Why writing is like basketball (with the pitches for my first two novels at the end)

I finished writing my first novel, She’s on Pointe, at the start of 2020. I sent my first batch of queries out the day New Zealand went into Level 4 lockdown… I got a couple full manuscript requests in those first couple days and started to get my hopes up… And then, well, COVID-times and all that (maybe it was actually nothing to do with COVID but it feels nice to blame it on something). In the end I got something like 150 rejections from literary agents. Ouch.

During this time, my sister, also a writer, sent me a link to Brandon Sanderson’s creative writing lectures at BYU, which were being filmed and uploaded each week. Not being much of a sci-fi or fantasy reader, I didn’t actually know who he was but a quick Google soon revealed that he is a suuuuuuper successful author, and after listening to his lectures I came to the conclusion that’s he’s a pretty awesome guy, as well.

He gave some advice in the first lecture that really gave me reason to be stoked with my efforts, and give me hope for the future. I’m not exactly quoting verbatim here but hopefully I’ve captured the gist of what he said.

Most people who say they want to write a book will never actually do it. So if you have written a complete book, you’re in a minority of people. Then, if your first book isn’t successful, most people will never write another. So if you keep writing, you’re now in a teeny tiny minority. And that’s something to be pretty damn proud of.

He also likened writing to playing basketball. If you played on a social basketball team, most people wouldn’t ask you “Why don’t you play for the NBA?” (i.e. why aren’t you published? Why aren’t you successful?), they’d probably say something like “Oh that’s cool, man” because they’d recognize that you enjoyed it and that it was good for your health and wellbeing. Brandon made the compelling case that, if you love it, writing is good for you in and of itself. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have goals and strive to be successful at it, but you should view it as a healthy thing for you to do whether or not you achieve those goals.

If you played on a social basketball team, most people wouldn’t ask you “Why don’t you play for the NBA?”

This advice really helped build me up. So I didn’t strike it big and get a Netflix deal for my first book, so what? I’d just keep on writing.

At the start of 2021, I finished my second novel, Killing Cinderella. I’ve started querying for it and the rejections are trickling in already. But even if I get another 150 rejections, it won’t stop me from writing. Because the joy I get from it and the mental boost it gives me is totally worth it. Plus, my brother’s reactions to each chapter as I send him my first drafts are priceless!

I think I’ll start planning novel number three now… Ultimately, if agents and publishers consistently reject my books, I think I’ll self-publish. It’ll be hard work, but it’ll be worth it if I can just bring a little joy to someone with my books.

If you’re curious, here are my pitches for She’s on Pointe and Killing Cinderella. Writing a pitch is freaking hard and, like everything, I’m sure I’ll get better the more I practice. So I better get writing!

She’s on Pointe

16 year old Gia is soon going to need an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of who she’s told what to. She’s supposed to be focused on getting into law school but a dance career keeps spinning through her head like some kind of annoying-as-shit GIF. Much like the pirouettes she can’t seem to do without falling on her face. Ugh. Lying to her parents, she enrolls in open classes at the New Zealand School of Dance. But one lie leads to another and when Gia crashes into Cullen King’s car, she is uninsured and shit out of luck. King is the local high school god and he knows it. He’s a cocky bastard but he’s also best friends with Gia’s brother, so he agrees to cut a deal. He will keep Gia’s secrets… but in return, he wants three wishes.

Killing Cinderella

Imagine Cinderella in 2020 (minus all that COVID shit). Only instead of doing laundry and cleaning fireplaces, Ella is working at her stepmother’s company for the summer. And her stepmom doesn’t make her dress in rags or lock her in the attic, she’s just overbearing and overprotective. And it isn’t exactly baseless, either. After Ella’s dad was killed in a freak accident a few months ago, Ella lost the plot and had to be admitted to Ferngrove Mental Health Centre. She’s gained her freedom now and is just trying to make it through summer and off to Columbia intact… Until she uncovers something at the office that throws doubt on the circumstances of her father’s death. Could her stepmom have been involved in this ‘accident’? Ella starts to dig but a string of near-fatal incidents of her own soon mount up. She’s sure these are no accidents: someone is trying to off her before she finds out the truth. With her boyfriend just dragging her down and Joel bloody Torres doing nothing more than tormenting her with delicious coffee, Ella can’t rely on a handsome prince coming to the rescue. She’s going to need to use brains, not beauty, to get out of this alive. It’s time to turn wimpy Cinderella into a boss ass bitch.

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