NaNoWriMo is over. Now what? Opportunity.

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Flickr by Vicki Clark

Breathe

Celebrate

And perhaps set aside the shiny new words for a few days… or for a lot of days.

But make note of opportunities…

Several pitchfests are on the horizon for authors with completed manuscripts.

PitchMad   PitchMAS   Pit2Pub   SonofaPitch!

These online events vary in requirements, but share similar goals… one being to help authors make connections with agents, publishers, and other authors. Really, it’s a win : win.

But showing up for these contests without a polished pitch, first chapter (or completed ms) is akin to showing up to a swim party without a suit. (This post does not address optional clothing parties.)

Before joining the festivities, bounce ideas off your CP’s. (Wait, what are CP’s? Need a resource for finding Critique Partners? The Write Life )

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Flickr by Hans Splinter

Hone your pitch – Does your 140 character spiel grab attention? Do you reveal your genre and audience? Want help with this? Try these resources: Carly Watters,  Ava Jae, and Gina Denny.

And don’t forget to edit your work. You know – slay the passive verbs, remove vague references to the word it, offer more showing than telling, and use adverbs sparingly  🙂

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Flickr by Nick McPhee

Don’t be pressured to dive in if your work is not ready, but stay informed. Visit the posts / feeds to see what worked for other authors, build your network, and perfect your approach.

Opportunity dances with those who are ready on the dance floor. – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

(Check out Carissa Taylor’s informative post for more events.)

Critique Tips

Before offering/receiving a critique, here are a few guidelines I try to keep in mind.

Photo Credit: Flickr by tsuacctnt

Photo Credit: Flickr by tsuacctnt

Every writer is a human being with feelings. Start the critique with positive observations. When a writer shares their work, it requires a level of vulnerability most people would avoid. Respect their efforts.

Writing requires time, effort, and talent. And while the amounts of each of those vary by individual, the end goal is similar—a book, poem, or story worth reading. Flagged items in your manuscript are opportunities for improvement. Treat them that way.

Be clear when describing what type of feedback you want. If you’re in the draft stages, you probably don’t need a line edit. I understand now that there are stages of editing, just like there are stages of writing. Why slip on your veil if the wedding isn’t until next month?

Be honest. I said start with a positive. I never said lie. You’ve been asked to critique their work because they want to improve. Help them.

Have more than one critique partner and understand what each offers. Does one have an eye for plot holes while the other practically smells dangling participles? Does one’s voice soften the harsh realities of the second? You need the cheerleaders and the ass kickers. But better yet, the ass-kicking cheerleaders.

Giving and getting critiques are important parts of the journey.

I wrote a short blog about critique partners in December. https://elsieelmore.com/2013/12/06/dont-go-it-alone/

Click here to see an article from The Search Guru with critique tips.

Don’t Go It Alone

Chorus:
I know that things can really get rough,
When you go it alone.
Don’t go thinking you gotta be tough,
And bleed like a stone.
The Shins: Simple Song

Allowing someone to read what you’ve written is like dancing naked on the table in front of them. Those wise words were shared with me the first time I asked someone to read my work. And boy, did that describe the knot I’d folded myself into over the intrusion. But not only did I learn from the experience, it liberated me.

You can’t do anything in a vacuum, writing included. But allowing people to read your work without offering feedback will not make it stronger, it will just make it more read. If you want to become a better writer, share your work with people who read your genre and who want to offer you their perspective. They are called Beta readers and they will help you. But before your find Beta readers, get a critique partner or two.

Critique partners are fellow writers, not necessarily from your genre, who are talented, dedicated, and honest. It’s helpful to have someone who can tell you when the plot’s getting a little crazy, your dialogue patterns are inconsistent, or that you’ve left your fourteenth dangling participle on page 5. (or that you’ve totally abused the Oxford comma.)

I am fortune enough to have three types of critique families. The first consists of my CP’s. We found each other through an online class. They offer the perfect balance of honesty, compassion, valuable insight, and friendship. And they have mad writing skills. Secondly, I belong to a local writing group that meets once a month. Our numbers limit the amount we can review for each other, but they are bloodhounds when it comes to missed commas, cliches, and other travesties. And I also have an uber third group who serve as beta reader/critique hybrids.

Surround yourself with good people and be a good partner. And don’t be scared to dance naked…figuratively, that is.

You need a CP?  Look around. Twitter, http://howaboutwecp.tumblr.com , join writing organizations like SCBWI.org (The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), RWA.org (Romance Writers of America) among many others. Also, you can join groups on Facebook, Goodreads and Agent Query Connect.

Being a writer makes me give thanks

Photo Credit: Mr.T in DC

With Thanksgiving upon us, I wanted to share why being a writer makes me give thanks.

I am thankful for artistic license. I am thankful that while waiting in the grocery store line I can assign character flaws to people in line ahead of me and plan their role in future books. I am thankful that a trip to the doctor makes me wonder about the undiscovered germs I stepped in that I will track out into the street  and accidentally start the next epidemic. I am thankful for the reenactment I feel obligated to create in my head when I pass someone pulled over and getting a ticket.

I am thankful that I can log on to Twitter, hop around other blogs or visit Facebook and see several articles written by writers about writing. I am thankful that the writing community can be as big or as small as you want to make it. (Nanowrimo, AgentQuery Connect and Writeoncon are three fabulous examples.) I am thankful that other writers are willing to stop and answer questions along the way.

I am thankful that I found the most amazing and talented critique partners in Abby J. Reed and J.M. Ledwell. I am thankful that Katie Teller found me on PitMad. I am thankful that my first book will be published by the wonderful folks at Curiosity Quills. I am thankful I follow generous and sagacious people in twitter and I am thankful I found #nanobuds and #writingbuds there are well.

It’s not easy being a writer with the rejections, the editing, and the self-doubt. But writing provides an opportunity to create, to let your voice be heard and to allow your imagination to run wild. Not to mention, mingle with a lot of interesting characters.

And for that, I’m thankful.