How Do You Know if Your Pitch is Any Good?

How Do You Know if Your Pitch is Any Good?

How Do You Know if Your Pitch is Any Good? Get Feedback From a Real Literary Agent 

Hey there writers and muse daters. Annalisa Parent from the Writing Gym coming at you.

So, many of you know that I speak to lots and lots of writers all over the world. And one of the things that writers talk about is not knowing why their novel was rejected. ”Why me? Why did this happen to me?”

The problem is that a lot of the feedback that you get when you hear back from an agent is cookie-cutter. It’s the same letter from every single agent. “Not for me. Thanks, but don’t worry. My opinion is subjective.”

Those are pretty frequently-seen terms that you’ll see in a rejection letter from an agent. So, how do you know which part of your submission is the part that’s not working?

Is it the actual manuscript? Is it your query? Is it your synopsis? Is it something else? Well, there’s no real way to know until now.

What we’ve been doing over in the Writing Gym, since our in-person retreats have been postponed due to the Coronavirus, is we’ve been doing these amazing online experiences and we do a three-day retreat.

We got together on Zoom, and the online experience was as intimate, as fun and amazing as our in-person experiences have been (minus the amazing food that we usually have when we’re at manor houses).


There are opportunities for you to meet with agents in person, and to pitch your idea. Not only could you potentially get representation from her, but more importantly you could get feedback on that pitch.

Imagine getting that kind of personalized feedback from someone who’s an actual literary agent in the field. That’s one of the many perks that we’ve got. 


Well, we’ve got writing salons. We’ve got craft intensives. We’ve gotten New York Times Bestselling Author Kel Kade to speak with us about how she got published, how she got a 6-figure advance, and what it’s like to work with a publishing house.

Writing Gym Members and Writing Gym Alumni are prioritized for registration, and if slots are left, we will open it up to the general public. Be on the lookout for our next retreat! If you’re interested in becoming a Writing Gym member, let’s chat.

In the meanwhile, check out our upcoming events here

But  if you can’t wait any longer and you’re itching to write, enrollment is currently open for salon!

What is salon? Salon is a group writing experience that gives feedback based on neuroscience and designed to optimize your creativity. It is a powerful brain-based experience for writers at all levels in all genres. To sign up for the October 20, 2020 salon, click here.

Finding the Inspiration and Courage That Leads to Multiple Genre Success

Finding the Inspiration and Courage That Leads to Multiple Genre Success

Finding the Inspiration and Courage that leads to Multiple Genre Success

This is a transcript of the Writing Gym Podcast. To listen to the full episode, click here.

Today’s Writing Gym Podcast guest is Cristina Istrati. She writes in multiple genres–which is pretty amazing–and we asked her to share her writing process and inspiration with us.

Many writers have dreams of getting published. In Cristina’s case her dream came from a literal dream!

“I’d like to think it’s a bit unusual,” Cristina started, “How I started writing was actually through a dream that I had back in August 2007. ​I just dreamt myself writing books and that was it. The next day, I just grabbed a pen and some sheets and just started writing and the result of that was my first novel.​ I published it in 2009. This is how I started and like I said, I am working on my third novel in my series and I am so excited about it.”

It’s really a magical thing–to follow that impulse, that dream. And look where Cristina is now. She’s a published and award-winning writer. How did winning an award immediately after her debut novel impact her writing life? 

“I never expected it but I was very happy. The first thing is that it keeps you confident and it also stimulates you to keep going, to keep working on your stories, and to keep writing. Because at the end of the day this is what it is all about. Winning an award was a stimulation for me. I didn’t let it change me or anything a little bit close to arrogant or anything close to that, no, I kept working on my novels and I didn’t allow it to let it influence me in any negative way.”

I then asked Cristina about feedback. One of the things that I talk about a lot is the difference between the creative process and the revision process. They’re two very different functions. When we’re in the creative process, it’s really important not to let that feedback in or for that feedback to only be positive feedback. 

“When I was writing the first novel I didn’t get any feedback. I was so into writing; I was absorbed by the story and the characters and what I was doing there that it didn’t even cross my mind to actually ask a friend to read through it. I just went for it, wrote the book, and published it at the end. That was it. 

You never know–maybe somebody would’ve told me they didn’t like the story or it’s boring, or something like that and that might have discouraged me​ a bit. So, I’m happy that I didn’t ask for feedback from anybody. I just did it on my own.”

