Tag: organization

Four Things Disneyland Needs to Know about Lines

Unlike some couples who have cake and punch with friends, my husband and I headed to a couple theme parks for our wedding anniversary. Normally, I’m not even a fan of theme parks, but since the man offered…who am I to turn away a free trip to Anaheim?

Thursday, we went to Downtown Disney. It was early afternoon and there was basically no line through the check-point. You know, where they search your bags and then direct you through a metal detector? That’s the kind of country we live in *shakes head sadly*

The wonderful world of Harry Potter beckoned on Friday. At Universal Studios, they wrap the entrance line through those chains and ropes (like all the rides do), and you never actually stop moving. So even though it was a huge crowd, we didn’t wait too long to get into the park.

Disneyland on Saturday? It was a nightmare.

The line(s) stretched back to the main street and buses kept dropping people off. There was no clear direction for people, although Disney employees did come out and try to direct people into “people with bags” and “people without bags.”

If my husband, who had no bag, had left me, he probably could have ridden two rides before I ever got through the metal detectors. But he didn’t leave me to survive the disorganization alone.

The mayhem flabbergasted me. It’s not like Disney is new to crowds. Or long lines. How can they have such confusion in a process that Universal streamlined with a few ropes and chains?

Here’s my advice to Disneyland:

  1. Visit Universal Studios when the park first opens. Notice how they have 25 metal detectors spread across the plaza in front of their admissions gate.
  2. Invest in more metal detectors. It’s not like they don’t make enough cash to ease the lineup in this way ($200 for admission, $35 for a t-shirt, $20 for lunch).
  3. Paint some lanes on the ground. Okay, this might look tacky in the Google Earth shots, but when hoards of people circumvented the obvious line, I was thankful we were at the “happiest place on Earth.” Some patrons weren’t impressed with the line-cutters.
  4. Send more employees to direct the flow and organize lines.

We waited close to an hour just to get our bags searched. About the time we got to the front, they were waving people around the metal detector. Get your bags searched, but skip that next step.

If they’re seriously concerned about safety, this felt like a bad move. Someone planning to make the news by terrorizing the Happiest Place on Earth could easily work this system into their nefarious plans.

Once we were waved along without going through the red light/green light gate, we waited another fifteen or twenty minutes for entrance through the turnstiles. At least there were obvious lines here.

Now that Disney is taking photos of every ticket holder and printing out tickets that correspond with that image on their ticket readers, it takes a little longer to get through the gate. I hope that’s helping them catch people who are trying to avoid paying the exorbitant admission price.

Because it certainly isn’t smoothing the admission process.

Disney knows how to line people up so they can fit the most people in the least amount of space and trick them into believing the line is moving right along (regardless of signs warning the wait is 45 or 60 minutes). It’s time they applied that experiential know-how at the front gate.

What other tips might speed things along? Have you had a similar experience at Disney?

Preparing to Pitch

Prepare to Pitch

In the midst of hosting out-of-state relatives (which I’m super excited about), I’m working on the pitch for my young adult fantasy novel. After all, I’ve paid to pitch it to an agent and an editor next week at Willamette Writer’s Conference.

This isn’t a new subject for me to address. In the past, I have posted about using movie log-lines to help formulate your pitch. After I successfully pitched at last year’s conference, I shared my experiences.

I don’t want to repeat any of those posts, so please click over and read them if you want more information.

Now that I’m experienced in the fine art of pitching a novel (because one successfully pitched novel does an expert make *rolls eyes*), I wanted to share my journey toward preparing this year’s pitch.

Emotionally

Image from www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk
Image from www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

Last year, I was an emotional wreck for weeks before the conference. I pored over my logline and rewrote my elevator pitch dozens of times.

I practiced the pitch endlessly in front of the mirror (not my favorite, looking at myself is distracting – Is that a wrinkle line above my lips?) until I’m sure I was mumbling my pitch in my sleep.

Am I nervous? Sure. A little bit of nerves makes a performance better. Do I feel like sprinting in the opposite direction of the conference? Not in the least.

The takeaway: pitch. The only way to get better at verbal pitches is to practice. On real agents. With real stakes.

To make a perfect pitch, you have to make a myriad of imperfect pitches.

Mentally

It’s important to familiarize yourself with the details you want to share.

This is what I needed to know about my novel:

  • Title: Doomsday Dragons
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Main character(s): A snarky Chinese teen who sees visions of the future and a geeky surfer dude from Hawaii with the ability to control animals with telepathy
  • Conflict: She must find him so he can awaken a sleeping dragon who can join with the dragon she first meets to defeat the vitriolic dragon bent on destroying everything in sight
  • Antagonist: mainly a fire-breathing dragon whose emerging from his prison in the Earth’s core
  • Stakes: The Earth will be ravaged by the red dragon (but there are also personal stakes involved – which might be better to include in the log-line.

This is the information I used to create my winning log-line and streamline the summary included on the One Sheet.

Review a written copy of your 100-word pitch. I like to rewrite it several times, so it feels natural when I present it.

Another important thing to remember is that the person I’m presenting to is INTERESTED. He or she wants to find good storytellers and help them down the publishing track. That’s their job. How can I show them I would make their job easier?

Love your story. Be able to describe what it resembles (the sarcasm of Rick Riordan combined with the diverse characters of Suzanne Collins).

The takeaway: if you know your story inside and out and believe it has value for the intended audience, you can make the agent believe in it, too.

How about you? How do you prepare for a career-changing interview?

