Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Hello! Another vacation post coming out to ya'! Don't forget that tomorrow is the beginning of BuNoWriMo. If you haven't checked this out yet, hop on over to Burrowers, Books & Balderdash to get more information. It will run for the month of June and is a good opportunity for those of us who have been slacking on their writing. I'm hoping to use it to get into my new summer routine. NaNoWriMo comes a little late for that at the beginning of the school year, but the timing of this is perfect. So get those fingers and brains warmed up and join me!

There is also a Facebook page for chatting with those participating.

Now for a little bit of fun, learn about a few literary holidays, courtesy of OnlineUniversities.com blog.

I hope everyone is having a pleasant last day of May.

Happy Writing!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Look, Contest & A to Z Followup Signup

Today is the first scheduled post during my vacation. We're on our way to Orlando to enjoy the end of the school year with good friends, but I didn't want to abandon you entirely, so I have written and scheduled several posts, just in case I am unable to sign in during my trip! I try to respond to all comments, but it will take me longer than usual during my vacation. If I'm unable to sign in during my trip, I will get back to everyone upon my return.

You probably noticed the blog is looking a little different. It became a necessity when the old template wouldn't allow me to change certain details, which made both my poll and the signup for the A to Z impossible to read unless you highlighted the text with your cursor. I figured people wouldn't appreciate that, so a new look it is! Eventually, I will get around to putting a custom face on here, but I have no idea when I'll have the time.

Before I explain about the A to Z signup, I wanted to let everyone know about a contest Sylvia Ney is running on her blog Writing in Wonderland. It is a 1000 word picture-prompted contest. The picture is a great choice, and one I can see inspiring some very interesting stories. Click on the name of her blog above for details. She is accepting submissions through June 6, 2011.

You may have also noticed a little linky underneath the name and description of my blog. This is a signup to participate in the Followup Blog Hop to the A to Z, where Tina of Life is Good and I are encouraging those who participated in the A to Z Challenge to visit the blogs they missed while working so hard to keep up with the challenge, itself. I've found so many wonderful blogs via the participants of the original challenge, and I'm sure there are many I've missed, so far. The goal is to visit all of the blogs by the end of the summer. You may take it as far as you please, whether that means simply visiting each blog and commenting where you choose, or making it a point to comment on every blog you visit. This linky list will eventually appear on Tina's blog (she is on vacation at the same time as me, and I needed some time to fiddle with the linky, as it was my first time attempting one). If there is anyone else who would like to be a host of this blog hop, please leave me a comment with the means to contact you in my comments or email me via the email in my profile. I will get you the code to put it on your blog, as well.

While there is no true official start or end date to this hop, it is meant to be a summer challenge. I intend to start June 1 and be finished by September 1. The linky list will remain open for signups until July 1. Let me know in comments if you have any questions. You can access the original signup list of the A to Z Challenge by clicking on the A to Z apple badge on the right side of my blog. Anyone can join, whether they participated in the original challenge or not. This is really about touching base with other bloggers and getting out there to find new blogs you might enjoy.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Point of View in Your Writing

As I sit here pondering the next book I want to work on (neither weakly nor wearily), Point of View (POV) has been on my mind a lot. I've noticed that the YA novels and Urban Fantasies I prefer to read at this time tend to be in First Person. As the next book I want to work on is an Urban Fantasy, I need to decide which POV to do it in.

First, I had to look up the various Points of View to define them. I came up with the following (Note: I am skipping Second Person, which uses "you did this" or "you do this," as I am not interested in that tense at this time, and feel it is used the least of all the tenses):

1. First Person:
~Past Tense-I ran up the road.
~Present Tense-I run up the road.

2. Third Person*:
~Past Tense-She ran up the road.
~Present Tense-She runs up the road.
*Third person can be further classified as being:
~Omniscient-The reader knows everything the characters are thinking. The narrator sees all and knows all.
~Limited/Subjective-The reader is hearing the story from a specific character's POV, and only knows what this character thinks and perceives.
~Objective-The reader has no idea what the POV character is thinking, and only sees their actions, as well as other characters' actions. This form is more distant, like you're watching something occur, but aren't a part of it.

Hopefully that gives everyone an idea of what each POV is. I find I often have to look it up to confirm I'm thinking of the correct tense, but I'm a double-checker by nature.

The novel I've already written is in Third Person Limited Past Tense. In other words, I write the scenes as if they have already happened, using "he" and "she," and hearing the thoughts of the POV character, as well as their actions. It actually is told from the viewpoint of two different characters, and it is clearly shown who the POV character is when I switch.

I write in this form because I'm most comfortable with it. Yes, on a blog one writes in First Person ("I do this, I do that") and, I think, in Second Person ("You do this"), though that is used less. I do believe I've used it, though. I've never before thought about what POV I was using (other than in middle school when we did writing exercises in different POV's, of course). It was never an issue for me; I simply started writing and that's what came out. This quite possibly means that I am very much over-thinking how to write this next book, but I thought it would be good to see what other people thought about POV.

I've come across some schools of thought that say you should go with the predominant type of POV used in the genre you're going to write in. Some say you should write what feels the most comfortable to you. Still others say to analyze what you want from your story and how best to get that across.

There is a poll to your right, underneath my bio, so you can vote for the POV you prefer when reading. I've learned that there should always be an "Other" option, but if you choose that, please detail why in the comments. The same goes for those who answer "It Depends." I value your feedback.

