Friday, August 15, 2014

Writing Retreat 2014

Hello everyone!

Last week I got home from what was probably the most fun ten days I've had bunched together in a very long time. Partly, the fun was due to the breathtaking house I was staying in, but most of it can be attributed to the company.

I was a little apprehensive about meeting my CP's in person. Admittedly.

"What if they look nothing like they do on video chat?"
(Don't ask me how this makes sense at all.)

"What if they think I'm a total weirdo?"
(They totally did, but in a lovable way.)

(Panic, thou art a crazy bastard.)

In the end, they weren't axe murderers (obviously, since I'm sitting here typing at home... with all my limbs.) And I got more done in that one week in the middle of Texas than I would have in a month at home. I started the vacation with a vague idea of what I might do for my next book and once I told my CP's they were so excited about it that it made ME more excited about it. I used up an entire stack of post-its, took over the back door, and in about 6 hours I had my whole book plotted out.

Sure the vacation as a whole had it's ups and downs. Like the GPS sending us to the wrong address, 45 minutes north, and getting lost on the creepiest road EVER.
Talk about axe murderers
(We screamed for 20 minutes about how this was the road to hell, and the handful of other cars we came across were just other versions of us, warning us to turn around before we were trapped forever.)

But, really, who drives to the backwoods of Texas at midnight? (Us. We did. Bad idea. DON'T BE LIKE US!)

Once the sun came up, though, none of that mattered. Because those creepy looking things leaning over the railing at the vacation house turned into flowers! And the creaky sounds became air conditioning sounds. And the absolute darkness surrounded the house turned into this:

And this:

I highly suggest a meet up of CP's if you're at all inclined to penguin slide on slick hardwood floors, take an air mattress onto the lake and get covered in mud, eat the best lasagna you've ever had, or swim at the coolest place ever.

It's a natural spring, that's set up like a pool!
Because while I didn't write half a book, like some people there, (and you know who you are) or stay on task, or be any kind of productive for any reasonable amount of time, I had SO MUCH FUN. I'm basically a five year old in a 25 year old body, and in Austin, I could be that person a little more energetically than I can at home. It's all about the experiences, people. And I had one hell of an experience at the writing retreat of 2014.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Official "How I Got My Agent" Post (And A Couple Query Tips)

Hey everyone!

I know this is almost old news by now, but since last week I've been getting messages from people asking me questions about querying and how I ended up signing with my amazing agent. So I figured I'd sit down and write a post about it real quick!

And in case you didn't hear already.... I am now represented by Mandy Hubbard at D4EO Literary!

*Smiles like a crazy person*

Okay, so I started querying in January (kicked off the 1st of the year by sending my first query ever written and then promptly got nauseous.)


(Said no one, EVER.)

Most of my queries were requested via contests or twitter events so I ended up having about a 50% request rate. I love contests. I participated in Pitch Wars, the Secret Agent contest, #Pitmad (x2) and a few others and loved every one of them.

**(If you're still querying and have any interest in this kind of thing, you should enter. Contests are your friends because even if you were planning to query the agent who makes a request anyway, it might bump you to the top of their to-read list, or at the very least you have a little more confidence in sending your query. Their favorite or request means they already like what your book is about, and sometimes finding the right agent with the right taste is the hardest thing. So let a contest or two point you in the right direction, and see what happens.)**

I first connected with Mandy a little over three months ago. She requested pages of The Blood Train during a #Pitmad event at the end of March, (which was a funny coincidence because she was already  getting a query letter later that week.) I didn't notice her request right away because TweetDeck tried to eat it. But then I happened to go on the Twitter app on my phone and spotted it.

It was a good day.

And an even better one came four days later when that turned into a full request.

When Mandy wrote back after reading all of The Blood Train, I opened her email waiting for the "but." You know the, "I really enjoyed your sample pages, but..." or "This is super creepy, but..." or "You have a lot of talent, but..."

