You’ve Been Fast-Tracked!

You've been fast trackedLast night, I received something in my inbox I’d never received before:  2 back-to-back requests for 2 separate, full manuscripts.

I couldn’t stop grinning.  Afterall, I’d sent the first five pages off to the publisher with the only goal in mind to get a professional opinion, a critique.  I wanted to know if I was on the right track, and if not, what direction I needed to go.  What did I need to work on to improve the narrative and the manuscripts?  Did I grab the attention of the publisher in the 1st 5 pages?

I have to say I was surprised at the speed they got back to me.  BIG plus in their favor.  I also understand they have a three step editorial process once they accept a manuscript…another huge plus.  AND they have a great reputation as being amazing to work with and they pay well and on time.  (Yes, I checked them out before and after submitting the 1st 5 pages).

As to the manuscripts:  one was marked up more than the other, but only by a couple of suggestions.

The other, my baby, the start of my Y.A. fantasy trilogy that I’ve been hammering to perfection (if there is such a thing), got four MINOR suggestions and a compliment on a scene for its imagery and the feelings it evoked.  At the end was the following comment from the content editor:

“Your story has me intrigued—I want to read more in the worst way! I already feel a connection to the characters and setting. You are being fast tracked!”

I must have read that line a hundred times:  “I want to read more in the worst way!”  Even reading it now sets my soul aglow.  I think those words are what every author wants to hear, especially after a publisher reads those first crucial 5 pages.

To be honest, I’d expected so much more red-lining.  This was a publishing house.  Even though they are a small, indie press, they still see hundreds if not thousands of manuscripts, and from what I understand, they are quite selective. While I felt confident on both stories to an extent, I certainly wasn’t expecting requests for 2 full manuscripts.  Not only that, I’d been fast-tracked on both.  That’s like HUGE.  My foot is in the door.

To say I’m thrilled is an understatement.  Am I nervous?  Yes and no.  There is still work to be done on both before I submit the fulls.  I also want to throw my big baby out there to a couple more betas/critiquers for their comments before I let it go completely.

At least now I know I’m on-track with both manuscripts (according to this publisher), and I have to say the experience has been phenomenal.  Thank you, publisher and lovely content editor for your time and critique.  Thank you, Scrib sister who gave me the confidence to go for it, but most of all, a million thanks to my beta readers, (especially my Jersey girl.  You know who you are!)  I couldn’t have come this far without your keen eyes, your opinions, your sense of direction, and your blatent, hard-line honesty smacking me in the face, even when I didn’t want to hear it.  I would be lost without all of you.  I bow to your greatness.

Now the hard work begins.  I’ll keep you posted.

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Top Three Writing Mistakes

When I first started writing and sending my attempts out to beta partners and critique sites, it wasn’t unusual to get a wide range of comments from “This sucks.” to “This is the best thing I’ve ever read!”  Just goes to show how different people view what you write, and it’s pointless to try to please all of them.  One thing that was consistent were the following comments:

1.  Don’t be so descriptive and technical.

A big comment I got a lot was “I love your descriptions, but they go on too long and I started skimming.”

Skimming?  Oh no.  No skimming in my books.  It’s been a hard lesson for me to learn because I am such a description hound, but there is a happy medium.  There is no need to take your reader on a tour of the room unless each of the things you point out are relevant to the story in some way.  For example:

“Above the cherry-wood mantel hung a gilded mirror.  Upon closer inspection of the frame, I noticed the handiwork revealed cherubs chasing rabbits through vines of ivy. Each cherub possessed a unique expression and varying lengths of hair, as well as age. The intricate work down to their fingernails, was exquisite.”

Now unless my main character is an art dealer and is looking for such a piece, or those cherubs are about to come to life, this information is way too much.  For most, knowing there is a gilded mirror over the mantel is enough information.

2.  Voice change.

Writing a character’s voice and keeping it consistent is difficult.  With me, my ‘adult’ voice creeps in now and then and my teens sound older than they really are.   Thank goodness I have a couple of good beta readers that are excellent at finding my ‘voice’ mistakes and offering suggestions on how to fix them. I am also thankful for my teen son who has no problem telling me he wouldn’t say something a certain way.

3.  Disembodied body parts and having eyes do strange things

All of us writers do it, and most of the time we don’t see it when we edit.  That’s why we have beta readers and critique partners.  How many times have you written something like, “His hand reached for his gun.”  Is his hand not connected to his body?  Did it wander off on its own?  Yep, funny stuff, but not as funny as what we get our eyes to do.

