BIRB – Self-edit and CP Edit

The changes were fairly minimal on both parts, so I’m posting the combined version. My CP suggested making the end a little clearer to show he wasn’t on the boat yet, and I tidied up some word choice to remove repetition and make things clearer.

Six months and it was over. The boat – or was it a ship? Jake would know – bobbed on the waves, still a few miles out. The clues were all there, from the sudden cold snap to the growing ice that sparkled on the dark blue water. A few more weeks and whether it was a boat or a ship, it wouldn’t get through.

He turned away from the cliff, back to the little research shack. The frost crunched beneath his boots, the sound mixing with the chatter of the sea birds. They fluttered around him, squawking. The birds didn’t know enough to be frightened of humans, didn’t worry about social niceties.

The birds would look him in the eye at least. 

The door to the shack stuck, warped by the temperature extremes and the occasional bouts of rage that still hit Caleb. He’d tried therapy. Tried drugs, of both kinds. Even six months in the arctic couldn’t quell them entirely.

He’d been better out here, though.

Not just the clean air and the solitude. There were no reminders here, nothing to snag his memories on and drag him screaming back around into a face full of grief. No vodka. No blank Citroens. No crossings wailing their electric song at someone who would never move again.

Just the birds and the wind and the empty sky.

He stepped into the building, warm and dry despite its rickety appearance. He should pack, get ready to leave. He didn’t know what the procedure was, how long the boat would stay. He hadn’t listened to that side of things much. Instead, he slumped into the worn easy chair, though easy was being generous. It looked like something stolen from a hospital bedside.

Notebooks spilled across the table, a haphazard pile of observations, notes, temperature readings, all bound in ink and sealed on the page. And at the bottom, Caleb’s own notebook, the one piece of personal property he’d taken with him other than clothes. Everything else hurt too much.

It had taken time to even touch this. He’d told himself it might help, though what use sketches of city peregrines and small songbirds would be in the arctic he had no idea. It stayed, buried in the bottom of his bag, until the height of midsummer. When the surrealness of the midnight sun finally became too much, he’d picked it out, flicking through the dogeared pages until he’d found it.

Between the pages of neat dense notes, and ink sketches, was a very different drawing. A rough, freehand circle, a little triangle stuck on the side, and the word BIRB in Jake’s uncompromising capitals.

“Helping,” Jake’s voice whispered in his ear. The flat was never quiet, filled with a constant hum of traffic and video games and the rattle and clash of cooking. Jake’s whispers as loud as he was. “See, I can do hornithology too.”

“Ornithology,” he corrected.

“Hornithology.” Jake’s breath caressed his neck, his hands on Caleb’s hips, pulling him close.

Caleb had laughed, maddened by grief, by love, by the sun beating down on the shack at three in the morning. He’d laughed until he’d cried, eyes burning, ribs aching, heart broken all over again. It had taken almost another month to look at it again. But it had taken less time between each rereading, and the emotional retching had been less painful each time.

He put the book down.

Outside, the boat, ship, whatever had drawn up in the bay, and a small dingy roared towards the shore. Seabirds flapped around him as he strode up the path to the cliffs. White feathers drifted on the air. White clouds above, holding back a sinking sun. White ice, building, grating in the ocean. Caleb made up his mind. He wasn’t getting on the boat.

He wasn’t going back.

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BIRB – #WriterInMotion

My entry for the 2022 Writer in Motion. See the prompt here: https://writerinmotion.com This is a first draft and I’ll post the revised versions week by week.

Six months and it was over. The boat – or was it a ship? Jake would know – bobbed on the waves, still a few miles out. He should have known, should have guessed from the growing ice that sparkled on the dark blue water. A few more weeks and whether it was a boat or a ship, it wouldn’t be get through.

He turned away from the cliff, back to the little research shack. The frost crunched beneath his boots, the sound mixing with the chatter of the sea birds. They didn’t know enough to be frightened of humans, didn’t worry about social niceties.