Except this time there was no "but." She called me a "phenomenal writer," and said The Blood Train was spectacular! She even talked about how my book kept her up late, trying to get to the end. I waited for the punchline. She couldn't be talking about me. Only my crazy critique partners say things like that. Not Mandy Hubbard. Not the agent that required three months of gathering courage just to query.

And she wanted to talk about revisions. She had all these ideas, she suggested I watch a movie that she thought might be a possible comp title, and she put lots of exclamation points in her emails. It was fantastic!!

I disagreed with a couple things she wanted me to change and she immediately came back urging me to only do what felt right to me. There wasn't a moment talking to her that I felt uncomfortable or that my questions would be bothersome or annoying. (Which, for me, is really saying something.)

After half a dozen emails, I had a plan in place and dove in. I totally pulled everything apart and pieced it back together again, during what was definitely the most stressful and hellish eight weeks of my life, but it was worth it.

I sent her the new version and the next email I got from her held an offer of representation.

We talked on the phone, I signed, and the rest is... week old history! It was a 4th of July I'll never forget.

And while I don't feel nearly qualified to be giving advice (despite the long paragraph above about contests) but I'm going to do it anyway. Again.

Are you ready? Here it is: Target your queries. Target the heck out of them, and I don't just mean clicking on your genre in QueryTracker and sending to everyone who reps YA, or romance, or thrillers or whatever you've written.

Search through their twitter feeds.

Stalk #mswl.

Google them and look for interviews.

Find their lists of what they rep on their agency or personal websites.

Look at their client list and see the types of novels they've already signed.

Do so much research you almost feel creepy (but don't mention their dog or how cute their kids are in your query letter otherwise you WILL BE CREEPY.)

And yes, I may have learned this a little too late. (Sorry for babbling about your hedgehogs, Pam.)

Know your stuff, and take the time to figure out who has the best chance of loving what you've created, and your querying life will be a lot less stressful.

A 50% request rate might seem really high, and it is, but I also put TONS of work into making sure every single agent I submitted to was looking for creepy young adult horror. Every. Single. One.

Don't query someone in the hopes they might change their mind and you'll be the one to bring them into a new genre, because even if that happens, they won't have any clue how to sell your manuscript properly. They're experts in what they actively represent, so find yourself an expert and send it their way!

One of my most popular rejections was along the lines of "I really enjoyed your premise but I'm looking for horror grounded in the real world." And that was fine, because none of my research ever turned up anything as specific as "YA Horror- Realistic." I just happened to miss the mark on the type of horror they were interested in. And those were a lot easier to swallow than form rejections would have been.

So, yeah. Those are my two little slices of advice: contests, and TARGET TARGET TARGET.

Thanks for wading through all the babble of my "real quick" post. My long windedness has won out again. Haha!


4 months of active querying before R&R
16 query letters
5 contests

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sometimes Editing Just Sucks

Yup. That's what I said. A couple of my CP's are probably shaking their head at me right now. Know why? Because they're editing rockstars. I've seen one of them take full notes from a beta read I did for them and apply EVERYTHING in less than 48 hours.

How? Because she's a mutant. A crazy, fun, amazing, mutant.

But back to the point: Editing is not fun. I'm a person who generally loves things when they're completely put together. I've said this before, but I love drafting. I love when everything is clean and I can see where it's going and the story is a solid thing in my mind. Editing screws all that up.

Chapters get moved, characters are changed, and if you're doing it right, everything gets a little complicated and stressful before you find your way to the other side.

I've been working through some fairly extensive edits in the last 4 weeks, and I feel like it's taking me too long. I don't know why. Every time I mention that I've done 1/2 the book in two weeks, or 2/3 of the book in four, they look at me like I'm nuts, but the pressure is there. I feel it every minute of every day. That doesn't mean that I don't want to keep working on it, and it definitely doesn't mean I don't think I have what it takes to get this book to where it needs to be. (No matter how often I whine about that exact worry to my CP's) (I love you guys.)

