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.

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A Writer’s Workshop Group

Good Morning! 🙂

I’ve been dying to write this post for some time, and with the #PitchWars hashtag party in full swing, now is as good a time as any.

Near the end of 2016, one of my amazing critique partners, A. J. Super, formed a workshop group. The idea was a group of people who all write in the same age category and genre to tackle queries together. Since queries are murderous to write, of course I was 5000% on board. This was hands down one of the best decisions I ever made. Not only is my workshop group AMAZING, I’ve learned so much from them that my query skills have gone to a whole new level. What used to be a pile of ‘save the world’ generalizations has turned into somewhat concise queries. Not perfect, but leaps and bounds ahead of where they were.

Here’s some things I learned along the way:

I. AGE CATEGORY AND GENRE MATTER
No matter what you write, your workshop group should be as close to the age category and genre you write in. If you write in multiple areas, form multiple groups. A YA Historical writer’s query is going to look quite different from an Adult Science Fiction query, and likely formatted just a tiny bit different.

II. LIMIT YOUR GROUP SIZE
The group I work with has 7 people, but I recommend anywhere between 3 and 8. Large enough to get multiple perspectives, but small enough to get cozy and familiar with one another and your writing habits.

III. NOT EVERYONE AGREES WITH EVERY LINE
That goes without saying. The beautiful part here is seeing one person love a line while another stumbles over it. Multiple perspectives give you a chance to see what’s working, what’s not, and how to dig deep into your words and make that query the best it can be. When everyone in your group loves it, you know it’s pretty damn good.

IV. DON’T LIMIT YOURSELF TO JUST QUERIES
Queries are a fantastic starting point as you get to know each other’s stories. However, only sticking to queries can be limiting. My group leapt from queries to pitches, and now we work together on submission packages. Not always the pages, but we do try to tackle at least the first 250 if we can. Here’s some good areas to tackle with your group:

  • Query
  • Synopsis
  • Twitter Pitches
  • First 250
  • 35-Word Pitches

V. BE READY TO LEARN
I can’t stress this enough. You are going to learn tons in a workshop group. When I started a year ago, I had a general feel for how to hit a query. But after a year of workshopping, learning to hone concepts, find words, cut the fluff, and draw out unique elements instead of generalizations, I’m an entirely different query writer. My badass workshop group made me a better writer, and a better critiquer.

PitchWars is still looming, and as submission time draws near, query swaps are going to get to critical levels. I think I swapped with no less than 15-20 people last year, though Ava Quinn was the one who really helped me level up, and I’ll be forever grateful for her awesomeness.

This year, PitchWars has something new and unique, thanks to an idea by Scott Rhoades: age and genre subtags. Here’s a few I know of:

  • #PitchWarsMG (Middle Grade)
  • #PitchWarsYASFF (Young Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy)
  • #PitchWarsASFF (Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy)
  • #PitchWarsAR (Adult Romance)

Make use of the subtags. Find other writers and form a workshop group. When you submit to #PitchWars, you want your submission package to be the best it can be. Because, who knows? I have no doubt some of you first year PitchWars hopefuls will kick some PW-Veteran asses and score eight weeks with one of the amazing mentors.

If anyone knows of more subtags, don’t hesitate to leave it in the comments and I’ll add them in. Fingers crossed they’re a fun way for mentors to stalk their hopefuls.

Find your tribe. Your peers. Once PitchWars is long over, you guys will still be hanging out, working on pitches, and celebrating one another’s successes.

Good luck to everyone! 🙂


Original article posted on my man blog, Hàlön Chronicles.

New to PitchWars? Learn how to get the most out of this amazing contest.

Set Your Daily #PitchWars Goals – And Meet Them

July is here, and the #PitchWars hashtag party has begun. Writers are connecting to other writers, making new friends and CPs (critique partners), and the mentors have started their hilarious, fun-loving wars with one another.

As the excitement ramps up, it can be tough to close your browser window and focus on your work. Because hey, who doesn’t love a party? But that submission deadline is looming, and you’ll want your best, prettiest, most polished manuscript to shine like a beacon. You’ve still got work to do, so let’s get started:

I. SET DAILY GOALS
You know how much work needs to be finished before the August 2nd deadline. Take that giant pile of work and *gasp*… use fractions. Break it up into daily workloads you can accomplish. Every day, get your manuscript work done first, then reward yourself with a treat by diving into the party for a few laughs. Or, you know… ice cream slathered in fudge and drizzled with whiskey.

NOTE: I always set my goals to finish a week before submission. I use that extra time to go back for added polish, destroying filler words, and turning thought/feeling words into sensory action.

