What’s Up Wednesday

First of all, let me apologize for not responding to comments last week. I usually try to respond to all blog post comments, so I want to say thank you to everyone that commented, and I’ll try to do better this week. For those that don’t know, What’s Up Wednesday is a blog meme created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writer friends keep up with each other. See their blogs for the linky list of participants, and to find out how to take part yourself.

What I’m Reading

This week I read SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY by Susan Dennard, and what a joy it was to read. Great story, great writing, and wonderfully realized characters–three things I look for in excellent books. This was the first zombie book I’ve read, and it did the genre proud. I highly recommend it, especially for those of you who like your YA on the horror side of things, or those who want a thrill-ride of a story. I’ve also decided that this book’s title is perhaps the best title to use for Maureen Johnson’s “In Your Pants” game.

I also read Stephanie Kuehn’s CHARM & STRANGE, another book that’s a bit out of my genre comfort zone, and probably a bit out of most people’s comfort zones period. But, again, it’s another beautifully written novel. The book is about a disturbed boy who is forced to face his demons. Going inside the head of such a character seems to me about as daunting as writing a novel from the perspective of a female alien, but Stephanie does such a great job showing his times of lucidity and insight, and his times of total irrationality and mental collapse. By no means light reading, but if you’re up for something that will challenge you, it’s a good read.

What I’m Writing

Still throwing ideas around while waiting on agent responses. The holiday weekend and BEA this week conspire to keep agents away from the slush pile, so I have to be patient. As some of you know, I entered the New Leaf Literary & Media Twitter pitch contest last Friday, and my 140-character novel pitch was one of the ones selected. Yay! It seems the main difference between querying New Leaf the regular way and being selected to query via the contest is that contest-winning queries will all get a response within 2 weeks. Regular queries may or may not get a response within 8 weeks. So I think it was worth doing.

What Inspires Me Right Now

The response to my pitch on Friday encourages me that at least the concept behind my novel is attention-grabbing. This gives me hope that agents might be interested enough to read pages.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

Thankfully, everyone has recovered from last week’s bout with the vomit lurgie. Aside from that, nothing really strange. I’ve mentioned before how I enjoy thinking up story ideas, and I enjoy writing, but I have a tendency to drag my heels moving from having ideas to writing a first draft. Well, I came across Maureen Johnson’s blog article from 2007 which includes how she came up with the “In Your Pants” game. In the article Maureen procrastinates over her impending deadline in a way that I totally relate to. If you struggle with this kind of procrastination, read this article. It certainly encourages me to know that even a prolific writer like Ms. Johnson isn’t immune from this.

How has your week been?

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32 Responses to What’s Up Wednesday

  1. “Something Strange and Deadly In Your Pants”… *giggles*

    Congratulations again on the pitch contest result! And I’m glad you’re feeling better.

    Regarding dragging your heels about making ideas into first drafts, maybe our brain’s still brewing over the ideas? It usually takes me months before an idea is ready to press ‘Go!’.

    Deliah Dawson had a great set of tweets recently about brainstorming:
    http://www.whimsydark.com/blog/2014/5/24/on-the-twitter-soapbox-pre-writing-brainstorming

    • It’s one of the best book titles for questions like, “What are you reading?” “What’s that you’ve got in your hands?” “What’s that on your desk?” Hours of fun! :)

      I think you’re right to some extent, Emma. I have a couple of ideas that I’m working through in my head at the moment. The premise is there, but I’m trying to discover what the story is. Stephen King would say, “just sit down and start writing, let the story tell itself!” I might try that, see what happens.

  2. I’ve been wanting to read CHARM & STRANGE. I’m curious to see what you think.

    And congrats on getting a bite on your twitter pitch!! That’s fantastic! I think you have one of the most unique premises out there, so I’m not surprised you piqued some agent-y interest. :)

    Hope you have an amazing week!

    • Thanks, Kris! My confidence in my novel’s premise has certainly increased over the past few weeks. But it really comes down to what matters: is the novel itself any good? My Betas all give me hope; we’ll see if the publishing world agrees… :)

      I’ve linked “CHARM & STRANGE” to my Goodreads review if you want to know my thoughts on the book. In short, I can see it being a bit heavy for some–it can be quite intense. But since it’s written from the POV of the MC, it’s intriguing and strangely engaging.

