Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I Answered A Rant with a Rant but Maybe it will Help Someone Else on Writing a Sequel to an Unpublished Novel

Found you through twitter and decided to answer since I think I have a lot to say on this subject. Not sure if this will help because this is equally a personal rant for me. I am a quick writer who is unpublished. From 2010 to 2015, I have written 7 books plus a prequel and plan on writing about *4 novels and a novella and revising 2 novels this year (I know, crazy!). Writing is my passion and I truly believe one day I will make it. I have so many different stories to tell and mostly they are in the YA genre but regardless they itch to be written and shared.

First I have a few questions, have you had the book professionally edited more than once? Have you revised to the best of your abilities? Have you had beta readers and critiques? Have you tried entering contests with it? I ask these questions because your completed draft should be the best you can make it and these things definitely help contribute. Agents and publishers want a polished manuscript even though they polish it more. I don’t bother querying unless I have done most of what I asked you. You have to put your best foot forward. My editor told me that the first book needs to be polished before writing a sequel and I agree although I did not do it this way because I met her after I’d written more books in the series. The way I did it will cause me more work in the end because now as I am going back and revising the first book to perfection, the subsequent books will have to be rewritten as well. But let me tell you I am glad I wrote them so they are out of my head.

So my advice from experience is if you have to write it, write it but realize that you should put your focus on perfecting the first book until you feel you can’t do anything more. Perfecting means using others (editors, critique partners, beta readers, contests, coaches etc.) to make the novel the best you can. The same editor also told me that you have to sell the first book or there will be no sequel so keep that in mind too. In my case, I wrote the sequels as a rookie mistake but I am not upset I wrote them, I had to get them out. When I do sell the first book I can use them as a blueprint for the series. On a side note, many author and agent blogs state that the first novel might not sell but the second or third or eighth novel in a different series might, so keep on writing. So why don’t you do both. Write the sequel you’re dying to write and then write the new book and another book and another. Continous writing is the key to becoming a better writer!

*The bold portion I left off my response in Justine Ashford's blog.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Writing Conferences & California Writing Retreats

My writing journey has been a slow train of many stops. First it was building my confidence up and just writing. This meant I was no longer thinking about writing or saying I was planning to write a novel, it actually meant I had to write. Pen to paper and fingers to keyboard.

Then I was aimed at getting better at writing (which I will always strive for) so I wrote, I read, I wrote, I read, I researched and I worked with editors and others who could help me hone my craft. This is a repetitive cycle. I have worked with 3 editors from 2012-2015 and have had many beta readers who have helped me along the way. I believe I can learn from anyone; a blogger, an agent, an editor, a writer, a reader, a published author - so I try to meet and network with people who hold these titles.

I also started Nanowrimo in 2013 & continued in 2014. I am proud to say that I have reached the 50,000 word goal each November. Through NaNo I have learned to push past the days I don't want to write in order to reach my goals. I don't believe in writing blocks but I do believe in lazy days. Some say NaNo is about quantity not quality but I am a quality girl and most of my first drafts are good enough to keep at least 70% of what I've written. I believe this is due to heavy outlining beforehand which ensures I structure the story before even writing one sentence. I am not a procrastinator and I also hate to waste time, two traits that have come in handy when writing multiple books and keeping myself busy.

Next stop on the train was entering contests with my more polished manuscripts. I entered over 20 in 2014 and placed as a finalist in 3 with one book. I will only enter a few in 2015. I found this was a great way to network and get my books critiqued by established authors and agents. In some cases people have found their agents and publishers this way.

This year I plan on completing one of these two stops:

1. Attend my first conference.
I scoured the internet for a list of writer conferences and picked the one that was most affordable that offered good workshops, guests and speakers and agents. For me, for 2015 that ended up being the Writing Conference on Creative Writing at Pacific which I attended at the end of May. Hopefully in years to come I can go to the RWA Conference, the DFW Writers Conference and the SF Writers Conference.

2. Attend a writer's retreat/workshop.
Community of Writer's at Squaw Valley, is in July and is a week long workshop. Novels are critiqued in a group setting in addition to one-on-one conferences. There is also staff readings and panel discussions on editing and publishing. This is more for improving writing vs. finding an agents. There is financial aide if needed, the cost is $1,075 plus cost of housing and food. I applied for this one in 2015 but there is a selection process that is very competitive and apparently only 39% of people who applied were invited to attend.
Monterey Writer's Retreats cost between $1300-$1800 depending on lodging and food. Author-agents are available for 4 hours each morning to group and then in one-on-one sessions. In the application they want you to list your goals and they promise to "work with you to make it happen."
The Big Sur Writing Workshop runs in March and December and costs around $800 for the full program and runs 3 days. The cost includes room and board, meeting with critique groups, faculty members and a query/pitch and synopsis help.
Women Writing in Redwoods is in March and they state: "You will learn about writing, agenting, publishing, promotion, and how to build your career from four experienced teachers." It costs about $500 and runs Thursday through Sunday.
The Linda Sivertsen Carmel by the Sea runs week long retreats in February, April, June, September and November and is kept at 4-6 participants for a more intimate time. But I don't think I'll ever do this one because it is 8,000! That's a car...

I am excited for the future to keep improving my writing skills, networking and one day soon I look forward to being a published author!

Friday, March 13, 2015

#PitMad on Twitter

It's been a little while since I blogged. Glad to be able to write a post again.

I participated in #PitMad for the first time on twitter this week (March 11, 2015) and it was an invigorating experience. I was able to network and found some cool published and unpublished authors who were tweeting like crazy with me. I also got a link to a cool blog and I gained a few followers and followed people as well.

I think at the core #PitMad is about networking with peers. It is also helps to lift the veil that exists between authors and publisher/agent. In #PitMad, aspiring authors searching for agents and publishers tweet in 140 characters or less their book pitch using #PitMad and a short hashtag for their genre. If an agent wants to see more they favorite a tweet. Then the author sends (if they want) their query based on an agent's submission guidelines.

Now you can send most agents (those who aren't closed to queries) and a select few publishers your query on your own of course but it's nice to find an agent who actually invites you to query them and who might be remotely interested in your novel.

The twitter feed for #PitMad goes so fast it's like the computer code in the Matrix. Getting retweeted by fellow tweeters helps keep your tweet alive in the feed since you are only allowed to tweet twice every hour during the running time of the event. You have to structure tweets differently in the same hour I believe because it won't let you retweet an existing tweet.

Finding an agent has many different routes as does the road to getting published. Most people scour the internet looking for agents nowadays. Either they research books and or authors they like or agents that accept their genre. Those that blindly send to agents or publishers without researching or having a polished novel are bound to fail. Others enter contests hoping they make it to the final round where agents will look at their books. Some find agents at conferences, workshops or writing retreats. Some get a lucky break with an established indie publisher while a select few brave it alone and self publish.

Gone is the time of mailing query letters or buying literary agent listing books to finger through like the yellow pages. Agents are easy to find and contact but that doesn't mean they are your friends, mentors or cheerleaders, they are people who have a job to fulfill and bills to pay. They only represent books and authors they believe in.

So all in all, I would say #PitMad was worth it even though I did not get a bite from an agent. I had a good time tweeting, networking and seeing the never ending novels that are yet to be published. There is an astounding amount of creativity in the world!

Thank you Brenda Drake for thinking of such a clever online event! I will be participating again.