Guess who has two thumbs and is a reject?
I’m sort of kidding.
I submitted an 89,000 word manuscript to five mentors (two were co-mentoring) for Pitch Wars about a month after I even heard of the event.
AND CAN I TAKE A MOMENT FOR A SHOUT-OUT TO BRENDA DRAKE, NIKKI ROBERTI, AND ALL THE MENTORS FOR THEIR SELFLESS DONATION OF TIME AND EFFORT TO THIS CONTEST??? As Nikki would say, you’re all AWESOME! Any Pitch Wars hopefuls who read this will know EXACTLY what I’m talking about. No one gets paid for this. Everyone involved is doing it to give back. It’s truly spectacular to be a part of this event.
Okay, so I submitted my YA fantasy, INNATE.
I spent July feverishly revising, polishing, and learning about this fantastic contest and all of the selfless people donating their time and efforts to entrants, free of charge. So many professional writers and editors reviewed my first chapter, provided comments on my query, and there was more advice online than I knew what to do with!
So, on August 8, I hit submit and waited.
Finally, on August 24, they released the list of winners. My manuscript was not among them. It had been rejected in favor of a manuscript and a writer who was a better fit.
Several other Pitch Wars hopefuls have reviewed my first chapter (or three) and pointed out some very important issues with the story. A few days after I submitted–a few days after I stopped thinking about it for a while–I started to think of some changes to make the first half stronger. I started to think about how the pacing was off. I started to think about how to tie the beginning and end together in ever more dramatic and satisfying ways.
I thought about structure and themes and relationships and everything that this story can do without along with everything it still needs. It needs more work.
So why was this one of the best things to happen to me?
There are two reasons:
Pitch Wars Was My First Big Deadline
This round of revisions had been lackluster because I hadn’t revised a full manuscript before. I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it, where to start, and how to play with the story without ruining it. Pitch Wars made me take a long, hard look at the text and the story and put it all together by a particular date.
I’ve turned in a couple short stories, made soft deadlines and such before. Pitch Wars was the first time I had to do major rewrites with a hard deadline.
And that’s publishing folks. I hired an editor/sensitivity reader this month and the contract gives her a specific deadline to return the MS to me, just as I have a specific deadline to ask questions or submit materials to be read again.
When I am working with an agent, there will be deadlines. When I’m writing books for a publisher, there will be hard deadlines that I have to hit. Pitch Wars was easy practice–I may not have been selected but I made the deadline and I am now part of a fantastic writing community. I have new critique partners who I hope to build long-lasting friendships with. I can’t wait to see these books on the shelves and sing their praises to the world.
Pitch Wars Taught Me About Not Taking Rejection Personally
I didn’t get any requests for more materials so by the time the 24th rolled around, I was pretty sure I hadn’t been selected. But there was still the optimistic glimmer of hope so when the names were finally announced, my reaction to my first big rejection came in waves.
First, I was happy to see names of people I had read for earlier that month. And I was sad not to see a few other names besides my own.
For a few days I was a mix of angry and sad and I kept that off the Internet because I know those were reactionary emotions and not how I would feel once I processed the whole thing. I talked to my mom, there may have been tears and a large Dairy Queen blizzard involved. Have I mentioned on this blog that I have a therapy dog? She works for me, too, sometimes.
During this processing period, my self-esteem took a massive blow. I understood that fewer than 7% of hopefuls would be selected. I knew it was a longshot going in. But none of the five people I subbed to even wanted more materials.
That…that crushed me. That shook my confidence to the core and is the last bit of raw reaction to not making the list that I’m still coming to terms with.
This was the first time I had not left someone asking for more. And I may never know why.
At the same time, the release of the names felt like permission.
You have not been chosen. Go work on your manuscript.
I had set INNATE aside for almost a whole month and started outlining another story. In all that time, the plot and character arcs and whatnot from INNATE whirled around the part of my mind that takes the puzzle pieces and puts them together while I’m not looking.
But I couldn’t work on it because I was waiting to see if I’d gotten into Pitch Wars. Knowing I wasn’t going to work on it with a mentor for two months freed me to start the rewrites.
Yes, getting rejected sucks. Pitch Wars rejection may feel more personal because it’s a mentoring contest. You’re not trying to get an agent (that comes later), you’re looking for someone to help you and that’s a personal fit AND a story fit. Not getting into Pitch Wars can easily become a spiral of thoughts about how you were personally found wanting.
Did they read my blog and think I’m a jerk or boring? Did they put my query away because I complimented them on Twitter and came across as sucking up? Did they reject me because I didn’t reach out enough? Was my first chapter boring? Is it unfixable? Is the query horrible? Am I bad writer or a bad person?
And that’s just the warm up.
I got a response from a couple mentors but no feedback on my writing (yet). At least I know I typed my email address in correctly.
The thing is, I will likely get no feedback from agents when I start querying, either. That’s life. That’s publishing. And I can’t take it personally.
I. Can’t. Take. It. Personally.
I may never get feedback from the Pitch Wars mentors regarding my manuscript and none of them are obligated to give it, or connect with me on Twitter, or whatever. They have busy lives and a new writer to nurture. I will still read their books because they are amazing people and I loved their ideas and stories.Maybe I’ll sub to them again next year.
I cannot make assumptions about why I wasn’t chosen. I can only take a day or two to react, then pick myself up and keep working.
Because I’m awesome. And someday, my kind of awesome will fit with someone else’s kind of awesome.
Next year, I plan to query INNATE to agents. I’m aiming for 100 rejections in 2017.
Pitch Wars was just the beginning.