For me, writing always seemed like something other people did. I came to it later in life because I believed I could never write a full-length novel. That seemed just too daunting. But I had a story that just wouldn’t leave my brain no matter how much I pushed it aside. So, I sat at my computer to type out the beginning. I was hooked.
I found the online writing community and got some great feedback from some writers further along in the journey. They gave of their time and nurtured me through #WRITEONCON. I queried that book a bit, but got rejected (rightfully, because looking back now I can see SO many problems with that manuscript).
I wrote another story. It was showcased in a contest. Ultimately, I shelved that manuscript because (here is an important lesson, writers) that story was NOT mine to tell. It NEEDED to be #ownvoices. And there is now a very successful story somewhat similar to mine that was written by an #ownvoices writer, and it is a FAR better story than I could ever tell.
So, I wrote another one. This one was #ownvoices. I entered it in Pitch Wars 2015. I got interest from several mentors, but not chosen for the contest. I was sad, but I’d made some great writing connections. I queried. Got asked for fulls, but ultimately rejected.
I picked up my first story. I rewrote the whole darn thing beginning to end. I entered in Pitch Wars in 2016. I got interest from several mentors, but did not get in. I was crushed. I felt like I was SOOOOO close. I grieved that one for a bit. Two of those mentors, Alexandra Peñazola Alessandri and Juliana Brandt offered to give me a ton of feedback. They changed the way I write today. I rewrote the manuscript again. I made more connections with other writers through Pitch Wars. I found more critique partners. I queried. I was rejected.
I wrote another story (do you see a pattern? You have to keep going – keep learning – keep putting your work out there for people to comment on). I decided to give Pitch Wars a third try in 2017. I got interest from several mentors who I still absolutely adore. But Juliana Brandt had my heart already. She’d been so encouraging and helpful the year before. Would she pick me this time?? Oddly, I was very calm during the wait up until the picks that year. I knew I’d be okay if I didn’t get in. After all, I’d been there before. I TRULY feel that if you are making new critique partners, listening to the mentors’ tips, reading suggested craft books, then you WIN Pitch Wars. The rest is just icing on the cake.
My critique partner saw the announcement before I did. I’d made it. And Juliana and her co-mentor Allison Ziegler had picked my story! My edit letter from them basically said, “We love you. We believe in you, but you have a lot of work to do.” And I did, writers. I had SO much to learn, and they cheered me on every step of the way. I rewrote the entire story (minus the first chapter). The whole thing. The magic system. The world building. The plot. It all changed. And you know what? I was a better writer after that. It was like going through a Master Class on writing. I got 26 requests during the agent round. Hope was high that I’d find an agent with that manuscript. I didn’t. Not a single offer. BUT I got some amazing critique partners who challenge me to be a better writer (love you guys), and a whole class of mentees who I know are here for me (Go Team!).
I watched my fellow mentees sign with agents and get book deals. I did what I knew I needed to do: I wrote another book. Well, first I texted Juliana about a heartbreaking rejection from an agent who basically said she loved EVERYTHING about my Pitch Wars story, but couldn’t represent it. It stung. If you love the whole thing, then why can’t you represent it? This truly is a VERY subjective business, writers. I told Juliana I had a new story in my head. Being the incredible support person that she is, she wanted to know what it was about. I told her. She basically ordered me to write it. So, I did. She and Lacee Little (her co-mentor for 2018 Pitch Wars) and my critique partners all gave me amazing, constructive feedback. I revised. My CPs read again. I revised. I sent out a few queries. Got immediate requests for fulls. Then #PitMad came in June, 2018. I e-mailed my critique partners and said, “Do I do #PitMad with my new story?” They all said, “YES!”. So, I did.
And here, writers, is where the story turns. I got some requests that day. A couple were from editors wanting to see my work when I got an agent. Another from an editor who was ready to see it immediately. And a few were from agents. One of those agents was Lydia Silver of Darley Anderson Children’s Book Agency. She loves my words, writers. She loves my writing. She loves my story. And we are now a team.
Writing can be a solitary activity, but I truly believe that behind every writer is an army of other writers. You can’t do this on your own. Make relationships. Admit you don’t know everything. Learn. I still have more to learn. I have great critique partners, fellow Pitch Wars mentees and other writers, Juliana, Lacee, and Allison to continue learning from. And now I have Lydia who has already proven to be an immeasurable source of knowledge and support. I adore my team. I hope you find yours!