Rejection – An Example of What Not to Do

snoopy rejection letter

So there’s this writer named David Benjamin who uses his blog to recap his latest rejections. I didn’t hear about him until he started trending on Twitter for his reflections post-meeting with Jennifer Johnson-Blalock from Liza Dawson Associates.

NOTE: He took the original down but you can find a copy of David Benjamin’s post on this blog.

If his blog post were an elevator pitch, it would read something like this:

Misogynist, ill-prepared, wanna-be writer meets with a no-nonsense, hardworking agent at a conference. After completing the list of “Things You Should Never Do When Pitching to an Agent”, he drones on and on about the unfairness of it all while throwing insults at the agent for good measure.

His plan involved schmoozing the agent by talking about her interests and then presenting her with his material, from his “extensive oeuvre, that matched her deepest literary heart’s desire.”

That’s where his plan went wrong.

When you meet with an agent at a conference, you have ten minutes to make a lasting impression. What this guy did is not the lasting impression you want to make. Don’t waste it talking about things unrelated to your book. If he wanted to touch on the agent’s interests, then he should have related it to the work he was pitching.

Jennifer Johnson-Blalock is a fan of the Gilmore Girls. If I were pitching to her I might use that to segue into my WIP, or work-in-progress.

I see you’re a fan of the Gilmore Girls. Hester, the supporting female lead in my WIP, is a bit like young Lorelai Victoria Gilmore. Instead of showing up at a hotel in Stars Hollow to live in the potting shed behind the Independence Inn, Hester shows up on the steps of a funeral-home-turned-bookstore where she….

By the time I got to the part about the demons, the loaded handgun, and the ex-girlfriend, we’d have a full six minutes left and the agent would be totally captivated. If she wasn’t, then I hope I would use the opportunity to learn something and not create a cringe-worthy experience like this guy.

The moral of this blog post is getting face time with an agent is priceless. Make the most of it. Practice, practice, practice so you don’t waste even a second. They want to hear about your book, but for them to get excited about it, you have to be excited about it.

Speaking of books, I’m heading back to the funeral-home-turned-bookstore to see if the antagonist revealed himself yet. Only finishing the manuscript will tell!

Free Writing Assistance

CatDogWishingRedPen_500w
This is how I imagine Cinnamon, my golden retriever, is when left alone with my work-in-progress.

Sometimes my grammar stinks.

There. I admitted it. No matter how hard I strive for flawless grammar, sometimes I goof. I might confuse which with that, end a sentence in a preposition, or the very worst thing ever – use passive voice.

I know, right? Every time this happens I cringe. Every freaking time.

Why can I spot flaws in other’s writing but miss it in mine? WHY is that?! It drives me nuts!

Writers need thick skin. In a perfect world, writers would sport the skin of a rhinoceros or crocodile. In reality, writers sport the skin of a Giant Day Gecko, fragile and easily torn.

When I first co-founded The Mountain Scribes, a writing group serving West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, I had a bad habit of submitting my first draft for critique from other members.

Boy was that a rotten idea! I quickly learned to read through and fix as many mistakes as I could before submitting to the group.

Thankfully friends like author Laura Emmons, who I met through my local NaNoWriMo group, suggested tools that helped them polish up their literary works. Here are my top three free, cloud-based editors, and best of all, they’re free!

  1. Hemingway App – The Hemingway Editor not only polishes up your writing, but it also allows you to format the text, import text from MS Word files, and export it as HTML right to your blog.
  2. After the Deadline – This was the first service I used. It’s also cloud-based but unlike the other two apps listed here, it only offers the bare basics. The one thing it does better than the others, in my humblest opinion, is find passive voice. It may hate passive voice more than I do.
  3. ProWritingAid – While you can get a premium membership, the free service reviews up to 3k words at a time, giving you 19 different reports in return. The reports range from diction checks to sticky sentences to overused words and a lot more.

Have you ever used these apps? Are there any in this list you haven’t used? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

What I Learned from Bouchercon 2015

On May 5, 2015 I found myself on the corner of Blind Faith Boulevard of Hope and Dreams Avenue. There I was, staring at the Bouchercon registration page. My information filled out, the only thing left was to hit the send button.

Flash forward five months and a few days. I found myself on the corner of Salisbury and Lenoir Streets in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was really happening. Not only had I drowned my social anxieties in enough Starbucks to float a pontoon boat, but I was also ready to mosey up to the Sheraton hotel to check in at the Bouchercon registration table.

