Thursday, 29 June 2017

This week's Twitter Pitch Party: #SFFpit

I recently participated in #SFFpit, which is probably one of my favouritest of the TPPs (Twitter Pitch Parties). 

I like it for its simplicity, it's genre specificity, and the fact that there's no limit as to how many pitches an agent/publisher can like. Sure, the next step is to query as one normally would, but it's not a cold query. You're querying an agent who already thinks your Twitter pitch sounds like something they'd be interested in. Also, my odds of making progress seem to be better than the other TPPs or contests I've been subbing to.

During this latest #SFFpit I had an epiphany, possibly because I allowed myself some sleep. (PSA: sleep is one of the greatest tools for triggering the creative mind. Give it a try the next time you're stuck/blocked.)

Then I had another one, and then yet another one.

Epiphany #1: My old query letter was dull, but now I know how to make it better.  

I'd been trying for years to get my query letter for this particular project to work, with little success. When a few agents liked my #SFFpit pitches, I squee'd for a while, then, like any wise professional author, put the news aside and let things process. IOW, I had a weekend off work. Then, when I was doing something else, I thought back to the last project I sold. How did I pitch that, and why did it succeed? 

I realised what I had done right with that query letter, why it had worked, and realised how to apply those points to my new query letter. So I redrafted once more, and sent those off to the kind agents who wanted to see more of my work.

Will it work? Stay tuned.

Epiphany #2: My voice in my project could be tweaked a little more.  Let's wait and see what these agents say before I go tweaking 125K words.

Epiphany #3: Nobody cares how bad your book is if you've got VOICE.

I've been participating in these TPPs for a few years now, and something's been nagging at my spidey senses. I keep seeing people get into these contests that offer mentorships or other structured feedback. Often I'll follow along long after I failed to get in to see what it was people saw in these hopeful works. 

All too often I'd read blogs from both sides talking about how much work a book needed to bring it up to scratch before it was ready to go before an agent. They talk about how they needed to do global revisions on a plot, how the characters needed lots of work to round them out, and all sorts of stuff. They practically make it sound like these books, which they thought were far superior to the others in the contest, were nowhere near ready.

And I'm wondering, if these books needed so much work, why on earth did you think they were "ready" to be chosen? 

And I realised. They chose them because they had voice.  And that was it.

I'm wondering if that's entirely fair.

What I would like to see is a TPP where hopefuls can offer their submissions and the worst pitches are chosen through several rounds of traige, and the authors offered the help they so desperately need to lift their craft.  (No, I'm not going to run it because I don't have the time, the Name, or the connexions to make it successful.)

Epiphany #4:  My current publishing path is currently the correct one for my needs now.

As well as agents, a few small presses also liked my pitches. While I'm primarily looking for an agent at the moment, I thought it worth due diligence to research these small presses. Learned a lot.

TL;DR: there was nothing any of these pitched small presses could offer me that I couldn't do with indie publishing, except move the cost of production from my pocket to theirs.  

For some, that might be worth it. But as I've gone hybrid, I've seen both sides, and unless these small presses are able to give me the marketing support my current Romance small press offers me (and most of them didn't look like it), I'm not seeing much value in shifting production costs to them, for what I'm getting in return.


I'd  L O V E  for an agent to pick up this particular project. It's been near and dear to my heart and I want to see it get the best chance out in the world. Right now, I feel an agent would give it that best chance. If no one wants it, then I may consider self-publishing, for I (and my beta readers) do believe this is worth releasing on the world.

Her Grace does learn much from these TPPs, even if she never gets selected.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

When Writing Takes a Back Seat to Love

The last quilt I made.
For the past week, my writing word count has been exactly - 0 -.

That's right, a big old goose egg, and I'm not ashamed.

Instead I've been helping my daughter with a really big project. See, her best friend's turning sixteen next week, and having an absolutely big old blowout Sweet Sixteen Ball to celebrate. Best Friend is one of those lovely young ladies who's pretty, intelligent, thoughtful and creative--the sort of person you always want to know. I'm glad she's in my daughter's life.

Because her upcoming birthday is a Big Deal, I suggested to my daughter we give her something that said Love. I suggested we make her a quilt. Nothing says love more than spending hours hand-making something for someone, especially if much thought is put into the project.

If anyone ever gives you something handmade, like a crocheted afghan, a knitted scarf, a quilt, or anything that took them hours and days to make, recognise the time and love they put into the project, all the time thinking of you.