Other than that, what POV do you feel most comfortable with when writing? How do you decide which POV to use?

Happy Writing!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Write Brain-Going Gothic: Writing Dark Fantasy W/ Mario Acevedo

I originally had something else planned for today, but since I was able to attend this workshop on Tuesday, I figured I would share it instead.

Before I start, I wanted to quickly mention that Tina and I will get a linky signup up for the continuing A to Z Challenge I mentioned in my last post. In brief, it will be to encourage people to get through the entire list of signups of the original A to Z Challenge to meet those people you didn't get around to during the body of the actual challenge. More on that soon.

The workshop I attended was Going Gothic: Writing Dark Fantasy. Mario Acevedo was the instructor. He's a funny guy, and informative, so if you ever have a chance to hear him (for example, at a conference), I recommend it.

Mario is the author of a series of books about Felix Gomez, a vampire PI. The titles include such gems as The Nymphos of Rocky Flats and Werewolf Smackdown. They are dark fantasy, but also involve humor.

He started the workshop with a quote by W. Somerset Maugham: "There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are."

He then addressed the question: "Why do we read Dark Fantasy?"

From his handout:
"Because we want to release our repressed animal nature and antisocial emotions through horror and embrace the sense of wonder evoked by fantasy."

He pointed out that "fiction is emotional manipulation," as much as people may not want to admit it. Authors make us cry, they horrify us, they make us laugh, but the hardest thing they can do is to scare us and engage the reptilian brain. I imagine we'll hear this many times, but we, as writers, are professional liars.

On the scare factor, he paraphrased something he heard Tom Monteleone say: "It's easy to make someone laugh or cry. Make them sad. But to make readers hold their breaths, check to see if the doors are locked, shiver in revulsion, feel the hairs rise on the backs of their necks...that's visceral. The reptilian brain fully engaged. You can't fake that."

Some may be wondering how we define Dark Fantasy. It's speculative fiction. The following is directly quoted from his handout:

"Dark Fantasy: combines the fantastic and horror through forces beyond human comprehension. Examples are H.P. Lovecraft The Call of Cthulhu, Clive Barker Weaveworld and Charlie Huston Already Dead.

Since most speculative fiction is considered cross-genre, Horror and Dark Fantasy often combine elements of these stories:

Epic Fantasy: sprawling fantasy saga set in an invented world. Examples are George R.R. Martin Game of Thrones, Diana Gabaldon Outlander and J.R.R. Tolkien Lord of he Rings.

Urban Fantasy: fantasy and supernatural creatures in a contemporary setting. Examples are Jeanne Stein The Becoming, Jim Butcher Dresden Files, Kat Richardson Greywalker and Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol.

Paranormal Romance: fantasy tale with an emphasis on romance driving the plot. Usually has a female protagonist. Examples are Richelle Mead Vampire Academy, Linnea Sinclair Finders Keepers and Nora Roberts Spellbound.

Horror: fiction that creates the necessary atmosphere to evoke emotional dread through repugnance and fear. Examples are Edgar Allen Poe The Pit and the Pendulum, Bram Stoker Dracula, Stephen King Carrie and Thomas Harris Silence of the Lambs."

Now we get to how to write Dark Fantasy...

"We create a setting and mood that builds empathy with the main character on stage by showing apprehension, fear and a sense of jeopardy." We can put ourselves in their place, feel these emotions. Thus, we empathize with them.

You should push your readers "off-balance by placing them in an unusual setting through time travel, alternative worlds, or in a dangerous place--where we juxtapose the commonplace with the weird. This setting can be a world of the bizarre, of magic, psychic powers, gloominess, aberrant mentality--where the usual rules don't apply." He used Silence of the Lambs as an example. The killer's house has a pit in a sort of sub-level of the house. This is creepy and takes you somewhere you wouldn't usually be. It certainly sets a mood and scene ("It puts the lotion on its skin"...shudder).

Introduce "vicious characters and supernatural creatures who operate outside the rules." This makes sense when you consider how frequently, say, Urban Fantasy characters have a less-than normal job. They're bounty hunters or assassins. Anita Blake is a necromancer and a vampire hunter. Rachel Morgan is a bounty hunter and witch. Notice they also have a certain magical ability (necromancer, witch). This is part of the characterization, as well. Mario Acevedo's favorite is aliens, but there can be shape-shifters, vampires, werewolves, angels, etc.

"Next we create tension and use suspense--the expectation that something exciting (preferably bad) is about to happen. We can use:
-Fear of the unknown, unexpected, unbelievable, unconscious, unseen, unstoppable (from Elizabeth Barrette) through:
-Creepiness through repugnance and disgust (examples are spiders, snakes, cockroaches)
-The control of time through pacing using:
*Urgency, race against the clock
*Slowing the action (measure time by a heartbeat, for instance)

Tips for writing Dark Fantasy:

-Write from your guts (Visceral. What makes you laugh? What creeps you out?)
-Be original. Make up your own rules (for your world).
-Reveal the story through:
-Show, don't tell. (use the point-of-view of the killer, for instance)
*Use details to ground the reader (Stephen King does this very well)
*Use emotion.
*Avoid info dumps. Don't bog down the narrative with irrelevant details.
-Don't reveal the surprise too soon (or so late that the reader has already figured it out and is frustrated with the story and the protagonist)."