This is a really valuable tip for writers–like Cristina, writers must know when it’s time to let that feedback in or when it’s time to just really be in that creative zone. 

But what about after winning her award–did it change her writing process? 

“I had some fellow writers read my second novel but, somehow, I didn’t like their feedback. I didn’t take it personally because f​eedback is not about that. You just listen to what the other person is saying and if something resonates with you then you take it. That’s pretty much it. A writer should never take it personally.​ It’s not about the writer; it’s about the work itself. Feedback should only be looked at as pure feedback.

“What I didn’t like about their feedback was that they were too general. It was like they were talking about a different novel. I realized I just needed to follow my own intuition and to not give anyone the manuscript anymore, before it gets published. I wanted to follow my own gut feeling–both in writing and when it comes to feedback as well.”

Cristina’s talk about intuition resonated the most with me. Many writers get so wrapped up in what they’re writing and many get into this self-doubt, always asking themselves: “Is this right? I don’t know.” It makes such a difference when they start to believe in themselves and their writing. When writers get feedback, they mustn’t take it personally–much like what Cristina shared. 

As writers, we must be confident about the message we are putting out into the world. I know what is right for my book and I know that’s what I’m doing. How did Cristina develop her strong sense of writing intuition? 

“This may sound arrogant–and I totally understand if that’s the way it comes across–but when I see what I am writing, when I see the product of my work, I just feel confident about it and I don’t know where this confidence comes from. When there is something so, so strong and so,so beautiful about the story, it cannot be something random. That keeps me confident.”

“A writer’s story and characters are one. The minute the writer enters their room and starts writing, they become one with the novel and with everything else that is inside the novel. It’s like a universe. When you create something so strong and you feel like it is a part of you, and a part of your soul and heart, how can you not be confident and know? It’s twisting, I cannot understand this but this is what I feel.”

Definitely a unique perspective but one that I appreciate very much. There’s a different type of confidence that comes from the power of our piece–different from when we win awards and other things. Where we are writing has its own life, its own energy, and its own confidence. If writers are really listening to their piece and have faith in their piece, then there is a different kind of confidence that can overcome their impostor syndrome. 

“I think one of the reasons why writers aren’t so confident in themselves is because the media created many limiting concepts about the writing industry and one of of them is that you can’t make a living as a writer,” Cristina shared, “From my point of view, as long as the writers is 1000% committed, there is nothing they cannot achieve in terms of the writing career. There is no limit to what a writer can achieve as long as they are themselves, their journey, and their writing.” 

Resonating and true is something that I also believe in. At the Writing Gym, we have created a group of wonderful writers who are committed to their craft, who get feedback from published and award-winning authors like Cristina. I asked Cristina if a program like this had been available when she was just starting out, would it have been something she was interested in doing? 

“Any help is more than welcome–especially at the beginning. At the beginning every writer should get as much help as possible. That’s a bit of a critical point when the writer just starts out, the confidence is not so big. But if the passion–a really burning passion, the kind that wakes you up at night and compels you to write–is there then that is enough. If this confidence is not there, my advice for writers is to follow the passion, to make their passion a substitute for the confidence. As they hold on to that passion they have for writing, the confidence will make its way, too.”

Some people are born writers in the same way that some are born musicians or basketball players. But the rest of us humans on Earth, we have to work at the process over time, unless we are a true prodigy–and that’s okay. It’s part of the process to learn and to get quality feedback and to learn the skills that we need. 

Yet, even those naturally born writers, musicians, athletes all have to show up and do the work too. It goes for any kind of gift that people have.

As I mentioned before, Cristina writes in multiple genres. “It was very interesting for me to see that I could actually switch from romance to children’s stories and then I wrote mystery stories. I think it is a good thing for a writer to play with genres if they have the ability to, because then they wouldn’t be caged into one particular genre. I highly recommend that other writers try to write in other genres. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a masterpiece, it’s an exercise to see what will work and it’s helped me polish my writing skills and gave me that extra confidence.


“Another great benefit is that it nourishes your imagination. For me, at least, I get bored writing in one genre. I want more excitement, adventure, and switching from one genre to another really keeps things exciting for me.”

Cristina shared another amazing takeaway–the energy of the writer comes through the book and becomes absorbed by the reader. “The writer needs to be at his best. When he is writing, he needs to be bubbling with creative energy. That will be felt in his things.”

Lastly, I asked Cristina if she had one piece of advice for writers just starting out writing and struggling with it.

