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Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 83 + Other Stuff

#writemotivationI can’t believe it’s already time for another #writemotivation update – it seems like this past week FLEW by. As I predicted in last week’s update, I spent much of the week completely immersed in WriteOnCon. They do a truly excellent job putting it together, so there were a ton of wonderful posts and vlogs, and now my brain is pretty much mush. And since I put my query and writing samples out on the forums for feedback, I spent a lot of time paying it forward by critiquing others. If you missed WriteOnCon, they keep the information up all year, so you can browse at your leisure rather than gorging like I did.
So with all that happening, did I actually accomplish anything on my WIP? Fortunately, the answer is yes! I revised two more chapters. I'm still not setting the world on fire with my speed, but since one of the chapters ended up needing to be almost completely rewritten, I’m pleased with my progress. I hope all the other #writemotivation folks are making steady progress!
15 Minute Tweet TalesAnd that brings us to my 15 Minute Tweet Tales for this past week. On the first two days, I unintentionally mentioned Facebook in both stories, so I decided to incorporate Facebook in all my tales this week. I remembered on the third day, but then completely spaced on the fourth day, so that idea pretty much fizzled out. Hope you enjoy them anyway! 
8/14 - She gives Tim detention for his rabelaisian test answers, but she's eager to post it on Facebook: it's so funny it'll surely go viral.
8/15 - Chocolate, ice cream, hot bath - nothing breaks the anhedonia gripping Amy since the pic of her boyfriend kissing Max popped up on FB.
8/16 - Posting pics of his abs from 20 years ago, telling plain high school girls they're beautiful: Facebook's the perfect place for his venery.
8/17 - He cries every day because classmates torment him. His mom gives him cookies as a roborant, not realizing they tease him for being fat.
8/18 - Searching the pockets of plague victims, he hopes his periapt works: the stench from a pouch of his own filth should chase away disease.
8/19 - The jongleur wasn't afraid to sing about the king's love of playing with dolls, but now his jester bells are jingling from balls.
8/20 - He thinks the symbols on the vase are enchorial to Egypt, but the linguist expert says they're fake - she then sells it for a fortune.
How did you do with your #writemotivation goals this week? Play along and write tweet tales for the above words. If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them. Any thoughts about this week's tweet tales or #15tt words?
#writemotivation image courtesy of Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 82 + Other Stuff

I’ve got a lot to jam into one post, so let’s get right to it!
WriteOnConFirst, WriteOnCon is happening today and tomorrow. This is the fourth year for the online conference for kidlit writers. It’s always packed with amazingly helpful information, and there are forums where you can post your query and writing samples for feedback. Make sure you check it out, and if you’re too busy this week, the best part is the info stays up all year.
#writemotivationSecond, it’s time for my #writemotivation update. I rewrote two chapters this week. So how am I feeling about that? Well, that pace doesn’t put me on track to finish the whole thing by the end of August, since I have fourteen more chapters to go. But honestly, that’s much faster progress than usual, so I’m happy about it. I made an aggressive deadline to push myself, so even if I don’t meet it, I’ll have gotten a lot more done than my usual glacial pace. 
I’m going to push even harder this week, but I imagine with WriteOnCon deliciousness distracting me this week it’s going to be tough. I hope everyone who is participating in #writemotivation has a great week meeting your goals!
15 Minute Tweet TalesAnd now for my 15 Minute Tweet Tales. We actually had another repeat word: on 8/7 the word was supposed to be traduce, which we already had last June. I think lumpen was a fun-to-say replacement. Here are my tales for the week:
8/7 - He sits in front of the TV every night, eating junk and mocking the lumpen 'stars' of trashy reality shows, never grasping the irony.
8/8 - A doctor's son is gunned down. Police grab the weeping suspect and she claims it was talionic: "That quack killed my son; I killed his."
8/9 - Most demons masquerade as sexy women, but Akem makes his best orectic bargains lounging in coffee shops disguised as a famous agent.
8/10 - He designed a privative captivity to awaken her consciousness. She used the time to imagine creative ways to kill him. Then she did.
8/11 - Mya wears anidian dresses to hide her pregnancy. It would crush her mom to know her stepfather did this to her. Plus she'd blame Mya.
8/12 - Championship game tied with 3 seconds left. He chucks ball from half court. Swish! Team tackles him, luxates his shoulder. Totally worth it.
8/13 - She cringes as his agrestic hands reach for her, but he'd paid her way to this country, so she'll do her wifely duty and try to smile. #15tt
Are you ‘attending’ WriteOnCon? How did your #writemotivation goals go this week? Play along and write tweet tales for the above words. If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them. Any thoughts about this week's tweet tales or #15tt words?
#writemotivation image courtesy of Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Crossing All My Digits

