First, before I tell you about Pitch Wars, remember that I’ve still got a giveaway going on for a copy of The Waking Land, the book I reviewed last week. Go here to find the link to enter for a chance to win. Your odds are good!
Second, I entered Pitch Wars yesterday. Pitch Wars is a contest that writers of unpublished books can enter to vie for published-author mentors who can really help them whip their manuscripts into top-notch form. The writers choose 4-6 mentors from among a huge list of possible mentors, and submit their first chapters and a query (i.e., cover) letter. The mentors, if they choose a writer’s submission, will work closely with that writer to prepare his or her manuscript for the agent round, in which the writer queries or submits that reworked manuscript to a participating agent or agents, who then will review it to see if they’d like to represent that book to a publisher. From what I understand, quite a few writers have gotten book deals this way.
I submitted my first chapter and chose six mentors. Now I’m checking my in-box every five minutes to see if I’ve been accepted by at least one of them, although the submission deadline hasn’t even passed yet. It’s not unlike waiting to hear back from an agent. It’s a nerve-wracking buzzing in the ear, but it won’t kill me if I don’t get accepted by any of them. I entered last year with a different manuscript and didn’t get selected.
I’ve written two books and am working on getting them published traditionally, focusing very much so on the second one. But these are the odd I’m up against, as provided by Berrett-Koehler Publishers:
While the number of books being published every year has exploded (more than 300,000 traditionally published as of the end of 2014, and 700,000 self-published in 2017), overall book sales are shrinking. They were less in 2016 than they were in 2007, even with e-books taken into consideration.
Because of the explosion of books published and the declining total sales, each new title gets less and less sales.
For every available bookstore shelf space, there are up to 1,000 or more titles competing for that shelf space.
Each book is competing with more than thirteen million other books available for sale, while other media are claiming more and more of people’s time.
the book publishing space is in a never-ending state of turmoil
Make no mistake: I’m fully aware that my odds of getting traditionally published are slim, and of making any money should I get published even slimmer. That’s why I say that writing is my particular form of craziness. The authors of the books you read have to all share that craziness to a certain extent as well.
So why do I keep trying? Because it’s hard. Because other writers are fascinating people to be around. Because using my imagination to create something as substantial and emotionally compelling as a book is FUN. Because it’s a way for me to push for progress in my life even if other things feel staid or stagnant.
This week, that progress took place in my election to the position of president of a 35-member writers club called Utah Valley Writers, and in meeting and hopefully starting a great working relationship with a new critique partner. Liz Stone, a fellow YA sci-fi writer and aspiring author, read the first 50 pages of Running and provided some great feedback. In exchange, I read the first twenty pages of her manuscript, titled Broken Authority. Having a good critique partner and beta readers is so, so helpful. You don’t even know!
It’s been a while since I last posted for two reasons. The first is that I was preparing for and attending a writers’ conference, called Storymakers. As you may or may not know, I’m working to get published myself.
The brief version of my writers’ journey:
wrote angsty teenage poetry in junior high and high school
edited high school literary magazine because (I guess) there were a lot of teenagers writing angsty poetry in the mid-80’s
got a bachelor’s degree in Journalism, then a master’s degree in Public Administration while working at a nearby nonprofit writing grants
wrote one young-adult science fiction/fantasy book, called Forced
joined a writers group and started attending writing conferences
pitched and queried Forced to 50 agents over the course of two years. Got some interest from them, but ultimately, no one picked it up.
wrote a second book, Running, a YA sci-fi
attended fourth Storymakers conference, where the first chapter of Runningdidn’t win anything in the contest I’d entered it into
pitched Running to an agent who didn’t request any pages beyond the first 10 and synopsis she’d already seen
decided that I should never write anything ever again
heard the word “brilliance” somewhere in said agent pitch, and received some very helpful, constructive feedback
started to feel hopeful, at least enough to decide to revise Running and pitch it to 60 agents
received awesome feedback on my first 10 pages from author Annette Lyon, through Eschler Editing
heard an amazing keynote speech by author Jennifer Nielsen, who said that the great thing about writing in Utah is that, as writers, we’re not all competing for a limited piece of the readers’ market “pie,” we’re working together to “grow the pie.”
decided I’m not only going to finish and pitch Running, but that I’ll write the other three books that are lining themselves up in my head, after that.
Sorry…I thought that was going to be the short version. Really, it is, when you take into account the fact that this journey has taken place over the course of 30 years and during a whole bunch of real life. This year’s Storymakers conference, like the ones before it, breathed new life into my writing journey.
What I Did at Storymakers
Also, the agent with whom I met, Nicole Resciniti, was so helpful. Because of her and Annette Lyon, who edited the first chapter of Running for me, and Lisa Mangum, who edited my pitch, I’m excited to keep working on Running. Hopefully, it’ll be ready to query in a month or two!
The second reason I haven’t been able to post is that I read a book that I didn’t want to review here until its writer did more work on it to make it really shine. It’s not that I’m super picky about the quality of writing in the books I read, but I don’t like to review books negatively outright. If I really can’t connect with the characters or the plot, if there’s something fundamentally wrong with the writing, pacing, premise, or plot, I’ll reach out to the publisher or author, depending on who initiated contact with me for a book, and provide feedback in constructive ways. When I say “fundamentally wrong,” I don’t compare those things against my imperfect writing or knowledge; I compare it to the standards provided in the many writing classes I’ve taken and books I’ve read, and even then, realize that it’s still, ultimately, just my opinion. And when I say “constructive ways,” I mean that I point out the positive things, and when I point out the negative, I do it in such a way that I provide specific suggestions for improvement (e.g., “This paragraph would have been much more dynamic if the author had shown a character stomping his feet or ramming his fingers through his hair, instead of saying that the character was angry.”) Hopefully, I’ll get to review the improved version of that book for you all down the road!
I’m reading Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth, which I’m very much enjoying, and hope to have a review of that up soon! Stay tuned!