The birds would look him in the eye at least.  

The door to the shack stuck, warped by the temperature extremes and the occasional bouts of rage that still hit Caleb. He’d tried therapy. Tried drugs, of both kinds. Even six months in the arctic couldn’t quell them entirely.

It was better out here, though.

Not just the clean air and the solitude. There were no reminders here, nothing to snag his memories on and drag him screaming back around into a face full of memories. No vodka. No blank Citroens. No crossings wailing their electric song at someone who would never move again.

Just the birds and the wind and the empty sky.

He stepped into the building, warm and dry despite its rickety appearance. He should pack, get ready to leave. He didn’t know what the procedure was, how long the boat would stay. He hadn’t listened to that side of things much. Instead, he slumped into the worn easy chair, though easy was being generous. It looked like something stolen from a hospital bedside.

Notebooks spilled across the table, a haphazard pile of observations, notes, temperature readings, all bound in ink and sealed on the page. And at the bottom, Caleb’s own notebook, the one piece of personal property he’d taken with him other than clothes. Everything else hurt too much.

It had taken time to even touch this. He’d told himself it might help, though what use sketches of city peregrines and small songbirds would be in the arctic he had no idea. It stayed, buried in the bottom of his bag, until the height of midsummer. When the surrealness of the midnight sun finally became too much, he’d picked it out, flicking through the dogeared pages until he’d found it.

Between the pages of neat dense notes, and ink sketches, was a very different drawing. A rough, freehand circle, a little triangle stuck on the side, and the word BIRB in Jake’s uncompromising capitals.

“Helping,” Jake’s voice whispered in his ear. The flat was never quiet, filled with a constant hum of traffic and computer games and the rattle and clash of cooking. Jake’s whispers as loud as he was. “See, I can do hornithology too.”

“Ornithology,” he corrected.

“Hornithology.” Jake’s breath caressed his neck, his hands on Caleb’s hips, pulling him close.

Caleb had laughed, maddened by grief, by love, by the sun beating down on the shack at three in the morning. He’d laughed until he’d cried, eyes burning, ribs aching, heart broken all over again. It had taken almost another month to look at it again. But it had taken less time between each rereading, and the emotional retching had been less painful each time.

He put the book down.

Outside, the boat, ship, whatever had drawn up in the bay, and a small dingy roared towards the shore. Seabirds flapped around him as he strode up the path to the cliffs. White feathers drifted on the air. White clouds above, holding back a sinking sun. White ice, building, grating in the ocean. Caleb made up his mind.

He wasn’t going back.

Query for Til Death Do Us Bard

As there was an overwhelmingly positive response on Twitter, here’s my query that got my agent, Rebecca Podos.

Dear [agent name] ,

A grumpy adventurer must come out of retirement to stop a civil war between magic and undead, even if doing so will lose him the sunshine of his heart.

TIL DEATH DO US BARD is a 95k word adult fantasy full of queer characters, with the humour of Kings of the Wyld, and the adventure the Witcher series. Content warning for an incident of domestic violence (not from the protagonist).

Logan “the Barbarian” Theaker never expected to be domesticated. An adventurer by trade, he sees his role as protector of the weak, and that doesn’t leave much time for making friends. Until he meets bard Pie, the sunshine to his thundercloud. Logan’s hung up his axe for pig farming and wants nothing more than to be a good husband.

Until Pie lies to him, drugs him, and vanishes into the night.

As Logan struggles to come to terms with the idea that the last six months of his life may have been a charade, the kingdom around him is in similar turmoil. A grieving king has banned magic, and the country’s spellcasters push back against the resolution. Desperate to learn if Pie is alive or dead, Logan turns to an old adversary – one of the last necromancers. Unfortunately, her help comes in the form of raising Logan’s ex-wife’s ghost, and she holds Logan responsible for her death.

