Écririons

Posts by Keisha Page

Looking for a Mentor? Pitch Wars May be the Solution!

For aspiring authors, it can be challenging to get their work published. It is hard to find the right channels and contacts to get a manuscript to the final stage of publishing. Putting so much hard work and emotion into a manuscript just to have a hard time getting people to read it can be emotionally difficult. Pitch Wars is the opportunity many authors in this typewriter-801921_1280position need. Pitch Wars give authors a boost to get to the publishing phase.

Pitch Wars is somewhat of a competition between authors. Hosted by published author Brenda Drake on her blog www.brenda-drake.com, Pitch Wars is a brilliant invention. Aspiring authors from all over the internet can submit their manuscripts to up to four mentors. Each week leading up to the submission day, Brenda is posting mentor profiles to help the contestants learn which mentors would be the right match for them. There are mentors for four different categories of writing: middle grade, young adult, new adult, and adult. For one day only, August 17th, 2015, authors can submit their pitch and first chapter of their manuscript in hopes of winning the eye of a mentor. If an author does win a mentor, they will read their entire manuscript and help the author spruce it up to help their chances in publishing.

Sounds pretty sweet, right? The contest is open to anyone, so if you think you are interested in submitting your work, here are a few tips for entering the Pitch Wars:

  • Your manuscript should be fiction. Do not submit any nonfiction works.
  • Only submit manuscripts for middle grades and up. Do not submit any picture books or elementary school books.
  • You can only enter one completed manuscript. Unfinished or previously published manuscripts, even self-published manuscripts, will not be considered.
  • You can only apply for up to four mentors, max. You do not have to apply for all four, but four is your limit.
  • Mentors will only consider manuscripts in the categories they signed up for. If you submit a manuscript to a mentor not signed up for that category, your manuscript will be ignored.
  • The sample chapter you submit must me in 12 point, double space format. This is typical manuscript format.
  • To enter, fill out the online form on her blog on August 17th. It goes live at midnight.

There are 92 mentee spots up for grabs! The submission period is only open for 24 hours, so mark your calendars now! Chosen mentees will be mentored for two months to get their manuscript ready for agents. So, between now and August 17th, check out the mentor profiles and decide what mentor(s) would be right for you. These mentors are wonderful resources in the publishing process and are not to be taken for granted. Please respect the mentors and fellow contestants. They will delete your application if they find you not to be compliant with the contest rules. So remember, have fun and play by the rules, and you could be published in no time!

Why Authors Need Harsh Critiques

Last night, I sent my newly revised first chapter of the manuscript I intend to submit to agents and publishing houses in January, to my harshest critic. I’m not-so-eagerly awaiting her feedback.
“My harshest critic.”
That just sounds terrible, doesn’t it?
In truth, my harshest critic has been my BFF for almost twenty years. We raised our children together, held each other together during divorces, lived together, and been “that person” who was always there, no matter what, for each other. She loves me to her core, just as I love her.
editsShe also believes that deep down inside of me is an awe-inspiring author. She chastised me several years ago for not working in the writing field somehow (I do now). When I sent her my already published short story, she sent it back ripped to shreds, with notes for revisions and pointing out weak spots. She’s not a professional editor, but she’s a great beta reader.
And because she loves me, believes in me, and knows what I’m capable of, she’s harsh. She tells me if a line of dialog works, if a scene is implausible, if I’ve left a plot hole wide open. She tells me if she loves my characters, or if she thinks they’re utter crap-and why. In short, I need her criticisms.
The already published short story that I sent her had been through three beta readers and a professional editor. While I fault none of them in the process, I’m the type of person who doesn’t take hints. I need beta readers and editors who spell it out and tell me exactly where I need to improve. Now, don’t get me wrong; my editor for my short was great, and I’m thankful I went through my first professional editing experience with her. She was exactly what I needed for a first editing experience because she helped me through the experience and made me realize that I need someone who, like she did, challenges me to improve.
If I have an editor that tries to be gentle with me, I’m never going to get to the point where I feel compelled to make it better. It’s only when challenged that I really shine. I’ve always been this way. I work best under deadline, and with someone pushing my buttons. My BFF does that for me.
As a creative herself (she’s a brilliant photographer), she understands that I need someone to challenge me to be better. As my best friend, who’s not afraid to hurt my feelings when necessary. She also knows how far she can push me before I become defensive (at which point, nothing she says is going to register).
So, when she sends me back a ripped up chapter later this weekend, how am I going to cope?
First, I need to realize that I’m emotionally connected to what I’ve put down on paper. That means it’s okay to let my feelings be hurt if she thinks my words aren’t as good as they could be. So if I need time to mourn, then I’m going to take that time to be upset. I may even let rum come by and help me feel better. Rum may or may not be joined by his buddy brownies or chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.
I’m also going to communicate. If she’s ripped something to shreds and I don’t understand why, I need to ask her. “What didn’t you like about that section?” is a crucial question to ask of someone who is critiquing your work.
I need to find something good. Usually, my BFF does that. Even in our conversation last night, after she’d done a quick initial read, she told me something she enjoyed. That lets me know she doesn’t think I wrote total shit, even when she then said it was too long. It’s not, technically, but if she feels it’s too long, that means the story is dragging, and I need to fix that.

