Miscellaneous

How Writing Conferences Can Surprise You

Today, I am attending a writing conference. (In case you’re wondering, I’m at the Middle of the Map Conference in Overland Park, Kansas.) While prepping last night, I began thinking about how much I love conferences—and about how many writers are on the fence about attending them.

I always tell writers to attend conferences if they can. Why? Because they might surprise you.

You see, I attended a different conference back in March with the wild hopes of snagging a literary agent.

Extra Tip: You don’t have to travel to attend conferences! There are now online conferences. But make sure to take a business card with you to in-person events.

When the conference was posted, I paid to attend. I also volunteered to help.

Here I was, thinking “volunteering” meant I’d hand out water bottles or get to chat in the early morning hours before arrivals…and then, they asked me to pick up agents and editors at the airport. FYI, I’m TERRIFIED of driving. Like, seriously, I’ve been in three major car wrecks. (None of which were my fault.) I had to go to therapy over it, but I’m much better now, and I wanted to stick to my word and help. So, I diligently practiced driving the route the day before. Later, one of the attending editors complimented me on my driving through the city in the rain. (This was a major accomplishment for me, who’d struggled for so many years with driving. I was really proud of myself for not backing down.) That was the first day.

To give you a better idea of my personal life and how this conference affected me, I work two jobs on a nightshift. I’m awake from 3 PM to 3 AM. On average, I get to bed about 7 AM. I had to attend this conference at 8 AM the very next day. I was exhausted and running on coffee-fueled adrenaline. Like many writers, I’m not wealthy, but I work my hardest, and I often work every day. Still, I paid $300 to attend and an additional $150 to pitch three different agents. It took me WEEKS to save up that money, and I don’t regret spending that money because something amazing happened.

After pitching three different agents, I walked away with three full manuscript requests and endless hope. Seven months later, one request resulted in a denial after we discussed a potential publisher who pushed it through acquisitions (a publisher that I LOVE, but who also didn’t work out in the end). One requested a R&R, and one request is still pending. Back in March, I naively thought I’d found the one, and though I’m still agent-less (and no longer actively querying), I still had a blast.

You see, while I waited for my turn to pitch, I began a conversation with another volunteer. She was a local writer, and we started talking about publishing/writing/reading/everything. She kept cheering me on, and I really appreciated how much she helped me keep my head up, especially since I was so bone-achingly exhausted. At one point, she mentioned her writer’s group, and I mentioned that I’d been struggling to find an in-person one. She invited me to attend hers later that month.

I couldn’t believe my luck. Here I was, an awkward/exhausted/out-of-money author, who’d been looking for a local writer’s group for MONTHS, only to be invited to one when I wasn’t actively searching. My hopes soared. I was so excited—and terrified.

What if they hated me? What if they hated my writing? What if I got a taste for an awesome group, only to be rejected when I asked if I could become a member? What if, what if, what if?

Later that month, I attended a meeting, not knowing what to expect, and now, I’m a regular part of the group. I look forward to our monthly meetings, and I’ve already grown a lot as a writer. Even better, I made friends.

I didn’t find an agent that day, but I did join an amazing writer’s group that changed my life for the better.

Publishing is an awkward, exciting, terrifying road, but more than that, it’s unpredictable.

So attend those conferences if you can. Those surprises can change everything.

~SAT

Writing Tips

Burning Out on Your Fav Genre

Before every YA fantasy writer in the world loses their mind, I want to start out by saying that I, myself, am a YA fantasy writer and reader. Again, try not to lose your minds. This isn’t a personal attack. There’s some AMAZING YA SFF coming out right now. My most recent fav was Warcross by Marie Lu. But lately, I have been so burnt out on YA fantasy.

Being burnt out on YA SFF makes me sad, too.

Honestly, this is really difficult for me to admit. I LOVE YA fantasy. I’ve always read it, I mainly write it, and I’m constantly on the lookout for more of it. But recently, I have picked up book after book after book—and I’ve barely been able to connect. Worse? At first I thought it must’ve been the authors or the stories. Then, after a self-criticizing conversation with myself, I realized it was my fault.

