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Pitch Contest Approaching!

It’s been a while. And though I have been busy that’s not really my excuse for neglecting my little blog here. I swore I wouldn’t ditch this thing a few months after I started it, that I’d keep it going no matter what even if I didn’t feel like it, that I would blog daily and like it! Well guess what happened?

Yeah.

I am sorry.

But I’m back because I want people to know about the upcoming pitch contest on Twitter. It’s slated for March 25th so that’s ten days to write and polish your 140 character pitches.

I’ve talked about these before. I think they are really great. Basically you tweet out your pitches for your completed manuscript and agents or editors who are watching the feed on that day will favorite your pitch tweet if they want to see more of your manuscript. A favorite is a request.

You should still query and not rely solely on contests, but this thing is great for taking chances, getting pitch practice, meeting other writers, and becoming familiar with matters and people in the same boat as you.

I’ve done it and received a handful of  ‘favorites’ each time. One even led to a full request after the initial partial request. So don’t let this opportunity slip by. There are success stories out there. (Scroll down and click to read the pitch wars success stories) You might just find your agent.

Mind the rules. You must condense your pitch for Twitter’s character limit while also including the hashtag and your manuscript’s genre. DO NOT favorite other writer’s pitches. That’s for agents/editors only. DO retweet other pitches to show your support for them. DON’T overload the feed. Only post twice per hour. When I did it, I pitched two novels. So I tweeted a pitch for each every hour. No more.

Click here for the guidelines.

If you want to practice your pitches, post them below and we can work on them. Here are examples of some of the ones I used previously:

Cameron shows up next door w/ more bruises than suitcases. As she learns more, Maddie is forced 2 confront her own insecurities YA Contemp #Pitmad

Kidnapped for ransom alongside 4 classmates, 17yo Ezra Winchester will either fight for their freedom or die a hostage YA Thriller #Pitmad

*Notice how I had to abbreviate to make use of the limited space?

You want your pitch to convey the stakes and the obstacles in your MC’s path. When _______ happens, Main Character must _______ in order to ________. What drives the story? How does it affect your MC? What must they do? What are they trying to overcome?

Alright. There it is. Good luck with your pitches. I hope to see you on the Twitter feed on March 25th.

And expect some new posts soon. I’ll catch you up on what I’ve been up to these past couple of months and what I’m working on now.

Keep writing!

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The Joys and Pains of Query Letters

As you know by now I’ve written three YA novels, the first I’ve deemed ‘not ready’ and the other two of which I have been seeking representation for. I began the whole query process roughly a year ago. It came back with all rejections for months, and then in the summer I got a requested full. I finished writing my next book while I waited for news to come back.

Unfortunately, being a literary agent is a very busy and stressful job, and the agent fell behind on reading through submissions and news still hasn’t come. That’s okay, I understand. I was beyond excited to get that full request in the first place. It gave me hope and a push to keep trying. I could wait. But I decided to start sending out more letters in the meantime, this time for newest manuscript.

Again, let the rejections roll. Then I started hearing about pitch contests on Twitter (as you also know by previous posts) and I participated in three of them. I received 3 favorites, 2 favorites, and 6 favorites for each pitch party (which means the agent/editor requested a partial of my material). Out of those 11, so far I have received 4 rejections, 1 full request, 2 I’m still waiting to hear back on, and the rest I decided not to send to because it felt like the wrong fit for me. So I know. I know how hard it is to wait, what it’s like to be rejected, how it feels to get a request, and all the crazy what-ifs that run through your head, both good and bad. Here are some tips to keep in mind if you’re at this same, crazy stage.

Don’t let the rejections kill your spirit. I know it hurts. You just want someone out there to believe in your work. You know how when you check your email on your phone or device you can usually read the first couple of sentences before you even open the letter? I got to the point where if I saw the word “unfortunately” in those first couple lines I already knew what the rest of the email was: a pass. And yes it got increasingly harder to shrug it off the more I received, and yes I began questioning myself. Was I not ready? Am I not good enough after all? Should I just give up? No, no, and no. You MUST believe in yourself. You MUST keep trying. If you put in the work, believe in your writing, and create the best project you can then somewhere down the line your time will come.

