Getting Back to Business

Fridays are usually reserved for movies, but I feel like enough has been going on lately it’s time for an update. No big news as of yet, but lots of upcoming plans and projects to be had.


First of all, I’m officially querying out SHADE. Thanks to help from a lot of you good people out there, I finally got together a good query letter. Hopefully I’ll have good news to report soon. It feels good to be back in the querying game. I certainly feel a lot more prepared this time around.


I have a couple upcoming conferences, both Utah-based. The first is one I attended last year called Writing for Charity. Last year the big name attender was Brandon Sanderson, this year it’s Shannon Hale. But there are other authors you may have heard of as well. It’s not a huge conference, it’s a one-day event only. But you can get feedback from published authors on your stuff as well as attend forums. I found it super helpful last year, so I’m attending again this year. This one is at the end of April.

The other is LDS Storymakers, and this one does have a few agents attending. The big name author for this one is Anne Perry. There are a few agents attending. The one I’m hoping to catch the eye of is Hannah Bowman. I have a few workshops with her, so hopefully something might come of that. Plus they have a sort of writer’s bootcamp which I’m looking forward to taking SHADE through. Never hurts to have some extra polish. This one is longer, I think from Thursday to Saturday. This one is the first week in may or so.

I’ll definitely post notes from both.


I think I’m going to fill a lot of my query response waiting time with seeking out and entering contests. I plan to enter something in the big Writer’s Digest Contest, but I intend to do a little flash fiction and short story writing. I think building a little clout while you’re waiting is always a good thing, don’t you?


While I’ll occasionally edit SHADE as things progress, and certainly after novel boot camp. But I’m going to see what contests I can put Trick or Tree in and I’ve got a short story that needs finishing I’ve tentatively titled Dog Shy. I think it was inspired by my Ray Bradbury reading stint. Well, probably both short stories are.

I’ve also got something from a much older WIP—this piece I think I’ll enter in the Writer’s Digest contest. I was going to use a newer project I’m working on, but I don’t think it’ll be ready in time. My older WIP I already know the characters really well, so it will be easy to take a selection and use it as a short story of sorts (or I guess I should say easier, because I know their motivations). I’m taking that to writer’s group next week.

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Going Pro: Creds & Eds

Welcome to the sixth post in the How to Edit Your Novel series. Now that you’ve put your novel through the ringer, and likely gone through rewrites, it’s time to look at a few options: contests, conferences, and editors.


books clip artNovels. While entering novel contests can be good exposure for your book, take caution in which contests you enter. Some may take exclusive publishing rights (like Amazon’s recent break through novel contest). Be certain you know what you’re getting into before you enter.

The contests I hope you’ll seek in particular are critique or feedback based contests. Even if it’s only the first few hundred words or first two chapters. For example, awhile back I won a first chapter critique from Aimee Salter. Her feedback was immensely helpful, and it’s something she does professionally.

I know I keep mentioning Pitch Wars, but I got a lot of great feedback from it too, especially from my mentor Marieke. And recently I entered the Cupid’s Literary Connection contest. I didn’t win, but I got helpful feedback there too–especially on my query. Feedback can be just as valuable as a win. Plus you can see how your novel stacks up among the works of your peers.

Short Stories. Whenever you need a break from the novel, or need to put it in cold storage, it’s the perfect opportunity to write something else–flash fiction, short stories, novellas, etc. This is where the creds part comes in. Winning a contest where your work is published in something gives you credentials for your query letter. It’s no guarantee, obviously, but anything you can do to stand out in the submission pile and catch an agent’s eye is worth the effort.

Even if you plan to self-pub, never hurts to be able to say “winner of the…” whether on your book or in your bio. You want to catch that reader’s eye.

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A Midwinter Update

Time for an update. Woot! Okay, not that kind of woot. Just a general let’s get this done woot.

jae scribblesSHADE – I finished my most recent round of editing on my novel. It was a major change again, like the one I did over the summer, but I think it’s stronger for it. My Pitch Wars mentor Marieke said she’d take another quick look at it (I’m guessing just the parts that have changed). Hopefully I’ve made much improvement. I know there’s more to be made, but I need a break and so I’ve been letting it get cold. I’m pleased with its progress thus far, however, and there are a few scenes I’m particularly proud of. I’ll probably take parts of it to writers group and bother a few of you peeps for feedback soon. But like I said, break needed.

