Preparing for PitchWars

Summer has arrived, which means it’s time for the beach, long, sunny days, and Pitch Wars!

If you don’t know what Pitch Wars is, it’s a writing contest started by the amazing Brenda Drake! Seriously, she is awesome. I got lucky enough to be on her #PitchMadness team with an older MS earlier this year. Go check out the rules on her site.

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Confession time, this is not the first Pitch Wars I’ve entered, it’s not even my second. Back in 2015 I entered with my first manuscript. Though I’d been writing for a long time, I was new to the publishing world and really didn’t know any of the rules. That manuscript was a complete mess. It didn’t have a true genre and the pacing was horrible, not to mention I didn’t know the difference between show and tell.

But through Pitch Wars, I began to meet other YA writers and met some of my fabulous Critique Partners.

 

 

By the time #PitchWars 2016 came around, I had another manuscript, one I’d begun to query and had agent interest. This one was a Twelfth Night retelling that took place in a fantasy world where two countries were at war over magic: Just named her clan’s sailor, Val disguises herself as a boy and joins an enemy ship in search of her kidnapped brother. I didn’t get a mentor out of PitchWars, but I was very confident in this manuscript. I finished edits and queried it. Over a year of querying, the manuscript generated 17 agents requests and one offer of representation! However, I did not think the agent was the right agent for me, and I passed. That manuscript got into #PitchMadness. (Shout out to #TeamIceCreamSeas.) I unfortunately didn’t receive any other offers, but I knew I was close.

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While I was writing my Twelfth Night retelling, I came up with an idea for a Young Adult Contemporary. Since I didn’t know much about YA Contemporary, I set the idea aside and worked on my other manuscripts. But it kept tugging at the back of my mind. So, in January of 2017, I began reading YA Contemporaries. By the end of March, I was ready to draft. The first draft took me just over a month and in May, I sent it to my CPs. I’ve now begun to get their feedback and am beginning to go through a set of edits before the submission for #Pitchwars.

So, what is this contemporary? DRUM ROLL PLEASE…..

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A FEMALE VERSION OF AMERICAN PIE!!

But AMERICAN PIE had a lot of anti-feminism plot points. It did. I absolutely loved the raunchiness of the movie, but I was very aware of some of the problems in it. Then one day I asked myself, why isn’t there a story where it’s the girls who decide that they want sex?

So, I wrote BARE IT ALL: A YA Contemporary about four senior girls who create an anonymous blog about the positive aspects of sex. Only, they need to have sex in order to write about it. It’s got the awkward, raunchy, funny parts of AMERICAN PIE, plus an amazing female friendship, a body-positive message, and a f/f relationship.

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It’s written in 4 Points of View:

Andi: A girl who not only plays boy’s lacrosse on multiple teams, but has a scholarship to play at Duke. She’s crass and tough but loves comic books and is afraid that boy’s will think she’s too manly.

Charlie: Senior class president, National Scholar, and Model U.N. participant. She’s the youngest of seven and because she’s dyslexic, she has forgone a social life in order to get good grades.

Savannah: The theater star who doesn’t know if she’s going to college in the fall or just moving to New York to pursue her dream of being a Broadway star. Her girlfriend is hesitant about moving their relationship to the next stage, even though Savannah is ready.

Vivian: A graphic designer and artist who loves Star Wars and is a true nerd at heart. Her boyfriend junior year told the whole school that they slept together, naming her the school slut and destroying her trust in boys. Despite that, she’s bubbly and enthusiastic.

I’m so excited about this manuscript and see it’s potential. I’m hoping I can find a mentor who loves the idea and can help me shape it into the amazing manuscript I know it can be. I am ready to work hard and put my heart and soul into this manuscript.

About me: I’m an environmental scientist. I spent the last year teaching high school and right now I’m spending the summer doing research. I’m not sure where I’ll be in the fall, but I always make time for my writing. I can’t function if I don’t have time to write.

