Monday, August 31, 2015

the long game

Writing for publication is a rough business. There's the indecision and self-doubt while you're drafting and editing. The rejection as you try to first find an agent, then a publisher. And then if you are lucky enough to get published, you just can't control whether your book sells well or not--which may affect your prospects for getting a second book published.

I am in the middle of that long process now. I've got an agent and I'm hoping for the best for The Girls of March. And once upon a time, before I had an agent, I was hoping for the best for Breaking Up, Falling in Love, and Other Chemical Reactions (previously known around here as Jayma Rodgers Goes To College, since I am such a FABULOUS titler). A little-bitty part of me is still hoping for the best for my little New Adult friends, to be honest.

But while I am hoping for the best, I've got to keep going--because publishing is a long game. Because I may not have a lot of control over this process, I can control my next step.

So I'm making new fictional friends and working on new projects and generally keeping busy. Outlining ideas and doing some free writing. Because someday, I might get a chance to submit a second novel--so daydreaming about the first one just won't do.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Writing updates: how I write a book

Deadlines and goals -- they really work! (Who knew, right?)

In the last two weeks, thanks to making a deal with Sarah that we exchange new words every Saturday, I have written more on my WIP than I have all summer.

For me, one of the hardest things about writing is always starting to write. I have major indecision factor. (You should see me at Baskin and Robbins.) I don't know which project to pick. I don't know where it should start. I've usually got an idea about who my main character is and what he or she wants, but their flaws are always harder to find. Wait, what if that other idea was the better choice? Better go back to that project ...

To date, I've written three books and started countless others (I hope to finish you someday, other projects...) And yet somehow, it still seems to take me awhile to remember that the process always ends the same:

You just have to start writing, and then keep writing, and then write some more. Because you probably did start in the wrong place and give your character lame flaws (oooh, she mispronounces words!) but the only way to figure out the right place and better flaws and cleverer twists and lovelier description is to have roughly 50,000 adequate words you can share with a critique partner and say, "So what do you think?"

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Dear Future Mentees (sing it like Meghan Trainor, minus the innuendos.)

Hi. 2014 Pitch Wars Mentee here, looking to offer some unsolicited advice.

First thing, you just got some really great news, so take some time to celebrate!

Now, once you've gotten your fill of celebration, you've got to buckle down and get to work. You've got your edit letter and maybe even some writing assignments from your mentor. You might be ditching subplots or characters or even changing your ending. There will be suggested edits both big and small.

So take your mentor's advice and mull it over. You've got time, you don't need to start on Day 2 of the  revision process. It will be hard work but you can do it. And more importantly--you want to do it.

Coach Taylor is your mentor--you should BE so lucky as to have Coach yell at you.
Matt Saracen is you. Spoiler alert: You are awesome.

For almost all of you, there will be edits that make perfect sense the moment you hear them. They'll click so perfectly in your brain that, whether they are big or small, you'll be itching to get started on them.

And there may also be one or two that leave you scratching your head.

So here comes my first piece of advice: Trust the process.

Your mentor picked you because he or she LOVES your story. Your mentor gets your story. And no matter how long you've been writing, your mentor has been further down this whole Path to Publication Thing than you've been.


While you should definitely feel empowered to decline his or her suggestions, always remember--every suggestion your mentor makes, it's because he or she believes it will help your story. So if you don't agree, or if you don't understand, talk to your mentor. Hashing things out is part of the mentor-mentee process.

The mentors are volunteering their time! They were not conscripted into this. They want to help you. And while they also have lives, and jobs, and revisions of their own, they also want to hear from you. So shoot them an email and ask to chat it over, work on the suggested edits that you understand/agree with, and be patient. They will get back to you and they will try to help you see why they suggested A, B, or C.

