Maydays, Mayhem, and Maybes

047

You guys! Is it really May?

April and May are two of my favorite months of the year because I love Spring. I like the idea that things that have been lying dormant all winter, seemingly dead, start to bud and blossom and come back to life. Renewal and hope, new beginnings and fresh starts, are everywhere.

The connection is especially potent for me this year. A story I thought was long dead has started to bud, as have many other areas of my life which flatlined during the long winter months. I haven’t done a goals post in a while, but now seems like the perfect time to do so. I need to set some goals for my writing again and work hard toward achieving them.

The first week of May, I spent some time exploring a few options for writing goals, and now I’m ready to commit them to writing. Here are my May 2017 writing goals:

  • Revise Always the Last to Know. I spent last week working on revisions to the first two chapters of this story and figuring out revisions to a few more chapters. I’m coming up with ways to make the writing stronger and work in some of the changes the Love Inspired editor suggested. I’m spending my days off and mornings working on this and enjoying the fruit of this labor.
  • Find the perfect beta reader/critique buddy for ATLTK. I need to find the right beta reader/critique partner for this project–someone who loves the premise and the characters but is able to offer constructive criticism of my execution, especially with regard to the Love Inspired line. I have a couple people who have offered advice and help, but no beta reader lined up.
  • Read GMC: Goal, Motivation, Conflict by Debra Dixon. This book has been suggested and recommended by countless authors I admire. I know I need a lot of help with internal and external conflict in my stories, and I think this book will help me better understand these areas.
  • Make a decision on finding an agent. I’ve wrestled with whether or not to submit to an agent for a while now. I’ve only tried to catch an agent’s eye a couple times through #pitmad and a blind cupid contest. I know an agent will open me up to more submission opportunities (especially in the Christian market) and I can benefit from their expertise, but I’m not sure if an agent is for me. I plan to do more research and make a firm decision whether or not to submit this project to an agent for representation.

I’m not rushing through these revisions. I’m letting the story and characters lead me this go round. I’m not paying too much attention to the suggested revisions right now. I’m fixing what I see isn’t working, with some of the revision suggestions in mind. Since I had to cut over a third of the book, I’m focused on getting a workable draft before I look to fine tuning. I’m giving myself the same deadline I had to submit for Blurb to Book. By July 15, 2017, I will hit the submit button on revisions to Always the Last to Know. I believe this is a scary but attainable goal. This gives me two months and one week to craft a story I love. It will also stand me in good stead to hear back on my submission this year. I’ll also have plenty of time to start the next book in the series and put together a proposal for the series while I wait.

What writing goals are you working on this month?

Tentatively dipping a toe back in fiction waters

Erica

Writing Wednesday: Kill Your Darlings, Darling

Writing WednesdayPlease excuse me for being late posting, but I’ve been trying to figure out where to go next on this winding writing journey. After coming to grips with the receipt of an R&R, I decided it was time to go on and read my full manuscript. After all six weeks is a good amount of time to really get some distance between me and my writing. I was dreading getting to chapter four. Apparently, chapter four is where things really went to pot for this story. The editor said one solution she didn’t recommend was SCRAPPING THE ENTIRE CHAPTER. The one she suggested involves some major cutting and rewriting. Either way, I knew chapter four was going to be dreadful. What sort of awful things were waiting for me when I got to this much defamed chapter?

Here’s the thing, though: I LOVE chapter four. Actually, I’m pretty happy with everything up to chapter four. That doesn’t mean that I don’t see things to change, places to strengthen, etc. It means that I see what an awesome story with intriguing characters I set on those pages. And chapter four has some of the best prose I’ve ever written. The dialogue is good and fast moving. I love what it shows the reader about my hero’s character and the kind of person he is under all his bluster about duty and responsibility, and I love the kid he’s talking to in it. But some of that really great stuff has got to go on the cutting room floor, never to be seen again outside a blog post or newsletter post publication.