I tell you, it’s kind of hard to type with all my fingers crossed, but I’ll give it a shot because I need all the luck I can get. My toes, arms, and legs are crossed, too. I’m even thinking about braiding my hair so the strands are crossed. Why do I need all this luck? Because I’ve gone contest crazy!

The big one is that I entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) again in January. I’ve had a rocky road with this contest, and if you want to know the details you can read this post and this post. But the short version goes like this:
1st time – booted in the first round (based on just the pitch).
2nd time – made it to the quarterfinals (based on excerpt) and got a great Publisher’s Weekly review (based on entire novel).
3rd time - booted in the first round (based on just the pitch).
4th time – made it to the quarterfinals (based on excerpt) and got a devastating Publisher’s Weekly review (based on entire novel).
ABNAAfter trying so many times with the same novel, I wasn’t going to enter again; but in December, I decided the January deadline was just what I needed as motivation to finish the rewrite. I was finally able to focus and do some major revising that I’m really happy with. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to finish rewriting the entire thing by the deadline, but I did transform the first third, which all my beta readers have agreed was the weak part in the original. 
In mid-February, I was excited to find out I’d made it past the pitch stage. Even though I used the exact same pitch that got me through last year, I was nervous because I never seemed to get picked during odd years. I was now one of 2,000 picked from 10,000 pitches anxiously waiting while our excerpts (the first two chapters) were read. I’d made major changes to these two chapters since the previous times I’d make it through, and this was the first time the new version was being read by strangers, so my stomach was in knots. They announced this past Tuesday – 2,000 were whittled down to 500 (100 of those YA ) – and I made it!! I’m a quarterfinalist again, and it seems like the rewrite didn't make the first two chapters worse. Whew!
Customer reviews don’t have any bearing on the contest at this point, but if you’re interested in reading the new first two chapters of THE DRAMA QUEEN WHO CRIED WOLF, you can get it here for free from Amazon. You don’t have to have a Kindle, since they offer lots of other ways to read it. And if you do have feedback for me (either positive or negative), you can either leave a review or send me an email. I’m trying to make these opening chapters the absolute best they can be.
And now it’s waiting time again as Publisher’s Weekly reads the entire novel. Gulp! Although I’d love to make the semifinals, only FIVE of the 100 quarterfinal YA novels are moving on, and as much as I love my silly little novel, I know it’s not the type of book that wins these awards. So I’m basically just hoping for a PW review that is helpful (and doesn’t reduce me to tears). 
writeoncomI’m also playing the waiting game with WriteOnCon’s Pitch Fest. They randomly selected 350 pitches to be assigned to agents for feedback and to be voted on by readers for prizes, and my pitch was lucky enough to be selected. My usual pitch is 300 words, so I had to whittle it down to 200 words for this contest. It’s another contest where reviews don’t help or hurt, but if you want to take a look at mine, you can read my pitch here and let me know if you have any feedback to help me make it stronger. Also, they have smartly set up voting so it’s not a popularity contest, so no one is able to go vote for a particular pitch, but if you’re interested in being one of the official voters, you can sign up here.
To keep from worrying myself into an anxious puddle of goo with all this waiting, I’m working on submissions for two more contests. I’m putting together my packet for the SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant, and I’m also turning one of my short stories into a short script for the PAGE International Screenplay Awards. Both deadlines are at the end of March, so they should keep me busy enough not to check online every five seconds for new tidbits about ABNA and Pitch Fest. At least in theory . . . *hurries off to check twitter one more time* 
What’s keeping you busy these days? Did you enter ABNA? Do you have a pitch in Pitch Fest? Are you applying for one of the SCBWI grants? Have you ever tried your hand at screenwriting? 

