Hey, Pitch Warriors! Some of you know me from last year, when I was mentored by the amazing Rachel Lynn Solomon. I’m still unagented, and I have a new manuscript, so I’m back, with a vengeance. Not really about that last part, except my book’s title is VERA WITH A VENGEANCE, and I love making punny (or not-so-punny) jokes.
For real, I loved partipating in Pitch Wars last year. I had a great experience working with Rachel and found a lovely community in a group of my fellow mentees in Facebook (I’m still on there every day!). It’s a little weird to be back this year, and I wasn’t sure that I was going to do it, at first. Then the mentor wish lists came out and I swooned about all of the amazing mentors. Still unsure, I did what I always do, when I have a writing quandary: I posted about it in the 2015 Pitch Wars Mentee Facebook Group, and asked Rachel. They encouraged me to enter again, so here I am!
Here’s the deal about this year’s book, a 78,000 word young adult contemporary novel:
VERONICA MARS meets Courtney Summers when a seventeen-year-old girl starts a business to sell revenge.
Vera Davis grew up overshadowed by her basketball-superstar brother. When a car accident paralyzes him and kills her parents, she’s suddenly in charge of his medical bills, the mortgage, and her own anger and helplessness. Vera’s always been good at getting back at people who hurt her, from ex-boyfriends to jerk bosses to cheating classmates. But she can’t exactly get revenge on the curve in the road where her father lost control of the car.
Meager insurance payouts leave Vera desperate for money, so she starts a business to help other people get revenge. Word spreads, and she’s soon busy wreaking havoc on cheats, liars, and thieves of all stripes. The only snag is that Vera’s mega crush thinks her style of vengeance is morally wrong. He’s her brother’s best friend and totally off-limits, so she doesn’t let him stop her. Even if he might be right that fighting nude picture with nude picture makes the whole world naked on the internet.
In the course of investigating a case for a client, Vera finds new evidence about her family’s accident. Turns out there is someone for Vera to blame, but the perpetrator had her own reason to seek revenge. Now that Vera can finally get vengeance, she must decide whether she still wants it.
[Mad thanks to Alana Saltz. I met her when we both entered Pitch Wars last year. I think we emailed about that pitch eleven-and-a-half million times? Also, the picture of the basketball players in my collage? That’s Jon Scheyer and Gerald Henderson, who inspired the male characters in VERA. I had huge crushes on them when I was an undergrad at Duke!]
Of all things, I came up with the idea for VERA after I asked a guy to stop smoking (hate it!) at the dog park. He wasn’t so happy about my request, and blew smoke in my face. In real life, I left the dog park. In my imagination, I fantasized about how I could get back at him. Then, I realized that he was probably having a crappy day, and really needed that cigarette. If I got revenge on him, I would be a jerk, too. Vera’s business, and its potential for moral complications, came into my mind as I walked my dog home.
I had to wait a long time to start writing VERA—extensive revisions for Pitch Wars last year came during my final year of grad school. I taught college classes for the first time, and wrote, designed, and self-published a collection of short stories for my MFA thesis. As soon as that book was at the printer and out of my hands, I started writing VERA. I wish I had started earlier—it’s true what everyone says, that writing a new book is the best therapy for the stress and emotional roller coaster that comes with querying. Writing VERA was better than chocolate therapy, retail therapy, and therapy therapy. Okay, maybe I lied about the chocolate.
I only finished VERA this month, so it is still an early draft. Right now, I’d call it draft 1.5, since I already cut two characters, and fixed some obvious editing and consistency problems. My critique partners have read several chunks of it, and I just got some AMAZING feedback on the full from a sensitivity beta reader. By the time the submission window rolls around, I’ll be on a solid draft 2. While I’m nervous about submitting such an early draft, I’m excited to have energy and relatively fresh eyes to revise during Pitch Wars, if I am chosen.
VERA is my third novel. The second was my Pitch Wars book from last year, which is still searching for a home with an agent and/or publisher. The first will forever be in a drawer (or maybe, one day, completely rewritten). I’ve learned a lot about writing from my experiences drafting those novels, in my M.F.A. program, and working with Rachel and other critique partners. I hope that learning shows through in VERA and I’m looking for help making it my strongest book yet.
WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR IN A MENTOR/MENTEE RELATIONSHIP
I hit the jackpot last year with Rachel, who has become a trusted critique partner and friend. I would love to be so lucky again. VERA is more twisty and turny than anything I have written before, so I would love to work with a mentor who is awesome at figuring out when to reveal which information for maximum suspense. VERA also deals with a lot of very sensitive issues: disability, the morality of revenge, sexual assault, race, religion. The number of ways I can offend readers is scary. I have sought/am still seeking sensitivity readers, but I would love a mentor to help me check my privilege and write about those issues with the sensitivity and complexity they deserve.
I haven’t spent as much time as I like polishing VERA yet, because I don’t want to spend hours agonizing over a sentence when I might delete the whole scene. I’d love a mentor who understands that and points out patterns of weaknesses that I can work on when it’s time for me to obsess about every word. Don’t worry—I LOVE obsessing about every word. But sometimes I waste time by doing that too early!
I wrote a lot about my revision style (and my life) in my mentee bio last year, and that’s all still true! Except lots of wonderful things have happened since then. I’m engaged to my then-boyfriend (for some reason he stuck around despite being completely neglected during Pitch Wars), and I have my Masters of Fine Arts degree (though still no full-time teaching job). I’m loving teaching writing at the University of Baltimore, freelance editing, and dreaming up writing classes for my business, Sounding Sea Writers’ Workshop. I also get to read amazing books and help authors with marketing in my internship with literary agent Carrie Pestritto, of Prospect Agency.
I’d love to chat books, feminism, wedding planning (so! much! work!), self-publishing (also so! much! work!). Hit me up on Twitter, @tracycgold, and to my fellow potential mentees, good luck!