He had us do some exercises. Feel free to share in comments if you choose to do the following exercise.

He instructed us to use two sentences to create tension. His two examples were:
1. I love you. Too bad you have to die.
2. I am an honest person. But I need this money.

To see great mood setting, he recommends Chosen by Jeanne Stein, Game of Thrones by George RR Martin and Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin.

One more quote: "Being a writer is like having homework for the rest of your life." -Lawrence Kasdan.

You can find Mario Acevedo at MarioAcevedo.com and Biting-Edge.blogspot.com (with author Jeanne Stein).

How about you, what is your favorite type of supernatural creature? What creeps you out and engages your reptilian brain by making you check the locks and windows (or at least having the urge)?

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Contests, Challenges and a Rant on The Crow

I got good news this week: my flash fiction submission was accepted for the Sunday Snaps anthology! That was my very first attempt at flash fiction (and the only one so far), so I'm excited! Okay, so I would have been excited either way. The anthology is due to be published in September 2011, and all proceeds will go to charity. More on that when there are updates. In the meantime, submissions are still being accepted through June 6. Click here for submission guidelines. She is accepting flash fiction and poetry of between 50-1500 words.

I also wanted to let everyone know of a poetry contest. It is through Poetic Asides on the Writer's Digest site. It is technically a challenge more than a contest, but his favorite will be published in Writer's Digest magazine, so I consider that a contest. You only have until May 30, 2011 to submit, so get writing! Do check the guidelines first, though, as this is for a specific poem style called The Bop. He does have a link with more information on that.

I and the wonderful and energetic Tina of Life is Good have decided to continue the A to Z Challenge and visit all of the blogs who signed up. I made it through quite a few, but not the whole list. Alex J. Cavanaugh is in for the challenge and we're waiting to see if Arlee Bird of Tossing it Out will be willing to post about it. We're also looking for someone who likes to create badges who might be willing to create one for this.

Before my rant involving The Crow, I found a Write 1 Sub 1 Challenge that I'll be taking part in. Go here for more information. It is a challenge to write one piece (short story is what I'm doing, but I'm thinking you could do poetry or flash fiction or whatever you please) and submit one piece in a specific time frame. I will be doing monthly right now, starting in June, but they also have a weekly option. There are badges to put on your blog to show you are participating. I figure it is a good way to get hopping on writing short fiction, as I've allowed myself to become completely involved in my WIP and have really neglected other forms of writing. Let me know if you'll be participating!

Finally, my rant. Ed Pressman and Juan Carlos Fresnadillo are making a reboot of The Crow. The original, starring Brandon Lee. From the sound of it, Bradley Cooper of The Hangover is in talks to play the Crow character. Tossing aside my hatred of the term "reboot" these days (are there original ideas anymore or is Hollywood just a money mill?), I don't think The Crow is yet at a place where it needs to be rebooted or remade. Make it a sequel, fine, but a reboot of the original, why?? To me, The Crow is a bit of a cult classic in itself and should not be redone. Brandon Lee will forever be The Crow to me. Plus, Bradley Cooper? I love him in comedies, but as The Crow? You can read more about this at cinemablend.com.

How do you feel about the remake of The Crow? Anyone out there have as big a crush as I did on Brandon Lee? And is anyone up for the continued A to Z Challenge of visiting the blogs or the Write 1 Submit 1 Challenge?

Happy Writing!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Help Write Now, Award, Meme and Twitter

Finally! Back up! Several comments have not shown up on here, but I replied to any that the system sent to my email. If your post is missing and I did not reply, it did not come through my email.

First, I wanted to pass along this blog that is auctioning off some really cool things (example: 30 page novel critique from Joanna Volpe at Nancy Coffey Literary) to benefit those in the south who have suffered due to the recent intense storms. The blog is Help Write Now. I learned about this site from Jeanmarie Anaya, a fellow writer/blogger.

I have officially folded and started a Twitter account. You've convinced me! My Twitter is under thewarriormuse, so find me if you have Twitter and I will follow you back (if that is, in fact, the way it works). That is also my email at gmail dot com, in case you need my email to find me. Like I said, totally new at this!

My thanks out to Jo of Shoveling in a Jo Storm for giving me the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award! Jo is a fellow YA Fantasy writer who blogs about writing, as well. If I am not mistaken, Jo is further along in the process and will soon be a published author! Also, her husband has made his own film after years of working in Hollywood and they are doing a drawing for those that blog about his project on their own blogs. You can get more information on that here. Thank you for the award, Jo! (I'm being naughty and not doing the award requirements. I reserve the right to pass on awards at a later date).

I was tagged in a meme by Lydia over at This End Upside Down. She is a published author and fellow sufferer of insomnia. I'm supposed to answer some questions for this and tag someone else. I may do that at a later time, as well, but figured I'd answer the questions:

1. If you could go back in time and relive one moment, what would that be?
The moment I found out I was pregnant for the first time. We had tried for about five years, with those years full of surgeries and medications that did terrible things to my body. We were finally told we had 0% chance of getting pregnant unless we tried IVF (in-vitro fertilization), which would raise our chances to 30%.

2. If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?
First, I'd probably keep things as they are, because each thing that has occurred has helped form who I am. But since some might see that as a cop-out, I would go back to teenage me and take college courses for high school credit for my last year and find financial aid so I could pursue my degree at that time. As it is, I didn't go to college until I had my first child, and I have only gotten my Associate's at this time. While I can do the things I want to do without a degree, part of me still wants that degree.