 

For many people, their best friend isn’t the best person to critique their writing. Usually, your best friend doesn’t want to hurt your feelings and critiquing should be a thorough look at your work, which can sometimes be a harsh process. But it’s important that you find a great person to critique your whatever it is you’re working on, because it will make you a better writer. And that, my friends, is what this entire journey is about.

Do I Really Need an Editor?

Is today your first time reading my posts here at Ecririons? To catch you up, prior to today we’ve talked about building your author brand, making the decision about whether or not to hire an agent, different types of publishing options, and the benefits of writing groups. Today, we’re going to talk about editors.

EditorUnlike the Agent Debate, there should be no question on hiring a professional editor. I’ve read books where the author chose not to take that extra step, and I could definitely tell. Most readers, and some authors, have no idea how much a great editor adds to a book; not having one can make you look like a really bad writer, and that’s going to have an impact on your future sales. Generally, that step is skipped because it’s an expensive one, and I’m going to agree with you. A complete edit can be spendy, especially of a full length novel. That’s one of the reasons that the team model of publishing is so attractive so to many authors. I’m going to put it out here right now, though. Diana Gabaldon, Anne Rice, and George R.R. Martin all have editors. And they wouldn’t dream of publishing a book without the support of an amazing editor.

And editor does much more than just points out typos. An editor challenges you, asks you if you can make it better, and then, demands that you make it still, better. An editor tells you when the sex scene you’ve written couldn’t happen in real life (ask me how I know that!). An editor tells you when no one believes that your shifter is also a billionaire stepbrother. An editor tells you that the chapter that you wrote, that you thought was absolutely brilliant, is actually utter crap; and then an editor helps you write a chapter that is absolutely brilliant.

Of course, finding a great editor can be difficult in and of itself. Anyone can claim to be an editor. There’s not some guild somewhere, handing out certified letters of editing ability. I do a lot of web content editing, but I couldn’t tell you if you’re using an appropriate dialogue tag. So, the first thing you need to determine is what type of editing you’ll need. If you’re going to be self publishing, you want a full on developmental edit. A developmental edit is where the editor dives deep into your work, and makes sure that it, well, works. He or she is going to examine it closely, looking not just at dialogue tags, but at the overall work.

If you’re planning to submit to an agent or publishing house, at the very least, you’ll want a copy edit. This is the edit where a professional goes through and checks all of the copy issues: grammar, typos, misspelling, and those pesky dialogue tags. While your story should be well developed, I wouldn’t invest in a developmental editor at this point, as a publishing house may want to develop things to their own standards. It may seem a bit silly to hire an editor for a manuscript you’re just going to have edited at a publishing house anyway, but I would hate to have my manuscript set aside because I read when I wanted to lead and I didn’t catch it when I proofread it myself.

But how does one go about finding a great editor in a sea of less-than-great ones?

First, don’t be afraid to ask for credentials. While they may not be laid out on their website, they should be willing to send a .pdf that lists their education and qualifications for holding an editing position. There are organizations that certify editors. If someone’s only qualification is that they’ve edited a few books, that doesn’t mean they’re going to be bad at it, but I would think that you would need to spend extra time with them before deciding to hire them. I certainly would expect to pay more for an editor who held a college degree or advanced certification. Editing, like writing, can be learned, and everyone has to start somewhere, but if you feel the least bit iffy, choose to spend your money elsewhere. Many editors begin working on freelance platforms while they’re completing certifications. Look at the sum total of their credentials and make sure they have some kind of relevant experience.

Many vanity presses will have editors on staff. You may be able to contract with them just for editing services. Take a look at some of the other books that the vanity press has published; if you see a lot of reviews noting a lack of editing, then avoid working with that organization.

Most editors will offer you a free sample edit. This is to make sure that the two of you work well together. Some people need an editor that holds your hand. Some folks need an editor who is ruthless in her drive to make you a better author, even if that means you need to buy a case of wine when you’re done reading her first pass email. Some folks need someone who is a combination of the two. A sample edit gives you the opportunity to find out if her style inspires you, or makes you hate her. Find one who inspires you, pushes you, and maybe even makes you hate her once in awhile, but who you know will make you a better writer.

