Book Update: Pro Feedback

In March I submitted the first 10 pages of my book to a real-life, bonafide editor!  There was nothing to do but wait for the first pro feedback I’d ever receive. Talk about the jitters.

As it so happened, Persona 5 came out just around that time, so getting lost in the stylish streets of Shibuya has been my happy distraction for the past month.

This weekend I finally received my book chapter critique! Now I’m trying to let it settle in. It was largely positive, which I wasn’t expecting. However, the editor did recommend some changes that are currently putting me through mental gymnastics because of the butterfly effect it could have on my book as a whole.

This kind of encouragement is harder for me than if she had hated it, as it means I still have a lot of work to do. I don’t expect many who are not writers to understand that. You have to take a stab at writing a book before Confirmation that I owe it to my story to put that time in is both dreadful and lovely. It means it has a chance at success.

Meanwhile, the voices in my head have returned.

“Tell my story next! Me! Me!”

I need to mull things over for a while.

Note: This critique was an amazing sign-up opportunity through SCBWI, which I highly recommend joining if you are in the business of writing for children.

Advertisements

Michigan Writing Workshop Event for Authors Hits Detroit

Mar. 25, 2017 (Novi, MI) — It’s not every day that hundreds of writers congregate in Novi. The area is known more for its flourishing population of sushi restaurants than budding J.K. Rowlings and Steven Kings. But after my near two-hour voyage through the rain, I discovered 279 other “pre-published” authors packed into the conference rooms of the Baronette Renaissance hotel.

The Michigan Writing Workshop (#MichiganWW)— a collaboration by coordinator Jessica Bell, former Writer’s Digest editor Chuck Sambuchino, and our very own Michigan SCBWI chapter—focused on providing guidance and opportunity for “How to Get Published.” By opportunity, I mean the 14 literary agents (and one editor) who accepted pitches (for a nominal fee).

I should have known, I thought, as I stood elbow to elbow in the line for the bathroom. I wasn’t there to pitch, but I must’ve been the minority.  MichiganWW proved at least one thing to be true:

Good advice on the publishing industry +Pitch opportunities to agents
= small army of writers frothing at the bit

How to Network Like a Boss

While the introverted part of me (hates crowds, introductions, loud noises) was horrified by the mob,  I also was thrilled to find so many others sharing my passion for the craft in such close proximity. Oh, good! There are other weirdos like me.

But short of introducing myself in the bathroom line and before the workshops, I found connection opportunities few and far between.

My prepared introductions went something like: “Hi, I see you are also a voluntary slave to the red pen. Care to chat over Twitter or a nice bourbon?”

My actual introductions were less charming: *Enters room. Flings business cards at unsuspecting writers. Flees.*

large

Who knows? Maybe you’re here on my blog because you caught one in the eye and were wondering who to sue.

Writing Contests

Hopeful writers flocked into the “first page contest” (aka Writers Got Talent), a returning event where attending agents try to read through the first pages submitted. Of course, with such a massive group of authors, they only made it through a fraction of the pile, quickly dubbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa. An even smaller sampling of those survived a full reading, and the ending feedback was not always positive. Sometimes, the agent just wanted to know where the heck the writer was going with it.

The contest was a humbling reminder of why you need a thick skin in the industry. 

When agents are getting hundreds of submissions a day, sometimes “good work” isn’t enough. They’re listening for the voice that will rise above. A lasting impression.

Publishing & Genre Workshops

Workshop topics, as promised, included How to be noticed by Agents (my interpretation: “Agent-Senpai”). Since I attended the 2015 workshop for Michiganww where this topic was thoroughly covered, I opted for the workshops specific to my genres: YA & Fantasy.

While these panels were more craft-focused, it seemed many of the other writers were, embarrassingly, in the wrong class during the Q&A session:

“But how do I get an agent?”

“Are you taking submissions?”

“When will Agent-Senpai notice me?”

“How do I get published?!”

tumblr_nh1qwta20m1qbtwyto2_250

These are not hard answers. Many are better addressed over Twitter than a conference. Most of them involve improving your craft. It’s the mechanics of how to improve I’m interested in at this stage of my manuscript. The agents, when not distracted by the publish-me-fever, were able to provide some useful insight useful to all.

How do I Advertise My Book?

Chuck Sambuchino’s talk on building presence and platform was an insightful addition to authors interested in taking online marketing into their own hands. For me, it felt like an undercover sting operation, as I am a marketing professional by day.  I’m happy to report that Chuck, for only having an hour on the subject, killed the presentation and provided sound advice on SEO, email marketing, blogging, among other options.

On a less technical, more heart-warming note, Chuck spoke on the value of giving to others and being open to connection.Put yourself out there. Market yourself.Ultimately, those who know you will buy your books because you’re you.

Side Note: In the future, I’ll probably provide my own list of marketing tactics relating to SEO (Search Engine Optimization), as this is one issue I get the most questions on.

More Event Information:

Official Event Website: https://michiganwritingworkshop.com/


Did you attend the 2017 Michigan Writing Workshop? I’d love to hear your thoughts and takeaways in the comments below. Thanks again to Jessica, Chuck, and SCBWI for orchestrating this event!

Thanks again for reading! If you’re on Twitter or Facebook, do feel free to hit me up with your best book recommendations or dankest internet memes. And if you’re just here for a few laughs, I have a slew of awkward writing moments to share on this blog.