You see, all I’ve been reading and writing is YA SFF—and that’s the problem. While writers are constantly told that they need to be reading what they are writing, we aren’t told as often to read outside of what we’re writing, and reading outside of your genre is just as important. Why? Because it teaches different approaches, different voices, different everything. And it helps you from burning out.

So what do you do when you burn out on your favorite genre?

 1. Try a different sub-genre

One genre has a million sub-categories, so try one you don’t usually pick up. For instance, fantasy is a HUGE umbrella term. Maybe you’re reading too much epic fantasy or urban fantasy. Try historical fantasy instead. Or reach into the fringes and grab that alien-vampire-cowboy mash-up you’ve been secretly eyeing.

2. Try a new age category

Don’t forget that there’s a fantasy section in the children’s, YA, and adult sections. Heck, grab a graphic novel. Each age category tends to have a unique approach, and it might help freshen your understanding of your genre. If you’re super unsure, see if any of your favorite writers write in different age categories. Ex. Victoria Schwab writes YA and adult fantasy.

3. Try a new genre completely

Yes, you’re supposed to write what you read, but seriously, reading other genres is just as important. Pick up a contemporary book. Browse some poetry. Reach into the great unknown. Honestly, this option is the one that helps me the most.

I’ve recently been reading more—*gasp*—contemporary, like Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde and Tiny Pretty Things by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra. (Both highly recommended by the way). And, honestly, I wish I started reading them earlier this year. I wasn’t paying attention to how burnt out I was getting—how much reading and writing only fantasy was drowning my creativity and enjoyment—but these books quickly pulled me out of a slump once I started them. I’ve even been able to read fantasy again—and sure enough, after a little break, I started loving each story.

Basically, the point of this post is to remind writers that, yes, while you should always be reading what you write, you should also make time to read genres and age categories that you don’t write. Why? Because it expands your pallet. It resets your writing gears. It resets everything.

And it’s fun.

~SAT

Miscellaneous

Should You Revise & Resubmit?

Querying can be terrifying.

Whether you’re searching for an agent or applying directly to an editor/publisher (or even your own agent), sending your work out there is a nail-biting experience for nearly everyone, including established writers. In fact, most writers will tell you that rejection is a constant part of the publishing process. No matter who you are. So is submitting.

Everyone faces rejection and acceptance eventually. And then, there’s the revise and resubmit.

A R&R is not a “no,” but it isn’t a “yes” either. 

It means an agent/editor/publisher liked your work enough that they believe in it and can see it moving forward after some significant changes. More often than not, an agent, editor, or publisher will give you some sort of feedback about what they believe you need to change. It’s not a guarantee, but it is an opportunity.

Should you revise & resubmit?

If you think you’re heading in the same direction, I say go for it. Your manuscript will be better in the end, no matter what happens, and I think that’s worth it. If you’re unsure about the revision notes, I honestly believe that means the notes didn’t resonate strongly enough to justify a revision. However, that is just me. Every writer is different. But I can admit that I learned this lesson the hard way.

Yes, I have revised and resubmitted—and received a “no” and a “yes” afterward.

There was one major difference between the “yes” and the “no” scenarios.

The biggest difference? I should’ve known the “no” situation from the beginning. When I received the initial feedback, I was unsure, but I felt too guilty to walk away. I mean, an R&R is a rare opportunity, right? Shouldn’t you take advantage of every opportunity? That was my thinking, but that sort of thinking isn’t always right. Why? Because my heart was never in it, and readers can sense that. With the “yes” opportunity, I received feedback that just resonated.

The moment I read the note, I felt like the team understood the heart of the manuscript. In only a few lines, they directed me in a way that felt right. In fact, it felt better than right. It felt like the place my manuscript should’ve been in all along. Instead of the confusing dread I felt with the “no” scenario, I felt complete and total excitement with the eventual “yes” scenario. Now I feel a lot more confident about when to accept a R&R.

