Writing 101: Pass it On

One of the nice things about being in a writer’s critique group is getting to know your fellow writers. However, sometimes it takes reading a book and an interview to really get to know them. I recently read Bad Lands by Stephan Loy and was pleasantly surprised to find the following interview.

Stephan Loy Interview

Bad Lands is a Weird Western where anything can happen. It’s a mashup of western with sci fi that also incorporates the multi-universe theory. I encourage you to check out both the interview and Stephan’s books (Bad Lands is available for Kindle). Be warned. You never know which multiverse you might end up in!

On the personal writing front, HALLOWEEN IS COMING!!!!! That means less time for writing as I get buried in costume making. Medieval dresses are complete but one, plaid pleated skirt is next and then finishing the last medieval dress in time to prepare for a party Friday night. We are throwing a laid back party this year, but still have some Halloween Hijinks planned: Halloween Howling (think caroling but spookier), Glow Stick freeze tag, painting small pumpkins and sneaking then onto unadorned porches, and other tricks and treats!

I love Halloween. It’s a perfect opportunity to get into character, play a role and pretend. Happy Halloween!  Belinda (aka Nana Osaki)

 

 

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Status Quo

I submitted to Pitchwars again this year. After pinging between hope and despair, I distracted myself with Korean and Chinese dramas, junk food and writing a depressing story. (Maybe that last item wasn’t such a good idea. Oops.)

A ton of talented people entered Pitchwars this year and the ratio is insane (like 5% chance of being chosen). Frankly, I have no hope of being selected, but I’m okay with that. Maybe it means I’m not ready. Maybe there were other writers more ready than me. There are a ton of reasons for not being selected. Sometimes the journey is better than the destination.

The best part of Pitchwars is the community that builds up around it. Lots of encouragement. Lots of helpful advice and information. Tons of articles. Tons of twitter feeds. I’m having fun meeting new people and making contacts. Hoping to even find a new critique partner.

My niece critiqued my entry this year. She would make a great editor! Unfortunately, I’m losing her to boys and Pokemon Go. (I’m betting on boys to win!) She’s at that age when the world opens up and new challenges present. I am lucky to live vicariously through her, but time is not on my side. She’s going to outgrow me. Not all at once and not altogether, but in a year, college and adventures she must experience on her own. Must not be greedy.

I have taken a few weeks off from writing to get some distance. Instead, I’m reading books by Pitchwars mentors. Very interesting and informative. I’ve also joined a Pitchwars subgroup for YA authors. Making contacts, meeting new people, and opening up my own world a bit.

August 25 Pitchwars Mentees will be revealed. Until them, I’m crossing my fingers and toes and praying for all the submissions to be selected and for those who are not, to go on to greater things!

Happy Giraffes! Belinda

Writing 101: Word Loss

Stumbled across a book I’m super excited to share with you.

The Word-Loss Diet by Rayne Hall.

Not affiliated, just a fan.

Rayne Hall has also penned a number of other books offering help to aspiring writers and I encourage you to check them out. For a novice writer like myself, it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint exactly what is not working in my writing. Within five minutes of pulling this up on my Kindle reader, I was banging my head (and laughing).

I’m all for books that help and a big part of writing is learning how to write in a way that is clear, concise and draws the reader in. I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. Mostly books in my genre but was very happy to run across this little gem of a book. Great big help for someone like me who loves a lot of story but never has words to spare.

If you have a Kindle Unlimited subscription from Amazon.com, you can read these books for free (well, the monthly subscription fee divided by the number of books you actually read in a month). If you don’t have a subscription, you can get the Kindle version for $3.00. (Rayne Hall’s writing help books run from $3-5). With Kindle apps available for almost everything, you don’t have to buy a Kindle to enjoy.

 

Another thing I want to mention is something I just discovered at my local library. The 3M Cloud Library. It’s an app that allows you to connect to your library’s digital book selection. Just like the Kindle app, I have this on all my devices. Sometimes the formatting is a little weird and you don’t have all the full capabilities as the Kindle, but it’s FREE and you can browse books in your pajamas.

I’m all for browsing books in pajamas! Writing them too. Happy Pajamas Giraffes! Belinda

P.S. If you want to put the 3M Cloud library on your Kindle, good luck. It took me an hour and several choice swear words before I could get it to take. I’m usually good with computers. Thankfully, lots of websites with detailed instructions. HG!

