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

 

Pitch Wars 2017 #PimpMyBio YA Fantasy

Is it Pitch Wars time? Yay! So excited to meet new friends and learn about your awesome stories. Before we go any further, give yourself a hand, a pat on the back, a thumbs up…you wrote a book! GOOD JOB!

Check out more details about Pitch Wars, an awesome contest from Brenda Drake on her website. This is an excellent time of year to improve your writing craft, learn about agents and publishers, and connect with other writers, mentors, and freelance editors. If you’d like to see other #PimpMyBio posts, visit Lana Pattinson’s blog.

Cheers! My name is Jacy and I’m entering Pitch Wars with a YA fantasy for the…third time!

I have learned a major component of writing is to never give up!

I love everything fantasy and sci-fi, having grown up in the 80s and 90s among the Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Legend, The Princess Bride, and Return to Oz.

Some of my favorite shows from that time included Sailor Moon, X-Men, and Gargoyles. I best relate to Sailor Mercury – sweet, practical, and a little shy – until I get to know you. Authors that I love include Anne McCaffrey, Stephen King, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and J.K. Rowling.  A few of my favorite books include Shadowshaper, The Grisha Trilogy, One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Help, and Eragon.

Recently, I learned I’m a Xennial, a micro-generation of people born between 1977 and 1983 who survived the analog-digital transition. To round off this generation identification, I possess both cynicism and optimism, which describes me fairly well on most days. I also enjoy beer, bacon, and books – sometimes at the same time!

During college, I joined the student newspaper and really had a chance to flex my writing muscles. My journey to writing led to editorials, news stories, satirical newspaper editions, and meeting my future husband too. Totally worth it!

I earned a bachelor of arts degree in English and a minor in journalism. Eventually, I went on to earn a master’s in environmental policy and management. I’m proud to be a certified recycling professional – yes, it’s a thing. I took an exam and everything!

ABOUT MY MANUSCRIPT

Since I grew up in the 80s and 90s, most of my inspiration comes from such influences. I consider my story a crossover event of X-Men and The Neverending Story.

 

My story, A FEATHER’S FORCE, is a YA arcanepunk fantasy about a 16-year-old track star who discovers she inherited her super speed ability from another realm. This story is for readers who loved GRACELING’s fiercely independent heroine and INKHEART’s lush, whimsical portal fantasy world.

Here’s some #novelaesthetics of my story:

I’ve been working on this story for three years with a major overhaul in January 2017, thanks to an incredible editor, Lyla Lawless. She helped me discover the potential in my story and gave me valuable advice to improve my craft and make my story stronger. Seriously, look her up! I also have a dedicated CP/editor, Nicole D’Arcangelo, who has been by my side for the past several months.

I won a first page critique from the awesome Heather Cashman during the Pitch Wars workshop, which you can find here. Her feedback was super helpful and I’ve already revised my first chapter. I’m so excited about it!

Now, I’m ready to emerge from the revision cave and share this story!

We all need heartbreaking critiques

Writing is a tough journey. The path in a real writing to publishing journey must be long, treacherous and challenging. If it’s none of those things, you are on the wrong path.

walking-sad

After a bazillion revisions on my query, I needed critiques. And did I get some incredible feedback from other writers. They served me something raw, honest and organic. They pointed out the good and the bad. In fact, I needed the type of critiques that broke my heart.

heartbreak

I wallowed from their words and the idea of yet another revision. After a couple of days, I went back to soak in their thoughts, comments and suggestions. They spent so much time on me and I valued their feedback. Apparently, I had focused too much on plot (it read like a synopsis) and less on voice. So I got back to editing, it actually was easier.

writing

We all need heartbreak because we get so wrapped up in our own work that we fail to see it anymore. Just like those agents and publishers looking for stories subjectively, we as writers are also subjective about our own stories. We need someone else to help us down the path and point out the beautiful things we failed to see before.

water

Heartbreak makes us wiser and stronger. And we must continue down our path no matter how long, treacherous and challenging it seems. Never give up!

