Get Ready to Pitch

Earlier this year, I wrote an article called Are You Ready to Pitch for #RevPit. As the submission window for PitchWars is only four days away, I thought it best to revamp the article a little to save confusion.

There are some great resources in here which may help you get through your final milestones before we all start the next leg of our PitchWars Adventure.

Which I’ll lovingly call: Mentee Hunting Season. ^_^

So, for anyone out there who’s about to enter #PitchWars, or any of the other amazing pitch contests:

Are you ready to pitch?

If the answer’s yes, the next question is: how do I prepare for submission?

The following information is more to keep my own thoughts organized, but maybe it will offer some value to others out in the universe. 🙂

1. The Query: Like other writers, I’ve written and written, revised, edited, rewritten, had a shot of whiskey, and banged my head against the keyboard trying to get my query pitch just right. Because that’s what a query is: your first chance to pitch your awesome book. While the internet offers a ton of resources on queries, the best I’ve found is Colleen Halverson’s Crafting the Fantasy Query. She cuts through the bullshit to get you on the right path.

2. The Synopsis: Like the query, I’ve spent far too many hours agonizing over this. Not so much the prettiness of the lines, but making sure I’m including the right plot points: the important ones. The internet has some great resources, but hands down Publishing Crawl’s How Two Write a 1-Page Synopsis is the perfect place to start.

3. The Final Edit: If you haven’t done this already, take one more pass through your manuscript and tackle those last-minute edits. I’d recommend jumping to Step IV if you’ve already destroyed all your fillers and filters. Either way, drop your manuscript into Word, search for anything underlined, and YOU DECIDE if a fix is needed. Word is a tool, not an editor.

4. The Format: This is the easy part, but it is time consuming, so be sure to set aside at least an hour or two to get all your documents ready to go. The site I use is Marly Spearson’s Formatting 101. It’s easy, concise, uses both pictures and words, and helps you get the right format for all your documents ready. After all, you don’t want to be scrambling last-minute if a request comes through.

4. The Documents: So, exactly which documents do you need? Well, that’s going to depend on the editor or agent, mentor or publisher. Since we’re focusing on Mentors with PitchWars, my recommendation is to have one of each document in a private folder ready to send:

  • Query
  • Synopsis
  • First Chapter
  • First 50 Pages (For partial requests)
  • Full Manuscript (For full requests)

Told you… time consuming. Take the time and format each one with precision. 😉

5. The Labels: Last thing you’ll need to do is label your documents. The mentors will have a lot of submissions to read through, and you want to make sure yours doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. I recommend naming your documents this way: LastName_STORY_NAME_TypeofDocument

i.e. Harrowick_MENTEESEASON_Query

Once #5 is complete, sit back, relax, and celebrate with an adult beverage.

Good luck to everyone on submission day, and may the mentor teases be truly evil! 🙂


Original article posted on my main blog site, Hàlön Chronicles.

Tackling Last-Minute Edits for the Strongest Impact

The PitchWars submission window is looming. Like hundreds of other writers, you’re might be feeling that deadline weighing heavy on your shoulders. But not to worry! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

DON’T PANIC

As the PitchWars submission window draws closer, it’s time to start prioritizing your edits to have the strongest impact with your work. In 2016, I kept stumbling upon newer and newer craft ideas and working like a madwoman to get my chapters tightened up. This year I have a bigger tool belt, so much of the work has been done already, though I still like to peruse through and tinker with bits here and there because even I have some major habits I’m trying to break. Up/down anyone?

Today, I’m going to share a bit of my arsenal to help PitchWars hopefuls pack a bigger punch in those first chapters. These tools are ones you can carry with you until you find better ones that suit your toolbox. Are you ready?

I. UNPACK YOUR WORDS
I’m talking about those nasty thinking, feeling words that tell readers a label instead of showing the them what’s going on. This is also a great way to punch up your word count if you need to add some bulk to your manuscript. Chuck Palahniuk writes a great article on how to punch up those words into beautiful detail and strengthen your prose.

II. HEAD HOPPING & DETAILED DETAIL
Two equal enemies on opposite ends of the spectrum. Does your scene have large chunks with loads of dialogue and not much else, or perhaps you just Robert Jordan’d the last two pages with details about the one acorn buried deep inside the twisted oak. Maybe it’s necessary for your story, but probably not. Pass over your chapters and search for scenes that are too heavy in one or the other. With dialogue, paint some brush strokes in there to add emotion or setting. A line here, a couple lines there and you’ll make the scene richer and more engaging. If there’s too many details, trim. Or weave in some action, emotion or dialogue to keep the reader engaged with the story and moving forward.

