Who Would Have Ever Thought…

Who would have ever thought you could be so excited to receive criticism?  Constructive criticism that is! It has been 2 painful months of waiting for feedback from an agency that specifically is going to critique my Query Letter, Synopsis, and the first three chapters of my novel!!  (I am screaming; can you hear it?)

Through Writers Digest I attended a webinar, specifically, “How to Avoid Rookie Mistakes When Submitting to Agents.”  The course was $89.99 and offered these 3 all critical feedbacks.  I have, of course, in that painfully long amount of time, re-written most of it.  But to see if the changes I have made are in the right direction is kil – ling me!

I have seen similar webinars and professional feed-backs that are much more expensive, and this was an offer too good to pass up.  I also admire the agency who offered the course.  The information stated our material would be sent back by 3-29-15, but that was yesterday, a Sunday, so I am giving them until Monday, today, as the actual end date.  We all make mistakes, right?

One would fret, “Did they receive my material at all?”  Well, I know that they did because I got an e-mail, dutifully archived, from the agent replying my submission was received.  From this past Friday until the end of business today: (8 p.m.?) I have been jumping back and forth from multiple e-mails to see if this gem of disappointment has finally arrived.

If by the end of the week I still have not received my packet should I call them?  The last thing I need to do is make a bigger fool of myself than I already have a tendency to do.  Face to the sun I am smiling bright, big-red-felt marker bring it on!

Keep writing, ❤ Jessica

On line Critique Groups

I actually, and this is a big deal for me, asked my husband to edit several pages. He himself is a good writer with a distinctive voice, but I have hesitated because I want his critique but don’t want to disappoint him or get discouraged. Does anyone get that?

I am looking up critique groups on line listed in Writers Digest several years ago (February2003) to see if they are still working and will share that with you when I know more. But the article gave some excellent suggestions: There are advantages and disadvantages to critique groups You may develop relationships with other writers that enhance your work.

  1. On line groups deliver rapid feedback to help pinpoint a problem.
  2. You may come across published writers, editors and publishers – someone who might give your writing career a push.
  3. A group is another tool to provide growth.
  4. The quality might be spotty.
  5. Someone may give discouraging advice that might hinder your confidence and encourage doubt about your ability.
  6. The biggest potential threat is computer security. But on line groups might also inhibit plagiarism by having your work submitted with a specific time record.
  7. Interesting option, don’t you think? I will continue with more information next time.

We appreciate you who follow us! Thank you, Sandi

To Tweet or Not To Tweet

Social media is one of the biggest questions writers seem to be asking…Should I?  How necessary is it?  What are the steps?  After Oregon’s largest writers’ conference last summer the answer could not be clearer – an online presence is a must.

I, personally, did not even have a Facebook account and that quickly changed.  There is so much support for writers through communities and groups that your experience will be everything you put into it, within sane reason.  To be successful is not an illusion it takes time, effort and energy.  To have a following, you must be an involved follower, an active participant in building your platform.

If you don’t know how to put it all together; Google it, the needed information is out there if you are willing to look.  WordPress has blogging courses for beginners or freshen it uppers.  Do not be afraid.   Work for the recognition you deserve and have labored for.  But, you must be mindful.  You will no longer be anonymous.

The most beneficial information for me has come from; Twitter.

My favorite widget application on WordPress is About Me.

I have Pinterest, LinkedIn and Tumblr accounts but do not spend the necessary allotted time to make these equally successful.  Reddit is my biggest mystery.  And this, for now, is okay with me.

These entities link together and before you know it the magic slowly becomes reality.  I attended a webinar recently where a traditionally published author explained she became solely independent.  All marketing while being represented was her exclusive responsibility.

The course also mentioned in the next 10 years the industry will be called “publishing,” period.  We must get comfortable with the notion of being “Hybrid” if anything, a bit of both, traditional and self-published and get over the misplaced idea of being One or the Other.