Pitch Slapped – Part 2

Official Pitchfest BloggerHave you heard about the WriteOnCon 2013 Pitch Fest? It’s a great way to get feedback on your pitch, and you might get lucky enough to have agents and editors read it. Click here for all the details.

To help people prepare, I’m sharing lessons about writing a perfect pitch that I learned from watching the movie Pitch Perfect. Go here to read part one about how to get Pitch Slapped.

Shalom. ~Deaf Jewish Student
That’s not a real word but keep trying. You. Will. Get. There. ~Fat Amy
With so few words available in a pitch, the key is making every word count. Choose words that create vivid pictures in the reader’s mind. Use strong action verbs. Cut fluffy words that don’t make a precise point about plot or characters. Adjectives should be few and far between, but if they are pressed into service, they should be vibrant instead of generic like ‘beautiful’ or ‘mysterious.’
Keep in mind it is sometimes worth using additional words of the precious word count to make an impact. Instead of saying your protagonist is smart, mention she hacked her principal’s Facebook account to change his profile picture to Grumpy Cat. It uses more words but creates a memorable image and shows she has computer skills, a sense of humor, and a need to thumb her nose at authority.
Hey. You must be Kimmy Jin. I’m Beca. [Silence] No English? [Silence] Yes English? [Silence] Just tell me where you’re at with English. ~Beca
I admit I’m a terrible speller. Just awful. I don’t make anything public without running it through spell-check first, including tweets. I also have a strange addition to commas. If I type more than five words without a comma, I start itching to add one… just because. So I have several comma experts read my super important writing with their comma goggles firmly in place. Know your weaknesses and pay special attention to them in your pitch.
Taking names, taking numbers, join our righteous frat! If you ain’t pledging Sigma Beta, you ain’t worth no crap! ~Sigma Beta Frat Guys
That’s a double negative! ~Benji
That’s a lot of negatives. ~Jesse
This is basically the same as the one above, but it’s so important it bears repeating. A pitch is a sales tool, so it is absolutely vital that the grammar and spelling be correct. It’s such a small snippet that any mistake sticks out like a sore thumb and leaves a negative impression. An agent or editor might think if such an important writing sample has errors, then the manuscript is likely riddled with errors, too. Even if you are an expert at all things grammar, make sure to have several others read your pitch, since our brains often see what we think is there and not what is actually there. 
Pitch PerfectClosing it strong. Like always, absolutely tight. It’s going to be hard to beat that tonight. ~John
Make sure to leave readers wanting more. Several kind critiquers on the forums helped me identify a weak closing in my pitch. In my desperation to quickly sum things up, my last few sentences were generic clichés, losing all the momentum I’d built in the previous paragraphs. So don’t rush the end – keep it as tight and interesting as the rest of the pitch and readers will have no choice but to beg to read more.  
Best of luck with your pitch! 
Let’s just smash this! ~Fat Amy
Have you seen Pitch Perfect? Are the songs permanently stuck in your head? Do you have any tips to share about writing a pitch? Are you planning to participate in the Pitch Fest?

