Common mistakes that will ruin your opening chapter and how to fix them.
Month: August 2017
Pitchwars might be the biggest contest out there, but it doesn’t determine your value as a writer. Where you go next is only up to you.
Getting good a failure
I wrote my first story in high school and, as a dedicated introvert, giving it to my best friend was a momentous step. She made fun of it. To. My. Face.
I said I’d never write again.
Years later I had a friend who was a missionary. She made me promise to write her weekly letters. Since I had a dead end job and was re-living the same day over and over, I couldn’t possibly fill one letter with interesting news, let alone several months worth. Instead, I wrote her a novel: a historical romance set in her hometown. I sat down to a blank page and no plan and somehow managed to send her 12,000-word chapters every week for three months. She loved it.
No one else did.
So I quit again.
Or I tried to. Eventually, I had to start writing again. This time for myself. I wrote five more novels all set in the same world. I never planned to show them to anyone, and I probably never would have except I blabbed to my mother-in-law (there may have been wine involved). She pestered the crap out of me until I relented. After a month, she read all five. She gave them to all her friends, who also loved them. I had finally gained my first cheerleader.
I began submitting. 100+ queries turned into 100+ rejections. But this time I was determined. I started studying, reading all the books and all the blogs. Got readers and more feedback. Revisions grew into rewrites. More queries turned into more rejections. I did this for two years.
I got depressed and burned out. How bad? The final revision got requests in both contests I entered. Then, I pitched it at a conference and got another request and then three more on Twitter.
I never sent them.
(Do not do that.)
The novel still sits on the shelf, a victim of self-rejection. I went back to studying, and I started my blog. A failed writer starts a writing advice blog? Who would do that? Talk about impostor syndrome. The blog started because the more I read, the more I realized there were other bloggers giving terrible advice, advice contradicted in nearly every published novel I picked up. I may have left the classroom, but I’m still a teacher. My intention was to combat some of this bad advice by publishing articles on writing topics that had worked for me.
The positive response from my fellow writers, editors, and even agents (Yes, agents and editors you have heard of) has restored my confidence enough to enter my latest novel (number 8) in pitchwars.
Have I gotten any requests?
Honestly, it’s too early in the game to give up, but at this time my requests number exactly zero. And even if that number doesn’t change. I’m not quitting because I’m a writer. That’s who I am. Even if I never get a book deal or a spot on the NYTBSL, I’m still a writer. They can bury me with a million pages of what no one else wanted, and that’s ok. Because as much as I’ve failed at being a writer, I failed even harder at not being one.
So if you’re freaking out about Pitchwars and starting to doubt your life choices, take a deep breath. This is one more audition, one more date, one more interview. It doesn’t determine your ability to write, and it doesn’t determine your value as a person. There will be more chances, more contests, more queries, more paths. Pitchwars might seem like a moonshot, but the funny thing about the moon is, it keeps coming back.
Thanks for reading
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