SCBWI Meet Up: The Power of Peers

A few Saturdays ago–and I say that because I am utterly losing my sense of time– I attended a critique session with the “Mitten Meet Up” for the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.

Michigan Mitten
Yes, we love our hand puns in Michigan.

Battling down the usual anxiety of exposing my manuscript to fresh eyes, I decided that it was in the best interest of my story to go–after all, the feedback I’d received from my beta readers had been insightful. Plus, the last SCBWI meeting had been very informative. I thought, “I’m a grown woman, for Pete’s sake. I have no time for these petty insecurities causing me to lock my manuscript away from the world!”

The lovely ladies organizing the event suggested each in attendance bring 500 words to pick apart over a two hour critique session. That’s right, just 500 words. Out of, you know, over 62,ooo.

Suddenly, this didn’t seem like a good idea.

On one hand, I wanted to impress the mittens off of my fellow Michigan peers. But what was the point of that? It really put me in a tight spot and made me reconsider what type of feedback I would need the most.

I wasn’t going to stroke my own author ego; I was going for my story.

Given the twists and turns in my plot, I decided to start from the beginning. I know, I’m so creative. But ch. 1 sets the tone of the story, and it’s where both of my main characters are introduced. I knew already that I needed to develop both, at least a little more. And when better than a first impression? Besides, you need a strong hook to stand out to literary agents and publicists. Mine was somewhat decent, but nowhere near where I wanted it. So, I printed out 5 copies of my first chapter and set forth on the journey that would lead me to oh-so-many revisions…

At the meeting, I quickly settled in with the small group of YA authors. We nestled in at a baroque conference table in a library right off of a page of Harry Potter. Not only was the setting lovely and rich with inspiration, but it placed us far enough from the boisterous laughter bouncing in the hallways (thanks to the illustrators and children’s book authors). It was a nice change of pace; at the last meeting, I slipped away with the quickness only an introvert knows.

#IntrovertProblems

But safe within the library, I was thrilled to talk with “others” like me. After introductions, we took turns reading the stories aloud. The drafts were all in different stages, but all had brought a chapter from the beginning, or near it, of their manuscript. At least we were on the same page! As we went through them, what became apparent to me was that Michigan has some serious talent brewing. Look out, agents! When it was my turn to read another author’s chapter, I cracked up several times throughout my narration and had to recompose myself. I was quite enjoying it all until it was my chapter’s turn. That’s when the anxiety kicked back in.

There is nothing quite like hearing a stranger read aloud your book for the first time. Especially when a middle-aged man with a deep voice is reading lines meant for a 14-year old girl. After buttoning my mouth, I sat in a paralyzed daze. The dialogue sounded so pedantic and heavy-handed. The tone was dark, but not deep. It was like hearing daytime TV melodrama.

Does it really sound like that?

But it seemed so much better on the page!

What is happening?

Despite the mortifying doubts storming my brain, somehow, the group gave me a positive consensus. They were interested. Even wanted to know more about this world in my head. Hey, maybe it’s not as bad as I think? +5 confidence points!

Then they gave me something more valuable–honest criticism. The kind I could take home and chew on. I asked for more details, and they were happy to support that with specific examples.

“At the start, you tell us X, but instead show us Y here, here, and here.”

“I love this character, but I want to know more about them. How can you bring out this quality?”

“How about adding a scene like this?”

It was pretty fantastic.

There are shortcomings in your writing you will most definitely be blind to because it is yours. You know how it is supposed to sound. In your head, you have already filled in the blanks. The author’s omnipotence is dangerous to the story because it can end trapping you in a common pitfall without ever knowing why or how you got there. This peer meeting gave me the invaluable perspective on where to go from here when I thought I had already run chapter one into the ground.

Energized, I got in my car. The muses danced with the turning of its wheels. I couldn’t wait to get home and put these fresh, inspiring thoughts down on paper. This feeling lasted for about 20 minutes. And then I realized that fantasizing about writing is a lot easier than actually putting words on paper.

Chapter one would require more time, careful revision, and coffee.

I am going to write SO many drafts.

Gail Told Me To Do It: SCBWI

Gail being THE Gail Carson Levine, Newbery Honor winning author of Ella Enchanted, The Two Princesses of Bamarre, Dave at Night, and a slew of other fantastic books I cherished growing up in the 90s.

She’s fairly active on her Goodreads blog, so I threw out a question about finding agents and getting publishing advice. I wasn’t expecting a response; I figured it’d be lost in the mass of fanmail she gets on the daily.

 But guess what? She totally replied.

I know, right?

After a good deal of fangirling and texting my mom (who read Gail’s books with me as a child), I read her advice:

Gail Carson Levine

And so, off to The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators website I went!

Wow. Talk about an arsenal of resources. Guides, podcasts, and bookstores promoting members are just some highlights available. Members are eligible for publishing and promotional grants, manuscript awards, and book launching parties. As it turns out, they have a fairly active Michigan chapter, with a writing group that meets bimonthly in Ann Arbor and Farmington Hills. Score!

When I told my husband about the wealth of information, he said I had no choice but to join–it’s time to invest in my career, and take the next steps towards publication.

After all, Gail told me to do it.