Dreaming in Character

G.L. Jackson


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Things I want to keep in mind

I remember how I felt last year when I didn’t get accepted to Pitch Wars. All that hope, all the excitement, all those dreams. I watched the pre-announcement show with all the mentors, and it was the sweetest sort of torment. I seesawed back and forth between I’m going to be in! and I’ll never make it in! I mean, I’d had requests for fulls, and a follow-up email or two. What did that mean?

It meant I had requests for fulls and a follow-up email or two, and that’s it. There were no promises, no hints. I spent the weeks between submission and announcement scouring what my potential mentors were tweeting about, trying to divine if any of it was about me or my book. I got swept up in the contest excitement and hype, and made some new friends and met some pretty cool people.

Then the lists of mentors and mentees was posted and my name wasn’t there. You know that sick feeling you get in the back of your throat when you realize you’ve been caught doing something really stupid? Yeah, I had that. I wanted to throw up. Then I double-checked to see whether or not I’d just missed my name.

Then I got frustrated. Really, my first reaction after the reality set in was this bitter ugly frustration. I’m sure someone’s written up Recognizing The Twelve Stages of Writing Rejection (and if they haven’t, they should). After frustration I got angry, then I got jealous. All the while, I was still happy for the people who did make it to the mentor round, but suddenly the door to the party I’d been hoping to attend got slammed in my face.

So I let myself wallow. I stopped following the Twitter PitchWars hashtag. I stopped reading the people I followed who’d made it in, because I didn’t want my low-level frustrated anger to turn into some full-blown depression. I told myself it didn’t matter, it was just another contest, the odds were stacked against me (I guess Stage #4 is Rationalization). I put my manuscript aside, went about my business, and in time the piquant sting of rejection faded, as it always does. I unmuted people. I stayed in touch with some of the mentors I’d submitted to, but not all. There was too much glee about the contest from some of them.

You know what I did get, though, that a lot of people never get from those they submit to? Feedback. Two of the mentors I submitted to took the time to send me thoughtful feedback about my work and about their decision-making process. Once I wasn’t feeling so hurt by their rejection, I was able to read that feedback and let it rummage around in my brain. Although I set my book aside for the better part of a year, working on a different story or two in the meantime, I never forgot that two mentors who didn’t owe me a thing took the time to send me sweet and gentle encouragement and suggestions on how to improve my manuscript.

When I finally revised (make that rewrote) the book, I reread their feedback and integrated their suggestions.

This year, I was accepted. Is my manuscript perfect? Hell no, but that’s one reason I was picked: there are things in it my mentors know how to help me fix. Three days in, and I’ve come to understand that getting into this contest means I’ve signed up for two intensive months of plotting, planning, and rewriting with two new generous critique partners (since I’m being mentored by a team) with more industry experience than I have. It’s not a magic pill or a fast-track ticket to anything.

But it is nice to know someone else has faith in my writing.


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Distraction Techniques

Writing contests. Love them or hate them, they’re about as nerve-racking as a thing can be. They’re right up there on par with being called for jury duty or watching the minutes tick away on a delayed flight with a tight connection. So what am I doing to distract myself during the final countdown for Pitch Wars?

  • Mind games. As always, I’m trying to psych myself into accepting that I won’t get in. The odds are not remotely in my favor. Almost 2000 entrants vying for the attention of 100-something mentors? Those odds aren’t great. They’re incrementally better than having a query letter pulled out of a slush pile, but they’re still daunting odds. But really, what’s the worst thing that can happen? My manuscript isn’t selected. Maybe I get some feedback on it, maybe I don’t. That only means I’m sitting in the same position I’m in right now: no better, no worse. I remember how I felt last year when I didn’t make the cut. Disappointed, sure, but I was still so happy for those who did. I know how to do disappointment, and I do it well. Wallow for ten minutes, then get on with things. Humans are a fairly resilient race.
  • Reading. Yesterday I devoured Balaraba Ramat Yakubu’s Sin is a Puppy That Follows You Home, which I want to review on Goodreads when I gather my thoughts sufficiently. I’m not sure which book I’ll start today. Maybe I’ll finish reading Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (I’m more than halfway done). With the Olympics over, the TV is on less in our house and that means I have more space to concentrate on reading.
  • Binge-watching. I started watching Stranger Things on Netflix. I’ve heard the buzz about it, but am relatively unspoiled for how it will play out. Three episodes down, five to go. That ought to last another night or so.
  • Cooking. I’ve pulled out all the recipes I want to try and have been stockpiling ingredients. I have one recipe for vegan (avocado & cashew) peppermint cacao-chip ice cream sandwiched between raw chocolate “cookies” from the My New Roots cookbook. All I have to do is remember to soak the cashews first, but I have the rest of the ingredients. This ought to be fun! I also have a recipe for vegetarian peanut soup (most is made with chicken stock) that looks delicious.
  • Playing. For me, it’s endless Solo Play matches of Words with Friends. Okay, I am a word nerd, I admit it. It’s great to have something that provides a moment’s focus, now and always.

