I shelved a piece of my heart

I recently had to make a tough decision in my writing journey.

After spending four years writing and revising a manuscript, entering almost every writing contest with it (and not getting in), two solid rounds of cold querying, and 55+ form rejections later…I finally shelved a piece of my heart.

This was not easy.

I repeat.

This was not easy.

If you’ve been following me on Twitter for awhile, you probably have seen my pitches or even helped me critique this story along the way. My feedback was always a mixed bag and at some point, I knew where this might be headed.

But. Persistence.

My story, A FEATHER’S FORCE, is a YA portal fantasy about a girl who finds out she’s from another realm and only raised human to stay safe from a grandfather, who wants to steal her powers. Here’s a pitch from the past:

Ember can’t deal with her new siphoning ability let alone glowing tattoos crawling up her arms. But when her other superhuman friend is kidnapped for the king’s next experiment, she must embrace her true self or her friend dies. DARKEST MINDS set in sword & sorcery

I believed in this story so bad and for so long. In the last few years, I also wrote several other YA and MG stories, some of which are only outlines and unfinished.

However, knowing when to shelve a finished manuscript after years of writing, revising, and querying is one of the hardest decisions in a writer’s journey. This manuscript has been through so much and I tried so hard to keep it going. I finally made one final push in querying it December 2017 through February 2018. What did I do during the waiting period? I became a CP for a new friend, offered a book giveaway for new releases, tried to blog more, and wrote a brand new story – one that’s been in my heart and mind for years. And it’s TOTALLY different. It’s an adult mystery and I adore it!

That day I finally decided to shelve my YA portal fantasy was a day I received my 57th form rejection. I wallowed. I drank some wine. I binged television. I read a couple books.

Then I picked myself back up because PERSISTENCE! I also fell madly in love with my brand new story. So, here’s to the next leg of my writing journey and I can’t wait to see what’s around the bend!

Every leg of your journey will teach you things. Here’s some of what I’ve learned so far:

  • Timing is everything in publishing
  • Be patient. Seriously!
  • How to be a good Critique Partner for other writers
  • Wrap your arms around your close writing friends
  • The value of CPs and beta readers in your writing journey
  • NEVER GIVE UP! (but it’s okay to take a break)
  • Giving back to the writing community is important – whether you’re giving away books, critiques, or anything that’s encouraging and helping other writers succeed
  • How to craft a Twitter pitch and prepare a submission package
  • Celebrate the small stuff – whether it’s positive feedback or achieving your word count or even a shiny new story idea
  • How to pitch to agents and editors face-to-face, get excellent feedback, and requests for pages
  • How to revise – especially in removing filter words and passive voice
  • How to OUTLINE
  • How to accept rejections and learn from them

 

Slowly killing adverbs quietly and softly

When I write, I just write. For the most part, I just want to flush thoughts out onto a page. I worry about revising and editing later. Well. Sometimes.

One day, I tried this online tool called Edit Minion to catch sneaky things like adverbs and prepositions and weak words. It found several adverbs in my first chapter, so I decided to search through my entire young adult fantasy MS of 73,000 words.

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This was the result:

  • Slowly = 45
  • Quickly = 45
  • Probably = 34
  • Suddenly = 28
  • Especially = 20
  • Gently = 16
  • Carefully = 9
  • Loudly = 8
  • Softly = 8
  • Simply = 7
  • Strangely = 6
  • Swiftly = 6
  • Deeply = 3

Yikes, right? But think about it this way.

Adverbs are pesky opportunities in your writing. They give you a chance to write out thoughts in the moment of your creative writing time. Your writing time is precious and valuable, so don’t let pesky adverbs hinder your flow. Adverbs are simply placeholders to return back to and revise later.

Just based on what I’ve learned in my journey, you want to minimize adverbs in your writing. Here are some ideas:

  1. Adverbs can be replaced with either stronger verbs or stronger description.
  2. Rearrange your sentences.
  3. You can also delete adverbs completely, leaving the line up to your reader’s imagination.
  4. You can keep some adverbs. Adverbs aren’t always the bad guy in writing, especially if used moderation.

I have put together some revised examples for you. Please note that my MC’s voice has changed during this process and these examples are from my WIP (so it’s not polished).

Revised examples:

Original: The heart was trapped within the roots, still struggling, trying to escape. I quickly looked away, hoping it wouldn’t start moving again.

Revised: The sharp ends of the roots pierced into the struggling heart, causing it to bulge from strangulation. The scene was so intriguing; I was unable to look away.

 

Original: Heavy breathing trickled down the back of my neck as I bumped right into something large. I jumped away quickly and let out a gasp.

Revised: A sudden puff of warmth tickled the back of my neck, and the hairs on my arm stood straight up. Someone or something was right behind me. I jumped forward, looked over my shoulder and let out a gasp.

 

Original: I didn’t say anything and remained crumbled on the ground. I applied more pressure on my arm, trying to ignore the pain and my urge to faint, and the blood slowly stopped coming out.

