Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Right of Passage

On every agent/editor blog or website I see lately, they post a disclaimer that if you don't hear from them, consider yourself rejected. Whatever happened to the rejection letters sent in the mail?

I remember going to a presentation by author Shannon Hale a few years ago where she talked to teachers in Jordan School District. She showed off her rejection letters, yards and yards of letters that she'd laminated together into one long row of papers.

Stephen King, in his book On Writing, talks about how he used to post his rejections on his wall until he ran out of room and had to find something larger to hold them all.

Am I going to miss out on this particular right of passage? I'm pragmatic enough that I expect rejection. But I was really looking forward to celebrating my first rejection letter. Am I out of luck? I guess I'll have to find another reason to celebrate.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

March Marathon

Whew! I did it. I accomplished the goal I set for the three-day March Marathon (a writing marathon engineered by Ann Dee Ellis and Carol Lynch Williams on the Throwing Up Words blog).

My goal was to write 5,000 words in my new novel. Two days ago, my novel had 329 words and I wasn't sure where I was going to go with it. Today, I have 5,341 (!) words and a better understanding of the novel's plot.

I'm starting to realize that I work really well with competition, especially when the competition is with myself (like where I've set a goal that I will be really disappointed in myself for not meeting). Normally, I procrastinate far too much and let life get in the way of my writing. Maybe I'll have to set up more writing marathons for myself in the future.

Now, it's time for me to reward myself!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Constructive Criticism

Accepting criticism is hard, no matter who you. As a writer, it's been difficult for me to put my "baby" out there for others to see. Lately, I've had to learn to suck in my pride and accept help from others. It hasn't been easy, but it's been worth it.

My crit group, Writers in Paradise, has been supportive and helpful throughout my first draft. But I knew I needed additional help. A couple of months ago, I stumbled across Miss Snark's First Victim, a blog that has random contests where writers can anonymously place parts of their writing for others to view and comment. Excited for a new opportunity, I submitted an excerpt of of my manuscript in the Talkin' Heads contest.

Then the comments began. Fourteen people wrote essentially the same criticism over and over again: my characters sounded stiff and unnatural. Although I was frustrated, I didn't give up. I went back to my manuscript and started reworking all of the dialogue to make it sound more authentic (more like teenagers were speaking).

I decided to try again. This time I entered the blog's Secret Agent contest that examines the first 250 words of a manuscript to see if it "hooks" the reader. When I entered the contest, I knew that my beginning needed work. And I was right. Some liked it, but others thought it was "unremarkable." So I went back to my manuscript -- again -- and reworked the beginning. In fact, I changed my beginning so much that now it's in the present tense instead of the past tense.

The biggest lesson I've learned is that I need to stay humble and be willing to accept criticism. Revision is a long and challenging process, but it's necessary. After each new revision, I feel like my manuscript is stronger and better than before. I can't wait until I learn more at the two workshops I'm attending in April/May and June. After those workshops, I hope to be one step closer to sending my manuscript off to an agent.

In the meantime, I've started my second manuscript. It's a long, hard road as a writer, but I'm loving it!

Monday, March 8, 2010

March Contests

I don't know about you, but I love contests. Starting today, I will post contests that I've heard about. Here are two writing contests for March:

March Marathon at Throwing Up Words. The best part of this contest? You get to set your own goals and prizes! Be sure to sign up soon because it begins on March 18. Oh, and mention my name as a referral.

"Dear Lucky Agent" contest at Guide to Literary Agents. Submit the first 150-200 words of your novel-length manuscript. It must be an urban fantasy or a paranormal romance. Hurry and submit because this contest ends on March 14.

Good luck!