“Firstly, identify what you love to write about. It’s important to play with genres a bit in the beginning and see which one first you best. Without that certainty, you cannot write. And from here comes the lack of confidence. Figure out what genre first for you like a glove and just off and follow that. The more you write, the more you want to write and the more the passion will grow. This will give you confidence and you’ll want to keep doing that.” 

Well, there you go–the lovely advice for aspiring authors. Just identify what you love to write about and follow your intuition. Take the time to play with genres, figure it out, find your niche, and your calling, and all doubts will fade away. 

Until next time. Happy writing.

This is a transcript of the Writing Gym Podcast. To listen to the full episode, click here

Never Give Up on Your Writing

Never Give Up on Your Writing

Never Give Up on Your Writing

Hey there, writers and muse daters! Today I am really excited to Barbara Pattee, who has an amazing message for us about never giving up. Barbara is writing a romance novel, but one that dabbles a little in crime.

“I like romance that is a little more than ‘boy meets girl,’ or ‘girl meets boy,’ where everything ends happily ever after,” Barbara said.

Barbara joined the Writing Gym after years of writing on her own. For as long as she can remember, she has felt compelled to express herself through her writing.

“I’ve always been a writer,” she said. “I used to write in secret, because it wasn’t considered an important career. I even learned how to do shorthand.”

Her writing has taken many forms over the years. She has done short stories, poetry, and memoir pieces–including one she put together from stories her father told her when he had fallen ill.

“He started talking about his childhood, I started writing notes, and I wrote a memoir based on what he said,” Barbara said. “I read it to him, and he loved it.”

As much as Barbara enjoyed writing, there was something about it that left her unfulfilled.

“I wasn’t happy,” she said. “I knew that I wanted more. I’ve wanted to write something full-length.”

Barbara knew that she wanted to write a novel. But when she sought feedback–professional writers, writing groups, etc.–she encountered a lot of resistance. She wouldn’t allow it to deter her from her dream.

“I just said I would never give up,” she said. “And I didn’t.”

Like many writers, Barbara has her share of horror stories about what can happen when you look for feedback in the wrong places. One professor, a professional writer herself, read one of Barbara’s stories and practically drowned her in a torrent of negative criticism.

“She hated it,” Barbara said. “But classmates came to me, some in tears, saying they loved what I wrote. So I was getting a mixed messages.”

The feedback wasn’t helping at all; if anything, it hurt. Then, at a writers’ conference, Barbara saw Storytelling for Pantsers. The more she read it, the more she felt as if the book had been written just for her.

“I started reading it, and I thought, ‘She’s talking to me. She’s saying what I’m feeling,'” Barbara said. “I have dozens and dozens of books (about writing) that did not move me. But Storytelling for Pantsers spoke to me.”

The book spoke to Barbara’s aversion to outlining her stories. Finally, she had confirmation of what she had always believed: that she didn’t need an outline to write a good story.

“I’m a pantser,” she said. “I can’t do outlines. I had to do it in school and I hated it from the beginning.”

Reading the book inspired Barbara to get on a call with me.

“The call was very encouraging,” she said. “I liked that you don’t tell us we have to do something. What you do is you make suggestions, you give us ideas, you give us questions to answer.”

I invited Barbara to join the Writing Gym, and she accepted. Since then, we have been working together on her novel. Barbara enjoys the information and encouragement she get from the video modules on the Writing Gym website. She also loves the Salons, in which writers get together, write for 20 minutes based on a prompt, and share their writing with each other.

“There’s no negativity in Salon,” Barbara said. “And you also get feedback on what other writers hear in your story. Some things you may not think are that important wind up being extremely important and that encourages me as a writer.”

During one of the early Salons, Barbara wrote a piece that involved slavery–similar to the one her college professor had treated with disdain. As she shared it with the other writers, she braced herself for another barrage of negative feedback.

“I thought, ‘Am I going to get slammed again?’” Barbara remembers. “But I wasn’t. I was encouraged, and that was beautiful.”

Barbara said she has grown a great deal as a writer since joining the Gym.

“I have added a lot more emotion in my stories–which, as a child growing up I was taught that I had to hold back,” she said. “But, as a writer…I have to look inside myself, think about what I am feeling.”

Barbara’s writing is thriving. She credits her encouragement from me, and from her fellow “Gym Rats,” for helping her summon the courage to be vulnerable in her storytelling.

