Summertime, and the living is...Crazy!

Look, there's the request for my full

Ok, first, I have submitted my first round of queries and that's all I have to say about that at the moment. Since I consider this a somewhat professional site, and one agents can easily find, I don't intend to give any specifics about my query process for now. Of course, as soon as I have any news worth sharing, you guys will know.

What I want to talk about today is the craziness that is summer. For me, the hubbub really kicks off on Friday. On June first my family leaves for a three week tour of the mid-west to visit all our family. It will be great to see everyone, but also a driving nightmare. I plan to write old school with a notebook and pen.

One month, One novel

I'll have to, because I'm signed up to participate in Camp Nanowrimo. This is exactly like the Nanowrimo in November, except it happens in June. They have another one in August, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

 Also coming up this summer, I am taking Candace Haven's Fast Draft and Revision Hell class. I can't wait to see how she does it, but I'm not going to lie, I'm scared. I'll have one week of rest after the end of Nanowrimo before Candy teaches me how to do the exact same amount of work in TWO WEEKS. Yeah, it's nuts.

In light of all of the madness, I am going to try to keep to my regular posting schedule of MWF. It's important to me that all six of you continue to feel the love. :)

At the same time that all of this is going on, I am working on a redesign of the blog behind the scenes. When I set this baby up, I used the generic templates that are available on Blogger and went with it, but it's really not me. I figured I spent enough time looking at this page, I should enjoy what it looks like. I'm also working on some other fun things, like our first contest. More on that later.

So in summary, this summer I will be out on submission, taking a massive road trip, writing two first drafts, revising at least one of them, keeping up with the blog, redesigning said blog and planning a contest. Any questions?

What are you doing this summer?

Happy Memorial Day

Today I am deviating from my normal blog content so I can thank the men and women of our armed services. These brave Americans put their lives on the line to ensure that our freedoms are protected. And not from faceless entities, but from real people who would love nothing more than to see our destruction.

I am personally proud of my big sister who bravely served for a 12 month tour in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom and my nephew who joined the Air Force last summer. They are both amazing people who I respect immensely.

So on your day off, enjoy your family and friends. Have a bar-b-que or hang out at the pool. Grab a cold one, make a campfire and live in the moment. But before your head hits the pillow, remember to say thank you to the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice that ensures you live in a country where all of those things are possible.

My Personal Heroes

#WVTP Update

So yesterday was the before mentioned #WVTP extravaganza that consumed my day between the hours of 11am and 5pm central time.

The day started out like any other day in the Nego household. I got up, I fed a kid, I got some coffee, and I opened my computer. In the hours before the moment of commencement, a strange calm came over me. And no, I didn't spike my coffee (though the thought did cross my mind). I spent some time revising my query letter and synopsis and was feeling good. The babe went down for her nap promptly at 10:30 and I was ready.

At 11am Twitter exploded in a # frenzy to post pitches from around the world. If you were on twitter at that time, I apologize because your stream probably felt a little spammed. In fact, the # was so popular it was actually trending enough to draw real spammers. (As a side note, we all felt that some of those spams would have made lovely pitches).

I pitched my book and waited...and waited...and waited.  When it sank far enough down the list to be completely invisible (about 30 minutes later) I decided to re-post. This is when I learned something new about Twitter. Apparently you can't tweet the same thing twice. I even tried to use buffer to get around this rule, but was thwarted in my evil plan. What! Now I had to tweak the pitch I'd worked tirelessly to perfect.

Well, as long as I had to change it I figured I might as well try out a few things. Below is the list of all the different pitches I tried.

