Category Archives: Motivation

‘Tis the season for some woowoo

402978_10151116064776524_1292974204_nWe (Restless Writers) are preparing for our Christmas meeting.

Lori is our host and has promised us the four food groups: booze, cheese, bread, and sugar. No doubt, eggnog and butter tarts will also make an appearance. Lori has promised something else too, something just as magnificent: a tarot or angel card reading. This is the woowoo part of our meeting.

Some of you might know the “woowoo” as an alcoholic beverage consisting of vodka, peach schnapps, and cranberry juice—others might know it as a reference to almost any form of unconventional thought. I think Deepak Chopra would agree that both work. Whatever your new-age pleasure, ’tis the season to indulge: yoga, reiki, meditation, clairvoyance, shamanic journeying, energy healing or whatever it is you do to find balance. Yay to the mind-body-spirit connection.

The woowoo is also for writers, and is absolutely essential to health and well-being. So, in honour of the woowoo this month, I wanted to share the following blessing for writers, by author Lisa Gardner.

At this time of year, I think we can all use an extra blessing. This one is for you.

A Writer’s Blessing

May you always remember the thrill of being swept away by a really good book.

May the words you’re typing on the page be as worthy as the words running through your mind.

May your deadline be behind you.

May a good story lie ahead of you.

And as we go forth,

May you always enjoy the journey to finding those two perfect words. The End.

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Filed under Group meetings, Inspiration, Life and stuff, Motivation

It’s Been a PITCH of a Summer

The Restless Writers have had some challenges this summer.

The pages and word counts have evaporated kinda like sweat. It’s been a summer of renos, indexes, puppies, and house hunting. Our meetings have gone down more like patio parties and opportunities to kvetch about our lives and ‘honey-do’ lists. But there is hope! We have all managed to share new ideas and bring the early workings of new-fangled projects to the table (along with brie and butter tarts).

We have pitches. Four of them.

Creating a pitch can be a bit like peeling back the layers of an onion. We all know a well-crafted pitch begins with a brief sentence that describes the book. So we started there, then followed it with character and situation information. We did this while taking into consideration three key story sparks and of course, the ultimate hook. We managed to come up with a structure that worked for us, while keeping in mind that we were pitching to each other as a writing group and not agents. We were pitching ideas, not complete projects.

And this is how we did it.

THE PERFECT PITCH:

  1. WORKING TITLE
  2. LOGLINE (i.e. one sentence summary)
  3. GENRE (i.e. YA/Women’s Fiction)
  4. WORD COUNT
  5. SIMILAR BOOK TITLES (or similar author’s style)
  6. MAIN CHARACTER (and main character’s goal)
  7. SITUATION
  8. CONFLICT
  9. DISASTER
  10. STORY RESOLUTION

Perhaps this is a template that you too can use while you pitch your new project to your peers. Try it for a few different projects before you settle on one. While it is a bit scary, it’s totally worth it.

Now the real work begins. We are about to begin plot summaries and outlines.

Our pitch of a Summer is setting us up for a fantastic Fall!

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Filed under Getting published, Group meetings, Inspiration, Motivation, Writing ideas

25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing

Chuck Wendig wrote a fantastic post that combines my two favourite things: advice for writers and f-bombs.

Enjoy….

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The New Girl

Here I am. Reporting for my first blog post, fresh from my inaugural Restless Writers meeting. The meeting was everything I hoped it would be – a great opportunity to get to know these awesome ladies better and to take in some of their honest feedback on the pages I submitted. While I survived their critiques (this was managed largely through consumption of wine and baked brie), as the newbie to the Restless Writers, I have to admit I am struggling with a dash of self doubt about whether or not I have the writing chops to be a part of this group.

Beckie has an agent—a real agent. And I didn’t even know what an em dash was until  Maria told me. Heck, I thought em dash was spelled “m” dash until I just looked it up online two minutes ago.

