The Author and the Creative Writing Class

It’s rewarding to walk into a classroom and have a student say, “You’re the published author.” For someone whose dream is to write for the young adult audience, it’s especially thrilling.
I would know. I do. And it happened to me.
The next words from this thrilled student’s mouth? Care to guess?
“What did you write again.”
Yep. The face was memorable but the book title was not.
Although, several students recognized the cover of the book I had discussed with them in November, months before.


And then there was the creative writing class.
What I Expected
When the middle school English teacher gave me “freedom” to teach whatever I wanted to her creative writing class, I smiled. Maybe I sent the clouds scurrying from the radiant beams of joy.
“We’re finishing up a unit on mystery and suspense,” she wrote. “They have stories to read to the class.”
Long stories. I was impressed.
The fact many of the stories read more like horror? Not as impressive to my anti-scare self.
Based on the reaction from the regular English students (noted above), I expected the writers to fall all over me.
Not even a smile when I mentioned I was a published author. Oh-kay.
I did get a positive reaction when I told them we wouldn’t be moving on to the poetry writing unit. Cheers all around.
When I offered to comment on their rough drafts to see if they might want to make changes before they turned the story in two days later? Not a single taker.
My published status meant nothing to these young writers.
“I would have flipped if a published author offered to read my stories,” a little voice inside me whined.
Reality Bites
The forum the teacher used for sharing the stories invited only positive comments once the author finished their reading.
“I liked the description.”
“Loved how real the characters were.”
“You did a great job building tension.”
Sometimes what they said was even true.
I itched to mark up these stories. Several of them had great premises. Others were a mashup of every police show and horror movie the student had seen.
My lips were sealed.
And I didn’t get to comment on even one story of the nine that were read over the first two days I worked in the room.
Happily Ever After
None of these stories had a happy ending. Apparently, suspense stories involve the narrator dying (in two cases), lots of minor characters’ deaths (in over half the stories) and fathers who were really mass murderers (in three instances).
Yikes! Should I report this to the authorities? Perhaps these stories had a hint of auto-biography in them.
I offered the class two choices for our Friday writing activity. As I expected, they chose the “finish the story” write around.
I selected nine young adult genres (not mystery or suspense), and wrote down a first line. Most of these I took from published books of that genre. A couple leapt from my imagination reservoir.
And they wrote.
But the suspense unit was still too fresh in their minds. With the exception of a few stories, the variety of authors chose to steer the contemporary diary toward suicide and murder. In fact, the actual horror story was less horrifying than some of the others.
On this occassion, however, a few of the students asked me to “finish” the stories that didn’t find resolution.
There were three. Two of them didn’t involve murderous parents or homicide in any form.
It was great fun pulling all their threads together. My favorite? The fantasy, of course. Although the steampunk story had a more interesting plot line.
An author teaching creative writing might not be the smooth fit you’d imagine. Even if imagining is what you do for a living.

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one or more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. Those reviews are the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

How Small Goals Got Me Published

It’s that time of year again. The end is in sight and us type-A types start thinking about setting goals (or making resolutions) for the new year. Setting goals got me published.

It sounds trite, I know.

“If you want something, plan how to get it.”

Don’t dream it, do it.

And a million-and-five other sayings that are straight from the lips of Zig Ziglar or some other motivational speaker.

But take it from me, setting goals is the first step to reaching your dream.

I know because I’m living my dream. And setting small goals and working step-by-step plans to reach each one got me where I am today.

And 2017 is the year these same planned goals are going to get me a traditional publishing contract. And an agent.

Make them Small

A publishing contract is a BIG goal. Which is why I didn’t get it the first year I was writing full-time.

Now that I’m three years in to this full-time author gig, I’m at the place where this is an attainable goal. Finally.

But I was pretty discouraged the first year when I went after this goal and failed to attain it.

These were the small steps I planned to reach the goal:

1. Write an amazing story

2. Edit the heck out of the story

3. Research agents

4. Learn how to write a good query letter

5. Query all the agencies that are a match for the manuscript

6. Get a publishing contract

And I did steps one through five…for three separate novels.

And I still don’t have a publishing contract for a novel. In fact, I’ve never even gotten a request for a full manuscript from an agency.

