On Putting Yourself Out There

By Jennifer Mattern

Over the course of the past six months, part of my personal “Author Challenge” has been to submit my manuscript to three different mentoring programs (Author-Mentor Match, WriteMentor, and RevPit), and I’m gearing up to enter the most competitive one of all at the end of September—PitchWars.

Do I think my chances are good to have my novel picked from among literally thousands of applicants? No. No I do not. Did the previous three contests result in matching me with a published author to guide me on my journey? Nope.

Why, then, do I bother? Because, quite simply, it’s good for me. Any author who hopes to find agent representation and travel the traditional route to publication is facing a looooong road. Rejection is inevitable, and while I’m not certain anyone learns to like it, a person can get better at weathering the storms of hearing “no” a lot.

Some things I’ve learned since February:

  1. Surprising gifts result from putting yourself out there. 

By submitting to the Author-Mentor Match program, I formed connections I never would have otherwise. Now I have several published authors I can go to for advice and encouragement. Plus, in two of the contests, I got some excellent feedback on my manuscript even though I wasn’t chosen.

     2. Writers are some of the friendliest people out there. 

Being in the trenches with other aspiring authors is reassuring. Writing is a solitary profession, and it’s helpful to be reminded that I’m not alone. Also, it’s a wonderful way to find critique partners and others who write in my genre.

     3. It forces me to polish, tighten, and make my manuscript the best it can be—again                and again if necessary.

Editing stinks, at least when it’s my own writing. I love editing other people’s stuff, but my own? Fuhgeddaboutit. Staring at the same block of dialogue for hours on end, wondering if it sounds natural, gets old pretty quickly. But somehow when there’s a deadline in sight, and I’m doing it for a reason, it becomes easier. And with all my new writerly friends (see #2), I can even exchange pages for helpful critiques. 

 So, as I once again set out to tighten, edit, and polish one of my manuscripts for submission, I do it with a quickening excitement instead of fear. Because, after all, I’ve learned that what I have to gain far surpasses any losses.

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