17 September 2014

Book Realizations, Part One

I apologize if this comes off as whiny. I'm going to do my best to have it not do so.

I absolutely, completely, 100% regret submitting to PitchWars. I wish I hadn't done it. It's not because I didn't get picked--there was roughly a 10% chance of getting picked, so I was hopeful, but not delusional. I don't think my book is so fantastic that anyone who read it would jump at the chance to pick me. But I also didn't think it was so horrible that everyone would hate it.

Here's what they don't tell you: after the choices are announced, some mentors send out rejection emails explaining WHY they didn't pick you. Depending on the reasons, obviously, this could actually be useful, but it also depends on how the mentor goes about it. I've come to realize that some of the mentors understand that everything is subjective, that maybe a certain book just wasn't for them. Others, though, I honestly believe are way too full of themselves and frankly, just plain mean. (Judging by a lot of Twitter nonsense, the whole full of themselves thing goes for potential mentees as well--but that's a whole other rant in itself.)

I don't want to get too much into it because what I really want to talk about is the realizations about my own book this process has led me to, but I'll tell you this: I got two personalized rejection emails, one of which was slightly constructive, the other I couldn't get past the first two seconds before I burst into tears. I never read the whole thing and I'm not going to. It's already deleted and long gone. I could honestly tell by the first two sentences that there wasn't anything useful in there, and reading the whole thing was just going to put me in a worse place than I already was.

But anyway, the general consensus was that nobody liked my book, hated it even. They didn't like my narrator. Yes, that's right. Nobody likes Jordan. He doesn't care, of course, but I do! I was more confused than anything else. People always seem to like him when I have him write on my blog, and when I first sent out my chapters for people to read, I got some positive feedback. But one of the mentors I sent to said he was "shallow and unlikable," and that made her not care about what was going to happen to him for the rest of the book.

Now, obviously everything IS subjective. Not everyone is going to like every book, or every character. Maybe my writing style just didn't appeal to this particular mentor (she did actually talk about the subjective thing, so it's understandable). But I honestly felt like I was missing something. Was I completely delusional in thinking my book was any good at all? Do I have to start from scratch or should I just scrap the whole thing?

After several days of "woe is me" thinking, and a good discussion with a fellow writer (who has also read my book), I know I don't want to scrap it. Yes, not everyone is going to like my book. Honestly, that would be a little weird. But I feel like it can be very frustrating for a writer when the world is telling you your only options are to completely change your book or give up on it altogether. And I've worked way too hard on this book to do either of those things.

I think what I really need to do is turn this book into the book I want it to be, the one I've always dreamed it would be. And then I'll hopefully find an agent who gets it--who isn't turned off by the narrator or the subject matter. And I just need to not worry about everyone who says no in between.

Look at that, I've rambled and rambled and didn't even tell you half of what I wanted to. Well, I guess I'll be back on Friday to wrap things up--and I'll actually tell you some of the changes I'm planning on making.


  1. I tell ya, some people in things such as Pitch Wars seem to think that gives them the right to be outright nasty. I'm not saying everyone is like that, but some for sure take it as a green light to hurl abuse at a writer who has worked hard.

    Don't sweat it. Send it out to more people, get more feedback and re-assess. You'll get your story where you want it to be - don't give up!

  2. As I was reading your post, I kept thinking, "Don't scrap it!!! Don't do that." When I got to the point where you said you wouldn't, I was so relieved! As you yourself realized. these are the opinions of two people. Just two. In no way do they constitute the reading public.

    It's so hard when we get feedback that a character is unlikable. I got that from an editor and an agent (separately), so even though they didn't really give me much constructive ideas to fix the issue, I knew I had to pay attention. And I realized that the reason my MC was coming off as unsympathetic was purely because I'd overwritten her. There was just WAY TOO MUCH internal struggle on the pages. I cut a ton of it out, and it's much better now.

    So I'd say take some space from this crappy experience, and when you can, come back to your novel and try to see why these people might have felt the way they did. There might be valuable feedback hidden inside there....and there might not, but it's worth a look.

  3. It totally sucks when you get feedback that makes you questions your validity as an author, but despite some people's lack of professionalism, every negative statement can also help. If people thought Jordan was shallow, perhaps it was just because they didn't get to see into his heart like you do, and now the challenge is to open up the bits you love so much about him for the rest of the world to see.

    Don't be discouraged. I know it stinks, but you're going to come through this and the sun will be shining, and there will be cheese, and people will pat you on the back and laugh about how you ever debated the story's worth.

  4. Sorry this happened, Sarah! But it sounds like you let yourself be down for awhile(sometimes we need that) and then picked yourself back up. So go you! You'll get your book where you want it. I have faith. *fist bump*

  5. It really sucks when that happens. I got a lot of constructive feedback from the judges when I did Query Kombat, but there were one or two where I thought, "Wow, did you really need to say it that way?" They were just jerks. I think they forgot what it was like to just start out, and it's a shame.

    Now, anecdote. Terri Bruce's Hereafter. I read the first edition, and I was tweeting her as I read it about how I couldn't STAND her main character Irene. She's just an unlikeable person, but her experience kept me reading, and I loved her supporting character Jonah, and by the end of the book, I loved Irene. People forget that maybe, JUST MAYBE, there's this thing called a character arc, and PERHAPS you're not SUPPOSED to like the main character right off the bat. They could be a totally different person by the end of the book, and you were supposed to grow to like the main character while reading.

    But, again, that's just maybe. ;)

  6. Some mentors shouldn't be. I've experienced that with a bimbo who didn't want to mentor but wanted to get back to her own book. I complained to the organization (a national writing group) and was reassigned to a great mentor who was fantastic. Too bad some people are 'too full of themselves'. Egos do abound in all professions.

  7. That really sucks about the feedback and how cruel it was. I'm going to start off with saying I'm glad you're not going to scrap your story. I sympathize with you, especially with the part about them hating Jordan. When I finished my first draft of Thanmir War, I handed it over to my sis-in-law's friend, someone who is very honest, and wasn't close enough to me to know me personally. She got back to me, had a sit-down, and the first words out of her mouth were, "I don't like Derek." She explained he was shallow, a jerk, and his relationship was based solely on lust. She had said it with apology in her voice, and went on to talk about other facets she didn't like.

    Derek didn't change, but the parts of him I showed did. I added a scene toward the beginning, my Save-The-Cat scene. It showed he cared about children, and through that, it helped my beta reader care about him. If you've seen Guardians of the Galaxy, it's the heartbreaking scene at the very start with Peter and his mother. If you don't have one of those scenes, try playing with one. It might help people like him more, without changing who he is.

  8. want a constructive 1st chapter crit? i am curious why so many were put off by it - it cant be all that bad! something seems very off for that pitch wars... email me and let me know - and i'm glad you have the right attitude, that you just need to find the right fit because we cant please everyone!

  9. Sometimes it's best to ignore the reasoning given for rejecting a book or even rejecting the writer. It really does help to develop a strong jaw and serious select adjective that begins with f attitude when it comes to writing.

    Yes, not everyone is going to like your book (I wrote an erotic fantasy that various people have labeled as porn over the years), but it does not mean that you should take whatever is said about it to heart.

    Father Nature's Corner