In one of my other lives, I quilt. Many creative people have more than one creative outlet. We're Creators. We can't help it. In the past my daughter has helped me make quilts. Now, I'm helping her.

She asked her Best Friend what kind of colours she liked, and then we went fabric shopping  until we found a fine Japanese Lawn that had the right feel to it. We considered different kinds of blocks, but settled on a Hexagon Kaleidoscope because they're easy and pretty. While I would  normally be writing, I've been helping her fussy-cut isosceles triangles, doing the initial layout and stitching together so many, many little triangular blocks. We don't have time to properly quilt the finished product, so we're going to tie it once we get it on the frames.

We have to be finished by Saturday. I've been documenting her process, so as soon as we are finished, I'll post pics and results.

Her Grace encourages anyone who feels a little sad to go make something. The act of creation lifts the human spirit.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Tuesday's Tale - Manspreading

Trains were quieter at 2pm, just after the lunch rush, but before students escaped from school for the day.  Two cars down held a mother with several noisy toddlers. Next car over had three commuters, engrossed in their phones.

This car, besides myself, enjoyed the silence of emptiness, until Aubin Grove cursed us with another passenger.

I did not care to know his name, nor desired any further acquaintance. Yet he insisted on sitting next to me--to me!--in the  middle of an empty train car. No decent person did that. The rule was that if you were not the only person in a public space, it was up to you and everyone else to fill up the space as evenly as possible. Strangers did not cluster together.

He was not a decent person. He even manspread, as if he'd forgotten to dry his balls completely this morning after his shower and had to let them air out, lest they develop a nasty condition.

I gave him The Look. You know the one. We all communicate with strangers with The Look. Dude, you're in my space, my eyes said.

He knew what I was saying. He glanced at me, then looked away, clearly dismissing me.

I knew that cut. Men did it all the time. It was an admonishment, that if I didn't like what he was doing, then I could move.

No way. I was here first.

I leaned over. "Dude, you're sitting in Mike's spot." I looked around as if afraid of being overheard.

That got me another glance and a sneer. With my finger I began counting invisible spots on his shirtsleeve. "Mike doesn't like people sitting in his spot. That's why I sat here, to the side."

Now I got his full attention.

Four, five, six, I silently mouthed as I counted my way up his sleeve. He pulled his arm away, but I kept counting. It wasn't until I got to twelve, that I paused. "See, Mike sits there, Barney is on the other side."  I pointed across the train. "Darren and Karen are over there, but they never argue, and Wilson keeps his own company over here." I gestured to my other side. "Anywhere else is safe to sit."

I resumed my counting of invisible dots on his sleeve. Even when he moved away, I leaned over until I reached twelve.  Then I started again at one.

Sure enough, he got up and moved, not to another seat, but out of the car completely.

That's right, dude. My brand of crazy outranks your brand of assholery.

Her Grace can now go back to working on her novel.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Didn't get into #pg70pit

Nope, didn't get into #pg70pit (aka #70pit17) either.

Surely my work isn't THAT bad, is it?

Could be.

Doesn't help when people attempt to "comfort" me by telling me Harry Potter was rejected twelve times before Bloomsbury picked up up.

Oh, only a mere twelve times? I've got a spreadsheet listing more than ten times that in rejection for Of The Dark, many of them form rejections. I do take a bit of professional reassurance that I don't have any of the scathing rejections that some authors get. Any personalised rejections I do get, especially from full requests, say nice things. I get a lot of "I like it, and you're really good at [x], but I'm afraid it's not quite right for my list."

This is the sort of feedback that drives an author to drink self-publish.

Her Grace is considering the indie route with OTD, and possibly going straight to Victoria Arden for snagging an agent.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

A Clarification of Definitions

So I'm throwing my hat into a three-ring circus this month with all the pitch contests.  One consistent quality is that each entrant has to define their genre.  Always useful.

I'm pitching a Fantasy Romance, but not every contest has #FR as a category. Do I cringe and stick a #PR tag on it, or do I be true to the novel and double-tag it with #F and #R?  I've been doing the latter, because Of The Dark, despite it's magic, is definitely NOT a Paranormal Romance.

There is a difference between Paranormal Romance and Fantasy Romance.

  • Paranormal Romance is a real world with a layer of magic over it. 
  • Fantasy Romance is a fantasy world (sometimes a second world, alternate reality or otherworld) with magic in it.