Finally, read your contract carefully. A friend of mine who signed with a smaller publishing house was surprised to find that editing was not included in her contract. When you sign with an editor, make sure that the contract specifies delivery dates; if you have a launch party scheduled and don’t have your manuscript back then, it would be bad to have to move it. If you have a pre-order scheduled through Amazon, and you can’t deliver on time because the editor hasn’t delivered by the date you agreed to, then you will lose access to pre-orders through Amazon for a year. While a contract isn’t a magic elixir for these types of problems, it does give you legal recourse if the editor fails to deliver (and gives the editor some as well).

I can tell you this for certain: while editing may be the most expensive part of self-publishing, it is never not worth the investment. Never. Not even “just this once.”

10 Ways a Writing Group Will Help You Be a Better Writer

As you may know, I didn’t start writing until I was older.  For awhile there, I wasn’t sure where to start or how to do any of the stuff that needs to be done when you want to publish a book. And, truthfully, my writing needed work. Lots of it. It still does, mind you, but I’vewriting Group improved greatly in the last few years, and most of that is due to the help of my writing groups.

I knew I needed help (which is the first step in identifying any problem behavior, right?) so I went looking for an online community. While I think a local group would have been great, there just weren’t any resources available to me locally. I live in a town of about 525 people. Yes, really. We don’t have a thriving community center that hosts book clubs and creative groups and moms get togethers every week. We have an eighty year old building that hosts a seniors luncheon once a week and an average of one birthday party, funeral, or baby shower per month. There is a local writing group that meets once in awhile, one town over, but that night usually interferes with something the family has going on. Plus, it’s an hour round trip, plus two to three hours in the group, after I’ve worked a full day and rushed around folding laundry and cooking dinner. That doesn’t work for me.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t look for a local group. Truthfully, I think local groups are great, and if I could find one that met at a time that worked better for me, or in a location that didn’t involve me driving on the highway late at night, during winters where winds can get to be 50 miles and hour and temps go below zero regularly, I might be up for it. Being able to have someone down the street for a critique, or for you to read out loud to in preparation for a public appearance, or to meet for coffee and commisserate over rejected manuscripts, would be awesome. But it’s not realistic for a lot of authors I know, who are parents with kids still at home, and working full time on top of trying to find time to write.

But an online community? Somewhere I could contribute to at 5 am when I have some time before I have to start breakfast and get dressed and help my nine year old find his shoes again? Where I can pop in and post a critique request while I’m waiting for the water to boil so I can put in the pasta for tonight’s dinner? Sign me up!

By chance, I had followed writer Katharine Grubb on Twitter, and she was posting about her writing group, 10 Minute Novelists. I jumped in with both feet, and, let me tell you, I can  honestly say that it was the best move I ever made. Here’s what I gained from joining a writing group:

1. A sense that I wasn’t alone. When I joined 10 Minute Novelists, there were writers there in all of the phases of publication-from published authors who had lucrative contracts and awesome agents, to people who hadn’t done much beyond a few NaNoWriMo attempts.

2. A support group. Those folks freely gave advice. Need a word to describe the feelings that you have when you have your first kiss (because you don’t remember because yours was 30 years ago)? Post it. Need to vent because you haven’t gotten any words written because you got stuck in traffic and the dog crapped on the floor and dinner exploded? Someone’s going to be around to listen. Need to celebrate because that agent you queried wants a full? Your writing group is there ready to party.

3. Access to resources that I would have spent months finding on my own. Think about your bookmarks tab. How many publishing related bookmarks do you have there? I have hundreds. Think about having access to 100 or 300 or 500 other people who also have hundreds of publishing related bookmarks. Someone is bound to have a link to the info you need.

4. A ready made critique group. In a writing group, you can always find someone who will critique or beta-read for you, for free. And because they’re writers, they’re going to give you advice that will help you become a better writer. And because you’ve connected with them through a writing group, and they’ve become your friends, they’re going to pat you on the back while you drink all the wine while reading your critiques.

5. Networking opportunities. In 10 Minute Novelists, several participants host chats. From there, I was able to watch an author lecture about world building for fantasy books, and ask any question I possibly could think of, of an agent (My question: What if you don’t follow the genre rules? His answer: Don’t query that novel. Wait until later or self publish that book.). I was able to find authors who were semi-local to me (remember, I live out in the boonies), so that when I’m ready to do a public reading, I can reach out to those semi-local authors and put together an event.

6. Marketing support. Did I mention support? When my first book, an anthology, was released, we had a Facebook launch party. Several of the attendees were there because other members of my writing groups had helped to spread the word. I’ve done the same for other authors, especially those in my genre, as we’re likely to share a fan base.

7. The push to be better. Through offshoot groups, some writing groups have contests, groups that hold each other’s hands during NaNoWriMo, or work on sprinting with specific targets or prompts to increase writing skill.  Also, when you read another author’s book and think “Holy shit. I really need to up my game!” are an eye opener, and fantastic for pushing you to be better. Especially when you know the author and you know they are down to earth and burn the dinner and fall down at inappropriate moments instead of being some magical, mythical being.

