I use twig-words to build my nest. Inside it I place my plot, characters, theme and voice, being careful not to crush their fragile shells. I nurture them until they have hatched and sprouted strong wings.* The fledglings fly from the nest - a small flock ready to make its way in the wide world.
*Ugly Fact: weaklings may be ejected from the nest.
"Everyone" has told me that WordPress is better for writers than Blogger. We'll see.
If you were following me before, I hope you'll follow me again. And of course, if you weren't following me, please consider doing so. I have some VERY exciting news to share in a week or two.
My new blog is being difficult about Linky Tools so while I figure all that out with Kristina's techy help you can grab the linky code below and jump onto the Thursday's Children Blog Hop here.
...in the words of Woody from Toy Story "If you don't have one-get one."
Ideally, get more than one.
Just like agents, editors, and your eventual "audience", no two CPs/betas will have exactly the same reaction to your work.
CPs and Betas help you be the best writer you can be.
How do they do this?
1.Honesty- Seriously, who doesn't LOVE to be told their book is fabulous, unputdownable, etc., but that's what your family and friends are for. To make your book as good as possible, you have to know what needs tweaking, or even a major overhaul. Objective readers and other writers can provide feedback that is worth their weight in gold.
2. Thoughtful Suggestions- As valuable as it is to know what isn't working, sometimes you have no idea how to fix it. This is where a CP's suggestions come in. Even if you don't take the suggestion literally, it can lead to a brainstorm of your very own.
3. Positive comments- Just as you must know what fell flat, you also should know what made your CP cry, in a good way, of course, or laugh, also in a good way, or say "wow", or keep on reading despite the long list of other things she should be doing.
4. Attention to detail (For CPs, not betas)-This means actually paying close attention to what she's reading. For instance, I won a first chapter critique during a contest this fall. The person doing the crit complained that she didn't know by the end of the chapter whether the MC was "nine or nineteen".
Yet, on page 2 I'd very specifically written, "Worse than the day sixteen years ago when my mother died. I was a baby at the time and don’t remember it." Boom.
5. Sharing the joys and tears- of both writing and trying to become agented/published, or whatever your writing goal happens to be. Writing is, for the most part, a solitary pursuit.
Generally we're not able to do the prairie dog thing, pop up from our cubicle and fist-bump, or hand each other a tissue. So we do that via email, Facebook, Twitter... Cheering for contest wins, requests from agents, etc. And consoling each other when we don't even come close to winning the contest, or the agent rejects said request.
In some cases I've only read my CP's work, or they've only read mine, or we've just started an exchange...
But they are all people who inspire me to keep writing, to keep working at getting better, and whose own work and indomitable spirits inspire me.
I wish you, and all of Thursday's Children, the very best of holidays and a successful writing year ahead.
We're All In This Together. Alright, the acting might not have been brilliant, but there were some damn catchy tunes in this movie.
This week's Inspiration came from eavesdropping on Twitter.
Two Writer-Tweeps were talking, and one of them mentioned the TV Show WipeOut.
WipeOut - a metaphor for a writer's journey to publication.
You've finished your manuscript, your betas and CPs have had at it, you've polished and tweaked and can't think of anything to do to it that would make it better - you're ready to enter the competition.
First Challenge: Querying, or The Big Balls.
There are at least 3 parts to a successful query:
Researching Agents, Writing a Kickass Query, Having an Opening Bit that Rocks
Along the way something often goes wrong...
And your doomed query languishes in the slushpile.
I've heard that 95-99% of Queries Never Escape the Slushpile
But IF you take your time, and study how others have effectively navigated
The Big Balls, well, then maybe this will happen.
You've Beaten the Big Balls, aka Received a Request for a Full or Partial!
This is ENORMOUSLY validating.
Keep those requests. Read them often. Even if ultimately this is what happens.
It feels just like that.
Reading something like the letter
I received from an agent a couple of years ago regarding my first book.
From my archived "File of Pain" as one of my CPs calls it...
Thanks for letting me look at your partial manuscript.
I love your voice. It's subtle and very
natural. But I'm afraid the plot felt slow. The idea driving this story, which
you laid out in the letter, is terrific. I found myself wishing this world were
developed more right from the start in a more page-turning fashion.
With this in mind, it's with regrets that I'm going to pass. Sorry this
didn't work out but I wish you the best of luck finding the right agent for this
project. Thanks again for thinking of me.
Clearly my MS didn't live up to the query letter.
Words of Friendly Advice: When a letter from an agent starts off with a compliment and quickly segues into a "but", go get yourself a drink. And some chocolate.
Maybe even a shoulder to cry on.
Here's another rejection for the same book. The "pass" was so vague that I asked for some clarification. Here's what she wrote.
appreciate and respect that as a new writer, critical feedback is key to
honing your craft. We actually found your writing and pacing to be quite
engaging. Rather, it was the character development and use of what have
unfortunately become over-mined and archetypal aspects of this genre that kept us from being fully won over. I hope this is helpful.
Alright, so this agent thought the pacing was fine, but didn't like the characters.
I'm still working on revising that manuscript.
IF you survive the query and the request, and maybe even a revise and resubmit, THEN you will have
AN OFFER OF REPRESENTATION!
