Monday, July 30, 2012

Contest help for YA writers

Well it turns out my first surge of confidence in my manuscript waned quite a bit. I had every intention of querying last week after tightening my first chapter, but it took me a while to get it how I wanted it. Then I thought I better re-read everything, you know, just in case. I only finished 141 pages out of 395 and I'm now approaching the dreaded middle. Authors have been known to get lost in there...I'm hoping to get through it without too much added stress and hardship-lol!

Anyway, I want to be sure that everything I write is the best I can possibly do. The collection of "no's", though small, still stings, and the perfectionist in me is striving for more than good enough.

If you have similiar hopes for a YA novel you wrote (or are still toying with), I may be able to help you get ready for that almighty plunge.
  • Follow a blogger who is also an agent. You will get advice on query letters and other useful tidbits concerning that first novel. I have one such blog for you: Kristen Nelson of the Nelson Agency and her very helpful and kind-hearted blog Pub Rants. You can't help but get a warm comfortable feeling when you visit.

  • Or find a blogger who offers help where you need it the most-your writing. Miss Snark's First Victim is one such blog. Now don't let the name of her site fool you-she is a fellow writer and anything but nasty. She offers insight to your writing in a non-threatening manner through critiques and contests each month. She is currently one of three blogs advertising a constest starting at 8 AM August 31: Teen Eyes Editorial is the host of this one, and the premise-see if your query (Miss Snark's site), 35 word pitch (Brenda Drake Writes) , or first page(Mother. Write. (Repeat)) of your New Adult, YA, or Middle Grade manuscript has what it takes to hook a teenage reader. Winners of each will be granted various editing free bees from the very talented young editors of Teen Eyes. What better way to check out how you stand? And the best part-the contest is open to finished as well as WIP manuscripts, so what are you waiting for? The links to all three contests can be found on Miss Snark's and the other two sites, as well as information about the three editors. You can enter all three contests if you wish, so polish up and enter tomorrow morning!
I will keep you updated on other helpful sites as I surf the Internet instead of doing my final editing :) Do any of you have sites you frequent that might help a struggling first time writer? I'd love to know!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I finished (my novel that is, or at least I thought I did...)

Hi everyone! Yes, I took a long hiatus and didn't really explain why. Now it's time for the explanation... I did something I wanted to do for a long time-I completed my first novel.

I began toying with the idea more seriously over a year ago when a friend of mine said that if anyone could write a book, I could. That got me thinking-why not me? I had a few ideas in the old noggin that were dying to see the light of day, and I officially started Easter of 2011.

Finding the time and energy was tough, especially with two kids and a full time job. I wrote in the evening when the kids went to bed, and quite a few times I saw the clock strike 2 AM. (Multiply that by the fact that I get up during the school year at 5:30 AM and you can imagine how tired I was some days...)

I gave myself a deadline to finish knowing my tendencies toward procrastination. I also clocked my WIP on my blog, tallying my word counts as I worked. I thought 80,000 words was a good goal until I read that most YA fantasies are minimum 100,000 words and up, so I kept pushing on after the 80,000 marker. It's a funny thing though-another 20,000 words didn't seem like a big deal anymore.

I didn't quite make my 12-month goal, but I did finish near the end of May. At least I thought I was finished... I forgot about the rewrites. The story went a different way than I originally planned, and now all the beginning chapters needed to match up with the ending. Then I didn't like my beginning anymore and added another chapter I felt was more exciting than my original chapter one.

I should have taken a step back and put the thing away for a couple weeks instead of working on ideas for book two and contacting agents. Everything I read on the Internet said the manuscript needed to be fantastic not just "good, but I knew better.

I learned how to write a query letter and after a few drafts, had what I thought was a winner. Since seven is my lucky number, I queried seven agents and waited. Two weeks later, the very first agent I queried asked for 30 pages. I was ecstatic! But did I do a simple spell check on my manuscript? Well no-I'm a teacher, help in the lit lab, and run the morning news show, and I can spot mistakes, right? Well, you would think so...