  1. 1. 16 y.o. mind reader, Stacie, could spy on her hot neighbor, but fending off total annihilation is probably a  better use of her time.
  2. 16 y/o mind reader, Stacie, could spy on her hot neighbor, but fending off total annihilation is probably a better use of her time. 
  3. New girl, Stacie, just inherited mind reading powers and a part in an ancient power struggle. She’d rather have a homecoming date.  
  4. 16 year old, Stacie, just inherited mind reading powers and a part in an ancient power struggle. She’d rather have a homecoming date.
  5. When you’re a teenaged mind reader in small town Ohio, the question isn’t if humans mutilated by evil desires will find you, but when.
  6. Stacie's head is filled with dreams of Charles and the thoughts of half the town. She must filter them all out to listen to her heart.
  7. 16 year old mind reader, Stacie, could spy on her hot neighbor, but fighting the forces of evil is probably a better use of her time.
  8. Evil mutants are hot on her trail and the hottie next door is giving her the cold shoulder. Welcome to Loveland, Stacie Gunthar.
  9. YA Evil's hot on her trail and the hottie next door is giving her the cold shoulder. Welcome to Loveland, Stacie Gunthar.
To clarify John made a note that he was picking up several manuscripts that he didn't realize were YA. So just in case he somehow missed one of my previous tweets spelling out that my MC is 16, I thought I'd clarify the point in the last effort.

I hit the send button, closed my eyes and waited. Then at the eleventh hour when it seemed as if all hope was lost and I would leave the day without a single manuscript request, I opened my eyes to stare at my computer screen and...


That's right. Nothing. I'm not gonna lie. It hurt. I was disappointed and momentarily discouraged. It's times like these that I lean on Dolly Parton who said, "Find out who you are, and do it on purpose." Because, I'm a writer, and that's what I'm doing.  So yesterday wasn't my day to shine. It happens. Does that mean I'm ready to throw in the towel. Absolutely not. It means, yesterday wasn't my day. That's all.

Even though it's tempting, we can't hang our careers (or even a single manuscript) on the outcome of one attempt. So now what? Now I keep going. I found out today that I won a raffle for a query critique. So off it goes and hopefully I get some feedback to help make my query stand out when I start submissions.

Rejection and disappointment are an inevitable part of every writer's career. How we deal with that rejection plays a major role in our future success.

I will not freak out. I will not freak out. I will not...

So...tomorrow is kinda a big day for me. Why, you ask? My goodness, you are nosy. But I'm gonna let it slide and tell you anyway.

Tomorrow is the first day, ever, that I am purposely letting a literary professional look at my work. That's probably not quite the mind-blowing announcement you thought it would be, but I gotta be honest. I'm freakin' out a little.

Oh, I've shared my work for sure. My critique partners and Beta readers have red-inked my MS into oblivion. I've posted pages, queries and a synopsis on YALITCHAT. But all those eyeballs were folks just like me. Writers/Readers. None of them had the power to say "This rocks, let me sell your book" or conversely "Get thy novel to the nearest trash receptacle".

All that changes tomorrow when I put my pitch on twitter as part of #WVTP (Writer's Voice Twitter Pitch). Two official agents (and probably a smattering of agent lurkers) will read my tag line and hopefully *rubbing rabbit's foot while simultaneously crossing fingers and caressing someone's bald head* request pages.

While I realize that tag lines do not a career make, getting an agent's attention is the first step on the long road of publication. I am also aware that two agents don't make great odds so I plan to *gulp* send my first round of query letters on Monday. Ahhhhhhhhhh!

I like to consider myself a fairly confident person, but all this exposure is starting to get to me. I'm afraid all this fear is going to get the best of me. "That suggests that what you fear most of fear itself. This is very wise." Why thank you, Remus.

Still, I'm determined to do this. I'm putting on my big girl panties and pouring a big glass of wine. This great Writer's Digest article gave me some wonderful tips on how to harness that fear.  I will silence those voices taunting me and with some degree of composure I will hit the "Send" button. Lord help me!

Setting and Meeting Goals

Most people I know are addicted to setting goals. It starts in January with New Year's Resolutions, picks back up in Spring when we swear to get into swimsuit condition by the summer, floats into the Fall when we promise not to wait until the last minute to do our Christmas shopping and continues through the holidays when we commit to avoiding all those extra Winter pounds. Let's face it, we love goals.

As writers we set all kinds of goals. Daily word counts, finding the perfect coveted agents, spending less time cruising the web. When we achieve them, we treat ourselves to time off and high calorie chocolate products. When we miss the mark, lingering self-doubt comes out to remind us how much of a failure we really are.