We’ve all seen the phrases:

  • Their eyes met across the room.
  • Her eyes devoured him. (wow, those are some big hungry, man-eating eyes)
  • His eyes fell to the floor. (splat)
  • Her eyes were glued to the book.  (ouch)

I used to roll my eyes and grimace whenever I saw comments like this because everyone knows what the author meant.  Still, eyes are not disembodied body parts that can wander around. I’ve learned to rev up the heat or the tension by showing and involving the reader in my scene.

Instead of “Her eyes devoured him.” try something like:

“Her sultry body and come-hither stare consumed him, burning him in a way he hadn’t felt since Nina died.”

Yeah, it’s a bit longer, but the picture is much clearer, don’t you think?

What are some mistakes you’ve learned as a writer you’d like to share?

Happy Beta Reader Day and Happy Mother’s Day

I hereby declare today as Beta Reader Day.  Why? Well, because I’m a mom and it makes it easier for me to remember to celebrate Beta Readers on Mother’s Day.  Weird, I know, but I’m weird.

Beta Readers are like moms in a lot of ways.  They hold your hand and guide you. They wipe your tears away when you’re hurt.  They are always encouraging you to step out and try something new.  They comfort you when life lets you down.  They help you see life through different eyes.  They let you know when you’re way off base and when you’re right on the money.  They are gentle in their approach, except when a firm hand is needed to push you in the right direction.  They see situations objectively and are willing to offer suggestions to see your way out of sticky spots.  A real beta reader is there 24/7.  His/her job is never done.  Through the ups and downs, the bruises and scrapes, the tears of sadness and the tears of joy, the beta reader is always with you.  As a writer, I would be lost without my beta readers.

To Jennifer M. Eaton, I can’t say enough.  Thank you for all the emails, the phone calls, the late nights, the back and forths with the same story over and over again.  Thank you for the prods (some not so gentle), and thank you for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself.  There are no words to express what I feel for you, my dear friend. Thank you, Nathan Bransford, for bringing us together.  🙂

For Terri Rochenski, lady, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  You were not afraid to tell me at exactly what place my writing fell apart or how bad it sucked.  You gave me amazing advice and helped me see my way past my own roadblocks.  You are amazing.

For Julie Reece, there are no words to thank you enough.  You dropped everything to help me in my hour of need and your help came in a flash.  You were a light in my darkest hour.  You worked through my confusion and helped me to find my voice and direction.  Can I say how happy I am you are in my life?

To Mark Wentmoor, man, you are a rock.  You gave me wonderful male perspective and got me into the opening scene of the Amulet of Ormisez.  I wish there was a way I could capture your Irish accent and throw it on Elton Fletcher.  Elton is ‘you’ in many ways.  Thank you for breathing life into him in a way no one else could do.

To Mike Dalton, thank you for being my grammar king.  You found the most subtle things- misspelled words, misplaced commas, incomplete sentences. You’re amazing.  You also taught me to stick to my guns and remain true to my voice.  Thanks, Pops!

I also want to give a big shout out to Mark and Mike.  They are so much more than beta readers.  They are both single parents who have had to take on the roles of both mom and dad to their children.  They both need to be applauded for their tenacity, love and courage to take on what life has thrown at them and be the incredible people they are.  I am blessed to ‘know’ both of you and your children are blessed to have you as parents.

To all you moms out there, have a blessed Mother’s Day.  To my closest friends and fellow moms of more than 20 years (Amy G and Diane E), I don’t know what I would do without you in my life.  I thank God every day for your presence.

To my mom, I know you’re looking down on me and I can feel your smile.  I wish I could feel your loving arms and hear your voice.  I miss you more than you know.

To my daughter, Clarissa…you’re a great mommy.  I loved spending time with you and Kizzie this weekend.  There are no words to tell you how proud I am of you.  Oh, the places you will go.  Thank you so much for my grand-daughter.  You’re an amazing mom and my own personal cheering section.  I love you so much.

For my daughter, Heather…even when you have been busy with your own school stuff and working hard toward your Master’s, you always took a moment to read my stories and give me your honest opinions.  You are an angel in so many ways.  You hold my hand and make me smile.  I love your hugs and your good nature.  You are an inspiration to me.  I love you more than I can say.

To all my mommy writer friends and blogger buddies (too many to name but you know who you are), thank you for being you and being in my life, even in its smallest measure.  We were all brought together for a reason.  You guys rock.

Big hugs to all and don’t forget to tell your moms and beta readers how much you love them and appreciate them.