Don’t compare yourself to other aspiring writers. Don’t hate them for their success. You might hear of another writer getting a request, an offer, or even a publishing deal. It will probably sting a little. You might wonder why them and not you? Maybe they haven’t been at it as long as you have. Maybe you think your writing is better. Seeing another writer’s dreams come true while yours are still unrealized can make you question your self-worth. Don’t do that. Be happy for that writer. You know how hard this is. We’re in this together. Their success does not in any way make you a failure.

I won’t tell you to have patience. I know that’s impossible. But don’t obsess. I know how nerve-racking it is to check your email and wonder if today might be the day there’s good news waiting in your inbox. I know how one week can feel like one month and one month can feel like half a year. But you can’t stop living in the meantime. You can’t stop writing. You can’t focus solely on what may or may not happen when you could be focusing on making things happen. Start a new manuscript. Become a critique partner or beta reader to give back to others. Write some short stories. Don’t stop creating.

The query process is full of ups and downs. It can raise you up or tear you down if you let it. It requires you to strike a balance between remaining realistic and holding onto hope. I know it’s hard to put yourself out there and put your dream in the hands of someone else. I know it’s equally exciting and crushing. But it’s necessary if this is the route you want to go with your work. And it is worth it. I’ve been doing this a year, and I’m not ready to give in yet.

I remain hopeful.

I believe.

What are your experiences with query letters and requests? How do you handle the ups and downs? Reply below!

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Should These Pitches be Ditched? Part 3

This is my third installment of this, and I’ve only just realized I obviously missed the mark the first two times around. If you remember I originally did these as part of a school assignment where we were creating pitches for our work. The class never really explained what pitches were or how to go about doing them. We were just instructed to pitch our books in 3-4 sentences. Well, I ended up focusing on the 3-4 sentences part and trying to squeeze as much a possible into that. The end result was that my pitches sounded more like jacket summaries and were much too long.

Then a contest via Twitter came to my attention. It was called #pitchmas and the idea was to do the same thing: pitch your novel. Only this time I had much less room to work with because of the character limit and the requirement of adding the genre and hashtag into the pitch as well. It forced me to really cut, tighten, and perfect my pitches so that they were clear, concise, and hooking. Finally, I understood pitches.

The reward for the contest was that agents/editors/publishes watched the feed and would favorite the pitches they liked. This equaled a request for more material. At the end of the day-long contest I received three favorites aka three requests to see my work. I was shocked. Coming from someone who didn’t understand pitches and who had really just begun writing them, I was surprised mine got any interest. Now there were other writers who got many more. I heard of 14 from one and 20 from another. It was a great opportunity to not only write pitches but read other writers’ pitches as well. And I always learn from reading and seeing other examples. I also retweeted a lot of pitches I would actually really love to read the corresponding full books on. I hope they get published one day as well.

If this sounds really fun or helpful and you’re upset you missed out, don’t worry. Another pitch contest is being held on Jan 8th called #PitMad. Check out the info here. Work on your pitches and head over to Twitter on that day and see what happens! You have nothing to lose and only experience and good things to gain.

Here are some of my tightened up pitches.

Book 3 Pitches

*There are a lot of things Ezra Winchester didn’t see coming: his mother’s death, becoming a millionaire, and getting kidnapped. Now he sees things clearer: he’ll either fight for his freedom or die a hostage.

*Being a hostage was not part of Ezra’s plan for junior year. Now escaping with his life is the only thing that matters.

*Ezra is kidnapped for his money. His friends are taken because they’re witnesses. Together they’ll fight for their freedom or die captives.