3. What movie/TV character do you most resemble, and why?
Personality-wise, I would say Meredith Grey on Grey's Anatomy. (I saw that same answer on someone else's page--Ani?--but it's true for me, too). I can come across as emotionally stunted sometimes, and am unwilling to show weakness in the form of emotions that others can exploit. I choose friends and stick with them. I'm independent and determined. I also wanted to be a doctor.

Looks-wise, I resemble Winona Ryder, or so I've been told since my teen years. The fact that people have against started telling me that means I've officially lost the baby weight, as no one told me that once I got up there in the poundage. The funny thing is that I just don't see it, myself. I've never been told so via a picture, so I doubt anyone on here will see it, either.

4. If you could push one person off a cliff and get away with it, who would it be?
Either my middle school drama teacher for killing my spirit so thoroughly through two years of mistreatment or one of my ex-landlords for being pure evil.

5. Name one habit you want to change in yourself.
Procrastination. I either do something immediately or last minute. There's no in between, try as I might.

6. Describe yourself in one word:

7. Describe the person who tagged you in one word:

8. Why do you blog? Answer in one sentence:
To help others who might be on the same journey, learn from others and to keep myself accountable.

Any Twitter accounts you think are must-follows? Anybody else go through blog withdrawal yesterday??

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Open Anthology, June BuNoWriMo and New Never News

Look at me! I actually went a couple days without blogging. Shocking!

Today I wanted to tell you guys about a horror anthology taking submissions at Dark Silo Press. I met the couple who runs this site at the conference and they were nice folks. We started talking about what was happening to the horror genre while waiting in line for dinner. The perceived demise of the horror genre has been on my mind a lot lately, but it seems that it is not gone, only changed and classified differently much of the time. For those that remember my A to Z post about happy endings, you might appreciate that one of the specifications for a submission for this anthology is "no happy endings"!

For those of you that need a kick in the butt or who simply like to be challenged, the Burrowers, Books and Balderdash cooperative blog is doing their own version of NaNoWriMo called BuNoWriMo. This will occur in June. I did a modified NaNoWriMo last November, and I'm ready to try going for the full out goal this time. I have a book I'm waiting to get started on and this gives me incentive to not only get writing it, but to spend the rest of May editing the current WIP once again, as well as churning out some short stories (hopefully). I had planned on trying to write a short story a day in May, which is another challenge out there (can't remember where I read about it, but I think it was several blogs), but that has not happened. I may try to dive in late, though. I just don't seem to have the knack or real desire to churn out a daily short story. I figure jumping in late is just fine, too, for a modified challenge.

Also, check out the New Never News if you haven't already. A couple of my stories will be up this week, not to mention the usual fun articles the rest of the week!

Will anyone be joining me in the BuNoWriMo?

Happy Writing!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Pitching and Log Lines, Part III-My Personal Experience

This post will cover my personal experience pitching at the conference to provide you with a snapshot of what you might experience and how it's set up. I basically put all of it in there in case someone is looking for one specific part of the experience, so feel free to skip and skim!

First, let's go to the day before my pitch. I hadn't signed up for a pitch in advance, as I hadn't been sure I'd be finished editing in time. I wasn't sure how pitches worked, and was afraid my only options if unfinished would be to either pitch an incomplete manuscript or to bow out and possibly have them know my name and that I was a no-show. Neither of those sounded great. However, as I learned more, I found that I would have been able to turn my pitch in at the desk so someone else could take it, and that the agent or editor I was going to pitch to would not know I had bowed out. Fortunately, this also brought me the news that I could put myself on a wait list and hope some other poor sucker turned in their pitch appointment.

On Friday (the day before), I walked past the pitch desk and, having learned about this wait list, fought back the rise of panic that welled up the very second that I even started considering putting my name on that list. I forced myself to put one foot in front of the other and approach the desk, because I was afraid I wouldn't do it if I didn't do it right that second. Without this even being my pitch, I was stumbling over my words and trying to figure out how to formulate a question/request that would get me on the wait list. I was told there were actually openings for one of the editors, but I was worried about taking it because she didn't specifically say she worked with my genre, though she also didn't say she didn't. I took the appointment, but requested that my name be put on the wait list, just in case one of my preferences should open up. She noted down my name and the names of the people I felt would be a better fit, instructed me to come back after 5pm (it was about 8:30am at that point).

When I came back at 5pm, I was handed a card with one of my choices and told that I was one of only a couple people who had successfully gotten their preferences from the pitch list. Woo-hoo! Oh crap.

Instead of staying and hanging out with the other writers at the end of the day, I went home and set about making a change to the first page of my manuscript according to a comment at the Read & Critique I'd attended that day. I then sat and typed up a little bit of information to read as a refresher, along with my pitch. Though I didn't use the three log lines exactly as set out, they did serve as a good basis for what I needed to address. I did not repeatedly practice my pitch, because I know myself, and know that I will do far better if I just make it up as I go along, though a guide I've looked over helps. That guide and the first page of my manuscript printed up, I went to bed.

On Saturday, every workshop I attended was overshadowed by this constant buzz in my head. I probably took in far less than I otherwise would have. As I walked between workshops, I would go over the basics of my book. My pitch wasn't until after lunch and the author signing time, so I had plenty of time to stew. 2:40pm was pitch time.

