I intended my next blog post to be a more detailed account of my trip to Ireland, and for it to follow soon after the last one. As ever when I try and plan blog posts, that didn’t happen. The last few days have been overwhelmingly hot, and I couldn’t face being on my computer long enough to transfer all my pictures, so I decided I would blog from my phone about Pitch Wars instead, and about my writing plans for the rest of 2016. The WordPress app, however, decided this was not to be, and refused multiple times to upload the post, even as a draft. I ended up emailing it to myself so that I could post it from the computer, which meant I ended up in my swelteringly hot room again. So that went well.
Pitch Wars, then. I mentioned this in my last post and explained the basics of the competition, and yesterday the mentees were announced.
I didn’t get picked.
I’m disappointed, but not devastated. While it would have been an awesome opportunity to improve my writing and make more writing friends — not to mention the improved chances of finding an agent — I can’t deny that the timing for it wasn’t great. As I prepare to return to uni after seven months away, I can see that a major commitment like this might have been one thing more than I could cope with.
I can’t help but wonder what put them off, though. I didn’t get any requests for either fulls or partials. Nobody even asked for a synopsis (which is just as well; I suck at writing them). That means this decision was based on a fairly small sample of my writing, and I find myself over analysing it to figure out where I went wrong.
I would have said it was a bad query, but although I’m not wildly experienced with them I don’t think it was. I had feedback and advice from several friends with more experience than me, including one involved with the mentor side of Pitch Wars. I polished and rewrote it a dozen times until I didn’t feel able to improve it. So while it probably wasn’t the greatest query on Earth, I’m reasonably confident that it was okay. Maybe even good. That rules out that factor.
Then there’s the first chapter. Maybe it was that. I think it’s reasonably exciting: the book opens with murder, and then the murderer’s first day at a new school, a juxtaposition I hoped would intrigue people. I edited it copiously, and I already felt it was a vast improvement on my previous drafts. But maybe it wasn’t to their taste. Maybe the murderer-as-protagonist thing put them off. Maybe my writing style didn’t suit them. It could have been any of those things.
I wouldn’t mind that. I’d be fine with being rejected based on a full, too. What worries me is that maybe it isn’t me. Maybe the book is too long — at 102,000 words, it’s 10k longer than the first draft, and really pushing those upper limits for length for a YA debut. Or maybe this genre just isn’t selling at the moment.
Even though it wouldn’t be my fault at all if I’d picked a bad time to try and publish a psychological thriller about a teenage assassin, it would be harder for me to deal with than if I was the problem. I can rewrite the book, but I can’t change the market. I’m worried that the complete lack of interest is a sign of what will happen if I take a more traditional path to querying, too, which is what I plan to do later this year.
Weirdly, it’s more comforting to think that my writing wasn’t good enough, because at least that’s somewhat within my control.
I don’t want to sound like I’m expressing dissatisfaction with the Pitch Wars mentors. I’m sure there are many, many great writers who got picked, and I don’t envy the mentors having to choose between them. No doubt every mentee was well deserved, and I wish them all the best. Moreover, at this stage in my life it’s probably better that I wasn’t picked just because of the timing.
I’m simply more concerned that I had no requests at all than by the fact it didn’t progress further, because it means I have absolutely no idea what put them off. (And I think even the mentors kind enough to give feedback only do it for those they read before rejecting, rather than the unsuccessful queries.)
What do I do now? Where do I start? Is now the time to put the fiction aside and pay attention to my dissertation? (Probably.)
I’ll start with nagging my other beta readers to give me feedback on this draft, as most of them haven’t read it since the previous version. Based on what they think, I’ll potentially do some more editing, although I don’t think I’ll be making any more major plot changes, just improving the actual writing. In the meantime, I’ll be focusing on my uni work, with an eye to trying to complete a chilled-out NaNoWriMo with another idea I have in mind.
And all going according to plan, I’ll query this book the traditional way over the Christmas break. After all, I have a polished query now, and some agents in mind. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get somewhere. At the very least, maybe I’ll find out why I haven’t managed it so far.
So, that’s the plan. To all those who did get through to the next round of Pitch Wars, congratulations, and good luck with all the editing! And for those who didn’t, feel free to contact me for sympathy and if you need a writing buddy.
If you write, what are your plans for the rest of this year? Any NaNoWriMo ideas in the pot?