Monday, October 29, 2012

...Another Door OPENS! (Contest Results)

Happy Monday!

Below are the seven fabulous winners, chosen at random from the comments on the contest post:

Synopsis/plot arc critique:
  1. Erin_Schultz
  1. Roza M
  2. Chris Campillo
  3. romancecritique
  4. Unknown (posted October 26, 2012 4:44 PM)
  5. Netbug
  6. Melissa Gorzelanczyk
Congrats! Please email me directly at to let me know your mailing addresses. Let me know if you already have any of the fab prizes; otherwise, I will also be mailing those out at random - as in, you'll just be getting something in your mail one day and go oh hey cool! (except for the synop critique; had to pick that one first, since uh, it kind of can't be a surprise).

Now, as a recap, here is a list of all the wonderful advice from the posts - read, soak in, enjoy:

Don't be bat sh@# crazy. So many people get so obsessed with getting every perfect they over think and obsess over small details. Take a deep breath, do your best, and don't over-analyse.

Keep Writing! Don't get so hung up on submitting or promoting or whatever that you forget the key element of being a writer. It's also how you improve your craft and become a better writer. You can take all the writing classes in the world but if you aren't writing after class, then what's the point? A lot of people say "Write every day," but that's not always practical given life's demands. What I think works better is to "Write Regularly," whatever that means to you and your schedule. Just don't stop. Keep writing!

It only takes one "yes." It's easy to get down and depressed when the flurry of rejections start coming in, but you can't give up. Is there validity in the rejections? Are there suggestions on improvement? If so, great! Take it! If not, move on. Your writing, as is your book, is not meant for everyone and not everyone will love it. But find that ONE agent (b/c you only have one in the end anyways) and you're golden.

Do Not Rush Your Work - into the envelop or under the send Key. The one thing I've witnessed (and been guilty of) is hurrying the WIP to be a done deal. It's not worth it. A Pennsylvania Dutch saying (likely from other cultures, too) is: The Hurrieder I Go, The Behinder I Get (atrocious spelling mine, I think). Take the time to read your work again, double check the spelling, get another opinion on the point that puzzles you.

Take criticism and grow from it. Taking everything as a failure won't help and ignoring every constructive word will get you nowhere.

Have more than one project going at a time. That way, no matter when you get stuck or writer's block kicks in, you always have something to work on.

Get your work in front of several pairs of eyes. Beta readers can give you great feedback, and the feedback given from readers who do not also write is often different, yet still just as beneficial, as that given from other writers. Fresh eyes can find typos and misspelled words you've missed. And they can tell you where a story is confusing for someone who doesn't have the ins and outs of the character's entire life in their head.

Don't be afraid to write crap. First drafts are meant to be awful. They're also not meant to be sent out into the world. Write everything you want to write in your first draft, let it ramble and sprawl and just spill out in a putrid, stinking mess of of story and character. It can all be tidied up and made pretty and perfumed in revisions. LOTS of revisions.

Less is more. Get rid of that stuff that doesn't advance the plot. Get rid of extraneous words. Your book is like an un-sculpted piece of marble and you've got trim away the excess to make it into a work of art.

Don't compare your journey to anyone else. Hard to do, especially with the internet, but so important!

Just because you get a brilliant idea for a new manuscript while in the middle of writing chapter 5 does not mean your current manuscript is terrible and you should abandon it for your Shiny New Idea.

Keep writing. Never give up, never surrender. If you're faced with rejection after rejection, don't let it get you down and don't give up. The more you write the more you'll improve and the better your chances to snag that one agent or one editor. Your day will come.

Write for the joy of writing. Don't worry about getting published, do it because you love it. Just like if you run - don't run to win your first race - run for the pleasure of running...oh, and maybe to get in shape ;D - kinda like writing to be a better writer.

Listen to the advice given. You might not agree, but listen first before you judge.

Be authentic. If you're really not a gritty urban fantasy person, don't try writing it, even if it's supposed to be the next big thing. If you hate Twitter, then don't do it. Explore what is comfortable for you and be yourself. You'll find your voice and genre more quickly, and have more fun.

Believe in yourself and your work. You're not born with the talent to write, it's learned. Never stop learning.

Good ideas will stick around. They don't vanish forever if you can't write them down right away. They'll check in on you during your morning walk or while you're treading dirty dishes.

Try and find your "voice" - which, I know, is hard. But necessary.

Keep reading and writing; writing and reading. Because that's what we love doing.

Believe you will succeed. Self-delusion is more productive than self-doubt.