After lunch, I went to the signing. J.A. Kazimer and John Hart were awesome and gave me pep talks. People who knew I was pitching came to wish me good luck. I went into the bathroom to...well...go to the bathroom, for one. I heard someone come into the next stall and say they were just making a quick trip to the bathroom before they went upstairs to take pitches. I was thinking how funny it would be if that were the person I was seeing.

When I came out of the stall and went to the sink, she followed soon after. Sure enough, it was the person I was pitching to! So I'm standing at the sink, primping, and she is directly next to me. I fixed my makeup, brushed my hair and proceeded to get out my toothbrush. We actually traded a few words, but I wasn't sure if it would be tacky to tell her I was one of her next pitchers, so I kept mum. I did at least wait to brush my teeth until she left.

After she left, someone who knew I was pitching, but wasn't sure if I'd already done it, came in. She asked about it and I told her I was on my way up. An agent in the bathroom asked me who I was pitching to and, when I told her, she told me how nice that editor was and that I would have fun. She gave me a great pep talk, as well, which was helpful coming from one of the people who would be taking pitches in the same room. Her name was Denise Little, by the way, and she seems like she would be a great agent to work with! She was very nice and professional in the workshops she participated in.

It wasn't quite time to head upstairs yet, so I went and paced around the elevator lobby for awhile, refreshing my cell phone clock over and over because I wanted to be sure not to be late. As the time drew nearer, I went to get a glass of water and stopped to ask Chris Mandeville, president of Pikes Peak Writer's, if she thought it would be tacky if I took the glass of water upstairs. She assured me that it wouldn't, which was good, because my mouth had already gone dry and I was pretty sure the pitchee didn't speak bushman (I could be wrong).

Finally, glass in hand, I stepped into the elevator and hit the magic number seven. When I stepped off the elevator, a table was facing me right there in the little elevator lobby. A writer I had met in the Thursday classes, Stacy Jensen, was working the pitch desk, which worked as a bit of a reassurance. There were a bunch of other writers sitting around the room, looking nervous as could be, sort of like me.

There was one group before mine, so when they went in I found a chair and watched the group previous to theirs filter out. Only one person gave a positive sign, which was nerve wracking in itself. Everyone else walked out almost stone-faced and went straight down the elevator. Did they all get denied? Or had their brains shutdown in the aftermath of the adrenaline bath they had experienced going in? Hopefully it was the latter.

Several of us joked around nervously and waited until Stacy came over and called our names. We followed her out of the elevator lobby and down the hallway, doors to rooms all around us. I wondered how their occupants felt about the constant groups of chittering (you know, chattering, but a bit more high pitched due to panic) people coming through all day. We lined up in front of a closed set of double doors and waited again.

Finally, those double doors opened and people began flooding out. I saw the person I was pitching to right inside the doors and slapped on a smile and met her eyes. (It would be weird to avoid her eyes then walk up to her, right?). This time we got several thumbs up and one person did a little victory dance right there in the hall, though away from the view of those inside the room, so that was more reassuring than the stone faces that had previously faced us.

Now it was our turn. We filtered in the doors, everyone moving to their tables. I walked up and reached out a hand, shaking her hand and introducing myself (I didn't forget my name, woot!). I mentioned that I had spoken to her in the bathroom, but hadn't known if it would be tacky to introduce myself down there. She said she remembered me and that it would have been just fine if I had introduced myself. During this exchange, I sat down and placed my bag on the floor next to me, my cup on the table between us (she had a soda, so it was all good). She introduced herself and asked me about my book, so I just started talking about the basics and then paused. She asked me for more information, including the genre, the target audience, my primary character, etc. (to be perfectly honest, I don't remember all the questions, as I had that adrenaline thing going). I answered her questions and she said she'd like to see it. Remembering my wonderful training, I asked how she'd like it submitted and how much. She asked for one of my cards and wrote her email address on the back of it, asking for the first three chapters and a synopsis. She told me not to bore her (yikes!). That is still cycling through my head.

Well, that was about two minutes down. Now what?

She asked me what kind of books I read, so I listed a bunch I'd read in the last few weeks. She liked that I read in different genres, and asked about one of the books I'd listed (The Marbury Lens). We talked about that, and then I brought up something I had seen on her website that had interested me and we talked about that. She asked about my children and recommended books for my six-year old son, as he devours chapter books at this point in time. We were actually still chatting when we were given the one-minute warning, so that was good.

In the end, I once again offered my hand, thanked her and said goodbye. I walked right past the people in the hall, running the information through my head, and completely forgot to say anything to them to reassure them as I'd intended to. Once out in the elevator lobby, I spoke with someone else who had gone in at the same time and we were actually able to give some positive sign to those in the lobby. It wasn't until I stepped into the elevator that I realized I hadn't said anything to the people in the hall, and I felt bad, but hey, I was still swirling inside my head and there was nothing I could do about it now, so I wished the people in the lobby good luck before the doors swished shut and I was delivered back to the main lobby, where I went and chugged MORE water. By the way, I never drank the darn thing while at the pitch, but I drank it leading up to it, so it worked anyway.

And that's that. I took a couple days to go over it all again, and to break my synopsis down the way I'd learned in one of the workshops. I then closed my eyes and hit "send." It was amazing how panicky I got in those few seconds before clicking that button, though. It was almost a relief to be done with that part of it.