So how do we capitalize on our success and minimize our destructive downward spirals? For me, it's all setting realistic goals. Things that require me to act, but I know can be accomplished. For example, I set a goal for the month of May to become more active on the YALITCHAT website. (FYI: if you write YA and aren't on this site, what are you waiting for?) When I set this goal, I intended to sign up as a Tier II member and post more critiques for my fellow writers (getting feedback is a major component of the site). So that's what I did. And then, one of the group coordinators posted that she needed to step down and was looking for a replacement. Hello, Opportunity! A small act on my part opened up doors I hadn't even considered.

But if we only set small, easily achievable goals, we're likely to find ourselves limited by our immediate view of our abilities. We need to set those larger, pie-in-the-sky goals. You know the ones. It's the I want to write a book so popular that movie studios are fighting over the film rights kind of goal. I want to walk the red carpet after my glamorous interview on the Ellen show type of dream. We need these dreams, but we need to keep them from sending us to the pits of doom when that first book is only mildly popular.
That's when it's important to remember that being a writer is like a long-term investment strategy. I'm in it for the long haul, no matter how long it takes. I don't intend to sell off my stock at the first sign of a setback. I'm going to weather the ups and downs because someday my writing investment is going to pay off...I'll talk to you then, Ellen. :)

Self-Imposed Deadline: Update

Way back in February I committed to starting my query process on May 19th. I got some sage advice about knowing when to stop editing and I knew the only way I would ever stop is if I gave myself a deadline. Since that day is tomorrow, I felt the need for an accountability check in. I don't want to look chicken!

So here is where I am. I have comments back from almost all of my beta readers and they gave me some really great advice. I am still working through that because their comments made me realize I needed to add a few more scenes to develop a subplot a bit more. This is actually a good thing because my word count was slightly on the low side after my last round of revisions.

I have made my query list of agents and I'm almost done prioritizing them. My query letter is ready (Finally, thank the Lord) and I'm working through an edit of my synopsis. I still need to write a condensed one page version.

I am now stalking following all the agents I intend to query on Twitter so I can be obsessive about my submissions on every possible form of social networking. :)

I think I should be ready to send out my first round of queries by the 25th. I am also participating in the Writers Voice Twitter Pitch (#WVTP) on the 23rd.

This is a little past my deadline, but I'm actually okay with this. The point of the deadline (and publicly announcing it) was to force me to stop editing. Unless my last beta reader comes back with something earth shattering, my current round will be my last round of edits. Please don't ask me how many rounds this makes. I have no idea because I stopped numbering them for my sanity.

Overall, I am really pleased with the progress I made. Without the deadline, I might still be floating around in the world of eternal draft versions.

Save your Voice

I'd like to start my post today with a thank you for all your suggestions for my upcoming twitter pitch. I know you must be sitting on the edge of your seat in anticipation to know what I ended up with. you go:

16 y.o. mind reader Stacie could spy on her hot new neighbor, but fending off total annihilation is probably a better use of her time. #WVTP

I'm really please with the result and I'm tickled with most of the comments other participants made. All the folks that commented really liked my voice. Squee! I've heard countless agents claim that voice wins over story every time. So hearing people like my voice makes me feel like the blue prize winner at the county fair.

Blue Ribbon Writing

But the comments also made me hyper-aware of the need to treasure that voice like the lost diadem of Rowena Ravenclaw. Lots of folks had lots of great suggestions for ways to tweak my pitch. But as I read through them, I knew right away there were some that lost my voice. They were good, but they weren't me.

All about the Voice

I experienced the same thing recently when I asked for feedback on my query. I got tons of great advice and I was really pleased with the result. And then I got more suggestions that while fine in their own right, cut away at the heart of what made my query my own.

So here is my question of the day. How do you know when you've edited out your voice? What method do you have for ensuring your changes are still a part of who you are as a writer?

Why I love the writing community?

In the real world, when a contest or competition is announced people hide in the cubicles to craft a strategic plan to victory. In the writing world, people raise their hands and say "Let's help each other". It makes me all tingly inside.
Feeling the love?
A few days ago, several bloggers announced a twitter pitch session. Yeah! Who doesn't love the idea of pitching in the dark of twitter where no one notices the sweat stains on your blouse? It sounds really fun until you realize the need to condense your beautiful pitch into 140 characters. Less really, because you need to include the hash tag. (BTW this contest is #WVTP in case you're interested).