 

 

Writing: PitMatch

Attention writers! Check out and/or participate in tomorrow’s PitMatch on twitter. For all the info, visit:

http://www.brenda-drake.com/2016/01/surprise-were-throwing-a-new-and-exciting-twitter-contest-as-a-valentine-gift-to-you/

Good luck and see you on twitter!

Belinda

P.S. Not affiliated with Brenda Drake, just an aspiring writer looking for all the help she can get!

 

Updated info available here:

http://www.brenda-drake.com/2016/02/meet-the-literary-author-cupid-team-for-pitmatch-with-instructions/

Writing: Arsenal

Your manuscript is polished, beta read and the best work you can do and you have a finely tuned query. You’ve done your research and have a list of agents ready to query.

WAIT!

There are a few other documents you need in your arsenal before you begin.

Most agents may ask for a one page synopsis. Basically one to two pages which lays out the basic plot of your story including the resolution. While the query is intended to titillate, the synopsis must reveal all.

You will also want to want to prepare an extended synopsis. Two to five pages that allow you to say all you want about the your plot, characters, subplots, setting and whatever else you feel is important for an agent to know about the story.

Also useful to have on hand is a chapter outline.  An agent may ask for this so they can get an overall feeling for how the book will progress and how well you interweave and wrap up your story. Basically a one to two paragraph description of each chapter.

And of course, a completed manuscript.

When querying, the most important thing to remember is to FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS for submitting your work. It’s heartbreaking to get a rejection but even more so if the rejection comes from not sending the exact thing. Agent websites usually detail this out on a submission page. It can vary from just the query to a certain number of words or pages. Some agents refuse to accept attachments and want everything placed in an email.

Remember when pasting items into an email, they may lose their formatting. The best gift you can give an agent when submitting your query is lots of white space. Just like a book, your eyes tend to wonder when confronted by large blocks of text. Anything you can do to make it easier for an agent to continue reading will only benefit you.

Finally and probably hardest to remember is to not give up. Even when confronted by numerous rejections. There are many anecdotal stories of authors who, on the brink of giving up, finally found the right agent for them.

In a time when most agents accept email queries, rejection can sometimes catch us off guard. Especially when it arrives so quickly after submission. Just as we select and reject potential suitors, the agent-author relationship is one which we should carefully consider. Not just whether they believe in our work but whether they will be the best person to steward and also to understand our vision for our work. Will they grow with us and support our growth? Are they only interested in one manuscript or sticking with you through your entire career?

While the internet is full of advice on how to locate and find agents, authors are often left to sort out these relationships on their own.

I wish you all good fortune and great luck in 2016! Fighting!

 

 

Happy New Year

Another year ends. Another year begins.

Thank you to all my followers. Though your numbers are small, I appreciate your willingness to commit to receiving future posts. Thank you to those who have liked or commented on posts. Sometimes it feels like I’m trapped in an infinite dark void writing alone and the tiny time you take to like a post or leave a comment helps remind me that my words are reaching out and there are other souls on this path.

I will be spending New Year’s Eve as I usually do. Hanging out and being silly with my niece, Jillyan. We will bake cookies, eat pizza and watch Korean dramas or animes. We usually try to watch one really, really bad movie too.

At the stroke of midnight, we will run outside screaming and coat the trees with silly string that will freeze and make my yard look like an impromptu art installation. The neighbors usually put on a good fireworks show and when the silly string runs out, we will break out the glow sticks and cheer on the neighbors with our own simpler light show. Poppers will add to the cacophony as will our voices raised in wishing 2016 a happy birthday.

However, before all the fanfare, we will sit on the couch and make a list of goals for 2016 and a list of accomplishments from 2015. It’s good to review the year and list the things you have done right. We also review our list of goals from the prior year. It’s sobering seeing all your good intentions that remained just that. But it sparks us on to work harder. Even better is identifying all the things you accomplished that weren’t on your original list.

After midnight we begin the list of firsts. Here are some from 2015. First:

Pillow Fight * Romantic Movie * Cake & Ice Cream * Honest & Frank Discussion * Item checked off my goal list * Meal out * New Restaurant * Time I laughed hysterically for ten minutes

We toast the new year with punch, watch a really good movie to offset the bad one, and stay up all night to great the sun as it rises. Exhausted, we climb into bed and dream amazing dreams.

As in 2015, getting an agent and publishing a book will be on my goal list. However, this year I intend to make both a reality. If your goal is get an agent or a book published, a friendly reminder. Agents get slammed with queries the first two months of a new year. You have a better chance if you hold off until mid-February or March. Less competition in the slush pile.