And now I wait.

I almost forgot about the woman who did an elevator pitch of sorts. We had just finished lunch on Friday and the agent she'd desperately wanted to pitch to came our way while she was standing there. She joked about how she should block her way because she wanted so badly to pitch to her, but couldn't get an appointment. To my surprise, the agent said, "So pitch to me."

(Picture me standing there gaping, eyes bulging from my head, because that's how I figure I looked).

They went out into the hall and sat on one of the benches. Sure enough, she got a "send."

I don't think I could ever do this, because I'd be worried about being rude and intrusive, but if you've got the cojones, know that it's possible.

Happy Writing!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Pitching and Log Lines, Part II

For the second part of this, I'd first like to address Linda Rohrbough's Second Log Line workshop. It sets the second foundation for the ultimate goal: a pitch.

To start, Linda first gave us her two principles:
1. Even a poor plan, properly executed, will work. It's all in the execution.
2. Nothing can change when you're comfortable.

Your book's first log line (or pitch line) is the one sentence that sums up the book's plot. Remember the GMC? She further goes on to define the log line as the condensed view of the main story action, including the emotional element. She provides a slightly different approach to figuring out that log line, though it is related to the GMC. She says it should go as follows: hero, flaw, life changing event, opponent, ally and battle.

Now, this is the first log line of three. While some will tell you to create a 25 word or less log line, Linda recommends three sentences (the first log line, second log line and third log line).

The second log line should cover the character arc (who the main character is and how they change).

The third log line is the theme of the story.

She gave an example using the film Rocky, putting the three log lines together: "A boxer with a loser mentality gets a chance for a title fight. With the help of his girlfriend, he learns to see himself as a winner before he enters the ring. The theme is love lifts us up."

The elements of her first log line outline are in the first sentence, though some are implied, rather than blatantly said. The second sentence is the character arc, with the change that occurs. The third sentence is the theme.

Linda Rohrbough recommended that we take the basic formula and tweak it until it works for us. She knows that the precise layout may not work for everyone or every story. It was also pointed out that the reason authors have trouble with a pitch is because we learn to show, not tell, through our writing, but a pitch (as well as a synopsis) is about telling, not showing. It goes against what we've learned as good writing.

I think her conclusion sums it up nicely, so I'm quoting it here precisely from her handout: "While the Log Line delivers the essentials of the plot, the second log line focuses on the character arc and delivers an even more emotional element. A strong log line followed by a second log line and ended with the third log line takes into account the major change in the story, allows you to start a dialog, and creates interest and identification in the listener or reader."

Now, how do you use all of this information to make your pitch, and how do you otherwise prepare for it? I'll tell you, courtesy of Chris Mandeville and Linda Rohrbough from their "How to Pitch" workshop.

So you've got your pitch, which involves GMC and the three log lines. Now it's time to prepare yourself for your pitch. First, they gave us two keywords: polite and professional. Don't be aggressive and don't argue. Be prepared to accept what they say, rather than debating about it. The publishing world is a fairly small one, and they do talk amongst themselves, so being rude to one agent or editor can easily blacklist you among many others. Will that definitely happen? Nah, but why would you want to chance it?

As far as being professional, dress nicely. Business casual is good, but you can choose to dress more nicely. If you think you might do an "elevator pitch," which is a very quick, first log line pitch in an elevator, at the bar, in the hallway, or wherever you might attempt this, be sure to dress business casual the entire conference, just in case. Do not chew gum. Use a breath mint before you go in. Or you can do what I did, and bring a toothbrush to use just before you go up. I'll cover my experience in a third post, just to give you an idea of how it might work.

Remember what I said in Part I about treating them like another human being? This was one of many workshops I heard that information in. They are people like you and me. John Hart told me that they need us as much as we need them (he was incredibly nice and gave me a pep talk before I went up to my pitch). After all, they're at a conference to find authors, just as you are there to hopefully get published (and, therefore, find an agent or editor). They want to like your story, just as you want them to like it.

When you walk up to the person you're hoping to pitch to, offer your hand and introduce yourself. Don't forget your name like Linda Rohrbough did at one of her pitches. Say something like "I'm excited to tell you about my book" to begin then give your first log line, the basic GMC statement. Pause after you've given this; do not instantly jump into the second log line. If they're interested, they will ask you questions, one of which might be to tell them more about it, at which time you will give your second log line, and so on. If they ask other questions, answer those, rather than just sputtering out the second line you've rehearsed.

Be prepared to answer questions about the following things:
Target Audience
Length (words and pages, just in case)
Is the manuscript complete? (one would hope it would be if you are pitching fiction; nonfiction does not have to be complete)
Describe the protagonist/antagonist/setting
What do they want and why (GMC)?
Inspiration for the story
Why are you right for this story? Why are you the one to tell it?
Compare yourself to other authors
compare your book to others
What have you read lately?
What do you do when not writing?
Do you have other ideas? (have a log line/plot/pitch worked out for those, just in case)
Target Market (not to be confused with target audience)
Who would be interested?

Things to have ready for your pitch: your business cards, the first page of your manuscript (do not offer this up unless they request it), a breath mint for before the pitch. Personally, I recommend a glass of water. It's the first thing they teach you in college speech class. Your mouth may dry out if you get nervous (IF? HAHAHAHAHAHA), and that will cause you to make those horrible smacking/clicking sounds when you talk. Something else I learned in speech class is that you can take a sip of water to delay a response and take a moment to think.

