Dreaming in Character

G.L. Jackson


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Strange Things Are Afoot at the Circle-K

(Now I need to rewatch Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure).

I’m 0-for-2 on pitch contests, but that’s okay! Even though rejection is my middle name, I’m forging bravely ahead. I’ve got a profile and pitch up at WriterPitch, which just went live today.

(I had a dream last night that no one will ever want to read my work. Stressed much?)

Tomorrow, I’m signing up for a SCBWI workshop, and I might try to get into a “first five pages” workshop this month. Half the time I think I picked the wrong vocation: I don’t compete well against others. I compete beautifully against myself, of course.

Regardless, I’m in “never say die” mode. If you do look at my WriterPitch stuff, please let me know. It’s tough thinking it’s out there but the only thing staring back is the void itself.


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The Delicate Art of Accepting Rejection

I’d intended to start this post with a bold statement about how I love rejections, because they make me stronger. That’s true, but it’s not exactly what I want to say.

Every writer faces rejection. I must sound like I’m on a tape loop when I say that there’s no one thing ever written that’s universally loved or universally despised. Every book has its market, every trope has its fans, every formula has its detractors as well as its admirers. One difficult part of being a writer is learning to balance those rejections and negative comments with what we can take from them.

I don’t mind so very much when my work gets slammed, as long as there’s at least a little constructive criticism accompanying the scathing laughter. Even mindlessly bad criticism springs from a kernel of truth. When a rejection or harsh comment stings, it’s usually because I’m not willing (or not ready) to accept that beneath it, someone’s pointing out what I already knew was wrong. I just didn’t want to admit it.

To me, the least helpful types of rejections are the ones that say “it’s not what we’re looking for” and that’s it, because wow, it’s like saying “purple” or “cranium” in response. It’s a fact of submission world, however, that nobody owes us an explanation. We get to say hey, try this out! and they get to say no (no thanks if they’re polite). It’s frustrating, but it’s a fact of life.

My mom, who is a very wise lady, taught me one thing very well as a fledgling little Scorpio. She told me that the only lessons that are worthless are the ones we refuse to learn from. We don’t have to embrace the whole thing, but we need to be able to discern what nuggets in that lesson are valuable and take them to heart.

I’m glad to say that I do my best to learn from every rejection as much if not more than from every acceptance. They really do make me better at my craft. They might not make me stronger, but they make my work stronger and better. There’s nothing wrong with that.


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#PitchPlus1, #PitchMadness, and #AgentMatch

Happy Friday, everyone.

My philosophy still stands that a story sitting on a hard drive can be the best thing ever written, but if it stays on the hard drive and no one gets to read it, is it still snowing in Boston? The futility of not sharing our words with other people is one of the most dangerous pitfalls of being a writer. It’s so easy to second-guess and be filled with doubt over the worth of our stories. Honestly, if no one ever gets to read those words, it’s just a black hole of despair, etc.

I’ve been polishing this novel I’m pitching (and I have to crow and say I’m really proud of distilling all 300+ pages down into 150 words for a pitch) until I’m sick of it but still loving it. I’ve also been sitting in on Twitter chats with agents (I know, look at me actually using social media in ways it was intended) and coming up with a lot of valuable information. It’s also helping me narrow down that big list of people I’m interested in querying. But contests and the like:

#PitchPlus1
I entered Pitch Plus 1, where you’re judged on your novel’s pitch and first page (up to 250 words). I made it past the first round (with some lovely comments from the judges) and now my pitch and first 250 are up at the contest website for all to see. If you’re so moved to leave a comment or constructive criticism there for me, I would appreciate it! ♥

#PitchMadness
I also entered Pitch Madness, because why not? This one’s your 35-word logline (“hook,” they call it, much to the dear Captain’s dismay) and first 250 as well. Got something polished and ready to enter? It’s hosted by author Brenda Drake, and you have a couple days to get your entry in there. This is a huge contest with no limit on the number of entries, so the odds of making it through are small. But small > none in my book.

#AgentMatch
Also, if you’re interested, Samantha Fountain (@Fountainwriter) is putting together a sort of pitch gallery. If you follow along on the #AgentMatch hashtag, you’ll find out when she’s accepting new people for the launch in 2 weeks. She’s described it more or less as a dating service for authors and agents, where they can peruse each others’ profiles and reach out to see if there’s interest. The info for that is here. This is from the email Samantha sent me:

As I developed Agent Match I started to realize how equally important it is to agents and writers alike to find their right match.

I’m beyond excited to announce AWESOMENESS in the making that will connect agents and writers in a fashion like never before. The big launch is roughly 2-4 weeks out. Right now under the hashtag #AgentMatch I’m running contests for writers to get their manuscript pitches into the launch. I’m taking six profile and pitch entries a day and they will be plugged into the LAUNCH for the day we go live. After that writers are free to sign up and create their own profiles for agents to search and be able to search for agents.

If that sounds like something you’re interested in, follow along! Note that after the launch, enrollment will be open. If you want to be involved and have your profile up by launch time, you’ll need to play along with her on Twitter. Good luck!


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I’m So Lucky!