It’s very easy to get chuck awkward prose in the digital trash bin. It’s easy to rewrite an area that just isn’t working. But what about truly good writing that just doesn’t belong in the story. What do you do with your orphaned darlings? Do you save them in hopes of using them in another story? Do you relegate them to file thirteen? Do you give them new life as bonus content on WattPad, your website or in newsletters? Do you have any strategies to make it easier/more bearable to get rid of those creative gems that just don’t fit in your current masterpiece?

XOXO,

Erica

Writing Wednesday: The R&R Roller Coaster

Writing WednesdayWhen I was a kid, I loved going to Cedar Point. I love the sights and sounds, buying $3 slices of pizza, spending $20 to win a small stuffed animal, running around thousands of acres of pavement with my friends. Here’s the thing, though: I had a heart murmur, a condition that prevented me from riding any but the most tame rides. Before I knew about that, I was just too short. But I could feel the excitement in the air, and I imagined what it would be like to get on a roller coaster every time I went to an amusement park.

I did eventually get to ride a couple coasters, and let me tell you, the experience was harrowing, to say the least. Aside from the actual iron monsters that hurtled me up and over and around peak after peak at breakneck speed while I held on for dear life and wished I’d never stepped foot on them, my pursuit of publication has been one long roller coaster ride, filled with ups and downs. I’m sure most writers can relate.

Today the specific coaster I want to talk about is the Revise and Resubmit, or R &R coaster. The R&R and its accompanying revision letter can feel like a blessing and a curse. Last Wednesday I received my first R&R on the full I submitted to Blurb to Book. It’s taken me this long to sort out all the feelings associated with it. Here’s how the roller coaster went for me:

A couple of fellow contest entrants and I were discussing the lack of news and speculating when another contestant announced privately that she had received an R&R. I was surprised but didn’t think much of it. The ladies and I were talking about the feedback we received from the previous round, and it was my turn to say what my feedback was. I went to my email to pull a quote and there it was: a new email from an editor with the name of my Blurb to Book entry on it. The roller coaster rolled downward and picked up speed along the way. The air whooshed out of me. Was this the end of the line?

I cast my eyes to the end of the subject line and saw the reassuring shape of a paper clip. There was something attached. So not a form rejection, and the very least. I read over the email quickly, my heart plummeting as I read that she was sorry that they weren’t making an offer on the book. HOWEVER–that shimmering beacon of hope of a word–if I was willing to CHANGE ALL THE THINGS, they would be happy to reconsider it or another manuscript.

OK, being honest, it didn’t say CHANGE ALL THE THINGS, and certainly not in all caps, but that’s what it felt like. Reading through the attached letter–pages and pages of single spaced, bullet pointed suggestions–was the part of the roller coaster where your heart is beating so fast and you’re being jerked around so many ways and pulled into so many loops you’re not sure which way is up but you ARE sure you should not have gotten on this ride.

ALL THE FEELS. Feelsville, population 1. You get feels and you get feels–everyone gets FEELS!

What are these feels, you ask?

The first feeling I had is “what in the world did they actually like about this story?” Getting a letter pointing out all the things that didn’t work can be overwhelming. It makes you wonder if they liked YOUR story at all. What had they seen in what I sent them that they didn’t want to change? How in the world did I get this second chance if this book is that terrible? Maybe I should just give up writing. I can sell all my stuff and sit around in a sweat lodge until I receive some sort of enlightenment on what I’m ACTUALLY supposed to be doing with my life. I’m a horrible writer. It’s all over. Lights. Growing. Dim…

The second feeling. How dare they? I sent them a masterpiece–literary perfection! So what if I thought that many of these same things weren’t working. I mean, really, some of these suggestions. Well, you can rest assured I’m not doing that. My character would never do that. This is just not going to work for me. They just don’t understand my genius. Self-publishing, here I come!

