Ready. Set. Write! Update #1

RSWStripe2Ready. Set. WRITE! is an online writing intensive to help stay accountable with your writing goals over the summer and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on whether planning, drafting, or revising! Your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin Funk, and Katy Upperman. Find the rest of the details HERE.

Today, we check in on our goals from last week:

1. Finish the few revision points left on my manuscript Of Blood and Promises.

~ I finished all the revision points but then added three. No big deal. Technically I achieved this goal.

2. Write Five Screenplay pages.

~  I wrote five screenplay pages. They are pretty fabulous.

I should have put a goal in there that reads something like Adjust to my son’s summer schedule of two days a week at his Montessori school. 

~ Tuesday we had a playdate with my niece and sister-in-law that involved swimming. Thursday we went for ice cream and comic book shopping with one of his friends, and then he had an art class. Friday, was the movies and the library…and it was only week one.

A favorite line from my story or one word or phrase that sums up what I wrote or revised:

Cal’s eyes trail across her face. He turns on his heels, begins walking across the court toward his gym bag.

She follows, trying to adjust her expression to appear unruffled.

RUBY

You know me, Cal, I gotta make an entrance.

He whirls on her, a mean smirk on his face, and claps, slowly.

RUBY (Cont.)

Ten years. Still wasn’t enough?

CAL

I asked for forever.

RUBY

Forever isn’t in the cards.

Biggest Challenge:

See above wherein I try to adjust to less writing time.

Something I love about my WiP:

The history between the two main characters is ripe with tension. I love being in the middle of it.

This Weeks Goals:

1. Write 15 screenplay pages. That sounds ambitious, but I plan to spend most of my writing time this week on screenplays.

2. Finish those three new revision points on my manuscript.

3. Adjust to my son’s new schedule.

4. Finish the beta reading I have lingering on my computer AT ALL COSTS.

What does your writing week look like?

 

 

So You Think You Can Write

sytycd

It is no secret that I watch — pretty religiously and usually while drinking or snacking to further differentiate myself from the sinewy dancers bodies — So You Think You Can Dance. It is pure entertainment, and unlike American Idol or The X Factor or The Voice, the talent on this show are (usually) highly-trained performers who have been working toward this much of their lives. There is less nonsense, in other words.

Besides that, there’s the other, slightly more private and embarrassing fact about me, that I secretly wish I could dance. I do not secretly harbor the same fantasies for being a singer. I also live with the daily knowledge that my future will never include me formed in the graceful lines of a pirouette. (As proven by my foray in Hula while visiting Hawaii this summer, which can be viewed here.)

But I’m straying from the topic. As I watched So You Think You Can Dance this season, I have also been in the very emotionally abusive (totally masochistic, I should specify because the agents have been very kind) journey known to all aspiring authors as querying. 

Of course, to soothe my own misery, and because I’m a writer who looks for storytelling tools, I drew some parallels between the Road to Publication and the Road to America’s Favorite Dancer, that I am now going to share with you. (And, because I know you’re getting ready to ask, there will be visual aids.)

1) There is a long line of talented, charismatic, maybe even gorgeously beautiful (for writers, more social networking savvy) people in front of and behind you vying for the same position as you are. There is room for many to succeed, at some level, but the majority won’t make it past this point.

sytycdThat is not meant to be discouraging. Querying agents is an ambiguously difficult task, where you can never really know if you’re doing it well or if you will ever make any headway.

Confession: I have developed a serious (borderline neurotic) phobia that all my emails go straight into spam folders. I have fantasies, and not the good kind, of the internet netherworld where emails from me wander around in limbo. Even when I get prompt replies, I then worry over my response email. Really…it’s becoming a problem. One with no solution because as a querying writer it is essential to maintain a front of cool. In other words, no psychotic Twitter stalking, no emailing to check they received your other email. Guys…we just have to wait.

