I began writing again in June of 2016, after a hiatus that began in 2000 to start a couple of businesses. As I entered the new world of what it meant to be a writer and published author in the new Millennia, I joined Twitter. That’s when I first saw a tweet about an upcoming contest called Pitch Wars.
Excited to dive back into writing, I whipped out my novel that I had drafted in 1999, and began revising to get it ready to submit in August 2016. Soon after, I was notified by Kellye Garrett and Sarah Henning that I was chosen as their mentee. Beyond excited, scared to death, and wondering what the hell I’d done to myself, I dove into intense edits with my mentors of what is now called Derailed. (The original title was the first to go when Kellye and Sarah sent their edit letter.)
When agent rounds came, I was excited to have four requests. One of those requesters was Michelle Richter. I’d like to say it was a quick and happy ending. It wasn’t. I received rejections from two of the four agents fairly quick. In the meantime, I queried. Over 100 times—I’ve lost count on the exact number. I had several requests for the full manuscript, but the rejections piled up.
Learning is a process. We absorb as much as we can at one point, and sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error (or crash and burn) to realize there’s more to learn. It was about that time where I was seeking to learn more of my craft when I received a letter from Michelle.
Michelle rejected my manuscript, but she also provided a detailed account of why. She pointed out things that worked, and things she wished she’d seen more and less of. She even offered to take another look if I was willing to make the changes. For those in querying land, these kinds of letters are rare, and are gold. For the first time I understood the direction I needed to go and what I needed to learn to make that happen.
That’s where Jennie Nash comes in. She runs a company where she employs editors and book coaches. I’d met Jennie prior to Pitch Wars, and when I needed an editor/coach for this major revision, she’s who I contacted. She teamed me with Kate Pickford, who challenged some elements of my story. I provided her with Michelle’s letter. Together we ripped the book a part, and put it back together making sure cause and effect trajectory was solidly in place. Instead of taking workshop classes and webinars, I was getting weekly feedback on my progress, and knew right away whether my words and pages worked or didn’t.
By August 10, 2017, I had a polished novel again, and I sent it back out to Michelle, along with a few other agents that had agreed to look at a revision. In 6 weeks, I had an offer and by the end, five offers of representation on the table.
Deciding who to choose was not easy, and made for a few sleepless nights. Until I realized, I couldn’t get it wrong. Every agent that offered representation was solid, reputable, and the nicest people to talk to. But at the end, I went back to the person who had provided me a road map. Michelle had seen something in my writing, and took the time to shine a light on what was missing. And I knew that was the person I would want to have by my side to navigate not only this book, but my future ones as well.
Sometimes the roads are straight and easy. Sometimes there are so many twists and turns, it makes your head spin. But there are a few things that are instrumental in all of this. Don’t give up. Be open to making changes. Be open to being rejected and failure. To starting over. And find people to support you. The Pitch Wars community was a God send. I have found good friends, CP partners, advocates, and kindred spirits. When the days feel long and lonely, and I don’t know which direction to go, I do a shout out on the Facebook page and say, anyone here and want to write. There’s always an “I’m here.”
So here’s to the next part of my adventure. I don’t know what it will bring, or whether the path will straighten out or there will be more twists and turns. But I do know I’m ready. Let’s do this.