It was June 2013. I had been writing my novel (which had blossomed by then into 3 novels) since August 2010. And I was left with the feeling, what now?
Random clicks and links brought me to the Algonkian Writer’s Pitch Conference in New York, that September.
Sounded perfect. I signed up and worked diligently that summer to get the novel into shape. By that time, I had renamed it: The Sound of her Heart. As much as I liked the previous title (Designed to Last), I felt it didn’t connect to what the story was about. I reserve the right to use it for another story though.
So, I showed up at the conference with confidence, but I soon dissolved into a pool of nerves. By this time I had let several friends read the novel, but the idea of talking to strangers about it, had me sick to my stomach. I also learned very quickly I was terrible at pitching. Even reading from my own pitch, I could feel myself shaking. I had to lean over to the person next to me, and ask, “Could you hear the trembling in my voice?”
The person said no, but honestly I didn’t believe her.
The workshop group I was assigned to was filled with very nice people with extremely interesting stories. As an avid reader, there probably wasn’t a book idea there that I wouldn’t have wanted to read myself. But I was the only “romance” in the group. All I could think was: Who would want a romance with all these really interesting, hard-hitting and serious stories? That’s what I was up against.
The second day, I was scheduled to pitch to 2 editors. The first, (Publisher’s name withheld- honestly because I think my agent is pitching to the same woman right now!) looked at me like she smelled something bad as she criticized my premise. Even my workshop leader had doubts that my story would work as written. And my concept of only using pronouns for my lead characters was called an “unnecessary deceit”.
My poor pitch sound flat and boring compared to the others. I had a boring title, no names to grab anyone’s attention and I probably sounded like I was on the verge of a heart attack. AND I was told it was too long. 135,000 words needed to be closer to 85,000. Great.
After lunch, was the “romance” editor. This was my chance. No one else had a romance. She had to ask me for pages. How bad would it be if she didn’t?
But after the St. Martin’s Press woman, I was a wreck. I did what I usually did in the face of fear. I fled. I stepped on the elevator and hit the button to the lobby. A voice came over me, though. This is always what you do. And so I jumped out of the elevator.
I made a feeble attempt to re-work my pitch during the lunch break. But I couldn’t make it work and I was a hot mess. I did end up leaving before the pitch, but I felt better about it. I would rather have done no pitch than have a romance editor out there with a bad impression of me.
Turned out, the workshop leader had emailed me that night and gave me the editor’s information and said I could send her my pitch and a small writing sample. I sent it but heard nothing for months. I followed up in January and was told she hadn’t read it yet. It was one page. Who doesn’t have time for one page? Several months later, I finally got this rejection. “Sounds fun! But it’s not right for our list.” So fun is bad? Okay.
But I did get something valuable out of that conference. Even though my friends who had read it, liked the story, I recognized my novel had some massive flaws.
A week after the conference, I began re-writing.
To be continued.