A few weeks (and couple of posts) ago, I was bemoaning the overabundance of form rejections in my little world because… how is anyone supposed to fix anything if they no longer have a clue HOW to fix it? Especially since we’re not talking about a rushed first or even second draft. No, no: At the time of that posting, my novel was on its seventh draft, having already undergone multiple revisions and benefited from the invaluable feedback from several kind and super smart beta readers. So… Those form rejections? They were telling me squat. It was starting to make me really cranky. And depressed. And despondent.
Well, not a full week since I’d hit that self-pitying rock-bottom, I stumbled across PitchWars, a critique contest for polished manuscripts run by the fabulous Brenda Drake (for more on what the contest is all about, click here). Not really expecting much, I re-polished my query letter, proof-read my first five pages for typos, and decided to enter. The odds were a little daunting: Of almost 700 entries, only 40+ would be picked to go on to the next leg of the contest. So I wasn’t precisely holding my breath. And just as well, because I did not get picked.
But, guess what? It didn’t matter. Because, of the four mentors I’d submitted my query and first pages to, three sent back personalized responses: Short, concise reasons why they’d passed on my submission. Now, participating mentors were NOT required to do this. I was just lucky enough to pick these awesome people who took time out from their own writing to send short, personalized responses to each of the 80+ entries each of them received. And I cannot begin to say how incredibly AWESOME that is. The perspective that brought was just priceless and it made me realize that, yes, there’s some stuff really working in my query and first pages. And some stuff that still needed work…. But after getting those personalized notes I at last KNEW what the heck to tackle! And I cannot begin to describe what a difference that has made.
Within a week of receiving my responses, I was editing to beat hell, finally (FINALLY!) having a clue what to fix. The “how to fix it” part took a bit longer and a lot of mulling through the holiday season, but I sussed it out and I think my opening pages are a lot stronger now for it.
I guess sometimes all you need is a little outside perspective. I know it has made a world of difference for me and I’m truly indebted to these three amazing people who took the time to help me, a complete stranger.
Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean no more form rejections. I know that. What it does mean is that the book I’ll be submitting now will be a much better version than the one I started submitting a few months ago. At the very least, I feel a lot more confident about it! And that also counts for a lot.