Then one lovely lady, Becca Weston over at Peculiar Light, came up with a brilliant idea. Instead of crafting in our writing cave black holes creating sub-par pitches, let's get together and really dazzle these agents with our sheer genius. Becca opened her blog to us as a place to post our pitches and get helpful suggestions from everyone else.

Is it strange to give advice to people you'll be competing against in just a few days? Maybe. Is it magical to be part of such a supportive community that encourages growth and sincerely roots for the success of others? Absolutely!

And just because I know you're dying to know, here's the current draft of my pitch. Feel free to add your own suggestions. :)

16 year old mind reader, Stacie, could spy on her hot neighbor, but fighting the forces of evil is probably a better use of her time. #WVTP

I'm such a liar

I promised myself I wouldn't start any revisions until I got feedback from all my Betas. I lied.

I can't help it. I got amazing feedback! And by amazing I don't mean "This is wonderful don't change a thing." I mean "Hey, this part doesn't make any sense and this character trait is under developed". Yeah!

Maybe I'm a little masochistic, but I love hearing what's wrong with my work. To be clear, I am not looking forward to heading back to the blank page and crafting new scenes in a book I had hoped was finished.

That said, I know the feedback from my Betas was honest and spot on. So while the work ahead of me isn't thrilling, the improvements to my book are. I know these changes are going to make my novel stronger and will make for a better experience for my readers. And that makes me excited!

The Fun of Writing

On Monday I talked about how much work it is to query agents and I'll admit I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. However, all is not doom and gloom over here in my little slice o' Texas.

While I'm scrambling to write eight versions of a synopsis that may or may not blow huge chunks, I'm also floating on the new project high. You know the one, where all the possibilities are endless.

I've yet to write a single word intended for reader eyes, but I've filled pages of notebooks with ideas and plot lines, character sketches and back story. I'm loving it.

I'm also trying something new this time round. I've created a Pinterest board for my book. Right now it has clothing and character inspirations, but over time I hope to add scene backdrops and other interesting stuff. I like the idea of having a visual inspiration to go to when the new project high wears off and the dear-god-will-someone-please-tell-me-how-to-write-this-scene panic sets in.

I'm also considering a play list since this will be my first dystopian and I want to make sure I hit the mood just right.

So I have three questions for you today.
1. Do you use Pinterest or other collection method to gather inspirational pictures for your books? If you'd like to share your link below with everyone please feel free. I love snooping in other people's heads.
2. Do you use play lists for your novels? Feel free to share those as well.
3. Since I'm more of a classic country kind of girl, what bands or artists would you recommend I check out to start my dystopian play list. If it helps, this is a girl takes on the establishment kinda book.

Thanks for sharing y'all!

The Work of Writing

Most writers are familiar with the lesson that writing the first draft is only the beginning of the real work. And it's true. The editing process has been long and daunting. Since I'm waiting on Beta feedback I can see all that work from a distance and appreciate the outcome a bit more. So, once I put together the best possible piece of work I could accomplish on my own, I thought the hard part was over. I was wrong.

No one told me how hard the query process is. I guess that's not quite right, it's not as hard as it is daunting. First I had to do my research and figure out which agents I want to query. Then I put them in ranking order (because sending out 50 queries at a time is asking for a mental breakdown). After that, I searched through websites and blogs to figure out exactly what every agent wants as part of the submission.

I thought I was doing well, since I have a query and synopsis (both of which I'm getting feedback on now). Unfortunately, not everyone wants the same thing. Some agents don't specify a synopsis length, some want 1-2 pages, some want 1 page only, I have one agent that wants a 3-5 paragraph synopsis. What? Then you have agents who want a separate bio and one who wants a marketing plan. Come again?
I don't want to write another synopsis!

I spend hours combing agents sites and come away feeling numb...dead inside. I just want someone to read my book! And the worst part is that all this craziness is sapping my creative energy when I'm supposed to be working on my next book.