The moment the volunteer handed me a swag bag filled with a wide range of mystery books, I was sold. Within a few minutes I found myself in the company of a couple of other Bouchercon newbies. Over the next few days I’d happily run into them again, making me feel more welcomed and included than I could have imagined.

If you’re planning to attend Bouchercon 2016, here are some things you should consider:

Arrive and check in a day early, if you can. There was no line on that first morning, but I skipped anything scheduled before about 10 o’clock in the morning. I’m pretty sure I checked in smack dab in the middle of the Welcome to Bouchercon event, which would explain the lack of a crowd. Arriving a day early not only gives you a head start on checking in, but it also allows you to locate other essential locations, like the bathrooms and Starbucks.

Attend the Bouchercon 101 panel. Even though I won’t be a newbie next year, I still hope to attend this panel as it’s full of tips and advice specific to that particular venue, which is the Marriott on Canal Street in New Orleans.

Wear comfortable shoes and clothes. The dress ranged from very casual to business casual. Wear what is comfortable for you. I saw someone wearing a business suit and sneakers, and another person wearing a t-shirt, yoga pants and flip-flops. The fashion statements covered a wide range.

Take a refillable travel mug or sports bottle. The convention hosts do a great job of providing refreshments. During Bouchercon 2015, a few times during each day, hotel staff would bring snacks into the hospitality area. Coffee, water, and sometimes lemonade would remain available throughout the day. Take a travel mug or sports bottle that you can keep with you during panels.

Silence your phone. I can’t stress this enough. Some of the rooms where panels were held had horrible acoustics. Sometimes the microphones didn’t adequately amplify the speakers’ voices. And in one case, the speaker’s voice was naturally soft. A ringing cellphone is annoying under the best of circumstances. When other conditions apply, it’s worse.

Take your business cards – especially if you’re a writer or aspire to get published. I didn’t take my cards the first day because I didn’t want to look presumptuous. This was a huge mistake. Three people asked for my card – and I am pretty sure my path never crossed with two of them again. I met so many people, there’s no way I could remember their names.

Brush up your knowledge of Who’s Who at Bouchercon. I asked one person, “Are you a writer?” I mean, his name tag didn’t say otherwise. Turns out he was nominated for an Anthony Award. Smooth! He was humble enough not to mention it, and fortunately I figured it out later that day. You don’t have to know every author there, but you should at least know the Anthony Award nominees so you can wish them luck. (Next year I’m putting an alphabetized cheat sheet in my phone.)

I’d love to hear your tips for attending a writing event like Bouchercon. Let’s chat about it in the comments below!

3 Reasons Why Writers Need Blanket Forts

I want to build a blanket fort. It is not for my sons, who are aged 18 and 17 and entirely capable of building their own stereotypical manly blanket forts. I don’t want to share it with my husband, because he thinks the idea is silly.

When I close my eyes and picture my perfect blanket fort, it has things like a chenille bedspread roof, fairy lights along the tie-dyed , a bean bag chair floor, a small bookshelf, and a maybe a goldfish bowl full of skittles.

Come on, everyone knows it’s not logical to put a goldfish in a blanket fort.

But getting back to my point, everyone could use some time in a blanket fort. This is especially true if you are a writer, and here are three reasons why:

1. Relaxation
Going into a blanket fort transports you into another realm. All the stress from the world outside the blanket fort disappears. You don’t have to look at your phone or laptop. You can read a book, take a nap, or just curl up and daydream about stuff.

2. Inspiration
All that daydreaming can lead to inspiration. One minute you’re wondering why the unicorn is Scotland’s national animal (Go on, look it up!), and the next your main character butts in with a thought. Then another character pipes up. Before you know it, the ideas are flowing like crazy.

3. Socialization
Can you imagine having your next writers’ group meeting in a blanket fort? Put away your notebooks, pens, and laptops in favor of a board game like Boggle or, my favorite, Scrabble! As soon as you tell your friends and family you have a blanket fort, they will beat down the fabric door to join you. (If they don’t try to have you diagnosed with Peter Pan Syndrome.)

So who’s ready to build a blanket fort? If you aren’t sure where to start, then check out the following YouTube video.

I’d love to hear your thoughts (or see the results of your fort-building) in the comments below!