Here’s my step-by-step guide for writers who receive a R&R:

  1. Make a decision: Take a little break to truly ask yourself if the revision notes resonate with you—and your manuscript. Once you make a decision, ask yourself one more time. Make sure you’re not talking yourself into it for an opportunity that doesn’t actually work with your vision. This will save you—and the other party—a lot of time and energy. Don’t feel guilty if the notes don’t resonate. Do feel gratitude for receiving feedback anyway.
  2. Let the other party know. Either way, thank them for their feedback. If you decide to revise, ask the other party when they expect a return (if there is an expectation), and make a plan.
  3. Now sit down to write.

It might be your revisions. It might be your next manuscript. Just keep writing.

Either way, you’re on your writing path to success. Enjoy it.

~SAT

P.S. I’m giving away a FREE audiobook of Bad Bloods: November Rain! Enter the Rafflecopter hereI’m also searching for audiobook reviewers, so if you love YA fantasy AND audiobooks (or you know someone who does), point me in the direction of their awesome blog. Good luck & thank you!

Writing Tips

Authors Who Give Up

As writers, we discuss lots of ups and downs. Writer’s block, in particular. But what about something stronger than writer’s block?

What about feeling like you want to give up?

“Giving up” is hard to define. Quite frankly, the definition will be different for every writer. One author might feel like giving up writing altogether, while another writer might only want to give up pursuing publication. These two versions of “giving up” are very different, but could appear similar to those on the outside.

This is why defining what you want to “give up” is important.

By considering what, exactly, you are giving up, you might realize what is actually making you so miserable.

For instance, I’ve talked to a lot of authors who feel like giving up because marketing is so difficult, or getting an agent feels impossible, or self-publishing is too expensive. But all of these issues have solutions that don’t involve giving up everything. If marketing is difficult, reevaluate what and where you’re marketing. Consider posting less. (Your readers will understand, trust me.) If querying agents/publishers is putting you down, slide that goal aside for a while. Write something new instead. If self-publishing is too expensive, save up or consider options like Patreon. This list goes on and on. Many writing issues that cause the “giving up” bug have solutions. Sometimes stepping away and taking a break will help clear your mind so you can sort things out.

But what about actually wanting to give up writing?

Who knows what caused it. Maybe it was one major disappointment that took place on one horrible afternoon. Maybe it was a million disappointments all compounded together over time. Either way, feeling like you want to give up is valid. It’s okay. And if you choose to give up, that’s okay, too. One of my recent writer friends actually took this path—not because they couldn’t handle the stress of a writing career, but because they no longer felt joy while writing their last two books. Until they get that joy back, they don’t want to write anymore. That is their choice.

I know I won’t give up. Not right now. Not any time soon. Hopefully, never. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t felt this way sometimes. It happens every now and then—more than I’d like to admit—but many authors have felt this way, and we either overcome it, or we move on to a new dream.

In the end, I will never judge an author for shelving their manuscripts. It’s their life. I will support their decision to leave, and I will welcome them back with open arms—both as a reader and a fellow writer—if they ever choose to return.

Just because a writer gives up on writing, doesn’t mean the community has to give up on the writer. 

But I hope no one gives up on their dreams,

~SAT

P.S. My first audiobook is going on tour! You can listen to free review copies and interview the narrator and me by signing up here.

Miscellaneous

Choosing the Next Book to Write

If you’re a writer, you probably have more than one piece in that head of yours that you want to get out now, but we’re only human. There’s only so much we can do with the time that we’re given. So how do you choose which project to prioritize?

That blank page can look so intimidating, can’t it??? But it’s so exciting too!

Honestly, I have more than one method to picking THE book I want to spend most of my energy on. I say “most” because I’m almost always working on a couple projects at a time. Outlining here, while writing there, while editing elsewhere. But there’s always one project I’m putting more energy into than the others. (Generally the one I’m writing or revising.) So I thought I’d cover the main two ways I pick this book.