III. FILLER & FILTER WORDS
Diana Urban writes a great article about filler words and how to destroy them. And here’s an article by Anne R. Allen and Ruth Harris about filtering actions through characters, why this shouldn’t happen, and how to keep your readers connected.

Filler and filter words both have the same function: to drag down your story. Don’t let them win. Find them. Destroy them. Don’t make your readers see your story through a camera lens – let them experience the story.

IV. COPY EDIT YOUR WORK
If you’re like me, there comes a point in your editing process where you become blind to your own words. You read over everything and think: yep, it’s perfect, let’s do this.

Not so fast.

Drop your manuscript into a Word document. First… Word is not an editor. You are. But Word is fantastic for highlighting things it doesn’t understand – i.e blue and red squiggly lines. Don’t read, look for the squiggly lines. Think about each one: is this correct and Word’s confused, or did I make a spelling, grammar mistake? You’re the editor, but the robot sometimes has good eyes and spots things you missed (like an extra space between words). Use it to find all the fiddly bits you missed and correct the ones that need correcting.

Once that’s done, head over to editMinion and do a second pass. What I love about editMinion is it shows me where I may have been using too many adverbs, weak words, or lines that might need some adjusting. Again, you be the editor. Fix what needs fixing.

Truth: I usually go through this process each time I do a major editing pass. But as the PitchWars submission window gets closer, these little handy tools will help you level up your work and be ready to stand out above the others. If you want a simple trick to do steps I, II, and III all at once, here’s how:

  • Open Word.
  • Open find/replace dialogue box.
  • Type in one of the words you want to kill/unpack. i.e. ‘just’ in the find box.
  • Type the exact same word in the replace box.
  • While your cursor’s still in the replace box, go down to the bottom-left of the dialogue box and click on Format > Font. Change the text color to red. Click ‘replace all’.
  • Lather, rinse, repeat for every word you want to tackle.
  • When you’re done, that word document should look like an army just ran through. Red. Blood. Everywhere.

Fix. Fix. Fix. 🙂

If you have any other tools in your arsenal you think should be listed here, leave me a note in the comments. I love learning new things, and I may just add your link into my toolbox here.

Cheers!


Original article posted on my main blog site, Hàlön Chronicles.

Navigating Imposter Syndrome

So… starting to feel like that black sheep over there?

Yeah, right now is about the time where hundreds of people gearing up for #PitchWars are starting to feel the same way. Mentee hopefuls and mentors alike. Even me… glancing at my growing pile of edits and prioritizing which ones need to be done first, which are necessary, and which will and won’t effect submission day.

But there’s a bigger problem with Imposter Syndrome. It’s that sudden feeling of: shit, I’m not nearly good enough for this. I suck at contests, mentors are going to laugh, my story is dumpster fire, I should never have written this tripe.

STOP!

Right there.

I. YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH
You wrote a book, worked your ass off getting it whipped into shape. Edited. Edited some more. Had it critiqued, edited it again. You. Are. Good. Enough. Period.

II. MENTORS LOVE WHAT THEY LOVE
None of our stories are perfect. Over the last two weeks, I’ve read more than a dozen first chapters and none are perfect, but all of them are strong and engaging and fantastic. The level of talent in these chapters is staggering. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the strong voice and concept of each one. Yes, two stood out (no, I’m not telling), but it was only because of one thing: my subjective opinion. I identified with these two stories in different ways, and both took me utterly by surprise. It had nothing to do with the writing, editing, author, etc.

It’s because I connected to the story.

What I’m saying is, don’t self reject. Your story may not be where you want it to be yet, but it COULD be the one a mentor falls head-over-heels in love with. Why not give it a shot?

And here’s a secret: white sheep or black sheep doesn’t matter. We’re ALL barnyard animals. Every writer ever feels imposter syndrome. Want Proof?
Chuck Wendig
Neil Gaiman
Colleen Halverson
Lindsey Stirling

Do I really need to go on?

III. BE BRAVE
Find your inner courage. Scoring a PitchWars mentor may happen or it may not, but that doesn’t mean your story isn’t fantastic. You love your story. Your CPs probably love your story. An agent somewhere out there might be waiting eagerly to get grabby hands on your story. A mentor might clutch your story in one hand, a club in the other and beat off other mentors.

You don’t know… so don’t count yourself out without giving your story a real shot.

Oh, and if I still haven’t convinced you, try this: go dig up your very first draft of the story. Compare.

Yeah, that’s right. Look at how much your story kicks ass today.

Now go set some goals.
Do some more editing.
And get ready to pitch.

🙂


Original article posted on my main blog – Hàlön Chronicles.

