Discussion: When Do You Send Your WIP to CPs?

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk on Flickr
So as I’m revising my latest WIP, I’ve been thinking a lot about when I think I’ll have this new project ready for my critique partners, partially because I’m kind of psyched to see what they think, and partially because I’ve maybe been torturing them on Twitter with teasers, but that’s neither here nor there.

I’ve noticed over the years, however, that many writers have hugely different processes as far as what they share with their critique partners and when, which I find pretty fascinating.

For example: I don’t usually share any book ideas with anyone before I’ve started working on a project, largely because I don’t know if a book idea is going to work out until I’ve written at least 10k—my marker for this will actually be a full manuscript and not just an experiment (and even then it’s not really a guarantee). Ideas that I love are hard for me to come by. Even after I’ve plotted something out, and I really like the potential of the story, I never feel confident enough to share it until I’m sure I’m going to finish the manuscript, because I have a history of deciding after a few thousand words that this idea isn’t going to work out.

On the flip side, I know many writers who have many book ideas at a time, and often share them with their critique partners (or even their agents) to get early feedback.

After I’ve written the first draft, I put it away for (at least) a month before diving back into it for revisions. My critique partners never see my first drafts. This is for a couple reasons. Firstly, because I always fast-draft my first drafts, I usually finish with a list (mental, or physical) of things I already know I need to fix or expand upon. This list is usually grows when I do my first read-through, and as I tend not to like to send my critique partners a project I already know has tons of problems, I don't. Maybe it’s just the practical part of me, but if I can tackle and fix a problem before my critique partners know it exists, all the better.

Secondly, because I fast-draft all my first drafts, my first drafts are…er, let’s say not my best writing. Which is totally to be expected with first drafts, but again, I personally prefer to send my critique partners work that I’ve at least attempted to polish.

On the other hand, I know many writers who send their critique partners the first draft basically they day they finish writing. Or maybe a few days later, after doing a super-quick round of tweaks here and there. And that works for them, and that’s awesome.

Lately, my process has been to send my first round of critique partners draft two-point-something. The last one was two point one (meaning I went through two rounds of revision before sending the manuscript to my first round of CPs), and judging by the way this revision is going, it’ll probably be the same for this latest project. And then I basically go back and forth with different rounds of CPs and betas until I’m satisfied and send it off to my agent.

But for me, the only person to lay eyes on the first draft is me, myself, and I. And though I can’t assume that’ll never change, for now, I intend to keep it that way.

Now I want to hear from you: when do you send your WIP to your CPs? And do you share unwritten book ideas with them? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
When do you send your MS to CPs? And do you share your unwritten WIP ideas? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet
Unsure when to send your MS to CPs? @Ava_Jae shares her CP-trading process. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Feature #7

Photo credit: Tostito Verde on Flickr
All right! So as these things go, I’m going to start by posting the full first 250 excerpt, after which I’ll share my overall thoughts, then my redline critique. As per usual, I encourage you guys to share your own thoughts and critiques in the comments (because, as I will continue to say, I’m only one person with one opinion!), as long as it’s polite, thoughtful, and constructive. Any rude or mean comments will be deleted.

Here we go!

Title: CLAN FEIDHELM (working title)  
Genre/Category: NA Fantasy 
First 250: 
“Caera barely managed to duck in time. Had she hesitated for even a split second, the spear’s iron tip would have sliced open her face from cheek to ear.

She jabbed her own spear at her opponent, but Danu was ready for it. She caught Caera’s strike on her shield and knocked it aside. Caera backpedaled. Always move to the right, she reminded herself. That movement will give you the natural advantage nine times out of ten. She circled in that direction, wary. Danu did the same, her eyes narrowed in a predatory stare.

Caera swallowed and shifted her double-handed grip on her weapon. She feinted left but before she could spin away, Danu kicked her in the knee. An involuntary gasp escaped Caera’s lips as her knee twisted at an awkward angle, sending a sharp shot of pain up her leg as it crumpled beneath her.