1. Choose the Loudest One

First and foremost, I consider which one of my books is the loudest. Which one is demanding the most attention? Which one has characters that are screaming at you to tell their story? Which ones are your beta readers begging for? Which one is the marketplace waiting for? I only mention the market, because I think it’s important to (at least) consider the market when choosing a novel. Granted, I don’t think it’s THE most important thing, but, as an example, if you were choosing between writing a dystopian book or a science fiction one right now, science fiction would probably be the safer bet, since most editors/publishers/agents are still holding off on dystopian. However, I also believe that if you truly have an extremely unique bent on the dystopian genre that you could make it. So don’t let the market choose your next work. (In other words, don’t chase trends.) Chase your heart. (And those loud books.) But it’s okay to question the loudest book, too.

2. Dabble in All of Them

If I don’t have a manuscript that’s particularly louder than the others (or I’m not sure I want to work on the loudest one), I dabble in all of them until one gets louder than the others…or I choose one to work in for awhile to see if it clicks, then move on, then move on…until one feels right. Sometimes it takes me a while to figure out if something is working out at all. Right now, I’m about halfway through the hardest manuscript I’ve ever written, so I’ve definitely questioned whether this is the “right” project for me to be working on, but I love it. I love everything about it. And I love the challenge. So even though it’s not as loud or easy or obvious, my gut ended up picking it out of everything else in the end. (And I haven’t given up yet.)

Lastly, if it doesn’t work out…

Don’t beat yourself up. You might write whole novels that don’t work out, but it’s never a waste of your time. You will learn something from each piece you write, and you will get better and better, and you will always have new ideas.

You are not defined by your current project.

Switch directions if you need to. Take some time off. Clear your head. And then come back and choose a new project again.

The choice is only the beginning of an amazing journey.

Feel free to share how you choose below!

~SAT

Miscellaneous

Writers, It’s Okay To Log Out

Social media is a must for writers today. Connecting with readers through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms is easy and welcomed, but it can get overwhelming. With the myriad of ways we have of posting information—sometimes live—it’s easy to succumb to publishing pressures. Personally, I still struggle to figure out where my balance is in all the different types of social media platforms. Why? Because they are constantly changing and so is my schedule, but one thing remains the same. Making sure I’m interacting with readers and writers through social media is always near the top of my To-Do list.

There is also staying up-to-date in the publishing world. Whether you’re reading Writer’s Digest or Publishers Marketplace or one of the millions of amazing publishing blogs out there, there’s always something to read, to share, to consider.

But that doesn’t mean you should get lost in social media.

Extra tip: Pick only the social media platforms that you love. You don’t have to do everything.

One of my main pieces of advice to writers is to stop reading about writing and actually start writing. Not that reading about writing is bad. (I mean, I write about writing on this blog.) But if you’re reading more about writing than actually writing, then it might be time to log out. There’s only so much you will learn from studying writing. The best way to grow as a writer is to actually write for yourself. And I’m not an exception. Recently, I had to remove my social media from my phone. Mainly Facebook and Twitter. Why? Because I found myself spending more time reading my feeds than reading books. And quite frankly, it was starting to affect my writing. For example, I sometimes get so wrapped up in trends I forget about what I WANT to write—and honestly, what you want to write is generally the most important thing, because that passion will show in your voice.

Don’t get me wrong. I love these platforms. Twitter, in particular, is an important platform where writers get involved in publishing issues that need to be addressed. I also love joining Twitter events, because they are fun and fast and a great way to meet others who love reading and writing as much as you. But sometimes, I just need to read or watch TV or go for a jog or explore a bookstore without all the scrolling and pinging of notifications.

Setting boundaries and taking care of yourself is important, especially when you feel overwhelmed. In fact, I feel much better now that I’ve taken those apps off my phone. Admittedly, it probably won’t stay that way forever, but it is helping me stay focused on the recent conference I attended as well as my upcoming book releases in April and May. I’m sure I’ll put them back on my phone soon. But until then, I’m grabbing a coffee and sitting on my roof this morning. And I’m definitely logging out.

Don’t feel guilty for logging out. It’s okay to take a day off of marketing or tweeting or Facebooking or sharing photos of your cat on Instagram. (Though if you like that sort of thing, I often post photos of my three cats—Bogart, Boo Boo, and Kiki—via Instagram’s @AuthorSAT. If you post cats, feel free to tag me so I can see. I seriously love cats.)

