It is the first Wednesday of the month and do you know that means? Posting for Insecure Writers Support Group, now why would I be party to such a crowd? Well let me tell you why, writing in general …
A ghastly, not gassy, career choice indeed! And yet an affliction plaguing many. Everyone is a writer, but not everyone has support – so let’s hear if for the club! Open to one and all just skip on over!
Last month, on Wednesday 1 of April, I was honored to be attending a workshop in Portland, Oregon with Larry Brooks and a great number of talented authors. His tutelage should, absolutely, be the 1st letter in the alphabet when thinking about sitting down and penning a spectacular piece of literary art.
There are many considerations to navigate. Putting one word in front of the other is not the only talent for success. Excitement and common sense have a tendency to cross in the night and end up on Pluto.
It is true. For the past 12 months, I have dedicated almost every single day to follow my individual pursuits. I have finished another manuscript while redrafting my first. I have lived from great highs to deep lows in encouragements and frustrations. My steadfast team has held my hand, pushed me forward, relished in my accomplishments, and attempted to wipe away my blubbers of disappointment. I have been lifted up and let down. I have won as I have lost and for the first time in – ever, I speak in first person.
My life as a dreamer has earned me less than I have made since I was 13 years old. But I did get paid and that, in itself, was a moment of triumph. Not as a novelist, per se, but in copy editing and that is okay.
So what is it I have learned to pass on to others who dream of this fantasy that does not leave us, penning words of whimsy or knowledge?
If it is your passion, do it, whether it is in the dark or on the back of an envelope. If you have five minutes or five hours, it is all the same. Thoughts overflow and find their way to a page, a habit we cannot quit. Allow this voice to find you and guide you. Do not question ‘the Rules’ or allow well-placed advice to deviate you from your course.
Just Write. That is what makes us a…writer.
More time leads us to more self-pressure, self-doubt, and self-deprecation. And everything hinges on the same word, you.
At my 2nd writer’s conference, the question was asked, “What is it that keeps you from writing?” And 90% of the room raised their hands to answer, “Time.” Last year, this was my answer, too. Today my response is, “ME.” While I have found my individual freedom to speak, I have also found a plethora of excuses or outside intrusions limiting me from my potential.
“You are living your dream.” A statement from one of my very best friends. He is right. When dubiety and disappointment flood my brain, I remind myself, hearing him speak. The strong voice of one who does not write but knows me for the person I am. It matters not if I am a Plotter or a Pantser, an Amateur or Accredited, I am a writer, and I will forever tell stories as I see them told.
As Always, WRITE On! ❤ Jessica
After the desperate, painful months of waiting; like a hopeful child for the day of their birth, diligently marking off 364 individual days, to finally arrive, and the subsequent let down to occur: the e-mail magically appeared in my in-box and vanished of the same fashion.
noun 1.a detailed analysis and assessment of something, especially a literary, philosophical, or political theory.
(I believe it is the word detailed that has me thrown, let’s check that out…)
adjective 1.having many details or facts; showing attention to detail.
Yes, that is the clincher, having many details. I would pain you and look up many, but I will not.
I should be the gracious receiver, that my friend encourages me to be, but I am reminded that this was a critique in which I paid monies to, to further enrich and expand in a craft I have chosen to excel and be competent. I received approximately 5 quick blurbs, not even full sentences.
The short, short of the not-so-long of it is…Don’t be choppy, use varied sentence styles, but in this key, compact version in the middle of your query, keep sentences flowing with rich detailed information and, most importantly, set your HOOK. You were able to break your manuscript into a 2 page synopsis, now break your synopsis into a single paragraph and then into a single barbed sentence. Armed with this bit of tackle, we will now be ready for pitch wars.
On the last page of my manuscript sample were the words, “Terrific, great set-up, I wanted to keep reading.”
In which, if we had not already been playing e-mail pong, I should have responded, “I would gladly send you my full.”
I regret to report that I am still waiting for the return of my detailed critique. I will try to explain the pain in regaling such patience.
3-29-15 / Sunday
Deadline came and went receiving nary a word with awaited for constructive criticism.
3-30-15 / Monday
Trauma by way of mental anguish having waited over 2 months to receive Query letter, Synopsis and 1st chapter back before re-submitting to other agencies, contests, etc. with needed fixes. (Yes, I promise I am working other projects, but slowly dy – ing as each minute ticks by.)
3-31-15 / Tuesday
Still no e-mail in either box, chewed nails to nubbins, finished 1 gallon of coffee ice-cream, 1 pint of tequila, smoked 1st pack of cherry-cigarillos. (Not really, but it still could happen.)
4-1-15 / Wednesday
In between – jumping between – in boxes, I consider possible options… #1 Call company who offered class/No offered phone number-Only generic comment box… #2 Call the agency directly and look a fool?? (I chose option 1.)
4-2-15 / Thursday
Now there is no critique in either e-mail or response from said company I paid fee to, so I…Chose option 2 using phone number that was on my received submission and, of course, instead of talking to secretary for agency, this happens to be agent’s personal voicemail. (Look a fool, completed.)
4-3-15 / Friday
In the wee A.M Hours-No returned phone call from agency; or e-mail inquiry comment from hosted company, or waited for critique. Pacific Time meridian, so 12 o’clock west coast would be 3 o’clock east coast, most likely end of day considering it is Friday before Easter, and I decided to send an over-apologetic reply e-mail to the web-submission address that confirmed original reception. (Wow, are you still with me?)
Late Night Friday agent replies…AGENT replies via e-mail kindly and sincerely that they need a couple more days.
4-6-15 / Monday
In the afternoon I receive e-mail response from comment box submission/hosted company replied-did you check junk mail?? (No help to be had here and a whole lotta too late.)
Is there a moral here? I am not sure as I am still in the hold pattern, but at least the gracious agent responded. The hesitancy in contacting any of these avenues comes directly from social media comments – about how authors screw themselves by not following proper protocols.
Recently, one example in particular was, an aspiring writer had over 100 agent e-mail addresses in the send to box depersonalizing their submission to each and every one, an instant rejection and possible black-list. (The joke being this poor soul would definitely need a pen name now.)
The second example was during #PITMAD where an aspiring writer tweeted a negative and UN-professional comment to a requesting agency and then was warned publicly to follow proper etiquette.
The third example could now be…me?? How an over-anxious, wanna-be published and represented author couldn’t hold her horses – say it isn’t so! Hopefully, it will just be added into my critique notes on, “How to avoid rookie mistakes when submitting to agents.”
Write On – ❤ Jessica
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
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.
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
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.
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!
“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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.