If we want to be read, we must not only put our professionally polished work out there, but be willing to step forward on the internet stage and take a bow.  One year ago I would have never been able to do this…Hi, my name is Jessica Edouard and I write historical romance novels.

Much <3!  Keep writing!  Jessica

Focus on Becoming a Writer

Tweet: Malaise and work are not good companions.

Blog # 4

While thumbing through old, old writers magazines, I discovered a quote of Norman Gautreau’s: “You must focus on the process of writing and not the dream of being a writer.” I began to rethink what I had considered a waste of time from lectures, conferences and others’ suggestions. I realized how much they had taught me.

Take advantage of learning to perfect your craft without someone stealing your enthusiasm.

  1. Not everyone is interested in the same genre.
  2. Some people will be drawn to your story, others, not so much. That doesn’t mean you have a stinky story.
  3. Remember to ask for specific feedback when enlisting a reader’s help. Ask them to read for continuity, repetitive words, name changes of the same character, flow, confusion about plot, OR mechanics, etc. Too many areas can bog down a kind reader.
  4. Choose an editor who is smarter than you if you truly want helpful feedback.
  5. Thank readers whatever the quality of their thoughts. One writer described a final draft that had been edited 35 times, even with a publisher. He had modeled a character after a person in his community using a pseudonym but used the real name later in his novel. No one had caught it.
  6. Avoid, like the plague, anyone who doesn’t have your best interest at heart. One person in an editing group shared a personal note from a fellow member with other members naming her the best writer in the group. Hmmm. What was that about? Someone, perhaps, whose ego needs nurturing at your expense. Run don’t walk.

“A Mostly Good Job”

Life is good, and so I remember my own words to myself, building my resolve and courage and continue.  But instead, this time, I broke down.  I am a positive girl and I love life, but it should not be confused with not needing to force myself, almost daily, to put one foot in front of the other just like every one else.  I, in turn, pile a mountain of pressures upon my shoulders that is unwarranted and most times unnecessary, but it is a part of who I am.  This I do well.

As a part of a writers critique group every week we read our writing.  I bring chapters from my current novel and receive help with my sentence structure, which is still a work in progress.  They help me clarify areas that may be confusing and build where my storyline may be weak.  At the top of the first page my writing team will leave comments like, great chapter, good writing, confused.  And all of this is perfect as long as I am directed to the area they may have gotten lost.  What is it that needs more attention?  So I can fix it.

It took a little while to get comfortable with my trusted partners before I was able to receive constructive criticism, but it is such a necessary part of writing that I look forward to it now and know just how essential this process is.  The week before last I was not prepared for the words, “A mostly good job.”  What does that even mean?  It threw me for a loop because nowhere on my pages sat a highlighted sentence or paragraph.   What took my chapter from good to mostly?  My delicate house of writing cards came tumbling down.  Yes, there may have been a tear or two.

I am a creature of habit.  I need structure.  Without it I am a wandering mess.  This mind of ideas and countless thoughts that spin me in circles must have a routine.  Where was I to go with a comment like that and nothing to back it up?  My brain did exactly as you might think, my fragile sensibilities became a jumbled nightmare questioning everything.  Mostly, what the hell am I doing?  And now two weeks later, I have not moved forward.  Shame on me.

Sandi taught me, “Ask for what you need,” and that is what I must do.

Instead of my current project I focused on my finished manuscript and had a great time at #PitMad with another writer whom I enjoy immensely, her blog is Romance done Write.  It was a perfect escape.  You can learn more about the event by following the hash tag link.  This is through twitter and if you have not joined twitter yet there is a ton of information and contacts for writers of all kinds there.

Moral of this story…Keep Writing 🙂

❤ Jessica

Lessons on the road

We writers write because we have to. Whether it’s a journal entry or a manuscript, a rambling to a friend in an email, or a new post on Facebook.  We have much to say about most topics whether anyone cares or not.  Just ask us. I am obsessed with what motivates human behaviour and love to people watch.  Do you write in your head wherever you go?  We all know everyone has a story, and I want to know what it is. For my own amusement I whip up a version. What are the cues? What do facial expressions mean? Even misreading someone and making assumptions about her life is a “writing” practice. I love the surprises if ever revealed.

