Blog Hop, Critiquing, Pitching, Revising, Writing

Thoughts on Revising from Public Critiques

Two weeks ago I was privileged to participate in #BLOGPITCH, a blog hop hosted by Authoress for the purpose of gathering critiques for my Twitter pitch and first 250 words. First of all, I want to say how much I appreciate everyone who stopped by to comment on my post. I really appreciated the critiques. They were very constructive and supportive!

While critiques are a part of Authoress’s popular Secret Agent contests, this was different because people were visiting my blog and so I wasn’t anonymous. To be honest, that’s one of the things I’ve always liked about those contests. The comments pile up, you collect them, and make your changes afterward without anyone–except your critique partners–knowing who you are. So when this opportunity came up, I debated whether or not I should reply to people as they commented. I tend to feel like if I reply to one person, I should reply to all, and I might just end up with a lot of, “Thanks for stopping by!”

Even in forum situations I tend to err on the side of less is more. I’ve realized it doesn’t do much good to try and explain a short sample–whether that’s a pitch, query, first page, or even first five pages–in a public forum. If something isn’t working, I’m better off fixing it than trying to explain why I did it that way in the first place.

I didn’t always have this philosophy. It’s something I’ve learned over the last few years. I quickly realized that by trying to explain my reasoning, I usually just went deeper down a rabbit hole that made things even more confusing for the people I was trying to explain it all to.

Ok, so that was all a lot of background on why I didn’t respond individually to the critiques I received during the blog hop. But the real purpose of this post are my thoughts on how I applied the critiques to revising my pitch and first page. Once again, thank you all!

The Pitch

This particular opportunity focused on a Twitter pitch, which meant there was a character limit. In the past, I’ve found the best success juxtaposing two comparison titles and then specifying how my story diverges. Doing so maximizes the limited space because it immediately gives the audience an idea of the story by drawing on an already familiar premise. It was interesting to me that several of the critiques I received said they didn’t recognize the comp titles, and that’s a fair point. However, when it really comes down to it, other writers are not my audience for a pitch, and I think the odds are agents would recognize them. Even if they don’t, the positive thing about most Twitter pitch opportunities are that you get to use more than one pitch! So, I’ll keep my comp title pitch but also create a separate pitch without them. Comments noted and filed :).

The First Page

Overall, the comments I received on my first page were very complimentary, so thank you! I really appreciated the specific details commenters left telling me what worked for them. Here are a few questions I asked to determine what I needed to tweak:

Are they questioning something that will be answered within a page or two?

Something to remember about a first page is it’s only one page! Sounds obvious, right? And yet I think sometimes we get hung up on trying to cram too much into it, particularly for the purpose of shining in contests and forums where we’re trying to catch the eye of an agent. Yes, these can be great opportunities to get a foot in the door with an agent, but the pages that follow have to widen that opening. So, what’s my point with that? You don’t have to answer every question commenters ask about that first 250 words. There’s a reason you’re writing a novel. There are things readers can wait to find out. It’s called tension :). Now, I’m not talking about something that’s downright confusing. Anything like that you should fix. But if the person’s just asking something out of curiosity, you don’t have to work that into your first page to appease them. If that information shouldn’t be revealed until page three–or page fifty, for that matter–save it for the right moment. If an agent is intrigued enough by your writing and voice, they’ll stick with the story to get those answers when the time is right.

Did multiple people mention the same issue?

Did anyone hear a doorbell ring? If you didn’t read my sample, this won’t make any sense. Suffice it to say, I heard you! I had a similar issue with my pitch and the name Gid (short for Gideon) confusing several people. If it’s a stumbling block for more than one person, it needs to be fixed.

Did people disagree on the same issue?

Here’s where things get tricky. If you receive differing opinions, you have to determine whether you really have an issue. Maybe one person loves it and another hates it. If you’re ambivalent, you should probably nix it. Either way, take a closer look because it’s a point of contention.

Does the comment resonate with you?

Sometimes, even if only one person says it, a comment will hit you in such a way where you say, “Yes, you’re right!” But even if you feel the complete opposite, don’t reject it out of hand. Every comment has merit. If one person thinks it, chances are there’s another person out there who will, too. Maybe you don’t care about that person :), but keep it in mind and reject it with caution.

What’s your philosophy on public critiques? Do you try to hash it out with critiquers? Are there other questions you ask yourself before revising?

Thanks again to Authoress for hosting this blog hop and to everyone who commented! It was a great experience. If you commented and you had a question about my pitch or sample you really wanted answered, ask it in the comments on this post and I will answer.

Blog Hop, Critiquing, Writing

A BOY COULD #BLOGPITCH Logline and First 250 Words

Last week I participated in a Twitter pitch contest through the popular Miss Snark’s First Victim blog (http://www.misssnarksfirstvictim.blogspot.com/) and was selected as one of ten blogs to participate in a blog hop to receive critiques on the first 25o words of my manuscript. It’s a win for me because I’m at the perfect stage to be getting critiques on my opening page, but it’s a win for you, too, because for every critique you leave for me or one of the other participants, you receive an entry for a 15-page line-edit from Authoress Edits. Thank you for selecting my pitch, Authoress!

Without further ado, here is the Twitter logline I used to catch Authoress’s attention, along with the first 250 words of A BOY COULD. I look forward to your comments!

Twitter Logline:

YA C: LIAR SOCIETY meets 12th NIGHT when 16yo Hannah becomes Gid at summer camp to catch the boy who put her brother in a coma.

(Note: Gid is short for Gideon–a casualty of 140 characters! Since so many have asked :).)

First 250 words:

Mattie Matt,

1.4 seconds. I looked up a velocity formula online, so I know that’s how long it took you to hit the dumpster. 1.4 seconds. Less time than it takes the average person to be thrown from a mechanical bull–which would have been a smarter stunt.

