Weird Pitch and Ugly

Last weekend I went to the Emerald City Writers Conference, a local one run by the Greater Seattle Romance Writers of America chapter (this is why I failed to post last week, which bums me out because I hadn’t missed a week since starting the blog). It was pretty good, though I had the weirdest pitch of my life. An editor from St. Martin’s Press seemed interested enough in Finding Frances but then when they called the end of the pitch, she said, “Whoop,” like there was nothing to be done. I guess she didn’t want it, but it was weird that she didn’t just tell me that. I met someone else who pitched the same editor and also had insufficient closure. We think maybe she was new to taking pitches or something. A couple days ago, I got another rejection on it for the last partial that was out. I don’t have any other queries out, so that one’s out of the running. I hit 219 rejections and I’m tired of it. Clearly it’s not good enough as it is now.

My real focus is on Ugly right now. I just now finished going through the latest draft to incorporate comments from three beta readers. And I’m ready to send it off to the editors and agents who asked for it. I’ve just got to write up the five query letters, which I’ll do in the next couple days. So I’ll get that one out into the world soon.

Of course my other focus is on the MFA. I’m about to finish the third month. I already got feedback on the end of my novelette Little Monsters, a story about the girl in “Now Would Be Good” when she was thirteen. My faculty mentor says that the plot and storyline work very well. But she wants more character development, more internal thoughts (which ties into character development), and for Sarah’s relationships with two of the secondary characters to be fleshed out more. It’s already 12,000 words and she thinks it needs to be longer… sigh. I am not good at the short form. I do have another short story that is 4000 words to share in one of my classes (that is the max acceptable length). Of course, this is a modified version of what will be the real story, which will be much longer because it will start three months before the current version starts.

I did find out that I’m going to be able to do an independent study on ten-minute plays next semester. I have to read and analyze fifteen plays over the first three months and then write one of my own for the last month. I’m looking forward to that because I think it will be fun. Not that I’m going to become a playwright or anything, but it will be a good exercise in both the short form and dialogue.

Mitigated Rejection

So, a couple weeks ago I had full manuscripts (Finding Frances) out with two agents and one editor. I got a rejection back from one of the agents last week. It was a no. However, she was nice enough to give me a lot of feedback, which is the first time any agent has done this. And she read the whole thing (!). She said she enjoyed the book quite a lot and was very complimentary of my writing ability. She pointed out a few specific weak areas of the book, which was really helpful because some of them are things no one else has noticed before. She also said she was sure I have a future as a writer and didn’t even recommend craft books or classes—instead she reminded me that it’s a subjective business and pointed me to the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents Blog. This is all nice, because a month or so ago, I was feeling like giving up. It’s a hard business and you need pretty thick skin. The weird thing is that I’m not thick skinned at all, but I have sort of developed it in the writing world. Critique groups are good training for this. Sharing something you’ve written is a really personal thing.

The Art of Character book coverAnother nice thing that happened that same day is that one of my former writing instructors offered to do a critique of a chapter or story of mine, all because I recommended a book on character that he ended up using in his summer writing class. It’s really popular with his students and he felt like he owed me a favor. I’m not sure he does, but I’ll probably take him up on that. I’ve got a short story I’m working on, which I may post here eventually. If you’re curious, the book is The Art of Character: Creating Memorable Characters for Fiction, Film, and TV by David Corbett.

Then, I emailed the original agent back to thank her, and she responded that she’d be willing to take another look if I address the issues she raised. So that is very awesome.

At this point, I still have my fingers crossed because Finding Frances is also still out with another agent and an editor, so there’s plenty of hope. And of course, even more promising is having the list of recommended changes from the original agent to work on. I was planning to only address them when I’ve heard back from the others, but now I’m thinking I should go ahead and make the changes. Either way, I should be hearing from the editor soon, but don’t know about the other agent.