Hello Rad/Dom readers/my mom (same thing). Today I have a guest blog post from a really awesome dude I met via the Pitch Wars contest online. Michael Mammay is the author of PLANETSIDE & he helped me (and also kicked my ass!!) so much with my manuscript that I might have to name a character after him (maybe a Skinwalker honestly, sorry Mike.)
He’s a fantastic writer, an amazing source of advice and a real pro at giving writing critiques. Today he’s sharing the story of how he had to trunk, as in possibly put away forever, his first novel. Hope you enjoy it and be sure to follow Michael on Twitter!
I wrote a bad book. I didn’t know it at the time. In fact, I thought it was good. People I knew liked it. I sent it out into the world as a query, and agents seemed interested. I got several requests in just a few weeks. Each of those requests turned into a rejection, and at the same time I entered a contest called Pitch Wars. It’s hosted by Brenda Drake every year, and it gets bigger and bigger. It’s one of, if not the, biggest and best author led contests each year. Then something happened. I realized I wasn’t going to get selected. I knew at least a week before they announced the results.
You see, I started interacting with more experienced authors, and as they read samples of my work they started to give me feedback. Honest feedback. Really painful feedback. They pointed out some things in my writing, and when they highlighted it a light came on for me. Suddenly I knew that I had a lot to learn. My book was okay. It had good characters, good dialogue, and some good action scenes. But I used weak, passive verbs. I told too much when I should have been showing. My writing didn’t bounce off the page; it just kind of sat there.
I met a lot of writers at that contest, several of whom are still my critique partners today. We started trading pages and learning from each other. One of my critique partners, Colleen Halverson, read my entire book and tore it apart. It really hurt. She went through it, chapter by chapter and pointed out mistake after mistake. It got to where I didn’t even want to open her email on the next chapter. But here’s the thing: It was all correct. Colleen is brilliant, and all she did was point out what every skilled writer and agent could already see. Her first book is due out from Entangled in February, and it’s awesome. Feel free to visit her website and follow her journey here: http://colleenhalverson.com/
I’m not going to lie. After I got that tough feedback, I quit writing for several weeks. I had a ton of work I needed to do on my book just to fix the writing, and that didn’t even address the plot structure problems. After a year of writing and revising, I just didn’t have the energy to work on it. Did I really want to put another three or four months into totally revamping a book I’d been reading every day for a year? I didn’t. So I didn’t do anything.
Then a funny thing happened. I remembered that I love to write. All the querying and revising and feedback made me forget that for a short time. I had an idea that I’d been storing in my brain, and one day I just sat down and started. I applied everything I learned from my first book, and I found a voice that worked. Eighty days later I had the first draft of PLANETSIDE. Is it better than my first book? I think so. It got into Pitch Wars, the same contest my previous book didn’t get into. And the person who selected it for Pitch Wars was the same mentor who I submitted to the previous year. The same mentor who rejected my previous book. Clearly he liked it better.
After some revision as part of the contest, I’m currently seeking representation for that book. Hopefully that will work out, but if it doesn’t, I’ll set this one aside too, and write something better. Perhaps I’ll go back to that first manuscript one day, when I’ve learned enough to do it justice. Or perhaps I’ll write one of the other ideas bouncing around my head. All I know for sure is that I’ll be starting soon.