Pitches are hard. I could just end the post there and you'd all feel super validated, ...
What makes Pitch Slam so dang awesome? You get 24 hours to send your entry in (don't for...
What makes Pitch Slam so dang awesome?
- You get 24 hours to send your entry in (don't forget to attach your pitch and 250 as two separate documents!).
- You can get feedback on your 35 word pitch.
- You can get feedback on your first 250 words.
- Your feedback comes from THREE experienced authors/editors.
- The feedback rounds, while BRILLIANT, are totally optional. You can submit an entry for our picking-the-finalists round even if you didn't enter the feedback rounds. Official rules and entry guidelines can be found HERE. (Don't forget to paste your final entry into the body of the email. First Round = Two Attachments. Second Round = Copy & Paste.)
- If you do enter the feedback rounds, you get time to revise before the final round!
- Jedi Masters (team captains), with the help of their Jedi Knights, will pick based on your REVISED entry.
- Finalist entries will be posted on our team captains' blogs and read by our FABULOUS Jedi Council (literary agents). Requests will be made!
- Many past entrants and finalists have gone on to sign with agents and publishers. Because our entrants are made of awesome too.
I don't post recipes terribly often. Heck, I don't cook terribly often. But one of ...
Be Thorough Expectations regarding thoroughness are something you should have in place ahead...
Expectations regarding thoroughness are something you should have in place ahead of time. Personally? I thrive on thorough critique. I want to know ALL the things. Technical errors? Bring on the highlighter. Content issues? Lay them on me. Brilliant lines? Show me the love, baby.
- Technical Editing.
- Content Editing.
Some partners are going to specialize in one of these major areas. Some spread their skills across two or three. Make sure you know what kind of critiques you'll be offering each other. If you only give general content editing feedback with a sprinkle of validation, make that clear. If you're strictly a copy-editor with an eye out for technical issues, make that clear.
The best critiques take real effort so yes, be thorough. There are few things rougher than pouring loads of time into a critique and getting just a few lines back in return. Your partnership will be stronger if you give as good as you get.
Take a little extra time to point out what's working in your critique partner's pages. Yes, it's faster to just highlight what needs work, and compliments don't directly help your partner improve, but they're still a vital component of any critique.
Storytime . . .
There was a line in my second book that I adored but a critique partner with eons more experience than me HATED it. I was on the verge of cutting it when I got notes back from two other readers. Both of them took the time to highlight that line and put in comments about how much they loved it. One of them laughed out loud! One of them said that was the point at which they really started liking my main character.
So I kept the line. End of story.
If you have favorite lines in your CP's work, tell them so! Because someone else might be telling them otherwise. Plus? Warm-fuzzy feels from being told you don't totally suck can give you the strength to fix what DOES suck.
Don't go overboard though. Critiques that are ONLY compliments aren't really critiques at all.
Confrontation is hard. Telling your CP to kill their darlings? SO hard. Sometimes it's easier to pat them on the head, avoid eye contact, and say, "Yeah...that's good. Real good."
Remember the heading of the previous section? Be Kind? Yeah. That's not being kind.
But when you do offer genuine criticism, make sure you give context. Simply saying, "I don't like this," is NOT helpful. If you can't put your finger on why, tell your partner that. But whenever possible, try to give context. "Her reaction here doesn't ring true for me because X." "The flow of this sentence is super awkward. Maybe it would work better if you broke it into two?"
Your genuine opinion is far more likely to be helpful if you actually give it.
I'm not saying you need to work at breakneck speeds and pull off a twenty-four hour turnaround time. Perhaps I should change the heading of this section to "Be Realistically Prompt." If you say "I'll have notes back to you next week" and your partner doesn't hear from you for two months, that might be a problem.
If you only remember to critique after being reminded several times times? That might be a problem.
If your partner has critiqued seventeen chapters for you and you've only critique two for them? That might be a problem.
I say "might be" because this is something you and your partner need to figure out between you. Communicate. Establish up front what your expectations of each other are. Maybe your partner has four kids and works a graveyard shift at the local hospital, but their critiques are so amazing you don't mind if they only do one for every five you do. Maybe you have seventy kajillion things going on in your life and can only manage to critique a chapter a month for awhile. Or maybe there are times when you can only give general feedback and not line edits, or times when line edits ain't no thang, because you're swimming in spare time.
But if you don't communicate about where you're at and what you've got going on, your partner might feel like they're hanging onto a cliff's edge, dangling over the revision pit, with no clue if you're ever going to help pull them up.