The good news in all of this is? I’m fairly sure I am not the first new want-to-be writer to feel this way. In 2010, The Guardian ran a two-part feature where they asked famous writers to share their Ten Rules of Writing Fiction. I was particularly drawn to the cheery wisdom imparted by British novelist and journalist Will Self. Will says:

“You know that sickening feeling of inadequacy and over-exposure you feel when you look upon your own empurpled prose? Relax into the awareness that this ghastly sensation will never, ever leave you, no matter how successful and publicly lauded you become. It is intrinsic to the real business of writing and should be cherished.”

If this is true, I guess I am well on my way to becoming a writer.

Thank you Restless Writers for the warm welcome. With your mad grammar skills I’ll be mastering the in’s and out’s of em vs. en dashes in no time. And if not, I’ll fake it.

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Filed under Blogging, Group meetings, Motivation, Starting up

Your life in 6 words

Not Quite What I Was Thinking

According to the literary legend, novelist Ernest Hemingway was once challenged in a bar to write a story in only six words. He wrote, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

If you were asked to sum up your life in six words, could you do it? I was challenged with this recently and it’s been an interesting exercise. I wrote a bunch of bios, then a bunch more. It was surprising how many I could come up with, some poetic, some funny, and some that resembled silly haikus. All of them a bit out of the ordinary, yet candid and concise.

Here’s one of them:

Artist trapped in civil servant’s body. ~ Beckie

After jotting down a dozen for myself, I took it further and extended the challenge to the Restless Writers and here’s what I got:

Strives for perfection, stymied by procrastination. ~ Maria

Writer wannabe, ‘cuz I hate housework. ~ Lori

Of course, I stumbled upon many more (like this) out there. The online magazine Smith asked its readers to do the same. The result was Not Quite What I Was Planning, a collection of six-word memoirs by famous and not-so-famous writers, artists, and musicians.

Here are a few of them:

No future, no past. Not lost. ~ Matt Brensilver

Catholic school backfired. Sin is in! ~ Nikki Beland

Well, I thought it was funny. ~ Stephen Colbert

Deceptively simple. Surprisingly addictive. The profound brevity of these bios leaves you knowing so much, and yet somehow leaves you wanting more. Give it a try, the experience of capturing real-life stories in six words is an insightful one.

What’s your six-word bio? We invite you to leave it in the comments section.

BJas

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Filed under Inspiration, Life and stuff, Motivation, Writing ideas

Out of the Mouths of Agents

Tip #27: Do not show up at an agent's office wearing this.

I used to be very superstitious when it came to querying agents. It started when someone told me the best time to query was between January and June, but I took it to another level. I started trying to get into the minds of agents (i.e. Would s/he be more receptive to my email in the morning or afternoon? Should I wait until mid-week in case s/he had a crappy weekend? Etc.). It was exhausting, not to mention…unhealthy.

Thankfully, the conference I went to last autumn cured me of my Agent-related OCD. The agent/editor panels were a revelation—instead of guessing what made agents tick, I was able to sit back and listen to them tell me. On the off chance there are other A-R OCD sufferers out there, here some pearls of wisdom, straight from the agent’s mouth:

What agents are seeing too much of:
– Vampires and werewolves
– Mid-life spiritual memoirs
– Heavy YA (i.e. young girls being severely abused)
– Talking animals in children’s books

What would agents love to see:
– Judy Blume-like contemporary middle grade
– Chinese spy novel set between two World Wars
– Historical thriller that lends to a series/branding

What can an agent bring to the table:
– Editorial experience
– Other opportunities to create revenue streams (i.e. speaker services)
– Someone who will champion your work to the world

What agents look for in a new author:
– Writing is becoming very voice-driven and it must be engaging and distinct (i.e. don’t try to write like J.K. Rowling)
– Emotion on the page that evokes a visceral response in the reader
– A great title can make the difference in an agent giving attention to your query
– Have an understanding of the publishing business so you know what your work has to go through before it’s printed
– Critique partners are essential in getting your manuscript ready for an agent, who will then take it up another notch before going to publishers