Book 2 Pitches

*What if the bad boy is actually a gentleman and the good girl has a dark side? Can opposites attract if no one is who they say they are?

*Maddie knows how to take orders, not make choices. Cameron can take a beating, not give trust. Love will change them both.

*Maddie Carlisle and Cameron Dawson shouldn’t be together. She’s the lapdog for her popular clique, and he’s the defiant transfer student overflowing with secrets and bruises. When she trades ‘forbidden’ for ‘freewill’ opposition erupts everywhere.

And the Pitch I wrote in Part 2 for my current WIP I now realize could have been completely cut to just the first sentence:

*When eighteen-year-old Oliver Reid’s girlfriend dies and mysteriously appears as a ghost, he embraces the haunting, disregards the impossible, and sets out on mission to put the love of his life back together again.

What a difference!

For this post I’ll offer to help hone and critique anyone’s pitches. If you want to participate in #PitMad but need an extra set of eyes before next Wednesday, post your pitches in the comments, and I’ll give you feedback. I’d be happy to get a conversation going here!

Or if you see any issues or possible improvement for my pitches above, feel free to post that as well!

Happy pitching!

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First Pages: Making Sure Your Novel’s Beginning Isn’t Its End

There are certain dos and don’ts you can think about when you’re writing that first page. First pages are critical. They’ll either excite your potential reader enough to keep reading or annoy them to the point where they drop your book before giving it a chance. I know. No pressure, right? Don’t let the first page stop you from starting though. The important thing is to begin writing period. Get your idea down, make a rough draft, and just tell the story before you lose the idea or drive to create. Then go back. Study that first page. Tear it apart, rewrite it, explore your options. Question everything. Does it hook you immediately? Is it boring? Could it be improved?

Imagine someone who doesn’t know the story picking up your novel for the first time. They don’t know about that awesome twist that comes in the middle, the tearjerker ending, that super witty exchange of dialogue you created on page 132, or if and when the novel really gets good. All they know is that first page. So is it good enough to make the reader stick with your book long enough to discover all those other great things? Or is your beginning actually the novel’s end? And by end I mean death. Because no book can live and enjoy a long life with its readers if it never gets taken home.  So do right by your book and give it the beginning it deserves, not the one you think it needs. Yes, I’m indirectly quoting a certain bat-themed superhero movie.

Moving on.

Here are some tips, rules, and examples to get you thinking. Some should be followed. Some should be broken.

Open With Action

Generally this is good. Action means excitement right from the start. We don’t have to wait for the novel to pick up because, bam, it started with a bang. Just make sure your action serves the story and isn’t a cheap special effect. And don’t make it last too long. Tease me and make me curious, but let there be an end in sight. What makes action good and spicy at the start can be lost if you spend the first ten pages on it.

Showing & Telling

Show, don’t tell. I hate this phrase. I hate hearing it, I hate reading it, I hate that it’s everyone’s go to piece of writing advice everywhere, all the time, forever. But dammit it’s some good advice. For example if your MC, or main character, is a burglar with a heart of gold who robs corrupt socialites and then anonymously donates the score to charities and those in need, show me that, don’t say it. Don’t say, “I’m a professional thief who is tired of the corruption in my town. At night I make a difference by stealing from the rich, and the next day I attain justice by giving that money to the ones who really need it.” Don’t narrate who he is and what he does. Throw me into the robbery. Write about the reactions of the recipients of the money or the rage of the people who were stolen from. Make it all tie together until we can see why your character does what he does and how it affects everyone else.

Description of Setting: I’m Looking at You, Tolkien

For the love of god, please, don’t start your book with paragraphs of description, especially if you’re describing the setting or mood. Tolkien, I love you to death, but sometimes I just want to cry in frustration at your pages and pages of details. Usually, I’m good with a couple sentences of description. I like to infer and imagine some of it on my own. Give me the building blocks, enough to form an image and follow the flow of the story. Then let me color in the rest. Think of it that way. Like a coloring book. What you write is the black outline of the shapes on the page. What the reader does is color in the shapes. Everyone’s won’t look alike, but it will always start from the same groundwork.