The third feeling–I’m a little too close to this. Maybe I should put this letter away for a while, send it to my critique buddies for a different perspective. In the meantime, I’ll just wander over to the store and buy ALL THE FOOD and eat ALL MY FEELINGS. SN: Feelings taste pretty good with caramel, y’all. Like salty sweet goodness.

Now that I’ve had time, second opinions, sugary goodness, and a change in perspective from the ever wise Mr. Perfect, I peeked at the letter again. Hmm…not as bad as I thought. Yes, I knew that wasn’t working like I wanted it to before I hit send. No, I don’t think my character would do that normally, but if I did it this way it could work…

If this were the stages of grief, grieving the loss of the book I thought I was writing, I think I’d finally be at acceptance. I wrote my heart out. The manuscript still needs work. But they like it. And it’s not impossible to fix.

How have you dealt with a revise and resubmit letter?

Writing Wednesday: Who’s Book Is It, Anyway?

Writing WednesdayIt’s been one month since I turned in my Blurb to Book entry. With less than three weeks to go before the wrap up post and two authors already acquired, my comrades in arms are getting a little nervous. We are speculating on whose manuscript the editors are reading, which editor is reading it, how they are determining the order in which they read, and how they decide who gets the call. You know, all the things that makes a writer with a submission out go crazy.

As I said, two authors so far have been put out of this misery and into the stratosphere of happiness by receiving the call. Both are previously published. This has been a major area of discussion. Is that a coincidence? Is it just their previous experience has strengthened their writing to make them stand out or is it something else? It’s enough to drive a person crazy, the things unpublished authors find to focus on. Is it because they are agented? What is the magic potion?!

Everyone wants to know who will be next to sell. We are second and third guessing our manuscripts and choices, reading into every tweet, and vacillating between diving into the next book and feeling it might be better to hold off for feedback on this one, to make sure we are doing it right. We don’t quite know how to address the mix of accomplishment, nervousness, and loss of control that we’ve been battling for the past month.

Here’s what stuck out to me in that whole thing: there are some of us hesitating or procrastinating on the next book because we want to know how this one was received. I ask, in all seriousness and with the utmost of gentle love and kick-in-the-pants moxie: What is your problem? Why on earth are you waiting for validation on the previous thing to get deep into the next one?

Look, I get it: you want to know if you are on the right track, going in the direction the editors for a certain line/publisher want. But here’s the thing, though: until it’s contracted, it’s YOUR book. Who cares who will love it or want to buy it? No one’s going to buy the book you don’t write! You have to write the story you feel like is begging to be written. Once you have a draft, you can revise with a certain publisher or line in mind. But don’t keep interrupting your creative process waiting to see if you got the last thing right! This is your book, isn’t it? Well, write like it!

*she says to herself as much as to anyone else*

That’s my two cents, anyway. Where do you fall on the spectrum of writing while you wait? How much do you take a line/publisher/genre’s conventions into consideration while writing? Should you? Who else is waiting to hear on a submission and wants to encourage/commiserate with me?

Writing Wednesday: Destroying Doubt & Soldiering On with Your Manuscript

The official doubt crow, courtesy of @doubt_crow

The official doubt crow, courtesy of @doubt_crow

With a little more than a month and half a manuscript left to go before my Book to Blurb final is turned in, I’ve found myself in a strange place. I’m getting to my word count goal (though now I think I need to up it a bit to give myself a better cushion) and finding that I have great revision plans for the manuscript that will make it even stronger (I’m not revising much while getting the first draft to take shape). I’ve been really consistent with my writing, getting up when I don’t feel like it and always getting something on the page. Yet, something has been dogging my every step: doubt.

Writers tend to be very familiar with doubt, particularly those who seek publication. There’s always something you can second guess. Second guessing and trying things a different way isn’t bad; it’s when our questioning of our choices renders us unable to move forward, meet deadlines, or even submit our work that it becomes troublesome.