What all aspiring authors should know about agents:
– Agents take on new clients in cycles, depending on their current list, and much of getting an agent depends on timing
– Summer is not a slow time to query—it’s always busy (one agent signed a client on Christmas Eve! Another one found her client at a drag show!)
– A good query has a hook (logline), book (plot) and cook (bio)—don’t get too clever/cute/wordy

What agents think of social networking:
– Interacting on Twitter and Facebook demonstrates to editors/agents that you are serious about being a career author and building a network
– Unless you get 60,000+ hits per month, having a blog is not as important for fiction writers—the story is what really matters
– Remember that the internet is like a live microphone—be nice and supportive online because agents and editors and readers will Google you
– Think of Google as your virtual resume

What agents think of self-publishing:
– It’s ideal for traditionally-published authors who already have a readership base or who’ve regained rights to previously-published work
– Do it properly (e.g. hire a professional editor, graphic designer)
– Digital publishing is growing, but it’s still one piece of the author’s puzzle
– Agents/editors act as gatekeepers for quality control and can offer brand management (i.e. media outreach) that an author can do alone, but is infinitely harder
– “Debut” is not a dirty word in publishing and often no data is better than bad data when it comes to sales tracking
– It can be tricky trying to move from self-publishing to traditional—40,000 copies sold through self-publishing may be interpreted by a traditional publisher as either not enough copies sold or that it’s been sold to everyone who will buy it
– If your genre is hard to categorize or you have plenty of time to self-promote, self-publishing may be a good option for you

What should you ask an agent when you get “the call” (or, more likely, “the email”):
– How do you work (i.e. does contact occur via phone, email, etc.)?
– What’s the plan from here? What do you see as next steps in terms of short and long-term strategy?
– What do you connect with in the book?
– What revisions do you suggest?
– What’s your experience with my kind of book?

What’s the biggest thing Lori learned from the agents?
– Agents are, remarkably, regular people. And like other regular people, there are some you click with more than others. They have good and bad days, they have personal preferences when it comes to books (and, one would assume, other things), they love their authors and they love what they do. Most importantly, they all want to find new authors with fresh voices and exciting ideas.

As you may have gathered, it appears that the best time to query your dream agent is…right now. Seriously—if your Chinese spy novel set between two World Wars and query letter are as perfect as you can make them, it’s time to send them out into the world.

If your voice is strong, pace is unputdownable, timing is right and you don’t include glitter with a lemon-scented query letter, today could be the day you get an agent.

LD

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Filed under Getting published, Inspiration, Motivation, Starting up, Trials and Tribulations

New year. New stories. Ready, set, go!

Our sentiments exactly…Happy New Year from the Restless Writers.

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A Little Patience

“‛I don’t suppose you could speed things up,’ Inigo said.” The Princess Bride, William Goldman

Skeleton waiting at a computerAs some of you might have read, one of the Restless Writers challenged me to actually finish one of my short stories and submit it to a literary journal or contest. Well, Beckie will be pleased to hear I have done just that. I just sent off a short story to the Fiddlehead’s 21st Annual Literary Contest.

Now comes the hard part—waiting.

The Fiddlehead will be announcing the results before the end of February, so I’ve got some time to kill.

That means three months before I find out if I placed in the contest at all, and three months before I learn if I can submit the same story elsewhere with better luck (no simultaneous submissions).

To keep myself occupied, here are a few of the things I can do until I hear back about the results (if I hear back—fingers crossed!):

  • Read some short-story collections, like Zsuzsi Gartner’s Better Living Through Plastic Explosives or D.W. Wilson’s Once You Break A Knuckle, to better torture myself on how I could have improved my submission.
  • Cram in my Christmas shopping. Watch out, Mapleview Mall, I have a VISA and I’m not afraid to use it!
  • Organize all my Stampin’ Up stamps, inks and papers into a beautiful craft box, complete with mini-scissors, snail glue and sprinkles…and give them away to someone who digs crafts. I am so not that girl.
  • Prepare a business plan and pitch for the Dragon’s Den. One of these puppies has to be a winner.
  • Brush up on my Spanish, so the next time someone calls me “Rojita Hermosita” I’ll respond with a blush and a thank-you instead of a blank stare.
  • Edit my sock drawer. It’s getting embarrassing.
  • Work on—and finish—another story. The Restless Writers are getting sick of my half-imagined, partially completed bits and pieces and want to see me churn something out. Don’t worry, girls, it’s coming!