If you take all the magical stuff out of your world, and left everything else behind, how would your Romance be categorised?  If you remove the vampires and the shifters et al., you'd be left with a contemporary Romance. Take magic out of a Fantasy Romance, you've still got a Fantasy Romance.

I can't call an otherworld Fantasy Romance a "Paranormal", because there's no "normal" to para.

Her Grace finds these contests fun, but doesn't eschew the Original Contest of sending a query to an agent the old-fashioned way.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Today's Contest: #pg70pit

Yep, it's June, when the first half of the summer* contests take place. (The second half happens in August. Nothing happens in July, because nobody can be bothered.)

Today it's the Page 70 Pitch contest.  Take page 70 of your completed, polished ms, and see if it's got any voice. Tweet a seven-word desc of your MC and hope it has voice.

Hope the bonheure of the universe favours your entry being selected, and the lucky winners get their entries perused by agents who may make requests.

So my hat is in the ring, along with a secret code name I cannot reveal and the book I hope to reveal to the whole world.

Now that I've submitted my entry and tweeted my tweet, I am having serious doubts about my voice.

I will not give in to my whiny muse. I will finish my WIP before I attempt to fix OTD's voice. In fact, I might write another book, then have a look at OTD's voice.

*Summer... when Her Grace say "summer", she really means Cancerian summer, as experienced by the Northern Hemisphere (June, July, August).  For Her Grace, who lives Down Under, Capricornian summer (Birak and Bunuru) happens in December, January, February.

So yeah. Right now it's cold and miserable in her part of Australia. And dark.

Friday, 2 June 2017

After my word cloud yesterday, I saw this twitter thread and I pondered on a personalised rejection I received last week and I wondered if I was missing something in my first chapter.

I must be, though I cannot think what that is.

The rejection said that my first chapter didn't have a hook.

Really? Howzat?  The first chapter's all about the triggers and the inciting incident. The first trigger happens on the first page. My MC realises something, wonders if this new realisation will solve a problem she has, and it does. Just as she applies that solution, she's thrust into another, more dire situation, where this same solution solves this second problem. However, this solution has consequenses, which come visit her at the end of Chapter One, thus sending her life into snafu-land.

Then I wondered if the clues I'd dropped in weren't obvious enough, that my first chapter might have been too 'quiet', as they say.

A quiet book is not the same as a dull book. Everything you want is there, but it's subtle. Sometimes you've got to work for it, or maybe you'll be five chapters down the track before the penny drops, but the penny always drops.

You know how in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince he comes across a cabinet of stuff, and one of the items is a locket?  Of course not. Nobody really noticed the locket, as it was shown as setting. But then in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, you learn it's a frickin' horcrux!  The introduction of the locket is quiet, but it becomes a significant McGuffin later on.

Readers like to be trusted, even if they might gloss over a clue, only to realise it later.  To beat them over the head with every plot point is like telling them they're too stupid to figure the plot out. They don't like that. They like to feel clever, and trusted, and to lose themselves in the world.

Our Heroine has always seen how everything in the world is connected together. Think of it as everything between string theory and galaxy filaments. She's seen them her whole life, and never thought that others might not see them. But her "ah-ha" moment is when she realises that not only can she see them, but she can touch them as well, move them, pull on them, and affect the universe like that. Cool trick.

Not less than five minutes later, she needs to help rescue someone from drowning. She realises this nifty new trick can save a life, and she does so without hesitation. However, such powers come with a price. Her actions attract the attention of a dark god, one who's been looking for her her whole life. Now that she's pretty much announced her presence, he's able to locate her. Inciting incident. Everything from here on out is fubar country.

Her "ah-ha" moment is subtle, though, and readers might not understand its significance until later on in the chapter. Is that what's working against my favour?

Does a hook have to have a barb?

So I'm wondering: what's not grabbing people with my first chapter... forget that, what's wrong with my first page?  I honestly cannot improve on where I've started the plot. It is the best place to start it. But if I can't hook a reader with the first "ah ha" moment, what am I doing wrong?

Her Grace is baffled.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Wordle of Alasograms

Based on a comment on this post, I made a word cloud of my last dozen query rejections for Of The Dark.

Anything in particular stand out to you?

Individually, rejections don't bother me. A few hundred start to nag, though. Mostly, I am baffled as to why several hundred agents fail to recognise the brilliant work I've sent them. *shrug*

Her Grace shall continue to query until she runs out of reputable agents. By then, the next book will be polished and she can start all over again.