Showing posts with label NaNoWriMo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NaNoWriMo. Show all posts

Friday, February 19, 2016

My Very Own "How I Got My Agent" Story!

I have a literary agent.

Did I really just get to type that sentence?!

Two weeks later, and it's finally starting to sink in. It's something I've hoped for, worked toward, and daydreamed about for such a long time. Now that it's real, I'll do my best to squash into a few paragraphs the crazy journey that got me to this point, in the hopes that my story can encourage someone else. (Basically, I'm here to once again be that annoying person that shouts at you, "DON'T GIVE UP!")

All I ever wanted to be was a writer. I remember writing some of my first stories in elementary school. My go-to Mother's Day gifts were poems, decorated with doodles and stickers and homemade cardboard frames. (My mom still has one of them, tucked away in a box filled with old family photographs.) But somewhere around high school, becoming an author turned into a pipe dream--as likely as becoming a pop star, or an actress, or living in one of the castles on the posters I had pinned to my wall. (That's right, while my friends had N'SYNC and Backstreet Boys, I plastered my walls with maps of Europe.)

Still, there was a hope...maybe someday.

A few years later, and I still had my someday dream. The desire to write wouldn't leave me alone, and neither would my amazing husband who nudged and encouraged me to actually do something about it. So I enrolled in a writing course from the Institute of Children's Literature. I learned a lot about the basics of good storytelling, but most importantly, I learned what comes after you write the story: Querying.

Suddenly, the path to publication didn't seem so mysterious. It started to feel less like a pipe dream, and more like a possibility. Especially when I got my first acceptance letter for a short story I'd submitted to a children's magazine. But could I really go from short story, to full length novel?

Enter NaNoWriMo.

I wrote my first novel in November of 2009. 50K in 30 days. A young adult fantasy that no one else will ever, EVER set eyes on. (Seriously, you would probably fall into a plot hole and never be heard from again. But it proved to me that I really could write enough words for a whole book and for that reason, I will allow it to live out its days in peace, buried in a folder on my laptop.) I continued to participate in NaNoWriMo every November, and in 2012, I wrote my first children's novel. In 2013, I wrote my second, a middle grade fantasy called FOLLOW ME, which would eventually...

(fast forward to more recent months)

...earn me a spot as a mentee in Brenda Drake's 2015 Pitch Wars contest. My amazing mentor, Kara Seal, helped me make FOLLOW ME even stronger. I got a handful of requests in the Pitch Wars agent round, but it would be the slush pile that would finally land me an agent: the ever-so-lovely Marietta Zacker of the Gallt-Zacker Literary Agency! Marietta had actually read FOLLOW ME almost two years ago when it was still...well, let's just say "in progress." (AKA it was a hot mess, but Marietta's encouraging words spurred me to take it from "almost there" to "By George, I think she's got it!") After Pitch Wars, I queried her again with the revised manuscript, and I'm SO glad I did! From our very first conversation, I knew that having Marietta as my agent would mean having an incredible champion in my corner. I feel very fortunate to have found such a great match; someone who is passionate about my stories, loves my characters as much as I do, and is excited to help me build my writing career. 

The road here has been filled with highs and lows, plenty of rejections, tears, frustrations, and triumphs. Not to mention countless hours of rewrites, edits, and revisions (and a fair share of both pity-party and celebratory ice cream). I have gone from optimistic and sure of myself one day, to depressed and feeling like the worst writer ever the next. There were times I wanted to quit, but thankfully I have a community of family, friends, and fellow writers (and, of course, those pesky characters demanding their stories be written) who wouldn't let me. 

So here it is (I warned you it was coming)...

Even if it feels like a pipe dream...

Even if you feel like you've been at it forever...

Even if you've gotten a hundred rejections...

Even if it means shelving one story and starting a new one...

Even if the words don't come easily...

Even if you're terrified it's never going to happen...

DON'T GIVE UP. 

If you require further convincing, check out this blog post I wrote while I was in the midst of writing FOLLOW ME (and pretty convinced it was going nowhere): The Day I Almost Quit.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

NaNoWriMo Update and Special Announcement!

Hello, all! We've reached the last week of November, and for all you NaNoWriMo participants, that means winning has begun! To all of you who have reached 50,000 words--congratulations! To those still plowing ahead toward the prize, consider this a big ol' rah-rah-you-can-do-it! complete with pom-poms.

This year will be a first for me. The first time I don't reach that magical 50K. HOWEVER, I did reach those two beautiful words: THE END. I completed my first draft at about 37,500 and decided that this year, I was going to call that a win and be happy to cheer everyone else across the finish line. I'm proud of the fact that I pushed through and completed the very rough, messy, and fractured first draft of my next novel. I'm also quite happy to enjoy the rest of my November with a little less stress. (There are Christmas trees to be put up and decorated, after all.) Editing will begin soon--I gave the first chapter to my writers' group last night to make sure of that.

