March Update

Monthly UpdateOn WritingSchool

This is my last minute March update. It’s late because I’ve been waiting for the results of the contest I’ve entered, which were supposed to be posted either by the 17th or the end of the month. I’m a little annoyed about that one, since the website doesn’t even have a real answer and it’s past both of those dates. As you can probably tell, I’m not very patient. You’d think that I’d have enough to keep my mind occupied (3 tests and a paper due this week…), but for some reason that’s not the case. Considering the fact that they have yet to post anything about the contest, I probably won’t put much stock in the results.

So, part of my New Year’s Resolution was to enter a contest every month, but for April I think I’ll be doing something a little different. I’ve discovered Script Frenzy, which is kind of like NaNoWriMo, but for screenplays and things like that. The basic idea is to write 100 pages in the 30 days of April.

We discussed in my last post how I often get myself into things I know nothing about, so it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that I don’t know the first thing about writing a script. Fortunately, I do know how to write, and I have an idea, so I figure I’ll learn as I go. You’ll probably hear more about that during my April update.

On another note, I’m still waiting to hear back about a couple of other contests I’ve entered. I think there are about 4 short story contests, most of which said winners would be notified around May, and the one novel contest I mentioned above. One of the short story contests is sponsored by Baylor, and the winners will be announced on Wednesday.

This is completely unrelated, but last week I ran a 5k. My school hosts a 5k and half marathon every year, very cleverly called the Bearathon. A bit of Baylor trivia: we love our puns. The wifi is called AirBear, the printing network is called PawPrints, and the money on our ID card is called BearBucks. There are more, but I won’t torture you with them.

I should probably stop typing before I start updating you on my entire life.

EDIT: So, it turns out that Script Frenzy has been cancelled because of a lack of funding. I didn’t realize this until I attempted to enter my page count (3 pages… yay) and it wouldn’t let me. I think I’m still going to try to finish 100 pages, mostly since I’ve now written the beginning of the same story three times (once as a novella, a short story and a screenplay) and I’d really like to complete the story because I really have no clue how it’s going to end. Well, I have a general idea, but I want to know which side the main character will choose! I’ll let you know how SF is going in the April Update.

Ahoy, mateys! (AKA How to Research When Writing a Novel)

AdviceOn Writing

For some reason, I decided to write about pirates.

Let me first say that I know absolutely nothing about pirates, so there hasn’t actually been much writing going on. I’ve mostly been trying to research actual pirates so that I don’t sound like an idiot. And since I’ve been doing so much research lately, I figured I should share some of my experiences and give you guys some tips.

First, the library is your best friend. The internet is that girl you’ve been frenemies with since eighth grade (For those of you who aren’t current on your middle school lingo, a frenemy is a friend that is sometimes an enemy and vice versa). If you thought you could get away with using only the internet for research, you should probably go find another blog to read. I love the library, so I’m definitely going to talk about how awesome it is.

Here’s the reason why the internet is your frenemy: you can find sites like this and this, but you can also find sites like this, which will do nothing but distract you. Do not underestimate the mesmerizing power of Wikipedia. You will be drawn in. In addition, it took me many hours of research and some very specific search terms to stumble upon those good websites, while at a library it’s as simple as searching ‘pirate’ and narrowing the results to Adult Nonfiction. I now have a bunch of good books at home just waiting for me to read them.

Something else that I’ve found increasingly important in my writing is Google Maps. Learn to use it. Not only is it fun, it’s also very helpful when you are trying to avoid making stupid mistakes and guessing (wrongly) how long it takes to get from one place to another. While there are some times when it’s okay to estimate, it is not okay for your character to drive across Texas in one hour. You can also use the street view to learn a bit about some places you’ve never been. Travel sites are also great for this, especially if your characters are going to be spending a lot of time in this place (this includes where they live, unless you live there or it’s completely made up).

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I have a bit of a weakness for books about writing. I own a ridiculous number of books claiming to be “the only thing I need to get published!” While this couldbe seen as a Half Price Books obsession or an oddly specific hoarding problem, it’s pretty useful when I start writing about something that’s completely out of my comfort zone (like pirates). At the moment I’m reading Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy and The Writer’s Little Helper: Everything you need to know to write better and get published. I really like The Writer’s Little Helper because it presents an interesting take on writing. There are some formulas and an outlining  tool that I used for my pirate story, which now has a bit of an ending. If you enjoy reading, you should definitely check out some writing books. If you don’t enjoy reading, what are you doing trying to write? No offense to anyone….