I love the editing process. Drafting is all right, but taking that hunk of clay and whittling it down into a story is what I love to do. If I become your mentee, I promise to work my hardest. I’m not afraid of changing my manuscript, because I know those changes are for the best.

I am ready to bring my girls into battle, are you??

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Go check out others entering #PitchWars at #Pimpmybio

 

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Finding Your Views

WRITERS' RUMPUS

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A few days ago, I watched an interview with Emma Watson and Lin-Manuel Miranda from back in March. If you are unfamiliar with either of them, Emma Watson (aka Hermione) now works very closely with HeforShe, and Lin-Manuel Miranda is the creator of Hamilton (I highly suggest you listen to the soundtrack.)

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In the interview, around the nine minute mark, Emma asks Lin-Manuel:

“Do you think story-tellers have a responsibility to drive us forward as a society, to encourage us to see things in new ways and if you do, does that ever weigh heavily on you? Do you ever think of it as a responsibility?”

In response, Lin-Manuel says that our world views affect what you see in different works and how you create it.  He also talks about how artists create empathy for their characters.

See full video here.

Then in class today, two of my students…

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How to Support the Diverse Books Movement

With my MS in the hands of a sensitivity reader, I had some time to jot down my thoughts on how to support diverse books!

WRITERS' RUMPUS

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We Need Diverse Books. Four simple words. This movement is not a trend or a fad, but a way of life. Diversity is all around us and as writers we have a responsibility to share that. However, it is not as simple as saying that your main character belongs to a marginalized group, especially if you, the writer, do not share that background. Writers from non-marginalized groups, like me, do not have the same experience as writers from marginalized groups.

There has been a lot of talk over social media platforms on whether non-marginalized writers should write marginalized characters. Many believe that writers from non-marginalized groups should not write characters who are from marginalized groups. Some call this “censorship,” but it’s not. Marginalized writers need their voices heard. When stories by non-marginalized writers are published with main characters who are from marginalized groups, then the writers from those group don’t…

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Training for Pitch Wars 2016

It’s Pitch Wars time!

For those of you who don’t know what Pitch Wars is, it is a contest hosted by the fabulous Brenda Drake. A plethora of established writers take time out of their busy schedule and mentor hopeful mentees, whipping their manuscript into shape before the dreaded agent round. (Alright, it’s not dreaded, but that just sounded better.) There’s more info on Brenda’s website.

 

My Writing Journey

Oh God, where to start. I’ve been writing since third grade. Yes, that’s very specific. I still remember one day during writing period when all the other girls (my “friends”) paired up and I was all alone. So, I sat down next to this little second grader. Together we created this epic fantasy with four MCs. (By the way, that little second grader and I are now trying to rewrite those characters in a totally new fashion. It’s a slow process since our schedules don’t exactly match.)

During high school, I worked with those four characters by myself. I’m not saying the MS was any good. Actually, it was awful. I had a prologue, magical prophecy, talking animals, four protagonists who weren’t fully developed and cringe worthy dialogue.

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I learned quick.

Though I continued to write, my focus switched by the time I hit senior year. Growing up in a small town, I’ve always been an outdoorsy kid and a bit of a tomboy (I was always the tallest girl in the grade.) So, I started volunteering at the New England Aquarium and I went to college for marine sciences.

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I still wrote. Though now I was trying to focus on more adult work. I never did anything with it, but it kept me sane through tough classes and dumb decisions.

After graduation, I found myself in the Florida Keys. Sounds great, right? Not really. I was miserable. I stopped writing, I never read and although I was on the ocean all day, I felt like I was missing something.

After six months, I went back to Massachusetts and ended up in environmental education. I picked up writing again and created a YA magical realism novel based off of characters I’d created in college. A girl with a connection to animals partners with a drag racer to stop a man from illegally whaling.

I entered the MS into 2015 Pitch Wars and didn’t get in. I received amazing feedback. Though I still love the story and have some great new ideas that will completely change it, I shelved it for the time being to work on other projects.