So what's your strategy? Do you only query agents who don't ask for additional materials? Do you have a folder on your computer with eighteen versions of your synopsis in varying lengths? Did you write a bio that says "I'm a literary nobody, but can you read my book anyway?"

Please tell me I'm not the only one who might need a vacation* by the time I actually start sending queries!

To be clear, I am a poor writer. When I say vacation I really mean a pedicure and a fudge bar.

Save the Cat

So I've been going back and forth between two different projects to work on for my next novel. I finally decided I would plot them both out and see what struck me as the way to go. The problem is, I am really hating the plotting process. My last novel was a total seat of the pants, I don't know how this ends, shot in the dark, word fest. I'm still in awe that I have something to show for it all because I have no idea how I got there.

I've been working with yWriter to help me plot out my next book because I realized how much harder it was to edit when your first draft is a heaping pile of poo. The program is great, really, but I hate it.

So I went prowling on the internet because I can procrastinate there and call it research. I'd heard about the Save the Cat beat sheet tons, but I'd never been able to make it work for a novel. But all that changed when I came across an amazing post by Jessica Brody. She breaks down the beat sheet and uses some great examples. For the first time the sheet actually made sense to me.
His face says, please help me write a novel
So....I took my new dystopian idea and sat down with the sheet. I was a bit nervous about this because my idea for the plot only went so far as the trouble my MC gets into. I hadn't yet figured out how she would get out of trouble.

The good news is that once I put pen to paper (yes, I actually wrote this out in a weird hope it would help my creative juices) the ideas started to flow. In about an hour I plotted out the main points of the whole novel from start to finish.

Now, there are plenty of details that will need to be filled in. But now, I can't wait to start really outlining this thing. Plus, I know going in that as long as I stick to the sheet I will have all the major plot points covered. Somehow, the knowledge that I won't end up with a book that goes on and on without going anywhere is reassuring.

So, I'm going back to yWriter and were going to try to make this work. Wish me luck!

And the Liebster goes to...

I don't usually post on Thursdays, but today is an exception because I've just received my first blog award! The Liebster is mine!Yeah, the crowd goes wild.
I was nominated by Laurie Meyers for "doing so well managing social media". If Laurie says it, it must be true. Of course, I owe all my new found knowledge to the wonderful Robert Lee Brewer for all his sage advice during April's Platform Challenge.
So what is a Liebster? This is an award given to small blogs for being generally awesome at something. Yep, pretty vague. I tried to search for how the whole thing got started, but apparently even Google doesn't know. Here's what we do know. "Liebster" is German meaning favorite or dearest, and it's used to showcase up and coming bloggers.
Here are the Liebster rules:
* Thank the person who nominated you by linking back to them. (See Laurie's link above)
* Nominate up to five blogs with less than 200 followers.
* Let the nominees know they rock by leaving a comment on one of their blog posts.
* Add the Liebster image below so all your readers can know how awesome you are.
So here are my Liebster nominees. All these folks have one thing in common. They all rocked to the end in Robert's April Platform Challenge. So congrats to the following blogs for having the perseverance to fight to the finish:
Michelle Reynoso My Writing Life
Lynn Daue Rhymes with Tao
Alvarado Frazier Alvarado Frazier

Now go check them out!

Interview with The Intern

If you have yet to meet THE INTERN then you are seriously missing out. This lady dishes out sound writing and publishing advice with a dash of humor, a splash of sarcasm and one sharp kick to the head.

INTERN was the unpaid toiler on the publishing house floor, and is now a writer whose books are presumably being toiled on by even more unpaid interns (the cycle continues!). She blogs about publishing  here and as her "real self" here . You can also stalk/follow her on Twitter @internspills. Her first novel, BEAUTIFUL DISASTERS, is forthcoming from HarperCollins in summer 2013.

INTERN has been a busy lady lately, so I asked her to stop by the blog and answer a few questions. I supplied the questions and she supplied the witty answers that followed.

Me: Other than your new book, what is INTERN up to these days?