In the Writing Gym, we talk a lot about the inner critic – how listening to it can hold you back in your writing, and how you have to learn to silence it in order to maximize your storytelling potential. Barbara has wrestled with her inner critic for years. But now, she’s winning!

“My inner critic is upset, because she doesn’t have much to say now,” she said. “I’m smiling a lot more. Even my husband has noticed that.”

Barbara has been an amazing advocate of the Writing Gym; she recommends it to whoever will listen.

“I tell them about what it’s like being in the Writing Gym, and I’ve tried to encourage them to join,” she said. “I’m hoping that they will join even before my book is published. But after it’s published, I know they’re going to want to join.”

Barbara realizes that the Writing Gym isn’t for everyone. She knows it’s not a place for hobbyists.

“I think it’s really about deciding how serious you are,” she said about joining the Gym. “How much do you want to be a writer? Is it a hobby, or is it something you want as a career?”

Barbara has made her choice; she wants a writing career, and she’s willing to put in the work to get there. The more progress she makes, the more resolute she becomes.

“I will not give up. I’m going to continue.”

Thank you so much, Barbara! We love having you in the Writing Gym!

Cheap Pans… and Other Musings on Writing

Cheap Pans… and Other Musings on Writing

Cheap Pans… and other Musings on Writing 

Some of you may know that in the past couple of weeks I have been displaced from my home. There was an emergency and so I’ve been in this temporary housing situation. I bought two little cheap saucepans, thinking that I’d only need them for three weeks maximum. 

“This is going to be fun,” I first thought as I paid $10 for both pans. Well, it’s been a little bit more than three weeks and at this point I’ve thrown away both saucepans. In the course of cooking, at one point or another, they just started smelling really bad. Teflon, a chemical that gets released from using certain cookware, can be bad for your health. So I chucked both away. 

What are we talking about here? This isn’t a cooking show. Well, as I was preparing dinner (not with the two cheap saucepans) I thought about how there are people who first buy these cheap products, not wanting to invest in high-end ones.

They’d buy cheap sauce pans then three months later they have to go back to the store to buy more because their old pans are defective. They end up paying $10 and get stuck on this cycle until they waste so much money that actually amounts to the cost of the $700 high-end cookware.

Most importantly, and most upsetting, is the fact that many writers treat their writing lives this way. They go to these free library groups and cheap writing classes over and over again without getting real results. What ends up happening, instead, is the more damage being done to their writing because of these choices that they are making. 

Cheap solutions, just like those cheap saucepans, are not going to be the best and healthy choice you can do for your writing lifestyle. Writers who look to these cheap solutions are getting the wrong kind of feedback, the wrong kind of information from people who don’t really know what’s going on. 

If writers choose to invest in themselves in the first place, not only will they save tons of money and time, they are doing what is best for their craft by getting actual, healthy results.

If this resonates with you and you are ready to make the investment of your writing life, let’s talk. Book yourself right into my calendar

Happy writing. Happy cooking. Happy eating. Until next time. 

Are you looking to join the MAJOR LEAGUES of the PUBLISHING WORLD?

Are you looking to join the MAJOR LEAGUES of the PUBLISHING WORLD?

Are you looking to join the MAJOR LEAGUES of the PUBLISHING WORLD?

Today we are talking about finding the quality support to get published. There are a lot of mistakes that I see people make all the time in Write to Publish, in other groups on Facebook, and in the writing world in general. If you make these mistakes you’re gonna have a heck of a time getting published, never mind selling your book once you are published.

Me and my team over at the Writing Gym programs want to come from a place of service to you all. We want to get you all to a place where you’re able to achieve your publishing dreams. So, how have we helped writers stop making the same mistakes over and over?

First, we offer quality support.

This support includes giving feedback. Some of you have talked about peer-to-peer feedback but if you are looking to publish and sell books under major leagues of the writing world you need the right kind of feedback. If I wanted to play basketball, it won’t do to to have my neighbor’s kid teach me how to slam dunk; this isn’t going to get me into the NBA or the WNBA or wherever I want to go. If I really want to learn basketball I got to learn from someone who knows all the tricks really well. 

Yet writers who want to be in the major leagues of the publishing world go to their neighbor or go to the librarian or something like that. They are not going to give you the kind of feedback that you really need to get to the big leagues.

In other words: drop those peer-to-peer feedback, the free writing groups, the beta readers because those are not really helping you. The bottom line: if you want the kind of support that’s going to get you to where you need to go you need to hire a professional. 