Revised: I didn’t say anything and remained crumbled on the ground. The blood slowed as I applied more pressure on my arm, trying to ignore the pain and my urge to faint. 

 

Original: I stretched my neck a little farther and caught a glimpse of something. Then, suddenly, when my eyes adjusted, the other prisoner was right in front of me. “There you are,” he said when our eyes met.

Revised: I stretched my neck a little farther and caught a glimpse of the silver mark on his arm. “There you are,” he said when our eyes met through the bars. 

World Building Over Beer

Your story is YOUR story. Doesn’t it sound like a marvelous free-for-all, especially when it comes to world building? Oh, how I wish it were only that simple. I’m a very visual person and love descriptions so much that I typically use double-adjectives, according to my CP. While you do want to leave some descriptions up to the reader’s imagination, you still want to be the ruler of your world and help your reader see what you see.

On a business trip to London with my husband, we had a conversation about my novel at a British pub. He was curious about the world I was building for my story. As I described the world aloud for probably the first time, the questions started pouring out. We changed some things, he asked pertinent questions that questioned my ideas. I liked the hard criticism especially when it makes me say, “Wow, I didn’t think about that.” I highly recommend discussing your world with someone in person because it really helps your world come alive

How to work on World Building:

  • Invite a guest into your world.
  • Discuss your world over beer (or your drink of choice).
  • Imagine yourself and your guest in your world and be observant of your surroundings.
  • Describe your world out loud, as if you were a tour guide, showing your guest your world for the first time.
  • Have an open mind and let them ask questions. I repeat. Let me ask questions.
  • Reflect on their questions (take notes). You don’t always have to implement every comment, idea or criticism that passes you.
  • Edit, revise and review!

Questions to ask yourself about your world:

  • Is it magical or realistic?
  • What is the time period?
  • What is the history of your world? Yes, you have to invent the past.
  • Do they have technology or not?
  • What is the language?
  • What sounds do you hear? Birds? Wind? Water?
  • What is the weather like? Cold? Hot?
  • What is the season?
  • What about the sky? The sun? The moon? The stars?
  • What is the landscape like? Trees? Beach? Mountain?
  • Are there structures, buildings?
  • What are the people wearing?
  • What is the government like? The law? The rulers?
  • How are people treated?
  • How does your MC fit there?
  • What about the other characters?
  • What is everyday life like there?

On crafting names:

  • As you craft names for places (and people), say those out loud.
  • Can you pronounce them yourself?
  • Write out how you would pronounce those names.
  • Research the meaning of words. (This is super important for all the obvious reasons!)

And finally, get ideas from other worlds and periods of history and twist it into what you want to see in your story.

“Stories start working on you in a thousand different ways.” ~ Orson Scott Card

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Cheers!

My Manuscript is a Victim of Distraction

I’ve been working on my manuscript for two years and am currently in my third or 10th draft of revisions. I honestly have lost track. Writing is a tough process, but getting published is way more challenging and painfully heartbreaking. But I haven’t even gotten published yet.

When you come to a stopping point in your writing, you typically take a break to see what everyone else is doing. There are zillions of distractions and temptations, especially on social media.

Every few days, I am tempted to research lit agents or participate in a Twitter pitch contest or something related. However, each of these distractions take me away from my main purpose and goal: To have a complete and polished manuscript.

Temptations come in all different forms to distract you from your writing/revising focus. If they offered free donuts and coffee, I would be screwed. Here are some typical questions that may come to your mind when you are feeling tempted:

  • Am I ready to query?
  • Is my MS good enough?
  • Am I missing my big break?
  • Does anyone care about my story?
  • What if I just try it now and see what happens?
  • What have I got to lose?

Stop! Be HONEST with yourself. Are you really ready? Sometimes, you have to pull your head out of the clouds and ask yourself the tough questions. Combat those questions with ways to continue working on your MS:

  • What is your story goal?
  • What does my main character want? What does my main character need?
  • Why is my character reacting like that? What fuels him/her? What is their motivation?
  • What is my word count?
  • Do I have a plot? Is there tension, conflict?
  • Who is the antagonist?
  • Do my characters have bios?
  • Have I checked for overused/unnecessary words? Should I check for crutch words?
  • What does my CP think? Do I even have a CP?
  • Have I received all feedback from my beta readers? (Tip: make sure you have objective beta readers, not just friends who will tell you what you hope to hear.)

During my process, which is always going to be a process, I found some great resources to link to:

Writer’s Digest

Better Novel Project

Helping Writers Become Authors by K.M. Weiland

If you know of any other resources, which there are tons, please let me know!

However, for all those seeking temptation and information, here are a few Twitter Pitch Contests/Resources to know about for your future (in no particular order):

PitchWars

PitchMas

PitchSlam

PitMad

Pit2Pub

MSWL

…and there are SO MANY MORE…check out Carissa Taylor’s Blog for a massive list. Pitch Contest Calendar.