A friend and I traveled together during our single days, and, while waiting in the airport for our flight, we watched people and determined where they were going, with whom, and for what purpose.  Since we were single we would assign points based on impressions from one’s dress, manner, companions, and features;  you know, like men often do.  Is he an 8 or a 10?

Okay, this is an aside but quite a humorous one: heading to Mexico for spring break, we watched and ogled four handsome, well-dressed men who appeared wealthy and sophisticated.  They were classy  and well adorned.  No women friends and no wedding rings in sight.  We decided that they were drug dealers heading to Mexico on a run.  Who else would be dressed to the nines?

We conjured up a story of their misdeeds and dangerous episodes. We envisioned them meeting  shady characters on lonely Mazatlan streets.  Such fun.  The  week passed. We didn’t encounter them until our flight home.  Guess what? We all were on the same flight.  This time, fortified with margaritas from Señor Frogs, my friend decided to strike up a conversation with one of them in the safety of the airport. We ended up sitting with them on the flight back.  Oh, how embarrassingly wrong  had we been!   David, who became a longtime friend, was politically connected and invited me to several fabulous events, one with our state governor. If he couldn’t use his opera or season symphony tickets, they were mine if I wanted them. My traveling partner developed a special relationship with one of the gentlemen.

She eventually married him and lived happily ever since. He was a director of a prominent social services network in our city. No drug dealers, thank you!  I still enjoy my fantasies about people or situations; perhaps that’s the writer in me, but not assume I am anything more than a conjurer of stories. Stereotyping is useful in misleading your reader.  Many of us do paint groups with broad strokes; I have  learned to recognise biases in my everyday life and employ devices to exploit them in writing.

I notice how people dress, their facial expressions, and body language and can give me clues about them whether accurate or not. How enjoyable to be led astray. The unexpected is delightful.  People standing next to you in a grocery store line may be chatty and friendly but lead  a wicked life. Don’t you love the inscrutability of we humans?

To Be Remembered

To be remembered is a piece of advice that Sandi imparted upon me, and while at our big writer’s conference this past summer, I learned first hand the appropriate, not bumbling, ways to make an impact with the proper approach…

1.  Dress the part:  Case in point…there was a lovely young woman who wore a bold striped skirt of various colors, with a geometrical patterned blouse that clashed on every account.  Now even I do not own Garanimals, but instead of her trend choice being a fashion faux pas, she did what?  Exactly, she stood out and even today is being remembered.  If I can’t get her out of my mind, think of the agents she sat in front of to pitch.  Her outfit was not obscene in any way shape or form, just far from ordinarily boring.

1a.  Play the part:  Characters from your book?  Different culture?  use it to your advantage, make  your characters work for you.  Sell your story.  When was dress- up ever boring?

1b.  As a dithering and enthusiastic entrepreneur of the written word, I will not be one to make such an emboldened choice when it comes to my apparel, but there is another option that could make a lasting impression:  added stand-out, look-at-me jewelry, scarves, belts, man bags.  These are choices for the faint of heart.

1c.  If you opt out of colorful clothing possibilities then have an intriguing personal bio, make your background a great story of its own.  We all can make a great impression by being professional as we demonstrate endearing traits of our personalities.

Another awesome case in point…the first night of our stay a beautiful woman stated in our peer group, in front of a panel of agents, that she was a retired Disney Princess.  Now how does one compete with that?  It should have been my cue to exit stage right.

2.  Pitching to agents at any conference is a huge piece, if you so choose, but the last thing I would like to say about our first experience is to take advantage of all the great information and classes offered at these events.  It is invaluable, and you have paid for the information, do not leave short. Network with other authors and enjoy this amazing experience.

