Passing the Torch: guest post from 2015 Pitch to Publication winner Kyrie McCauley

First, a quick note from Elizabeth:

Can you believe #p2p16 is under two weeks away? I know I can’t–as a contest editor, I’m ridiculously excited to meet a new bunch of talent and fall in love with a special story.

In the 2015 contest, I had the privilege of working with YA author Kyrie McCauley on her novel LIONHEARTED. I’ve stayed in touch with her through her querying process, and she was awesome enough to offer some advice to this year’s participants. I’ve shared her thoughts on several aspects of the contest below, and I know that both of us are willing to share more of what we learned if you have any questions!

Without further ado, Kyrie McCauley:

First, a bit about you—what do you write, and why do you write?

I mostly write young adult fantasy, and am working on my first magical realism. Why I write is a bit harder to pin point. I’ve always loved to write—anything at all, even research papers in college and English essays in high school. When I was young, my mom would sometimes take us to a dollar store and let us pick out one item each. I chose a composition notebook almost every time (and these are still my favorite writing tool). Something about a blank piece of paper has always made me want to fill it.

Why did you decide to enter Pitch to Publication?

The timing was perfect. I had just finished a round of revisions, and while I was tentatively beginning to query, I knew I wanted to participate in a contest. I was drawn to the energy and enthusiasm of Pitch to Publication, and could see that a really special writing community was forming.

What was your project for the 2015 event?

My 2015 project was a YA Fantasy called LIONHEARTED. Zinnia sets out to stop a famine, which she believes is caused by leftover magic in the realm. Instead of finding magic-users, she discovers a refugee camp, and realizes that the real monsters in the kingdom might be in her own royal family.

What did you do to get your manuscript ready?

My query letter went through about fifteen revisions. I proofread A LOT (and still missed so much!). And then I spent a good amount of time researching the editors. I’m so glad that I found Elizabeth. I knew from the moment I read her profile that I would submit to her.

What was the best thing about working with an editor?

The camaraderie! It might sound silly, but once we started going back and forth about the manuscript, it felt like we were a relay team trying to finish a race together. (Given the short turnaround time on editing, it really did go fast). We had a common goal, and once I understood that, it was very easy to accept any suggestions or criticism—I knew Elizabeth wanted the very best for my manuscript and I trusted that she would help me get there.

What was the hardest thing about working with an editor?

It went so fast! Elizabeth was incredibly responsive, and we managed to get through the entire manuscript multiple times. (An impressive feat with over 100k words). Of course, real life doesn’t stop, so the hardest part for me was balancing my job, motherhood, and setting aside the time to make that one month of editing really count.

How did your manuscript grow during the event, and where is it now?

Well, actually, my manuscript shrank during the event (ha!). Elizabeth helped me with tightening the story and the writing, and trying to wrangle my word count down a bit. Right now my full MS is out with several agents, and I’m working on the same trait I encourage in my three-year-old: patience.

Do you have any final words of wisdom or encouragement for #p2p16 hopefuls?

Pitch to Publication was so much fun, and the community was incredible. It will force you to look at your writing under a microscope—it is not always pretty, and it doesn’t have to be. P2P helped me understand that even after several revisions, there is work to be done (and why that’s actually a good thing). You won’t just fix this manuscript, you will learn some tools for better writing, and gain some amazing writer/editor friends.

As for words of wisdom, if your manuscript is polished and matches Elizabeth’s wish list, you really want to submit to her. They say you want to find an agent who will champion your book, and I would say it is the same with an editor. Elizabeth was fierce with my manuscript in all the ways that mattered—editing and making suggestions for big picture changes, and then later, being its greatest cheerleader during the agent round—and beyond!

Good luck, #p2p16 hopefuls! Feel free to message me on twitter (@kyriemccauley) with questions about the contest. I’m an open book. I also really like puns. You’ve been warned.

Happy writing!

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