During NaNoWriMo in November, I wrote a YA fantasy that is a loose retelling of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

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I’d had an idea floating around my head about a Native American girl who went in search of her missing brother with a settler as her companion. Then last summer I went to see Twelfth Night, again. It is one of my all time favorite Shakespeare plays. Suddenly both plots merged together and I knew I had to write it.

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THE EVENTIDE centers around Valerian-Val-a seventeen year old girl who’s ceremony to become chieftess of her clan is put off because her twin brother has been kidnapped. The Airyllens, who have claim to the northern part of the country, want access to the clan’s lands in the south. The clans are prepared to go to war, but Val is not ready to lose her brother. So, she disguises herself as a boy and joins an Airyllen ship. On board, she befriends the Lady Otiyla and Captain Devon Orsin. As the ship approaches Airylle, Val’s disguise becomes harder to pull off and if she’s discovered, she could lose her brother, the war and her life. There is unrequited love, magical storms, slave traders, and sword fights!

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10 Things About Me:

  1. I am a certified Dive Master. There is a whole other world beneath the waves. I’ve dove the Caribbean, Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Maine, Pacific Ocean, Indo-Pacific, Great Barrier Reef and more. Yes, that means I have swum with sharks.
  2. I played rugby in college. I would love to find a league now, I’ve just been so busy. It also means I swear like a sailor because we’re not a real classy group of people. sports australia england rugby womens rugby
  3. I lived in Australia while I was in college. (Hence the Aussie rugby gif above.) That semester was one of the greatest times in my life and I can’t wait to go back.thumbs up no problem steve irwin crocodile hunter
  4. As you could probably guess, I love to travel. I’ve actually been feeling restless because I haven’t been out of the country since 2012. But I have lots of trips planned once I start getting a steady income. No, seriously I have the next year filled up with trips.
  5. I’m a country music fan. I don’t know why it took me until college to realize this, because it is real life. Or at least, it’s my life. 
  6. If I could own a dog, I would. But with my apartment size and minimum income, it’s not possible. Instead I have three rescue turtles (a musk, painted and snapper.) All young. I’ve got four goldfish and a beta fish (not in the same tank.) There’s my bearded dragon named Iroh (yes, after season 1 Uncle Iroh because he’s fat and lazy.) And I have a needy, very large, black, long-haired cat.
  7. Fall is my favorite season. I grew up in New England on an apple orchard. It’s in my blood to love fall. (I also hate tourists on my beaches while I work with endangered birds, so summer is out of the running. #sorrynotsorry) Dana Nuenighoff
  8. I have been sorted into both Hufflepuff and Gryffindor on Pottermore. I think if I were truly to be sorted, the sorting hat would think about Hufflepuff because of my love for animal, but ultimately decide that my sass would scare the poor Hufflepuffs and put me in Gryffindor. Mic gryffindor movies harry potter books
  9. I’m a diehard football fan. The Patriots are my boys. #freebrady #fourrings
  10. And finally my favorite books/authors: No surprise, I love kick**s female protagonists. Tamora Pierce, Sarah J. Maas, Susan Dennard, Sabaa Tahir, Marie Lu, and of course our host Brenda Drake, are just a few. I also love J.K. Rowling (who doesn’t) and Clive Cussler (Dierk Pitt books anyone?) return of the king eowyn witch-king shieldmaiden of rohan

Why Pick Me:

I’ll keep these brief because my post became a bit longer than I thought! But I am a hard worker. I am ready to make my manuscript the best it can be and I will bring the coffee and chocolate. No really, I will! Also, I’m just a lot of fun to hang out with.

I can’t wait until Pitch Wars starts! Until then, I will just be here, waiting.

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And you can stalk me on Twitter: @dananuens

Visit other #pitchwars blogs here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Survive Co-Writing

I recently guest-blogged about co-writing. Take a look!