Now...Announcement!

Next week, I will have the immense pleasure and privilege of hosting an interview with author Erin Healy. She will be sharing some exciting tidbits about her upcoming book Stranger Things. Plus, you might just get to preview her new novel AND have a chance to win a copy for yourself. Make sure you come by the blog on Monday and check it out!

With that, I'm off to prep for turkey day. This year, I'm thankful for all of you who have visited my blog and read my posts. You've helped make this writing journey even more awesome. Have a lovely Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Day I Almost Quit

It's noon and I still haven't put up today's blog post. Why?

Because I almost quit last night.

The last two weeks have been filled with some serious ups and downs. This year's NaNoWriMo project is not going easy on me. Some days the words have flowed well, but most days it's been an uphill struggle to keep moving forward. Not necessarily because the story isn't there, but because I'm not meeting my own expectations. Last year, I averaged 2,300 words a day and I was in love with my story. I knew exactly where I was going next, and the snags were few. This year, I'm lucky to meet the required daily 1,667 by midnight each night, I have no idea what to do in my next scene, and my entire story seems like one gigantic tangled mess.

I was hoping that last year's finished novel would be some sort of magical line in my writing career. Beyond this line, everything would be easier. Every first draft would be gold. Every story and character would be loved and cherished through the entire process.

Or something like that.

Instead: Reality. In all honesty, I knew it would be hard. No dream is ever easy to reach. No passion ever really reaches perfection. There's always more learning and growing and hard work to be done, even after harvest. But I was completely unprepared for how difficult this month would be. It seems my fifth NaNoWriMo is shaping up to be my most difficult. Last night, after ignoring my novel for as long as I could (it's only 36 days 'til Christmas--I HAD to finish crocheting that stocking), I finally sat down at 10:30pm and coughed up 1,000 words before giving up an hour later.

And then I tried to convince myself of all the reasons why it was okay if I gave up completely.

After all, I've chalked up four NaNoWriMo wins--that's not too shabby. We're all allowed to have an unfinished year, right? Why should I waste my time on a story I'm not enjoying? A story that will probably end up in the trash bin anyway.

And there was the truth. Or, should I say, the lies.

The story isn't good enough. 
I'm not good enough.
I'm wasting my time.

I went to bed discouraged and defeated--and while we're being real--with a soggy pillow.

But thankfully, dark nights are often followed by mornings of clarity. I was reading some sample chapters of an upcoming novel from one of my favorite authors (I'll be sharing those pages with you in a couple weeks, so stayed tuned for more info on that!) and I had a thought. It's a thought I've had many times before that has always given me new life when I'm in the writing dumps.

This book is made of words. Simple, everyday words put into sentences, put into paragraphs, put into chapters to make a book. The story is beautiful, well written, intricate. But it all begins with just...words.

I like words. I can handle that. I can do that.

So I sat at my computer and wrote 300 more words this morning. They might not be perfect, they might get thrown to the cutting room floor come December. But if I want to be a writer, I must be willing to risk the imperfect first draft. The messed up timeline. The characters who aren't sure who they are yet. The villains who seem undefeatable.

Because I don't want to be the person who missed out on a great story because she quit in the first draft. I don't want to be the person who misses out on future possibilities because I focused on present difficulties. My story might not make it to 50,000 words (it is a children's book after all, and I'm focused on the 35K-45K range) but I don't want to stop before THE END.


So, as a reminder for myself and anyone else who needs it, here's today's picture quote.




Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Hungry Novelist

Hello, all! Sorry for the quietness of the blog this week. But when your graphic design business hits the busiest time of year AND you're attempting to write 50,000 words in 30 days, you've got to make time for basic human needs, like figuring out the bare minimum amount of sleep you can get while still being able to function.

Which brings me to the topic of today's quick post.

Writing a novel in a month would be a lot easier if it weren't for the pesky necessity to eat, sleep, and have clean laundry. (Not to mention taking care of little ones if you have kids.) When you're trying to squeeze every bit of writing time you can out of every day, its nice to have quick and easy meal fixes. Getting up early and putting in a few hundred words before the kids get up has been saving my butt (and my word count) and this year I found a recipe that's saving my breakfast: Refrigerator Oatmeal. It's easy, delicious, and writing friendly. Win, win, WIN. It's one of those recipes I've had pinned to my Pinterest board for forever, but never got around to trying until now. It's perfect for NaNoing, because you can throw the ingredients together the night before and have a magical breakfast waiting for you in the morning. Plus, when inspiration hits mid-bite, you can type to your heart's content and come back to it. No more cold eggs or soggy cereal.