Writing can be a lonely business, so find other writer friends for support. Meet them for coffee or chat with them online, whatever works best. They're the friends you can call or email when you need sympathy after a rejection or when you want to celebrate after a full request or a contest win.

Remember why you started writing in the first place. It's easy to get caught up in revisions, critique groups, agent submissions, contests, etc. and lose sight of your love for writing a great story. Hey, writing is supposed to be enjoyable! Remember?

Don't discount what you can learn from other media. Particularly for YA & MG novels, screenplays and TV scripts have tons to teach. Screenplay writing book, Save the Cat! is among the most useful overall writing books out there.

"Join the SCBWI." A friend gave me this advice and I'm so glad I listened.

When you get writer's block, walk away. Get a glass of wine, a latte, take a walk, run an errand, take a nap. Your brain will work on your writing problem in spite of you.

Keep moving forward- learning, writing, editing, promoting, networking. Never stand still long enough to sink.

Never give up on an idea you once loved just because you've hit a rough patch at some point in the narrative. Even if it's difficult to figure out where you went wrong or how to continue on, it can a lot of times be worth the effort!

Think outside the box. Don't be afraid to take risks, challenge conventions or make daring writing attempts. Whether they fail or suceeed doesn't matter. It will grow and develop your writing. The more you question and are curious, the more you learn.

Writers should follow a 100 to 1 rule: Read 100 novels for every one they write, read 100 short stories for every one they write, and read 100 query letters for every one they write.

"Most of the sentences you make will need to be killed. The rest will need to be fixed. This will be true for a long time." -Verlyn Klinkenborg in Several Short Sentences About Writing.

"Be a writer, not an author." - Jon Bard. The long road to publishing (for me) can make me lose some of my optimism and also make me feel like I have to rush before I "miss out" on the success. When I remember how much joy writing gives me, it calms me and that hope and optimism that is almost always at my fingertips return.

Take your time. Don't do it for the money, do it for the love of writing. Then you will be happy.

Keep a paper and pen outside the shower curtain- it's where the best ideas inevitably hit.

BE PATIENT. Really, patience is a virtue. Don't rush sending query letters to every agent, don't status check a request after only a couple weeks (this coming from me who has been waiting close to 7 months on a response. It's a long story). I've been in the 'Query Wars'for almost 3 years, but I've also been writing more books, and reading a LOT. That helps me when it seems like things are taking FOREVER to happen :)

Don't be afraid to listen to your gut. If a book deal or agent offer doesn't "feel right", it probably isn't. Move on...another door WILL open. Every time my career has advanced, it's because I've bravely listened to my intuition instead of staying with what's "safe".

Write anywhere at any time. Tiny, simple notebooks that you can fit in your pocket are perfect. And, as John Green once said, all writing is rewriting.

Picture Book writers need to "Think Visually".

Give yourself permission to write a sucky first draft. Then rewrite. And edit. And revise. And rewrite again...

You can revise the same manuscript for twenty years and never feel like you've fixed everything. There will always be a word here or a phrase there that can be altered and improved. There comes a time when you have to be willing to let your words go and have the courage to start submitting it to editors/agents, or you'll be an aspiring author for the rest of your life!

GO TO CONFERENCES! If you can possibly afford it, go, hang out in the bar before during and after, and meet agents as casual buds. It makes SO much difference! Also, pay attention to them during panels and dinners and lunches and such. I'm so much less stressed submitting to them after seeing one I'd considered up close and personal. Seeing her in person convinced me I had no desire to be agented by her. If I get another rejection, I can just picture that particular agent and tell myself that this one also wasn't right because they don't GET me.

The polishing and editing never ends. At one point you just have to look at your manuscript and be confident that it's ready to go out into the world. When it does, you need to know that this is THE BEST manuscript ever (at that moment) because every writer's last book is always the best book s/he ever wrote.

Don't believe every piece of advice you hear on the internet. There are a lot of self-entitled people and often can give ill-advice and make a writer question their own work. If you question it, find a professional to help (there are so many GREAT mentoring writers out there LOOKING to help). This is particularly critical for anyone who writes literary fiction.

Forget about the traditional publishing industry and do it myself. I spent three years trying to break in and was continually rejected. I finally self-published my books instead and I am suddenly making enough to quit my day job and write full-time. Despite years of rejections on three different books, despite working with two different literary agents at a major agency, despite following all the sage writers' advice who supposedly knew what they were talking about, despite doing everything "the right way," publishers had no interest in me. But I've known all along that I write a killer book, and that readers will be interested.

Respect critique from all levels of writers and readers. Yes, there is advice only a talented writer can offer, but if you sneer at the every-day reader you miss a unique perspective.