8. Exposure. One of my writing groups, The Writing Wenches, has a blog, to which I am able to contribute. This helps new readers find me (because the Writing Wenches all have one thing in common; it’s all about the romance, baby!). I’ve made contacts through my writing groups that have been happy to share about my latest release on their own blogs, and I’ve hosted more than a few author interviews and launch party celebrations on my own blog.

9. Someone to hold my hand. Writing is hard, y’all. There’s days when nothing works right, or days when that agent that you queried doesn’t want a full. At any time of the day or night, I can head over to one of my writing groups and find someone who can say “I know. I’m sorry. I’ve been there and I completely understand how you feel right now.” That’s invaluable in the writing world, especially if we don’t get a lot of support from friends or family.

10. Friendships. Those long nights of hand holding, or beta reading, or laughing over the most ridiculous words ever used in a love scene have built solid, long lasting friendships that I’m better for having experienced. I wouldn’t trade the relationships I’ve built for anything. As an author, there’s more to your life than just writing, and when you can have great friends who can be there with you in those other moments, both good and bad, it’s invaluable.

As you can see, I feel like writing groups are essential for a writer’s success. In fact, I would go so far as to say that even if I had never published, the experience of improving my writing, and making deep, lasting connections, has been well worth the price of admission.

The Unbeaten Path-My Story of Becoming a Published Author

So you’ve been reading my posts for awhile now, but you may not really know that much about me. This week, I’ve decided that I’m going to tell a little bit of my story; plus, it’s really important to next week’s post.
The Unbeaten PathI’ve always been a writer. One of my earliest memories is of playing with the dolls in my dollhouse, and trying to figure out what one doll would say to the other. Words have always had power to me, and in all of their delicious beauty, I’ve found solace and healing as I’ve made my way through life. I wrote in high school; long, angst-filled prose about the sad state of humanity and more than a little bit about my teenage ideas about love. I was the editor of my high school’s literary magazine during my senior year, and it was then that I realized that some people thought it was hard to write. I competed in competitive speech throughout junior high and high school, not so much because I enjoyed standing up in front of a room full of strangers, but because it was one way to get my words to be digested by other people.
And then, at the oh-so-very-young age of nineteen, I became a mother. For a great many years, I spent most of my days in that fog of life that overtakes you when you become a mother. An endless cycle of cuddles and laundry and enjoying someone else’s firsts, and mourning those you miss. One day, it was almost twenty years later, and I had five children in various stages of growing up; no one had digested any of my words in a very long time.
So I started writing. I started with a personal blog at first and then decided that I didn’t want to be quite that personal. I revamped things a little bit and basically learned the business of blogging, which led, eventually, to my being able to open my own business as a copywriter. But I still had all of these stories in my head that were begging to be told. Wait! Let me rephrase that; begging is entirely too gentle of a word. Demanding to be told.
Despite having written best-selling non-fiction books for entrepreneurs, I had no idea where to start writing fiction. I knew nothing about the publishing business, and my biggest obstacle was pretty personal-I didn’t feel like I could justify the time that I would spend writing on a maybe. What if I wrote a book and it was terrible?
But on my fortieth birthday, I finally closed my eyes and jumped off the ledge I’d been so afraid to approach. I started making it a priority to find free time and started looking for a writing group so that I could be around more experienced writers, and learn just how things worked in the publishing business.
I found a great, supportive writing group over at 10 Minute Novelists. It’s a big group now, and has a few offshoots; when I joined it was small and full of people who were mainly like me-busy moms who could only spend a little bit of time each day writing, but who needed to write much as they needed to breathe. At 10 Minute Novelists, I met the group of women who would become the core group of the Writing Wenches, and I can honestly say that without the Wenches, I would not be a published author.
Since those early days when I first started writing again, I have learned a lifetime’s worth of things. I’ve worked for a publishing company and expanded my own company’s offerings to be able to help people to self-publish. I’ve learned how to hold a Facebook launch party and I’ve learned that I do still have what it takes to stand up in front of a group of people and give them the chance to digest my words. I’ve learned that I’m not a terrible writer, but that there is always room for improvement.
If I were asked to give someone one piece of advice, as a writer, my advice would be to start today. Even if you’re stuck in that cycle of cuddles and laundry and growing children, or some other cycle that makes it hard for you to find the time, start today. Make time. I’m eternally grateful that my fortieth birthday turned into a catalyst for me to get off my ass and go put words together in sentences. I can’t say that I’ve lived a life with no regrets, but I can say that I have one less regret, because I’ve followed my heart and made my passion a reality by becoming a writer.

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