I’m Kate, a fantasy author originally from the southern US, but now living in Tokyo and dealing with the shock of having gone from a town of 4000 to a city of 9 million.
I’ve been writing almost my whole life. In junior high and high school I was consumed by fanfiction (Sailor Moon, Gundam Wing, GetBackers…anyone remember GetBackers?), but when I got to college I found NaNoWriMo and realized hey, I could write something longer than an angst drabble (or at least pad out the angst drabbles with plot). I wrote bad novels, wrote a better novel, queried for the first time, bombed querying for the first time, graduated, and moved to Japan to teach English.
Then I didn’t write fiction seriously for several years. I started working for a now-defunct web magazine, and spent hours and hours writing, but none of it was my own. And I missed the creativity and joy of creating my own worlds.
So I went back to my NaNoWriMo roots. I finished an urban fantasy, I queried too soon, I bombed again. But this time, I found a guiding light- writer twitter. Writer twitter was not a thing when I first started writing. Advice and query tips had to be dug out of the dark places of the internet like tomb treasure, with equally iffy results, but writer twitter was turning on a light and realizing you’re already standing in the equivalent of an informational walmart. I started writing another book, an epic YA fantasy with dragons and magic and an unlikably ambitious heroine. I studied craft threads. I found readers. I got rejected by Pitch Wars, but had a mentor who read the full nudge me in a better direction. And then, in ‘17, I got into Author Mentor Match with that same book.
I got my first edit letter (big shoutout to lizparkerwrites on twitter). I found amazing cheerleaders and critique partners and best friends (R3!!) I polished and polished and polished, questioned every sentence on the page, polished more. I queried again with my head held high.
And bombed even worse than I had the first two times. There were tears. I couldn’t believe that this book, the best book I’d ever written, the book a mentor and all my new friends had believed in, had to be trunked.
I was humiliated. I felt like I’d blown a chance that should have gone to someone more deserving. But I realized the options were either keep writing or quit writing, and what, was I going to suddenly pick up a new hobby like going to the gym? Nah.
So I started another book. This time it was an adult fantasy full of all the things I love- religious pagentry, murder, moral ambiguity, intrigue, enough angst to power a fleet of drabbles, and a romance so slow burn it’s really just a hint of smoke in the air. Over about 16 months I wrote and edited and polished and rewrote. And I started querying again.
It was a cautious success. I got a few requests. But when replies to those requests started coming back as form rejections, I realized my book still wasn’t where it needed to be. I had to make myself capable of doing more.
I had said throughout the entire lead-up to Pitch Wars that I wasn’t entering. I was just going to cheer for my friends and go along for the ride. But then, after the sub window opened, I had a thought- I’m revising. I have a sub package that was good enough to get agent looks. Pitch Wars is all about revision. Why not try?
I then thought of about a million reasons not to try, but more level-headed friends convinced me to not throw away my shot. I submitted that night, and was lucky enough to get three requests for my manuscript. One pair even asked for more follow up information! But in the silence towards announcements, doubt started taking over again. I’d been through this before, in Pitch Wars ‘17, and my name wasn’t on that final list.
On November 3rd, while at a cafe trying to figure out where my nanovel was going, (pantser 4 life), my phone began to blow up.
I was in Pitch Wars. Hayley Stone and Erin Tidwell had selected me as their mentee!
I cried (again)! My twitter feed exploded with love for my book, a feeling I am keeping in a little bottle in my heart for the dark times. I talked to Hayley and Erin. They were amazing. I talked to the other mentors who read my full and were so encouraging. Also amazing! And hearing my fellow mentees talk about their books? SO AMAZING.
Then I got my edit letter (5 pages) and chapter notes (11 pages), and reality came crashing down and I maybe cried again (yes there is crying in Pitch Wars). For about 10 seconds. Because I am so excited for this next stage of my book’s journey.
I hope you’ll follow along.
Craft Resource of the Week:
If someone asks me for writing advice, before they even finish their question, I am likely to shout READ STORY GENIUS at them, because even if they don’t think it applies, it applies.