1. In November 2020, I filled out a form with my name, MS title, genre, audience (MG/YA) and asked to be entered into the WTMP Twitter pitch raffle.
2. I was selected, totally at random, to participate in a #WTPitch Twitter pitch. The names were announced on Twitter. I pitched Dragon Scales to mentors for middle grade (MG). Total, there were three pairs of mentors and one individual who was interested in MG horror (which I don't have). Not as large a selection of mentors as other MS mentor programs, but only 10 MG writers were chosen to pitch, by my count, so the odds of getting a "like" weren't bad.
3. Mentors then liked pitches, and if your pitch got a like, you were allowed to submit a full MS or query package to WTMP for a critique by those mentors.
The key is, you have to have a completed MS. I should add, a completed MS you want feedback on. Because while I had a completed MS, when I got the like from the mentor pair, I'd just decided to scrap it and rewrite it. (I'll explain... ;-)
I'm stubborn about this writing biz. I want to figure out the craft of fiction writing on my own. That way the lessons will stick for my next books. I learned an enormous amount rewriting my first book, Dragon's Leap, no less than 16 times (it's still not where I want it to be...but that's another story).
I went about doing many of the same things for Dragon Scales that I did for DL. That included, in the month of January, as you know, participating in the First Five Pages Writing Workshop. Lo and behold, with mentor input from author Sheri Larsen, I found a much better starting point for Dragon Scales. It was at the end of chapter 3, beginning of chapter 4.
In the process of working this new opening into the MS, I had to prepare the first 25 pages to submit to WTMP mentors. I ended up consolidating the first nine chapters into those 25 pages! At this point, I realized, I was kinda onto something. I went back to critique partner feedback I'd already received, and started to think on it again.
I had also received a generous critique letter from a pair of Pitch Wars mentors, Team KrackenBee, and I was ruminating on how to incorporate their ideas in a rewritten Dragon Scales. To be fair, I'd received this advice back in November, but I hadn't acted on it -- yet. I agreed with everything they said. They essentially wanted me to rewrite in a way that more closely fit what I'd had in mind for the story originally, before I sat down to write it. It just got away from me somehow while pantsing with a very loose 3-act structure outline. In the process of writing, I'd veered away from that original vision of my story and I needed to bring it back. Sometimes we're aware of plot issues, but we don't know how to solve them. So I'd been trying to figure out how to do it.
At the same time, I was beat sheeting a new MS, one I'm super excited about (Dragons' Journey -- and yes, I have dragons on the brain!). In brainstorming sessions with my husband, we'd come up with some pretty good plot twists and turns that I honestly can't wait to write; an emotional heart-string tugging theme that we structured the story around; and a pretty good hook, although that I'm still refining.
Then I got the idea to beat sheet Dragon Scales as well. Now, I'd used an "outline" -- basically a three-act structure --when writing Dragon Scales, but it wasn't very detailed. As you know, I did a ton of craft development over the holidays, focusing on story structure.
One of the things I'd done was take R.L. Stine's Master Class. In it, he explains how he writes a detailed outline, sends it to his editor, who then pokes holes in it and sends it back, telling him to fix it, and so on, until he often has a 50-page outline to write by. He said that by the time he writes the book, he feels like he's already written the story!
Well, for me, writing the middle (from Break into two to Break into three) has consistently been my toughest challenge. I love writing the beginning and tend to revel in it. I love writing the ending, but by the time I get there, I'm kinda exhausted and things (like magic systems) often aren't quite as well thought-out as they should be. Writing the middle just feels like a chore. Stine's approach sounded very attractive to combat this, especially for starting a new book. I'd found Noam Kroll's beat sheeting technique on his blog and his fast start for a story (figure out the hook and the 7 key beats) was excellent for getting me off and running beat sheeting my new story.
That's when I got the idea to beat sheet Dragon Scales. My Alpha reader, my wonderful, amazing husband, had already read it and spreadsheeted every scene. It didn't entirely mesh with good story structure, and the spreadsheet really showed that. I spent far too long in the beginning, the Break into two wasn't connected enough to the beginning, and I'd skipped Fun and Games -- not entirely, but I'd certainly put a muzzle on my literary device of chaos, and that's what Team KrackenBee picked up on.
So, back to WTMP...
I had a like from one WTMP mentor team in hand, a rewritten set of 25 pages that consolidated 9 chapters, and I'd started beat sheeting Dragon Scales from scratch. After 21-pages of beat sheeting (still not quite finished!), I really, really liked what came out of it. I asked a few fellow authors -- Morgan, thank you very much! -- if I should still submit the MS, with a full beat sheet / plan for a rewrite, or was there a way to work around the fact that I now wanted to rewrite the whole thing? There is, but there were others in the contest I know who have completed MSs, which I no longer considered myself to have, and they deserved a chance at this wonderful opportunity.
Plus, like I said, I'm stubborn. I want to figure this out and write it on my own, first.
So I pulled Dragon Scales from consideration in Write Team's Mentorship Program because I wanted a shot at figuring this plot structure thing out on my own, first. Sadly, Dragon Scales is not my first book. It's my second, and it was a page-1 rewrite of its own, but obviously I still have a ton to learn.
And that means, rewriting the MS before asking more professionals for more feedback on it.
The WTMP mentor team was very understanding and sent a nice note after I explained -- not all this, of course, but that I was rewriting and wanted a shot at getting it better myself, first. This biz is all about timing, and the timing was just off.
Now, back to the beat sheet and my Alpha's feedback...I've got a few more plot holes to fill. ;-)