After I converted the pages to Times New Roman (I write in Courier New)and uploaded them on literary agent's company server, I went back and reread what I sent. I literally felt sick-I counted 11 errors in those 30 pages! Most were typos (I mistyped one of my character's names several times!), there were three misspellings (Herbane seeds instead of Henbane), and one word used incorrectly.

My family tried to console me, but I knew that many errors could kill my chances, especially if the story still needed work-and it did! I contacted the agency after a couple weeks of worrying, and the agency secretary told me that it would be no problem if I resent my revised copy-she would delete the older version. Unfortunately, I had not checked my e-mail from the day before, and there was the turn down from this particular agent.

Of the seven agents I queried, I got four not interested responses, one interested and then not interested response, and three have yet to contact me. But I took a week to examine my manuscript-not with the eyes of an author, but with a marketing perspective. Here is some of what I found:

  • Head hopping-changing point of views sometimes in the same scene. I now have only one point of view per scene, and sometimes per chapter.
  • I was aiming at the YA marked yet my main character starts off at age nine (he grows up, but I read YA readers don't like to read about anyone much younger than they are, and my 13 year old is proof!)This character is now 12.
  • And speaking of main character, I have two main protagonists and two antagonists, but all were vying for the spotlight. The end result-it wasn't clear whom the reader should root for. Since the story is in omniscient point of view (the reason for my problem with head hopping) I had to take a step back and rewrite to give more emphasis on my younger character.
  • Some chapters needed to go!  After doing a rough outline of all my chapters, and I had 28, I noticed that at least one of those chapters was a bunch of fluff. It didn't do what the others were doing, and that is lead to the final climax, so out it came. (I have my eye on one other but I kept it for now.)
  • And one more thing...take a break from you MS from time to time. Believe me, it will give you a fresh perspective!
I stopped the querying but I am going to start up again this week. (I have three rewritten first halves of chapter one and I am going to get feedback from family on which they like better first. I have a love/hate relationship with all of them right now...) I'm also trying not to get discouraged, which is hard with negative feedback. I mean there are so many people out there that want to publish a book, and I fight those inadequacy feelings daily. I hope everyone is still out there and I hope I can help some of you who also want to throw your hat in the ring. I will blog as much as I can as I go through this :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Succinctly Yours for Christmas

Hi everyone! Yes, it has been a while-two months in fact, but I just had too much on my plate with the start of school and a project I'm still toiling over. I had some time between packing to go visit family, so I thought I would head to Grandma Goulash's meme. So about that meme. I'm a bit rusty, but here goes:

Mom ran herself ragged every Christmas-we knew the stress might affect her, but never thought she'd refuse to come out from under the tree! (139 characters-phew!)

Did anyone else picture themselves beneath that tree or was it just me? Lol! Well, back to packing. I hope to stop by and see what everyone else came up with later. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Monday, September 19, 2011

The boat trip and pre-teen angst (and Succintly Yours!)

This is the boat my husband learned to sail
 Well, if you came by at the end of last week, you would know that my husband spent the weekend taking an introductory sailboating lesson, and his reaction to sailing for the first time? He loved it! I definitely have some misgivings-I mean, I wanted him to have fun, but now there is talk of a boat purchase in the near future (um, we are way past due on a house renovation so this "near future" needs to get in line), and the possibility that all of us will become sailors with him.

Hmm...I am not too crazy about boats. You know there's all that wind and water and rocking back and forth stuff that gets in the way of a really cool ride. We've been on boats before-motor boats, and we had fun, but a sailboat needs to be controlled, and even my husband said it's a ton of work. The kids are also iffy about the sailing talk, especially after they heard the word work, so I don't know if we land lubbers will ever take to the sea.

I do know one thing for sure-I told my husband that I need to stay in a hotel all alone next time. The rosy colored weekend that I pictured with my kids was not a happy one. I spent almost the entire time at odds with both my children. My daughter's pre-teen attitude and mouth were working over time so much that she was asked to leave the kitchen until my son and I were finished with our dinner. (I just wanted to eat in peace! She had been arguing with me all day about everything.) She got the last word though-she and I were to bunk together Saturday night because I can't sleep too well when my husband isn't there, but when she returned to the kitchen, she promptly told me that she would be sleeping in her room that night. I was cool and collected, telling her that was fine, and reminding her that you can never take back words and actions, but inside I was heartbroken. Where did my sweet little girl go?

