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.

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I Have a Request…

I didn’t get chosen for the agent round of the blind Speed Dating contest. I was…”bounced” by the bouncers. I would be a lot sadder about this if not for the other thing that happened February 12th. I saw the announcement of a pitch contest on Twitter for Carina Press, a digital first imprint of Harlequin, scheduled for February 11th, but decided not to pitch my finished novel because I was in the speed dating. I second guessed myself, but I missed the window & couldn’t participate. The morning of the 12th, I saw the second chance Carina Pitch. Since I’d been feeling some regret for missing it before, I pulled out my speed dating pitch and tweaked it to suit the guidelines of the pitch contest. I hit send on my entry & forgot about it.

Checking my twitter feed, I noticed I had a new mention. I nearly keeled over at my desk when I saw it was Kerri Buckley, an editor for Carina Press, requesting to read my story!! cue happy dance in my chair & mad rush to co-worker/beta reader’s office for squeal party.

It’s been a mad rush to write a winning query letter & synopsis as well as rap up the last couple chapters’ revisions to submit by the deadline. This was my first query letter & synopsis, so I’m not sure if they were exactly right, but I did it. The letter was professional & focused and the synopsis detailed the main characters, plot, & conflicts, so they at least do what they are required to do.

I’ve added one scene and extended two scenes since I sent the chapters to my critique partners, & I think they really strengthened the manuscript. As soon as I hit send, I was plagued by doubts. I had too much of this or should have tweaked that more. But at the end of the day, I know using the additional couple hours I would have after work wouldn’t better the manuscript enough for me to push so close to the deadline. I know I sent in a good story, & I know that the rest of the series will be as strong or stronger. I’m content with the book I submitted.

I should hear something by the 21st of March. In between now and then, I have my birthday, 11 book reviews, book 2 to continue, & 2 more detailed outlines to complete. If you think that will keep me from obsessively checking my email way too soon, you don’t know me at all.

The point, though, is I’ve taken a major step in my publishing journey: I got a request & I submitted directly to an editor. That’s plenty to celebrate…for now