That’s why I set smaller goals for myself. Goals like:

  • Scour short story submission calls
  • Write short stories for these calls
  • Edit each story to polished perfection
  • Submit. Submit. Submit.
  • Sell some short stories

And I have reached that goal four times.

In fact, I’ll have a novella published in February by the first publisher of a short story I submitted. Better yet, I have two sequels in mind to continue the story of that novella that the publisher wants me to submit once I get them written (and revised and edited).

Big goals are hard to reach, so when you start down a new path, set small goals.

This is the same for changing your eating habits, losing weight, beginning an exercise regime or learning a new hobby.

If the goal is too big, you will fail to reach it. Then you might be tempted to give up.

And a quitter never lives their dream.

Plan the Baby Steps

Once you’ve imagined a goal for yourself, it’s time to make a plan.

Don’t think a sketchy outline will help you reach your goals. You need a step-by-step plan of attack if you want to succeed.

And I don’t mean big, general steps. For example, if you want to lose 20 pounds, your steps could be:

  1.  Find a eating and exercise plan you like
  2.  Figure out the menu and exercise calendar
  3. Follow the Plan

Oh-kay. How do I find a plan? How to I plan the meals or exercise? And are there specific steps to following the plan?

These broad, vague steps are a recipe for failure. Seriously, it’s like saying if you stir flour sugar, eggs and vanilla together with a cup of butter you’ll get cookie dough.

When you sit down, think about your plan in the smallest of steps. For my traditional publishing contract (that I’m landing in 2017), here are my baby steps:

  1.  Outline a story idea
  2. Write character sketches for the main characters
  3. Write the first draft
  4. Write a rough synopsis
  5.  Research the setting
  6. Get input from a writer who has traveled to this place
  7. Rewrite the story
  8. Edit this draft
  9.  Send the manuscript to three-five beta readers
  10. While betas are reading, research agents that fit the story & my ideal
  11.  Comb beta suggestions for great input
  12. Revise according to suggestions
  13.  Re-read looking for holes
  14.  Edit chapter-by-chapter
  15. Polish every sentence
  16.  Craft an amazing query letter
  17.  Polish the synopsis
  18. Send queries to the first ten agents on the list

Some of these steps are fairly broad. Break them down further if it motivates you to check off a step. You can make writing each chapter a separate step if that lights a fire under you.

Small steps climb the ladder to your goal.

Reward your Success

Human nature loves rewards.

Seriously. If you tell me I can have a small piece of dark chocolate after I run a 5K, I’ll be tying my running shoes on.

The key is to find rewards that motivate YOU. Maybe it’s buying a new outfit. Or going to dinner with a friend. It could be a weekend at the beach.

Small accomplishments should have small rewards. Bigger accomplishment = bigger reward.

I’ve been telling my husband that as soon as I sign the contract for my novel and get a hefty advance, I’m going to buy myself an Audi Q5. That’s a huge incentive for me.

Whenever I see one of these sporty CUVs on the road, I remind myself, “Just get a book contract with a decent advance and that is yours.”

What goals will you set for yourself in 2017? Do you have a plan to reach them? What reward would inspire you to work through the tough times?

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.

Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.

Already read one or more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.


		

Putting Yourself Out There

One of the hardest things about being an author is putting myself out there. It goes against every self-protective gene in my body. Not to mention coughing up a big loogey on my mother’s manners curriculum.

Today, I’m over on a fellow author’s blog. She’s someone I admire. I have fan-girled over her books on this blog.

I love the colors of this cover
I love the colors of this cover

Because of that, she’s asked me to read the next book in her young adult science fiction series and it’s a pulse-pounder. I’ve also been privy to a book she’s begun marketing that’s written for adults.

I’m happy to give her partial credit for my acceptance in the anthology she’s helping me promote today. She read the first chapter and shredded it.

When I sent her the rewritten scene, she praised it. Talk about making a writer feel pretty good.

“An amazing author in this genre thinks this is great.” *dancing around the room*

But I’m getting off the topic. There’s two ways that putting myself out there is most difficult.

Putting Stories from my Heart in Harm’s Way

Some of the stories I write are turned out in days for a specific reason. Although there is an element of “me” in them, my heart isn’t fully vested.

A novel that has taken months to write, rewrite, revise and edit? There’s a huge investment of my heart, soul and mind on those pages.