And my son? He talked almost non-stop the entire weekend, more so since my daughter and I were not talking much after Saturday. I love him dearly, and I know that soon he won't want to talk to me, but I could honestly feel my brain stop functioning at one point, and semi-paralysis of the thought processes setting in... After that weekend and a very full day with my kids at school, I'm mentally exhausted.

So thankfully it's time for Succinctly Yours, another writing meme that piggy backs on the idea of Susan of the Stony River Blog.
Grandma Goulash posts a picture and you are to write a 140 character or word story about it. You can also use the word of the day in your post if you wish. This week's word is beneficial. Here this week's picture and my take this week:

"This shopping's wiped me out," thought Evan. "I need an excuse...I know, I'll tell her I have a headache. Works every time for her." (135 characters)

I hope you chuckled a bit at this-I am desperately in need of both chocolate and some humor therapy. I hope you all saw something amusing in today's picture too.

I also wanted to say that even though I have reduced my posting to only twice a week, I may be stepping away from my blog for a little while. I'm trying to finish a very lengthy project I started in April, and now that the summer is over and I'm back in the classroom, I don't have as much time in the evening for family, school work, blog, and my other writing. You know as well as I do, that posting and reading other posts takes time-lots of time, and I have been on my blog for over an hour tonight. Now I used the word may for a reason-I don't know if I can stay away, but I'm a natural born procrastinator, and this blog and the Internet are just too tempting. So, you will either see me or...

Friday, September 16, 2011

My husband's gift (and Book Blurb Friday)

As you know, my husband's birthday was last week, and the inevitable question was, "What do I get him?" He deperately needed a new cell phone, so when I found a free Droid Global with a package upgrade, I jumped. This was to be the perfect gift because I knew he had been looking at this phone, and I planned to unveil it on his birthday. There was just one problem-as soon as the phone arrived, he immediately lost service in his old phone. I mean he couldn't call out or receive calls, and although I hadn't activated his new cell phone yet, Verizon was acting as if I had. husband got his new phone three weeks before his birthday, and I had a new question, "Should I get him something else?" My husband hinted that since the phone was "free" I should get him another gift, and he knew just what I should get-a Wii fighter pilot game he had seen in Gamestop. Off I went to get this game, (although I told him he had his present already). So, my question was anwered, right? Wrong!

My new question went something like this, "What kind of surprise is a gift you are told to get, and one that really didn't cost much money?" I was stuck again-what could I get him? I can't remember when the idea popped into my head, but a few days later I was scouring the Internet and calling to set up his very special present-one I knew he would either love or hate...

See, my husband has always said that when we retire, he wants to sell our home (note: I never said I agreed with any of this), buy a Catamaran Sailboat, and we will sail the world. The thing is, he has never been on a sailboat, and doesn't know how to sail, so I thought I would get him started. This weekend he will be on the bay learning some of the basics-I enrolled him in an introductory sailing class, and after some initial hesitation, he is really starting to get excited. (He got his gloves to protect his hands from the ropes, and although he wanted a captain's hat, if all of us call him captain he said that would suffice...) I really hope he enjoys himself.

And now it's time for:

Book Blurb Friday! This is where Lisa Ricard Claro, from Writing in the Buff, posts a picture meant to serve as a fictional book cover. It's your job to write a blurb about the book in 150 words or less to entice a prospective reader. Are you up to the challenge? Here is this week's picture and my story:

Before It's Too Late

Dr. Elana Stark was a pioneer in her field, studying the effects of the environment on the body’s cells and primary organs. Her lab developed a drug to stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, but any attempts at reversing the damage came up short, and investors want to pull the plug on this new project.

Just as things looked their worst, Elana receives a strange letter from a witch doctor in far off Tristan Da Cunha. He has the answers she is looking for, and he will share them….for a price. He claims that the leaves of a well-known plant, known to locales as the Chimgum, could turn back time, and he had data to prove it.