From her, Logan learns Pie’s been blackmailed by the king into stealing a lost necromantic artifact, one capable of creating an army of flesh bodies. Banning magic is no longer enough for the king and he appears set to use death itself to crush any who use it. If Logan can put aside his hero complex long enough to work with his former antagonists, he can stop a civil war between undead and magic. But doing so puts him at odds with the one man who has ever made him feel happy and worthy of love – Pie.

I’m a bi woman, an IT professional, a #Pitchwars alum, and mother to the world’s wiggliest toddler. I’m lucky enough to live in the historic city of Bath. When I haven’t got my nose a book of one sort or another, I enjoy photography and making cheese.

This isn’t all my work. Lots of people helped workshop this, and it went through several revisions before I sent the first queries, and a couple after. Special thanks have to go to @maria_trureaud for the massively helpful query critique, and @ErinFulmer who came up with the title, but I’m grateful to everyone who contributed.

Bear in mind this is one query, for one particular genre, and I will add it got me an agent, but it didn’t get huge amounts of attention, so don’t take it as the perfect template or feel you have to lay out yours like this if a variation works better.

This is not a Positivity Post

Querying is hard right now. And while I’m over the moon, it wasn’t long ago that I was ready to give up on the idea of ever getting anywhere with my writing. I’ve gone back and read a thread on discord and it’s painfully clear how broken I am about this idea. And I know that when you’ve written five books that have gone nowhere, seeing a “how I got my agent” post that says “Hey, it took me four books so don’t worry you can do it too” feels less reassuring than intended.

So I don’t want to use this space for that, but to try and give something that might be more practical, or at least that recognises that it is a quagmire out there right now.

Sometimes, it’s you:

While querying is a nightmare, it’s still important to check that your work is as good as you can make it. I think I struggled with the idea that it does only take one agent, because the person espousing it the loudest was convinced that this meant they didn’t have to push through dev edits, or commit to swapping manuscripts with CPs, or address the issues that kept coming up time and again. It was all subjective and then next query would be a yes, and if not that one, the next one, and so on. But if you ask any agent, the quality of work is only getting higher, and you need to make sure that you’re not presenting an easy rejection.

Most of the time, it’s really not:

There are fewer agents, fewer editors in imprints. More people writing, and more people writing well. It is hard to stand out. Books that might have got a request three, four years ago, are passed over by agents who might be swamped, burned out, or both. The request rates of the past are no longer such a strong guideline. And yet it can be very hard to accept this on social media, with people announcing their full requests, or surveys showing that most people who got agents have at least a ten if not twenty percent response. But the issue with social media is it presents a biased approach. People don’t post every rejection like they do every full. Surveys aren’t conducted with rigour and control. Many people keep this kind of information off social medial altogether.

All you can do is write the best book you can. Break that book down with critique. Build it back up with revision after revision. And then do it over, and over again.

So what might help?

Have a support group. It really helps not to do this alone. And it really helps to have people who understand you’re in pain, can watch over you, and let you cry on their shoulders, physically or metaphorically. I poured my pain all over a couple of discord groups. I’d have given up entirely if it wasn’t for them, (and even then it was close).

Decide how open you want to be about querying. When I wrote my #pitchwars book, I announced every rejection in my support groups. It felt good to have it acknowledged, like digging into a big bowl of icecream, except the icecream was gifs or pics. With Logan and Pie, I kept the rejections to myself. It was easier this time around to not list them out, see them one by one. Go with what works for you, and don’t be afraid to change it.

Write what you love. You’re going to be reading it again and again, so you might as well make it something you enjoy. When Becca mentioned a particular speech in her email, I immediately went into the manuscript to read it myself, and got caught up in the whole scene. (I’m weak to hurt / comfort moments, even in my own work). With everything being as it is, writing to the market, or trends, or whims of twitter purity demands isn’t necessarily going to give you a book that satisfies you, and isn’t going to necessarily have any more change of getting you an agent or a publisher. So write what you want to write. Write messy. Write diverse. Write to spite. Write for you.