And then the agent rejects them.

The publisher criticizes the story line.

Readers rip on the characters in a review.

Or worse…people read it and then *crickets*

And I don’t want to ask, “What did you think of my book?”

Because if they aren’t bubbling over about it, the words that will answer that inquiry will wound me. Even if they’re spoken kindly.

Bragging about my Books so People Buy Them

Isn't she lovely? And on sale until the end of the year.
Isn’t she lovely? And on sale until the end of the year.

Okay, I don’t think I really ever brag about my books.

But I do post links on social media so people can buy them. I run ads. I carry boxes in my car.

I’m eager to make a sale.

And not for the money.

But so I can return to the position mentioned under number one. Because I want my story to burrow into the hearts and minds of readers.

If I had a dozen real fans (meaning they aren’t related to me and probably have never met me in person), I would hyperventilate. A dozen?

That’s how pathetic I am. Because all the big indie book marketers know you need 1000 readers to have a “successful” book.

And your inner circle of dedicated fans should be at least 100 so they will make your next book release amazing. After all, hitting high rankings on Amazon is what it’s all about, right?

Wrong.

And that’s why putting myself out there still feels like walking naked on the stage at high school graduation (not that I KNOW how that feels).

Cold. Embarrassing. Terrifying.

So, if you can give Jennifer a little love today by clicking through and leaving a comment on her blog, that would be like dropping a robe over my shoulders.

If you shared this post with your group of friends on Facebook or Google, this writer couldn’t get more fully clothed.

Have you ever put yourself out there? What was hardest about it?

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one of more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

		

My Exciting Announcement

Since April 2015, I have been holding a secret close to my chest. Finally, the news is public.

I have a young adult fantasy story being published!

Yes! This is one step closer to my dream of being Rick Riordan’s female clone.

The unfortunate part about keeping this news secret: it didn’t feel real.

Which means I didn’t get as excited about this accomplishment as I did my other two published stories.

And I should have been shouting from the rooftops and shimmying like a charmed snake.

Except I couldn’t.

Specific Details

When the call went out, the publisher announced an anthology of ten dark fantasy young adult stories which had to be biblical re-tellings.

I immediately had three ideas:

1) Joseph sold to a dragon realm
2) Naaman’s slave girl sending him to expected death rather than a cure (joke’s on her when he comes back alive and leprosy-free)
3) The demon-possessed boy whose possession thwarted the disciples’ powers

Which story would you want to read?

I debated between two and three for a few days. Finally, I decided on the third story because it had the most potential for being unique.

Of course, since I’m not a fan of writing in first person, writing it pushed my abilities to beyond the limit. It had to be in first person so the duality that existed inside my character’s mind would be plainly felt.

A published author who I admire helped me tighten up the beginning. I applied her techniques to all of the story and submitted it.

As you know, it was accepted. The publisher is an independent house, but one that is making a name and has books inside Barnes and Noble stores, not just at online retail sites.barnes-and-noble

Month9Books specializes in young adult and middle grade speculative fiction, including fantasy, science fiction, paranormal and other related sub-genres.

After working with a fantastic editor, my story rocks the pages. I feel thrilled with the way it turned out. I want everyone to read it.

The Really Cool News

In August, the editor informed all of us that the book wouldn’t be releasing in October, as originally scheduled. Instead, it would release in February.

Not a big deal for me.

The next week, she sent me an email about some minor changes. This is the last line of that message:

Last, but not least, the publisher is curious as to whether you’d be interested in developing “The Demon Was Me” into a full novel! (Way to go, Sharon!) Thoughts welcome. 🙂

To say I was shocked speechless and sent into a tailspin is putting things lightly.

As you know from other blog posts, I said “Nope. Not interested in writing a novel.”

Uh. No. I worked tirelessly on a ten-point outline for the publisher. My editor refined it and tweaked it and sent it back to me for more work.

Eventually, we agreed it was as perfect as we could make it. And she set up an appointment with the publisher.

The dancing points from that conversation:

  • The managing editor from the publishing company said my story was one of her favorites in the collection
  • She requested more writing from only TWO out of the TEN authors in the collection (one of them is me, obviously)
  • She liked the concept for the novel I proposed
  • She wants me to write it and submit it to them
  • The odds are decent that Georgia McBride Media Group will pick it up

And the rest…is National Novel Writing Month insanity.