WRITERS' RUMPUS

By Dana Nuenighoff

The idea of co-writing might seem great at first: “Hey, I only have to write half a story!” “Yay, I have someone to push me through my slumps!” And come on, what’s better than an awesome writer friend who wants to work on the same project. Heck, you can even become a less-funny version of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

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But co-writing is a lot of work. You’ve put two very creative minds to the same work and it’s not always going to be perfect harmony. Yes, you have someone to bounce ideas off and sometimes you won’t have to deal with writer’s block because you’ve got a partner, but you’re not always going to agree.

I recently started co-writing a project after writing three projects by myself. Here’s what I’ve taken away from it so far, and it’s going smoothly.

  1. Have a Good Reason for Co-Writing

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The Perfect Pitch

My post in Writer’s Rumpus this month.

WRITERS' RUMPUS

By Dana Nuenighoff

If you’ve been in the query trenches before, or if you’re about to jump in, you probably know that there a few ways to get your manuscript in front of agents and editors. One way is classic querying. You research agents and editors, pick the ones that best fit your manuscript, and tailor your query to them. Then you send your query into their slush pile with hundreds of others. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fine way to query. Many authors have found their agents and editors this way. But in this day and age, with social media, there are other ways to get your manuscript in front of agents and editors.

The writing community on Twitter has come together to offer querying writers amazing new ways to pitch to agents. Many published authors have created contests to help writers get their work noticed. Brenda…

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NaNoWriMo Thoughts

Hi all,

I apologize for my lack of presence the last month. November saw a lot for me, including my cousin’s wedding, my birthday, my mom’s birthday, my grandmother recovery from surgery, Thanksgiving, retaking the biology MTEL and on top of it all, I participated in NaNoWriMo. It’s a lot, I know. Every day felt like Monday.

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Thus my social media silence. I did guest blog over at Writers’ Rumpus early into the month, actually the same day I took my exam!

Here’s what I learned during the month of November:

BLOCK OUT ALL DISTRACTIONS!

I’m easily distracted….hello twitter….

That makes writing an even longer process. There were days I took 3+ hours to write 2000 words. It wasn’t just twitter that kept me from the computer. Here are just some of the more notable distractions from the past month:

-Boyfriend’s brother running down stairs in flannel and work boots claiming he wants to do “redneck shut.”

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-Taking an important teaching exam. (I failed, again.) This time I will be taking a class instead of reteaching myself High School Biology.

-Setting up shop at the cafe where you work part time. Especially in a small town where you know most of the regulars and are forced into small talk, or are jumped by your friends.

-Painting your living room and then deciding it looks so good that you have to do your kitchen as well.

-Football. 1 word, that’s all I need. When your team is undefeated until one overtime game at the very end of November.

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-Listening to Disney soundtracks while you work because it just makes you want to watch the movies.

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-Spending your birthday in a car with your parents and cousin for eight hours. I also didn’t have a voice due to the wedding the night before.

-Thanksgiving-after-dinner-shenanigans (bonfire, fireball shots…)

-Letting your Bearded Dragon out of his cage. He’s running away from me at this moment and I don’t want him to jump off the table.

-Alcohol. When I wrote at night, I never had wine or beer with dinner. Coffee and tea were my go-to drinks. When I was finished on November 30th, I popped open a bottle and turned on the Hallmark Channel. No lie.

And so, so many more.

To get rid of these distractions, I turned to doing sprints. I would put my timer on for half and hour and just write. More on that later.

GIVE YOURSELF A GOAL

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50,000 words feels like a lot, because it is a lot. Don’t focus on that number. When you sit down at your computer, know how much you’re going to write for the day. I usually gave myself a chapter a writing session. This really helped me because I’m writing 1st person dual POV. The chapters flip between characters, so each day was a different character.

CATCHING UP

If you miss a day, due to some event or wanting to sleep, you do need to catch up on your work. I used to write a chapter and a half for two days which would usually get me back on track. Sometimes it was more than that.

KEEPING MOTIVATED

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There are so many ways that you can stay motivated. I’m a competitive person, so going onto the NaNo site and looking at the graph kept me going. I hated when I fell below it. Really, I don’t like to fail and the days when I was behind felt like failing to me.

