There’s no better feeling than typing the words “The End” on the last page of your first completed manuscript! But, after the elation wears off other feelings begin to crop up.
I remember feeling accomplished but also overwhelmed and a little sad. Most of all I was confused.
Like so many writers I had dozens of half completed projects. Ideas that translated to a couple of chapters but for one reason or another, I didn’t see through to the end. So, when I completed One S’more Summer I wasn’t really sure what to do with it. I passed it around to some friends who shared feedback but mostly were just proud of my efforts. I showed it to family who sang its praises (which, of course they would) but didn’t have many critiques. What I was looking for was more constructive feedback and sound advice.
Living in New York City, I figured there were probably some workshops or writing groups I could join. I began Googling and ended up on a website for authors looking to get their works published. I read through posts and noticed a lot of writers talking about “Pitch Conferences” where an aspiring author could learn how to write a query letter (essentially an elevator pitch of the book) and would then be given the opportunity to share that pitch with different agents and publishers for critiques. It sounded perfect!
I did some research and found a respected conference taking place in New York a few months later. I signed up and began working on my pitch. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the experience, but it turned out to be exactly what One S’more Summer and I needed to get to the next level.
For two days, I worked with other aspiring authors to perfect my query letter. We collaborated to find comparable titles in the marketplace and the right tone for my pitch. It was the first time since college I’d sat around with other writers talking about the mechanics of writing and the first time I’d ever gotten a chance to talk to more experienced authors about their experiences in publishing.
On the third day, I presented my query letter to three agents and two editors from publishing houses. I got four requests for my full manuscript (letting me know for certain the book idea was both enticing and marketable, which was exciting), however, in the end, all four rejected the book. Although I was disappointed at the time, looking back they were 100% right to turn the book down. It needed a lot of work! The good thing was that all four provided me with great and consistent feedback I was able to apply to my second and third drafts. And by the time I submitted One S’more Summer for real (three years later), it was a very different version!
Putting my story out there for critique was scary, but it was absolutely the best decision I made. My pitch group stayed in touch long after the conference ended, emailing each other status updates on our books and progress. Every time one of them emailed that they got a publishing contract or signed with an agent it propelled me to work harder.
As a writer sometimes it’s hard to have perspective on your own work. so I would recommend joining a writing group or taking a class–doing anything that forces you to reexamine your work and make it better. Attending a pitch conference gave me the confidence to know I had a story idea worth championing (which was great), but more importantly, it taught me that simply typing the words “The End” didn’t mean my book was anywhere near complete.