I don’t like crowds, but I do love writing conferences. There’s something awesome about being in a room full of people who speak the same language you do. You can talk about your characters, your storylines, your imagined worlds, and they won’t look at you like you’re nuts. You can talk about hearing voices in your head without making people worry.
Very early Thursday morning, I’ll leave my little Safe Haven Farm and head north and east to Kansas City. There, I’ll pick up my buddy and business partner Amy Davis, and together we’ll head on to St. Louis for the third annual Realm Makers writing conference. It’s the only writing conference specifically for writers of speculative fiction from a Biblical worldview, and it also happens to be where some of the coolest writer folks I know will be gathering too. I’ve gotten to meet so many of these amazing folks, and I can’t wait to see them all again.
I’m doing something different this year, though. Something I haven’t done in a long time. I’m pitching a novel.
See, last year at Realm Makers, I was actually listening to novel pitches. I’ll be doing that this year too, but I haven’t actually pitched a novel for consideration by an editor for many years. I did the first year of Realm Makers, but it was less of a novel pitch and more of a mentorship question. Before then? I hadn’t pitched a novel probably since 2007, the second year I attended the Christian Writers Guild Writing for the Soul Conference. I’d been to writing workshops in the time between, but there were no editors to talk to. And I’d been to other conferences, but I didn’t have a novel they would accept ready to pitch.
This year? I’ve got something. The working title? The Mountain Requires Blood.
I don’t remember when I started working on this novel. It was years ago, and I’ve finished the initial edit on it. But it still needs a lot of work. A LOT of work. It’s a very different type of novel than I’m used to writing. I usually write plot-driven novels with very vivid characters. Characters make the story, yes, but the characters still have to have something to do. Well, this novel is a more introspective story without a lot of action, about a young man who is searching for his birth mother in the jungles of Guatemala.
It’s more of a journey of self discovery than an adventure. Plenty of adventures happen, sure, but it’s more about who he is and how what he learns changes him as a person.
And, no, it’s neither science fiction nor fantasy. In The Mountain Requires Blood, there are no aliens. There is no time travel or spaceships. No dragons or superpowers. Just an average, ordinary, everyday kind of guy who ends up over his head in a foreign culture, dehydrating in jungle village, struggling with strange showerheads, fighting tarantulas and scorpions for his shoes every morning, and ultimately learning what true sacrifice really looks like. Finding Fireflies has been called my most authentic story, but I think this one might give it a run for its money.
In any case, I hadn’t expected to be able to pitch it, but then I found out that Bethany House will be in attendance at Realm Makers. That’s a big, exciting deal for a number of reasons. I didn’t expect to be able to pitch a non-speculative manuscript at a speculative conference, but stranger things have happened.
Novel pitching is tough. You have to condense a lifetime of information and years of blood, sweat, and tears into a 10-minute interview with a stranger, and you’ve got to be able to summarize your entire book in about two sentences. But you have to know it well enough to answer questions, to elaborate on plot, to pull out details that make it unique or unusual or engaging, and you have to pull all this off while still presenting yourself like a professional. That means no passing out, which I haven’t done before but have felt like doing.
I won’t lie and say I’m not nervous. I haven’t done this in a while, and it’s been a while since I’ve considered going a traditional publishing route. But I’m excited to try!