Friday, February 19, 2016

A Wild Bucking Horse Named the Writing Habit

So, it's been quiet here for a week or so. There are a few reasons for that.

First, I got called into work on my day off and so I lost a day of writing. Second, I was working on my marketing plan for the picture book idea that's almost ready for submission. Lastly, I was creating an author's website.

You can see the results of my labor on the later here:

Now that I'm through this busy patch, I hope to be posting regularly again.

However, this is a good time to talk about the habit of writing (or blogging). Just like any good habit, writing is something we have to keep doing as often as possible or we'll get lazy about it. I know I go through spurts of very active writing and then downturns of minimal writing.

Sort of like this


and this


These "breaks" can be good. They can give editorial distance on a story and allow you to see it in a new light. They can also allow your brain to explore other story ideas.

The downside to breaks is they get you out of the habit of writing. You lose momentum and find yourself not writing at all for long periods of time.

To be a writer (and eventually a published author), we need to strengthen our writing habits as much as possible. We need to exercise them on a daily or almost daily basis. This builds up our writing muscles and gives the the endurance we need to sit butt in chair and write even when we don't always feel like it.

Exercise Bike (eb)

So, the next time you get knocked out of your writing habit by distractions, emergencies, work, or other things, just remember that the best thing about any lost habit is it can be found again.

We just have to put in the effort to get ourselves back in the saddle and ride the wild, bucking horse that is writing!

Best Wishes,

PS: Does anyone see the change I made to this blog?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

You Can't Win if You Don't Play the Game

There are a few things that a necessary in order for most people to get published.

First, you need to put your butt in chair (or stand up for those who like to go old school) and write.

Second, you need to reread and revise your book. Very rarely does every word that lands on the page deserve to be there. This is a good point to bring in critique partners, beta readers, and others you trust to provide feedback.

Third, you need to submit your work to professionals, such as agents and/or editors to find out if it is traditionally publishable.

Most writers probably love the first step... yeah, writing!

Some of us aren't as enthusiastic for the second step... revising? Really?

And a few of us are a bit intimidated by the idea of sending our words out into the world, fearing our books might get rejected.

However, you can't get published (traditionally) if you don't put yourself out there. You've got to risk rejection if you want to eventually hear:
Congrats Wave, your book just sold!

Now, if you're like me. You might not want to go directly to agents or editors. Well, you're in luck. There is an option available to writers that is fun, community-building, and a little less stressful.

What is it? Writing Contests and pitch parties! That's right, during any given month there is a myriad of writing contests and pitch parties held around the internet on blogs, online magazines, Twitter, etc.

These offer writers the ability to put their stories out there and test the waters before sending the book off to professionals. Consider them your stepping stones to success!

I got my agent by participating in the Picture Book Party held over at Michelle4Laughs- It's In The Details. It wasn't my first contest, it was probably somewhere between my 6th and 12th. However, those first few failed contests taught me a lot about how to hone a pitch, perfect my writer's voice, and got me into contact with a lot of fellow writers who were in the same boat as me.

If you haven't tried a writer's contest or pitch party yet, I recommend giving a few of them a shot. You might not win any, but if you follow them closely, learn from the winners, make new friends, and grow as a writer, you'll eventually build up the confidence to start submitting to agents and editors.

If you're not sure where to start, one great resource for keeping track of upcoming writing contests and pitch parties is the Sub It Club. A great resource and community!

And if you want to get the opinion of a published author about whether your story is ready for submission, you can use Rate Your Story. The feedback I got from this site really helped me figure out which of my stories were the strongest and best to submit to contests.

Hope these websites help you like they did me.

Best Wishes,

PS: Are there any websites you recommend that helped you get ready to submit your stories to agents, editors, or contests?

Friday, February 5, 2016

Learning to Sing "We've Only Just Begun"

Sharing horizons that are new to us.
Watching the signs along the way.
Talkin' it over, just the two of us.
Workin' together day to day .

And when the evening comes, we smile
So much of life ahead.
We'll find a place where there's room to grow
And yes, we've just begun.

Okay, so the title, song, and lyrics are a bit sappy... like molasses, but I feel that getting "the Call" means learning to share your horizons with someone else. It means talking your work over, working together, hopefully smiling, and growing and knowing that your professional journey with your agent has only just begun.

