A week before I was headed for the writing conference, I started doubting myself. My thought trail went like this:
- Is my writing good?
- Am I ready for this conference?
- My writing is really bad.
- Definitely not ready.
- I NEED TO CANCEL MY REGISTRATION FOR THE CONFERENCE!
- There’s no way I’m going to get all my money back if I cancel the week before, so I might as well just go and see what God does.
Let me tell you, friends, this conference was worth every penny.
The first day, I woke up early and registered for an appointment to pitch to my preferred agent. I wanted to work with him so badly that I went to this conference just so that I could meet him. I had spent the past 5-6 weeks reading everything I could on him and watching all his videos so that I would know exactly how to pitch my books to him. My plan was to pitch a Christian young adult contemporary romance novel and a Christian dystopian novel for adults.
After meeting another conferee who encouraged me in my writing journey, I walked in to my first class and, determined to be positive, gave everyone a huge smile. I recognized a woman in the front row as one of the former submissions readers for the agent I wanted to pitch.
I ran into her later in the day and told her that I thought her online videos were super fun. She introduced herself to me and said that before the conference started she was praying to God for Him to reveal someone to her that she needed to encourage. She knew when she saw me that I was that person.
It meant a lot to me because I still felt nervous and overwhelmed about the conference. The woman was super helpful when I told her that I had an appointment to pitch with the agent she used to work with and helped me refine my pitch for him. I felt it was obvious, then, that it was meant to be that I would get a contract from him eventually since God wanted her to encourage me.
HAHA– I was wrong.
I went to the pitch session, and he told me that I was a good writer, but that my manuscripts were caught between markets, so neither would sell. Basically, what he meant was that my books had a mix of elements geared for both the Christian and general markets, so it wouldn’t work for either. I had to pick one.
I was thus rejected and consequently crushed. Those of you who know me well know that I’m an emotional person (INFJ). It’s both a blessing and a curse to feel things deeply, but that night it was a curse.
I felt stupid for the mistake I made in my manuscripts. When I went to the worship portion of the night, I began crying. In the flight portion of the fight-or-flight mode, I walked out of the auditorium. I just couldn’t be there any longer.
I know I overreacted, but it is heartbreaking when you have spent MANY, MANY hours working on your manuscript only to be told that your story idea won’t sell. Plus, writing is incredibly personal, so you feel almost like someone rejected your innermost self.
After that, I went to meet one of my friends from college who lives nearby, and it felt good to get everything off my chest. Shout out to Dave for listening to me, encouraging me, and being a high-caliber human being. When I got back to the dorm, a few women told me they had seen me crying and encouraged me to persevere in my writing. It meant a lot to me.
However, the next morning I woke up feeling downtrodden. I didn’t want to go to any of the sessions. I had scheduled an appointment with an editor that the agent I spoke to the day before recommended I talk to, but I wasn’t hopeful much would come of it. She is an editor mostly for speculative fiction so I wanted to see if she could give me direction on my dystopian novel.
I told her the premise, and she agreed with the agent that it had elements suited for both the Christian and general markets and therefore couldn’t work for either. She asked if she could read the first few pages, so I gave it to her. I was ready for her to start criticizing it, but then the best thing happened.
She started laughing. And she kept laughing again and again as she continued reading. It was a HUGE confidence booster for me. My novel has elements of comedy/satire, and it meant a lot to me that she got my sense of humor. She told me that she thought my writing was funny and the main character quirky.
I’ve had people in my life think my sense of humor too offbeat and/or not understand it, but this editor got me. She not only appreciated my humor but also understood the message I was trying to convey. She helped me brainstorm how I could rework it for the general market, and then she gave me her contact information and told me that she’d love to see it once I reworked it.
I was super encouraged. An editor said she’d love to see my story!
In the last session of the night, the director of the conference announced that there were a few manuscript critiques waiting to be picked up in the hallway. (A few weeks prior to the conference, we had the option to send in the first chapter of a manuscript for a faculty member to critique, so I sent in my young adult contemporary romance.) For some reason, I thought I was going to get my critique sent to my email. So, I hadn’t picked mine up yet. I went over to the table and saw it there. When I picked it up, my first thought was “It’s probably not going to be a good critique.” I flipped to the critique page and looked for the name of the faculty member who had critiqued it. It was the editor I had talked to earlier that day who was interested in my other book. Even better, she left me a great critique. At the bottom of the critique, she wrote that she would like to see my book proposal and full manuscript.
I was in shock!!!! For those of you who are wondering, let me explain why she liked it more than the other agent. The elements that he didn’t like were added in after I sent in my critique. So, she read a different version than he did. Also, if you’re curious what those elements were– I wanted to have my main character post a provocative photo online (something a lot of teenage girls seem to do these days.) However, the agent told me that including that in my story–though it wasn’t graphic–it was only mentioned– is too “edgy” for the Christian market. Anyway, I have since decided to rework my story a lot, which includes cutting those edgy elements but also writing it for the general market.
So, I was beyond thrilled with my critique. Usually the best a writer can hope will come from a writers’ conference is to have an agent/editor ask for the proposal and the first three chapters, but she wanted my whole manuscript.
I plan to send it in by the end of the year. I will be looking for people to read/edit it in hopefully 2-3 months. If you are interested in helping, please let me know. Also, just because she wants my full manuscript doesn’t mean I will be published. It means she is seriously interested in my book, but her publications team could still reject it. So, pressure on!
More importantly, I learned a huge lesson in all of this– GOD WANTS ME TO TRUST HIM. HE WANTS ME NOT TO BE AFRAID.
I should’ve trusted God the first day I was there when I had a woman tell me that she felt God laid it on her heart to tell me to be encouraged.
I should’ve trusted Him because I know He is faithful.
But I didn’t. I wasn’t happy in the waiting.
When I found out the next day that an editor was interested in my writing, I rejoiced. Then, I was happy in God. I was happy that He did something good for me.
I hope to learn more to trust Him in the journey. Any helpful thoughts on doing this, let me know.
Thank you to everyone who texted me and prayed for me before I went to the conference. It meant a lot to me.