II. GET AN ACCOUNTABILIBUDDY
Yes, that’s a word.

I can’t stress this enough: find a friend. Be accountable to one another and meet your daily goals. This will help keep you on track, and you can support and encourage each other if you hit a tough snag.

III. REWARD YOURSELF
Take part in the festivities, strengthening your writer tribe. Here’s some ways to do this. Remember, these aren’t mandatory – just fun things to do with your fellow writers.

Have fun and good luck to everyone submitting! 🙂


Original article posted on my main blog – Hàlön Chronicles.

Want to add a little shine to your manuscript? Here’s some tips for self-editing your novel.

Get the Most Out of #PitchWars

Every year, thousands of hopeful writers enter #PitchWars for a chance to work with a mentor and hopefully score some requests in the agent round. This will be my second year entering, and the contest is AMAZING. If you have a polished manuscript, be sure to check out all the PitchWars details and get ready for some awesome fun.

So, let’s get started, shall we?

There are two things you’ll always hear around the #PitchWars hashtag:
1. The Community is the best part of PitchWars.
2. Don’t self reject.

I agree 100% with both of these statements, and they are two of many ways to get the most out of PitchWars. But I want to talk about something else: Personal Goals.

What do YOU want to get out of PitchWars?

Because no matter how your personal experience goes, most of us aren’t going to get selected by a mentor. That’s the reality. Out of the thousands of submissions, less than two hundred mentee slots are available.

The key I learned in 2016 is to set your personal goals before you ever hit the submit button, so when the fun and frenzy is over, you can see for yourself what you accomplished.

That’s right… accomplished.

Focus on the positive aspect, and how you can make the most of your experience. Here are some goals & milestones I recommend to everyone.

  • Make friends with other writers and mentors.
  • Enter the mentee-hopeful #PimpMyBio blog hop. (Not mandatory – just a fun way to connect with other writers)
  • Have all my manuscript materials ready to pitch before the submission window opens.
  • Enter manuscript and hit the submit button, with or without fear.
  • Have a book to read or project to focus on during the #PitchWars submission window. I’m telling you right now, the tension mounts and some of the mentor teasers are deliciously evil.
  • Enjoy watching hashtag teasers, but don’t drive yourself crazy thinking every discouraging teaser is about your story. DO glean awesome helpful facts from teasers.
  • Receive 1 request for pages.
    • NOTE: If you receive a request, please show show courtesy to others by NOT posting about it on the #PitchWars hashtag. Jump for joy to your friends and CPs via DM or email so they can celebrate with you, but keep it private. N-thousand people won’t receive a request.
  • Receive 2 or more requests.
  • Have mentors love your story so much they have to play rock-paper-scissors-lizard-spock for who gets to be your mentor.
  • Top Goal: Score a spot with a mentor, and be ready to work your ass off.

These are suggested goals, and it’s doubtful any person will accomplish all of them, but feel free to take this list and add/delete content to make it your own. Because when the submission window closes and winners are announced, I want each person to look back at their list. What goals did you accomplish? What positive things happened for you and your writing career?

PitchWars is a fantastic community and you learn so much just by hanging around, even if you’re a wallflower. If you’d like to see a taste of what PitchWars hopefuls were doing last year after the contest, be sure to check out my Winterviews project. These amazing people are still writing. Still forging their writing careers and moving forward.

Cheers and good luck to everyone submitting this year! If you make your own list, drop it in the comments or shoot me a link if you share it on your blog. 🙂


Original article posted on my main website, Hàlön Chronicles.

The Benefits of RPG Writing

Long before I started writing novels or world-building alternate universes, I was drawn into the world of RPG. More specifically: forum-based, post-by-post role-play. For those who aren’t sure what this is, here’s how it works:

Post-by-post role-play is written on a forum alongside dozens—sometimes hundreds—of other writers (handlers). The forum embraces a core theme or universe where the community story takes place. Each thread is a story, and it’s told one post at a time from a character’s perspective.

Signs of a Strong RPG Community:

  1. Active Engagement. Some communities host anywhere from a dozen writers to thousands of accounts. However, the number of users doesn’t matter—the activity does. Peek at the latest posts and the dates they went live. How often are users writing? When was the most recent post put up? Is only one person writing dozens of posts, or are there several characters actively engaging on the site?
  2. One theme to rule them all. I’ve found that if the site has one core universe (i.e. Lord of the Rings) vs. several hosted universes, there’s a lot more activity within the community.
  3. Many characters make light work. If any RPG site says only one character allowed per writer, turn back. Characters are hard work. Sometimes they take off right away and become a community favorite, though usually it takes a lot of time and diligence. And they don’t always succeed. Writers need the chance to try their hand at different personalities, quirks, sexes and genders, and discover how unique each one can be. Strong RPG communities always encourage multiple characters.