Since Then

The editor hoped I could get the novel ready to submit by February, but since I took a month away from it (December) and have a January vacation, I told her May was more realistic.

I wrote nearly 70,000 words in November.

The last week of December I read through the messy first draft and found:

1. The characters are shallow but relatable. Their voices are distinct.
2. Needs more emotion on every page
3. The plot sags in the middle
4. It isn’t a happy ending, which feels weird to me

The rewriting begins in earnest on January 18 (that would be today). I’ll be fresh from the Caribbean with a whole new outlook on the world (and hopefully awesome ideas to improve the story).

Keep your fingers crossed (or pray if that’s your thing) that the story I love will become a series everyone adores. That it will make a difference in the lives of young people, like The Chronicles of Narnia did for me.

Plan to pick up a copy of In the Beginning come February. Read the stories. Let me know what you think of “The Demon was Me.” (For real. Am I imagining how awesome it turned out?)

Since every single manuscript I submit goes out with a prayer, this opportunity feels like supernatural intervention was involved. My gut tells me this is the break I’ve been waiting praying hoping working toward since July 2013.

Meet the Author: Krista Ames

Author_interview

Today, I have a special treat for my readers. We’re going to talk to a real live author. She is working on a new romance series and the first book, a novella, released this week.

Along with chatting up Krista Ames, you can read all about her book (I’ve read it, and it’s definitely worth checking out) AND enter an awesome giveaway (Link at bottom of the post).

Welcome, Krista. Thanks for taking time out to chat with my blog followers.

First of all, authors aren’t all about writing. We like to get out of the house sometimes. Let’s go to the movies, Krista. What sort of film do you want to see?

I love the movies, let’s go !!!!!  My all-time favorite type of movie is actually the mushy romantic movies (a romance writer’s dream) with a full-fledged happy ending!  However…in the last five or so years, since I met and married my hubby, he’s opened my eyes (kicking and screaming, of course) to horror (*shivers*).  Not gory horror but the mysterious,  scary horror (*shivers even more*).  I’ve also gotten hooked by my children on some of the Dystopian movies and just about anything paranormal.

What film comes to mind when someone says “the best movie ever”?

As far as “the best movie ever”?  I could group a bunch in that category but my all-time favorite movie is Price & Prejudice, the one with Kiera Knightly!

Let’s talk men, for a moment. My perfect hero is a combination between the generosity of my husband and the hot-factor of Gerard Butler. Describe your perfect hero. Does he resemble anyone in your world?

Photo credit to mygezza.com

There is definitely something to be said for Gerard Butler for sure, and I’ve for sure got my hotness favorites like Channing Tatum and Kenny Chesney but I think my perfect hero is my hubby (me too!).  He came into my life when I was grieving over a failed marriage and raising three kids on my own.  He is everything that I always wanted in a husband.  He holds my hand when we go for a drive or a walk, he hugs & kisses me for no reason and tells me he loves me all the time.  It’s really nice to hear it first.  There’s always a kiss good morning, a kiss when he walks in the door from work and even if we do argue over something before bed, we still kiss goodnight.  He loves me and makes sure I know it 🙂

Readers always want to know about an author’s quirks. Let’s talk about where we work. I love writing in a well-lit area that is extremely quiet – could be my office or my patio. What is your best “creative” space like?

I am a stay at home mom with four kids and FOUR crazy schedules so, the place I actually like to write is the dining room table.  It is right in the midst of the living room and kitchen.  I can see all from that spot.  Big table so I can spread out and a lot of light to see.  Plus I can watch those horror movies with my hubby and still be in my work area.  The laundry room is right around the corner for when the dryer dings or a hop-skip to the kitchen sink for dishes.  My kids always know right where to find me.

WOW! I admire full-time moms who can turn on their creative genius in a house full of controlled chaos. I could never figure out how to do that, which is why my full-time writing career is happening now that my nest is empty.

I’m still waiting for my first fan letter from someone I don’t know personally. What is the most meaningful thing a stranger has ever said about any of your stories? OR what would be the most meaningful thing a stranger could say to you about your writing?

To be honest, I’m still waiting on mine as well   I did one time have a couple different review blogs tell me how great my writing was, and it made my heart melt !