Trivia: My unnamed pirate story was originally about space pirates. I think there are still parts where I mention a laser gun and the airlock of a ship. They will probably stay there until I get around to typing the story.

Tips on Short Story Writing

AdviceOn Writing

Since I made my New Year’s Resolution to write more (it was actually to write everyday, but that’s not happening…), I’ve been writing a lot of short stories. It’s kind of difficult, since I tend to focus more on longer works. Next thing you know, I’ll be writing poems (just kidding)!

Anyway, I’ve submitted five short stories to contests this year, so I think I’ve had a little bit of practice writing them. Since I’ve finished my homework for the night, I figured I’d take the time to dissect them and maybe give some tips I’ve discovered along the way.

My first story was for a flash fiction contest, and the maximum word count was 150. My first draft was about 450 words. The funny thing is, it was a lot easier to get rid of the unnecessary stuff than I thought. Though I doubt it was an amazing story, it was a very useful exercise in editing, which I’ve done a lot of recently.

The second was an entry in the Highlight’s Fiction Contest, which mostly just made me want to cry. I usually write in a pretty simple way, without a lot of description or excessive vocabulary words, so I expected it to be much easier to write for children. It wasn’t. After I spent days trying to figure out what I was going to write about, I spent a couple more trying to figure out how to write it. What I finally learned was to do what I had with the first story and just write it. Put it on paper, and then you can take out the parts that are bad and add in some good ones. It’s much easier than trying to make it perfect the first time.

The third story was actually one I wrote over Christmas break, and after I let my mom read it, I learned that sometimes what you write makes no sense to other people. I had written it, so of course I understood what was happening, even if I didn’t spell it out. People reading it were confused, so I realized that the story wasn’t clear enough. It was in my head, but I needed to put it on paper too. Even though short stories are short, you still need to include the essentials. There are many details that can be left out, of course (see story number 5), but there some that must be mentioned, or at least alluded to.

Unfortunately for the fourth story, I’m not sure if I did what I’m about to advise you to do: choose an original topic, even if the prompt is given to you. For example, the contest I entered yesterday was a short story with the theme “love is dangerous”. My story was about a thief who finds out that her ex is now a policeman. I’m not sure if that’s original enough, or if it will blend in with all the other good girl/boy falls for a bad boy/girl stories. Of course, I just had the idea to write about an interracial couple struggling to hide their love during the Civil Rights movement. Why didn’t I think about this three days ago, before I entered the other story?

The fifth and most recent story is possibly the best. It’s a little longer than the others, and it actually has a coherent theme. This is going to sound vague, but I’m going to go ahead and say it because it will become clearer as I continue: short stories are all around you. It started with a sci-fi short story contest. I decided to write a story to enter, even though I’m hopeless at writing sci-fi. This is unfortunate, because it’s the one thing that I really wish I could write. Life is so frustrating. Anyway, the story was making me angry, so I chopped off the first ten pages and pressed on. Then I got busy with school and forgot about it. A few weeks ago, I noticed a flyer on a door about a student literary contest, and guess where my mind went? Straight to the story that I had hopelessly tried to make work a month ago.

Of course, some editing was needed, but I had already given it a great beginning. All I had to do was find an ending and change a few of the more specific details. It’s perfect–well, not really, but it is quite perfect for the contest since I just had it lying around (on my computer). I just have to hope that the English professors don’t mind my random sci-fi elements.

So, last but not least, find motivation. My motivation is entering contests. As you probably noticed, I only wrote one of these stories for just for the heck of it. The other four I wrote specifically for contests. This may seem difficult, but I try to think about it in terms of the end result.

What I would have had: 1 mediocre story

What I had now: Five very different stories, experience, and the chance to win something (which ranges from money to publication).

 

Hopefully I’ll be able to post some of my short stories online later, but I have to wait until most of the contests end first. Also, I need to come up with something to write for that sci-fi contest….

Rejection

AdviceOn Writing

As I mentioned in my January Update, I sent out some queries after I entered ABNA. Out of the ten I sent out then, I’ve received replies for five of them, all of which were varying forms of “no.”

While it’s true that no means no, I think I’m right in saying that this no:

Thank you for contacting me, but this is not a good fit for my list at this time.

