Tag Archives: Writer

Sequel-Hell: About to Commit Manuscript-icide

I’m in that horrible, gut-wrenching place called “Sequel Hell.” Where you frustrated-writerquestion everything about the plot, the characters, even the overall plausibility of the trilogy. My confidence is near bottom on this thing.

I’ve finished the first novel in the trilogy and sent it out to several publishers (it’s a romantic suspense). I have the plot outlines on both the second and third stories, and I’m not quite halfway through writing the second. And I want to rip it to shreds already. Not just rip it to shreds, but make snowflake chains of it and watch it float over the edge of a massive canyon. Call this the edge of Manuscript-icide.

I’m hoping this is just a case of the ‘drastic willies.’ I’ve told a few of my friends who visited “Sequel Hell” recently that they were just overreacting. I helped talk one of them off the ledge of manuscript-icide as well. The stories were fantastic (because they are!!! *Cough* Kim and Chrissy.) But I’m not so confident that’s the case with mine.

My goal was to have the first draft of this novel completed by Dec 31st. Not going to happen. Mild panic attack set in last week when I realized there was only 2 weeks left until that deadline, and I still had a crap load of non-writing related stuff to do. Which takes away from my fragile writing time. Throw in a few minor complications with a pregnancy that requires more doctor visits…bottom line is that deadline is just unrealistic at this point.

So now I have a more realistic goal: finish the first draft before this baby comes.

That is, if I don’t have to start all over again. Which is very possible with the way my brain is functioning right now. *manuscript in hand, approaching the freakin’ ledge*PaperOffLedge

How To Choose a Writer’s Conference

*This article originally appeared in the GFWWriters June 2013 Newsletter*

CoWritten by author C. A Szarek.

So you want to attend a writer’s conference? First time? Even BETTER!HowtoChoose

There are so many great ones out there. Before you make any decisions, make sure you do your research, talk to others that have gone; listen to what they have to say.

Most conferences have their agenda listed with plenty of time to review it beforehand. Read over it carefully so you can plan your conference experience.

What do you want to accomplish? If you’re attending to socialize, you’re not maximizing the resources writers’ conferences offer. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with meeting other authors, but it probably wouldn’t be beneficial if this were your main attendance goal.

Authors attend conferences for many reasons, but here are a few main benefits that draw people.

*Pitching: This is a fantastic opportunity that is rather unique to writers’ pitchingconferences. Personal, face-to-face contact with editors and agents who want to give you a shot. Believe it or not, they attend conferences for some of the same reasons as authors, but the positive thing here is these particular editors and agents make time because they are actively seeking quality work.  No waiting in that pesky slush pile email box.  Here are tips on how to create a perfect pitch.

Sometimes these are what we would consider big deal editors from the coveted New York Houses that you don’t get into without an agent. This is a major benefit of a conference. On the same token, agents are not always easy to sign. Speaking to one face-to-face, whether from a big agency or not is a great opportunity. Even if your current project isn’t right for them, your impression can make them remember you.

This alone can be a great reason to attend a conference. But make sure you research well. Some conferences charge extra for this perk, though most don’t.

If you’re a conference virgin, even the thought could have you shaking in your boots, but don’t. Editors and agents are people, too. They enjoy talking to you. Just think of it like this: You can practice your pitch all you want, but if it’s not natural, it can lose appeal even if your words are awesome. So speak to an editor or agent as if you’re telling your best friend about your book. No one knows the book better than you.

Don’t let nerves make you miss out on this conference-unique opportunity.

*Workshops: Most conferences have a variety of sessions that cover everything from craft to marketing to industry trends. This should be a deciding factor in which conference you choose. No matter what stage your career is in, whether you’re pre-published or have several books out there, you never stop learning as an author. The more you write, the better you get.

So, look at the agenda (most will have it available beforehand) and see which would benefit you most. You shouldn’t have any ‘free’ blocks in your schedule. There should be so many interesting classes you just have to attend, how can you possibly choose between them. Research the presenters as well: are they experienced in what they’re presenting? Have they given it before and have others found it helpful? Workshops can be one of the best reasons to attend a conference.