When I first began writing RPG, it was an escape, much like a story is to a reader. A chance to set aside real life and explore an alternate world through the eyes of another. Yet, I also had a mission with RPG: learn how to create character depth.

Somewhere in the dark recesses of my old computer files, there’s the beginning of a fiction story I wrote about an alternate earth history. It’s pure dumpster slog, but the worst part is every character is the same apart from a few visual details. I had zero idea how to dig into the nitty gritty, strengths and weaknesses, or explore action vs. reaction. To learn this skill, I found a community that overwhelmed the hell out of me. It was HUGE! Tons of guidelines, tons of writers, and so many forums I wasn’t sure where to start.

Not wanting to appear like the newbie idiot, I spent nearly a week reading around the site, what people were writing, rules, procedures, almost to the point where I could recite them blindfolded. Then I took the plunge… making a mistake right off the bat. Nothing major and easily fixed, but I still felt as small as a bug. Since I had no idea how to create a character, I put together a female inside the life I wanted to have for myself. Mistake #2 – trying to be the character. However, my small mistakes become the biggest learning assets. I kept at it, getting my character involved in plots and classes, and super proud of my 1-3 sentence posts.

Yikes.

What I didn’t realize until I made the leap from RPGs to novels, is how much I’d grow as a writer. Those cookie cutter characters I first created transmogrified into beautiful entities with generations of family history, strengths and weaknesses, quirks, reactive buttons, and a depth of richness through the steps of their lives.

RPG writing taught me a plethora of writing skills.

  1. I wrote every day. When you’re involved with RPG, you’re accountable to other writers. Whether I was just answering spammy PMs, or banging out a dozen posts, I logged in every day and wrote something.
  2. Operating within limits. Everyone wants their character to be the hero, and in novel writing we get a chance to fulfill this destiny. But what about all the other characters? Writing against others helps you to learn how to operate not only inside the parameters of a fictional universe, but within the limits of a character’s physical and emotional limitations. The same applies in novels, or you’d have 100 Harry Potters no one else of note.
  3. Learning close POV. As authors, we get the chance to control all the characters’ actions. In RPG… you don’t. Every post is done through the eyes of that character, and they must act & react without telling what the other character is going to do. This opens up the opportunity to focus on what your character is seeing, smelling, tasting, and how they will act/react to others.
  4. Polish & hone your grammar. The more you write, the more mistakes you learn to catch. I’ve watched young writers with barely a grasp of the English language grow from broken sentences with no punctuation to beautifully-crafted posts. Because they watched other writers, kept writing, and soon things like proper punctuation and capitalization became second nature.
  5. Meet other writers. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s true. Most RPG writers aren’t novelists, but they’re still writers. From medical and technical papers, to media content to university theses and poetry… these folks are peers who can challenge you as a writer, and torment the heck out of your characters. 😉

So, if you’re searching for new and innovative ways to hone your writing skills, or a playful way to escape from life, I highly recommend post-by-post role-play. Search out different communities, their themes, and see if any are a good fit for you and your writing style. You may be surprised at who you meet and how exponentially your writing skills grow.

Cheers! 🙂


Original article posted on Hàlön Chronicles.

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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 >

Why I’m So Quiet These Days

Hi everyone! 🙂

I’ve been a bit on the silent side the last few weeks, both on social media and with any non-work related emails. It started out as a writer break (the first I’ve taken in over a year) to give my brain a rest. From there, the avalanche of life decided to take some hard left turns. Normally at such junctions, I go outside and enjoy the sunshine, work in my garden, do some active exploration to get my head clear. Of course, Washington State decided to give spring and summer a miss this year and head straight into fall, so there is no warmth or sunshine to go outside and play in.

Or, there wasn’t until a few days ago. I digress…

Taking a break had the reverse effect I was hoping for. Instead of resting my brain and getting centered again, those pesky writer demons started a war, and they were merciless. To the point where I started questioning why I was writing, what was the point, then assessing that words and I are pretty much enemies.

Then… imposter syndrome rode into this battle and took a jab (several in fact). Sprinkle in some super obscure family stuff, physical weirdocrities happening, and you have my life. We’re talking an Everest Avalanche and I’m somewhere under the pile of snow freezing my ass off.  Read more >