But it's a difficult thing to see the novel you've poured yourself into being twisted and cut and changed. It's hard on your first edit, it's another thing entirely with feedback from others, and most of all it's scary. I've been afraid for weeks that I'm going to get to the end of this and not be happy with the results. (I mean, I saved the previous version. I'm not a lunatic.) But still, editing makes me more prone to panic than usual.

Does this mean I'm going to stop doing it? Nope. Because those moments where I'm most afraid are also the moments I'm not being fair to myself.

You have what it takes to make your book shine so sparkly everyone wants to snatch it up, and so do I. The moment I stop believing that, is the moment I've lost sight of why I'm putting in all this work in the first place. Because that's what it is, WORK. Nobody said writing was easy, and if someone did, slap them please. Because it's not.

But it is worth it.

Especially in times like this when I come out of the grueling parts and realize I'm proud of what I've done so far. I'm not done yet, obviously, so there are plenty of chances for me to worry and fall apart before I reach that last page, but it's finally coming together and the excitement is outweighing the fear.

And that's what I'm here to tell you. If you're editing right now, stick it out. Ride out the fear and frustration as long as you possibly can, and don't ever give up. Even when it looks hopeless and terrible, every word you change brings you one step closer to the finished product.

As for me, it might take another 6 months, and the reasons I'm doing this edit might not pan out the way I hope, but that doesn't really matter. As long as I get to the end of this edit and can honestly say I've improved The Blood Train in a way that makes me happy, all of this will have been worth it. I love progress. I love seeing things change and grow even if I'm not always thrilled with the process.

Plus, as far as The Blood Train goes, I'm through the most difficult part, where everything looks terrible and messed up beyond my ability to put it back together. My confidence is back, my friends, and it feels great.

So keep working. And resist the urge to toss your computer out the window. (Screaming into a pillow helps.)



Monday, March 31, 2014

Moving on to Something New

Hello everyone! I hope you've kept warm during this horrible, never-ending winter. (And if you're lucky enough to be from somewhere warm all year round, I hate you a little bit.) (Just kidding.) (Sort of.)

This winter in Montana has been brutal. I'm talking -20 on a regular basis kind of brutal. It got so cold that we had to pull our car halfway out of the garage to let it warm up because the cold made a barrier at the opening of the garage and wouldn't let the exhaust out!

But one good thing that came out of this horrific weather was the productivity. I started querying in January, went through a whole overhaul of revisions in the last month and a half and now I'm writing something new while The Blood Train is stuck in query-land again.

And there are few things I love more than dreaming up new things to put into a new book. I get so into it. I make maps, I create new playlists, I sketch characters (though, not very well, mind you.) I think up wild plot twists and scribble them on post-its that hang ALL over my house. It's a mess, and it's chaotic, and a little bit confusing, but I LOVE IT.

I love the freshness of a new book. I've learned so much about editing with The Blood Train. Mainly, that I don't like editing. I'll do it for hours and days and months to make my books what they need to be, but when push comes to shove I'd rather be drafting new things than editing.

Anything can happen in a new book. My characters aren't so full of baggage and plot problems, they're fresh and uncertain, and do unexpected things. I love getting to know them and their feelings, and fleshing them out. It's so much fun, and I enjoy every single second of it.

What about you? What's your favorite part of the writing process?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Another Round of CP Matchmaker!

Hey everyone! I've been announcing it on Twitter, (and probably annoying the bajesus out of my followers, sorry) but I'm hosting the second round of CP Matchmaker this Monday, the 24th!

Unless you weren't around for my first announcement, CP Matchmaker is a Twitter party for matching up like minded writers with their perfect CP's. Last time I saw SO many people finding new writing friends and it was so much fun to watch the feed fill up with people. 

So please, join us!

You can find the party at #CPMatch, and it's going to run from 10am-10pm EST. And you can find out all about the party here, or on the CP Matchmaker tab up above.