Is very very different from this no:

Dear Kristin,

Thank you so much for sharing your book with me, I truly appreciate your interest.  I should also apologize for my lengthy response time, I’m very sorry to have kept you waiting this long.

I’ve had a chance to read and consider your work and can see how much you’ve invested in this.  Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m the right agent for this particular project, so I must pass.  But I send this with gratitude and all good wishes for the future.

I say this mostly to remind myself and others like me that rejection is necessary, and it’s okay. I’d even go so far as to say that the last rejection was a good rejection. I did not feel hopeless or sad after receiving it. In fact, I actually felt kind of good because it reminded me that I’m on the right track.

I’m still new to the querying process, so I’d love to hear from someone (anyone) who has some experience with it.

Until I have the urge to post again,

Kristin

February Update

Monthly UpdateOn Writing

So, I’ve got some bad news. Well, I don’t know if I’d consider it bad news, but it certainly made me cry. I didn’t make it past the first stage of ABNA (you should see the January update if you have no clue what I’m talking about).

Fortunately for me, I had a list of things to do in case this happened- the first thing was to get Starbucks, which I did. Next was to cry, which I actually did before I got Starbucks (that could have been embarrassing otherwise). And the next was to enter Driving Change in another competition. It’s a contest for authors ages 17-26 by Deep Sea Publishing, and I’m hoping that my complete failure at ABNA turns out to actually be a good thing. And I’m actually lying when I say it’s a complete failure, because it made me finish my story and rewrite it in about three weeks, so that’s a good thing.

Anyway, the deadline for the DSP contest is the 28th of February, but I’m doing a final reread and hoping to submit it by the end of the week. I have a test tomorrow and a paper due, so we’ll see how that goes. The winner for the contest will be announced March 17th, so that is probably when you (my nonexistent readers) should expect to hear from me next. Keep your fingers crossed.

As you probably know by now, I like to plan. That includes backup plans. If I don’t get anywhere with the DSP Contest, I’m hoping to submit to a new imprint called Swoon Reads. That’s the backup for if my backup doesn’t work out. I don’t know what I’ll do after that.

A note on queries: waiting is hard. I’ve got a handy spreadsheet to keep track of the emails I’ve sent, but it’s probably not necessary because I don’t go a day without checking my email and hoping to see some good news. I’ve sent out eleven queries, four of which have come back as a no already. It’s been almost a month for most of them, so hopefully I’ll be getting some responses soon. If anything nice does happen, you’ll likely be hearing from me before March 17th.

Kristin

January Update

Monthly UpdateOn Writing

Hey!

I figured the new year should come with some kind of promotion, so I decided to start this website! Until something more interesting happens, I’ll probably just be updating you on contests I’ve entered, query letters I’ve sent and what I’m writing.

I just recently enteredDriving Change into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (hereby referred to as ABNA). It has a couple rounds of judging, so I’ll let you know the results of the first round in February. Keep your fingers crossed!

I’ve also entered a short story, Savior, into the Jr Author’s Short Story Writing Contest. Finalists aren’t announced until September, so I’ll probably have forgotten about it if I do get a call then.

I’m currently trying to finish a story to enter the Highlights Fiction Contest with, and I have to say it’s not going too well. I typically write YA, which some people may consider children’s, but I have to say that I’m not doing too well with the 6-8 year age range. I’ve spent the past few days reading stories on their website, and I think I might have something they’d want. The deadline is the 31st, so I’ll probably send it off even if I don’t feel it’s right. The possibility that it’s totally horrible is worth the $3.33 that I spent on envelopes and stamps.

Also, on Sunday I sent out about ten query letters (my first!) and so far have received two rejections (my first!). One was pretty typical, but another, while still form letterish, made me feel very hopeful. I’ll paste it here.

Dear Ms. Waites,

I have received and reviewed your query for your manuscript. I greatly appreciate you sending your ideas to us for consideration. However, because of the number of submissions our agency receives, we often are not able to take on clients who merit publication. While I believe that your ideas might have market appeal, I am not convinced that we could represent it successfully at this time.

Thank you for considering [insert literary agency]. I wish you the best of luck in all your future writing endeavors!

My favorite part was “we often are not able to take on clients who merit publication.” It makes the rejection a little easier.

Currently I’m working on what feels like eighty thousand stories, though it’s only about five. One is a short story for a contest, another is a longer short story for a contest, and the others are just random ideas I had the other day. I’ll let you know about the contests when I actually get around to entering them!

 

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