Confidence, man

A year ago today I put myself through the emotional wringer and pitched my international thriller at ThrillerFest’s PitchFest.

It was New York City. The event packed people into hotel meeting rooms in cattle-chute like fashion. I had some interest, some requests for manuscripts. Since, they’ve either been declined or never heard from.

I’m pleased I did it. I learned from the experience, gained some real know-how, and met a few people. I’ve spent the last year correcting my many mistakes (I’m sure there are more) and pursuing an agent for my novel.

What I haven’t done is write much. I did some, but not nearly enough. For all the good the event did me, my writing confidence cratered. And confidence, even if it doesn’t look like much, is the main ingredient in writing a novel.

I took this whole year too hard, I admit. Hell, I still am. I never gave up. I just sent out queries last week, and this week re-wrote my query and synopsis. Those two things are the hardest, most uncertain, and most painful pieces to write.

Those are all the necessary transformations I have to make for myself. They’re stubborn things to learn, and take their toll. But they don’t get me down.

The only thing getting me down is writing the next one. I’ve got a start on a novel, and another idea sketched out. I’ve been writing a couple short stories lately. I needed to do something to show myself I could. It sounds like taking my medicine, but it sure tasted good.

I’ve got to get back into the hard routine of writing the next novel. With everything I’ve learned, it can only be a better book, and probably also an easier sell.

Unpacking from Thrillerfest 2016

I went to Thrillerfest in New York City in early July, and I’m still trying to unpack.

The clothes I wore are still on my bedroom floor while my wife waits patiently for me to put them in the hamper. Then there’s the confounding jumble of thoughts I can’t make sense of while my wife waits patiently for me to figure out what the hell I want to be when I grow up.

Matt at Thrillerfest 2016
Still in the dark …

I put everything I had into that trip. It was my self-imposed deadline to finish my first novel, and I did that. I spent the month of June between my day job and my night job of editing, and I just about hit my limit.

I spent the first day at the conference with a small workshop led by Gayle Lynds, spy writer extraordinaire. Our group gelled, and Gayle dispensed reams of advice. I floated away, ready to brave her edits for my first chapter and conquer the publishing world.

Day two was good, too. I happily volunteered for seminars and handing out registration packets. The rest of the time I attended several seminars by published authors that varied from good to so great I can’t tell you. Walter Mosley just about had me standing in my chair shouting “O Captain! my Captain!”

Day three things hit home. More morning seminars, with some interesting fireworks among a panel of agents. I ignored that, my head focused on the afternoon of PitchFest. Think of the event as speed dating meets sales pitch to land an agent. They packed us into a ballroom, then into a serpentine line I still don’t know where it started and ended, then into much smaller conference rooms packed with anxious writers and waiting agents.

My pitches went well. I had two request a full manuscript, a few more request partials. I paid dues with a couple that weren’t much interested. I had every reason to walk out of there excited to conquer the publishing world. Instead, I exited in a state of emotional confusion that I still can’t figure out.

With all the feedback from agents, and all that I observed, I can’t make sense of any of it. I don’t know how to make my manuscript meet what they want at this point, but I think that’s what they need from me.

Much of the industry baffles and terrifies me. I see my potential future selves walking around and wonder if I want to be them. Or wonder if I have the writing chops they have. I wonder if it’s too limiting to follow the rules they live by. Or do they find it freeing to be published? I know I want to publish my work. But the day taught me my goal isn’t as clear as I thought.

I’m a thinker that way, which doesn’t mean I’m smart. I brood and think through things. Three weeks later I still can’t figure this one out. It’s driving my wife nuts even today, which is our nineteenth anniversary.

I’m at the edge of a next novel, and two very different ones are fighting inside my head for attention. I don’t know what I should do.

One thing I do know is that behind me was a guy who didn’t write, and that guy’s not ahead of me anymore. I hear him sneaking up on me, always.