patience and an acute attention to detail to illustrate the story in your mind effectively to a reader. So take a deep breath, grab your editor’s cap and spend some quality time with your story.

Happy Writing!

You can find Ms. Nash’s guide, “How to Edit a Complete Manuscript,” here, and for more of Ms. Nash’s incredible insight, visit her blog.

The Never-Ending Cycle of Revision

So I spent this past weekend working hard on the third round of revisions for my WIP when I realized that I really, truly am a workaholic. Not that this comes as a surprise, but as I finished the edits on chapter 9 (of 26), I found that I’m genuinely excited for the next draft, and the draft after that and the draft after that.

Each draft presents an opportunity to clarify the story and bring depth to characters, which means that each time I read through a new version, I’m that much closer to having the product I want readers to [hopefully] enjoy.

Now every writer’s revision process differs. I wish I could revise as I go on the computer, but I’m weird and feel oddly attached to the words on the screen. So I print out the whole draft and ruthlessly rip into it, type in my edits, then do the whole process all over again.

(I have this irrational fear that there’s a tenth circle of hell for everyone involved in print publishing where trees punish us for turning their friends and families into paper, so every time I print out my MS or the magazine at work, I suffer this unsettling guilt…)

The process is a bit long and drawn out as I mark-up the entire manuscript each time. It’s not that I don’t like to concentrate on smaller pieces, it’s more so I just enjoy getting a feel for the pacing of the different character and plot arcs and how they connect. I participate in a critique group that looks at 10-20 pages at a time and their input is invaluable when it comes to improving the writing and avoiding certain issues. But as a novelist, I feel like I need to ensure the overall product is cohesive. To me, that means printing out the entire draft, sitting on my couch and reading through it from beginning to end, notating where things don’t work, what’s redundant and what needs revision.

Like I said, this is just my process and you have to find what works for you. Just remember that revision is an integral part of the writing process. Yes, it’s tedious and often frustrating, but when you do finally reach that final draft, you’ll be so glad you did!

Happy Writing & Revising!