There will be a few moments that feel like this.
But if you're very lucky, you're going to walk away from Pitch Wars with a partnership like this.
Minus the felonies.
Then, before you know it, the showcase will be here. This brings me to my second piece of advice: Chillax.
Yeah, you're the leader of the free world with the moves of Beyonce and an intergalactic pizza. HATERS TO THE LEFT.
I know that's going to be hard for some of you. But the fact is, the most important part of Pitch Wars JUST HAPPENED -- it was the revision process. By the time my entry went up on the showcase, my manuscript and query were 100% better from the first versions I sent Emily. And yes, it was a little hard to keep hitting refresh on my entry, hoping an agent would bite and realizing that my wildest dreams were not about to come true.

But do you know what happened next for me -- and for dozens of the other 2014 Pitch Wars mentees?

I queried my novel, just like you would without Pitch Wars. Agents started requesting partials, then fulls. And six weeks after I was despondently refreshing my entry, my agent was emailing me to set up a phone call. 

Yes. THAT call.

That can and will happen to soooo many of you! So take the revision seriously and forget about the showcase, as much as you can. Because the biggest prize in Pitch Wars? YOU ALREADY WON IT: the chance to fine tune your manuscript with a more experienced writer who loves the shit out of it.

Final piece of advice: Be gracious.

Be cool to your mentor, they want to help you! Be cool to Brenda and Nikki and the other folks running the contest, it is way harder than it looks (and let's be honest, it looks pretty difficult). And take the time to thank them--they won't get sick of hearing it!

Aw shucks
And finally, be cool to your fellow Mentees. It sounds easy, but trust me. There will be a moment when Molly Mentee, who you REALLY like as a person and admire as a writer, is getting 28 requests in the showcase and 14 agent offers and a book deal like six seconds after you send off your first cold query, when you feel like freaking the eff out because why isn't this happening for you?

RESIST THAT URGE (and never waste pizza). At the end of the day, you know better than that. Comparison is the thief of joy. Your journey is not another person's journey and someone else's success in no way reduces your chances of success.

The 2014 Pitch Wars Facebook Support Group (not its real name) is still going strong a year after Pitch Wars. These people are your people. Celebrate with them!

In short, you are the Dillon Panthers and Griffindor House wrapped into one!
You go, Glenn Coco!
Congrats again! I'm really looking forward to seeing the amazing things that you all do.

For more advice and encouragement from the Pitch Wars Class of 2014, check out:

Monday, August 17, 2015

Works in progress: confession time

Yes, I said "works." I am terrible like that, usually working on more than one thing at once. Typically though, there is a primary project. Lately, I have been completely torn between two. And yes, I know that I can write both ... but it really would be better to work on one to completion and then start the other.

Project 1

Project 2
I have been trying lately to focus on getting myself on a writing schedule. Luckily, my CP Sarah wants to start doing chapter swaps every week and my friend Suze wants to resume having writing parties. Having those kinds of deadlines is definitely going to help me focus.

Impatience has always been one of my worst qualities as a human and a writer in particular. I want to be at the stage in a new project where you're almost done and you're itching to send to CPs, to write up a list of problems that must be revised. Instead I'm at the very beginning, which is always my least favorite place to be. And being at the very beginning on TWO projects instead of one is making me tired whenever I sit down to look at my computer screen.

Luckily, my very cool former Pitch Wars mentor and friend Emily sent me this link, which has really helped me. On some level, I was already doing this when I wrote (finding the scenes I wanted to write most, writing them first, and then linking it all together), but seeing it described so clearly made something click in my brain. As a reformed pantser, I needed to see someone point out that a feeling of dread just means (1) I am psyching myself out of writing before I even begin and/or (2) I haven't found my magic cookie yet.

(Sidenote: This weekend I was sitting down to write my list of "fun scenes" to write, but then Spence wouldn't stop licking his paw, so I stopped to bandage it up with a rubber glove ... and was subsequently distracted for the next few hours by various items on my To Do List. Diego happened to see it and he took a photo that perfectly--and embarrassingly--captured my lack of momentum this summer.)
Diego to Hannah text: "The artist at work."
Yep. Fair enough.