At the moment, I have a myriad of doubts that are difficult to combat:

  • deadline doubt. Sometimes it seems as if the deadline is coming faster and my word count is climbing slower. It seems like I’ll never have the first draft done in time, let alone have time to revise and send in my best quality work. Many other participants have told me about family vacations, births, conferences, and other events standing between them and the deadline that causes them to feel as if they aren’t getting enough done now to compensate for losing that time. No one wants to miss the deadline or feel like they didn’t turn in their best book.
  • balance doubt. Is there enough conflict? Have I shown enough of their budding romance? Is the faith element present enough? Is there enough plot to this story? Did I show enough emotion? Will readers like/relate to/fall in love with my hero & heroine? I always feel as if I haven’t done enough somewhere.
  • word choice doubt. How many times did I say gaze in two paragraphs? Five. Seriously. And I had both my characters think “No, this isn’t happening” ON THE SAME PAGE.If my characters don’t stop looking, staring, gazing, flicking glances, or locking eyes, someone may be arrested for stalking. Finding fresh ways to say things can get stale if you let it, and it will drive you crazy trying to find just the right word all the time.
  • revision doubt. Did I change this enough to address the editor’s concerns? Will changing the hero’s motivation from this to that strengthen or hurt the story? I know I said I was cutting this scene, but maybe I should keep it? Is this scene really advancing the romance like I want it to? Is this subplot adding to things or detracting from them? Should I dial back the faith element here? How do I tie this subplot into the main plot to make it all make sense?
  • doubt scrapping. Maybe I should chuck the whole darn thing and start over.

So what do you do to combat doubt? I keep writing. I skip scenes that aren’t working to work on a scene where the words are coming fast and furious. I type things I know I’m not saying write but also know I can change later if I get the general gist down. I keep myself accountable by posting my word counts each day. I reach out to my critique buddies and writer friends when only a kick in the pants or a good brainstorming session will do. I make revision notes while they are fresh in my mind and plan out how I will address them. And I pray. A LOT.

Your two cents: How do you deal with doubt, in writing or any area of life?

Writing Wednesday: The Whole She-Bang!

Bernardo Velasco--my hero inspiration for Always the Last to Know

Bernardo Velasco–my hero inspiration for Always the Last to Know

As many of you already know, I was one of the thirty people lucky enough to move on to stage 3, the final stage, in the Blurb to Book contest sponsored by Harlequin’s Love Inspired line editors. To say that I’m gobsmacked and “chuffed” as my friends across the pond say is an understatement. To say that I’m terrified of messing up such a golden opportunity also goes without saying. When I entered, I had a vague notion that this could lead to “the call,” but that seemed ludicrous since I hadn’t made it past the first stage of a contest before (though I came close with the Valerie Parv Award contest). My only conscious goal was to make stage 2 and get that most precious and rare golden egg in publishing–feedback. I knew no matter what, if I made stage 2, I’d finally know what’s not working. So when stage 3 was announced and Always the Last to Know was there, yes, chuffed, gobsmacked, deliriously happy…but also paralyzed with fear and petrified off “stuffing up” a golden opportunity. I should also mention here that while I’m a zealous writer, I’ve only finished *mumbles*…fine…I’ve only finished one manuscript before. So now I’ve got to finish my second manuscript in about two months. How am I going to get from a proposal to the whole shebang?

*Synopsis. The best thing about submitting a proposal was the synopsis. (You will never hear me say THAT again, so take a screenshot of this). It forced me to think about the story as a whole and come up with a framework for the story. I now have more than a vague notion of where I’m going. I know what the black moment is and how it’s resolved. Now I just have to write it.

*Feedback. That promised feedback? It. Was. GOLDEN. The editors zeroed in on a few things for me to consider going forward that have already made the story much stronger. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to address everything in the feedback, but the suggestions flow well with the story and there aren’t many of them. I know I can use what the editors said to make the story better. And the editors also pop in on the boards to answer questions.