2) Even if you make it past this stage into the first round of eliminations, (or what can be compared to a partial request) that may be where your journey ends. This, of course, is up to how well you dance and how willing you are to be vulnerable on stage. (Is your writing “there”? Did you revise enough for a stranger to connect with your words?) Also, what kind of contestants they are looking for this season. Producers have an idea of the kind of show they want to make, you just may not be what they are looking for. (The “Not for me, not right now” response.)

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Many writers, after multiple partial requests without an upgrade to full, will give up. It is draining to have the hope dangled — even with good intentions, as I am inclined to believe agents generally have — in front of you, for it to then be snatched away.

Confession: I try to see requests as nothing more than a first date. The agent is grabbing coffee with your MS, flirting, maybe fantasizing about kissing, maybe looking for an out. It is not a commitment for more, but could result in further courting.

3) You make it to the top 20! Yay! This is further than almost every other dancer in America. You should be proud. You should be grateful. You still just really want to win. Winning is the goal, not placing, not getting some recognition only to be told you’re not popular or talented enough for the big time. (You’ve had a full requested, but still no offer of representation. You’re progressing, but your goal is an agent willing to rep you, not nice words about how much they love your book…just not enough to take it on.)

Your road to dance success may not be through So You Think You Can Dance, it doesn’t mean you can’t dance.

sytycdeliminationsUltimately, you want an agent who gets your book, can conceive of how to make it better, will be able to sell it, and will defend it right along beside you to anyone who doesn’t get it. Submission is a bitch, mediocre feelings won’t carry you through it. An agent who passes because of that is a kind person indeed, who respects their position in the author’s life and sees they aren’t the best to represent them.

Confession: I actually would rather continue to search for the right agent than sign with the wrong one.

4) You make it to the top 10. (A position I will equate with having an agent, but being in revision still, maybe even out on submission with no luck. I have no agent, though I feel I will always be in revision.) You’re gonna go on tour, you know that much. You’re popular. Your talent is real, and your discipline to improve has so far held up. Any number of things can result in your elimination at this point, but the greatest seems to be that you just aren’t what America is drawn to right now. It’s really not about your skill, but what you’re selling.

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Jenna, who I thought was a very talented dancer with a lot going for her, never seemed to grip the audience. In the end, both she and Tucker were eliminated after dancing beautifully all season.

Confession: I am not a technically perfect writer. My grammar can be lacking. I’m a fan of a comma in odd or random places, and my education has come from reading a lot, writing a lot, but not going to school a lot. This does not make me better or worse. In fact, betas on my early drafts probably wanted to strangle me, but somehow also still loved the story. However, technique isn’t the most important thing. Technique can be improved by practice and a willingness to learn, something easily managed by all if we put our minds to it.

5) Even when you make it to the end, you still may face disappointment and set-backs. (Expectations for your publishing deal, your sales, your fame and fortune are not met.) The truth is, this is what it all leads up to. The finale.

aaron

This season of So You Think You Can Dance featured a really talented tapper who made it to the finale. Aaron had auditioned three times for the show. He had made it to Vegas twice. He had made it through multiple cuts only to be sent home before the Top 20. Finally, he made it into the Top 20, then the Top 10, then the Top 4. His skills as a dancer were top notch. He had a great charisma on stage. He was masculine and strong and, really, not bad looking. I was rooting for him. Sure, I liked Fik-shun. I thought he was talented. I loved him with Amy, etc. But I wanted to see the happy ending for Aaron. I hoped, after all the years of him knocking on this door, him seeking this prize, the answer would be America’s Favorite Dancer Is…Aaron.

Why? Because I want that. As do all writers on the journey toward publication. To pretend we don’t dream of a great publishing deal, a New York Times Bestseller, a film adaptation that doesn’t suck, would be a boldfaced lie. This dream isn’t about the realistic, the what we know will probably happen, because in the end we will be happy to be published and continue writing books — no, the big dreams are what keep us sending out queries, revising, writing. We must write, this will not change if we are never validated by a publishing deal, but the yes from an agent, the sell to an editor, is our goal.