You can log out, too.

~SAT

Writing Tips

Podcasts for Writers, SFF, & More

I love podcasts. Since I spend most of my day on the computer, I’ve fallen in love with listening to podcasts while I’m off the computer. It helps me rest my eyes, while also giving me a chance to continue my research—whether it’s for publishing or writing in general. Below, I’m including my top three writing podcasts, which any writer could enjoy, along with my favorite inspirational podcasts for science fiction and fantasy. (Oh, and some extras.)

Writing Podcasts

Writing Excuses, PubCrawl, and The Manuscript Academy podcasts

Writing Excuses: This is my go-to podcast for writers. Every season has a specific focus—this year being structure—and the episodes are quick but informative. “Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.”

PubCrawl: Hosted by Kelly and S. Jae Jones, PubCrawl covers everything, from writing to social media to publishing promotion. I love how candid the hosts are, especially about life after publication. Their honesty is refreshing, as well as eye opening, and they’ve interviewed specific authors about certain books. Hearing about those authors’ inspiration is really interesting. My favorite recent episode was Author Life: Public vs. Private, which covered how to separate yourself from your public self.

The Manuscript Academy: A sister podcast for MSWL (manuscript wish list), this podcast is fairly new but totally awesome. From agent interviews to behind-the-scenes in publishing houses, The Manuscript Academy covers any and all topics that can help you navigate your publishing journey. Recently, they even allowed listeners to submit first pages to be reviewed. Definitely check out this podcast—and MSWL—if you’re hunting for an agent, but I’d recommend this podcast to any writer at any point in their journey.

SFF/Fantasy Inspiration

Lore, The Morbid Curiosity, and Myths & Legends podcast

These podcasts aren’t necessarily science fiction or fantasy, but I am OBSESSED with them. There’s nothing more inspiring than hearing spooky (and sometimes factual) tales from all over the world.

Lore: Lore is my all-time favorite podcast. It explores the darker side of history, including the paranormal. But sometimes, reality is scarier than the paranormal. Trust me, this one is worth it. Aaron Mahnke, the host, is also an author. He also just signed a book deal with Penguin Random House! And he has a TV show releasing. Both will be based on this podcast, and I cannot wait.

Morbid Curiosity: I just started listening to this podcast, and I cannot stop. Also, it’s just as it sounds. This podcast covers topics for the morbidly curious. Think serial killers or medieval torture devices or the wendigo. Anything really. My favorite part is the various topics—and how the host points listeners to places where they can get additional information.

Myths & Legends: This is the first podcast I ever binge listened to. If you love Greek and Norse mythology, King Arthur, and tales from other cultures, this podcast is for you. My favorite episodes are the ones that cover stories from other cultures. (Though I’m in love with Greek mythology.) Each episode also includes a creature of the week.

Other Podcasts

True Crime Podcasts

If you’re a podcast junkie like I am, I thought I’d cover a couple others I love. Truthfully, I mainly listen to true crime. My favorite is Generation Why, which is actually based out of KC where I am! Something I didn’t even know when I started listening to them. They cover famous (and often strange) criminal cases. I also love Court Junkie, Criminal, Serial, Detective, and The Vanished. (Told you I was a true crime junkie.) Court Junkie covers crazy court cases. Criminal is any topic dealing with crime. Serial is the famous podcast that covered the cases of Adnan Syed and Bowe Bergdahl. I preferred Adnan’s case, but they’re both interesting. Detective interviews a new detective every season, and The Vanished covers cases involving currently missing people.

Guilty Feminist podcast

Lastly, I recommend The Guilty Feminist for everyone. Just as it sounds, The Guilty Feminist covers feminism but from a no-pressure standpoint. The hosts are comedians, and there are also guest comedians who come on to talk about certain topics. I find it both informative, safe, and fun. It’s a great podcast for anyone, and I recommend it to everyone I know all the time.

Podcasts can help writers continue their research and inspiration while off the computer. I hope you love them as much as I do.