Chris and Linda spoke about cognitive dissonance. This is a lovely name for those horrible thoughts going on in your mind, like "I can't do this," "my book sucks, what was I thinking," or "they're going to hate me." To curb this issue, take a deep breath and tell yourself that you are right where you are supposed to be, that this is perfect. Tell yourself you can do this. Think of a happy memory that you can pull up easily then remind yourself that you're a writer, and a good one. Question the thoughts running through your mind and try to find the base for them so you can address that.

After you've received the "send it" request, make sure you ask:
Where to send it and how (email or snail mail, email address or address),
How much should I send? Do they want a synopsis or just the x amount of chapters/pages they have requested?
Should it be embedded in the email or sent as an attachment (some won't open an attachment)?
What would they like to have in the subject line so they know it's from you?

If they do not give you something to put in the subject line, always make a point of writing that it was a requested submission and where you met them. Also, put that in the body of your email.

If they do not say "send it," be sure to thank them for their time and take that answer. Remember not to argue or defend. If it doesn't work for them, it simply doesn't. You should continue making a good impression, because maybe a future project will work for them (and because of the whole blacklisting thing).

Okay, you've finished your pitch and gotten the "send" request, but it only took up about two to three minutes of your eight minute pitch. Now what? Be prepared to make polite conversation. Ask them about their trip out, their flight, or something you may have found out about them, possibly during research or a workshop. To reiterate, they are people, too.

Did I miss anything? Any questions? For my Saturday post, I will briefly outline my specific experience, just so you can have a bit of a snapshot of what a pitch could be like and what to expect. I will also briefly tell you about a woman I witnessed get an elevator pitch of sorts. I was inspired, but still too chicken to do it. More on that tomorrow!

Happy Writing!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pitching and Log Lines, Part I

The programming I attended on Thursday and Friday at the conference leaned heavily toward pitches, queries, synopses and lovely little details like those. I learned some helpful tips that got me through a pitch without spilling anything on the editor (bonus points for me!) or fainting dead away, so I wanted to pass a little of that along.

The one thing I heard repeated over and over was that agents and editors are people just like you. Speak to them like people. Don't rush in and start throwing words at them. Introduce yourself when you walk in, tell them your name then talk to them about your book. Yes, you'll want to have your pitch practiced and in your head, but don't speak like you're reading from a prompt card.

I think the most logical place to start is with Debra Dixon's Goal, Motivation & Conflict workshop. She has a book available for this concept, and it was highly recommended by others at the conference. The full title of her book is Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction.

First, you must figure out the who, what, why and where:

Who is your character?
What is their goal?
Why do they want this? What is their motivation?
Where is the conflict?

Not only can GMC help you figure out where to go with your story and what to write, it can help you figure out your pitch. I'll briefly go over what each word means and will then go over using it to make a pitch.

Goal: Goal is what the character wants to achieve, what they want. Your characters should want something they don't have yet, and it should be sorely needed. A goal may not always be achieved, but the characters must make a real attempt at it, strive toward it. Goals can change throughout the book and there can be multiple goals. In fact, a smaller starter goal is a good way to introduce the characters and allow the reader a chance to get to know them.

Motivation: Motivation is what drives the characters. It adds a sense of urgency to the goal. Debra Dixon said it is "the fuel in your motor." As with goals, there can be more than one motivation, and that motivation can change. The goal is derived from the motivation. You must ask what line your character will not cross and make them cross it, because this means the goal is important enough to keep the character going. Otherwise, they'd be able to resist crossing that line.

Conflict: Conflict is what stands in your character's way. Figure out what they want then throw roadblocks in front of them, challenges. Seeing how your characters handle conflict can develop them more for your readers. Just as with the other two categories, there can be multiple conflicts. In fact, there usually should be. Debra Dixon said characters should gain or lose every time there is conflict.

To work out the GMC, Debra Dixon recommended writing out a statement for each in the following form:

My character wants _____ because _____ , but _____ . What they want is their goal, the "because" is their motivation, and the "but" is their conflict. Remember that there can be multiples of each of these, so write this statement as many times as you need to figure out what drives them and why.

It's not only your primary character who should have GMC. If you don't want secondary characters and villains to be little cardboard cutouts, you will give each of them GMC, as well. Not only that, but your characters will have both an internal GMC and an external GMC. External GMC is the plot, while internal GMC is the emotional character arc.

Debra used the Wizard of Oz as an example:

Dorothy's external goal was to get home. Her internal goal was looking for her heart's desire, a place with no trouble.
The motivation behind her external goal was because her aunt was sick. The motivation behind her internal goal was because she was unhappy and trouble follows her everywhere.
The conflict behind her external goal was the witch and the balloon lifting off without her. The conflict behind her internal goal was that she didn't know quite what she wanted.

Obviously, this is vastly simplified, and there were many smaller GMC's mixed in. Hopefully it gives you an idea of what it means, though.

One important point she made was that the choices should be between sucky and suckier, not between good and bad. I imagine we'd all agree that making a choice hard to make is a much better read. She says that once you figure out your goal and motivation, you should ask yourself three questions:

Is it important? Is it urgent? Will the character act against their own self interests to achieve it?