Also, in this category, is join a group. If you meet other writers who are going through NaNoWriMo with you, then you can support each other. I was part of a group from YA RWA. Each day we would post our word count and every now and then someone would ask if anyone wanted to do a sprint.

SPRINTS

20 mins, 30 mins. Whatever amount of time you want. Set your timer, put in headphones and don’t stop typing until it goes off. My longest sprint went for 900+ words, my shortest 600+. I blame the football game for that sprint. I didn’t know it wouldn’t be over by the time we started our sprint.

DON’T GO BACK

No matter how bad you think a chapter is, or how you’ve thought up a new subplot, don’t go back. You can always add in more during your first round of edits, or delete it. That’s what edits are for. NaNoWriMo isn’t going to land you with the perfect novel. But, words on paper are word on paper. Take them, use them. December is a time to slave over every word.

ONE PROJECT AT A TIME

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I did not follow this rule. My idea for this project came while I was editing another work. I started querying that piece just prior to NaNoWriMo. I stick with the rule, only query one project at a time, but I had one last query out for an older project of mine. Near the beginning of November, I received an R&R from an agent. I was ecstatic, but with NaNo, I didn’t have time to really look at it. Then, a friend of mine tore apart the opening for my other project. So, I started editing that as well. I didn’t add the word count of my edits into NaNo, but I would have passed 50,000 words much earlier on if I had.

If you did NaNo this year, even if you didn’t make 50,000 words, congrats. It’s a big step. No matter your word count, no matter the genre, you made progress. Don’t get discouraged, keep going. I didn’t finish my project until a week later, but I ended at 80,000 words. And again, it’s not ready to submit. I’m only on my first round of edits right now.

Writing a novel is hard, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But if you have a story to tell, tell it. The world wants to hear it. Just remember, it’s going to take some time.

How I Started Writing

So in my last post, I talked about not comparing yourself to others. Well, there is one person you can compare yourself to: YOU! Yes, it sounds like it doesn’t count, but think about it. Every time you write, you get better. You learn from your mistakes and from joining groups. In the past year, I’ve learned much more than I ever thought I would, mostly from the writing community on twitter. My skill has improved ten-fold, and I thought I was pretty good last year. Though, I will probably look at these posts next year or any of my manuscripts and wonder what I was on. I’ve been doing it since the moment I started writing.

Let me take you back to the end of the 90s.If you’ve already been reading my posts, you know I turn 25 this year, next Sunday actually (you’re allowed to wish me happy birthday on Nov 8th.) So, if you do the math, that means I was a kid in the 90s. To be more precise, I was 9 when Y2K came crashing in. But yes, I’ve been writing since then.

When I was going into second grade, my school devised a program. They decided to incorporate half the 2nd and 3rd graders into same class. I was in the multi-grade class. That meant I had the same teacher for two years.

I went into 2nd grade in 1997, the same time Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone came out in the UK. When The Sorcerer’s Stone came out in the US, my teacher brought it into class.

Now, here’s the thing. I didn’t like Harry Potter.
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I can’t tell you why now. I do remember being scared when they were in the Forbidden Forest. It took me until The Chamber of Secrets to like Harry Potter.

By the time we had read HP2, 3rd grade was upon us, the older kids had left and a group of 2nd graders joined us. My 2/3 class was great. Not only did we have reading time, but we had writing time.

During writing time, you could write solo or with a buddy. All of my 3rd grade friends buddied up and I was left alone. This happened to be a lot in following years, but I digress. Now, I could have written alone, but I wanted to be cool and have a writing friend.

There was this little second grade girl sitting all by herself. So, I went up to her and introduced myself. I still remember some of my “friends” looking over at me with these “what are you doing?” faces. But I sat down with her and we began to come up with crazy story ideas, like all kids do.

You might be wondering why I mentioned Harry Potter. Well, what do you think inspired us? We were obsessed with the idea of magic and wanted to create our own magic story.