I know the best thing I can do is keep writing. This is just one contest out of the many opportunities we short-story writers have to get our work out into the world. The secret is to keep writing and keep submitting, so the days spent waiting are productive and your chances of successfully getting published are multiplied.

Who else is playing the waiting game right now?

Maria

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Filed under Motivation, Writing Contests

If You Want an Agent, You Need Backspace

I learned about the Backspace Writer’s Conference the way I learn about most things: Twitter. An author I follow tweeted about his new agent and his blog detailed the experience (Backspace played a huge role).

I cannot emphasize enough what an amazing opportunity this conference provides to authors looking for an agent. Unlike most writing conferences that offer a couple of anxiety-ridden pitch sessions, Backspace provides genre-specific workshops where authors spend hours having their query letters and opening pages critiqued by agents seeking new clients.

Not all participants receive offers of representation, but at the very least they should come away inspired and informed enough to make their manuscript query-ready. I received multiple requests for my women’s fiction manuscript, but of equal importance was the opportunity to connect with writers who have become beta readers, cheerleaders and swoon-worthy drinking buddies.

I’ve also completed a children’s chapter book that I’m ready to query, but only YA was being represented in the workshops. Luckily, Backspace offered agent/editor panels on both days and writers were able to pitch their work to them following the sessions. This allowed me to connect with agents who represent children’s fiction (more referrals and requests for pages).

Since I went totally budget on the accommodations and was able to score a cheap flight, the entire conference cost me just over $1,000—obviously a significant chunk of coin, but think of it as an investment in yourself…that’s how I sold it to my husband 😀

LD

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Filed under Author events, Getting published, Inspiration, Motivation, Starting up, Writing resources

How to Rock a Writer’s Conference Before It Starts

Exactly one week from today I’ll be in New York for Backspace, a two-day conference limited to 100 writers with only literary agents/editors in small workshops. I am equal parts excited and nauseous at the thought of doing this on my own, without a Restless Writer or Word Bitch to hold my hand.

Luckily, all of these ladies have been to conferences in the past and briefed me on what to bring and expect while I’m there. But what about all of my non-conference time? I’ll be in New York City for three days—I can’t just hide in my room!

This is why I’ve made some plans. They are neither writerly nor particularly touristy, but they give me something to look forward to besides the conference (plus, the anticipation of these distractions keep me from freaking out about the reason I’m in NY…agents!…ack!)

I land on Wednesday morning, but the conference doesn’t begin until Thursday. I’m not staying at the hotel, so I can’t easily troll the bar lobby for fellow attendees. Instead, I’ll be at an exercise class.

Before you slam your laptop closed in disgust, hear me out. This isn’t just any exercise class: it’s Physique 57, beloved by Sofia Vergara and Christy Turlington, among others. I’ve been using the DVDs for months and can’t wait to take a class in person. This will also alleviate any potential guilt when I scarf my way through Manhattan.

On Wednesday night I’m going to The Upright Citizen’s Brigade, which was founded by Amy Poehler and some friends over ten years ago. It offers sketch comedy and improv shows every night for five dollars, and no two shows are alike.

Many actors from 30 Rock (Kenneth! Lutz!), The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and Saturday Night Live got their start at UCB. It’s not uncommon for celebrities such as Tina Fey or Steve Carell to jump on stage unannounced. I’m going to a show featuring writers from Conan who will be performing new material in advance his show taping in New York the following week.

Thursday evening has been left open on my itinerary for hanging with conference peeps, but if that doesn’t pan out I heard that Hugh Jackman is previewing his one-man show that night…

New York is the city that doesn’t sleep and for three days next week, neither will I.

LD

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Filed under Author events, Inspiration, Motivation, Starting up, Trials and Tribulations