Starting in the Middle

The way I use this in my third novel is by including a page before the actual first chapter. It isn’t really a prologue; it’s an excerpt of a piece of action that happens much later in the story. It tells the reader they can expect this to occur later in the plot, and then when they begin the book they wonder how in the hell the characters start at point A and end up at that point B later on. What changes? How do things progress to that point?

Another example is that initially in my first book I began at the start. And by that I mean it was the first day of school, and I was introducing all the classes and all the characters in a nice little linear succession. This is my first class, this is my second class, now it’s time for lunch, now the day is over, this is best friend1, best friend2, ex-girlfriend, enemy, love interest, etc. I realized that was tedious later. Instead, I changed things to where it wasn’t the first day, but just any old day at school, and the characters didn’t get stupid intros like that, they were just there. My main character wouldn’t have a need to introduce everything he already knew. It was his life, just another day, and the people in it had been there all along. I wanted the readers to feel like they were part of his day, not being introduced to every new thing like an awkward acquaintance. A friend would know these things already and be immersed right into it.

Back Story- Save It for Later

Another mistake I made in book one was starting with two pages of back story. I was explaining why my MC’s father suddenly moved home, how it felt to lose his mom and meet his dad again after over ten years apart, how their relationship has been since then, and how his friends help him deal. It’s all important information. But not how you want to start a book. I needed to build up to that and be giving away tidbits of back story in the meantime while I was setting up the plot and relationships. Eventually those pages of back story became spread out. Instead of leaving it as pages of information, I broke it up into paragraphs and incorporated places to fit it in in the middle of the narrative. That way readers understand where my MC is coming from without the plot being broken up with heavy explanations. Show the back story as you go. Make it relevant to the characters’ present. It’s part of their development.

Flashbacks & Dreams

I’m not saying don’t use this at all. Dreams are an important part of revealing information in my third book. Just don’t use these as an opener. We need to know who your character is before we care about who they were. We want to know what’s happening to him in the present and what his current struggle is before we want to fall into his past or see his nightmares. Plus, come on. Starting with a dream or a flashback and then making your MC jolt awake, wide-eyed, heart-hammering, and sweating? Cliché alert.

Speaking of…

Clichés

You know this anyway. If you’re writing a novel, you’re committing to creativity. Don’t ignore your imagination and take something that’s been done and overdone. Once upon a time…It was a dark and stormy night…the whole dream thing…just don’t do it.

Conversations & Too Much Dialogue

I love dialogue. I love writing it, I love reading a witty exchange between characters and then rereading it because it was so clever, I love when a character says something vicious, cruel, underhanded, sarcastic, hilarious, etc. But I don’t love when your novel starts this way. If your novel begins with a page or two of fast-paced dialogue, I’m not going to care. I don’t know who these people are. They might be hilarious, sarcastic, or witty, but why do I care what they’re saying if I don’t even know who they are or how they know each other? It’s a personal preference, I suppose, but I like to establish my characters and their relationships and the inner narration before throwing them into heavy conversations. I want a chance to get to know the character before I read about his interactions with others. Maybe I’m just clingy like that.

Okay, presentation time.

I guess this is only fair. Here are the opening lines from my first three novels. Judge them how you wish. There’s nothing saying they have to stay this way. That’s what writing, editing, and critiques are all about.

1. Fourteen. That’s how many scars I find on my body. I remove the bandage from my cheek. It’s stained red from the cut, but at least the wound has closed up. I stare at the thin slit and wonder how noticeable the scar will be a week from now.

2. The glass breaks at my feet as my parents scream at each other.  I don’t know who threw it this time, only that I’m not sticking around to get caught in the crossfire.  I step around the sparkling shards and head outside, closing the door on their dysfunction.