Be disciplined. Love what you do, but be diligent in pursuing it. Study it, practice it, talk about it, but most of all, do it. And don't stop doing it, even when you don't want to do it anymore. It's pushing past your comfort zone and swimming in the discomfort of not knowing that leads to your next breakthrough. You get better by not giving up.

When an agent is kind enough to e-mail you feedback, listen to it. Don't let your anger from being rejected cloud an important opinion. Take a week, then go back to your novel and consider revising.

Writing is never finished, even if it gets published. It's a living piece of art, forever changing. You have to accept that if you want to succeed in getting published.

Be humble. Plain and simple. We never stop learning, as writers or in life. Also, NO one has ALL the answers. So take naysayers with a grain of salt ;)

Ray Bradbury had the best advice: "You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you."

Always have something to work on, to look forward to, to think about--other than the manuscript or query you just sent out--while you're waiting for feedback and answers. Waiting has a funny way of breeding doubt--and you want to squash that monster!

Agents read subjectively. One rejection does not mean your writing is bad. It could just mean its not right. And at the end of the day, if all you have is a lot of rejections, there are always more ideas hovering in your mind, waiting to be written. Above all: "Explore the reason that compels you to write; test whether it stretches its roots into the deepest part of your heart, admit to yourself whether you would have to die if the opportunity to write were withheld from you." -Rainer Maria Rilke

Be persistent. Keep writing. Keep revising. Keep submitting. Taste is subjective, but if you write great stories, someone will want them.

Advice from Kurt Vonnegut: "Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”

You can't wait for inspiration. You have to just kind of keep going at it and hope it'll come. Paraphrased, but good tip from Pullitzer winner Jeffrey Eugenides.

Write the story only YOU can write :) It's helped me more than I ever thought it would!

Monday, October 22, 2012

When One Door Closes... (Contest CLOSED)

A lot of days, I feel like this guy:

I’m sure all of you do.

For this contest, I want all of you to be the door openers. 

It's simple: to enter, post one piece of advice you’ve learned on your publishing journey, at any stage of the game.

Limit one per person – I will be drawing seven names at random from the posts to win one of SEVEN fabulous prizes, which include:

Two ARCs of the upcoming RENEGADE by Jessica Souders, one synopsis/plot arc review and critique (from me), one copy of SIRENZ: Back in Fashion by Natalie Zaman and Charlotte Bennardo with timely SWAG, a signed copy of IMMORTAL HOPE by Claire Ashgrove, a copy of HOOKED, and a copy of THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE.

The contest begins on Monday, October 22nd, and ends on Friday, October 26thWinners will be announced the following Monday, when I will also compile a blog post using all the entries for easy viewing and reference.

Thank you all in advance for your words of wisdom and advice – to kick it off, here’s mine:


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Contest Crazy?

I love contests; I love that they open up extra exposure for authors, not only to agents but also to other writers who can offer advice and critiques. However, I’ve started to notice that these pitch and logline and first 500 word and secret agent contests are happening so frequently that not only do I find myself judging the same entries over and over again…I’m exhausted.

I know there are some major plus sides to all of this for authors – aside from the free extra exposure, there’s also a chance to query without having to meet query requirements (like a darn synopsis), a quick (possibly frenzied) response, agents coming to YOU and not the other way around, networking, and even just plain ol’ fun and excitement.

For me, though, I’m starting to feel a lot of down sides. Originally, these contests were a fabulous way to get my face out there and find new talent. Still are of course, but really, as an agent my job isn’t to search the slush pile. It’s to be an advocate for my clients. The contests force me to spend more time in the slush, basically, rather than on my clients. If I do decline a contest to avoid this, I feel like I’m missing out, because of course, not all writers who enter contests WOULD query me – but then, does that mean that they didn’t put me on their submit list on purpose, which means to read a contest entry is a waste of time anyway, or because they didn’t think of/ know of me?

Bottom line: I don’t want to miss a fresh find just because I’m growing as an agent (i.e., have more clients and sales), and so I scramble to make it all work, but…how much longer can I go?! I’m going contest C-RAZY!

It’s all exciting, of course. And I don’t want it to STOP. But NaNoWriMo is coming up (oh, how I love that too…) and, despite the pluses, I have heard my exhaustion echoed by a few authors scrambling to keep up with it all – which takes away from writing time!

So I’m going to keep this short and simple. I would like to put a call out for some fresh, either craft-oriented, giveaway or inspiring contests for a while, to let you fabulous writers create some fresh material and hone your skills to knock my socks off. And…maybe a call for some more spaced out agent contests!!

To that end, I have one up my sleeves I shall announce shortly…