Okay, I realise that sounds a little fortune-teller-ish. But bear with me.
I recently took part in a mini-blog tour with three other wonderful writers, called “Two questions with…” where each week we’d answer two questions. One particular question has stuck with me.
“If you could give Past You one piece of advice, what would it be?”
I answered this with “embrace the writing community”, and I believe that 100%, but this question has still been bouncing around in my head. More than that, I’ve thought of another answer. This one isn’t just for “Past Me” though, so I’m sharing it in the hopes other writers will see it.
And the new answer, you ask?
Embrace the unexpected!
Hokey though it may sound, I’ve really had to embrace this over the last year. Things in my writing life have changed drastically during the course of the past 18 months. In January 2017, I had one critique partner. I was furiously revising my romantic suspense, IN THE NAME OF THE MOTHER, but I was largely isolated from the writing community. I used Twitter, but I hadn’t discovered the amazing writers lurking on certain hashtags.
Around April 2017, I stumbled onto a writing contest and found two new critique partners who just happened to be planning to enter Pitch Wars. I was reluctant at first because I’d only tried the one contest before that and it was a complete bust. At the same time I’d signed up for Wendy Heard’s CPMatchmaking, which is awesome if you’re looking for critique partners., and I highly recommend signing up on her site. It’s a bit of a gamble. You fill out a form and then wait for Wendy to match you up with another writer. I got insanely lucky when she matched me with a writer who is like my second half. Janet and I are writing soul mates, and she is the writer I now trust the most for whatever is going on—ideas, edits, or pulling me back off the edge of “OMG, what am I doing?”. And if I hadn’t taken that gamble when I signed up for Wendy’s matching, I likely would have never met Janet.
Then came Pitch Wars, where I was chosen by a mentor I hadn’t actually submitted to. This was really unexpected. My entry did a little travelling behind the scenes, from one mentor, to another, and finally found its way to the awesome Marty Mayberry. Now, when this happens, the mentors generally ask if you’d be happy to work with them. There are two sides to this argument, so I do understand the reason behind the question. For me, the answer was immediate, especially since Marty was on my “almost” list of mentors to submit to, but choosing turned out to be a lot more difficult than I expected.
The story takes an even crazier turn. Marty was one of a few mentors who were given “Wildcards” which meant they could choose an extra mentee, and that’s how she was able to take me on. If she hadn’t received a Wildcard, I wouldn’t have been picked for Pitch Wars. It was by pure luck that she was offered the chance to take on another mentee, and happened to pick a writer who hadn’t actually submitted to her.
I’m so happy I did say yes. I love Marty. She was an incredibly amazing mentor, and I’m proud to call her a dear friend. But imagine if she hadn’t been given a Wildcard. Imagine if I’d said no. I would have missed out on Pitch Wars, and the chance to work with Marty.
Then, in November, we had the Pitch Wars agent showcase. I admit, I didn’t get many requests in the showcase—a grand total of four. But one of those came from the awesome Amanda Jain, who quite quickly after receiving my materials, offered representation. Of course I accepted (more on that here)! I believe Amanda was closed to queries at the time, so if she hadn’t requested through Pitch Wars, I wouldn’t have been able to query her.
Seeing a pattern here?
By happenstance I met lovely new critique partners who introduced me to Pitch Wars.
I signed up to Wendy’s #CPmatchmaking on a bit of a whim and scored the best critique partner who also got into Pitch Wars with me.
Amazingly, Marty was able to take on an extra mentee and picked someone who hadn’t submitted to her.
And by a stroke of luck, I got an offer from Amanda, whom I hadn’t yet even had a chance to query.
So, let’s go back to 18 months ago—where I was writing in near-isolation and had never entered a writing contest. Or a year ago, when I’d only just heard about Pitch Wars. I would never have expected that a few short months later, I’d have a bunch of amazing critique partners and writing friends. I especially wouldn’t have expected to be picked for Pitch Wars, let alone by the best mentor I could have asked for. And I definitely wouldn’t have expected to score a wonderful agent through the contest.
Embrace the unexpected!
Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Sometimes they take you on an adventure, through sharp turns you don’t see coming. And that’s okay. If you’re lucky, it’s way better than okay. I’m not saying it’s easy, and I can assure you the road ahead of me is going to be one hell of a bumpy one. I’m still miles away from my goal. But after the past year, I’m all for welcoming those unexpected twists.