You'll need the following basic ingredients:
A mason jar with lid, at least half-pint in size (Or any other container with a lid. You could use Tupperware or recycle a jar!) 
Rolled Oats (The site where the recipe is from says to use old-fashioned, but I cheated and used quick oats and it turned out just fine.)
Milk
Greek Yogurt
Chia Seeds
Fruit and/or Jam or Jelly

And here's the recipe I've been using:



Refrigerator Oatmeal
1/4 cup uncooked oats
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tsp. dried chia seeds
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 T. jam or jelly of your choice
1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped fruit of your choice
(My combos of choice have been strawberry jam, with peaches or mixed berries. You can use fresh fruit, or thawed frozen fruit.)

Place the oats, milk, yogurt, chia seeds, vanilla extract, and jelly in the jar. Put the lid on and shake until well blended. Stir in fruit. Refrigerate overnight, or up to 2-3 days.

Viola! You can find lots of recipes for different flavor combos, including apple cinnamon, banana peanut butter, and pumpkin pie, at the original post over on The Yummy Life blog.

P.S. I'm right on target with NaNoWriMo, at 8,806 words. The story is slowly building itself and I'm excited to see what comes about in week two as my character enters the woods. How is your noveling going? I'd love to hear your word count in the comments!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Countdown to NaNoWriMo (T-2)

When it comes to novel writing, I'm a pantser at heart. But in the interest of actually being able to finish what I start, I do have to do some planning before the writing begins. Honestly, I hate outlining, so my process goes something like this...

Figure out the beginning.
Figure out the end.
Figure out the rest as I go along.

That being said, I promised you a summary of this year's NaNoNovel in yesterday's post. Since I'm not entirely sure of all my plot points yet, you'll have to forgive me if it's a little vague and not quite dust jacket quality. Also, there's a slight chance I have trust issues am a bit paranoid about putting my ideas on the internets. (But there's also a chance that being chosen for 30 Covers 30 Days is a secret dream of mine.) All that aside, a promise is a promise, so here goes...

12 year-old Alivia knows what no one else believes: The woods took her mother. And now the forest is calling to her with two words whispered on the wind. 

Follow me...

On the other side of the trees is a carefree world where magic is real and the tea is always sweet. But once she enters, Alivia discovers a darkness seeping through the moss and golden leaves. A darkness she must stop if she's ever to see her mother again. At least, that's what the old white rabbit with the broken pocket watch tells her.

By the way, did I mention her mother's name is Alice?

Your turn. What are you writing this November?



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Countdown to NaNoWriMo (T-3)

It's here. The final stretch of that exciting and often panic-filled week leading up to the start of NaNoWriMo. As November 1st nears I am once again afflicted with what I like to call "NaNo Nesting" in which I desperately try to clean my house, plan a workable schedule, make sure all my notes are in one pile, and double check that the tea stash is well stocked. Since I land somewhere in between a planner and a pantser, my NaNo prep doesn't usually involve a lot of outlining and mostly consists of lots of boring, non-noveling housework. So today, I wanted to share a couple of fun things I've done in between buying new Sharpie pens and organizing my kids' closet.

NaNo Playlist
While I have a definite appreciation for silence (I'm a mother of two young children. Need I say more?) I'm the type of person who connects strongly with music. These songs don't necessarily have anything to do with my story lyrically. Instead I tend to choose songs that drive me creatively and carry a certain emotional feel. My soundtrack varies from year to year, depending on what type of novel I'm working on. Here's this year's playlist:

1. Pure Imagination - Fiona Apple
2. Introduction - Noah and The Whale
3. Static Waves - Andrew Belle ft. Katie Herzig
4. Your Head and Your Heart - The Saint Johns
5. Fall Asleep - Jars of Clay
6. Follow Suit - Trent Dabbs
7. The Ladder - Andrew Belle
8. I Had Me a Girl - The Civil Wars
9. Amsterdam - Imagine Dragons
10. Whisper Something - Aaron Sprinkle
11. Trees - Twenty-One Pilots
12. King and Lionheart - Of Monsters and Men
13. Pioneers - The Lighthouse and the Whaler
14. Devil's Backbone - The Civil Wars
15. Youth - Daughter
16. Alright - Aaron Sprinkle
17. Stuck - Canopy Climbers
18. Shuffle - Bombay Bicycle Club
19. Radioactive - Imagine Dragons

Give it a listen on Spotify. Like what you hear? Follow the playlist to be notified of any updates to the track list.

Pinterest
Instead of downloading a bunch of images to my computer, I decided to create a Pinterest board for inspirational/reference images for my novel. You can check out the board called "Follow Me" (the tentative title for my book) and if it piques your interest, tune in tomorrow. I might just be sharing a summary of what I'll be working on this November...

