Beta Readers, Feedback, Pitch Sessions and Pride

My local writing chapter, Long Island Romance Writers, is hosting its 16th Annual Agent/Editor Luncheon this Friday, June 7th. Soon after, in July, RWA is holding its Annual Conference. Both will be a time for mingling, networking, connecting and reconnecting, and, most of all, pitching our work to interested editors and literary agents.

Often, simmering below the fear of the actual pitch is the fear of rejection. Rejections, however, are sewn into this business and no one has, as of yet, determined a workaround. The best thing to do is prepare. By that, I don’t mean we need to expect a rejection, but that we need to put rejections into perspective.

When I say rejections are sewn into this business, I not only refer to agents and editor rejections but also rejections from readers. Face it, not everyone will like our work. This is such a subjective business and we know negativity is out there – or if we don’t know, we find out soon enough.

Unfortunately, I think we tend to cling to the negative even if its dose is a tiny fraction of the positive.

I’m working on an erotic novella trilogy. Book 1 is finished, Book 2 is plotted and waiting for attention, and Book 3 is, at this point, merely a back-cover blurb. I’ve received great feedback from my beta readers. All honest, helpful and encouraging. Out of the seven people who read it, only one did not like it.

Notice, I didn’t say, six loved it.

Though six did love it, one did not. That one is the one that matters most to me. That one unhappy reader, the one negative review, tends to be the one that carries the most weight with us as artists. We pour so much of ourselves into our creations that one dissenting voice comes through as if on a bullhorn.

Alone, that’s not a bad thing. It’s what we do after we’ve digested the reason for the negativity constructive criticism (it’s all about perspective) that matters.

Do we agree? Do we see a way to make adjustments to mitigate some of the concerns raised without compromising our vision for our story? Can we take the concerns to the positive beta readers for additional feedback or perspective? Some of the most negative feedback, when applied properly, can take a rough patch of story and make it shine.

This type of refocusing attention also applies to pitching our stories to agents and editors. Some will latch onto the idea with enthusiasm while others might cringe, pleasantly say it’s simply not for them, or dismiss you – not just your story – outright. And yes, the latter has happened to people I know and love.

So what? Not everyone will love us. Not everyone will love our work. That’s fine. All is good. Criticism is criticism no matter how gently or cruelly delivered. Our job is to determine its value and our next move.

As I said, this business is subjective. It’s truly as simple as that. If we’ve studied craft, applied ourselves to the project, poured our heart, our tears and our sighs into our stories, and others have rewarded us with honest, unreserved feedback and we’ve applied common sense revisions, then we have done our job.

Someone will always be there to point out a flaw. Others will want what we have to offer because they will ‘get it’. They will get us. They will see the potential in our project and make us feel good about it.

So don’t let ‘no’ stop you. Absorb it. Understand the reason for it. Decide whether to give it weight, and if so, how much. Determine the best direction for it – additional consideration or dismissal – and move forward undeterred.

If you’re anything like me, your muse will have it no other way.   

Heading to the Big City – otherwise known as “home”

Writers are normally solitary creatures. We love interaction with people and we love sharing but for the most part, we love our quiet time more. There has to be balance, of course, but what’s a writer to do when she’s forced out of her comfy little cubby and into the frantic and crowded world of NETWORKING?!

It’s enough to make the muse cower in the dark recesses of the mind.

This week – tomorrow in fact – this writer will be attending her first ever Romance Writer’s Conference. There will be workshops galore, introductions, re-connections, pitches, midnight bazaars, dinner with new friends and old, drinks, networking and tired feet.

I’m looking forward to it but I’m also intimidated. I want to take it all in without feeling overwhelmed. I want to go slowly, pull back and truly see the community of which I am a part.

I’ve been writing all my life and until recently, thought of it as lonely work. Most rewarding and enjoyable, but lonely. Over the past few months, however, I’ve met real live writers, while previously, I’d only met other writers ‘virtually’. I’m connected now and after this week, I will be connected even more.

Tomorrow I will meet up with people I’ve only known through IM’s, discussion boards or emails. I cannot wait. I’m excited and terrified and wonder if there’s a story in this. 😉

Since in my previous post I said I’d look toward the positive, my only worry is whether my online friends will like me in person. Oh. And whether I packed the right shoes…  if the dresses are appropriate… if my pitch is ready for prime time… whether my hair looks okay… if I paid the electric bill… whether the cat-sitter remember to…

Update – NJ RWA Conference

Well it seems all the plans I was making were for naught.

I’d hoped to attend my first-ever Romance Writers Conference. This one in New Jersey – a smaller, more manageable conference – as a prelude to Nationals. Daughter wanted to come and even hoped to attend some of the workshops with me. It could have been a lot of fun – would have been.

Alas, children under 18 are not permitted to attend the workshops as some content may not be appropriate for that age. Children of that age are not permitted to ‘loiter’ outside the workshop rooms either. And… children under 18 are ‘discouraged’ from attending meals due to past experiences. Now, I’ve never been to a conference so I don’t know what those past experiences were but I picture unruly youngsters running wild. Daughter is mature and well-behaved, but how could they possibly know that?

And so, it seems, the conference for me has been nixed this year. Hubby works weekends – very late into the evening hours – and so wouldn’t be around, and if I’m a state away for two days and a night, who would care for Daughter? She’s mature, but not so much that she can stay on her own for a weekend.


I will stay alert to opportunity, but with time running out to register, I have to say it’s not looking too good.

RWA Conventions ~ To Go or Not To Go

I’ve never attended a Romance Writers of American Convention – neither national nor local. I don’t even belong to a local live chapter. Instead, I belong to three online chapters. Can anyone say, “introvert”?

I love communicating with my online chapter members and do feel as if I know them very well. Wouldn’t I like to meet some of them? Certainly. But leaving my little comfort zone – the spot directly in front of my computer – is somehow less than appealing.

Which is part of the reason I’ve never attended the National Convention. Another reason is cost and another is time. However, another opportunity presents itself annually. I always consider it but never follow through. Will this year be different? Perhaps.

The New Jersey Chapter of RWA has their Put Your Heart in a Book Conference at the Woodbridge Hotel every year in October. New Jersey is home away from home for me – AND the convention is held minutes away from the glorious Woodbridge Mall. <sigh>

There is no airfare involved for me, and Daughter – who will be 13 by then – has expressed a desire to join me. Not only that, but I’ve entered the Put Your Heart in a Book contest and so going to the awards dinner – winner or not – would be a fantastic and glamorous experience. Don’t you think?

So… will I or won’t I, that is the question.

I suppose to decide I will need some input. What are the pros of going and, besides sheer terror with the unfamiliar and overwhelming, what are the cons? Opinions, ladies?

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