Navigating the #PitchWars Mentor Blog Hop – Are You Ready?

Last year when the PitchWars Mentor Blog Hop went live, two things happened: the party on the hashtag got a little crazier, and my stress level shot up. It was tons of fun to read through all the posts, wish lists, and get a solid eye on personalities and approaches to mentoring. But as I started to narrow down the mentor list, it became so tough to make solid picks.

For anyone who’s new to PitchWars, and already stressing about choosing mentors, here’s a quick navigation guide for you:

I. DON’T PANIC
I can not stress this enough. Breathe. Eat. Relax. Cuddle your Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. You’ve got almost two weeks to finalize your picks, so don’t be afraid to go back to your list several times and rethink options.

II. MAKE A LIST
I use a spreadsheet, but do whatever works for you. List all the names of possible mentors. Write down your thoughts – what you like and what concerns you (in regards to your manuscript + their wish list = gray area). Having a list is so important, because you will go back to it again and again and second guess yourself. True story: last year I came down to 3 mentors for my last 2 slots, and pandered for days. Each one had a quirky thing they didn’t like that made a brief appearance in my MS. In the end, I had to cut one. It was the right call last year, and this year that mentor (or dynamic duo) may be on my final picks. Who knows?

III. RESEARCH. EVERY. MENTOR.
Do

Not

Waste a submission on someone who doesn’t want your genre. Give yourself every chance to score a mentee slot.

The mentors are AMAZING. All of them. I’ve chatted with YA mentors, romance mentors, etc, and you are not choosing your new BFFs. Or your roommates. You are choosing someone who could LOVE YOUR STORY as much as you do and help you make that amazing story better.

Breathe. Take extra care to ensure every single pick wants your genre, your age group, and doesn’t have hard no-no rules on large plot lines in your story.

IV. ASK QUESTIONS
Mentor A may love high fantasy but doesn’t like romantic elements.
Mentor B may love only low fantasy but loves romantic elements.

As you narrow down and everything starts to look gray, ask questions on the #PitchWars hashtag. Let them know you’ve read their wish lists and you’re unsure if they’re the best fit. A quick and simple conversation may help you clear up any doubts.

V. IF IN DOUBT… LOOK BEYOND THE WISHLIST
What is their mentoring style? Is their personality a good mesh with yours? Unfortunately, sometimes you have to dig deeper and really nit-pick (especially you poor YA authors with 5000 mentors).

The mentors understand that you’re not nit-picking their lives, or who they are as people. You’re searching for a home your story can be loved in. So don’t be afraid to look at everything and give your beautiful words the best shot they can have.

Choosing the right mentor is hard because you want to love them all. When the magical day finally comes and you click ‘submit’, don’t second guess yourself. You’ll have enough stress during the submission weeks, so do your research. Make sure your picks are one less thing you have to worry about.

Most of all… have fun!

Encourage other writers. Make friends. One writer I connected with last year is an agent this year. Another started a small press. Two CPs I met during last year’s competition have already sold books.

You never know what’s waiting for you right around the corner. 🙂


Original article posted on my main blog – Hàlön Chronicles.

Write What You Love

Ever hear this little tidbit of advice everywhere on the internet? 🙂 I’ve seen it several times in regards to fiction novels, a great encouragement for authors who get bogged down by editing, rejections, bad reviews, or even when work in progress is torn apart by CPs. It’s natural to crawl in a hole and shield oneself against the negativity (or in my case sharpen a knife and sink my teeth into editing).

But… even I have days where I glare at my laptop and bury myself in Netflix shows. As I realign my year and writer goals, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about this: write what you love. Then I stumbled upon an article by Joseph Finder and found a fantastic quote.

“The most successful writers aren’t the most talented.

They’re the most stubborn.”

If you ask my husband whether or not I’m stubborn, he’ll laugh and laugh and laugh. I’m not sure which of us is worse, but that’s a story for another day. It’s about loving the words I lay down, the whole that comes from within, and the final product I can grip in my hands. As I thought about all these things, I realized that while I’m still writing what I love, I’ve also left behind other pieces of my heart.

1. Role-Play Writing
I’ve been writing forum-based role-play stories for so many years that my characters span generations. I’m not sure it exactly crosses into the world of true fan fiction, but it’s set in another author’s universe. What I love about role-play is you’re up against other writers. You only get control of your character and the setting, and often times it turns into a game of who can trigger the other character’s anger and amp up the tension. Yet, it’s also a fantastic training ground for characterization, drafting a strong flow for your sentences, and holding your character’s power within the stress and limitations of the world they live in. i.e. No deus ex-machina to save the day.  Read more >