It's okay not to have time sometimes. It's even okay to get swamped and forget. But if you do? Apologize. Establish more reasonable expectations for each other. COMMUNICATE.
Being human and being prompt are often mutually exclusive. Own up to your humanity, and accept your partner's humanity*.
If you receive a horrifically unhelpful critique (hey, it happens), you still have to do one in return. I know, I know, BUT YOU DO. This is why I advise NEVER trading full manuscripts with a new critique partner. For me, 1-3 chapters at a time is the sweet spot. Shorter term commitments allow you to reevaluate the value you're offering each other before making long term plans.
*To a point, of course. If they're jerky to you and attempts to communicate are all one-sided, you're allowed to say goodbye.
Whether you're starting a new partnership or enjoying the blissful comfort of a new one, SAY THANK YOU. Not just for the first critique, or the best critiques, but ALL critiques. Whether they're as helpful as you hoped or not. Whether they send you into a tailspin of despair or soaring to new heights where you can see the "possible" of your story better than ever before, express gratitude for the time that went into the critique.
No matter how effectively the time was spent, it was SPENT, and that deserves your thanks.
I've had two concussions in my life. Once, from tripping at school and slamming head first ...
I've had two concussions in my life. Once, from tripping at school and slamming head first into a large metal door. Another time from losing control of my bicycle while riding down a hill and flying head first into a cement garage.
Being adorably klutzy comes with a price.
Both times I heard out-of-tune radio station static in my ears and had glowy yellow vision. Every movement felt like swimming, and I got super fixated on one specific thing. Like how the curled up corner of the doormat I tripped over could take another victim. "The doormat . . . the doormat," I kept telling the school nurse. "Someone's gotta move that doormat." Or how I'd abandoned my bike when I stumbled home after the garage incident. "My bike . . . my bike . . . my bike . . ."
I told the story of my two concussions once and got told off by a guy who played football and had had something like seventeen concussions over the course of his life. "No," he said. "That's not what concussions are like." He went on to tell me what a REAL concussion is like. Ringing ears, not static-filled ones. Swirly black splotches, not glowy yellow vision. The inability to think at ALL, not that weirdly fixated on one thing reaction I had.
At the time, I didn't know how to respond. I was a pretty shy chick once upon a time ago, so telling people they're morons didn't come easily to me. But he was a moron, and I don't think it had anything to do with all the concussions. It had everything to do with him being a human person trapped in the tiny box of his own experiences.
Sometimes I pretend I've time-traveled back to the past, and I say the things I wish I would have said back then. I've time-traveled back to Grade 8 French class a LOT. Because that's when a guy I had a crush on leaned forward and made fun of my horribly out of fashion Sears clearance centre ankle boots. I really, really wish I'd turned around, smirked, and said, "I didn't know you were so fascinated by ladies fashion."
But I didn't. Because being shy means being embarrassed by other people's jerkiness. I know, it's stupid. But there you go.
What I wish I'd said to Not-A-REAL-Concussion-Guy, is that my brain isn't his brain. That my injuries weren't the same as his injuries. And to suggest that he offer an alternate term for me to call "weird crap that happened after I hit my head super hard" since he for some crazy reason thought "concussion" wasn't the right word. I also want to tell him that the world is full of people doing horrible things because they think other people should have the same brains as them, the same thoughts, beliefs, and experiences as them.
I want to tell him that this is one of the most dangerous thing humans do. Because it makes it too easy to take the "people" out of "other people," and just treat them like "other." Because that gives us permission to treat them like they are NOT people. It gives us permission to shame them, harass them, shout at them, hurt them. Because how DARE they see differently, live differently, love differently?
It's impossible to count the number of times I've heard a fellow human tell off another human because they believe something different. Even things like whether pineapple belongs on pizza or not. I have legit seen two humans get ANGRY with each other because one loves pineapple on pizza and one thinks it's vile. And it didn't occur to either of them that it is OKAY for them to like different things.
This terrifies me. Actively, chronically terrifies me. Especially when I catch those feelings creeping up on me, evil little brain ninjas trying to make me angry because another human doesn't see things how I do, and because I'm explaining my point SO DANG WELL, and they're STILL not getting it.
HOW DARE THEY not get it? How dare they not get ME?
Usually when I write a trying-to-figure-crap-out post like this one, I like to wrap it up with a pithy little thought about why things are the way they are. It makes me feel clever and safe if I can tie things up in a moral-of-the-story kind of way. But honestly, I haven't figured this one out. I don't know why being different than other people freaks us out so much. I don't know where the driving need to prove other people wrong comes from. I don't know what kind of prize we think we're going to win if we're the loudest, most obvious sort of right in the world.