3. I’d never held a real gun before.  It’s not like I was trained to use it or could hit all the right circles on those paper target dummies.  I didn’t know how to properly hold it, aim, or anything.  But none of this mattered in that moment.  You could have given me a spear, a slingshot, or just my bare f***ing hands and I would have found a way to make them deadly.  He needed to pay for what he did.  After all we went through, everything we’d seen, there wasn’t anything that could stop me from hurting him.  I raised the gun and cocked the hammer.

So there it is. Advice on writing first pages. Take it and do what you think is best. Just make sure you’re doing something. Write. “The hard part is getting to the top of page one,” remember?

What are your thoughts on first pages? What stops you from reading further? Do my opening lines work or fail? Post below!

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Should These Pitches Be Ditched? Part2

So I made an earlier post where I shared elevator pitches (or my attempt at them) for my three novels. It was part of an English course assignment. Now that course requires us to “repurpose” or rework content we already shared now that we’ve been given feedback. So I decided to work with my pitches a bit more. I even added a new one for the piece I’m currently writing. As before, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section and let me know if these pitches are better or worse!

Book 1

When seventeen-year-old Patrick Walker’s biggest secret is threatened to be exposed he shuns his friends and embraces his anger. For him, his worst possible fate isn’t that his father physically abuses him, but the thought that someone might actually find out. As the evidence mounts his secret becomes less safe, but Patrick won’t accept help, even though it means turning away a girl he could really love. He deals with the pain in dangerous ways, but his real struggle isn’t in knowing how to take a beating, but in finding the strength to share the truth.

Book 2

Maddie Carlisle, a high school senior and member of the in-crowd elite, is forced to confront the consequences of her decisions and the reality of her life when outspoken, eighteen-year-old Cameron Dawson moves in next door, covered in bruises and carrying more secrets than luggage. As their relationship forms she realizes he might be the person to help her change back into the person she wants to be, not the person she’s told to be.  However, their relationship is tested by Maddie’s controlling friends, her emotionally-abusive parents, and even Maddie herself. When Cameron’s dark past threatens to tear him apart, she realizes she not only needs to change for herself, but for Cameron too.

Book 3

Seventeen-year-old Ezra Winchester has gone from high school Junior and winning track star, to orphan and teenage millionaire within weeks. Now he’s a hostage, but he isn’t the only one. The group of teens is forced into a battle for survival where both their mental and physical strength is tested. In between the recurring beatings and emotional traumas, Ezra discovers there are secrets at work that could change everything, and he has to decide which is more important-freedom or justice?

WIP YA Novella

When eighteen-year-old Oliver Reid’s girlfriend dies and mysteriously appears as a ghost, he embraces the haunting, disregards the impossible, and sets out on mission to put the love of his life back together again. Along the way he meets a snarky psychic who has uncomfortable visions about Oliver’s ghostly girlfriend, a headstrong Necromancer with a grudge against lovesick soul mates, and a posh Reaper who could care less about the mundane life of humans, unless a little soul-stealing is involved. Together they can gather all the parts needed to reanimate Lana in her body once more. It will only take a little grave robbing, a sexy zombie encounter, a roundtrip tour through the other side and back, and a bloody touch of murder, but hey, love conquers all, right?

My critiques of myself? I’d say they’re probably still too long, even though we were given a 3-4 sentence boundary. I think they read like jacket summaries, and I’m not sure that’s the point here. Maybe they give away too much information about the plot when I could have been vague. I think there’s always room to learn though so let me know your thoughts and advice.

Do these pitches make you want to read more? What are their faults and strengths? Share your honest opinions in the comments below!

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Should These Pitches be Ditched?

