Tag Archives: opportunity

Don’t be Afraid of Big Changes

Sometimes a new perspective can make all the difference. I’ve been editing my latest manuscript for the past year and a half, and in that time it has made great strides. It got accepted into the Author Mentor Match (AMM*), has been through one re-write, small picture edits, and I’ve even queried a few agents. I thought I was in the final stretch. However, the feedback I’ve gotten from more than one agent has been a biggie: they’re not connecting with the voice.

At first I wasn’t too concerned. One agent that isn’t connecting with the voice could be an objective criticism, as many things are. But when another person took the time to say THE EXACT SAME THING I knew there was something more I could be doing. It’s true the book is in good shape and well written, but something about it is not quite working.

I talked about it with my AMM mentor, and she gave me a simple piece of advice: try writing it in first person. So I rewrote the first page, and low and behold, the voice is there. I could feel it as I was writing, and she confirmed that the voice is strong and, in her words, popping. Some other people who saw the original draft also read the rewritten first chapter and agreed that first person draft was drawing them in more than third person draft.

This is good and “bad” news all at once. A new perspective, a first person perspective, will completely change this book. Likely for the better, but it’s not as simple as replacing “she said” with “I say.” The thought of re-writing this book is exhausting, but I also know it’s for the best. If rewriting the book will help the story then it’s clearly the way to go–even if it means more work for me!

Being a writer means not being afraid to make big changes. Listening to constructive feedback and trying new things is not always easy. We fall in love with our characters and scenes, so the thought of rewriting a book or slashing a chapter can be a painful thought. This does not mean you have to take every critique or comment to heart, of course. It’s your story, so ultimately you get to decide what you want to do. BUT, if you allow yourself to be open and try something new, it’s worth a try to see if it makes your story stand out.

 

*AMM: A program for un-agented MG and YA aspiring authors to work one-on-one long term with an agented author in their genre. Read more HERE

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From Pantser to Plotter

I’ve learned a couple new terms about what kind of writer a person can be: pantser and plotter. It’s pretty self-explanatory. A pantser “flies by the seat of their pants” and just starts writing without necessarily knowing what’s going to happen next. A plotter plots out the book ahead of time before writing.

There’s a lot of grey area between plotter and pantser, and one method is not inherently better than the other. I tend to be a pantser when I write. Sometimes I pants my way to the finish line, and other times I figure out where the book is going and plot the remainder of the book. For the majority of my books, I usually have at least two of these elements in mind before I start writing: a beginning, a premise, and a main character. Recently I was revisiting an old MG fantasy book I started, and I hated all of it but the main character. I rewrote the book leaving nothing the same except for her, and it’s a much better story! Pantsing my way through writing a novel has worked well for me, but with this new project I’m tinkering with, I’m changing that.

A month ago or more, I had a small idea, and five ways I wanted to start a book. I had my main character, but there were so many angles I wanted to use to give this book a funny/sassy/clever punch in that first paragraph I couldn’t figure out where to start or what tone I wanted to use. So I wrote down all my beginnings, and then put it away for a while to let my subconscious work it out.What ended up happening was that I formed the plot of the book before officially starting to write.

This is a rare treat for me! For the first time that I can recall, I have the whole book plotted and organized before I start writing. It’s both strange and satisfying. I’ve got the order of my big plot points, good one-liners, and some dialog worked out, and it all fits within the outline I created for myself. (So far that is, new plot elements have a way of showing up whether I want them to or not.)

The ironic downside for me in plotting is that I want to keep fussing with the outline instead of just writing the darn story. I like the detail oriented work, and it’s fun coming up with short bits of dialog or a subplot that keeps the story moving. Actually sitting down and writing the book now feels like a chore! I think it’s partly because the mystery is gone. I know what’s going to happen to my characters instead of writing and thinking of things on the fly. It’s nice to have an outline so I don’t have to worry, but for me it’s taking away a bit of the magic where my characters direct me instead of the other way around.

I’m sure once I suck it up and start writing the magic will return. It’s nice having a new way to think through a book, and I’m hoping with a real-live outline, my first draft will be at least a little more coherent than usual!

Pantsers, Plotters, and everyone in between: how do you get yourself from start to finish?

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(Don’t?) Write What you Know

“Write what you know” is my least favorite sentence in regards to writing. I write books about kids learning how to ride dragons. Do I know how to ride dragons? Do you? (Does anyone really?) If I only write what I know, 90% of my books would not exist.

