Writing: Meet Ups

My  17 yo niece and I attended a meeting of an Indianapolis writer’s group last Thursday evening. Including us, there were eight in attendance. They reviewed the work of two writers who had submitted chapters earlier in the week.  The most interesting thing was the different genres represented by those in attendance. No two people wrote in the same genre so I was curious how they could critique without having knowledge or some limited immersion in the genres they were critiquing.

What I discovered is that the critiques are not particularly in-depth – how can they be when they are reviewing only one or two chapters of a body of work? So they tended to be more surface critiques. Questions re choice of word or word usage, reordering of information and how it’s presented, striking information that could be incorporated elsewhere, and questions related to research that could be done to add realism.

They make a very big deal of not critiquing the person – no personal attacks – but sticking to the work. From my viewpoint, having only scanned the work and not reviewed it from the position of giving critique, it seemed to me that more in-depth critique would be a bit more helpful. Perhaps the purpose of the meeting is just to get another set of eyes on the page, so to speak, and to address surface issues while utilizing a one-on-one critique partner to go deeper. Many of the attendees emailed or handed over redlines to those having work critiqued so perhaps in the meetings they stick to the surface preferring to give more difficult critiques in private.

I’m hoping to go to another meeting this week to get a better idea. Being armed with having read the submissions, perhaps I’ll get more insight into the critiquing process and understand it more.

I highly recommend you seek out a writer’s group. It’s never a bad idea to have more eyes on the page and to get feedback on your work. As the writer, you get to choose what you take and what you leave.

Hope you are all well. My world is in chaos right now but I’m feeling pretty okay about that. From chaos comes insight and from insight new direction. Writing is going amazingly well. The characters I’m writing about right now are so compelling but they keep me up at night! Happy Giraffes! Belinda



Writing: Up all Night and New Ideas

First off, I am not related to, a friend of or associated in any way with Brenda Drake, but after signing up for her blog, I have to say I am learning so much.  I’ve been reading with interest the blog entries for the June Query Workshop. Some very interesting queries to be sure but it’s the comments where I find the most fascinating tidbits. http://www.brenda-drake.com  Go. Go now. But come back please!

If you are in query hell (Hi, nice to meet you. Boy is it hot today), I highly recommend you check it out. Today was the ninth day and I am finding myself rewriting the queries in my head and actually laughing out loud at some of the comments. Perhaps more importantly, I am beginning to see much improvement in my own query writing. The learning curve for beginning writers can feel insurmountable so I’m grateful and thankful for all the help and assistance I can scrounge on the world wide web.

Spent the day at the bookstore yesterday with my niece, Jillyan. Has become one of our favorite activities. Books and Starbucks (highly recommend the double chocolate cheesecake but recommend you share it with someone. Extremely rich and chocolaty and best eaten in small increments).

So anyway, Jillyan usually finds a good manga to read while I scour books in my genre to scan, read and sometimes buy. The best writers must be voracious readers if we want to succeed. My beta reader suggested that, because everything else is awesome, reading would be the best way to improve my writing. Taking that advice to heart! Definitely seeing some marked improvement in my book collection but not sure how much is showing up in my writing. It’s subtle.

Last night about ten p.m. I sat down to write. Finally called it quits and went to bed about 9:00 a.m. Fell into one of those amazing zones that I absolutely love, love, love! The story I’m writing is so compelling and I’m so excited about the characters and their interactions. It’s hard to walk away when everything is flowing easily and effortlessly.

I wrote about 5,000 words last night. Some of that was spent on outlining and fleshing out parts of the story. I try to stick to outlining but then suddenly I’m writing dialogue in the middle of it. It’s a weird hybrid of outline and story but I can see it coming together. Only 60k words to go.  LOL

The story I’m working on kind of came out of nowhere. I was walking in Wal-Mart with my niece and a story just materialized in my mind complete with characters, descriptions, names, plot points, etc. To be truthful, I have been thinking about something related to the story for a long time but it wasn’t until I was standing in Wal-Mart on a Saturday afternoon that it just jelled in my mind. I turned to Jillyan and mentioned something about it and she laughed. She thinks I’m weird but also awesome. I’m okay with that. I think I’m rubbing off on her. She wants to be a writer too so I know I’m rubbing off on her. Poor girl (Knowing her, she would say lucky but I’m the lucky one)

One last thing. Just wondering if this is me. I keep my cellphone beside my bed at night but not because I’m worried I’ll miss a call. When I’m lying in bed and a great idea or snippet of dialogue pops into my head, I use the voice recorder on the phone rather than try to write it down or get up and type it up. Just enough to make sure I’ll remember the pertinent details. A turn of phrase, a character quirk, an important turning point, even just silly stuff I want to make sure to include. Sometimes I add “I love you” at the end.