What I do know is that the next time I get super pissed off at someone, I hope I can pause long enough to ask myself if I'm being like Not-A-REAL-Concussion guy, if I'm so tightly sealed up in the box of my own viewpoint, that I'm trying to smash the boxes of another PERSON.
I hope I ask myself if I'm so bloody self-centred, I'm not treating them like a person at all.
Anger is easy. Hate is easy. Blame is easy. There wouldn't be so many people choosing them if they were hard. But love is easy too, and the side-effects are so much easier to bear.
I read an article recently that emphasized parental responsibility in a way that many found extr...
I read an article recently that emphasized parental responsibility in a way that many found extreme. The overall message was inspiring, but I saw a lot of commentary from parents who were doing the online equivalent of squirming in their seats and wrinkling their noses. The article author put forward the idea that parents are responsible for the actions of their children, and a lot of people did NOT like that assertion.
I pondered this for a few days, searched my own feelings, remembered moments when I'd thrown my proverbial hands up in the air (throwing my literal hands up is a bit too much like exercise), and laid the blame for one of my children's actions squarely on their shoulders.
Agency. It's a thing. And my children have it.
But I've decided it's not a parental responsibility vs. child's agency situation. We have the former and they have the latter, but the one doesn't overrule the other.
It is, for instance, my job to teach my children not to start forest fires. I live in a part of the world where forest fires are common, and so my husband and I make an effort to teach our children fire safety, with the take away message being: DON'T START FOREST FIRES.
If one of our kids starts a fire later in life, someone could lay the blame on us. But we would be able to examine our parenting decisions and feel pretty safe in chalking it up to "agency," because we did our part. We taught them not to do it, and they chose to do the opposite of what they were taught.
However, if we didn't teach our children fire safety despite an awareness of the forest fire issues in our part of the world, if we taught them it's okay to play with fire because hey, they're smart/special and it'll be FINE...and they then go out and exercise their agency and play with fire and destroy a small town and a hundred hectares of forest, then it would absolutely be our responsibility AS WELL AS theirs.
Parental responsibility AND agency, holding hands and working together. This is also a thing. Because acknowledging our children's agency doesn't absolve us of parental responsibility, and acknowledging parental responsibility doesn't absolve a child of accountability for how they exercise their agency.
It really is this simple: Parental responsibility
Stakes. All the coolest people are talking about them. They're missing in pitches. They're m...
- Stakes create empathy. Knowing the main character has something to lose helps the reader care.
- Stakes help the reader invest in the story. When you shine the reader spotlight on "If Main Character doesn't do BLANK, then DOOM will happen," the suspense intensifies by a factor of 57% (or thereabouts).
- Stakes are a big part of what keep a reader reading. They're the match that lights the "What's going to happen?!" fire.
How do you figure out what the stakes of YOUR story are? Try framing it as a "What if?" What happens if your Main Character fails? What if they don't save the world? What if they don't let themselves fall in love? What if the bus driver never solves the mystery of why he wakes up with a new tattoo every morning?
That feeling of unease you're feeling (assuming you let me boss you around, your imagination is functional, and you have a heart)? That's what you're shooting for in your stakes-based pitches and in your query. Make the reader uncomfortable. Introduce them to your amazing, unique, memorable main character, show them what that character wants more than anything, then make them sick with worry over the potential consequences.
Not all stories have happy endings. Make your reader terrified that yours might be one of them.
The best writers, and the best stories, are equal parts empathy and sadism. Make them care. Then make them HURT for it.
I'm tired. For a lot of reasons. There's the physical tired of constant, as-yet-un...
For a lot of reasons. There's the physical tired of constant, as-yet-unexplained illness. There's the emotional tired of grief sneak-attacks because things don't magically get all the way better just because a whole year has passed since Dad died. And there's the mental tired of trying to do all the things for all the people and half-wishing to be back in high school when nobody liked or needed me.
And yet I'm happy. Because life is crazy awesome bonkers like that sometimes.
Because I took some time off from trying to be everything for everybody and did some stuff just for me for a while.
Because I'm writing again, and words are air that certain parts of me suffocate without.
Because I'm only giving time to the people I matter to.
Because I'm being firm and telling doctors what I want them to do for me instead of just hoping they will.