For me, even when writing realistic fiction, I like to stray away from my own life. While I have many interests, I’m not really an exciting person. I’m cautious, I hate frequent travel/road trips, and I do watch a fair amount of Netflix while taking pictures of cats. For me, what I write makes me a more interesting person. I take on new characters and personalities to explore the world (real and fantasy) from the comfort of my own dining table. While I’m sure I could find something in my life worth writing about, I prefer topics far from what I know.

I can see why some people like “write what you know.” It’s familiar and safe, and it can be a good place to start. However, if you only stick to what you know it can limit your creative potential. I am writing a YA novel with a higher level of grief and loss than I’ve ever experienced. It’s a risk since I’ve never been in the situation I threw my main character into, but I’d rather write this book than about my high school experience playing clarinet in the school musical while studying for AP exams. (Oooh, over achieving in high school…fascinating…)

Instead of “write what you know” think “write what inspires you.” I promise, if you’re interested in a subject, someone else is too. Your friends may be interested in other genres, but there are more people in the world who do have similar interests. I met a person who wanted to write a super commercial romance novel in order to sell it and make money. This person did not read much romance or really like the genre, they just wanted something to make it big. There are a ton of red flags here. If you don’t love the idea or genre, it’s not going to be good. While there are no guarantees of anyone being the next Stephen King, Nora Roberts, or JK Rowling, it’s still important to love your own writing! If you are inspired to write a flash fiction piece, short story, poem, novel, etc. then do it. The more excited and passionate you are about the project the better it will be.

I’m a classical musician so I’ve been to many recitals and concerts. I’ve heard many amazing talented performances that are super technical, but the lack of musicality makes it harder for me to enjoy the performance. Writing is the same way. If you’re writing something because you can, not because you’re passionate about it, it’s clear in the writing. If “writing what you know” inspires you, then go for it. If you’re inspired to write something but afraid to write something because you don’t “know” it, write it anyway. Stretch yourself and see what you’re capable of.

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Filed under artist, ideas, inspiration, on writing, Uncategorized, writing

One Step Further

Yesterday I received an email from an agent asking for the first 5 pages of my manuscript! While it is not much, the fact that she wanted to read more than my query was encouraging. I have not heard from her yet, but I’m looking forward to her response. She might say no, but that’s ok. Someone wanted more and that makes me happy and geared up to keep querying.

The next step (that I keep putting off) is writing the 2 page synopsis of the book. Some agents want to read a synopsis upfront while others will ask for it later. I keep putting this off since it is so much work to write a succinct summary of the whole book. Like the query I have a small amount of space to make a big impression. I recently finished the query and that took a lot of time and patience and energy to get it to be the way I wanted. The synopsis gives me more space, but it covers more ground. I’m tired. I know I need to do it and that it will not be as bad as I’m anticipating. I am currently fostering 5 kittens and looking for a full time job while doing this, so that might be another reason while I’m putting it off. Maybe this weekend I’ll suck it up and get writing!

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Meeting Julie Mata

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Julie Mata, a local author in the Appleton area. My friend Alicia from the APL set up a meeting for the two of us to talk and share our experience as writers, authors, and the publishing process. Julie’s book Kate Walden Directs: Night of the Zombie Chickens is a childrens/MG novel represented by Disney. However, despite having an agent and a great publisher, the two of us are pretty equal on the playing field.

Unfortunately for new authors, publishers are not terribly helpful. While Julie did receive a “down payment” for her book from the publisher, most of the marketing is on her. They do little advertising for her, but since Julie is not the biggest name in the industry, they don’t put a lot of money into getting her books out to the public. While this is disappointing, it was so helpful to hear from an author what her experience has been and how what I am doing now will eventually help me in the future if I do push for an agent.

Self-publishing and traditional publishing are both such difficult processes. It was amusing how as we listened to each others’ publishing process we were amazed at how much work the other did! I had to put down the money and make sure to get the proper editors, cover artists, and publisher of choice. Julie was paid for her book, but she had to query 50 agents and revise it 5 times before the book snagged an author.

It just goes to show, nothing about the industry is easy.