In that class, we created the adventure of four young children: Crystal, Lily, Sam and Maria. Now if I remember correctly, because that first writing journal got lost somewhere, our story started out with Crystal making a wish for adventure. Yes, she was an orphan.

The wish brings Crystal to Lily and the two of them travel underwater where they save Maria from an evil eel and octopus. Then they travel North where they meet Sam, who is building an igloo. Lily knocks down the igloo because it was too small and makes Sam build a new one. Then they get eaten by werewolves, but escape through magic ways.

Yes, the story got quiet odd. But that’s the great thing about it. I can look back now and just laugh.

Through the years those characters stayed with us. Crystal was based on my writing partner, Vinsula, and Lily was based on me. Both Maria and Sam had someone they were based off of as well, but those people weren’t really a part of our writing.

Vinsula and I went our separate ways a few times, became close friends again and now though we only see each other a couple times a year, we still talk about our characters.

It surprised me to find out that she goes back to Crystal’s story every now and then, like I go back to Lily’s. I even wrote a manuscript about the four in high school.

This past summer, we actually started redeveloping the characters together and creating their whole story. We renamed Maria and Sam to Malia and Sky. Our idea is to have a MS with 4 POVs. Vinsula will work on Crystal and Malia, while I write Lily and Sky.

While I’ve obvious moved on to other works, these characters were my start and if I can finally bring their real story out, then I’ll be happy.

Now, this is the part where I embarrass myself. I’m going to throw down a few quotes from these stories to show how I’ve grown, along with my characters. Some of these are going to be atrocious, but that’s what I want to point out. So, enjoy! And whenever you get down on your writing, go find some old projects of yours and give yourself a good laugh.

Also, I’m keeping all the grammar and spelling mistakes in as well.

The next two months passed quickly for Lily. In the morning she attended classes, like math and history, were she spent most of the time passing notes, sleeping, or making a clothing statement (she thought someone had to spark the pages fashions up. Though she rarely touched pink.) After lunch she and the boys would head down to the practice courts where they would study the arts of fencing, archery, horseback, riding, tilting, staffs and hand-to-hand combat. Lily worked hard than she ever had in her life. Though Kel helped. It was Kel who kept Lily in place, I t was Kel’s shoulder she could lean on. It was Kel who taught Lily how to wield knifes.

-2004.
You might be able to tell, this was the time where I was reading Tamora Pierce. She was the other author who shaped my adolescence.

As Maria listed off the ingredients, Crystal pulled a cauldron out from a cabinet and Lily retrieved the supplies. Lily’s idea for creating a potion was to pour all the ingredients in together and stir. She would have done so, if Crystal hadn’t caught her at the last moment.
“What are you doing?” she demanded.
“Making a potion.” Lily started to tip the bottle of poppy into the cauldron.
“No, that’s not how you make a potion. Stand aside and let me do it.” Crystal pushed Lily aside. Glowering at her sister, Lily opened a spell book and began to read. “What do we need first?” Crystal asked Maria.
“Juice from an apple, peach, and pear.” Maria read. “But I don’t see them on the table.” she pointed out.
“That’s because Lily wanted a snack.” Crystal pried the bitten apple out of Lily’s hand along with the peach and the pear. Lily glared at her, but continued to read, chewing the apple she had in her mouth.

-2008
I was still in high school at the time. It was getting a little better, but not much.

“Lily is afraid of something?” Maria asked. “Please, that girl had never been afraid of anything in her lifetime.”
“Then you don’t know her. Lily puts on a tough face, yes. She might not be afraid of fighting, or heights, or doing anything stupid, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have fears. In fact, Lily’s a really emotional person; she just doesn’t let anyone see that side of her.”
“So what does she fear then?” Sam interrupted Crystal’s explanation of their sister.
“The uncontrollable.” Crystal replied.
What about the uncontrollable? Theo asked, just as interested in what Crystal had to say as the humans.
“Think about Lily’s life. She was always put down because she was a human, something she couldn’t control. Meeting us was another thing she couldn’t control. She didn’t ask to be separated from us at birth and then find out that together we’re supposed to save to world.”