What are your favorite podcasts?

~SAT

P.S. BOOK BLOGGERS, you can now sign up for the July Lightning book blitz. Click the link for more info. (There’s also a book blitz for July Thunder.) You’ll receive exclusive excerpts, ARCS, and more.

Miscellaneous

#MondayBlogs How To Find Beta Readers

Beta reader (n): an avid reader/critique partner/superhero who looks over your novel/baby/everything before anyone else sees it in order to improve language/characters/grammar/basically the whole package.

Okay, but really, beta readers are necessary, because they are an extra set of knowledgeable eyes on your work. They’ll see those plot holes you understand (but accidentally forgot to add) and they’ll call out your purple prose or tell you what’s working where. Most writers know they need a beta reader, but finding a beta reader? That’s a whole different story.

Beta readers probably shouldn’t be your best friend from high school, but hey, look at it this way, they might become your best friend overtime. In fact, it’d be ideal to get quite a few beta readers on your team. That way, they can serve various purposes on top of general advice. Example? I recently rewrote the beginning of one of my novels, but all of my beta readers had gone over the original already. I needed a fresh pair of eyes. One that hadn’t seen the original. That way, I could know if the beginning was just as clear as the original version. If I had a beta reader who already knew the story, it wouldn’t have been an objective opinion.

beta readers

So, who should be your beta reader? Like I said above, they *probably* shouldn’t be your best friend or sister or parents or a lover or or or. Why? Because people close to us generally tell us what we want to hear. Plus, just because they are close to us, doesn’t mean they are writers, and even if they are avid readers, it doesn’t mean they are experienced in your genre or the market. Beta readers are generally best when they are fellow writers working within the same genre at the same level of experience (or even better, more experience). Of course that doesn’t mean there are exceptions. If your mother is a college professor who teaches young adult literature and you’re writing young adult books, duh, go for it. (Maybe ask her for some contacts, too, you lucky bird.) Also, toward the end of writing, I like to have a few non-writer friends of mine read my work. It’s still a fresh pair of eyes, so friends and family don’t hurt. Just don’t rely on only them.

You might be thinking beta readers sound like mythical unicorns by now, but trust me, they are out there, and they are definitely willing to help. Remember my little example above about needing a new beta reader last minute? Guess what? I found her on Twitter, and she’s awesome. Now how can you find beta readers?

  1. Local Writing Groups/Events: Look up your local chapters of RWA or whatever organization your books fall into. See if anyone is close. Check out your local libraries or bookstores to see if they have writing groups. Join. Pay attention to local events, too. Writing conferences often have writing classes available throughout them, and it can be a place for feedback as well as connections. But for those of you who have social anxiety like me (or work a nightshift like me), I have online solutions for you.
  2. Online: Remember all those agent-pitching contests I’ve shared before? No? Here’s the Pitch Calendar. Join those online and meet fellow writers. Follow writers who are writing similar materials and befriend each other. Overtime, you might find someone who needs a beta reader just as much as you do, and you’re both headed the same direction. That being said, I have one stipulation for online connections: research, research, research. There’s no need to pay thousands of dollars for just a beta reader. Also, as much as I love Wattpad for finding other writers, do not post manuscripts you’re trying to publish. Posting can be considered published, and that will make it harder to find an agent or publisher. Instead, I suggest posting short stories or a sample chapter to try to connect with others in order to find beta readers to work with elsewhere.
  3. Colleges: If you’re in college, colleges often have awesome resources for students. Take advantage of those.

These are three places to start. Good luck in finding your next best friend…er…beta reader.

~SAT

Miscellaneous

#MondayBlogs When NaNoWriMo is Over

NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is a lot of fun for many writers, and it can be that stepping stone that forces you to sit down and finish that draft you’ve been trying to complete for years. Whether you hit that 50,000-word milestone or not, I want to congratulate you, because—guess what??—you sat down, you got to work, and you wrote something that mattered to you.

That is worth celebrating.

But many writers might be asking themselves what to do now. Edit? Query? Write more?