  3. Ooo both of those books sound interesting.

    Congrats on your pitch! So, what happens next after that? I’ve never really been sure about how these pitch contests work.

    • Actually, Robin, I thought of you when reading SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY. I think you’d enjoy it.

      Thanks for the congrats! As I understand it, there were 800 Twitter pitches, of which the assistants at New Leaf picked about 80. We, the selected, send our queries to New Leaf (indicating in the subject line that we were selected in the pitch contest), and the assistants forward our queries to the agent they think best suited to our work. Within two weeks, we should all hear from our designated agent whether or not she wants to see the full ms. As I said, the advantages of this over the usual way of querying New Leaf are that your query is guaranteed to get before an agent, and you are guaranteed a response, even if it’s a “no.” (This is also good practice for the assistants, most of whom want to become agents and are, therefore, developing a discerning eye.) And I think that’s what makes these pitch contests worthwhile–they draw attention to your query in a new way, and assure you that an agent will read your query and respond.

  4. Congrats on having your pitch selected, Colin! I agree — totally worth participating to ensure a timely response. Publishing is moving SLOW these days. As you wait on query responses, I’m waiting on sub responses and the radio silences is kind of torturous! Trying to stay busy with new projects is helping me maintain my sanity. At least a little. :-) Hope you get some (POSITIVE!) replies soon. Fingers crossed for you!

    • Thanks, Katy! It’s also comforting to see that my novel’s premise is appealing to those who have their finger on the publishing pulse.

      Wow–how exciting to have your novel out on submission!! I can only imagine… and hopefully one day soon I won’t have to just imagine!!! I’ve heard nothing but great things about your agent, so I’m sure she’s doing an outstanding job. :)

      I’m hoping for positive news from you soon too!

  5. Congrats on your pitch request! That’s huge! And fingers crossed.

    I love Susan Dennard’s writing and Something Strange and Deadly. Very awesome series, can’t wait for the third book.

    I also love Maureen Johnson but I’m not sure I’d seen that post before, so thanks for the link! And good luck!

    • Thanks, Tori! That was the danger of adding SS&D to my TBR–if I liked it, I would actually adding *three* books to the TBR! I’m sure I’ll be reading book 2 in the not too distant future. :)

  6. Alison Miller

    Congrats on the pitch selection! I have no doubts your story will grab a lot of attention! I’ve only read excerpts and I’m hooked!

    And MUST READ SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY. Zombies aren’t my typical fare, but I’ve heard so many good things!

    Have a great week!

    • Thank you, Alison! It only takes one agent to agree with you–I hope s/he’s out there somewhere, maybe with my query in his/her inbox. :)

      I wanted to read at least one zombie novel to see how people write for them. Beyond that curiosity, I’m not really too interested in zombie novels. But the writing and the story hooked me. So don’t be put off by the walking dead! :)

  7. Awesome! Congrats on having your pitch selected! These are always fun and redeeming–if you are one of the winners. Makes a writer feel like there’s something there after all with potential.

    • Thanks, Minerva! I’ve seen so many of these contests pass me by before because my novel wasn’t ready. It’s cool to actually have something to enter this time around. And you’re absolutely right: being selected at least gives me hope there’s something there. :)

  8. Congrats on getting your pitch picked by New Leaf! I wanted to take part in that but my MS isn’t ready yet. Good luck!

    • Thanks, Melanie! This was the first Twitter pitch contest where actually had a ms ready to query, so I couldn’t pass it up. :)

  9. I have always thought that the premise of your story is compelling. Happy to hear that New Leaf also thinks so. I hope it yields an awesome response! Since you’ve been talking about SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY (…in my pants…bahaha…so dirty), I’ve been thinking that I need to reread it and move on to Book 2. Book 3 comes out soon, too! Anyway, I requested Book 2 from the library, so I’m kind of looking forward to that.

    Have a great week, Colin! And here’s hoping you get some great news soon!

    • Thank you, Jaime! I’m really milking this W&P break to get some fun and engaging reading in, and it looks like I picked some great books that fit the bill! I daresay book 2 will be on the TBR… :)

  10. Charlie Higson has written some amazing zombie novels. You should read them ^_^

    Congratulations again on having your Twitter pitch chosen. It’s so exciting!