Because I'm learning that our value isn't rooted in what we do, but in who we are, and that I don't lose worth when my body won't let me do the things I want to be doing.
Because I'm loved by some super amazing people.
Because of four incredible little girls who drive me happy as often as they drive me insane.
Because of friends. The genuine kind.
Because of how reading stories makes everything better somehow.
Because I'm awesome. And because you probably already knew that.
Sometimes Happy likes to play and hide and seek with us. Sometimes we have to look extra hard to find it.
For the past two years I've been doing social media stuff for the annual Whitney Awards prog...
For the past two years I've been doing social media stuff for the annual Whitney Awards program. I don't think I have an official title, per se, but I've been referred to as the "Social Media Chair," the "Something-or-Other Liaison," and other nicknames I've made up inside my own head. Honestly though, I haven't paid much attention to that aspect of things because: BOOKS. So many fabulous books!
Also, I get to make memes and say it's my "job." How awesome is that?
To a certain degree, I have to keep things professional on the Whitney Awards social media feeds. There was that time I made a jokey comment using a British term meaning "idiot," which turned out to be an American word for "female genitalia." So I've been understandably cautious since then.
But this is my blog, and I can do whatever I damn well like here. Including use the word "damn." Because I'm a super cool and edgy Mormon like that.
So here's the deal with the Whitney Awards. They're all about spotlighting quality LDS fiction.
Do the books have to be "Mormon" books? No.
Do the people nominating the books have to be Mormon? Also no.
Can you nominate more than one title? HECK YEAH. An unlimited number, actually. We want to hear about ALL the awesome books.
What if you don't have time to read all the awesome books? Hey. If it's an author you know and love already, if you trust them with your literary life, go for it. I mean, ideally, yes. READ ALL THE AWESOME BOOKS. But we don't want to penalize authors who are published in late December, so nominate away!
I'm going to toss out a few links that can help you help the Whitney Awards be even more amazing this year. First stop? New LDS Fiction, a fabulous website run by the equally fabulous Karlene Wells Browning. Here you'll find a dazzling array of 2016 releases. Check back often as she updates regularly.
Next stop, our Nomination Page. We want you to kick back and relax here, and click that ole "Submit Another Response" link as many times as you like. Every time you do, an author gets a delicious shiver of validation. True story.
Social media wise, there' are a few different ways you can connect with us (well, let's be honest, with ME):
And our more interactive Facebook Group
We're even on Pinterest, where we pin geeky book stuff for your viewing pleasure.
Wondering what you get out of it? What makes it worth your time to seek out and nominate incredible books by LDS authors? Well, there's no cash prize or anything. And we don't send thank you cards because we're super lazy and because we're run 100% by volunteers. BUT, when those finalists get announced, and a book YOU nominated is in the running?
There's nothing like that feeling of knowing YOU helped make that happen. That author you love just got THRILLING news because of something YOU did. Readers already matter so much to their authors, but you get to matter MORE.
Yeah, I'm totally appealing to your ego here. You've got one of those, right? Is this working at all? Because if so, I'm totally going to run with a whole, "You helped your favorite authors get nominated for a Whitney--strut your stuff, baby!" themed campaign.
Yeah. Maybe not. That's not quite as unprofessional as the accidental genitalia reference, but still.
Read. Nominate. Tell your friends to nominate. Shout if you have to. The Whitney Awards are awesome, and by participating, you get to be awesome too.
When Neil and I got married (fifteen years ago today) he had no idea he married a writer. I f...
Inspiration falls like rain, and sometimes I am made of umbrellas. The umbrella of sleep, the um...
Inspiration falls like rain, and sometimes I am made of umbrellas. The umbrella of sleep, the umbrella of Netflix, the umbrella of noisy thoughts. But sometimes I stretch myself out on the metaphorical grass and let it fall, let it soak into me bone-deep.
This is when the words come.
And they don't always make sense. And I don't always know where they go or who's meant to say them, think them, and feel them. Sometimes they're for stories that haven't been born yet, or for stories I thought had gone to sleep.
Something raindrops and inspiration showers have in common is that there's no earthly way to catch them all. The ground is hungry and devours words and stories that could have been mine if only I'd had enough room, enough cleverness, enough sense to WRITE THINGS DOWN.
My life is a graveyard of lost ideas, but fertile ground for the found ones.
I'm feeling grateful for inspiration today. For words that I get to call mine just because I'm the one who managed to catch them. And I'm grateful for nudges from metaphorical elbows, for gentle proddings in right and happy-making directions.
What words are you grateful for today?