*Book Signings: A perk of many a conference is a book signing that’s open to the public. Hopefully this won’t be your only reason for attending a conference, but it can be a nice experience as well. You get your name and your book(s) out to authors as well as the general public. Here are tips on how to have a successful book signing.

If you are going to take part in a signing at a conference, ask questions. Will they have a sponsor? Will you have to be your own cashier for the books you sell? Will sales benefit a charity? (This is very common at conference book signings) and research what turnout they usually have, if the conference is annual so you can plan the number of books and swag you need to bring.

*Networking: Another awesome reason for attending a conference! Read thevintage-social-networking brochure/agenda to see what headliners will be at the conference of your choice. Then, make it a point to speak to these people. Yes, you really can talk to famous authors! Just like editors and agents, they’re people, too! You never know what kind of friends you could make—for life.

Let your inner social butterfly come out and shine! It pays to talk to people. Writing, like any other industry can depend on who you know. So make contacts! Get business cards and keep them handy. Write down their email addresses or website, and get their Twitter handles.

Other authors, editors, agents, you never know who can be around the corner, at a meal, even hanging out in the lobby at the conference. Make use of free time by being observant. Read name badges. Don’t be afraid to ask other authors what they write. And remember, when someone asks what you write—they really do want to know.

You could end up with a fantastic critique partner or some awesome new reads.

Other factors to consider in choosing which writer’s conferences to attend are:

*Genre Specific: Make sure you pick a conference that includes the genre in which you write. If your stories are mainly thriller or science fiction, then attending a romance based conference won’t be as helpful. There are plenty of conferences that are more specific to a particular genre to which gears many of their workshops and key speakers. Pay close attention to those. But of course don’t disregard the broader conferences like the Writer’s Digest Conference, where many big editors and agents always attend, looking for new talent for their lineup.

*Budget: How much can you spend in a given year on these conferences? Between registration fees, airfare, hotels, food, books, contests, and other miscellaneous items, the endeavor can get expensive. The best conferences are those that do not charge extra for pitch sessions, specific workshops or even parking. Make sure you choose one that has all of those included (unless you don’t plan to pitch your manuscript).  Another tip is to choose conferences that are geographically close, saving you the cost of airfare and/or hotel. Or if you have several friends all attending, split the costs by sharing a hotel room and make a road trip out of it. Most conferences offer an ‘early-bird’ rate, so book early if you can. Some conferences also give out ‘scholarships’ to help ease the cost to a few individuals who present a financial need.

*Attending Agents/Editors/Authors: If you’re pitching a novel or just want to meet the experts in the industry, make sure the ones you’re really interested in plan on attending. Conferences will always list the names of presenting authors, agents and editors on their websites in advance, especially those that will accept pitches. They often include the kinds of stories the experts are actively looking for. So research the editors and agents attending and see if they cover your topic/genre. If you’re spending this much money, make sure it’s worth your while.

Conference Etiquette

~Dress appropriately. No one is asking you to wear an uncomfortable suit or dress or three-inch heels for an entire day of workshops, presentations and pitch sessions. But be professional. Don’t show up in ratty jeans, tank top and flip-flops.

~Don’t stalk agents/editors in the bathroom or just before they present. They are clearly focused on other things and they won’t give you their full attention. And it’ll annoy the hell out of them, and that’s not the kind of impression you want to leave.

~Networking is a must, but monopolizing conversations with constant reminders of your story is a turnoff. Give others a chance to talk, and LISTEN.

What to Bring

~Business cards with your email address and contact info (write the title and genre of your current work on the back)

~Notepad or Notebook and a good pen

~Synopsis/Query Letter

~A prepped 1-line ‘elevator pitch’ of your story.

~A small messenger bag to carry the ‘goodies’ you’ll get

~Cash- for buying books, the cash bar, raffles, tips for housekeeping

~Light Jacket/Sweater- you never know how powerful the air conditioner will be

~Extra Luggage Bag- to cart home the extra books and stuff you’ll get (if you’re flying, and if you don’t leave extra space in your original bag)

~Snacks- if you’re staying at the hotel overnight, do you really want to pay hotel prices for a bag of chips or granola bars?