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Some random tips:

  • Take advantage of feedback from others, but don’t oversaturate yourself.
  • Learn what you can from the feedback, but always stick to your voice and your story.
  • Seek out query critique giveaways or opportunities.
  • Visit the Successful Queries page for examples.
  • Check out the archives in Query Shark.
  • Search Twitter hashtags for tips: #tenqueries | #10queries | #querytip

Feel free to comment with your links, tips and opportunities!

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!

#PitchWars is over, but my journey continues

There is nothing like diving right into something you are passionate about head first, but I was completely naked with flailing arms.
Like other writers before me, I had a story in my head that needed to be released onto paper. My story (about a girl who finds a portal in the basement of a coffee house that leads to a mystical realm) soon evolved into a novel of thousands of words and eventually into a planned trilogy with an epilogue. I felt so proud of myself! I wrote a book. I found beta readers and an editor. I was overly confident that I was on the right path.

Of course, I am an infant in this world of writing, but I started where anyone else would in a new industry; social media. I was on my own, floating on this raft of writing in a vast ocean of publishing. I slowly built my online presence, a website and a Twitter account. I interacted and discovered other writers and such. Basically, it was like trudging through molasses.

Then, I got this wild hair and sent out some query letters. I was elated about taking this next step or, at least, until I got my first form rejection within a week, which said, “Unfortunately, after carefully reviewing your query, we’ve determined that this particular project isn’t the right fit for our agency at this time.” And the last sentence read, “…we wish you all the best in your publishing endeavors.”

I was crushed. So, what did I do? Of course, I tweeted sarcastically about it, using a trending hashtag, #PitchWars. Then the weirdest thing happened. I had 9 favorites about my rejection tweet. At the time, I honestly didn’t realize it was part of a major social media contest by Brenda Drake. I entered and found myself among more than 1,500 hopeful mentees. If selected, you would work with a mentor to get your MS into shape for an agent round. Awesome!

So, I entered with too much expectation and hope. Then there were two weeks of painful waiting, tweeting, Google hangouts with ‘amazeballs’ new writer friends, sleepless nights, eating and drinking nights, stalking, inside jokes, gifs, and mentor teasers that we tried to interpret. I’m not going to downplay the fact that #PitchWars was excruciating.

At some point it hit me and I knew I wasn’t going to get selected by a mentor. I had zero requests for my partial or full MS. That part was tough. I asked the ‘amazeballs’ and got tremendous feedback that was super constructive. Writing is only supposed to get better. So after accepting this, I did what any hopeful would (and should) do, I cheered on my friends, whom I realized were further along in their writing journey. I barely made it to middle school and they were entering college or graduating. My two weeks of waiting ended up being a crash course in writing and publishing. I wouldn’t change that for the world.

But I never believed I lost. I never believed that my MS wasn’t good enough. I only believed that I have a different journey of writing.

Through this entire #PitchWars experience, I learned that the true writer’s community is about encouragement, celebration and reflection. It is also close-knit. Writing may seem like an individual journey, but you will cross paths with so many opportunities for collaboration. These opportunities can come in the form of other writers, CPs (thank you Claribel Ortega!), mentors, agents, story ideas, revising, friends and more. I suppose that’s why the acknowledgements may be the hardest part to write for your book.

Another important lesson from #PitchWars is that there is a certain way to handle rejection. Basically, don’t let social media be your warpath or show that you are having a bitter party of one. You will only end up hurting yourself.

Don’t let any amount of rejection block your path. Take a moment to sit on that log of rejection and reflect. Then, after a quiet pity party and a good, hard cry, get up off your ass, grab some friends and burn that damn log to continue your journey.
Here is my game plan:

  • Snuggle up with my CP
  • Revise the heck out of my MS
  • Beta read for others
  • Really use The Emotion Thesaurus to show, not tell
  • Seek other contests and critique opportunities through Twitter
  • Connect to more writer friends on Twitter
  • Buy/read books to support the community I met from #PitchWars
  • Stalk Writer’s Digest and other such resources
  • Use Query Tracker for potential agents
  • and finally…never give up!