It’s fun the next day when I transcribe the messages. In the middle of the night, I’m always certain I’m making sense. Happy Giraffes!  Belinda

Writing: Pit Mad Recap

I participated in PitMad yesterday and I have to say it was pretty crazy. Madness!  I heard that over 50,000 tweets were sent during the twelve hour period of time and it was actually trending in Canada at one point (I have no idea why or why Canada). [Note: Just learned there were 31.4K posts, not 50,0oo]

I kept tabs open for live updates on PitMad and PitMad YA searches and watched in awe the process. Only agents were supposed to favorite posts. That was how you knew who to send your queries to. Although I received two favorites, they came from other writers. During the time I spent watching the feed, I noted there were very few tweets that had favorites.

While there were over 50,000 tweets, it was difficult to estimate the actual number of writers actually participating. I follow a few writers on twitter and one of them would post 6-10 tweets each half hour. I at first tweeted a pitch every 30 minutes to an hour but during the last few hours, people were tweeting like crazy.

I wondered how an agent would even manage to keep up with all the tweets. I tried at first to read all of them but then had to give up as there were just too many. Refreshing the page brought in a fresh new set of tweets and finding your way back to where you had last read was almost impossible. I also noticed there was a lag between submitting a tweet and seeing it come up on search. Sometimes when it did finally come up, it was already 20 or so past the top.

To all of those who actually received a favorite from an agent, I wish you the best with the querying process. Way to go!

So, will I participate again? Probably but I think my strategy will be different. I played around with writing pitches. It’s difficult to write a great pitch in 130 characters. You get 140 but adding the hashtags left you with only about 130. I tried several variations. Some summarizing the story, others written in the main character’s voice, some just pure silliness. I wish there was a way to find out which pitches actually were favorited by agents so I can study them.

If you’d like to peruse the ones I tweeted, check out https://twitter.com/beautyinvisible  Let me know what you think.

Finally got some sleep last night but now feel like a zombie. Apparently there are many PitMad participants who are experiencing the same. Great day to spend on the computer browsing tweets and checking out the entries selected to compete in the Writer’s Voice . You can check them out at: http://annettetdodd.blogspot.com/

Thanks to Annette T. Dodd for keeping track of those selected. There is also a list further down the page where you can check out the 200 original entries. Mine is #55 but I’m thinking of taking it down since it obviously needs work.

Anyone with great and pithy wisdom about writing queries and/or pitches, please contact me. Until then I am going to hang out with the Happy Giraffes! B


Get your pitches ready because today is PitMad. Go to twitter.com and search #PitMad to see what everyone is posting. For info on PitMad, just put it in your browser.There’s tons of info on it including this from Brenda Drake’s website:

#PitMad is a pitch party on Twitter where writers tweet a 140 character pitch for their completed manuscripts. Have several variations of your Twitter pitch available. Twitter may not let you tweet the same pitch over within the same hour. The pitch must include the hashtag #PitMad and the category (#YA, #MG, #A,#NA, #PB and #NF) in the tweet. The “#” is important to include. It will sort the categories to make it easier for the agents/publishers.

For more info and to get the full unadulterated deets, visit:


I’m busy crafting my posts and gosh darn it, 140 characters is just not enough when you like to use lots of words. HA!  Good luck to all and have a great day!

I’m still on Wednesday. Wasn’t able to fall asleep last night so I am pretty wired and wide awake and for those wondering, no. I’ve had no coffee or caffeine for several years. I just have those odd days where I have too much energy. During the day it’s fabulous for getting things done but at night, when all I want is the sweet release of slumber and dreams, it is much annoying. Especially when my cat slumbers peacefully curled up beside me then stretches and sighs. OOOh must fight the urge . . . .

At least now I have tons of PitMad entries to read on twitter but I don’t think that’s going to help me get to sleep.

Happy Giraffes and WAKE UP!  Belinda

MY twitter account is Bella@beautyinvisible (beautyincognito was taken – I use that for almost everything except twitter and tumblr oddly enough) *Sigh* Just in case you want to check out my tweets during PitMad. If not, no worries.