In all the talk of writing and querying and participating in Twitter pitch contests, there’s one person who’s been there for me through every single step. Even though I’m not getting any matches (literary is a tough sell, and I’m stuck between thrillers and romances–congratulations to everyone who’s getting matched!) I still feel like the luckiest writer in the world.

You see, I have my own personal cheerleader. In my case it’s my friend Juli, who’s wonderful, kind, generous, and reads everything I write. She’s my ideal first reader: she absorbs what I’ve written and gives me feedback at the end. She’ll tell me what works for her and what doesn’t, but she always has kind and constructive things to say. She was there with me every day during NaNoWriMo — I’d send her the day’s work each evening, and that made writing the story so much more fun. Knowing she was there to share the excitement and thrill of something hot off the presses gave me the impetus I needed to keep going day after day.

I wish you all a Juli of your own (mine’s taken, sorry!) Thanks, Juli! ♥


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It’s Awards Season!

I only watched part of the Grammy Awards last night, but it doesn’t matter! Today I got this lovely blog award from the kind and generous Anne Tedeton. Anne and I met on Twitter as cohorts in #AgentMatch, and I’m so glad we did. (Congratulations, Anne, I’ve been avoiding these things successfully for years, but I cave now!)

Here are the rules of the game:

rules-for-liebster-award-1024x819

Anne’s questions:

1. What band has influenced your writing most?
Just one? I’m an old rock & roll girl from way back, when I used to have ties to the industry. I wrote my first (not very good) novel to a soundtrack of R.E.M., but I’m not sure they’ve had the biggest influence on my writing. I spent most of my adult life (so far!) in the Pacific northwest, so I’m tempted to claim Nirvana because Kurt Cobain wrote most of his lyrics at the last minute. That’s not the right fit either. I guess I’m going to go with my first inclination, Bob Dylan. He’s not a band all by himself, but he’s the one who taught me that stories can be told well in any medium. All we need is the heart to tell them.

2. Do you use symbols in your work?
Symbols… not so much. Symbolism? A bit. I was an English Literature major and never met a James Joyce story I couldn’t read for the symbolism. Some of that stuck with me. I try to be a little less oblique about it, and only use that kind of thing if my protagonist is the type of person who’d be aware of them. I hope this answers your question, Anne.

3. Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m in love with flying by the seat of my pants. Any time I think I know where a story’s going to go, it takes a left turn anyway. That doesn’t mean I don’t have some sort of plot in mind, though. I usually either know where the story will end (or think I do), or something very important about my characters that I need to explore and let progress. It’s my strong preference that the characters lead the way. Organic writing is a lot more fun for me than forced, although the pieces I’ve sold have all been plotted. Maybe I ought to learn from that!

4. If you could meet your worst villain, what would you do?
Probably buy them a drink and make them talk to me. I like finding out what makes people tick.

5. What’s your favorite genre to write in?
Ugh, I always get sidelined by a tendency to write upmarket or literary fiction. I can’t write to a formula to save my life; they seem so stale and contrived. No wonder I had such a hard time describing my genre at first! Literary’s a hard sell, I know. This year for NaNoWriMo I sat down with the absolute intention of writing something marketable. I’m not sure I succeeded – I’m in revisions with it now trying to make it meet a few different sets of expectations.

6. Are you heavier on dialog or description?
That depends on the story, entirely! I have a YA soft sci-fi that’s absolutely filled with description and world-building. I have a contemporary romance that’s absolutely filled with dialog. Help me, Obi-Wan, I can’t answer. I strive for balance between the two.

7. Do filler words drive you nuts?
Ask my critique partners. YES.

8. Tell us about your most memorable character.
I had to ask for help on this one. My first reader says it’s January, a 17-year-old martial artist from the future. She’s pretty kick-ass, not just because she’s great at karate, but because she’s outspoken, can hold her own against both males and females, knows what she wants, has a ton of drive, doesn’t let setbacks stand in her way, and yet has an inner core of kindness that she reveals to those who deserve to see it. Look for her in the next query round, I’m revising her manuscript right now!

9. Do you have a writing ritual?
Yes! Wake up, clean the kitchen, and write. I’m not sure why, but I can’t write if my kitchen is a mess and with two young adults in the house, it’s always a mess.

10. Which is more important: style, or accessibility?
Yes. Both, but I have to go with accessibility. We can argue things like JK Rowling’s liberal use of adverbs all we want, but if her writing wasn’t beautiful and wide-open and easy to digest, no one would care about an Expelliarmus spell or whether or not Harry deserved to defeat the Hungarian Horntail. I can say similar things about my favorite YA writer, Diana Wynne Jones: her writing is so accessible that the style — which is also quite beautiful — disappears into the background.

11. What’s a genre you’d love to explore in the future?
All of them. As I mentioned earlier, I have trouble conforming to any genre’s formula. I’m intrigued by fantasy, but don’t have the patience to write it. Maybe I ought to work on that!

