Monday, August 29, 2016

When Things Don't Go Your Way

A few days ago my Twitter feed lit up with all kinds of Pitch Wars excitement when the names of the mentees for this round were announced. There were hundreds of congratulatory tweets, dozens of celebratory gifs, and all kinds of people expressing supportive happiness.

There was a flip side to all of these virtual high-fives, however. Many people who submitted their work to the contest weren’t chosen by a mentor.

If you’ve been writing long enough, you’ve had rejection or disappointment smack you in the head a number of times. There’s just no way around this. It’s happened to all of us. We know reaching our writing goals is a long process and involves a lot of hard work. We’re all familiar with the backstories of the bajillionaire authors who struggled mightily when they were getting started. Knowing this doesn’t make the rejection sting any less though, especially when the struggle is a part of daily writing life.

Putting a lot of hope into a contest and not having it pan out isn’t fun. I don’t make a habit out of buying lottery tickets, but when the jackpot gets up into stratospheric dollar amounts, I figure, eh, why not? I know I’m not going to win…probably…but I’m still a tiny bit disappointed when my numbers don’t come up, even though all I lost was maybe a few bucks. Something like Pitch Wars, or any of the other contests out there, are great opportunities, but that’s all they are. Opportunities. Chances. Nice chances to be sure, wonderful chances, but not guarantees of anything else ever happening as a result. Contests are only one way for writers to get that first foot in the door. After all, how many book deals had been made, or query letters answered, or conference pitches nervously delivered before Twitter had even been thought up? I don’t mind saying that some of my earliest attempts at queries were done on paper for crying out loud, with envelopes and stamps and everything. Taking a long time to make any kind of progress in writing is much more the rule than the exception.

So why do we continue trying? Why enter the contests, or write the queries, or make the pitches when they don’t lead to anything, and a lot of the time it feels like they never will? Why even bother writing when the odds are stacked so high against you?

Because your other choice is to not do these things. To put aside the hopes and dreams and just write for kicks, or not write at all anymore. I’m guessing for most of us that really isn't much of an option.

If you didn’t make the Pitch Wars cut this time, think about why that could be. Look for a way to grow and improve from this setback. Hopefully you got some kind of feedback, but if you didn’t, look for people you trust to give you some, or give yourself enough time away from your manuscript so you can come back at it with fresh eyes. Maybe try another contest, or go back to the query trenches. It could also be that the best move is to give the manuscript a rest and try working on something new.

You may not have reached the goal you were hoping for this time, but you didn’t really lose anything, either. This was just one opportunity. Others are definitely on the way. Just be sure you’re ready for them when they cross your path.

8 comments:

  1. Dropping out just means there's no chance. I don't like having no chance, so I guess that's why I don't stop trying to write and gain readership.

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  2. Exactly. There's always a chance if you try. There are always going to be times things like Pitch Wars work out and times they don't, but there are always things to learn from the process.

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  3. Great post, Tom. I didn't do Pitch Wars before getting representation, but I think it is a wonderful opportunity and accompaniment to traditional querying, anything that ups your odds is a good thing!

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    1. Thanks, Wendy. I think contests like Pitch Wars are great examples of how encouraging and supportive the writing community is.

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  4. Good, motivating post. I don't do Pitch Wars, but I like the whole attitude of not dropping out (of whatever you are hoping for) and the advice to keep trying.

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    1. Thank you! It's all about the trying, isn't it? The more you try, the more mistakes you have the chance to make, and consequently the more you grow.

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  5. The lottery analogy is appropriate, except that creative people need to find satisfaction in the process, not just the results.
    The motto is "I tried."

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    1. I agree. I'd tweak the analogy some by saying, "Wow, even if I don't win, I chose some great numbers!"

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