So spread the word, everyone is welcome. See you Monday!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thankful Thursday!

Thankful Thursday is brought to you by Megan Whitmer. Because she's amazing, and has the best ideas. A weekly dose of thankfulness is something I think all of us need. If you want to participate, go here and add your post to the linky!

Hey all! Last week apparently Thursday didn't exist, because as far as I was concerned my life seemed to jump from Tuesday to Saturday. HAHAHA. So this week I'm thankful for two weeks worth of things. 

Last week I was thankful for losing 3 pounds. (And man, I'll be really thankful for a few more.)

And this week, I'm thankful for Valentine's Day. I LOVE VALENTINE'S DAY. I'm obsessed with love stories and swoony things so of course a day full of balloons and chocolates and flowers and hearts and smiles is RIGHT UP MY ALLEY. 

But more than that, I'm thankful to be so in love with someone who makes my favorite holiday something very special every year. Tomorrow will be the 9th Valentine's Day me and my husband have shared, and I can't wait to see what he comes up with.

What about you? Are you excited about Valentine's Day, or do you dread it? 

What are you thankful for this week?


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thankful Thursday!!

Thankful Thursday is brought to you my Megan Whitmer. Because she's amazing, and has the best ideas. A weekly does of thankfulness is something I thin all of us need. If you want to participate, go here and add your post to the linky!

This might sound a little strange, but this week I'm thankful for social media.

Less than a week ago I came up with the idea for CP Matchmaker. The thought that I could possibly connect other people with amazing CP's was so exciting! But ultimately, it would only be as successful as the people who participated.

Having something like Twitter at my disposal made all the difference. In the four days since I announced the party I've gotten almost 400 page views on my blog, and SO many people have reached out to tell me they've been spreading the word.

Without social media, CP Matchmaker would have been dead in the water.

I'm also thankful for all the people who have helped put this together. All my CP's for blogging and spreading the word, while also helping me brainstorm the details and design the blog buttons. Brenda Drake for pitching in and blogging, and tweeting about the party. All the complete strangers who have retweeted my annoyingly frequent links to my blog.

I'm thankful for all of it. And I hope this Monday, (January 20th) all of you get exactly what you need out of #CPMatch.

What are you thankful for this week?


Monday, January 13, 2014

Announcing.... CP Matchmaker!!

Hello everybody!

What is CP Matchmaker, you ask?

CP Matchmaker is my way of paying it forward. I myself have been extremely lucky in landing the most amazing critique group. The ladies I work with are smart, and kind, and thoughtful and they've taught me a lot about the way I write and the kind of writer I want to be.

But not everyone has this. And that's something that eats away at me.

Because everyone should have a team like I do. Everyone should know exactly where to go and what to do to find someone who is going to be honest and helpful.

So, I thought, "Why isn't there a Twitter pitch party for finding CP's?"

(Dramatic, no?)

Ok, so here's what's up:
(I'm going grade school party invite for this one)

What: A chance to pitch your book to a bunch of like minded writers

Where: Twitter, of course!

When: January 20th from 10am-10pm EST

Why: Because it's going to be so much fun!

But you're going to need a few things first.

1. A twitter pitch (140 characters or less to include the #CPMatch hashtag)

2. A blog button, should you choose to spread the word and get more people involved. (See below)

3. And a few labels:

For the purpose of easy identification, please include (abbreviated for your convenience) a little about your critiquing style.

(Note: These are for how you critique others work, not what you need for your own.)

Do you get straight to the point- STTP
Fan of the compliment sandwich- CS
Are you brutally honest- BH 
How about a good copyeditor- GCE
Or are you more of an attention to detail type: ATD 
Maybe a critique partner beginner: CPB
Plot hole hunter: PHH
Do you give great big picture notes: BP

Are you a few of these things? Go ahead and list as many as will fit in your pitch.