3.  As in all things of life, be wary, there are still those nasty individuals who are busily looking to take advantage of our delicate egos and complete inexperience in the industry.

Keep writing,

Jessica 🙂

A bit of a back track from Sandi

My emotion about agents was a direct reaction to our experience on February 20th. I dislike any opinion that paints a group with a broad stroke.  That’s what I did, and I apologize. Agents have an incredible job with volume alone, culling the unacceptable first pages from the great ones; then being enthused about the genre as well as the writing style to sell it; and they are individuals making a living with their own criteria and circumstances.

With that said, facial expressions that deepen the bite for the denigrated writer are unprofessional. One agent, a a scrawny, self important, over confident twit, was appallingly rude! Sharing one’s writing is as vulnerable as standing naked in front of a group of 8th grade boys.

Agents have a library of helpful advice to share, and we are ready to listen.  We pay for our individual time with them or for a conference; is it too much to expect a tidbit or two? Your attention for 10 minutes @ $30?  We might be the one to make you rich. How many published authors have you turned away who made money for someone else?

The number of hoops to jump through and then land on one’s feet is larger than I ever would  have guessed. Kindness goes a long way as we find our way. Thank you to those agents who offer constructive suggestions. We writers appreciate you!

Moving on: A nugget I learned about editing was to enlist editing from people who are smarter than you and avoid friends and family.  I learned the hard way when my husband read a chapter and had nothing to say.  His comment was, “I didn’t know what to say.” Another hint was to circle adverbs and “state of being verbs” in your draft and find stronger verbs . As we have heard many times, show not tell.

Pages to write, so off I go!

Just in Case, this is Your FIRST time

“You are living your dream.”  One of my best friends just recently reminded me of this and they are 100% correct.  This is my dream.  Writing is what I have always wanted to do, and I am now 6 months into my journey.  I have journals since I was a teenager and college creative writing course papers’ that commend my passion, but remind me, I have a lot of work to do in polishing my energies. My Nana used to have a stone polisher?

In my own environment, I am not a shy girl, but when it comes to writing EVERY insecurity possibly known to mankind comes to the surface; shortness of breath, shaking, slurred speech, cold sweats and talking faster than a speeding bullet.

Here comes my first big piece of advice, something I even taught my kids, “Life is an acting job.”  This comes in handy when you are at your most vulnerable. And, I learned this again after this past summer’s conference.  The second snippet of wisdom is, “Be Remembered.”  Thank you Sandi!

I think I accomplished this in all the wrong ways…wah, wanh, wah!  I promise… my second time, I will be sooo much better.  🙂

And so…here we go…My first experience pitching to agents…Need I remind you, I have never had a problem making a fool of myself and owning it like a true professional.

  1. 10 minutes is a long, painstaking time to make a complete ID 10 T of yourself.  Even if your acting is polished where your writing is not.
  2. Know your genre.  You must know this so you can pitch to the right agents of that subclass and as Sandi has explained can be a difference of agency opinion. I, unfortunately, believed my genre was Romantic Fantasy, GONG!  I was quickly informed it is Paranormal Romance, that trended to be the going theme, and so, I am running with it.
  3. Do your research on who you are pitching to and what they are specifically looking for. You must go beyond the conference bio’s.  I had the pleasure of sitting with a nice gentleman whose genre base could not have been further from that of my manuscript, (Has anyone heard of graphic novel? Yeah, me either until that most unfortunate moment.) F M L, serious typo in the conference documents.  Too bad for slimy handed, good smelling, stuttering moi’, but I did remember to bring my best smile and polite exit.  No, I didn’t get my money back.
  4. If you are writing romance and seeking representation from an agent, your manuscript must be a minimum of 80,000 words, or they will blankly wonder why you are sitting in front of them, mine was 65,000, much better to have to add to a story, than to trim off.  I think I threw up in my throat a little.
  5. Self-publishing has a completely different rule book.  1 stumbling step at a time.

And all this, only 30 minutes of a 3 day event.  Life is good.