Those who try otherwise end up frustrated and waste years of their lives from getting the wrong kind of feedback. They want to keep working, to keep trying to get published, but cannot go anywhere unless they find the right kind of feedback. You need to go with somebody qualified. Yes, it will cost money but it is worth investing in if you are really dedicated in pursuing your publishing dreams. 

We at the Writing Gym have been working with writers–training them, getting them published–for a really long time. We have seen the many things that can kill their chances of getting published, of selling books, of reaching readers. A lot of writers may think that they’re on the right track and are making a smart decision, but really they’re not. It won’t catch up with them for months and maybe even years. Then one day they’ll realize they’re behind and end up frustrated, trying the same kinds of things over and over again but not getting better results. 

What we do in the Writing Gym is help clients do better than they’ve ever done before. We see writers from the VIP membership program finishing novels and moving on to the Publishing Mastermind where they find agents from publishing houses. 

Second, you must realize that publishing is a business.

Many of you have heard this fact and still refuse to participate, instead of going on the self-publishing route. Some of these authors find out really quickly that publishing requires you to sell books. It sounds obvious but many writers don’t want to accept that publishing is a business in this way. If you want people to read your book then it needs to get into their hands. How is it gonna get into their hands? You can give it away for free and you can lose money or (if) you can sell it and make a small profit.

But, at any rate, you’ve got to get that book out there in order to get your message into the world–which is presumably why you wanted to write a book. You had a story to tell.

The bottom line: if you want to sell books you need to acknowledge that writing publishing is a business and that you need to treat it as a business if you want to be successful.

We know that we’re treating something as a business when we’re ready to invest in ourselves and we’re ready to invest in our progress. If we’re not at that point, then we’re not going to reach our readers and our goals. At the end of the day, investing in yourself, investing in the resources, investing in a professional is going to help you to it reach your viewers whether you want to self-publish or traditionally publish.

At the end of the day it’s about having the very best product with a great marketing plan and platform so that your readers are interested in hearing your message and buying your book.

Those are hopefully some helpful tips we over in the Writing Gym VIP program. We have helped our writers to finish and publish novels every single day. We’d love to talk to you if you’re serious about getting published and if you’ve got questions about your individual situation and what you can do about that. Click this link to book a free appointment. 

Do You Want LIFE-CHANGING Feedback on Your Writing?

Do You Want LIFE-CHANGING Feedback on Your Writing?

Do you want LIFE-CHANGING feedback on your writing?

I’ve talked to some of you about peer-to-peer feedback while some of you have also asked me about beta readers. I wanted to talk about what we do over in the Writing Gym and why we believe what we believe. 

Feedback is something that I wrote a lot about in my book “Storytelling for Pantsers,” including peer-to- peer feedback and beta readers and why those are not the best way to get feedback. When I say this, people kind of look at me like “what do you mean?” because the thing is so many writers use that technique.

These writers end up giving up and not finish their manuscript; they get confused because they get lots of different types of feedback. 

When writers get the wrong kind of feedback when they’re going to that peer-to-peer or that beta reader model they oftentimes will give up their manuscript. People have been kicked out of writing groups, left writing groups, been insulted, been stopped–you wouldn’t believe the stories that I’ve heard about frustration and uncertainty. Mostly what people end up getting in that peer-to-peer or beta reader feedback is just too many ideas at the same time.

One reader says “Well, I think you should do this” and then another person says “No, you should do the opposite” and then there’s the author in the middle just confused. I bet that you have a story that’s something like that because so many writers have talked to me about that and how they feel that frustration.

It doesn’t have to be that way. There is a method of feedback that’s actually really effective and helps you to grow as a writer and to be in flow with your. A lot of writers say that this is life-changing. You may have heard or seen in some of the videos about the writing salons that we do over in the Writing Gym.

These salons are based on the neuroscientific research that I did during my tenure as a teacher.

As a professor, I did some work over at MIT’s brain imaging lab and some work on Harvard’s campus. All that is to say that you know the work that I’ve done optimizes your brains function. That’s really what we do in the writing salon. You will get quality feedback and it can be optimized to the way that your brain is meant to work. 

People have said that their confidence is boosted, that they felt like a real writer after they attended a salon. There have been many incidents where people write non-stop for days. I had one person come to one of these writing salons and wrote the entire weekend. She has since published five books. The writing salon is really, really powerful and I hope that you can join us there. 

To find out where you are, where you’d like to go, and how you can get there put yourself on my calendar:

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