Dreaming in Character

G.L. Jackson


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Romance Query Critique Giveaway

Hi there, fellow writers. Are you writing romance? Getting ready to query, or not sure about the query you’re sending out? Would you like a little feedback?

If the answer to any of them isĀ yes, here’s a query critique giveaway for you. It’s open until October 22. If you have any questions, ask away.

Enter here.

Query Critique Giveaway!

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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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When am I finished with my book?

Last year, end of November, the last day of NaNoWriMo: “I’m finished! Look at that! in a month, I wrote 76,000 words!”

Around about January or February, with the preliminary round of feedback: “Hmmm. I don’t know if I can make most of these changes. They go against the moral fiber of my characters.” I’ve since decided that this is my knee-jerk reaction and is really shorthand for “Whoa, that’s way too much work, I don’t want to twist the characters into stereotypes. Let me think about this.”

Around about April or May, in random conversation with my favorite cheerleader (aside: everyone writing a book needs a cheerleader, whose job it is to simply cheer you on and tell you everything you’re writing is great no matter what so you can finish the damn thing): “Huh. I wonder what would happen if I told this book from multiple points of view.” Cheerleader: “YES!” (Thank you, cheerleader, I love you a ton!)

Cue massive rewriting, resulting in a 113k beast of a book that I loved a lot more than NaNo Draft #1.

Around about July, the night before my dad died: Mockingly mean feedback received on my query from a complete stranger in a twitter pitch thing. Me: “That’s it, I’m hanging up my pen. I don’t need this shit in my life on top of everything else.” The next day put things in perspective, though.

Yours truly, heartbroken and resigned.

Yours truly, heartbroken and resigned.

Two nights later. Me: Huh, I think complete stranger might have been right about one thing (the book’s too long), if not the others. I would still wage an epic war over her nasty mocking tweet methodology, but I’m going to start reworking.

Around about August: novel is down below 95k. I’m so excited, I just can’t hide it, I’m about to lose control and I think I like it! Enter novel into Pitch Wars, get a couple requests for fulls, feel pretty good. Don’t get chosen.

Around about September: Get some great feedback from two people who actually won’t be my mentors after all. Sit on it for a week or so, mull it over, figure out how to best make sense of their comments while maintaining the integrity of the book/plot/characters. At the same time receive “I vehemently dislike the way you wrote this and also I don’t like half your main characters, I want you to take them out and focus on doing it this way” feedback from a reader. Me: spend a few days feeling like I might as well go back to Around about July and just scrap the fucking book, since it’s obviously no good. A few days later, I reread the feedback from those who actually won’t be my mentors and mentally highlight the parts that say things about how the writing was great, the book was strongly considered, and they were completely drawn in. I stop feeling so hurt.

Today. Me: gearing up for Draft #3. Taking advice from both of those who actually won’t be my mentors, from the vehement disliker, and from my cheerleader. Starting to outline the changes, and realizing there’s no hurry. Decide not to participate in tomorrow’s #PitMad, feel the weight of the world lifting from my shoulders. Like someone somewhere said (I find it attributed to multiple people), writing a novel is not a sprint. It’s a marathon, and I’m in no rush to finish it.

I want it to be the best story it can be. I have a lot of faith in it, still, just like I did before. I can answer my own question this way: I’m finished with my book when I have no more inspiration to work on it.

That’s not the case yet.