The Live Pitch

If you’ve followed the blog for any amount of time, I’m sure you’ve heard me whine about how ridiculously hard the query writing part of the process is. And. It. Is.

But if it’s really true that more people would rather die than speak in public, then a truly terrifying part of this writing process comes in the combination of public speaking your query.

Only you don’t have a nice page to explain your book. You have about a paragraph + answers for questions, some you might have expected, many you haven’t.


Seriously? Why wouldn’t you? Okay, I know it can be very intimidating if not terrifying, but realize this: a live-pitch is like moving your query from the slush pile to the front of the line. You are guaranteed that agent’s full attention for a few minutes. Your story gets the best possible consideration amidst the hundreds if not thousands of queries they get on a regular basis.

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How Not To…

Guys, I have some advice. And by guys I mean members of the male community. And hopefully this is advice I don’t need to be giving you.

I was with a friend yesterday when a guy similar in age to us decided to introduce himself. Well, I guess technically it was more of a continued conversation since my friend already knew this guy.

First impressions are so important and this guy already has something big working against him. He’s got a more feminine kind of voice. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that per se, as I have a really great friend who has a similar voice. Jae likes her men to be manly, so it’s going to be off-putting for me in the beginning. But as I said, since I have a friend with a similar issue, I’m a bit more open-minded than I used to be.


What does this guy have going for him? He’s normal-looking, which can always be upgraded to extremely attractive if coupled with a charming personality. He’s friendly. That’s a plus too. And he’s bothering to talk to girls, which for some reason in this age group is often scarce.

Then out comes the voice. Again, not necessarily a detriment. My friend knows this about himself and pushes past it. But this guy, he seems a bit clueless.

1. I live with my parents (and I’m over 30). There may be a really good excuse for this, but por favor, don’t mention this from the get-go when talking to girls. This is a huge strike against a guy because many girls will see this as an inability to cut apron strings and be a grown-up. It’s time to leave Mama’s nest. Probably a decade ago.

2. Because everything’s too expensive. Apartments may be pricey, but trust me when I say Utah is a place where roommates are not unusual. And I guess having lived in Tokyo where I was paying $650/month to split a tiny place with 2 other girls, I feel like the rent in Utah is practically free for a large palace in comparison. Also, continually emphasizing how you think certain things are so expensive puts one thought into a girl’s head: This guy is cheap.

I like a frugal guy. I’m a big fan of Dave Ramsey and listen to his program whenever I get a chance. But there’s a vast difference between frugality and being tighter than bark on a tree. At the end of the day: don’t portray yourself as being Mr. Cheapskate.

3. I only make $1000 a month. Okay, now the ‘everything’s too expensive’ comment makes sense. Here’s the thing. You don’t have to be a millionaire. I know people who never went to college who are making a feasible living by now, rising through the ranks of their companies. The way he spoke about things, it sounded like he’s been making $1000 a month for a long stinking time, good or bad economy.

Here’s the other thing. Don’t mention how much you make, even if you are a millionaire. This is the introduction for crying out loud!

4. So… are you single? Yes, the follow up question to us both was our singleness. And sharing all of that honesty with us… I tend not to like the “are you single” question in the first place. I think if you spend enough time talking to a person, there’s a good chance you’ll find out whether or not they are. And all of that time you’re spending getting to know them can also be good rapport building time. Having been in sales earlier in my life, it’s sure a lot easier to make a sale if you’ve built up good rapport. The same applies for dating.


It’s important to be honest about yourself and your life situation, but with good measure. It’s like info-dumping in a story. We’re going to want to know all this stuff eventually, just not up front. The first few pages should be something that entices you to want to keep on reading.

Maybe there’s a girl who’d rather be the breadwinner and he can be a stay-at-home-dad or something. Or maybe he needs a girlfriend who can encourage him to get a better job or in a better place in his life. But much like an info dump can scare off potential readers, so can a life info dump scare off potential partners.

It’s interesting how much about life really relates to writing. I suppose that’s because what we do is write about lives.

What do you think? Have any first date or introduction horror stories? Guys, what would you say that girls should certainly avoid on intros or first dates?

Inspirational Tuesday Morning

Okay, Labor Day weekend happened. I did a lot of writing, a lot of editing, a lot of movie watching, and a little hiking. All in all, I’d call that a fabulous weekend.

twin lakes reservoir

Twin Lakes Reservoir. Although I’m not sure where the ‘twin’ part comes in. I guess there’s another lake sorta nearby?

Because of the weekend, blogging didn’t happen. Hence no inspirational Monday for you. But since today feels like a Monday to me, let’s go ahead with inspiring you today.

But speaking of weekends, I don’t want to get into details, but lately there’s been this elephant in the room in my life. I walk into my bedroom and he’s like, “Sorry, I’m using this space. Did you want in here? Well, I don’t know what to tell you. I am an elephant and all.”

So then I’ll go downstairs to the living room or something to get away from him, only he’s there too. “Oh, hey, yeah, I thought I’d read a book or something and stretch out over the whole living room. Did you need something?”