If you need help with your query letter, I recommend QueryShark.com. Not affiliated but appreciate all the great advice on the site. I, personally, haven’t been successful in getting a query reviewed, but I have made great strides in learning to write them. The internet is full of great advice for writers.

My goal for this site? To continue sharing my journey with you in 2016. Happy Giraffes! Belinda

Writing: The Importance of Outlining

I had the best time tonight! My seventeen year old niece, Jillyan, has a 15-18 page story due for school in a couple of weeks. When she asked me to help her on it, I happily agreed. We had arranged to work together over Thanksgiving break but due to family illnesses and usual holiday drama, etc., we weren’t able to get together.

I picked her and her brother up from school today and on the way to drop her brother at home then to Starbucks  (grande hot chocolate – YUM), we talked about the story she wanted to tell. Her first words were, “It’s not a story I want to write. It’s more like one of the stories you might write.” Not exactly a great way to start.

I wasn’t sure exactly what kind of help she would want so we started with what she had done on her own: a detailed description of the protagonist, some ideas for subplots, ideas for background, and specific and vague ideas of potential plot points. She had drawn maps of the protagonist’s neighborhood and bedroom, which will become important when writing scenes set in those locations. She also had three pages of a story started but the first two pages were really character exposition.

In the end, what I did was act as a sounding board for the ideas she had, pushed her through questions and dialogue to identify secondary characters and create character studies for them, and help her take all the disparate pieces and parts and come up with a cohesive story line.

This is where the importance of outlining becomes so apparent. I like to think of the outline as a form of Mapquest. Basic driving directions with the major intersections carefully laid out. What happens between these major intersections comprises the story. The outline keeps you focused on your next major intersection and ultimately, your destination. It always helps to know where you’re going even if you eventually end up somewhere else.

Dialogue is so important when collaborating with another artist, especially a writer. Jillyan had a lot of great ideas, but they were unfocused and had no flow from one to the other. Through the use of an outline, we were able to place all the disparate parts within the story and come up with a fully realized story arc.

How we did that is a bit mystifying because really all we were doing was bouncing ideas off of each other. She would start with an idea and we would discuss the pros and cons and brainstorm alternative settings and catalysts until we came to a point where she was happy with the progression.

I kept a document open with bullet points and as we reached major intersections, I would type up what she said and also add other important items like “see notes” (for items she had already worked on in detail separately), or “flesh out” for items she had a good handle on and could immediately key in to key words in the outline.

We talked about the opening of her story and how to show rather than tell who her main character was and how she could do that in one sentence as opposed to several paragraphs. More exciting was that we were able to not only incorporate a minor subplot, but use to it as a catalyst later in the story for the decision the character ultimately makes. This was a complete surprise to both of us but came from the questions and dialogue as we discussed each step of the story.

This is a process I go through when I work on my stories as well. I live and die by my outline and although what happens between is more seat of the pants writing, I never lose sight of the major plot points and ultimate destination. It’s a way of working that has supported me through all my stories.

What I loved about tonight was that I had no ownership of the story, so it was easy to let go and allow her to find her own truths for her characters. As a result she allowed me to venture my opinion knowing she could reject it outright, discard some of it or venture off on another tangent without injuring my feelings.

It’s not easy to relinquish control of a story but I actually found the process stimulating. I could sit back and watch the wheels turning in her head and enjoy her discovering new ideas for plot points, locations and characters. We laughed a lot and shared a lot of ourselves in opening up even though everything we talked about had direct relevance to the story she wanted to write.

In the end, she was excited to begin writing her story and it had become a story she wanted to write. I find that so interesting because I was very involved in the process but by asking questions and allowing Jillyan to find the answers herself and then working with her to refine it down to just what she wanted, it became hers.

She also learned how important an outline can be when writing a story. Granted a 15-18 page story isn’t that long, but with the outline, the writing becomes much easier.

I highly recommend the collaborative process. It definitely showed me areas where I need to step up my game.

I can’t wait to read her story! We have agreed to meet on Sunday (if her parents approve) so I can read what she has written so far and also to help, if needed, to continue to refine and identify story areas she may need help with and, of course, to fangirl over her writing. I think she has the bones for an amazing story and the ending is so CUTE! Go Jillyan!

Been a bit under the weather. Writing when I can but mostly just holding down the bed and holding up the world. Somedays, you know.

Happy giraffes! Belinda