I want to tell you to keep believing, but that wouldn’t have worked for me. So instead, I’ll tell you to seek the joy in your work. I wrote Til Death do us Bard for me, shamelessly. It’s everything I love in a book, and it makes me happy. Grumpy / Sunshine dynamics, necromancy, badass grandmothers, indulgent descriptions of unicorns. I don’t know if any of this this shining through was a factor in what attracted her to the book. But I know it didn’t hurt.

How to Use Styles to Format your Manuscript

Setting up your manuscript right helps everyone. Many agents will read on a tablet or e-reader, and formatting like tabs, returns etc, can affect how it displays, which makes it harder for them to read. Using styles has the added benefit of being making life very easy for you too. Once done, you need to only click one of two buttons and 90% of your manuscript will be set out correctly.

This guide is for Microsoft Word, and the screenshots are taken from Word 365, though I don’t think things are too different in earlier versions. I suspect it will be fairly similar to set up in open office and other applications, and if anyone has a guide they want me to link to, drop a comment below and I’ll add it to the post.

What are styles? Let’s start at the beginning. Styles are instructions to tell Word how to lay out the text on the page, until you tell it otherwise. It includes font, size, line spacing, and so on. I use two styles, one for the majority of the text, and one for chapter headings. You may well want one or more for a title page, but there’s more flexibility there.

The Manuscript Style: (You can call it whatever you like, as long as you know what it’s for. You don’t have to give boring, descriptive names.) First, locate the styles box at top of the document.

Then click on the arrow at the bottom left of the box, and a second menu will pop out. Click on the A with a plus, to create a new style:

For the main text, you’re going to want to set the font, size, line spacing, justification, and indentation. When you click the button, you get this window:

Give your style a name, leave the next two fields as they are, and make sure the style for following paragraph is set to your new style, otherwise it will change every time you press return. Industry standard is a font like Times New Roman, 12 point, double spaced, and left justified. At the bottom, click new documents based on this template, to make sure you always have access to the styles. The click on the format button and select paragraph from the menu.

This window will pop up. Change Special to First Line, and By to 1.27 cm. Make sure line spacing is set to double. Then click OK. Click OK on the style window below it and your style is saved. Then go ahead and click the new style button again, and give your new style a name. We’ll use this one for chapter headings, and setting up page breaks between chapters.

The Chapter Heading Style: For the chapter heading, you want to make sure that the style for following paragraph is set to your new manuscript style. This means you write your chapter heading, press enter, and bang, the next line is all ready for you to type, no need to change anything. You’ll probably want your chapters centred rather than left justified, and you may want the the font slightly bigger. To make the chapter headings all capitals, click on the format button, and select font this time.

Put the tick in all caps. You can also set it to bold if you wanted. Press okay, and then format and paragraph. You’ll want single spacing here, and nothing in special. Change the spacing after to something like 36pt, to give yourself a bit of a gap between the chapter heading and the start of the new chapter. Then click on the line and page breaks tab at the top of the formatting window:

Widow and orphan control prevents words being split over lines with a hyphen, so that is a good one to leave on. (It should be there by default). The important one is page break before. This means that when you finish your previous chapter, press return, then press the Chapter Title style, word will automatically put in a page break, starting your new chapter on a nice new clean page.

Saving the Template: There’s one last thing you’ll want to do, and that’s set up a template, so when you go to open a new document for writing, it will open with your industry standards all set.

Click on file on the top left of the document, then save as. Give your template a name, then click on the drop down underneath. Select Word Template (*.dotx). Word will automatically change the location for you. Now when you open up word, that template will be available for you to click rather than blank document.

Getting Ready for #Pitchwars

The last month or so before Pitchwars is always stressful. Putting the time in to make sure your work is a polished as you can, so your story shines through and grips your dream mentor by the throat heart. But once you’ve done that, there are more things that you can do to make sure you get the most out of the event.

