Last weekend I went to my local writer’s conference in Virginia Beach. The Hampton Roads Writers Conference is small, (at least I think it is, I’ve never actually been to a writer’s conference before,) but there was a ton of great ideas, insight, networking, and practice for writers of all types. It was a completely wonderful experience!
I wasn’t going to pitch to any of the publishing pros there but Michael, the awesome director of The Muse Writers Center here in Norfolk, encouraged me to go to the conference and at least practice pitching with the industry folks who were there.
“But I’m not done!” I wailed. “I have nothing to pitch!”
This is true. While I do have a complete manuscript, it’s a mess in a lot of ways. And since this is my first trip to this particular rodeo, I’m not sure what “completed” actually means in publication terms. Like, beginning, middle, and end? Polished? Grammatically correct? I’ve read a lot of published works that were total messes so I think, “Oh yea I’m better than that.” And then I read something so beautiful that I think, “I’ll never get my work to that level.” So yes. I don’t know what “done” really means, but I know I’m not there.
“You’ll never be done, Sarah.”
It was an off-hand comment, but he was totally and completely correct. I will never be done. I could spend the rest of my life rewriting just the first chapter and it’ll never be actually DONE. So with that wisdom in mind, I decided to just go for it. Worst case scenario, nobody likes it, I get a little practice pitching and I keep working on my novel and go back to my wonderful life. That sounded okay by me.
Well as luck would have it, both of the lovely people I pitched to were looking for YA fiction and were interested in my submission. So I put an extra polish on my first 50 pages, obsessively googled how to write a synopsis, author bio, and query letter, then let it go.
Upon the advice of some writer friends, I have decided to pitch to one agent or publisher at a time. This is to:
- Save on my sanity. I’m not sure I could think about more than one potentially life-changing email chain at a time.
- Give me more time to polish my work.
- Space out the rejection letters. I’m under no illusion that I’m ready to publish. Rejection letters are just stripes in the writer’s world, but it’ll still be a disappointment to get one.
So there we go. “Wonderful” is out in the world. It’ll probably change a million times before it hits a shelf, and I probably will too, but it’s all part of the process. It’s nerve-wracking to have someone look at something you care about so deeply and invested yourself in so heavily and judge it. So for those of you who are going through the submission/rejection/publication/editing process, I’m with you! Share your stories with me, and next time I pour a cup of coffee or a glass of wine I’ll send a well-wish your way.