What to Leave

~Laptop (leave it in the hotel room)

~A copy of your full manuscript. If agents ask for it, they all prefer email. (Why would you want to cart around the extra weight, anyway?)

~Shy or Wallflower Tendencies- this will kill your experience at conferences, and the whole point is to network and meet people who will help advance your career and/or skills

Hopefully this will help you in deciding which conference(s) to attend and how to prepare. More than anything else, remember why you write: what keeps you going back to that keyboard or notepad? Everything about a conference is supposed to help make you a better writer and be more successful. Good luck and keep writing forward.

AUDREY’S PROMISE Cover Reveal

Now for the long-awaited cover of my contemporary romance novel, Audrey’s Promise. My debut novel, and I’m constantly giddy over it.

AudreysPromise_CoverL

Audrey’s Promise will be published Nov 1st, 2013 with the Wild Rose Press.

Audrey Allen is poised to become the youngest Texas Senator, a position she’s primed for with her nickname, “The Peacemaker.” But she’s unable to make peace with many in her hometown, where memories and grudges run deep from a decade-old tragedy. Ethan Tanner, ambitious and tantalizing journalist, joins her home for Thanksgiving for an in-depth look at the promising candidate. But he has an agenda of his own that’s not entirely honorable. Will he stir up more trouble for her budding career, or awaken the deep passions she’s buried for so long? Can Audrey hold on to the promise she’d made?

Darker Side of Writing

I started writing this story that planned to be more romance than suspense. As BookRoseI’ve written further into it, it’s becoming more suspense than romance, but what concerns me the most is this has become darker than I anticipated.

I realized my motivations for one of the major turning points wasn’t strong enough. But I had to get my heroine, Gemma, to abandon everything she knows to join the hero back to his home country. So instead of leaving to keep her home safe, I’ve forced her to leave because her home doesn’t exist anymore (for lack of better explanation, and I don’t want to give spoilers!)

But I’m struggling with how much darker the story has become. I normally don’t write this morbid, but it makes the motivation strong enough for the character. One particular scene had me in tears as I wrote it, but it was crucial.

The reason I’m so concerned is this doesn’t fit the standards of the current publisher I work with. Selling this story could prove to be more difficult than I’d like.

Writers: have you ever experienced something like this? Where a story morphs into a different genre or tone before your eyes? How do you handle it? Or maybe I should finish the thing first and worry about those issues later. Hm, conundrum.

Writing Retreats

Dilemma. Need solutions. Isn’t that the key question to most everything? :) Headhache

My writing muse is firmly stuck in dozing mode. Normally, this is frustrating enough. Yet a few other writing friends of mine are also stuck. In either initial first draft, edits, or the dreaded (but interesting problem) of second-book-curse-oritis.

Aha! Solution: writing retreat. The last one was a great cure to kicking the muse in gear. One can only assume another writing retreat will do the same. Yay! Problem solved.

Oh. Wait. Another dilemma. Finances are critically low. Writing retreats involve overnight stays, which means hotel rates, food, even travel costs depending on how far it is. And my family doesn’t have that luxury right now. Probably not for another 2 or 3 months.

Ok. So we’ll need to condense our ‘retreat’ into a full day. No overnight stays. But where can we go where we’ll be out of the way, free from distraction, and free to brainstorm with each other in peace?  Somewhere that doesn’t cost much, if anything.

I’d hate to take up an entire section of a coffee house for a whole day. I’m sure we’d be kicked out after 2 or 3 hours. Outdoors is too unpredictable – weather, visitors, etc. Hm.

Thoughts anyone?

Short Story Round Robin- Ultima Storm

I’m sharing the Greater Ft Worth Writers’ blog link for this kick-ass short story Dark_stormround robin. Our group is given a genre (science fiction, this time) and the first member,  a superb writer Matthew Bryant and good friend, wrote the first two pages of the story and titled it ‘The Ultima Storm.’ Then another member writes the next 2 pages, and so on and so on. I wrote the third section. Here’s the fifth, written by my good friend and stellar author C. A. Szarek. Go back and read it from the beginning if you can.