Make sure you’ve covered the basics – three months is not a long time. Trust me on this. If you’ve got major rewrites, adding or removing a POV, aging up or down, changing tense etc, you don’t want to be also dealing with the minor things. If a mentor thinks you might have too much to do, they might pass you over – no one wants to break their poor mentee.

  • Filtering – look for words like felt, saw, heard etc in relation to your MC. Most of the time these distance the reader from the events and can be cut.
  • Crutch words – that, just, look etc. Anything that’s overused and the text loses nothing if removed.
  • Consistency – if you have invented words, are they always spelled the same, do they always have a capital or not

Get your Submission Ready – you don’t want to be learning to write a query or synopsis on the day before submissions close. Get the practice in now, as both take a while to get your head around. Take advantage of the offers for query swaps from other mentee hopefuls, or critiques from mentors and past mentees.

Get to Know the Mentors – wishlists won’t be out for a while, but it’s good to get to know the mentors to find someone who will be a good fit for you in advance. Read their books, blog posts, tweets etc. You’re going to be working closely together so you want someone who clicks with your personality as much as possible. When the wishlists come out, pay attention to the do not want as much as the want. That can be a good way for narrowing down your selection.

Find CPs – whatever happens with the actual contest, you can always come out ahead with new CPs and friends. If you don’t have any yet, this is the ideal time. Swap a chapter or two with people who write the same as you, find someone whose work you get, and who gets yours. It can take time to find the right people, but it’s always worth it in the end.

Find a Writing Group – this one is a little different to CPs. With those, you generally want someone who writes close to what you do. They’ll know the ins and outs of your genre, and help you push your work to its best. A writing group doesn’t need to be all the same genre. In a way, it’s better not to be, because you can learn things from other styles of writing that you can apply in different ways to your own works. The point of a writing group is to build each other up, get invested in each others works as readers, to hold hands in the hard times and scream with joy in the good. These people can end up being your biggest fans, your loudest supporters, even if they’re largely based in another genre or age group.

I’m a #Pitchwars Failure – And Here’s Why I Think You Should do it Anyway

Before I start, failure is my term. It’s never been pushed on me by anyone in Pitchwars and I suspect I’ll get a few pokes from people saying oi, no after reading this. But it is how I feel. Let’s be honest, we push ourselves because we want to achieve. We want to get that agent, that book deal. Everyone tells you Pitchwas isn’t a guarantee, it’s not about the showcase or the agents, or the book deals. Deep down though, we all wish it was.

So, if you’re not one of the people who has agents battling for their manuscript; if it isn’t you going into auction at major houses; what’s in for you?

A List of What I Got out of Pitchwars and Am Thankful for

  • The knowledge I can still do it. I came into Pitchwars after four years of not writing. Four years of pushing myself and struggling and never getting anywhere. And yet in April 2020 I started a writing a new project. In August 2020, I finished the first draft. And in September 2020 Ian selected it for Pitchwars.
  • A much better book. Seriously. It’s a much, much better book now, even if it’s not getting any traction with agents or publishers. It’s deeper, it’s smoother, it’s better paced. It shows a mastery of using the blank line.
  • Industry knowledge. It had been years since I’d queried, so getting support in not just my submission package but knowledge of agents, who was a good match for querying and so forth was a massive help. When I go back in again, that knowledge will help with the next book.
  • A friend in Ian. We might not be discussing krakens and just how big to make giant spiders, but’s still good to know he’s there to reach out to.
  • The 2020 Pitchwars cohort. These people are amazing. Some of them have achieved incredible things already, but everyone has always been kind, helpful and thoughtful at all stages.
  • And understanding of pressure. Those are three tough months. For many of us, there was a huge amount to do in a very short space of time. Nothing teaches you like leaping in the deep end!
  • Another book. Pitchwars was stressful, my book was serious and emotionally draining. So I wrote something light and fluffy. The experience definitely gave me the drive to write it.
  • The knowledge that I don’t need to give up. I was that close at points this year, but being around a large number of people who have very varied experiences helped me to see where I fit in, what options I had open to me, and why the dismal failure of my pitchwars book shouldn’t be seen as the inevitable fate of anything I write.