The hard thing is I can point out the elephant in the room and discuss him, but it doesn’t make the elephant go away. And it’s awkward and really hard. It’s almost like I have to compartmentalize my brain into life before the elephant (or where I almost pretend the elephant isn’t there) and life with the elephant.

I’m just curious. Have any of you ever had to do that to yourself? Like you have two minds you have to maintain separate from one another because resolution can’t happen for a little while? That elephant will be around for awhile so you have to figure out how life happens in the meantime? Just wanted to hear your thoughts on the subject.


When’s the last time you saw Val Kilmer? The Saint? An ’80s throwback with Real Genius. What has Val been up to these days aside from an occasional reference from Shawn on Psych. Now you know. (Small language warning…)


There’s Crazy Mel Gibson, there’s Crazy Charlie Sheen, I’m sure you can think of a few other celebrities you wish would get their act together. We’ve all heard Christan Bale’s temper tantrums, seen Tom jumping on couches, read too many stories about drunken Lindsay Lohan, and let’s not even get into that twerking incident.

But even with all that and more floating around out there, it’s nice to come across a celebrity that can act like a decent human being without a script to read from. Watch Kristin Chenoweth awesomeness via Absurdly Nerdly.


I guess with Comic Con happening this weekend here in good ol’ SLC, I’m feeling a bit more geeky than normal. (But is that really a bad thing?) Anyway, what’s the geekiest mashup you can think of? Star Wars meets Firefly meets Adventure Time? Batman saving the last of humanity for the Cylons?

What about Mark Hamill as the Joker as the Emperor taunting Mark Hamill? Oh, yes they did!

Any other celebrities you think aren’t total doofuses? Were you totally geeking out over Mark Hamill? What did you do over the weekend? Anything exciting? Or any exciting news?

Death Is Not the Worst Thing

At least not in storytelling it isn’t. If you’ve read any of his books or attended any of his workshops, you know this is a big point of Donald Maass. How can you make it worse?

Part of our job as writers is to torture our poor protagonists and often their friends and family as well. Sometimes we hesitate to take our stories to the level it needs to be because we like our protagonists. Why let them suffer so much?

Because it doesn’t make for a good story. Sorry, that’s the rub.

We like stories because we like to see conflict overcome. Triumph attained. Some kind of new understanding gleaned. In my opinion this is because we hope those issues in our own lives will come to some kind of catharsis in our lives or just a resolution that makes sense. So it’s relieving to read about others’ troubles and trials because typically stories have a resolution, whereas our lives may continue on troubled for some time.

That’s why what our protagonist is after should be harder and harder to attain the further we get into our story. Something should keep getting in their way, and each time something does it should make things worse.

Since hearing the advice, how can you make it worse for your character, I’ve come to new ideas I’m not sure I would have come up with otherwise. But the other side of that is remembering, death is not the worst thing. For our main characters, death must be off the table—as a result, not as a fear.

Firstly, if your protagonist dies, end of story—unless of course you’re doing some freaky ghost realm back and forth story. But when I say death, I mean no longer available to act in your story. Also, death can often merciful for a character. They can no longer be tortured, whether physically or mentally, by something.

When we’re crafting story, remember death is not the worst thing.

Do you torture your poor protagonists? Do you try and apply the “how can I make it worse” principle? Or has this philosophy helped spark any new ideas for your story? Have you read any Donald Maass or listened to him? Anything you would add?

Inspirational Monday Morning

Rainy days don’t get me down. But Mondays do. And here we are again. Does it sometimes seem like we’re pressing teh reset button for the exact same week? At least it wasn’t the exact same day for 10 years, like for poor Bill Murray in Groundhog’s Day.

But this is supposed to be inspirational time. So let’s get inspired!


This may lay somewhere in between. I’m sure you’ve heard of hacking, but have you heard of life hacking? Here are 50 like hacks to simplify your world.


No, I’m not serious. As far as I know there won’t be a Book 8. But what if there was? What tidbits of information would you like to know? What if I told you there were tidbits JK Rowling revealed about the world of Harry Potter post Book 7. Would you cry uncontrollably for days because this is the greatest thing that has possibly ever happened to you?

Well get those tissues ready, my friends. Read 28 things that happened after the Harry Potter books ended.


For some reason over the weekend I was thinking of Ralph Wiggum. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been editing so much lately, I need a good hearty laugh. I put Ralph to you, also, as one of those really well written side characters. They seem to stay true to Ralph and a lot of the best Simpsons lines come from him. How well do you know your side characters? Are you staying true to them, whether they’re comic relief or otherwise?


And finally, the 20 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me At 20. Some good advice. But I wonder, would my 20-year-old self have listened to this advice back then? I’d like to think I’d have listened to most of it. If you’d told me at 18, that might have been a different story. But 20, I feel like I’d had 2 years away from home to realize how incredibly smart Mom and Dad were.

What do you think? Is that advice still applicable today? Does Ralph Wiggum annoy you or encourage you to write characters true to their nature? Did you cry a little when you read the Harry Potter post? And how many of those life hacks are you totally going to try now?