Back in March, I participated in my first pitch event on Twitter (you can read about that experience here!). While I didn’t come away with any likes from agents that first time around, I garnered enough benefits to do it again, which I did on June 3, armed with three brand-new pitches (for the same novel).
All those things I got out of the contest before, I got out of it again, so it was definitely worth my time and effort. I connected with approximately 80 more writers, and my pitches were retweeted almost 350 times. I’m so thankful for each person who helped spread the word about my novel.
And I was also blown away to receive likes from two literary agents!
This puts me one teeny-tiny step ahead in the query process and makes my email queries warm instead of cold. I’m pretty excited about this! It also feels like slightly more pressure because, unlike in a cold query, there’s already some small expectation on the agents’ end because of my pitch. But they’ve also expressed initial interest in the premise! I’ll be busy as a bee getting these two queries out this weekend.
In the game of publishing, where so much is luck-based instead of merit-based, where timing is everything, where we writers spend hours upon hours writing a story and then desperately trying to find the right home for that story, it’s so easy to get down and depressed. There are so many opportunities to give up. They don’t call them the “query trenches” for nothing! Without small encouragements along the way, we’d all starve for hope and give up.
But these two tiny hearts on Twitter have bolstered my confidence more than you can imagine. It was exactly what I needed because many times I have been tempted to give up on my novel.
Before I Even Started. The idea for this novel came to me on October 27, 2018, when we visited the Col. James M. Schoonmaker museum ship at the National Museum of the Great Lakes in Toledo, OH. November 1 was the start of National Novel Writing Month. Four days isn’t really enough time to prepare to write a novel. I jotted down a few thoughts, but I made no outline, struggled with naming my characters, and really had no idea where to even begin. But on November 1, I just sat down and started writing.
When We Moved to a New State. That’s a big deal, moving six hours away with four small children. Granted, I did set the novel aside for awhile during the packing and the moving and the unpacking and the adjustment period. But setting something aside is not the same as giving up. Life did get in the way sometimes, but I always found my way back to my book.
After Beta Reader Feedback. I’m smart enough to know that it takes a dozen or more drafts to really polish a novel, and beta readers are intended to help a writer get there, not to praise a finished work. Even so, I was pretty disappointed that my first round of beta readers did not like my novel all that much. One of them even called it a romance! (Full disclosure: I have nothing against romance, but that was not my intent with this book. And it was definitely more romance-heavy in the early drafts, so I’ve since forgiven her for saying so!) I had three options at this juncture: 1) Work with their feedback (selectively, of course, to keep it my story); 2) Ignore their feedback and proceed like I thought best; and 3) Give up. The correct answer, of course, is #1.
When We Had a Pandemic. I know that the pandemic squelched a lot of creatives’ output, and I get that. It was a lot to absorb, being forced to stay home and wary of an illness we knew virtually nothing about. At the very outset, I suffered from this a little. One of the best decisions I made was to watch Downton Abbey (for the first time, I might add) as research for the time period when my book takes place. It was a perfect immersion in the 1910s, a perfect escape from pandemic woes, and the perfect inspiration to keep plugging away at my novel.
When I Was Tired of Revising It. More than once, I thought my novel was done (at least until an editor or editorial agent got his/her hands on it). I rewrote the entire first third of the novel, and I rewrote the opening chapter what felt like a hundred times. I revised before I queried and after I queried and while I still had active queries out. I revised again after feedback from another Twitter contest called RevPit. I got to the point that I was so tired of revising, I was almost tired of the story and the characters. But I gave myself a breather and then pushed through, and I know the book is better for it.
When I Didn’t Have Time. I could use this reason Every. Single. Day. Sitting down to write often doesn’t happen until 9pm, and usually it’s more like 10pm. I’m exhausted. I usually don’t feel like I have anything left to give. I sometimes fall asleep in my desk chair, staring at my own words. But when I’m drafting, 100 words is better than zero, and when I’m editing, one page is better than none. We make sacrifices to make time for what’s important, and that’s why the circles under my eyes are ever-darkening.
These, of course, are only a sample, an excerpt of the long list. They might sound like reasons to give up, but in reality, they’re nothing but excuses. I have to remind myself: What journey exists without hurdles? What accomplishment is attained without challenges? What achievement is worthy of pride without being hard-fought? It’s tough. Really, really tough, but the only way to “arrive” is to keep moving, so I will.
And come back next Saturday because I’m going to talk about the flip side of this coin, and six of the reasons why I kept going.