Everything Counts

Posted: March 10, 2016 in Writing
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Everything Counts

It’s the Little Things that matter. And the Big Things, of course. And pretty much Everything In Between. It all matters when you’re starving for validation on a path where you feel like a noob most of the time: writing your first novel.

Of course you want the obvious praise – “That scene made me laugh.” “I can’t wait for the sequel.” Or from the ten-year-old daughter of a co-worker: “Yours is my second favorite book.” But are those Big Things or Little Things, or somewhere in the middle? It warms my heart to no end to know an avid reader who falls smack in the middle of our target audience can only think of one book – one published book – that she likes better than ours. It certainly feels like a Big Thing.

But that ten-year-old girl is not a publisher, or an editor, or an agent, or even a parent with a credit card. I can’t put her quote on the dust jacket or on my resumé. Same with my critique partner who really gets our book and tells everybody they should read it. Tastes great. Less filling.

Personal responses from agents whom you have queried are better. Because most agents don’t bother to give personal responses, and if they did so it is because you moved them. Maybe not enough to get them to sign you as a client … but you made an impression. Rejections are never fun, but these are often better for your ego (if you can view them this way), because here you have truly risen above the multitudes of other manuscripts that agent had to wade through and pass on with a form rejection to get to yours. But these still aren’t the Big Things.

This is why I keep entering our book into contests and tweeting our pitch during pitch parties with hundreds of other eager, fresh writers, many of whom are much better at it than we are. Because, honestly, I never expect to win. And there is heartbreak lurking right there beside the Egress. Because, unlike the slush pile, in contests you can see the other authors who are sitting with you in the waiting room, clutching their little numbers and waiting to be called. In the slush, there’s no opportunity to judge your competition. In contests, you get to see what was picked instead of yours.

And this is why those of us in these contests stalk the Twitter feeds and hang on every maliciously vague hint the judges tweet out in the days and weeks of these contests – because we are starving for the Tiniest Things – those minuscule hints that one of the judges really liked some random MG Fantasy, because it just might be ours.

Because those are actually Big Things, if you can catch one and keep it. With an agent, you are trying to impress one person. Sure, you have to stand out from an enormous crowd. But you only have to impress one person. And if you fail with one agent, you send it off to the next one. With these contests, though, you often only get chosen if a whole team of people agrees yours is the best. You know the saying about committees. So when you get praise from a team – even praise written in code that only might be about you – it is a Big Thing.

You also know that if you weren’t chosen, it may be only because four people didn’t unanimously choose yours, but only three of them did. And that’s pretty big, too. That’s the shield you use to fend off the heartbreak waiting to grab you when contest leaves you behind.

All of these things add up. They all, cumulatively, count. Because one of the key ingredients to a career in writing is the juice that keeps you energized, focused, and confident that you know what you are doing. And these tiny, rare reactions from contests can yield the most potent elixir for boosting your confidence. Not to mention all the free advise and best practices you pick up in the Twitter feeds.

2016 Pitch Contest Calender


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