Before she could regain her footing, Danu lowered her shield and slammed it against Caera’s shoulder, sending her sprawling into the tight-packed dirt. She lost her grip on her spear as her back slammed against the ground, knocking the breath from her body. Then Danu’s foot was on her chest, pinning her down. Her spearhead pricked the exposed skin of Caera’s throat.

‘Dead yet again,’ Danu said. ‘That’s what, the fourth time today I would’ve killed you?’ She pulled back her spear and grinned.

‘Third,’ Caera corrected. She sat up and smiled wryly at her cousin. ‘Only the third, thank you very much.’”

Cute! Okay, so overall I think this is a fun start. I don’t see anything glaringly obvious that would make me immediately put this down (yay!), though my main caution with openings like this that start in medias res is to make sure that start to care about your protagonist quickly or the danger (real or not) won’t matter to the readers. How you do that is up to you (and might take more than a page to establish, which is okay).

Now the redline critique:

Caera barely managed to duck in time. Had she hesitated for even a split second, the spear’s iron tip would have sliced open her face from cheek to ear. This isn’t a bad opening, but it’s a little wordy. I’d condense to: “Had Caera hesitated for even a second, the spear’s iron tip would’ve sliced open her face from cheek to ear.” 

She jabbed her own spear at her opponent, but Danu was ready for it. She caught Caera’s strike on her shield, and knocked knocking it aside. Caera backpedaled. Always move to the right, she reminded herself. That movement will It’ll give you the natural advantage nine times out of ten. She circled in that direction right, wary. Danu did the same, her eyes narrowed in a predatory stare.

Caera swallowed and shifted her double-handed grip on her weapon. She feinted left but before she could spin away, Danu kicked her in the knee. An involuntary gasp escaped Caera’s lips Caera gasped as her knee twisted at an awkwardly. angle, sending a sharp shot of Sharp pain shot up her leg as it crumpled beneath her.

Before she could regain her footing, Danu lowered her shield and slammed it her shield against Caera’s shoulder, sending her sprawling into the tight-packed dirt. She lost her grip on dropped her spear as her back slammed against the ground, knocking the breath from her body. Then Danu’s foot was on her chest, pinning her down. Her spearhead pricked the exposed skin of Caera’s throat.

‘Dead yet again,’ Danu said. ‘That’s what, the fourth time today I would’ve killed you?’ (First super nitpicky comment: this “I’ve killed you x-times today” thing is used a lot. I’m not saying you shouldn’t use it (in fact, I’ve used it) but it’s good to be aware that it’s relatively common. You may want to consider using a different line of dialogue, or maybe not. Up to you, but it’s good to think about.) She pulled back her spear and grinned.

‘Third,’ Caera corrected. She sat up and smiled wryly at her cousin. (Second super nitpicky comment: Caera just got her knee twisted pretty badly, which sounded like a serious injury. If it’s not a serious injury, then okay, but in my experience, twisting your knee, even if it’s not super bad, hurts for a while, so I’m not totally convinced on how smiley she’d be right now.) ‘Only the third, thank you very much.’”

So, right, you’ll notice that I only have two in-line comments because overall, I think this was done pretty well. The biggest thing I noticed, which I suspect is going to be a manuscript-wide issue, is there’s a lot of wordiness. This, like my comments, is a nitpicky observation, but I recommend you go through your manuscript and try to condense wherever you can, using one powerful word instead of three, if that makes sense.

That being said, if I saw this in the slush, I’d keep reading. I’m curious, and wordiness isn’t enough to totally set me off from a submission if the story is interesting. :)

Very nice job! Thanks for sharing your first 250, Meghan!

Would you like to be featured in a Fixing the First Page Feature? Keep an eye out for the next giveaway! 

Twitter-sized bite: 
.@Ava_Jae talks wordiness and condensing your writing in the 7th Fixing the First Page crit. (Click to tweet

Vlog: How to Query: The Query Letter

So you've set up your list of agents and your manuscript is ready to go, which means you need a query letter. Here's how to get started and a few things to remember while writing your query.