Now for a few quick answers, just for fun:

  • Army or Navy? Do I have to choose?  Ok, Navy
  • Cowboy or Fireman? Tough choice….  Cowboy
  • Chocolate or Strawberry? Strawberry
  • Mints or Gum? Mints
  • Morning or Evening? Evening
  • Cats or Dogs? (I know you have both, so yes, this is a trick question) lol, Dogs
  • Bike or Walk? Walk
  • Unicorn or Pegasus? Pegasus
  • Greek or Roman? Greek

So much for us being twins! We agree on cowboys, mints and Pegasus in this list. Oh well. It was a blast getting to know another author. Thanks for stopping by and chatting with us.

Sharon, thanks so much for having me on your blog.  I had a great time answering your questions!

All you ever wanted to know about the Author:

Photo from KristaAmes.com
Photo from KristaAmes.com

Born and raised in Northern Indiana, Krista now resides in Northern Lower Michigan.  She is married to a very supportive man who allows her to follow her true passion of writing and never complains when she is pirated away on her computer for hours.  He is excellent at bouncing ideas around with and even helps the occasional writers block.  He’s also a terrific “in house” editor.  Krista is also a mother of 4 ornery children who keep her plenty busy.  With an addition of 2 beautiful chocolate lab sisters and a playful kitty, there is never a dull or spare moment in her household.

Krista has always loved to read and would often sit up for hours into the night not able to put down a book until she was finished.  She still reads when she can but her main focus is creating her own stories to share with the world.

She loves to communicate with her readers so please feel free to drop her a line anytime.

 Connect with Ms. Ames on these platforms:

Email: krista@kristaames.com

Website: http://www.kristaames.com

Blog: http://www.apassionforromance.blogspot.com

 

MorgansMountain_Cvr_FinalTitle:  Morgan’s Mountain, A Montana Series Novella
Author:  Krista Ames
Publisher:  Roane Publishing

Blurb:

On the proverbial run from another failed relationship, Morgan finds herself in the one place she always found solace. With every intention of being alone, she’s surprised when she comes across the one person she never expected.

Luke would go to the ends of the earth to figure out why Morgan ran away five years ago and make things right with her. However, a dangerous trek up the mountains to her family’s cabin might not have been the smartest choice. To say she was happy to see him would be a huge lie.  Having to rescue him, mortifying for Luke.

Toss a kidnapper into the mix and their feelings for each other are brought into perspective, revealing parts of themselves they never thought would come to light.

Buy it now at your favorite retailer:

Roane Publishing
Amazon
Amazon (UK)
Barnes and Noble
Smashwords
Bookstrand
All Romance eBooks

Find Morgan’s Mountain on Goodreads!

Don’t miss the rest of the tour!  http://www.roanepublishing.com/morgans-mountain1.html

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Am I a “real” Author yet?

Author at work

I’m coming up on two years as a full-time writer. I have spent hours writing words, days editing them and months submitting the resulting stories to appropriate markets. And still I wonder: at what point does a person feel like an author?

When the first acceptance letter comes? I’ve got two, and I still feel like I’m pretending to be an author most days.

When the first paycheck comes? Okay, I can’t really consider that minuscule royalty check a “paycheck.”

When someone asks for an autograph? I’ve signed a couple – for family and friends.

When they get an advance with their sold  manuscript?

When they see their book on a best-seller list?

When they must start a Facebook fan page because they have reached the maximum number of friends on their profile?

When they have 5,000 or more followers on Twitter?

When they say their name and someone standing nearby asks, “Are you the Sharon Hughson who wrote this book?”

I keep waiting for a magical moment. I always imagined there would be one. Doesn’t there have to be one?

I’ve dreamed of writing stories that people want to read for most of my life. I’ve been writing stories since I was nine years old (before then, I just told oral tales to my stuffed animals).

I imagined that I would spend my days at a handsome desk. Sunlight would pour over me from a nearby window. Words would spill from my fingers onto the page.

It's a beauty! Those Hughson boys can assemble a desk, I tell you.
It’s a beauty! Those Hughson boys can assemble a desk, I tell you.

I am living that vision.

The one where a bookcase behind me is filled with titles I wrote? Not yet. It’s only been two years. I do have the proof copy of my sole independently published title on my office bookshelf.