This was a lot of fun, and the story keeps getting better and better!! I LOVE this group!

 

I Will Be Published… Happy Dance Time!

Five years of learning my voice and writing style.

Four manuscripts- either waiting in the wings or on my laptop.

Eight months of writing  and revising this particular manuscript.

A year of querying and rejection.

Fourteen full or partial manuscript requests from either agents or editors.

What do all of these equal?

I will be a published author!!

Yes, folks. I received ‘the call.’ Or in my case, ‘the email.’

I sold AUDREY’S PROMISE to The Wild Rose Press.

No release date yet, but as soon as I have it I’ll announce that.

And for anyone who knows me, they know what comes next:

Happy Dance time!

PeanutsDanceWhoseLineDanceNow

Happy Dance

Happy Dance

celebrateeverybody-dance-now_Aladdin

Sweets and Sours

I have some interesting news, potentially awesome. But I don’t want to jinx it. As soon as I have more info, I’ll share it.fingers crossed

But it’s been a good few weeks as far as writing goes. In a business full of rejection, and the lovely habits of swallowing those rejections week after week, it’s good to know my story and voice has reached a few people.

A few people who are veterans in this business.

But I can’t let this get to my head. I must get back to writing. As often as I can, with the lovely trials and challenges of every day life.

For those of who who’ve asked, the family situation I alluded to earlier this year has still not been resolved. But we’re closer. One way or another, I’ll make it happen and we’ll be the better for it. Even if I must set some things aside, and change a few goals, I can do it. And I know my writing will be there waiting, no matter where we are.

 

Apologies for Silence

I apologize for my silence over the last few weeks. 2013 isn’t starting off as promising as I’d hoped and we’re dealing with a not-so-pleasant situation, that I have no idea when will be resolved.apology

But I know you all understand. Family and health come first.

Sadly, this also means I haven’t been able to write much either. If it weren’t for the Writer’s Retreat I participated in the second weekend of January, my word count for the month would be a big fat ZERO.

Speaking of writer’s retreats, I highly recommend one for you fellow writers out there. We didn’t want to spend a lot of money or be too far from home, so we went to a local lake and rented a small cabin. January and February are off-season for those places, so you can get some INSANE deals, which we did. Over half off.

So wherever you are, you can always find those kinds of tucked-away places to get you away from your normal grind, without spending too much or being too far away if an emergency pops up.

Thanks to the two incredible ladies who joined me~ I hope to partake in another one soon!

God willing.

2012: Roller Coasters and a Sweet Tooth

2012 was another roller coaster year for us. Great highs, a few tumbles, several rollerviewwhirl spins and whip lashes, and in the end we’re still here (sorry, Mayan apocalyptic enthusiasts). And just like fresh off a roller coaster, I’m breathless, excited, nervous and full of anticipation for another round.

I’m certain next year will bring some struggles for us, and we’re ready for them. But at the same time, I’m grateful for every minute I have.

I learned a lot this past year. About myself, as a mother, a writer, a friend- what I’m made of, things I can take, and areas I’m not as strong as I thought I was. And, incredibly, areas in which I’m stronger than I gave myself credit for. I may kick, scream, cry, beat myself to a pulp, but in uncertain situations in which I have no qualifications or control, by God I can adapt.

I have an amazing family and forgiving friends who put up with me during those moments. Who build me up when I need it and have a drink with me when I celebrate.

I know now is when most people create goals for the next year, and in previous years that’s exactly what I did. But right now I look back on 2012 and shake my head in amazement.

I cry for the losses of loved ones (still), I rejoice in magnanimous moments of others, and I marvel at the capabilities of the human spirit. How resilient my son is and no matter how difficult something is or how sick he feels, he’s still such a happy kid who loves with his whole heart without reservations. And how much better a person I am because of him. Because of my family.

toastSo instead of a toast to 2013 and what is to come, I raise a glass to 2012. You threw a hefty test as us, and we’re still here. I’m still trudging forward with writing, with the plans our family made, and handling the curveballs you whizzed at us. With the sours, there were plenty of sweets. And I have one hell of a sweet tooth.