 

RELATED LINKS: 


What tips do you have for query letter writing? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
Struggling to write your query letter or don't know where to start? @Ava_Jae vlogs about what goes into a query. (Click to tweet)

How to Build an Online Platform: tumblr

Photo credit: Scott Beale on Flickr
Continuing with my somewhat sporadic How to Build series, it’s time to talk about one of my favorite social media sites—tumblr!

tumblr is a surprise favorite, because when I first created an account, I had no idea what I was doing. It took me several weeks of seeing what other people were doing and playing around for me to really get it. But I’m glad I stuck with it, because it’s now a pretty fabulous traffic source, and also I find inspirational and/or funny things on there all the time.

  • tumblr birthday: July 9, 2011 (roughly 3.5 years, as of this writing…at least, that’s when I reblogged my first post)
  • Followers: 840 (as of this writing)
  • Time spent weekly: Honestly? No idea. I check it daily and sometimes spend two minutes and sometimes…considerably longer. 

Tips: 

  • Follow a bunch of blogs that interest you. This is the quickest (and most enjoyable) way to get the most out of tumblr, while also learning how tumblr interactions work. I follow writing blogs, art blogs, author blogs, and loads of blogs about books. Right now, my most liked and reblogged blogs (according to tumblr) are Beth Revis’s tumblr, YA Highway, Corinne Duyvis’s tumblr, RenĂ©e Ahdieh’s tumblr, Nita Tyndall’s tumblr, The Writing Cafe, The Art of Fiction, Disability in Kidlit, and It’s a Writer Thing

  • Add tags when you reblog. If you’re familiar with Twitter hashtags, these work fairly similarly. I’ll admit I’ve been a little lazy with this lately, but this actually really helps other people stumble across your posts, even if they don’t follow you.

  • Create your own posts, when possible. Reblogging is great, and probably will be 80% of your tumblr interactions (which is fine, because a large part of tumblr is about sharing each other’s posts). But I also recommend you try to share your own content whenever possible. I cross-post all of my Writability posts and bookishpixie vlogs on tumblr, and occasionally cross-post Instagram pics or create something just for tumblr. It’s a great way to show your follows a little more about you (not just what you like to reblog) and can be a nice way to inject extra personality.

  • Add commentary when you reblog. You don’t have to do this every time, of course (I definitely don’t), but when you see something that you can comment on, go for it. The great thing about tumblr is you can see what other people have commented, and sometimes the comments end up being more interesting than the original post (or make the original post more interesting). This is also another great way to inject personality and give the original poster extra feedback. 

So those are my tumblr tips! Now I want to hear from you: are you on tumblr? What tips (or questions) do you have?

Twitter-sized bites: 

Looking to build a platform on tumblr? @Ava_Jae shares her experience and a few tips. (Click to tweet
"Follow a bunch of blogs that interest you," and other tumblr platform building tips from @Ava_Jae. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Giveaway Winner #7!

Photo credit: ~Morgin~ on Flickr
Quick off-schedule Saturday post to announce the winner of the seventh fixing the first page feature giveaway! Are you ready?

The winner is…

MEGHAN (@CUIGEMUMHAN)

Yay! Congratulations, Meghan! Expect to see an e-mail from me very shortly. 

Thanks to all who entered! There will be another next month, so keep an eye out! :)

How to Prepare for a Pitch Contest

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So it’s the beginning of a new year, which means the beginning of a new season of pitch contests! This is a time I used to always look forward to in my unagented days, largely because I was slightly addicted to pitch contests. I can’t tell you how many I entered, because I’ve honestly lost count, but for me at least, it paid off.