Why do I keep waiting to “feel” like an author?

I can’t imagine Brandon Sanderson waking up in the morning and wondering if he is really an author.

What makes a person reach a point where they consider themselves an author? Please, help me figure this out.

Road to Self-Published – Part 2 – Careful Cover Construction

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” might be a popular saying, but in the publishing world, people do it all the time. This is a major reason it’s imperative to have a professional cover for your independently published book.

I envisioned the perfect cover when I first started writing this book. I could see it in my mind’s eye. The thing had mystery and clean lines. It was beautiful.

And describing it became difficult. What? Don’t you use words to describe all the time? Certainly, but even specific words create differing pictures in the minds of those who hear them. Yes, based on their own knowledge and perceptions, another person might visualize something that looks like nothing I imagined I described to a tee.

Whatever file you use for keeping notes on your projects needs to have a page for cover images. Mine is called “Covers I Like.” When something strikes you, click the copy button and paste it into your notes.

CoversILike

Researching your Genre

All this means is heading over to Amazon and typing in the keywords for your genre. For me, I typed “Biblical fiction.” That’s it, and I had 100 pages to thumb through.

Scroll through the pretty thumbnails. When you find one you like, click on it to make it bigger. If it still sings to you, copy that sucker into the aforementioned file.

After I had ten lovely covers, I ranked them in the order of appeal. I might suggest noting what you like about them if it is early and you don’t have an appointment scheduled with your cover designer in the near future.

Resources from other Independent Authors

I personally know two people who are qualified to design my covers. I’m not talking about a friend who thinks they’re a wiz with Photoshop. These people are professional designers with a portfolio of work samples.

If you do not have personal knowledge, this is when you should milk your network of writing friends for information. They will gladly refer people who have served them well in the past. And steer you clear of the ones who were less than desirable to work with.

Here is a list of links that might help with this process:

A Meeting of the Minds

Let’s face it, having control over what the cover on your book looks like is important. Authors want the cover to reflect the contents, and who knows the contents better than the person who poured their soul into them? And then pored over them through multiple drafts?

For me, I wanted the cover artist to consider my thoughts and ideas before jumping off on their own creative path. Maybe other writers are less controlling about the cover.

Cover artists are artists. The photographer/graphic designer that I used is deeply concerned about the originality and perception of his work. Which is great – until it interferes with my own ideals.

If you find your cover artist offering up samples that are nothing like you envisioned (and though you communicated to him), it might be time to find another artist. Don’t wait too late, though, or your project could be in jeopardy of releasing on schedule.

Don’t skimp on your cover. It will cost a few thousand pennies to get the collection of digital files you need for the different platforms. Pay the piper. Your sales will thank you.

Additional Resources:

Book Publishing Guide

What resources have you found for designing covers? Are there other steps in the process I’ve overlooked?

Road to Self-Published – Finding your Perfect Editor – Part 2

everyone-needs-a-good-editor2

This is the second part to a serial post describing my search for a freelance editor. Read part 1 here if you missed it last week.

The first half of the post talked about how I started my search for an editor and the overload of information I needed to sift through before I could contact some editors. Now, what did I ask them? How did I pick one?

What I wish I knew first

Don’t be afraid to ask for a sample edit. Both of the editors I corresponded with happily edited a few pages of my manuscript. It truly gave me insight into their styles and what I might expect when I got the copy back.

Copy editors follow the Chicago Manual of Style. If you don’t know what that is, follow this link to get more information. One of them clung to this more strictly and changed the sentence fragments I used in my writing.

In fiction, fragment have become increasingly accepted. Authors use them to emphasize or make a character’s succinct voice come through more clearly. If this editor intended to correct them all, my manuscript would be a mess of red.

When I asked her about it, she said she would NOT change them if that was my preference. My preference is that they have impact. If they don’t, then they should conform to grammatical rules.

Ask about a time frame. Apparently, many editors are booked as far as three months in advance. I wanted someone to look at my manuscript in 30 days. Luckily, since it is a novella, both of these editors were able to squeeze the estimated 14-hour job into their schedule.

If you’re interested in copy editing, book formatting, proofreading and help writing marketing text, most of the editors I previewed had experience with all these things. Yes, you can get this assistance – for a price.

