The first Twitter contest I submitted to, I never made it out of the slush. Afterwards, the host Tweeted advice based on queries he received. One of his tweets, I knew, was a direct hit to me. Yes, guilty, I switched to first person character perspective in the query. I had my flash of embarrassment and fixed my query.
In late August, I gave PitchMadness a shot. Then the “teaser tweets” came, and I saw one that I knew had me pegged. In my query, I used an undefined word that’s unique to my book, “Mythian.” Oops. I didn’t make it out of the slush. I did, however, see some wonderful pitches and first pages. I cheered for them, making a few twitter friends. Again, I went back and tweaked my query.
Trick or Treat with agents rolled around, and again, I remained in the slush, but cheered for my favorites and my new friends. And I made way more new friends. This time, there were no tweets that I read and went “oh crap. That’s me.”Afterwards, I took another look at my query and went “how can I make this more attention grabbing – how do I tell them that it’s unique?”
By the time PitchWars came around, I was swimming in a sea of shiny NaNoWriMo WIP. I fell in love with my new MS, an NA Contemporary called Quarter Turn. The story brewed in my head for about a year, and it just poured out of me during NaNo.
Pitchwars showed up, and though I really wanted to focus on my new MS, I went for it. I made a deal with myself. If Scales turned another stagnant slush run, I agreed to shelve it and continue on with Quarter Turn.
My query took on a more personalized tone, because not only did I give my pitch, but I told each mentor what elements of my MS fit their desires. (That mostly came from the two years of writing resumes and cover letters post-college.) I thought my queries were rocking. I even jogged them back and forth with my CP and my sister to make sure my pitch wasn’t a rambling mess.
I didn’t expect to win a spot – I expected to validate my assumption that Scales was a statistic in the “first novels never see light” headline.
Molly (@MollyLee) scooped my baby from the slush pile and called me hers. Twitter blew up with congratulations while I was in a meeting, and I did laps around the office when I discovered it. Seriously, I did. My bosses will vouch for me.
And then the high quickly deflated as the reality of editing settled in. Molly gave me back a fully marked copy of my MS, and I knew I had to embark on a Frankenstein adventure. She loved my characters and the premise, but I had some plot issues with pacing and leaving too much of the good stuff to the back half of the book. My CP (and best friend since highschool) Michelle (@mah_hoehn) took my shaking hand and beat my frazzled nerves into submission. She graciously helped me distill Molly’s critiques into ways that I could fix certain elements. I moved A LOT around, switching scenes, gutting damn near every chapter, and sanded down all the rough edges. Seriously, I rewrote probably 40% of the book.
No, I didn’t get any agent love out of the agent round. (I am stoked that one of my teammates did though, Go Sam!) And, honestly, I’m not all that upset about it. I thought Scales was shiny before, but now I need sunglasses to read it. And most of all, it gave me the validation that Scales is worth pursuing. I just needed those baby steps to learn first.
So that brings me to my advice. Guys, Twitter contests are phenomenal for learning experiences. Yeah, the sting of losing sucks, hardcore. I’ve done it. A lot. But know that everyone who got to the top had their own string of failures and losses. And the industry is so subjective (I saw a ton of thrillers getting love in PitchMadness. Last time it was Historical Romances.) I read a quote once, which I can no longer find the original source for, that said : Authors are writers who never gave up.
Have a back-bone to critiques. Don’t take it personally. Take a day to sulk, then learn, improve, and move on.
Super shout outs to #TeamMollysAngels, Molly, Sam, and Jamie, and the wonderful host Brenda Drake. You guys rock!