The answer will be different for everyone, but here are my three universal tips for NaNoWriMo writers. (And, again, congratulations! You. Are. Awesome. Never stop writing.)

1. Do Not—and I repeat—DO NOT immediately start querying

NaNoWriMo’s goal is to get 50,000 words down. And while 50,000 words is certainly an accomplishment, it’s definitely a first draft. Querying now will only hurt you. In fact, working on a query letter at this point might not even be necessary—because a lot changes from a first draft to the final product—but that’s different for everyone. Sometimes, I like to write query letters before I write a book, just to make sure I understand my concepts and direction. This, of course, never becomes my final query or synopsis, but it helps to have a first draft of everything all at once. That way, I can see how my story changes and shapes over time.

So what are you supposed to do with a first draft?

Extra Tip: Make a plan. Set more deadlines, like NaNoWriMo. Maybe December can be drafting a query letter, synopsis, and pitch month.
Extra Tip: Make a plan. Set more deadlines, like NaNoWriMo. Maybe December can be drafting a query letter, synopsis, and pitch month. 

2. EDIT

Well, first, I normally tell writers to walk away for a little bit. Three weeks might seem like a long time, but it’ll distance you from your work…and your blind love might clear up. This is when you can see your plot holes, flat characters, and other flaws that definitely need fixing. Take word count for example. NaNoWriMo only requires a 50,000-word document, and while this is ideal for MG books, 50,000 words isn’t a great word count for an adult novel or even a YA fantasy. While 50,000 is an AMAZING accomplishment (please do not get me wrong), you’re more than likely going to receive automatic rejections because your word count is off. I know. I know. Word count isn’t everything. In fact, I think pacing matters more. But what’s the brutal truth for debuts? When your word count is off, it tells agents and publishers that you don’t know your genre or market (even if you do). Figure out your ideal word count here—and try to get it there. Don’t bank your entire career on being an exception to the rule.

3. Work on that query, synopsis, and pitch

Your novel isn’t the only piece of work needing attention. Now that you have a complete and edited draft, writing that dreaded query comes into play…and more often than not, query letters and pitches take just as long as editing does. Thankfully, there are plenty of helpful places to learn about this process, like QueryShark and the Query Critique Calendar (where you can get one-on-one help during competitions).

In the end, NaNoWriMo is a fantastic starting point, and you should be proud of your work and accomplishments. But it’s only one part of this wonderful journey. Take your time. Publishing is never a race. And make friends along the way.

Writing should be fun, after all. Try to enjoy all that comes along with it, including everything after THE END.

~SAT

Miscellaneous

#MondayBlogs Dear Writers, 2017 Can Be Your Year!

This year, I had three writing goals.

1. I wanted to sign one of my books during a Barnes & Noble event.

2. I wanted to attend a book convention as an author (booth and all!)

3. I wanted—and this one I thought I’d never reach—to receive a full request from a literary agent.

I’m proud to say I reached all of these goals and more. In fact, I’m going to break my experiences down and explain, but trust me, there’s a reason for this article beyond just me and my goals, so stick with me for a bit.

First, Goal 1. Barnes & Noble! I hosted not one, not two, not three, but FOUR Barnes & Noble signings, including a Valentine’s Day Romance Author Event in Wichita, Kansas and BFest in Kansas City, Missouri and Overland Park, Kansas. There was nothing like signing in a Barnes & Noble my late mother took me to as a kid, where she used to tell me I could write a book one day. It was priceless.

How was this accomplished? To be honest, no one in my hometown ever returned my phone calls. Not once. I was terrified of calling Barnes & Noble after quite a few disinterested phone calls and e-mails and in-person meetings. Then, CTP author Tamara Grantham invited me to her local B&N during the VDay Event in Wichita, Kansas. This is a five-hour drive for me…and I work a night shift. But you know what? I jumped at the opportunity to attend. And that one event opened up all the other stores to me. Now, I have a great relationship with one right down the street from my new house. (And I write in there all the time.)