* The Harlequin Boards. Speaking of the boards, there has been a craft discussion on motivation that I’ve gotten a lot of useful information out of, and there’s a back to basics bootcamp coming up through the SOLD! blog. Harlequin has a lot of resources for writers to help us write our best books, and I’m going to utilize them.

*My awesome co-workers/resources. I’ve already tapped coworkers for baby knowledge and advice on all the legal stuff I need to incorporate in this story, and everyone is still willing to be pumped for information.

*Writing routine. The way I completed my other romance was simple: I wrote in the morning, I edited at lunch (and maybe added some words if I was in the zone) and reread the previous days work in the morning before going at it again. I made no major revisions during the first draft. I had fun with the story. I tried not to worry too much about what I was putting on the page in the morning so long as I got something on the page. When I finished the first draft, I read it through once like a reader and just made notes. The second time through I revise. If I was successful using this approach, I can be successful using it again. Right? Right!

*Critique Buddies. Having someone to send pages to and get an honest opinion is something I don’t take for granted. Turning over my writing daily to a co-worker was a big part of what made me accountable during the writing of DJ. Not only that, but it made it fun. Seeing how invested someone was in the story and the characters was great motivation to finish the story (and start the next one).

Lastly,

*the story. This is a story I really want to tell, and I feel like I’m at a place in life where I can tell it. There’s just something about this fictitious town and its cast of characters that has just grown on me. I have a few of the other stories started on my computer, and I will finish them, even if I don’t sell Always the Last to Know. I’m writing the kind of stories I want to read, with characters I care about. I want other people to get to read these stories, too. They can’t do that if they remain buried on my hard drive. As I’ve said repeatedly, I’ve never had an opportunity like this before; far be it from me to waste it being too scared to try.

What tricks and tips do you have for writing until you reach The End? Share your advice and stories in the comments section.

Writing Wednesday: Death by Deadline

January Jones, inspiration for my Blurb to Book heroine, Cordelia

January Jones, inspiration for my Blurb to Book heroine, Cordelia

It’s been a busy month of April for me. I found out halfway through that I had made stage 2 of the Blurb to Book contest and needed to come up with 3 chpaters and a synopsis by May 1st. Cue excitement and basking in the awesomeness that is me. *basking* Then I pulled out my calendar. I had about three weeks to accomplish this feat. Three weeks was plenty of time! I’d written the rough draft of a novel in a month! I could so do this!

Here’s the thing: as great as NaNoWriMo and other programs like it (like Seekerville’s Speedbo in March and Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July) can be, these are goals, not deadlines. We can treat them as deadlines, but they aren’t hard and fast. Neither are my personal deadlines. If I don’t make one, I’m inclined to give myself a break. I will take days off to rest and let the story “flow.” I’m artsy that way, y’all. I can’t rush my brillance (hence why Altered before the Altar was 4 years in the making).

Now I have a deadline from an actual editing team that wants to see my well-written, well plotted, make-them-hungry-for-more proposal. This Friday. As in the day after tomorrow… and everything that has breath inside of me has hit the panic button.

I used to be one of those writers who didn’t sweat a deadline. I was the last minute maverick of all things awesome in 24hrs or less. I pulled greatness out of some sweaty, past their best by date places searching for inspiration in the 23rd hour. I’ve hit print on papers with less than five minutes before class and gotten more than one plus (+) behind my “A” for the effort. But this deadline just might kill me.

I could blame it on being older and knowing that it’s important to have time to revise, etc., but I think it has more to do with the perceived stakes. I’ve never doubted before that I was a great writer; I’ve been told that my entire life. Now I’m not as sure as I was before. I question every word on every page. My perfectionist streak has struck with a vengence. I need every comma to be perfect. This is my LAST chance, you guys!