Pitch contests, unsurprisingly, work most in your favor when you don’t jump into them blindly. So after you’ve decided you do want to enter that pitch contest, here are a few steps to take:

  1. Look carefully at the contest guidelines. This is really important because every contest is different. Some pitch contests are Twitter fests, which have rules about how many times you should post, and what’s required in your Twitter pitch, and whether or not you’re eligible (some are more narrow than others about what genres/categories are acceptable). Some pitch contests run on blogs and require pseudo-queries, or the first 250 words of your manuscript, or a few answered questions, or a sentence-long pitch, or a combination thereof. Every contest has their own rules about when to submit, how to submit, and how to participate before, during and after the event. Read the guidelines and make sure you follow the rules—the last thing you want is to be automatically disqualified because you didn’t take the time to read the guidelines. 

  2. Prepare your pitches and/or sample. Oftentimes (but not always) for a pitch contest, you’ll need a query-length pitch, the polished first 250 words of your MS, and a logline/Twitter pitch. Even if you don’t need all of those components, I highly recommend you get them together anyway, because you’ll inevitably need them.

    I’ve already written a few posts on how to write a great Twitter pitch (which can be used for any pitch, minus the character limit) as well as the importance of details in queries and pitches, and some common Twitter pitch mistakesso I recommend you check those out for help with the actual pitch-writing part.

  3. Get your pitches critiqued (a lot). To me, the most important part of writing your pitches and sample is getting them critiqued.

    There are usually loads of places to get pitches critiqued before a pitch contest, sometimes hosted on the contest blog, sometimes set up by fellow writers and announced on the hashtag on Twitter (so make sure you check it!). But the important thing is that you show your pitch to people who haven’t read your book and see what they think. Do they understand what your book is about? Are they intrigued? If the answer isn’t a clear yes to both, you know you’ve got some work to do. 

And that’s really all there is to it. Once you’ve polished your pitches to perfection, the only thing left to do is wait for those submission dates to arrive, cross your fingers and hope for the best. Good luck!

Upcoming pitch contest submission dates:

Have you ever entered a pitch contest? Do you have any tips for preparing?

Twitter-sized bite: 
Want to enter an upcoming pitch contest? Here are a few steps to take in preparation. (Click to tweet)

On Writing in Multiple Genres

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As many of you know, my debut Beyond the Red is a YA Sci-Fi. What less of you know, is the book I just recently sent off to my agent is a NA Paranormal, and the book I’m revising now is a YA Fantasy. I also have a YA Paranormal in the drawer that I hope to one day revive, though whether or not that’ll happen remains to be seen. 

Basically, what I’m trying to say is I write in several categories and genres.

Oftentimes, I’ve come across posts about creating an author brand. The examples given usually involve authors who specialize in a single genre, and I’ve seen some (but definitely not all) insinuate that it’s in an author’s best interests to focus on a single, cohesive audience.

I totally get that, and I’m not trashing that strategy. I think it can be a totally viable, and strong strategy for genre authors, like Sarah Dessen, Gayle FormanJodi Picoult and John Green, for example. You know exactly what kind of book to expect from those authors, and their fans are indisputably loyal.

All of this talk of branding, however, sometimes gets interpreted to mean that authors can’t (or shouldn’t) write in multiple genres. And I don’t think that’s quite true.

While I think the strategy for an author who writes in multiple genres is naturally going to be different than an author who focuses on one (including the fact that not all fans of author genre A will read author genre B), that doesn’t mean that an author can’t be successful writing in multiple genres and categories.

Of course, I’m a little biased, so let me give some examples:


All of these authors have published (or have book deals) in multiple genres and/or categories, and I’m sure there are loads more—these are just the ones I was able to think of quickly.

It’s not often discussed, but I think especially today, writing in multiple categories and genres is becoming increasingly more common. Which, for writers who love writing in different genres and categories, is possibly the best news ever.

So whether you write in one genre or five, I encourage you to write whatever your heart desires. After all, ultimately, it’s not the genre or the category that sells a book—it’s the passion behind the story itself.

What do you think? Is it smart for writers to write in multiple genres or categories?  

Twitter-sized bites: 
Is it smart for authors to write in multiple categories or genres? Writer @Ava_Jae weighs in her thoughts. (Click to tweet
Do you think writers should write in multiple categories or genres? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)
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