I’m writing a series of posts on what I’ve learned through working on my DragonWIP. It’s not a revision guide, but more of a case study for those who find it helpful to know how other people work. Part 1, Draft 1 and Part 2, Draft 2, are here!
Draft the Third
So, around the time I finished the second draft of the DragonWIP, this new program called Author Mentor Match launched. Founded by Alexa Donne and Heather Kaczynski, it pairs new YA & MG writers with agented and/or published writers who help you polish and query your novel.
It’s a long-term partnership that guides you through the ropes of publishing: All the hard skills you need, as well as real industry advice. I’d been soaking up some of this information through internships and was hungry for more, so this sounded like exactly the kind of thing I wanted to get involved in.
Here’s the problem. They wanted a “nearly-query-ready” draft.
My new draft was closer to query-ready…
So I thought, hey, I’ll use their entry window as my deadline! I finished draft two in a blitz, spiffed up my query and first ten pages (the entry requirement at the time), and sent it off. I decided it’d be a win if I got a single request.
Aaaand… then I got that request. For a first 50 pages and synopsis. Win!! Right?
But I hadn’t written a synopsis yet! So I pounded one out in a caffeine-y haze, and it was three pages too long, and didn’t make much sense, and writing it made me realize DragonWIP still had some big structural problems.
I had to send it as-is. But I made the fixes anyway, resulting in the third draft, which I sent to a few new critique partners. It was the first time I’d asked for substantial feedback on the book, and these lovely people were invaluable. They helped me see weaknesses I didn’t know I had. Weaknesses I’m certain the AMM mentors were seeing.
The AMM consideration window ended, and I wasn’t matched. But then, I got an incredibly encouraging note from one mentor. She had liked it so much that she wanted to take it as an additional pick, but didn’t have the time. While I didn’t end up with her as my mentor, her encouragement was exactly what I needed. She confirmed that I was moving in the right direction, and left me with tons of motivation to dig deep in revisions.
- Mentorships/contests are not litmus tests. They don’t make or break your career, for one thing, and I also wouldn’t recommend throwing your book at them to see if it sticks. Try it on CPs first! Because, if your story looks promising, contest mentors are gonna ask for more material. And you need to… you know, actually have the things they’re asking for. Plus, you should really respect the volunteers’ time by sending the best work you can create right now. (I don’t mean wait until you’re as phenomenal as N.K. Jemisin because you’ll be waiting forever.)
- Yes, you need critique partners. They help you figure out if you’ve fixed what you set out to fix. Remember, it’s a two-way partnership. You should invest in your CPs as much as they invest in you, and if either of you can’t hold up your end of the bargain, it’s okay to part ways. This is something I am still learning how to do because I tend to switch into CP mode and then overload my plate with critiques, meaning I take forever to finish them, which is helpful to exactly no one. And, relatedly,
- It’s okay if it takes a while to find the right critique partners. Be realistic about what projects interest you, who you click with, and what style of critique is both useful and motivational. I know it’s hard to walk away! But if you’re reading something you don’t enjoy, you’re wasting the other person’s time as well as your own. You might find it harder to figure out their vision for the project, and give unhelpful critiques; or, worse, you might end up being too harsh or too vague, rather than a good blend of encouraging and challenging. I didn’t know at first what I liked in CPs, but over time, I came across a handful of people I’m really excited to trade work with. It’s worth holding out for!