Pitch Slapped

Pitch PerfectYou guys are gonna get pitch-slapped so hard, your man boobs are gonna concave. ~Fat Amy from Pitch Perfect

Isn’t that how we want people to feel after reading our pitches? Like they’ve encountered something so awesome it actually changes them and now they MUST read our novels.
While we’re unlikely to make someone’s boobs go concave with our words, we can take lessons from the movie Pitch Perfect to help us craft a perfect pitch.
Yeah, this number is like an elephant dart to the public’s face. ~John 
Don’t be boring! A pitch is a sales tool, not a summary of the novel. A solid block of text with the gist of, “This happened, then this happened, and then this happened,” no matter how well written, will have readers asking, Is it just me, or did we take a left turn into snooze-ville? ~Gail
While it’s important to include elements of our plot, we need to focus on the plot points that will grab people’s attention. We should tempt and tantalize them until they are so intrigued they want to gobble up our novels right then to find out what happens.
Even though some of you are pretty thin, you all have fat hearts, and that’s what matters. ~Fat Amy
It’s vital that we connect emotionally with our readers - get them invested in our characters so they want to follow them over the course of an entire novel. Even if our characters are unlikeable, we want readers to root for them.
While space is at a premium in a pitch, we must find a way to quickly form a bond between our characters and the reader. It might be a quick bit of interesting back story or a habit or a fear – something that helps the reader see into the fat heart of the character and want to spend more time with them.
We should be taking risks. It’s not enough to be good, we need to put ourselves out there, be different. ~Beca
Most of us have heard the writing adage that there are only seven basic plots. Making it even tougher to stand out, a pitch has so little real estate it’s easy to fall into generalities and clichés to describe our novels in order to save space. With agents and editors reading so many pitches, we have to highlight what makes our novels special. What makes our vampire romance/teen discovers powers on 16th birthday/surviving in a post-apocalyptic world novel different from all the others out there?
Is it something special about the voice of your character? Then make sure it shines through in the pitch. Is it a quirk that makes your character intriguing? Then draw attention to it in the pitch with a memorable example. Is it a unique setting? Then make the readers feel they are standing there while reading the pitch.
It’s important to identify what makes our novel unique and emphasize that in the pitch, but as with all our writing, we need to make sure we show and don’t tell. Don’t say, “Emma is different from any teen you’ve ever read about before.” Instead try a specific and memorable detail like, “Emma always starts the morning announcements with off-key singing from Madama Butterfly.”
Your weirdness is actually affecting my vocal cords, so I’m gonna need you to scoot! Skedaddle! ~Bumper
Keep in mind there’s a fine line between being different and being off-putting. We want readers to remember our pitches, but not because it makes them wonder if they should call the loony bin. And while we are all obviously insane since we decided to be writers, we should keep a lid on the cray-cray to make sure we stand out in a good way, not a ‘grab the butterfly net’ way.
Pitch Fest Blogger
Since this is turning out longer than I thought, I’m going to stop here for now. Check out Pitch Slapped - Part 2 for more ways Pitch Perfect can teach us about writing perfect pitches.
In the meantime, find out all the details about the WriteOnCon 2013 Pitch Fest, and then go out there and crush it!
Have you seen Pitch Perfect? Are the songs permanently stuck in your head? Do you have any tips to share about writing a pitch? Are you planning to participate in the Pitch Fest?

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 32 + Other Stuff

15 Minute Tweet TalesI hope everyone learned a ton at WriteOnCon and made new writer friends in the forums.  I absorbed so much information I feared my brain was going to melt out of my ears.  If you couldn’t attend “live,” everything will remain up on the site until the next conference, so be sure to check it out when you have a chance.  

In other news: while I’m going to do a longer post about it later, I did want to let everyone know there’s excitement happening at the website for my short film Saying Goodbye.  Click here to see the big announcement.

Meanwhile, here are my 15 Minute Tweet Tales for the past week:
8/15 – A chittering obloquy rains from the trees as Ben puts the new anti-squirrel device on his bird feeder. They beat it within 10 minutes.
8/16 – Under the guise of visiting Nana, he searched her house until he found a Golconda - her jewelry. Turns out she’d hidden glass decoys.
8/17 - Using hypnotherapy, the alienist plants suggestions for patients to randomly bark to entertain him while they whine about their moms.
8/18 - Cheers erupt as the wood beneath the screaming woman deflagrates. If it doesn't rain tomorrow, another 'witch' will be burned.
8/19 – He felt Town Drunk was a misnomer: he viewed himself as the Town Wise Man, willing to share his sage advice in exchange for a drink.
8/20 – Playing the lickerish womanizer ate at Jim’s soul, but his mom would rather die than have anyone in the community suspect he was gay.
8/21 – He explained the garner of weapons in his basement was preparation for the zombie apocalypse. They laughed at him. They regretted it.
The word-a-day calendar only gave the definition for the noun version of garner, not the verb, so I linked to a different online dictionary to provide the noun definition.
Did you participate in WriteOnCon?  Play along with #15tt and write tweet tales for the above words.  If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them.  Any thoughts about this week's tweet tales?