QUERY – This is what I should be working on right now, but I’m still in recovery mode from Pitch Wars I think. But this is next on the docket. I’ve got a decent-ish one now, but Marieke gave it a once over and now I need to fix it up again—which I’m fine with. I’d rather have a query that kills than a query that chills.

CONTESTS – Unfortunately I heard back on my Gotham Writers contest and it was a no win. *shrug* I still have the Writer’s Digest coming up which I entered my short story Trick or Tree into. I should know about that at the end of February or so. I’ve got Cupid’s Literary Connection running next week, at least the “bouncer” round of it. If I get a “you’re in!” then I move on to the agent round. I’ll be sure to update you on that progress.

There’s a few other short story ones I’m looking into, but first the query. If you’re interested in trying to write short stories, I recommend reading a lot of them from either Ray Bradbury, Ernest Hemingway, or Anton Chekhov. A lot of Anton’s are available online for free. I wasn’t sure about being able to write short stories (I’m long-winded) but after reading a few dozen of these I started to get a feel for how the story flows when it’s short. Plus these are all great writers and they’ll help make your own writing better for being exposed to them.

BOOKS – Right now I’m reading Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. It’s a lot of great stuff on getting your plot and characters to as he calls it, a breakout level. Some of it is similar to Story by Robert McKee, but obviously more novel-focused. I had wanted to read On Writing by Stephen King next, but my bro let me borrow The Wiseman’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, and I’m probably going to look into that next. It’s thick—real thick. But hey, can’t be any longer than Atlas Shrugged, right? Right?

squier guitar kitGUITAR – I did get my replacement guitar, for those who remember my previous post. It’s been a lot of fun. Too much really. I go back and forth between softer songs and hard rock. I’m getting close to nailing the timing on Thunderstruck and Johnny B. Goode. Apparently most of the Top Gun theme is ridiculously easy. I’ve also been messing with Danger Zone (another easier-than-I-thought piece).  I usually get home from Kung Fu around 9ish and play until 10 (don’t want to tick off the neighbors). I really hadn’t been playing guitar that often before the electric. It’s interesting what a little change will do for your habits.


And that pretty much takes care of life in a nutshell. I’m excited for another Studio Ghibli movie coming out next month, and of course the upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness and Iron Man 3.

What about you? Making lots of progress in writing and otherwise? Any contests you’re waiting to hear back on? And you’re looking into entering? What movies are you most excited for?

Oh, and I should also mention one more thing. Kid History finally came out with another full episode. *grin* I’ve posted it below. Enjoy!

Monday’s Writerly Quote

With Pitch Wars and Pitch Madness behind us, some may be wondering what now? Well, there’s always Peter Knapp’s manuscript critique contest (seriously, check it out). But more than that, it’s important to keep writing. From one of my favorites, Ray Bradbury:

You fail only if you stop writing.

Maybe you need to take a break, try something different, or reassess your goals. Maybe you write a few short stories, a novella, or the sequel to your current WIP. Whatever you choose to do, keep on writing. Even if you have your book in for consideration with agencies, keep on writing.

My personal advice, is look into contests. A lot of the biggies seem to culminate April/May, although they are all over the place with different deadlines. It’s always nice to rack up some writing creds for the query, especially since requests from agents usually means a lot of waiting in the meantime. Besides, I found it really helpful for SHADE to put it away for a few weeks and write something else so I could come back at it with fresh eyes.

During the fall, I had a goal to read all 200 available Anton Chekhov short stories. I only made it to 50, but it certainly helped me figure out rhythm when it came to writing short stories. So something else you can  do in the meantime is study the genre you want to write. In other words,  READ, READ, READ. And then read some more in a different genre, just to shake it up.

But always, always, keep on writing.

How about you? What do you do when it’s time to take a break from the novel? Any upcoming contests for you?