Both of the editors I worked with offered discounts for bundling copy editing and proofreading. I was amazed at the price for the proofreading service since I figured the manuscript should be squeaky clean after the copy edit.

Apparently, things like spelling and punctuation aren’t priorities during a copy edit. This surprised me. How can you make a sentence grammatically correct and clear without altering faulty punctuation and spelling? That must be the English geek in me that connects these two things.

My Final Criteria

The samples and conversations with both Kristen (Kristen Corrects, Inc.) and Lindsey (Lindsey Alexander Editorial) pleased me. I felt both of them would make my manuscript better – ready to face the public.

Both of them seemed happy to go “the extra mile” with me and answer questions not clearly related to the service I was buying from them. Lindsey even spoke with me for fifteen minutes on the phone before I signed any contract.

In the end, I based the decision on experience. Lindsey had been involved in publishing and editing in a more direct way for several years longer than Kristen. In fact, her freelancing business was seven years older than Kristen’s.

I would highly recommend either of these editors. I hope you’ll take the time to click through to all four of the editorial websites I’ve linked to this post. Research is your best avenue for finding the right editor. Your project might fit more easily with someone other than Lindsey.

It’s true, I haven’t seen more than just a few pages of work from Lindsey Alexander. Her willingness to speak to me on the phone and answer a host of questions that had little to do with copy editing – and much to do with my insecurities about being my own publisher – added a ton of bricks in her favor.

Have you hired an editor? Do you have advice to add? What other information would you like to know on this subject?

Writer’s Conference Reflections

Willamette-Writers2A puff of chocolaty goodness wafts by me when I open the door into the conference area. My mouth waters. Stillness underlies the hum of excited voices.

This is my first writing conference. Professionals attend conferences to network and build skills in their area of expertise. I may be pre-published, but I am a professional writer. Time to break out of my writing solace and enter the business world.

Women outnumber men. The largest demographic seems to be the over 55 crowd. This statistic gives me pause. Did they wait to pursue their dream until life settled down?

Everyone is a stranger and yet, strangely, invisible camaraderie pulls us together. The thread of love for words or creating worlds or setting our imagination free knits the crowd into something amazing.

Gawking like a foreigner, I locate the priority one item on my list. It’s just to the right of the main entrance. Yes, the ladies’ restroom. Who can concentrate on anything when the bladder screams like a crowded rollercoaster?

Highlights from the weekend will be covered in this post. Over the next several weeks, I will embellish on certain points that impacted me the most.

Sessions

The planners organized things according to different segments of writing. On the “TV Guide” schedule of events, categories like “literature,” “genre fiction,” “nonfiction” and “business of writing” head the colorful columns. It’s not surprising that most of my choices come from the literature column.

StoryEnginewebConveniently, that will keep me in the same conference classroom for the entire morning. It’s the room where the amazing Larry Brooks expounded his structural genius. (I found out he grew up in Portland, OR, and went to high school with Sam Eliott – of the Dodge voice track.)

Most of the sessions ask us to participate, which gave them a workshop feel. Write the definition of a premise. List the words you know you overuse in your writing. Things that help attendees ingest the information and immediately apply it to their writing.

Presenters ranged from authors to agents, from editors to social media gurus. Each one shared their expertise and opened themselves to questions about their topic. Some of them even rubbed elbows with the masses after the session.

Panels

The first session I attended was a panel of three agents. For an entire hour, those in the audience could ask any question burning in their minds. To say it was an eye-opening introduction to the writing world might be understating things.

Agents might respond to my query in eight weeks. After I send them the full manuscript, it could be another two to three months before I get the phone call offering representation. Or the rejection letter.

Say I sign with Ms. Ideal Agent. I have a contract. But not a publishing contract. It might take as many as 18 months for my advocate to find the perfect publisher for my novel. 18 months? That’s crazy!

After I get a real contract from a publisher, it could be another 18 months before my book makes the shelves of the Barnes & Noble at the mall. Talk about a LONG process. No wonder so many people are independently or self-publishing.

I’m hardly a mathmetician but that looks like almost three and a half years from original query to holding a published novel in my hand. That’s the math if my first querying attempt nets a manuscript request which leads to agent love. So that whole five year timeline from finished to published makes more sense now.

No wonder people are self publishing books on Amazon like there’s no tomorrow. Five years is more tomorrows than some people have to invest in a writing dream.