Road to Published – Finding an Agent

In the new publishing paradigm, some authors seek editors at small houses instead of an agent. If you want to walk the traditional path (like me), the best idea is still to find an agent to represent you.

Even though the number of agents is high, finding the perfect fit for you and your work takes research and time.

Lots of time. At least six months to a year.

The traditional path is traditionally – slow. Up to three years to see your book in print after you’ve hired an agent. No, I’m not kidding.

Again, this is why many authors cut out the middle man and go straight to editors. Which is fine if you don’t want to be published with one of the big houses. All of these don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, although most of them have imprints that might look at unagented work.

Databases

Fortunately, there are several databases of literary agent listings. Some are provided online which is very convenient. Others can be found in printed guides that are updated annually.

The most well-know listing of literary agents is from the Writer’s Market, published by Writer’s Digest each year. They also have an online database, accessible with paid membership.

This Literary Agent Directory was also helpful. However, I didn’t enter my information. It says access is free, but I don’t know that for sure.

Make sure you don’t shoot in the dark. Read up on any agent before you query them. What do you need to know?

  • Are they accepting new clients?
  • Do they represent your genre?
  • What authors do they represent? Similar to you or not?
  • What are their specific guidelines for submissions?

This final one is important because if you narrow your list down with the other questions and then fail to follow these “rules,” your query will find its way into the trash – rather than the slush pile

Perfecting your Query

If you’re like most writers I know, writing query letters doesn’t top your list of favorite things. Seriously. I would rather go to the dentist.

Never fear! There is a formula for writing an excellent query letter. Do I guarantee it will get you noticed?

Sorry, no.

Query letters should be short and specific.

  • First paragraph includes your logline, title, genre and word count.
  • Second paragraph embellishes the major plot points of the main story line, naming your protagonist and possible the antagonist, but probably not any other characters
  • Third paragraph might be why you chose this agency – or why you are qualified to write this story
  • Final paragraph lists publishing credits or awards that relate to the genre/form you’re submitting
  • Use a professional tone, but keeping it conversational appeals to many agents who want to know you would be someone they could work with

Send queries in batches. Many authors recommend sending to ten agencies at a time. No need to tell them you are querying others, but if you get a request for the full manuscript from more than one agent, you should divulge that to both parties.

Keep Track

All these submissions! How will I ever keep them straight?

I have a handy Excel spreadsheet that keeps track of what manuscripts I’ve submitted. There are also online databases that will help you organize this information.

I had access to the Writer’s Digest Agent Database when I took a class from them. However, that expires unless you become a VIP member by paying a fee.

These are the columns on my spreadsheet: Agent/Editor/Publisher, Contact email, contact Phone, manuscript title, date queried, and date returned.

There is also a “days” column that automatically keeps a running total of how long your submission has been circulating. It’s interesting to note that the agents on my list have taken much longer to respond than the publishers.

I recently added another column: “Results.” This way I can note whether they asked for more pages, rejected or accepted my work.

Here are some links to databases or information to build your own:

Once you send out that first batch of query letters, get to work on your next writing project.

This is what writer’s do. Chewing your fingernails and checking your email every hour won’t get the next story down on paper.

Did you find this information helpful? Please comment and SHARE if you did. This author thanks you.

Time Wasters or Stress Relief?

You were warned!
You were warned!

Candy Crush Saga, Angry Birds, Bejeweled, Words With Friends, Farmville…and the list goes on. You know what I’m talking about: those free games for Facebook. To really snare you, they make the app free to download on your phone or tablet.

A year ago, I purged a slew of these games from my phone and iPad. I decided to keep two of them and to allow only check on them at certain times. All notifications were turned OFF.

Then someone (who shall remain nameless) begged me to get Candy Crush Saga so I could help them reach higher levels. This is the noose these game inventors use.

I’m a nice person *shrugs* so I downloaded the game on my iPad. It seemed harmless enough. I didn’t see where any help was needed. Oh, right, because you have to connect it to Facebook for that option to appear.

At that time, I didn’t have a Facebook page. Do you see where this is headed? I’m morally opposed to story plots that are obvious. Shouldn’t I feel similarly about my life?

Anyway, the day came when I succumbed to the demand of social media. I want to build my author brand. Facebook is essential for platform building.

With a simple click, suddenly all my games were linked with my Facebook friends. I had a dozen games of Words going simultaneously. Candy Crush Saga reached the point where I begged others to help me “unlock” the next episode. High scores listed on Bejeweled mocked my lame attempts to demonstrate mastery.

Obviously, my competitive spirit jumped to attention and took control of my body. Possessed by this manic gamer, the era of time wasting mowed me down again. Sure, it was only four small games.

Playing these helps me relax *nods vigorously.*

It’s only a few minutes after breakfast and lunch.

When I stand up to refill my water glass, I’ll just check to see if anyone played a word.

Bathroom break – another opportunity to check and see if the three “tickets” I need have arrived so I can reach the next level and crush more candy.

“I hate this level.” My son’s response: “Then why are you playing the game.”

He doesn’t believe me when I say it’s therapeutic. For some reason, screaming at my tablet and pounding my fist on the counter don’t seem like signs of relieved stress.

Kids! What do they know?

In the end, I have had to schedule time for these games. I might check Words often, but I don’t get to spend more than 5 minutes at any one time on it. The others have allotted times during the day – times when I’m NOT on my writing clock.

Do you believe these games are time wasters? Do you think they help relieve stress? Sell me on their advantages so I can lift my personal restrictions. *Shoves game demon back into locked cabinet.*