-2010
Welcome to college. I still didn’t know the difference between showing and telling.

If the teenager next to her heard those thoughts, he would have told her that she was being ridiculous. Admittedly, he wouldn’t mention her long tan legs and well-toned body out loud. But skill with a sword and fist out matched his. As crown prince of Rowanvane, Kellan Terrain had gone most of his life think himself superior to most. That is until one crazy first year girl held a loaded bow to his face.
Three years later the same mischievous gleam sparkled in her eyes as she turned to him. “They’ve got two guarding the flag which is hanging off the courtier’s spear.”
“Cover for me.” He told her, shifting his position.
“Like I always do.” Lily mumbled. “Never get to be the hero.” Leaping over the wall, she sprinted full speed at one of the boys. Their practice swords clanged together as he stepped up to greet her. Breaking away, Lily swung in low. She had to be careful not to get hit; if a weapon so much as glanced off her padded armor in another team’s court, she would be taken prisoner.

-2013.
I made that passage omniscient instead of 3rd person limited.

And I’ve got two more passages from this year: one for the new idea Vinsula and I had, and one from a scene I’m working on for a contest. The thing I love about these characters is there are so many different ways I can play around with them.

Lily Namiri elbowed through the throng of drunken commoners, shaking her head. Out of all places that the crown prince of Rowanvane was expected to be, standing in a fighting ring was not one of them. Yet as the grueling crowd heckled and cheered, a solid young man climbed into the ring. In the dim lighting, they didn’t realize that the spitting image of King Frederick stood before them.
“Prince Kellan, what are you doing?” she asked under her breath.
The stale beer mixed with the tang of sweat, making Lily’s skin crawl. Why anyone would subject themselves to this torture when there were some low key taverns just around the corner. At least there she wouldn’t have to worry about her purse being snatched. Though she didn’t know who would try to steal from her. She stood as tall as most men in this place and had more muscle.
“You’re going to get your pretty face beaten.” Lily pulled herself into the ring.
Kel smiled at her. His brown eyes, the only trait he inherited from his Naibaran mother, twinkled. “I was wondering when you’d show.”

-2015.
This isn’t edited yet. It’s just an idea I scribbled down. But even my scribbles are better than my old work.

My rhythm had disappeared.
Even when no song played, I could find the music wherever I went. The drip of water combined with the rustle of leaves used to resonate through my muscles like a full symphony. Now, sandwiched between the other eighteen-year-old trainees, my ears were numb. I could see into the arena where Lane fought three attackers. Her movements were smooth and precise. The spear she wielded a blur. Yet no music in the clank of her weapon or the thump of her feet. I couldn’t predict her movements any more than the humans who stood beside me.
I swallowed the lump in my throat and took a step back. I couldn’t do this.
Someone grabbed my bicep.
“Where are you going, Lily?” Kel must’ve come down from the stands to make sure I fought. Damn him.

-2015.
In this piece, I tried something different. It’s a scene for a contest that I’m entering. I was trying to figure out what to write and this idea I had about a more serious story for Lily came up. In all my other writing, she is the warrior and the comic relief. So, I wanted to give her something more serious. I also switched to 1st person for this scene because it felt more immediate.

I hope you enjoyed me making a fool out of myself. Now it’s your turn. 🙂

Every Journey is Different

I’ve been listening to the Pocahontas Soundtrack as I draft my new WIP, so I apologize for any Just Around the Riverbend references I use. But, the meaning behind that song is what I want to talk about today.

If you’re a writer, you know that putting your words on paper is just one step of the process. It’s an important step, don’t get me wrong. If you’ve finished a draft give yourself a pat on the back. It takes motivation and perseverance to do that. You’ve sent it out to critique partners and groups, cut it down, killed your babies, renamed characters. Now comes the next step.