Need an example of a #CPMatch pitch?

Trapped among bleeding walls, psychotic passengers, and manifested fears,
can Olivia escape with her life? YA #CPMatch CS ATD

And come the 20th, simply search through the feed. If something looks interesting, DM the person and get to know each other a little better. See what you have to offer each other.

And I can't stress this enough: SWAP A SAMPLE CHAPTER

You'll never know if you really mesh well unless you see some feedback first hand.

DISCLAIMER: CP Matchmaker is a baby. Not just a baby, a wrinkly, screaming newborn. If there's something you're unclear about, email me, and I'll try to answer your questions. Have a few extra label ideas? Lemme have em! I am totally up for any suggestions here. I want this thing to be helpful to as many people as possible.

And on that note. SPREAD THE WORD. Please. Pretty please, with sugar on top and ice-cream in the middle.

Tweet about it. Blog about it. Tell your neighbor.

I can only help match the people who attend.

So again, please. Help me to help other writers find their CP soul mates like I have.

And, if you are so inclined to blog, I've made a few blog buttons for you!

I really hope all of you will attend. I'm so excited to get this thing off the ground. 

I'll see you January 20th!

(You do not have to follow me here on the blog, or on Twitter. That is not at all a requirement to participate.)


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Thankful Thursday!

Thankful Thursday is brought to you Megan Whitmer. Because she's amazing, and has the best ideas. A weekly dose of thankfulness is something I think all of us need. If you want to participate go here and add your post to the linky!

This week I'm thankful for confidence. SO so thankful.

I think writers, as a whole, have issues with this. And why shouldn't we? Most of the time you tell someone you want to be an author and they really have no idea what to say to you! I mean, I don't know about you guys, but I've seen a lot of this:

I'm going to go ahead and call this UNHELPFUL. But can you blame them? In a world where everyone and their brother is writing something, most people have heard this before. And how many people really follow through and actually persevere long enough to get published? I don't know a single published author personally outside of Twitter and the internet.

This makes up a sad, lonely breeding ground for confidence.

You know what else doesn't help? Statistics. You hear agents are getting 200+ queries EVERY WEEK and they only request material from a handful. Those are tough odds, and they give you that distinct feeling that you'd have to be really lucky to catch their attention.

So, as a writer, confidence can be really hard to come by. I've been writing for 4 and a half years and have JUST NOW gotten to the query stage. I refused to enter into this unless I had something I was proud enough of to risk getting my thin skin ripped to pieces during the query process.

And the more I wrote The Blood Train, the more I knew it was special. And I felt better about it after I got comments from my CP's. And then even better once I revised and got amazing feedback during Pitch Wars. Each little thing was a victory for my confidence, slowly building me up on the inside to where I'm excited to check my email now, not dreading it. (And more often than not, there's good news in there.)

So, I'm thankful for this confidence, along with everything and everyone who has inspired it. It feels good. It feels like all those weird looks and stunned silences from my family are finally going to be something I can look back on and remember with a smile, as just another part of the journey.

An exhausting, fun, tear filled, crazy journey, that's just beginning for me.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Thankful Thursday!

Thankful Thursday is brought to you Megan Whitmer. Because she's amazing, and has the best ideas. A weekly dose of thankfulness is something I think all of us need. If you want to participate go here and add your post to the linky!

This week I'm thankful for my CP's. (Okay, so MOST weeks I'm thankful for my CP's but especially this week.)

Among new years resolutions, and holiday weight, and post Christmas chaos, for me, there's a whole mess of writing related stress. I've blogged before about how scared I am to query for the first time, and how I lack the confidence I think I should have at this point. That's where my CP's come in. They push me, and nag me, and irritate the crap out of me until I'm forced to suck it up and DO something with what I've created.

Thanks to these wonderful ladies, I've sent out my very first query, and amazingly, I DID NOT throw up. Not even a little bit. :-)

What are you thankful for this week?