11 Random Facts about me:

  • My high school English teacher told me I couldn’t write as well as my older sister. It took me years after hearing that to pick up a pen (or keyboard) and write my own fiction. Shame on him.
  • I was the shyest kid growing up. No one believes that now.
  • I was a technical writer for a long time, and have always wanted to write a piece of erotica in tech manual format. Chapter 1. Before You Begin…
  • I don’t know if I’ll ever stop considering myself an Oregonian, even though I love California and find it beautiful. Yes, everyone in Portland is just like the cast of Portlandia! I’ll vouch for that. What do you mean you don’t know where your vegetables were grown?
  • Even though I’m a dog person at heart, I am that crazy cat lady your parents warned you about.
  • When I’m not near the ocean, I die a little inside.
  • Until I moved to CA, I was a licensed massage therapist.
  • I love editing, so long as it’s for other people. I hear I make a damn fine critique partner.
  • Sing it with me: I’m a native New Yorker. I was born in midtown Manhattan.
  • Last time I was in London, I watched a Japanese boy band film a music video on Westminster Bridge.
  • Even the Sorting Hat says I’m a Gryffindor.

With regards to that last random fact, I have to say I believe rules were made to be at least bent, if not outright ignored. I’m only tagging 3 people, but if you’re not @jules1278, @LianaMir1, or @lil_lobass and would like to spread the wealth around, here are 11 questions for you:

1. What motivates you, deep down in your heart?
2. What are your three favorite books, and why?
3. If money was no object and you could live anywhere in the world, where would you pick?
4. Tea or coffee?
5. What’s your go-to soundtrack when you write?
6. You’re finally on the shuttle to Mars, but only get to watch one movie over and over until you get there. Which one do you want as your travel companion?
7. How many languages do you speak? What are they?
8. Fill in the blank: In my perfect world,      .
9. What’s your sun sign?
10. Do you have a favorite social media platform? What is it and why do you like it?
11. If you have siblings, where do you stand in the pecking order?

As you were. ♥


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Twitter Pitch Contests

It only took me about three years to realize that Twitter, as a whole, is much more fun if I actually participate. See, I’m an extrovert, but I’m also shy (those things aren’t mutually exclusive). I spend a fair amount of time thinking about the way I present myself on social media, and don’t ever intend to give the wrong impression of myself. I find Twitter to be a difficult medium. 140 characters isn’t much space to get the point across.

Recently I stumbled on something there called Agent Match. For those of you following along, you probably know I’ve been writing and have one book honed enough to shop (I have three, but Book #1 needs work on the opening chapters and Book #3 is in the revision phase). Book #2, the one I’m putting out there, is a spinoff novel featuring a minor character from a novella I wrote a few years ago. Writing it was a blast, because it was like writing fanfiction for my own characters. It fairly flew off my fingertips and onto the page. Then I sat on it, and sat on it, and sat some more until the requisite amount of time passed. I only knew it was the requisite amount of time because I stopped feeling all ooh and aah when I read it, which meant I could finally look at it with a critical (editorial) eye. But I digress! I actually worked on a query letter for it, which is fairly decent compared to some of the other query letters I’ve seen, and got brave and submitted to one agent as a test. She requested a partial (yay!) but rejected it. So I went back to the drawing board, incorporated some of the changes I’d been resisting but knew really made sense, and now I’m ready again.

That’s where Agent Match comes in. It’s a very kind Twitter pitch contest in that there’s no “competition” round. Many of the pitch contests start out with a certain number of entries (queries, samples, what have you) and send them to review, where only a subset are allowed to progress to the next round, and so on. Agent Match isn’t like that. The woman running it, the lovely Samantha Fountain, took the first 150 entries that followed her required format. I made it in, figuring I really had nothing to lose

Little did I know how much I had to gain. Samantha lined up twenty-three agents and editors; they’ll look over the blurbs on February 10 and 11 and if interested, request more information from the authors. Simple enough, right? She didn’t stop there, however. A number of these agents & editors have given up a half hour of their time to participate in twitter-based chats with the Agent Match participants… and anyone else who wants to ask them questions. This type of generosity with time and expertise has been absolutely invaluable for me.

At first I spent a lot of time worrying that my questions would be stupid. Much like I did when I was a little kid in school, I hung out quietly in the back of the classroom letting questions burn holes in my throat but not asking them. Then I remembered there really are no stupid questions, and started asking away. Not recklessly; all my questions have been ones where the answers have been of interest to me as an author. Some have been based around query letters, some around genres, some around wish lists, some around advice. It’s been great.

Agent Match (the actual reveal of our blurbs for agent consumption) hasn’t even happened yet, and I’ve learned so much already! Even if nobody’s interested in my story this time around, I know what I want and need to do to rework my blurb, to reword my jacket copy, and to punch up my query letter. I’ve been able to take part in all but two of the chats (lucky me!) and have started to get a real feel for what agents are looking for and how to present information to them. That alone makes me feel like a winner! As a bonus, I’ve made quite a few new Twitter contacts and have gone back to using it again more regularly.

Would I do this again? You bet. I’ll probably even be brave enough to test the waters on one of the elimination-round pitch contests. I look at it this way: if we never open a door, we’ll never know what’s behind it. The worst that can be there is nothing.

Feel free to join me on Twitter at @notsuestorm (and yes, I will be happy to tell the “not Sue Storm” story if anyone wants to hear it).

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