Everyone does querying differently. I’ve been in the trenches since February with my first MS. After getting rejection after rejection, never having a request, I got some good feedback. I’ve changed it around, but am going to let it sit because I’ve got another MS that I feel could be great.

I just started putting out that MS a month ago. I’ve gotten a few rejections, the ones with feedback mention that it is solely the marketability of the genre they’re worried about. Something I can’t do much about. Don’t get me wrong, it’s disheartening to get those emails.

I’m a competitive person. There were many reasons why I played rugby in college. I like to win.
rugby hits

But if you compete with other writers, then you lose. We’re all on the same team. We help each other clean up our writing and get ready for submissions. To spend time comparing yourself to others just hurts us in the long run.

Now I’ve entered contests, plenty of them with both MSs. For those of you who have done the same and never gotten in, it isn’t the end of the world. There are so many different paths waiting for you, just around the river bend. (Sorry.) So put those aside and jump in.
Just around the riverbend

I know getting a rejection can feel like the end of the world, especially when your friends are getting requests. They’re so excited, and you are too for them. But on the inside you feel like this some times:
Minions crying

DON’T! They wrote a different story than you, right? Does that mean their writing is better? Not necessarily. All that is is that they happened to find a certain agent or editor that likes their work. PUBLISHING IS SUBJECTIVE! I know we’ve all heard that before, but it’s true. Remember, all it takes is one YES!

Author, Susan Dennard, just had a great post in her newsletter about comparing yourself to others:
http://us3.campaign-archive1.com/?u=cdd0d036e9531dd416bf945b3&id=e79ef1007b

She’s also a great author to follow if you’re trying to break into the business. I suggest you check her out.

Just remember, if you’re putting your work out there for agents and contest hosts to read, you’re taking a step closer to your ultimate goal. It might not feel like it sometimes, but it’s true. So don’t ever give up just because you see someone else doing better than you.

The Art of Critiquing

If you’re a writer, you know that critiques are essential. Having a fresh pair of eyes reading your work helps pick up plot holes and grammar mistakes. They can point out when something doesn’t make sense, even if in your mind it does. It’s not that they’re trying to be mean. No, they want to help you make your work the best that it can be.
Superman

I’m part of a large critique group that meets once a month and you get to submit every few moths. I also have a smaller online group where we all send our work in each month, as well as another online group where we can submit whenever the mood strikes us. I also have a few critique partners.

So, for the most part I have a lot of eyes that go over my work. But with contests coming up, I started switching my pitch and first 250 of ELEMENTAL with other writers. Sounds great, right? Well, the other day a girl I was switching with messaged me back with my critique. In the forward message she said she had a lot of comments because she didn’t like my premise of a demon-fighting witch. She claimed that in literature most witches are on the same side as demons. So, I bit my tongue and read her comments. My reaction:
Weasley twins 2
(Yes, the Weasley’s will be backing me up.)

It’s not that I’m upset that she didn’t like it. I know that people have different opinions. It’s okay. I’ve gotten enough praise from my large critique group to know it’s a good story, even if the genre is a hard sale. But that’s not what the critique is supposed to be.

When you critique a work, you are looking for discrepancies in the writing. Your critique should be bias, well not totally bias. It is okay to let someone know if you like it or not. But your critique isn’t supposed to be based on that.

I went through her comments, and changed the places where she mentioned that I had telling verse showing. Those comments are helpful and made my scene better. So, I sent it back to her. She replied saying that she didn’t know why I sent it to her because she was just going to comment on parts she didn’t like.

Again, that’s not what you’re supposed to do. When you write a critique, you go over the mistakes you found, but you also mention what you like. If the writer has improved in their skills. If there are lines you were captivated by. If you would read on. A critique is not to tear someone down, but to build them up and help them become an amazing writer.

I’m fortunate enough to have met some amazing people through this process. I’ve grown as a writer since I started, and I have to place credit on my critique partners and the groups. A constructive critique creates a better writer, a negative one makes a writer stubborn. Just remember that when you are asked to look at someone’s work.