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 :)