PS: As much as I hate writing queries, I absolutely love writing pitches. Who knew? So many pitches, so little time.

Writing: Status Report

Although there is still a chance for my Writer’s Voice entry to be selected by tomorrow morning, I believe that I am out for now given the traffic to my site today. While I am very disappointed, I will be cheering for those writers chosen. Good luck to all of you. I wish you the best!

There were quite a few entries I thought promising so I have absolutely no idea how each of the judges were able to reduce 200 entries to eight. I wish them luck as well.

Thank you to the few participants who left lovely comments. Your words are inspiring me to work harder so perhaps we will meet again in another competition or one day I’ll see your work at my local bookstore. Yes, I’ve made a list.

As for me, I am plugging along swimmingly. Revising and editing and writing like a crazy person. Okay so maybe I was already a little crazy and writing makes me sane. I wanted to write an article about handling disappointment but I have no sage words of advice for anyone except: Treat yourself well. Even if everything is going amazingly. I recommend punch and will leave my recipe below.

Eat well. Sleep well. Live well and keep on writing no matter how steep the learning curve, how difficult giving up parts of yourself during editing, and no matter how much you want to give up. There’s a reason you started writing and a reason it fills your soul. Keep at it. Trust your instincts and breathe! That’s what I’m going to do, especially on the difficult days.

And now for the punch recipe: The original recipe came from my Betty Crocker Cookbook (Apple-Orange punch) but made way too much for me and my niece, Jillyan, so we experimented and discovered a quick and easy way to make a similar punch by the glassful.

You’ll need an individual bottle of apple juice and orange juice (pineapple or lemon juice optional), sherbet and a can of ginger ale.

Fill a large insulated cup with as much sherbet as you want or can eat. We have tried orange, mint, raspberry and want to try pineapple and lemon next. The orange is really the best and Prairie Farms Natural Fruit Orange Sherbet beat out all the others in our informal taste test.  Neither of us cared for the raspberry sherbet but we don’t like raspberry in general. The fruit is okay but the artificial flavoring not so good.

In a separate cup, mix apple juice and orange juice to taste. I like to add pineapple juice to mine but Jillyan says it tastes like armpits. You can also add a tiny bit of lemon juice (original recipe had lemonade concentrate). Sometimes we do but usually we skip it. Jillyan mixes her juice in a separate cup but I like to live dangerously and just pour it in and then add more or less as needed.

Once you have the juice to taste, pour it into your cup then add ginger ale (we love Schwepps the best – very fizzy). Pour the ginger ale slowly as the mixture will bubble quite a bit. Add straw, stir and enjoy!

It’s the best thing ever. We keep individual bottles of juice in the fridge and sherbet in the freezer at all times so we can make it quickly and often. However, Jillyan likes to drink the apple juice so I have to hide bottles  from time to time. It’s become one of our favorite things and we bought special extra large cups just for enjoying our punch.

Nothing better than to curl up on the couch, put in a much loved DVD and indulge in punch.

I highly recommend you check out the original recipe:


I served this at a bridal shower and it was a huge hit. Not your usual punch recipe- very citrus and a bit tart!

Happy Giraffes! Belinda

First Cut Writer’s Voice 2015

My entry into the Writer’s Voice 2015 was successful. I am one of 200 authors entered into the first round (selection by raffle so entirely random). By June 4th, the 200 will be winnowed down to 32; four teams of eight writers each.

While I’m excited about the opportunity to participate, I have spent the last two days reading the other contestants’ entries and have to say I am so glad I am not one of the judges. I have no idea how they will choose only 8 of the 200. I can’t even begin to wrap my head around that.

I was only able to read about 190 of the entries before the links were taken down but the diversity, depth and extraordinary scope of imagination was both satisfying and mind-blowing. It’s easy to get locked into my own world and forget there are other worlds and stories to explore. While my writing tends to fall in the YA category, I found myself drawn to middle grade stories. Fun, quirky and totally unique. Brought back memories of my childhood.

Even if not selected for the final 32, I am very pleased to be part of the 200 and am so glad I entered. Best wishes and good luck to all the contestants!

Happy giraffes! B

The Writers Voice 2015


Just a quick note to say the raffle is now officially open for The Writers Voice 2015 and you have a few short hours left to enter the raffle.  The above link will give you all the details. Good luck!


PS I’ve never participated and am not affiliated but you bet I have my entry in!