    • Hmmm, I would never have thought of Charlie Higson for zombie novels. I don’t know why, really. Thanks for the tip! And thanks for the congrats, Cole. :D

  11. Congrats on the twitter pitch, Colin! That’s really exciting and definitely inspiring.

    Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

    • Thank you, Laura! I’m looking forward to the response I get. Clearly, I hope it’s positive, but even if not, if it’s a personalized response, that would be very useful.

  12. Wow, Colin! That’s awesome that your pitch was selected! Congratulations! I hope good things come from that.

    I hadn’t heard of Maureen Johnson’s “In Your Pants” game, but the explanation made me laugh out loud. Now I’ll think of John Green whenever I eat a bagel. I’ve heard good things about CHARM & STRANGE but haven’t read it yet. It might need to go on my never-ending TBR list, along with Susan Dennard’s books.

    Glad your family is feeling much better now! :)

    • Thanks, Erin! The thing that really grabbed me about both of these books was how well they’re written, even aside from the subject matter. The more I’ve read and written, the more sensitive I’ve become to clunky writing, purple prose, and all the other faux pas we’re supposed to avoid. When I can read a novel start to finish and be so engaged with the story that the prose just wafts effortlessly through my brain, with no red flags or wincing eyes, that’s true reading pleasure for me. And both these books were like that.

  13. Congrats on having your pitch chosen, that’s awesome! :) Your idea does sound really intriguing! Coming up with an attention-grabbing concept is often the hardest part because there are so many great books out there already.

    I find it usually takes me a while to get from the “idea” phase to actually starting a draft – it’s one of the reasons I juggle multiple projects at once, because the plotting stage takes me the longest!

    Have a great week!

    • Thanks, Emma! The competition is fierce, if the books I read this week are anything to go by. Not only for great concepts, but for great writing too. So many talented writers out there–I’ll feel really blessed if I end up published! :)

      The thing is, I’m not really talking about plotting in any detailed sense. What I’m looking for are story points that move me from “this is a great concept” to “this is a great story.” For example, it’s one thing to write a “boy-meets-girl” story, but that’s boring. What makes it compelling is what happens. Boy is kidnapped and the girl is the daughter of one of his captors. OK, that’s better. But it’s still not 80k words-worth of novel. I’d want at least 3 or 4 more plot points before I feel like I have a story. But that’s all–nothing that would take up more than half a side of a piece of paper. For this kind of “plotting” I do more staring into space than writing. And that may be the problem. Perhaps I need to just start writing. :)

  14. Congrats on the pitch contest! I’ve got my fingers crossed for you :)

  15. Oh, BIG congratulations on the pitch contest, Colin! How exciting for you, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it leads to wonderful things for you and your work :)

    I’m very jealous, I struggle big time to wrap up my book into a tiny pitch – or even a one-page synopsis. Too many subplots and exciting things, clearly, haha. Here’s hoping all your hard work and those pesky 140 characters pay off! Have a wonderful week!

    • Thanks, Caitie! :D Here’s the funny thing: I hate writing synopses. Like you, I struggle thinking about condensing my 70-80k-word story into a page-long plot description. But when agents request them, what do you do? No choice. So after whining and complaining for a long time, I sat down and cranked one out in less than an hour. And it’s actually not bad. I think what it came down to was the fact that I’ve read this novel so many times now, and been through it with First Reader notes and Beta Reader notes, I know pretty much what the key plot points are. Stringing them together into a synopsis turned out being not nearly as hard as I expected. Now, aesthetically, it was excruciating, because it’s straight 3rd person description, like a newspaper story. Not at all the voice of my protagonist. But it does the job. And my Twitter pitch was just the main hook of the story (“A teen alien tries to visit 1978 London but ends up in gas-lit 1879. Her travel machine needs electricity to get her home.”)–it doesn’t tell you half of what goes on, but that’s what I thought would get an agent’s attention.

      Anyway, that’s how I dealt with it. :)

      Have an awesome week too! :D

  16. Congrats on having your pitch selected, that’s great! I hope it’s good news :)

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