Yet, despite how much work it is, I love being published. I love being an author and creating a story. I love shameless advertising everyone I run into and talking up the book! I love the publishing process from getting 3,000 editor marks on a word doc to finalizing the cover art. I call writing my second starving artist career, but at this point in my life I would not change a thing. I know there’s no money in it (yet) and that it may take years before I am represented by an agent and people recognize my name. Even though the process is stressful as all h3ll I know I am in the right field because I can find the exciting bits in every process. I am revising book #2 and writing book #3 and while I may not get to work on one or both every day, I look forward to the small hours where I get to dig my hands into the world of fiction or tear apart chapters and make them better and more real. Talking with Julie got me excited again. It reminded me that it is possible to get an agent and it is possible for other people outside of my friends and family will be waiting for my next book. I cannot wait to start the query process soon for book #2!

(Also, check out Julie’s book below! Love the cover!)

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Book Signing Recap

The book signing was a couple Thursdays ago, but I am still jazzed from the event! I got some good feedback and I even sold 7 books. I had been hoping to sell some more, but for my first official book signing I think it was a good turn out.

The signing was held in a small room at my school’s library. The room had shelves of beautiful, old books and some cozy furniture. People milled in the room, mainly the library employees and some friends from SAI. My poetry professor made an appearance and that made me very happy. It was clear she genuinely wanted to be there which was lovely.

I am not a fan of talking at people. The library director had a podium for me, but I declined and chose to sit in one of the comfy chairs. I like talking to people. I’m much more comfortable talking when I am at eye level versus standing and looking down on people. I want to be approachable but professional, and I think I achieved that.

I began with a brief history of my writing life. Starting from my attempted novels at the age of 10 to actually starting The Healing Pool and up to its completion. I outlined the battles and steps of self-publishing since most people there were unfamiliar with the process. I then talked about the book and read two chapters near the beginning to give them a sense of the characters. After the reading I opened the floor to a Q & A. Not many people had questions, but the questions they had were interesting. My professor of course asked me about the difference between writing poetry and writing novels in terms of how I organize and edit my decisions. In short, poetry for me is generally a one-and-done deal. It has to be in the moment, otherwise it will not likely exist in the future. Novels are easier to come back to since there are so many moving parts to work with.

Afterwards I had a table set up in the back with books to sell and sign. My roommate was kind enough to loan me her mini travel suitcase so I didn’t have to carry 40lbs of books across campus! The feedback I got from everyone was positive. People liked how I spoke and how I read. My friends wanted me to keep reading! One thing I want to do for the website and for advertising the next book signing is have a sample audio book. I need to learn how to use technology, but at least I read well!

The library took pictures of the whole event. Check out the link below! My trusty mascot Rhodes was also present and quite helpful. 🙂

https://www.flickr.com/photos/seeleyg/sets/72157648114843443/

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Unexpected Opportunity!

I contacted the youth librarian at the Appleton Public Library (APL) to schedule a book signing/reading with the young-ins.  I met with her on Friday, and I thought our meeting would be rather short. She would look at the book, check for the big No-No’s (drugs, sex, violence, etc.) and then we would pick a date and time. It would be easy and brief.

Our meeting did not go quite as planned. It was much, much better.

She looked through the book while I told her about myself and a little about The Healing Pool. (Apparently she can read, listen, and process all the information at the same time.) After she finished flipping through the book, she turned to me and said:

“You know, of the author visits I’ve done, this book is one of the best I’ve seen. You’ve got great flow, good dialog. Do you have any representation?”

Naturally, I was shocked and thrilled at the same time. I told her the book was self-published and that I tried the traditional querying route but it didn’t work for me. She looked at the book some more, and then asked if I would be interested in any representation. Apparently she has connections with Random House and will be seeing her friend at the end of the month at the ALA conference. At this point I am dumbfounded. I handed her a thick stack of my business cards and she put them in some good place to remember them. I can’t believe what just happened.

Of course, she has not read the book yet so nothing might come out of this. Regardless, I am excited for the chance to maybe get connected with Random House or some other agent! And, as a bonus, our meeting got even better. She led me through the library and told me the writer magazines I should look into. She also told me what to bring to the author event and that she might put me with another author (who is backed by Disney) to do a duo-author event. We discussed how to make a sample audio book to get people interested and maybe a little video to get the kids interested. According to her, they like an author’s personality over the description of the book most of the time. If they like me, they will come.

So, I have work to do! Soon I will be making a sample audio book, maybe reading the first few chapters, and a little promo video to put on the APL facebook page. And my page and website as well, of course! My book has only been out for 9 weeks! Based on everything she was telling me, I feel so behind! I know that’s not the case, but now I know some solid, exciting marketing strategies to get people to notice me. The hardest thing about being a new, self-published author is getting people I don’t know to read the book.

Who knew one little event could make such an impact!

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