Another important point is that characters can be motivated by a lie, either someone else's or their own subconscious lie. Also, they do not have to be aware of their goal or motivation; they can be subconscious.

GMC is the building block for a story. Each scene should dramatically either:

(Goal) Illustrate your character's progress toward a goal,
(Motivation) Provide your character with an experience that strengthens motivation or changes motivation,
(Conflict) or bring a character into conflict with opposing forces.

There should be at least three reasons for a scene, and at least one of those reasons should be one of the above goals, motivations or conflicts.

So, how does this apply to a pitch? Knowing these things about your story and character tell you what it's about. Your first log line should address the very same question you asked yourself before: my character wants _____ because _____ , but _____ . You aren't going to phrase it that way, but it should give you an idea of what your true plot is, boiled down to the simplest form that will express the point of the story.

This is long enough that I will have to make it a multi-part post. Part II will be posted tomorrow, and will address Linda Rohrbough's Second Log Line, as well as the Pitch workshop. Before I close this post, though, I'd like to list a few references and recommended books from Debra Dixon, as well as how you can find her book directly, which is actually cheaper than from Amazon, from what I could tell.

Debra Dixon recommends these books, in order of value toward your writing:
The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler (If you can find the 1st edition, it is the best version.)
GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction by Debra Dixon (via debradixon.com or gryphonbooksforwriters.com)
Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain
Fiction is Folks by Robert Newton Peck (This is out of print, but worth finding.)

Happy Writing!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Twitter Pitch Contest

So I lied. I'm posting today, too.

I came across this pitching contest at Sisters in Scribe. The agent is Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary Agency, which is located up in Denver. Woot! Her preferred reads are listed at that link, but it sounds like the main focus is YA, MG and Romance (the YA and MG don't have to be romance). I misunderstood earlier and said you needed Twitter, but you do not, in fact, need to have Twitter to enter this contest, as it will be on the Sisters in Scribe blog. You just have to limit the characters to 140 as you would have to on Twitter. Plus, it's good practice for when you do sign up for Twitter...

Notice, also, that it says she is seeking clients. I looked at Kristin Nelson's blog and she mentioned that now seemed to be a lucky time to query them, so check it out.

Also, since I'm out and about, if you completed the A to Z Challenge, Elizabeth Mueller has created an award for that. Check it out here. I've also seen one floating around that resembles the original badge of participation. Either way, congrats if you completed it!

I wanted to thank Julie for the Stylish Blogger Award!

She has a wonderful blog called What Else is Possible. Though she's an aspiring writer like me, she does actually post about things not related to writing sometimes. Shocking, I know! She is also interested in animal issues and blogs about that in addition to writing. We found each other through the A to Z Challenge. Check out her blog by clicking her blog name above or clicking the Stylish Blogger Award on the right. Thank you, Julie, for honoring me with the award!

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Open Anthology, Conference Tidbits & Pitch News

Hello! It feels strange to not have to post daily and not have something I'm required to post. I've been recovering from the wonderful (albeit exhausting) conference weekend and figured I should get back to work.

Quickly, my goal is to blog at least every Tuesday and Thursday. I may post more frequently, but Tuesday and Thursday are minimum posting days. Assuming I'm not posting every day, I will put notifications out on Facebook when I make a post.

Before I talk about conference, I wanted to post this site that is taking submissions of flash fiction for an anthology: Sunday Snaps. I made my first attempt at flash fiction and submitted it a week or so ago. There are some great photos on there to inspire a story. If you don't want to use it for flash fiction, it might be a good place to go for general prompts for whatever type of writing you want to do. Submissions are accepted through June 6, 2011.

I also wanted to post a reminder that J.A. Kazimer is taking submissions for The New Never News. A new month has started, so you can sign up for a giveaway for the month of May on that blog, as well. Check it out!

If you were around way back at the beginning of the A to Z Challenge, I posted about business cards for writers. It had been recommended that I get business cards to exchange with other writers. This sounded odd to me, but when I took an in-person poll of those writers at Rico's, the majority had cards. I came home and made some via Vista Print so I would have them in time for the conference, at least. I felt a bit silly, but I ended up being asked for my card twice in the first workshop I attended. Ultimately, I ended up keeping business cards in my name tag so they were easy to get to, because people frequently asked for them. The point in all this being that it doesn't hurt to have business cards with your website, blog, email, phone number, address, name and the title "writer." You can leave out anything you don't have or don't want going to anyone (my address isn't on mine). I have a stack of other people's business cards I need to go through now, as well, and I met some great people at this conference.

This is already getting a tad long, so the last thing I'll mention is that I did end up getting a pitch session at the conference. I put my name on the waiting list and was one of only a couple people who got one of the agents/editors they had requested. This means someone must have either canceled or switched to someone else. I received this news at 5pm on Friday evening. The pitch was for 2:40pm the next day, right after lunch, so I went home after that day's conference ended (about 9pm) and frantically worked on a pitch based on what I had learned that day. I won't say who I pitched to, but I did get a request to send a synopsis and the first three chapters of the book. Even if this goes nowhere, I consider this a small victory on the road to publication.

In honor of having made my pitch, I will talk about what I learned at the conference about loglines and pitches. I went to one session on pitching and one on figuring out your second logline on Friday, and it really helped get me through the pitch, despite being horrendously nervous. I'm pretty sure the editor I pitched to could feel me quaking through the table! Look for information and pointers On Thursday!

Happy Writing!