Barnes & Noble Events
Barnes & Noble Events

In regards to Goal 2, I attended not one, but TWO conventions as an author. The first one being Penned Con in St. Louis, where I shared a booth with the wonderful Natasha Hanova. The second convention was Wizard World Comic Con in Tulsa, Oklahoma…where I also had the AMAZING opportunity to be a panelist on Villains vs. Villains. On top of that, I have plans in the works to attend more next year. This was an opportunity I never planned nor saw coming, but I’m eternally grateful for it. I had a blast! (And now I’m the owner of a Pusheen plushie and a Sailor Moon blanket…and a cat T-shirt…and fudge…) I also attended a writer’s conference—The MWG annual conference—and I went to YALLFest in South Carolina as a reader.

How was this accomplished? Anyone who has ever attended a conference knows it takes planning. In fact, most conferences ask you to buy your booth a year in advance, which I did with Penned Con in St. Louis back in 2015 when I attended as a reader to see if I liked it or not. The person sharing my booth changed three times, but it all worked out in the end, and I had a blast! Out of the blue, I was invited to Wizard World Comic Con through Genese Davis, who knew…Tamara Grantham. (Tamara is the best, can’t you tell?) I never expected to be a speaker, and here I was, driving five hours to speak about what makes characters evil. Spoiler alert. Worth it. But more than half of these events weren’t planned, so keep your mind open!

Conventions and Conferences
Conventions and Conferences

So now, we come down to the agents. The reason I said I never thought a full would happen is because I haven’t traditionally queried since 2007…and a lot has changed since then. I set out to challenge myself by joining competitions and making connections. Much to my surprise (and shock), I received my first full almost right away—in the first week of February—and I’ve had the utmost joy of working with a few agents ever since on numerous fulls and even a few revise and resubmits.

How was this accomplished? I joined every online competition/opportunity I could to reach out to the writing community. Honestly, even if you’re not looking for an agent, these competitions are the bomb. (Does anyone say that anymore? No? Oh, well.) I love them, and I plan on joining more of them if I can in the future. That being said, most of my fulls (and even my revise and resubmits) came from the slush pile. Yes. The slush pile. Writing those query letters, getting feedback from writing friends, and sending off every e-mail one by one until someone gave me more feedback or took a bite actually works. I wish I could say more…but alas, this situation is pending. 😉 Don’t fear the slush.

On a side note, I also managed to complete two manuscripts and publish two YA novels with Clean Teen Publishing! …And I work a full-time day job. (Not going to lie, I’m totally exhausted. But it’s been a great year!)

Manuscripts and Books!
Manuscripts and Books!

Why am I sharing this with you?

Because creating and meeting goals as a writer is HARD…and often unpredictable. When I wrote down my three goals for 2016 on a little green Sticky Note that I kept on the back of my desk (it looks pretty torn up and ugly now), I never thought I would reach most of them (and more) within the first two months. I could attribute it all to luck (which of course comes into play), and I could definitely cite connections (thank you again, Tamara and Natasha and Genese and and and!), but I have to be kind to myself, too.

I jumped at every opportunity I could, even if that meant I would be up for 48 hours straight and driving for 5…and spend some extra money that, logically, I shouldn’t have. (But definitely don’t regret.) Right now, I work three jobs, including being an author, and I’m more exhausted than not. But I know following my dream is worth it. Somewhere in my gut I am always filled with excitement and hope and energy…and every now and then, all of this work leads me somewhere unpredictable and wonderful.

So what’s my tip?

Beyond basic goal setting advice, I am going to stick my neck out there and say something crazy.

For every “realistic” goal you set, set a crazy “unrealistic” one, too.

Why? Because maybe “unrealistic” isn’t so unrealistic once you get started, but setting it will force you to get started. Setting goals causes you to miracle jump over that hurdle you thought you couldn’t even climb on your best days. For me, I honestly believed most of the goals I set for 2016 were unreachable…or at least would take a very, very long time. Why? Because I had tried to accomplish them before and failed. 2016, for me, was the year of reaching failed goals. 2016, for me, became the year “unrealistic” became a reality.

2017 can be yours.

~SAT