I've heard that Round 2 is a lot like Round 1, only now you have a team-mate.
You and your agent are strategizing.
He or she is contacting editors.
You might be working on a synopsis for a sequel, or your social media platform, or a WIP.
Or your wardrobe, in case Oprah wants you for her Book of the Month Club.
Again, things can go wrong...
I saw an agent tweet that she estimated 60-90% of agented authors get a deal.
Which means 10-40% won't. I prefer not to think about that.
But it probably feels something like this.
But let's say you get a Book Deal- Go, You!!
As you can see, everything is all fancy and dramatic now.
Round 3- The Big Leagues.
THE LAUNCHING OF YOUR BOOK
Think of the obstacles as Publicity/Marketing, Reviews, Competing Books, Foreign Rights, Film/TV etc.
As some of you know, I've been querying TENDRIL. I was trying to approach the whole process cautiously and scientifically. By that I mean entering pitch contests to get feedback and help on my query, querying in batches, testing the waters with various incarnations of my query letter, and not blanketing AgentLand all at once with a desperate cry for representation.
Rather unexpectedly I got a request from an agent for a phone call.
I can't go into details, and this isn't a THE CALL post. Though, I would LOVE to be doing one of those...
This is more about a deer in the headlights experience.
Based on her email, I thought we would be discussing her suggested revisions-and we did.
I hoped she would tell me what she liked about TENDRIL-and she did.
I was worried that I would have technical difficulties using Skype-which I didn't.
I was worried that I would involuntarily start imitating her accent, because I sometimes do that when I'm talking to someone whose accent isn't like mine-but I didn't, THANK GOD.
Unfortunately I was not prepared for her to ask me why I queried her specifically.
I mean, I had reasons, but I didn't explain them eloquently. AT ALL. It was more like...
"Um, well, I saw you on Twitter. And then I went to your site. And your bio said stuff that seemed as though TENDRIL would be right up your alley..."
See what I mean? Sounds more like a lame Match.com convo.
Perhaps even more tragically, I was not expecting her to ask me how I came to write the story, what INSPIRED me (here's the tie in to Thursday's Children) to write it.
I, who have been spending nearly a dozen Thursdays rambling about inspiration, drew a complete and utter blank. Damn pathetic.
What I came up with was something along these lines...
"Uh, er, I have always liked fairy tales, and I liked the movie Tangled a lot, but of course because I wanted to write for a YA audience, and not copy anyone else's work, I had to make it different. So, uh, I..."
Well, I'll spare you the rest. It was lame. And not even true. Because what really inspired TENDRIL was my love of old cemeteries. That's what got me started. Thinking about a girl who discovered she could communicate with the lost souls in a graveyard. I didn't even realize I was writing a retelling until I was a good halfway through the first draft.
Hopefully you've gotten a laugh at my expense, and if an agent wants to discuss revisions with you, bear in mind that he/she might also want to discuss INSPIRATION and other matters.
Thankfully for me she was still expressing interest by the end of our chat.
If it all ends up going nowhere, at least I'll be ready next time.
Yes, combining Inspiration and Gratitude makes perfect sense.
I am devoting this post to Writer-Mentors.
The ones throwing contests and clinics, holding out a hand to those traveling behind them.
Even though they are also writing, editing, revising, parenting, "spousing", teaching, and a million other things.
After writing three books I finally decided to work on my "Social Media Platform". Twitter, Facebook, and blogging connected me to other writers. Through them, I learned about the world of Contests and Clinics and Blog Hops. Oh, my.
I entered GUTGAA. Boy, did that make my head spin! Although I didn't make it to the agent round, I learned a lot and met some fabulous people. And I won a critique.
I still have NO idea how Deana Barnhartpulled off something that HUGE and COMPLICATED with such patience and grace. Clearly she's an organizational genius. Not to mention, a saint.
Then there was Hook, Line and Sinker. I didn't make it past the first round there. But it was still fun.
Dee Romito at Writes For Applesnot only knows about all the contests that are going on, she's involved in most of them, not only H,L&S, but also... Agent Trick or Treat.
Kimberly Chase and Brenda Drake (more on her later) were also part of Trick or Treat. Because of their spirit of generosity, the original twelve slots became THIRTEEN. And I squeaked in and got a request for a partial because of it. Yay!
and another one from Oasis for YAwhich got me a crit of TENDRIL's first 250 words
And here are two more contests I'm looking forward to-
PitchWars -Brenda Drakestrikes again! And brings a whole posse of helpful writers, editors, and agency interns along with her. Thirty-one awesome volunteers to be exact. Check her blog to see who they are.
And yeah, The Thanksgiving Blog Hop was Brenda's idea too. Clearly the woman NEVER sleeps. I call her Bionic Brenda. She doesn't know that though.
Also coming up is #PitchMas Feaky Snucker 's Brainchild. I don't know what Feaky's real name is. I think she might be in some kind of Librarian Protection Program.
The best parts of all these contests? (aside from the occasional ms request)
New friendships, mentoring, helpful feedback.
If I'm ever in a position to extend the same kind of helping hand to fledgling writers, believe me, I will.
THANK YOU WRITER-GIVERS!
You are MY inspiration!
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