Except…it’s not. In fact, since I made it to this stage, I’m guaranteed personalized feedback from my dream editors at Harlequin, feedback that could lead to a sale even if I don’t make the next round. I thought that whole “publishing contract by 30” ship had sailed and I was over it, but it turns out that since I’m thirty until February 24th of next year, my brain has picked up on the fact I could still be contracted in that time and is PARALYZED by ALL THE FEARS.

Somewhere in the last few days, I’d stop having fun with my writing. I’d made it into a chore that I’d be graded on. I was making my characters do what I thought might interest the editors even though they were screaming at me they weren’t those kinds of people. Then they stopped talking to me at all. I had to decide that in addition to turning in the requested materials by a deadline, I wanted to turn in something that represented me–my unique voice and characters, give them more of that stuff that sparked their interest in stage one and make it even better.

So…I cut scenes. WHOLE SCENES. DAYS BEFORE A DEADLINE. I slashed anything that didn’t feel write. I gave myself permission to write crap, but crap that at least sounded like me, crap I could make not so crappy. I threw out the rules to write and then picked them up to edit. And by George, I think I’m going to make the deadline knowing I gave them MY best.

What about you? Do deadlines motivation you or paralyze you? How do you ensure that you meet deadlines?

Writing Wednesday: Revising the Life into Your Story

Welcome to Writing Wednesday!  This is my little corner where I update you on my writing and discussions going on in the writing world of interest, share call stories of fellow writers, and generally geek out over all things writing. I hope you enjoy this installment!

word count

My current word count on my #Blurb2Book entry, Always the Last to Know

If you follow me on social media,  you’re more than aware that I  was one of 75 people selected to  move to stage 2 of the  #Blurb2Book competition hosted by Harlequin’s Love Inspired Editors for all three lines. A record 326 people entered! Needless to say I was ecstatic when they picked my first page and hundred word blurb to move on to the next round.

I’ve been working on the proposal due May 1st, which consists of a cover letter, synopsis, and the first three chapters of my story. This is a new process for me. I’ve only written two synopses, and only one of them was written before the book was finished. I usually edit the previous day’s work before I start the next day, but now I’m having to revise as I go, a completely different prospect. I need to have three complete chapters that balance depicting what’s going on now with hinting about things that won’t happen for chapters without seeming ham fisted and amateurish without having the benefit of having written the story and knowing exactly how it ends on the page.

Revising as I go has me thinking a lot about my revision process. I think I’d make an excellent editor because I think writing revision notes is my super power. My critique partners think my drafts are really good, but that’s because I revise much better than I write. So what do I do in my revision process to make my manuscript sparkle?

  • I print out the section I’m working on. I can do some light editing on the screen, but for proofreading and revising, I need to print the pages. Sorry trees! I do recycle when I no longer need them.
  • I read through the pages and make notes in the margins, usually first thing in the morning. I go with my gut. Sometimes this means I write “fix” or “make this better” because I don’t know how to fix it yet. I may write “add in emotion” or “show he’s upset by his actions.” Sometimes this is me highlighting a phrase I want to change or circle words that I repeat too close together so I know to find a different way to say something.
  • Unless it’s a proofreading correction, I don’t make any of the changes right away to the saved manuscript.
  • I make sure I know why something isn’t working and indicate it in my notes. There may be more than one way to fix it, so I need a way to determine which changes address the underlying issue.
  • I edit in red. It’s a psychological thing. I feel like my manuscript has been attacked and is bleeding; it’s my job to heal it. I have to treat each nick and cut. (See? That wasn’t as morbid as you thought going in, was it?)
  • The biggest secret to my revision process? I revise as a reader, not a writer, in the first pass. I don’t read for structure, check word count, or check items off the story arc checklist consciously when I make revision notes. I’m a reader first. I’ve read more than enough of these books to know what works for me in a book. If this were a book I bought at Wal-Mart and I read this, what would I think? Is there something missing I should know? Is there something here I’d skim or skip altogether? Did the end of that sentence, paragraph, scene or chapter make me turn the page or would I put my bookmark here and put a load of clothes in?
  • Bonus: My best kept secret? I make a “cutting room floor” document for every story I start. I put everything I cut out into that folder. That way if I need to add that backstory in later, I can. I can make a newsletter containing a deleted scene or something if the book is published. No matter what I do or don’t do with these words, I never truly lose any of them. This makes me feel better about deleting them from the manuscript, and the manuscript gets to be better without all the dead weight.