So, do you also suffer from NaNo Nesting? How are you prepping for Friday?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Top 5 Reasons You Should NaNoWriMo

Imagine a place where a band of people, connected by a common passion, unite with fortitude, determination, and just a smidge of insanity, to attempt a journey of near impossible odds. A journey whose success lies not in the final destination, but in every step taken along the way. A journey which could alter the very course of history.

We call this place...

NaNoWriMo
*aka National Novel Writing Month, aka November

The challenge? Write 50,000 words in 30 days during the month of November. The prize? Besides major bragging rights and that oh-so-good feeling, you'll have a novel in your hands. Sound impossible? We Wrimos laugh in the face of impossible. Here's my top 5 reasons you should start perfecting your maniacal cackle and sign up.

1. There's no time like NOW.

Whether NaNoWriMo has been on your bucket list for years or you're brand new to the idea of writing a novel in a month, to you I say, "Why not?" Somedays have a sneaky tendency to turn into nevers, so why not just go for it? If you don't reach the 50,000 word goal, there's always next year. And you're a lot less likely to make future excuses if you've dipped your toes into the water this year.

2. It's Habit Forming.

They say it takes 21 days to create a habit. After 30 days of literary abandon, not only will you be hooked on NaNoWriMo, you'll be well on your way to an established daily writing routine.

3. There's No Knowing...

You never know what will come of the words you write. Bestselling books Water for Elephants and The Night Circus both started as NaNoNovels. Whether you end the month with 500 words or 52,378, you never know where those words might take you.

4. It's a Magical Place.

We have plot bunnies and word sprints and decadent amounts of candy and caffeine. Seriously, it's like Willy Wonka's chocolate factory and we all get to be Charlie. Being part of NaNoWriMo means being part of a global secret society. The cool inside-jokes kind, not the creepy sign-in-blood kind. Although, I've never been inside the Horror genre forum...

5. And in Conclusion...It's Just Plain Fun

From smack talk in cross-country (and sometimes cross-continent) word-count rivalries, to connecting with fellow writers at local write-ins, to receiving encouraging and hilarious pep talks in your inbox, NaNoWriMo is an absolute blast. Whether or not you're able to log 1,667 words a day, you're going to come away with an amazing experience, a few new friends, and a renewed passion for writing. And that, my friend, is reason enough.

So what are you waiting for?

nanowrimo.org <<click to sign up
paperpages <<click to view my NaNoWriMo profile and send me a buddy request!





Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Writing Lessons: Go for It

I've learned a lot of lessons as a writer over the past few years.

-In dialogue, characters can speak, shout, and whisper words, but never laugh or smile them.
-It is possible to edit 1100 words down to 500.
-I need to proof read carefully because my pinky finger has a mind of its own when I'm typing and insists on turning every "its" into an "it's".

But one of the biggest and best lessons I've learned is to just go for it. So many great things in life can come out of a willingness to take a chance.

I took a chance and, at the urging of my wonderfully supportive husband, enrolled in the Institute of Children's Literature. I've sent out dozens of short story manuscripts to children's magazines and braved the sting of rejection letters. I started a writers' group and began handing over pages filled with my heart and soul to be critiqued. Because of these things I learned how to pursue my dream of being a writer, received 5 publication acceptances, gained some wonderful friends, and my first children's novel is being edited and polished into something beautiful.

Last year I submitted a picture book manuscript to an agent. She didn't choose to take me on as a client. She said my book wasn't unique enough to make it in such a competitive market. But she did have some very nice things to say about my story. And if I hadn't gone for it, if I had chosen to let fear of rejection, fear of a harsh critique stop me, I would have never gotten those encouraging words that helped me feel like there was hope for my dream. (Not to mention that next time I get ready to contact an agent, I'll feel like I kinda, sorta know what I'm doing).

Last week I took another chance. I pitched my children's novel to NaNoWriMo's pitchapalooza. I'm sure I am just one of thousands vying for the 25 critique slots. And chances are probably slim that I'll be chosen as the grand prize winner and be introduced to an agent. But in the end, winning isn't the sole purpose of my submission. The purpose is practice. The purpose is growth. The purpose is to go for it. Like the old adage says, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

If you're going to chase a dream, you're going to have to take risks and put yourself out there. Sure, it might not happen. March 5th might come around and there will be 25 pitches and their accompanying critiques posted on the website, and it's very possible none of them will have my name on it. But then again, one of them could. One thing I know: Absolute statements like "that could never happen" don't belong in my vocabulary.

Mark Twain sums it up well in this quote, which I'll leave you with...

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.