Travel Trailer

So, what does this journey look like? Well, I can only speak from my experience, but here's what happened for me.

After accepting representation, Nicole and Danielle came up a story plan for my book, gave me feedback on where I could improve the manuscript, and made a few suggestions about possible directions I could take.

The biggest items on their list were

1) Give the story a more child-friendly focus. The draft I sent them was very parental in tone and probably would appeal more to adults than kids.
2) Improve the plot. My story was full of witty banter, but Ha Ha Ha funny isn't enough to carry the story to publication.
3) Strengthen the characters. The ones in my first draft were a bit flimsy to say the least.

So I spent three months revising and re-revising and trying to figure out how to fix these issues. I hit a few dead ends, but with weekly-and-encouraging phone calls and emails from Nicole and Danielle I eventually figured out my character's GMCs and broke through my stalemate with the story.


I wouldn't have improved my manuscript nearly as much if I'd been revising on my own. I doubt I would've realized how much my plot was over dependent on humor and lacking in underlying emotions. Sure, it was a fun and breezy read, but it wasn't a memorable one. It lacked impact, but now I feel the characters are much more alive on the page. They are still funny, but there is more to them than just a running gag.


So, when you get "the Call", remember your journey has only just begun.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Good News with a Side of Humble Pie

As an aspiring writer, I've read a few "Getting the Call" blog posts over the years. They were always gave me hope that one day I'd climb out of the slush pile myself like a zombie from the grave.


To pay-it-forward, I'm writing about my experience of "the Call" from the perspective of someone who got three Calls.


This is not a situation I expected or prepared for, but it was an experience I learned a lot from and I want to share the lessons I gleaned from it with you.

The first call I got was from Danielle Bailey from the Seymour Agency (Nicole, her boss, had something come up at the last minute). Danielle told me they both really enjoyed the concept of my picture book, but felt it needed further development.


To be honest, a part of me wondered why they were so interested in a picture book that "needed" more work, but I was happy they enjoyed the story enough to offer representation.

A part of me wanted to say, "YES!" right then and there, but I knew enough to ask for some time to inform other agents about the offer of representation so they could have a chance to do the same. So, immediately after getting off the phone with Danielle, I sent out an email to all the agents who were interested in the story. Two more agents asked to have phone calls and so I set up times to talk with each of them.

Agent #2 was a joy to speak with and knew some writers I was friends with. When we got to talking about my picture book she told me it was unique and interesting, but... (why is there always a but!?) she felt something was missing and I needed to push the story further.

Now, I must admit, when Danielle told me the story need work, a part of me got a little prideful and said, "How can a book that has so much interest from agents need more work? Obviously, the story is good enough as is because people are interested in it."

Yeah, stick a pitch fork in me. devil

Obviously, I had gotten on a high horse with all the attention my story received and let it go to my head, but thank goodness Danielle and Agent #2 deflated my ego balloon.


The next call was actually a follow-up call from both Nicole and Danielle. With my new insight into the fact that my story wasn't perfect even though people liked it, I had a much more receptive attitude to their feedback.

The last call before making my decision was with Agent #3. Can anyone guess what she said about my picture book?

If you said she thought the story was fun, but needed work, then give yourselves a pat on the back or even better your favorite snack. Go ahead! You deserve it!

Cupcakes for everyone!

After these three Calls, I finally understood the vast difference between story potential and execution. Whereas before I got the Calls, I thought an agent offer equaled a good story, I came to realize this is not always the case. Agents don't only offer representation for polished, publication-ready stories. They also look at the potential of a story and when they see a manuscript, even a flawed one like mine, they can look past the bad and the ugly and see the good seed under all that dirt.

If I had only gotten one "call," I might not have realized this important difference and had a much bigger ego about my story. Thankfully, the agents who talked to me made sure I had a triple dose of humble pie to go with my "Good News." And for that, I am very grateful because everything they said was right-on-the-money. My story did need more work.

So, here's one piece of advice:

Check your ego at the door before, during, and after "the Call". Just because someone likes your story enough to offer representation, doesn't mean it's ready to be submitted or published. It means the agent(s) sees something in your work that they believe will bear fruit.

It's up to you to put in the work and nurture the story seed so it yields something good.