You do these stupid things without considering the consequences. You think you’re invincible. Well, you’re not. You might never wake up, and it’ll be all your fault.

And mine. Because I should have been there on time to pick you up.

Maybe then you’d be sitting here next to me instead of

Ding. Dong.

“Hannah! Could you come down here, please?” Mom’s voice was muffled through my bedroom door.

Probably another church member with a foil-covered casserole dish. Except Mom didn’t need me for that. Maybe it was Lena. She’d been bugging me to go out with her this weekend.

I snapped my notebook closed and flicked a glance in the mirror to make sure I was decent–not a sure thing lately. I’d greeted the youth minister the other day in skimpy pajama shorts and a cami with no bra. He’d stared over my shoulder while he asked how I was holding up. Talk about awkward.

Satisfied I was fully dressed, I slipped out of my room. Multiple voices mingled in the foyer, including, I realized with a start, Dad’s. He usually only left Matt’s room in the trauma ward for work or sleep.

I peered around the corner down the stairs. Two strangers, a man and a woman, stood just inside the door.

Ok, that’s it for now! Be sure to check out the other participating blogs at http://misssnarksfirstvictim.blogspot.com/2014/07/blog-critique-tour.html!

Before the Draft, Blog Hop, Revising, Writing

My Writing Process Blog Hop

First of all, the winner of a paperback copy of PARTNERS IN CRIME by Kim Harrington is:

Susan

Congratulations, Susan! Please send your mailing address to mfaszold(at)hotmail(dot)com and I’ll put it in the mail!

Now on to today’s post. Last week my lovely CP Kip Wilson Rechea tagged me in the My Writing Process blog hop to celebrate the release of Sucker Literary Volume 3. Because you don’t already hear enough about my writing process, right? Anyway, here are my answers to the questions.

What am I working on?

Oh, I’m so glad you asked. Although I’ve blogged throughout the process of researching, drafting, and revising my current work-in-progress, I don’t think I’ve actually said what it’s about. I don’t have a query yet to put up under the writing tab (working on that now!), but I do have a one-sentence description:

“Revenge” meets TWELFTH NIGHT when sixteen-year-old Hannah Davies goes undercover as a middle school boy at summer camp to catch the boy who put her brother in a coma.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Isn’t that always the million-dollar question–although I have to say that I had a hard time finding comp titles as I was researching. There are a ton of books with girls/women dressing as boys in historical/genre fiction but not so many in contemporary young adult. The one I found was BABE IN BOYLAND by Jody Gehrman, which I loved. I also found several movies, the most recent being “She’s the Man.”

The other comp titles I searched out were for books set at camps, and I didn’t find many of those for YA, either. I did read THINGS I CAN’T FORGET by Miranda Kenneally, which actually has some similarities with my main character’s faith struggle, as well as a few MG books and one memoir. So, my book combines cross-dressing with summer camp, with the funny trying-to-be-a-boy plus camp hijinks, as well as the darker issue of what happened to her brother.

Why do I write what I do?

I always thought I would write romance novels because that’s what I read from the time I was eleven. But a few years ago I had this idea that was clearly a middle grade book, and I discovered the world of middle grade and young adult. If there had been this many choices when I was younger, I probably wouldn’t have latched onto romance novels. It’s a perfect age for me, too, because honestly I wouldn’t feel comfortable writing the racier parts of romance. I’ve gotten so into MG and YA that when I read an adult book, I wonder why it’s so long and–sometimes–slow-paced. So I guess at this point I write what I do because it’s what I love to read.

How does my writing process work?

I think anyone who follows my blog knows the answer to this question, but here are some links that both describe the process and give more in-depth answers:

Before the Draft: Research, Procrastination, Character Development, Outlining in Scrivener

Drafting: It’s Just a First Draft Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

How I Tackle Revisions: Letting it sit & the read-through, Taking it slow & being flexible, Letting it go, Eliminating crutch words, Reading in a different format

So, those are all the questions. I was supposed to tag three more writers, but most of my writer friends have already participated, and the others I asked don’t have time. I guess that means this branch of the hop ends with me. UNLESS one of you wants to participate. If you do, let me know and I can edit this post to tag you!

Blog Hop, Writing

A Moment in THE DEXELON TWINCIDENT

Kip Wilson Rechea tagged me in a snippet-sharing blog hop. You can see the excerpt from her YA futuristic thriller, BRIGHTEST MIDNIGHT, here. Thanks, Kip!

I’m going to share a snippet from my work-in-progress, THE DEXELON TWINCIDENT. The rules were: “Search for the words ‘moment,’ ‘forever,’ ‘time,’ or the like in your writing, pick your favorite chunk, post on your blog, and tag others!” Interestingly, I only had three instances of “forever,” while “time” is apparently one of my favorite words. I’m going with “moment” because I found a section I liked for this purpose. This snippet is from Chapter 5 of THE DEXELON TWINCIDENT.

After I chained my bike to a fire hydrant, I stood on the sidewalk for a moment, taking in the wooden sign that hung from a chain over the door. A breeze hit it, making it creak like a swing with rusty links.

“Here goes nothing.”

Squaring my shoulders, I pushed open the door. A whoosh of incoming wind tinkled dozens of chimes hanging just inside. Thanks to the dark blankets draped over the windows, I could barely see. What little light there was came from strings of blue Christmas lights along the walls and a dim stand lamp in the corner. Trinkets, crystals and beads littered tiered tables placed strategically around the room. I zeroed in on the nearest display.

Wow. A crystal ball. That wasn’t a cliche.

That’s it for now! I’m tagging Erin, Carla, and April, but if you don’t want to play, I totally understand.