We hear nonstop about the subjectivity of this business. So You Think You Can Dance beautifully illustrates this concept. In the end, what another person loves is not up to you. Be a champion of what you love. Write the stories you want to write, with the characters you can’t ignore, and have faith that you will one day become Your Agent’s Favorite Query, That Editor’s Must Read Submission, The Bestseller Everyone Loves, or The Book That Someone Won’t Be Able To Put Down.

Author Platform Building

Authors with a mortgage never get writers block.

— Mavis Cheek

I have been looking a lot at writing as a profession, and not just an outlet for the crazy inside my own brain. When you sit down to write your first novel the tendency — at least this was the case for me — is to get wrapped up in the new romance. This can manifest itself many ways. I fell in love with my protagonist. I fell in love with her love interest. I fell in love with what she was fighting for, and consequently, against. But, eventually you finish the manuscript, you do your rewrites, and you get it to an agent.

If you are lucky enough to hook an agent, you then have to wait for them to read it and give you notes (if they’re going to take it on) or pass (at which point, chocolate and a bottle of wine may be in your immediate future.) Either way, waiting is involved. I’m an inherently impatient human being. I can blame my father— who is the same way — or the instant availability of entertainment and information in this age — because they have screwed my generation over when it comes to attention span — or just bite the bullet and admit I just can’t sit still. I can’t.

This means I seek the next step. I file a preemptive strike against patience. And I research what authors, especially YA authors, are doing to get their names out there. That is where I learned the phrase author platform. Apparently, romance with your work is great, researching agents is smart, doing the hard work of actually editing and submitting your novel is valuable, but author platform is increasingly vital in this growing, merging world that is publishing.

Publishing is changing. It’s largely electronic now. The audience you are trying to reach wants things now  — I’m not alone!— and they want to know EVERYTHING. They need multiple ways to interact, not only with celebrities, but writers, friends, family, celebrity pets. In other words, if you want to be a writer, you must develop a platform from which to build your following. You must become a presence.

This may send you to a dark room with heart palpitations. You are not alone, I was there earlier this week. But, once you stop panicking, you then start to grapple with the reality, you then develop a plan. Dan Blank writes a clear, cut-the-shit article about it here. His basic take, and here he’s referring to branding (a not four letter word that feels like one):

…it is about communication. Effectively understanding your own purpose, that of your audience, and the ways to connect the two. That’s it, just a word to describe a much deeper and more meaningful process.

He goes on to break it down for us. It’s helpful. Still scary. Why does it scare me? Because it feels like admitting that I’m really doing this. There is a place where you can still go back. I left that place two weeks ago when I stopped rewriting and handed my manuscript over to an agent. I drank a lot that day and watched Batman Begins. (I was gearing up for The Dark Knight Rises too!) It felt like a weight lifted and then was replaced by an anvil. It felt real — the tangible step toward the abyss of publishing or crashing-and-burning.

I already had a blog. I’m gonna be honest, that is the easiest step. Blogging is fun, and as long as your blogging you can feel like you are accomplishing something just by clicking publish. This can be a delusion when you only have three people reading your blog. The real challenge is then producing real interest in yourself. That takes time, consistency, and you actually putting something out their that other people want to read.

On writer Bill Henderson’s blog, Write a Better Novel, he explains that utilizing the planks — haha, since your building an author platform, get it? — of Facebook, Twitter, and blogging is an easy, free way to do that. You still have to be smart about it, though, and not just think by having an account people will magically care. But if you can’t be smart about it, maybe you should be a baker. Of course, if you’re trying to make it as a baker in this day and age you probably need a Twitter account and Facebook page so people can like you. In other words, everyone looking to make a career needs to build themselves a platform.

In the spirit of that, I started a Facebook fanpage. This is separate from my personal, private account, and is set up for me to funnel all of my internet writerly escapades to one, easy source. Check it out if you are so inclined. But further, make your own if you are at this stage. And then let me know so I can like it. We need each other, we reclusive, obsessive writers. Planks laid, platform being nailed.