Real talk, Pitchwars is tough. It’s heart-breaking to not get in. It’s gruelling to get in. It can be crushing if you’re not one of the ones who succeeds. And it’s very easy to dwell on the things that haven’t happened. But it has brought amazing results to a great many people, and even for those who haven’t got there yet, the sense of community, the combined experience, the shared pain is a massive boost to any writer.

If you’re thinking about entering this year, feel free to hit me for any information about my experience.

What I Learned from #PitchWars – Part 2

This post is mostly aimed at those looking to enter #PitchWars in the future. I’ve mentioned things that struck me on an earlier post, which covered a variety of aspects, but in this one, I want to focus on emotions, feelings, and mental health. I’ll start by saying the experience was amazing, and if you took me back to 2020 knowing what I know, I’d dive straight back in. I have a much stronger manuscript, great friends, a better network. But I’d be more prepared.

Edit Letters Hurt

It’s the morning after the announcements, your notifications are going mad, you’re buzzing. And then the edit letter comes in and it’s pages and pages of things that need changing. Work that needs doing. You thought your manuscript was great and reader, it is not.

That’s not true, of course. It is great; you were selected. But in that moment, the doubts come rushing in. Why did they pick it? Can I do all of this? Ian was very sweet and specifically asked how soon I wanted my edits, and also told me I was allowed to hate him in the notes. Being excited and eager, I wanted it now, and only gave myself a day of celebration. I think if I went back, I’d give myself the weekend to enjoy and prepare myself.

Stopping Really Hurts

I finished my second revision around Christmas. I had the week off after Christmas. No revisions, no work, a time to relax, maybe get some new words down. And my mental health crashed. Seriously, dangerously, crashed. I couldn’t do anything but lie on the couch. The intrusive thoughts were loud. Dark thoughts that had been banished for years resurfaced. It was only later, speaking to someone familiar with academic students and similar experiences when dissertations are finished that I realised how much stopping something you’ve devoted yourself to for months can affect you.

I’m sure it doesn’t happen to everyone, but it happens to enough. Be aware of it it. Make sure you have trusted people who are aware it could happen. It was not something I’d ever considered, but knowing it happens and being prepared helped massively so that when I finished the line edits and stopped again, the impact was not nearly so bad.

The Showcase Can Really, Really Hurt

If you write in a category that doesn’t tend to do well in the showcase, there comes a point where lots of twitter threads and blog posts go up saying what it’s like, how the showcase doesn’t really change anything, how cold querying is how most people got their agents anyway. If you’re like me, you’ll read them, digest them, believe them. Tell yourself you’re prepared.

Reader, I was not prepared.

The first few days of the showcase were, frankly miserable. No matter what anyone says, it’s hard not to compare your work to others, to say, why does this agent like that one and not mine? And at the same time, you’re feeling happy for those celebrating (hopefully you’ve made friends and are desperate to see their books succeed because they sound amazing), and those positive emotions can really highlight the negative ones.

There are lots of rational, positive, “this is not the end of the world” posts out there. I want to take a slightly different track.

Feel your feelings. All of them. Cry, scream, despair. Your feelings are valid, and all the rational words won’t take them away for most of you. Sorry.

Find your people who are also suffering. You won’t be the only one. During our year, several of us with low requests got together for zoom chats. It was a safe place to vent our frustrations, without feeling we were stepping on other’s cheer, or having someone accidentally say something that pushed our misery further.

Know it gets better. I cried every day Wednesday to Saturday. By Sunday, I was calm. I was ready to read those calm, rational, “it’s not the end of the world” posts again. To work out who I was going to cold query. It might take longer for you. But you’ll get there.

Overall, the experience was amazing. I’d definitely recommend it, but go into it with your eyes open. It is A LOT. It is one hell of an emotional rollercoaster. It is not the only the road. Make sure you’re prepared. I’m always happy to discuss my experience so feel free to drop a comment or a message on twitter.