Revising as you go is a hard thing to do. But knowing my characters and the big plot points makes it easy to decide what to put in and what can be left out or added to a later scene. So far this process has worked for me. Let’s all pray it continues to for a long time.

Your Two Cents: How do you tackle revisions?
XOXO,

Erica

The Fear of the Known World

In case you aren’t aware, this year’s Harlequin/Mills & Boon sponsored mega writing contest, So You Think You Can Write, begins taking submissions of first chapters and pitches on Monday. As you may know, I entered one of my inspirational romance WIPs in the contest last year on the very last day that you could submit, not expecting much. I didn’t make it into the top 50, but I made a ton of writing buddies. I threw myself into NaNoWriMo with a completely different type of manuscript and started taking the possibility of a writing career seriously. It was this contest that started it all for me. One year and a slef-published Christian non-fiction book later, and I again have the opportunity to enter. I’m a year better and wiser. I have a new WIP that scored high in a contest this year and that all of those judges are confident would catch an editor’s eye. You would think I’d be falling all over myself to hit the submit button. Except…

…the sales of that four year labor of love, Altered before the Altar, aren’t exactly soaring. I have no idea what I’m doing, marketing wise. No one is buying it, and I don’t know how to fix it. The things I do know to do, I can’t seem to get myself into position to do–get reviews, garner attention through guest posts, host giveaways, etc.

…I’m a nobody. Nobody knows about my blogs, twitter, facebook, or Instagram. No one is beating down my door to represent me or buy my books. The people who matter in publishing have no idea that I even exist. I haven’t gone up in followers/friends very much in all of my posting and commenting. I’m just as stuck and below the radar on social media as I am in real life social situations.

Of course, none of this has any real bearing on my reluctance to participate in SYTYCW2014. All of this was true last year, minus the book I can’t seem to give away, let alone sale. So let’s get to the real reasons, shall we?

…I’ve racked up three rejections and an almost contest final in romance submissions. That’s a real stab in the gut. All of the feedback for the submissions is the same: promising, but not quite there yet.

…I have an even greater chance of not making the second round this year. Instead of a Top 50, SYTYCW2014 has a top 25. My chances are half as good as last year for getting to the second round. If the same number enter as entered last year, that’s over 650 authors vying for 25 spots, or a 1 in 26 chance.

…The timeline is much tighter. SYTYCW2014 will announce a winner nearly a full month sooner than last year. If I make the second round, I have less than a week to get the complete manuscript turned around. There’s not as much time for revising and editing and such this time around, so whatever I enter has to be written, revised and edited before they pick the top 25 October 6, or about 3 weeks from now.

…I know what to expect. I know my work will be seen by editors and other participants. I know that feedback can be brutal. I know I can get to the Top 25 and not make the Top 10, or make the Top 10 and not win. I know that they could still contact me after the contest if they want me to submit my full, revise and resubmit or etc. I know how hard, how improbable, but still so possible all of this really is. I know what needs to be done better this time around in my writing. And it’s scary me stupid.

…I am still finding things in the story I need to fix. There are still places where the motivation needs to be clearer, the conflict stronger, still places that can be wrung out for more emotion. There are still a couple of places I don’t want to go with it but I have to go with it to make it a real contender. I don’t know if I have it in me to take it to that next level.

But there are some good reasons for me to enter this year:

…my writing is stronger.

…Everyone who has read even a chapter or two of this story loves it. I knew from the moment I had the idea for this story that these characters were the kind that don’t let go. The idea feels fresh and the conflicts feel impossible to overcome initially. It has the makings of a great story.