There are plenty of other things I should be doing, but my delicate flower of a psyche can only take so much at once. I’m trying not to stalk the Pitch Wars hashtag, because it feels too much like gift-rattling. Or like being drawn toward an explosion or train wreck and not knowing how to look away.

If I don’t get selected (notice I didn’t say when, I’m still an optimist at heart), I plan on setting up a community for people seeking beta readers on imzy, which I find I’m liking more than I expected. By the way, if you’re interested in imzy and need an invite code, I have several. Just let me know.

Long story short: no matter what happens, life goes on. Friendships and relationships forged won’t simply disappear based on the outcome of a contest. I’ll still be dreaming about my characters and plotting new and ever more devious ways to put them through the wringer so they can come out stronger on the other side.

How about you, fellow writers? How are you holding up?


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I’m no more patient than I used to be

…but I do have more experience waiting.

If you’re following along, you know it’s Pitch Wars time. You probably also know this is my favorite contest of all because as I mentioned in my last post, it’s nice. Being nice and behaving politely is a cornerstone of the contest, and I appreciate the hell out of that.

On August 3 — the one day I was home between two very different trips — I entered my manuscript in the contest. Decisions won’t be announced until August 25, so by my calendar I still have another two weeks to go before I find out if I’ll be working with a mentor. So what am I doing in the meantime? I thought you’d never ask.

Here’s where I talk about maintaining my sleek calm plush-velvet demeanor (also about why I love Pitch Wars, beyond “nice”). Continue reading


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It’s Pitch Wars Time Again

…and I wrote a bio last year that I still like, so here it is.

Honestly, this is my favorite Twitter-based writing opportunity, and if you can, you should support its efforts. I am. Not just for the extra submission slots, although that’s a sweet perk. It’s just so danged nice. Positive. Helpful. Friendly.

Meanwhile, I'm being reliable with the ladies.

Meanwhile, I’m hanging out & being reliable with the ladies. I’m the one on the right.


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So I did finish that manuscript

…for those of you keeping track, I didn’t realize I never posted about it! Bad writer, no biscuit. I ended up with a 62.5k book to which I’m going to add a few more scenes based on first reader feedback. Overall, I’m so pleased. It’s not easy to take a book you’ve written and love to pieces and cut it in half, size-wise.

Cheering myself on.

I might enter this one in PitchWars again and see what happens. I did last year, and as my favorite mentor who rejected the book last year said so poignantly, what have I got to lose by entering again? Nothing. I’m getting burned out on Twitter contests, but this one is probably my favorite.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

No pain, no gain, and all those other aphorisms.


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Summer Solstice

Happy first day of summer, everyone. It’s a hot day here in the Bay area. I snapped this on my phone as I was passing through my yard on my way for an iced coffee. It looks like I’m not the only one who needed to keep hydrated today.

flash the snail

I like this photo because it makes my garden look like an exotic jungle. The snail went from the lip of the fountain to the side, and now 2 hours later it’s back on top, letting the water cascade over its shell.


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Also, my hair is a mess

First, a personal aside: growing out one’s hair is always fraught with peril. I keep thinking why not just cut it super short again? Then I won’t have to worry. But I don’t.

I figured I’d update the progress on my beloved manuscript. I’ve been cruising along since May 19, when I went out, guns blazing, determined to write at least 2000 words a day* until I got to 60,000 words. That would bring me to a finish on 6/17. Not bad for a month’s work!

Today my word count is 52,671. I’d like to pretend I’ll finish ahead of schedule, but I’m a little off the mark in terms of where I should be with my (now a little fluid) outline. I confess, 60k seems a bit skimpy for a complete manuscript and I knew I’d have to give myself leeway. It’s easier to edit out a scene than to come up short and have to try to fight for words in the revision stage, so I’m okay with this.

The biggest news is that I’m having so much fun working on this story. I’ve mentioned this is my 4th rewrite and they’ve all been good. At this point it’s almost like writing fanfiction about my own work, which is illegal amounts of fun.

So here’s the bottom line: surprisingly, I’m not as afraid of revision as I used to think. This is me, cheering myself on with my little Go Writer flag.

*In case you can’t tell, I am hugely motivated by word count goals.

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