In my current English course, New Media and Publishing, we are studying writer platforms and how to sell yourself. This week is about creating “elevator pitches.”  We were told to describe our material in 3 to 4 sentences as if we only have 30 seconds in an elevator to make an impression on a publisher. I’ve dabbled in this before, but it’s not a precise process. I’m trying to strike a balance between giving away enough meat and detail of the story while still remaining mysterious/enticing without being too vague.  So here are my pitches for my three novels. Maybe they work, or maybe they need work. But that’s what learning is for. Feel free to let me know your reactions in the comments.

Book 1 Pitch

Seventeen-year-old Patrick Walker is good at keeping his secret and even better at hating his father. He covers the fact that his father physically abuses him, afraid of being sent to foster care if the police knew the truth or what his father would really do to him if people discovered their happy relationship was all fake. Patrick won’t accept help and deals with the pain in dangerous ways, including drinking and fighting at school and getting in trouble with a violent gang leader who knows just how to get in Patrick’s head. His real struggle isn’t in knowing how to take a beating, but realizing when to ask for help and standing up against the man who should have loved him most.

Book 2 Pitch

Maddie Carlisle, a high school senior and member of the in-crowd elite, is forced to confront the consequences of her decisions and the reality of her life when outspoken, eighteen-year-old Cameron Dawson moves in next door, covered in bruises and carrying more secrets than luggage. Maddie knows who to be and how to act to please everyone, secretly loathing her perfect popular lifestyle. When she meets Cameron they form an unlikely (and forbidden) bond that is tested as she struggles between pleasing the people that control her life and staying true to her own heart. The more he opens up, the clearer it becomes that Cameron is struggling with his own demons, and Maddie is the only one who can help him face them.

Book 3 Pitch

High school Junior, Ezra Winchester, is drugged, kidnapped, and taken to a remote location where he’s held by a trio of brutal and greedy strangers that ransom him for the millions of dollars he’s worth.  He quickly realizes rescue isn’t coming and is forced into a battle for survival where both his mental and physical strength is tested. After months of beatings and emotional traumas, Ezra discovers there is more at play than he first realized, and those secrets could push him past a point he can’t come back from. But to him justice might just be more important than making it out alive.

So did I earn an A on this assignment or did I fail? Would you want to read more based on these pitches or would you politely pass? What are your honest opinions?

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Crazy is a Synonym for Writer

A lot of times being a writer means you just sit at your computer and stare at a blank Word document for most of the day. Maybe you watch the cursor pulsing, waiting for you to make it type out some beautiful masterpiece. Maybe you stare at the whiteness until your eyes hurt and you call it a day. Maybe you type a few letters and hit backspace so fast they can’t even process their short existence and abrupt end. All that is normal of course. I mean, yeah, we look like crazy people. Even more so if you’re one of the ones that talks to yourself or your monitor during this process (guilty as charged and probably why I have to write when the house is empty). But that’s okay. Here, crazy means normal. Throw in some tears, punch your swivel chair, or threaten to murder your keyboard? Well, you’re probably a literary genius then.

So here’s a quote I picked up along my writing journey. I was still in high school when I came across this, and I wrote it down.  It’s stayed with me ever since.

The hard part is getting to the top of page one.” –Tom Stoppard

It’s not that it offers advice or consolation. It’s that it speaks the truth. It offers hope. One of the hard parts of writing is beginning, pushing yourself, and making that first step. You might be like me and have this urge to write all day but you can’t figure out how to start. I try out different openings and delete them, afraid to commit to them and make them my novel’s beginning. So each time I delete an opening paragraph, it’s back to the top of the blank white screen as though no progress was ever made. It feels like failure, but being able to recognize when something isn’t your best or isn’t working is more of a victory in the long run.

Writing is a choice. You have to decide you want it and then decide to do it. And that’s your first step. The hard part is beginning your journey and reaching the top of that first page. Once you tackle that, you can tackle all the white blank pages that come after it.

So dive in, allow yourself to grow, embrace your crazy, and don’t be afraid to use that backspace key.

What does your writing day look like? Do you have trouble finding your way to the top of the first page? Post below!

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