Finding a place to live! Techie Boyfriend and I have been bouncing from place to place every few months, and somehow ended up living in this completely ridiculous “ecovillage” in the pot-growing capital of the universe. What we really want to do is buy land—the whole 40 acres and a mule dream—and invite all our writer and musician and theatre friends to come live with us. In the meantime, we’re just kind of drifting around, getting into all sorts of weird situations…

Me: (Raises hand for a mule ride) You write a lot on your blog about the pros and cons of the various publishing routes (self-pub. vs. traditional). What is the best advice you would give to a writer struggling with this decision?
For one thing, it depends very much on the kind of book we’re talking about. Some kinds of non-fiction—how-to, travel guides, books on a really specific topic—can be much easier to sell as a self-published author than fiction. Fiction sales rely so heavily on this elaborate system of vouching—publishers vouching for a book’s quality, published authors vouching for published authors. With non-fiction, potential buyers care more about whether the information is useful/relevant or not—a publisher’s stamp of approval doesn’t matter as much.

As for fiction, it partly depends on the category—people are having great success with self-published erotica, thrillers, and paranormal, but it’s maybe a little harder to sell contemporary realism or “literary” fiction as a self-published author.

I read an interview with self-publishing celebrity Amanda Hockings where she said her rejected novels were just sitting on her hard drive, so she figured she might as well put them online. Self-publishing might seem like a fall-back to some people, but it’s better to go with a fall-back that might be spectacularly successful than to do nothing at all.

Me: What was the deciding factor for you to go the traditional route?

Being INTERN has its perks, and one of them is that several agents and editors had contacted me before I even finished drafting my manuscript. So even though there was no guarantee of selling the novel (and I did, indeed, get my fair share of rejections when it went on submission) I already had this weird toehold in the traditional publishing world—and it was a no-brainer for me to run with it.

Me: I am not shooting spit wads at a screen shot of your face, honestly, I'm not...You've done a great job dishing out behind the scenes details of the publishing world. What was the most surprising thing you've learned?

As an intern, the most surprising thing was probably listening in on the bizarre calculus that goes into making an acquisition (“but we already have a gypsy book coming out next season!”)

As a writer, I’ve been most impressed by how densely interconnected the whole publishing world is—everybody knows everybody, everybody runs into each other at the same conferences. Word gets around.

Me:  Sounds like, you mess with one agent, you mess with them all. Good. To. Know. Changing subjects a bit, a recent post has introduced your readers to your alter-ego 'real, actual Hilary'. Can we expect more Faces of Eve type interactions in the future?
Haha! I’m still not sure how much real actual Hilary is going to show up on INTERN. The INTERN persona has been such a big part of my life for the past three years that she feels very real to me, even though I’m eager to speak in my own voice too. For the most part, I think real actual Hilary is going to stick to her tumblr ( though you never know J

Me: You've also just announced the title of your book BEAUTIFUL DISASTERS (yeah!). What can you tell us about it?

Writing it has been hands-down the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. It deals with some themes that are very important to me and very personal—but come on, what first novel doesn’t? I’m terrible at describing what it’s about: young musician falls down an exhilarating rabbit-hole of grief and love and ecstatic truth, with some murder and snarfling and midnight bike rides thrown in for good measure.

Like most first novelists, I’ve been a total wreck at various points in the revision process. A few times, I even started to question the whole book deal—like if I hadn’t happened to get lucky with the INTERN blog and all the opportunities that have sprung up around that, nobody would have taken a chance on what has felt, at times, like an impossible manuscript.

But the flip side of that is I ended up with an editor who was willing to invest in me and work with me intensively, draft after draft, until the novel revealed itself to be not so impossible after all. If the manuscript had been in perfect shape when it sold, I might never have had that experience of failing and failing and failing and being pushed to get it right, which has been extremely important to my development as a writer. I am keenly aware of how lucky I got, and am grateful to have fallen into such generous and patient hands.

Ok, last question. You only get to read one book for the rest of forever. What book would you choose?
The Soul of Rumi, translations by Coleman Barks. I know, I know—so unoriginal. But I need ecstatic poetry in order to exist in this world. I would go crazy without it.

There you have it folks. Special thanks to real, actual Hilary for loaning us INTERN for today's interview. Be sure to stop by INTERN Spills to get more INTERN knowledge and keep an eye out for BEAUTIFUL DISASTER coming summer 2013.