…because all of the judges in the Valerie Parv Award Contest think this story should be in front of an editor (even the published author, who pointed out the areas for improvement as well as the things I nailed).

…because of that contest, I already have a synopsis (and pointers on how to make it stronger).

…because this might be one of those defining moments where everything changes and nothing is like it was before.

…because I know I’m not going to give up on this dream. If no other copies of Altered before the Altar get sold, or everyone hates it; if I don’t sell a romance for another five years, and when I do the reading public pans it; if the only thing about my writing anyone could say at my funeral is “at least she isn’t writing anymore”–I’m going to keep writing and reaching for this dream.

So, anyway, I say all of this to say: I’m entering my first chapter in SYTYCW 2014 this year.

XOXO,

Erica

The Long Day is Over…

Altered before the Altar As many of you know, I’ve been working on getting my Christian non-fiction book,  Altered before the Altar, finished and published through Createspace. It has been a  long and arduous journey, but I uploaded everything this morning and am waiting  for the file review to complete so I can begin selling it in Kindle and paperback. As I  sit here in the afterglow of taking the biggest step in my publication journey thus far,  I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you, my fellow laborers, on this  experience.

When I first began seriously looking to published Altered, I knew that I wanted to  write a good book that was relevant to single Christian women, easy to read, and that  looked as professional as possible. I didn’t want any developmental editing or  content editing: I wanted to say exactly what I felt led to say. I also didn’t want to pay thousands of dollars for a professional product, especially when I couldn’t be sure  I would sell enough copies to break even, let alone make a profit. It was more about putting the best book out there than anything else. I think that I’m doing that, but it hasn’t been an easy journey.

I did a lot of things wrong: I didn’t write the book in the properly formatted template from the beginning, which meant I didn’t give my cover artist an accurate page count the first time she asked (I also wasn’t finished writing the book and had to guess what the ending page amount would be–rookie mistake #2). I didn’t do a very good job of communicating what I wanted the cover to look like the first time around. I didn’t do much research into a cover designer. I thought that since I’d worked with a graphic designer before, it would be similar this time around. I didn’t know that cover design is a completely different art. I ended up choosing a designer who did a fantastic job, but that was due to God’s grace and not my ability to choose a designer.

I also didn’t pay for formatting, which turned out good and bad. It was bad because I spent weeks trying to figure out how to integrate all the elements I wanted without things shifting around on me. I didn’t know how to format the headings to alternate between the book title and the chapter titles. I couldn’t figure out how to create an automatic table with the elements I had. I didn’t realize that Times New Roman wasn’t a good font to choose for a professional looking book, or that the Georgia font’s size 8 was larger than the Times New Roman 8, etc. I kept getting pages that looked wonky and refused to be fixed. I didn’t realize that I had to buy Adobe Acrobat in order to edit a PDF document. The things I didn’t know about formatting could fill another book.

I didn’t know the rules for permissions for using non-KJV scriptures, either. In short, I knew next to nothing about publishing.

But here’s what I did know and what I learned along the way. I knew I had conducted great interviews and studied extensively enough to write a great book. I knew that I needed a professional cover designer. When I couldn’t afford to pay for formatting, I knew that if I could find instructions, I could teach myself how to do it. I studied traditionally published books to see what elements I needed. I enlisted the help of beta readers. I took as long as I needed to take to make sure each element was exactly as it should be. I tested quotes social media to see if they made sense. By learning to format, supplying my own cover image, and using beta reader response to revise, I saved myself a lot of money, learned new skills, and still ended up with a book I can be proud of.

I’m still not the best social media marketing maven, and I still don’t know if my book will sell well, but what I do know is that everyone who does end up buying a copy will be getting a quality book. I’ll be sharing the back cover copy and purchasing information soon. I can’t wait to show off my book baby.

XOXO,

Erica