Critiques

For an additional fee, writers could submit twenty pages of their manuscript and a short synopsis to an agent, editor or author of their choice. This had to be done six weeks before the conference for best results. Some people walked in with a manuscript to get a critique on the spot, but since the windows for meetings were ten to fifteen minutes, I doubt it could have been in-depth.

I surfed the conference webpage to find someone who wrote or represented my genre. The closest I could find was a writer of adult urban fantasy. I booked her and whipped out a synopsis (which I felt clueless about producing) and submitted the pages.

I was her last appointment for the afternoon because she was presenting a class on hour later. We spent more than 30 minutes discussing my manuscript weaknesses. It was well worth the money spent.

More on this process later.

Pitches

Isn’t being discovered the reason pre-published writers attend conferences? Based on the number of attendees presenting to three or more agents or editors, the answer must be yes.

Fortunately, I attended a session taught by the agent to whom I presented my work. My pitch seemed to already meet her guidelines. It pays off to spend hours researching.

Pitch sessions lasted ten minutes (which is a long time in the real world of pitching ideas). The group of authors entered the room and shuffled to the round table where their industry professional sat waiting.

A surreal process really. More specific details about my own pitching experience in a future post.

Attending this conference opened my eyes to many things about my chosen path:

  • It is packed with thousands of others hoping for the same outcome
  • It takes fortitude to stay the course in the face of rejections
  • I don’t know as much about the craft of writing as I thought
  • The business of writing? I know nothing, Jon Snow.

At this juncture, I intend to attend this conference (or another local one) next year. I hope to network more at that future event. I may need to take a class: “How introverts network with other introverts.”

Is there a specific aspect of the conference you would like me to share information about? Have you attended a conference? What advice do you have to help me build networking skills?

An Update on the Progress of my Manuscript

I hope someday to connect with my readers on this blog. As of this moment, I know most of my faithful followers are family, friends and other writers. Thank you for your support.

According to Jedi Master of Social Media, Kristen Lamb, I shouldn’t write about writing on my blog. My readers don’t care about it. In theory, I agree with her expert advice and follow it to the best of my ability.

However, I’m breaking her rule today. (Just this once, Master! I promise!) As an unpublished author, I don’t have the type of “readers” who only want to learn about the writer behind the story yet. In fact, some of you have actually asked how the manuscript was coming along.

For those of you who want to be “in the know,” here’s a rundown of my novel’s life:

  • Book one in the series started the beginning of September 2013.
  • Book two was written in 23 days during NaNoWriMo, November 2013
  • Book three was finished by the end of January 2014 (which was a miracle as far as I’m concerned, considering what was happening in my life at that time)
  • Read-through and rewrite of book one took most of February
  • Stage one revisions were completed by March 21
  • Manuscript sent to six beta readers for return by April 15, 2014 (Tax Day: a happy coincidence?)
  • First week of May spent making changes to the manuscript based on feedback from the beta readers (They improved the story so much. I love them!)
  • Stage two revisions finished by May 21
  • Read-through and final touch-ups
  • Manuscript to proofreader by May 30
  • First query letter to top agency of choice with sample pages sent June 6, 2014
  • Submit first 20 pages (and a synopsis) for critique by Alex Hughes at Willamette Writer’s Conference by June 18

What I hope happens next in this process:

  • An agent asks to see the whole manuscript
  • When I meet with Katie Reed of the Andrea Hurst agency at the conference in August, she asks me to send the manuscript
  • One of these agents loves my story and signs me up
  • They help me edit and perfect the manuscript (Yes, I know it isn’t perfect)
  • A publisher picks it up by the end of October, and I see my first book in print by October 2015

I know that’s a crazy long timeline. This arduous process is one thing that makes indie publishing look more attractive and self-publishing amazing. I need the traditional route for my first book. If it gets picked up, I know I’m ready to be read by the general public.

When the time comes, this website will light up with release dates, promotions and events. My life will get crazy because the publisher will be demanding the next two manuscripts in the series. Hopefully, I will be able to get them perfected in the year it takes for the first one to find the shelf at your local bookstore and on Amazon, of course.

Thank you for encouraging me to stay the course toward seeing my life-long dream come true. I couldn’t have done it without you!