Tweet Tales Tuesday Week 31 + WriteOnCon

WriteOnConMy guess is that most people who visit my blog already know about WriteOnCon starting today, but just in case, consider yourself officially reminded about the awesome virtual writing conference that kicked off this morning at 6am. It lasts two days, is bursting with helpful information, and the best part is you can attend in your pajamas with your frizzy hair unbrushed (or maybe that’s just me).  Click here for the full schedule. 

And if that weren’t enough unbridled awesomeness for one blog post, here are my 15 Minute Tweet Tales for the past week: 
8/8 - After his wife Sue died, he hired a maid to do her uxorial chores. Sadly for her, her thorough cleaning skills uncovered Sue's body.
8/9 - Jimmy hit the ball, then became chapfallen as it sailed over the fence. He'd finally hit a home run just weeks after his dad died.
8/10 - It took an hour to clean the flour from the kitchen, but her son's rationale for baking cookies for her was so sweet she didn't mind.
8/11 – The food? Awful. The conversation? Awkward. But the nadir of the 1st date? When she puked on him. Upshot? Great story 4 wedding toast.

15 Minute Tweet Tales8/12 – Every item her late husband had ever touched held special meaning for Ester. Her schwarmerei landed her on an episode of Hoarders.

8/13 - The fugleman of the effort to stop the lunch bandit suggests adding ex-lax. I nod, knowing to avoid chocolate desserts my next theft.
8/14 – When Tina caught the punk who’d cut off her dog’s tail, his pleas for mercy triggered her clement nature – she only cut off 3 fingers.
Are you participating in WriteOnCon?  Play along with #15tt and write tweet tales for the above words.  If you’re willing to share, post them on twitter with the hashtag #15tt or add them below in the comments because I’d love to read them.  Any thoughts about this week's tweet tales?

WriteOnCon Returns

Are you guys participating in WriteOnCon this week?  If you’re a writer, and especially if you write for the under 18 crowd, you should check out the information-y awesomeness over there immediately.  This is the second year for WriteOnCon, which is an online writer’s conference for kidlit writers taking place August 16-18. 

While there are live events like Q&A sessions, the best part is that all of the content remains available throughout the year.  So if this is a busy week for you, you can wait until your schedule is less hectic to visit and absorb the mind-blowing amount of information.  In fact, I found it pretty overwhelming last year, so popped back in over the ensuing months to reread some of the posts that really resonated with me.

Another fantastic aspect is the forums where you can meet and interact with fellow writers.  They also have a number of critique forums available – you can post your query, first 250 words, or first five pages and fellow participants will offer feedback.  An exciting component they’ve added this year is Ninja Agents, which are agents who anonymously drop in (they are color coded) and offer feedback on what you’ve posted.  I posted my query, 250 words, and five pages last night, and within an hour, one Ninja Agent had provided feedback on my first 250 words and another Ninja Agent had commented on my first five pages.  They both said my writing had a great voice (yay!!) and asked a few questions that have me questioning if I’ve started my story in the right place.  While I have a lot to think about now, it’s invaluable to have a chance to improve my beginning before I start querying.

The most amazing part about all of this is that the conference is FREE!!  They do have a place set up for donations, and I encourage anyone who gets something out of the conference to donate a little if they can.  I thought this was a fantastic event last year, and I definitely can’t wait to see what they have in store for us this year.

Did you attend WriteOnCon last year?  Are you participating this year?  Are you putting anything up on the forums to be critiqued?