#PitchWars Stats Post

Yesterday at around 10pm I finished the last of my line edits. That’s two rounds of dev edits and one of lines edits down since I got into to #Pitchwars. So, to celebrate, here’s a selection of stats about my manuscript and the event itself.

Original word count: 81511

Final new word count: 87938

Number of revisions between versions: 2886

Words deleted: 15591

Words added: 21256

Commas removed: 446

Number of revision version documents: 12

Percentage of manuscript changed: 24%

Characters killed off: one

Characters brought back: one (though he’s a dick and Serena will almost certainly “accidentally” leave him on a desert island)

Days worked on: 61 (Pretty much every day since first Monday after the announcements, minus a week off at Christmas)

Hours spent: I didn’t track this, but it was generally about 2-3 hours a day, and about 4 days of 6-8 hours when I had time off.

Emails sent between me and Ian: 84

Gifs sent to me on Twitter by Ian: 21

Requests for pictures of his cats when stressed: 1 (I did not take advantage of this as I should)

Verbal slaps for doubting myself: 3

Time my slack group started screaming at me on announcement day: 5am

Easter eggs added for my slack group: 8

Music listened to must frequently: Two Steps From Hell

The stats are mostly just for fun, but it should also give you an idea of the work involved in #Pitchwars. And I know there are many mentees out there who have made far bigger changes than I have done. This experience has been amazing (and it’s not over yet) but it is also hard work and commitment. I’m eternally grateful for Ian Barnes not just for believing in THE AMETHYST CITY, but for all the work he’s done with me to turn this tale of dysfunctional, grieving sailors and make it something I can be really proud of.

I’m also incredibly grateful to my writing group, the Pit Squirrels for all their help, their support, and their belief. I wouldn’t have made it this far without them picking me up and putting me back on my feet every time my confidence crashed. Finding my fellow writers has been the best thing for my writing. And now I get to add a whole lot of wonderful #Pitchwars people to that list as well.

What I’ve Learned from #Pitchwars (…so far)

At the beginning of November to my Slack writing group going wild and found out I’d been selected as a #Pitchwars mentee. (If you’re not familiar with Pitchwars, check out the site here: pitchwars.org) It’s been about three weeks now and I’ve finished my first revision, so here’s a few thoughts on what I’ve learned so far.

I Can Still Do It:

This blog has been neglected for a few years now, as I struggled to get back into writing after the birth of my son. Anti-depressants saved my life, but killed my creativity. For ages, I struggled to write anything longer than about 10k. Stories just petered out, never went anywhere. I tried different genres, tried to plot, tried all sorts. But nothing clicked until earlier this year, when I got the idea for a story about a grieving airship captain who finds a new lease of life when he rescues a child. The story didn’t quite keep that shape, but this time the words kept coming, and coming, and coming.

Knowing I can still produce a full length novel means the world to me. Knowing mentors read and enjoyed it is an incredible bonus on the top of that.

Edit Letters are A Whole New Thing

I’ve worked with many CPs over the years, and I’m used to getting a manuscript covered in comments. But getting my edit letter from my mentor, Ian Barnes, was a new experience. With inline comments, you can approach that bit, address that issue, but it’s easy to get caught up with the details, and forget the bigger picture.

The edit letter forced me to consider the novel as a whole, and drew out the weaknesses in the world building and plot. It took a couple of days to process everything, plan, and work out where to start making the big changes.

Keep on Going

With so much going on, it was inevitable that some of the changes was going to get pushed out of my mind. Chapter six needed a rewrite of the opening, fore example, but when it came to that point, my mind went blank and refused to even contemplate the necessary work. I could have forced it, but decided that rather than slow things down and risk getting stuck or stressed, I’d move on and come back to it in the next round. I’ll need to address them eventually, but not piling on the pressure of myself helped make the first lot of revisions go smoothly.

Onwards to round two!