Intrigued despite some initial misgivings, Elana flies to the island to meet the man, and soon she will know if this is a fountain of youth, or a horror in disguise. (148 words)

Well, I'm surprised by what I came up with, and the hardest part was coming up with a title-nothing new for me... I can't wait to see what everyone else wrote!
*Note: By the way, the island I mentioned is a real place and is somewhere far off the African coast. I learned a little geography this evening :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The cake revealed! (and Succinctly Yours)

First, thanks for all your kind comments concerning the flooding a few days ago.  I don't know how we did it (we often have Charlie Brown luck), but we didn't take in any water in our basement, had no damage to the house, and flood waters for the most part have receded. Unfortunately, many of our friends and neighbors do have water damage, and now they're on waiting lists for insurance claims...

In other news, my husband's birthday was this past Friday, and as he proclaimed to everyone at home (and I proclaimed to everyone within earshot online) he made his pudding cake. Here are some pictures of the results:

Now the cake didn't look all that attractive, but the taste wasn't half bad. It was very moist, and instead of icing, it had pudding on the top and in the middle. I wouldn't say it would be a favorite of mine-I personally think the sugary icing is the best thing about cake, but I would eat it again.

I told my kids on Friday that we all were going to have a piece of this cake regardless of what it looked or tasted like, and that we were to all say something positive even if we didn't like it. (I told them it would hurt Daddy's feelings otherwise...) And if it wasn't good, I told the kids to eat some and then say that they were pretty full from dinner-I had it all planned. But as my husband was cutting us each a piece, my son (I told you everything in his head comes right back out!) informed my husband how they were to tell him it was good even if it was bad! Thankfully my husband has a good sense of humor and we all laughed a lot over this.

Now time for Succinctly Yours, another writing meme that piggy backs on the idea of Susan of the Stony River Blog.

Grandma Goulash posts a picture and you are to write a 140 character or word story about it. You can also use the word of the day in your post if you wish. This week's word is methodical. Here this week's picture and my take this week:

The gnomes often took the kids trikes for a spin, making sure to leave them like they found them, but Barney left the tailgate down again! (138 characters)

I was going to do poetry, but I just didn't have it in me today. The subject matter of this week's picture is liable to inspire in so many different ways. See you soon!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

More rain than the plain in Spain (and Book Blurb Friday!)

It's funny, but I really can't remember when it first started raining, but I can tell you that it's raining still, although not the buckets of water we were getting the last few days! Now it's more of a "too little to put an umbrella up but too much not to drag one along" kind of rain, but the damage around our community was almost unbelievable. Buses couldn't get through on certain roads because of the flooding, so the kids and I were sent home early from school Tuesday, and today most schools closed due to rising waters and lack of streets-yes, no streets! I have lived here for 20 years, and I can honestly say I never saw anything like it! Here are some images from one street over from us:

You know, you never question the power of nature after seeing scenes like this. Thankfully the weather forecast is isn't as bleak and rain isn't part of the picture! I'm so glad it's:


Book Blurb Friday! This is where Lisa Ricard Claro, from Writing in the Buff, posts a picture meant to serve as a fictional book cover. It's your job to write a blurb about the book in 150 words or less to entice a prospective reader. Are you up to the challenge? Here is this week's picture and my story:

An Angel Draws Near

Carlos was new to the neighborhood-he didn’t know the Young Lords’ turf covered the areas between La Masada and La Salle Streets. He didn’t know people in his neighborhood went out of their way to avoid these streets because entering this gang’s territory meant trouble. He didn’t know until he innocently crossed the street and came face to face with the gang’s leader, a day he will regret for the rest of his life.

Carlos doesn’t walk but runs in the streets of Miami now, always looking over his shoulder, always worried about another fight. The gang wants him to pay dearly for his carelessness, but there seems no end in sight. That is until a piece of angel graffiti starts showing up in the oddest places, always where Carlos chooses to hide from his attackers, and always offering advice. And when Carlos follows that advice, things begin to happen… (150 on the dot!)

Well, I hope you are all well (and dry!), and I can't wait to read your blurbs. (I had a hard time with mine at first.)