This is just to say . . .

. . . that I received another full manuscript request this a.m.  I don’t quite know what  to say, guys.  Just when I start feeling down about my chances, something good comes along and lifts my spirits.  Right now I’m playing the waiting game and keeping my fingers crossed.  Any extra luck you have to spare would be greatly appreciated.


Contests and The Recruited

For those of you in the writing community, or perhaps just the Twitterverse, you may have noticed that the past two weeks have been a whirlwind of writing contests.  If you obsessively follow what trends on Twitter, you have to have noticed #PitchMadness or #PitMad swirling about on the site.

To break it down for those of you who aren’t in the know, Pitch Madness was a two level contest being hosted by four participating blogs.  There was an initial slush pile round with 300 entries, which were then narrowed down to sixty by a series of slush pile readers.  Those sixty are then posted in groups of fifteen and left on the blogs for a few days in which time agents will then bid on the ones they want to read.

I happened to be lucky enough to be one of those chosen sixty, and I also happened to get three agents attempting to outbid each other on my entry.  Contest rules state that you only send what the winning agent asks for, but in some cases, you can get other offers on your manuscript later on.  Once again, a rare moment of good luck dictated that I get two other partial offers aside from the first one.  Cue me jumping around flailing and generally being over the moon.

The following night there was a Twitter Pitch Party for any agents who wanted to participate.  I posted the pitch my parents had helped me with on and off over the course of the day, and got no bites.  Then, right before the contest ended, I revised the pitch slightly and ended up getting another partial request from a different agent.

Earlier in the month, I also entered a Secret Agent contest on a blog that provides all sorts of awesome opportunities for writers.  I entered the first 250 words of The Recruited, and waited for the agent to leave their feedback.  Because of the way this contest ended up working out, the winners were announced before I got to see the feedback on my entry.  And, surprise surprise, I ended up winning that contest.

I really don’t know how to explain the luck I’ve had with this book lately.  All I can do is keep my fingers crossed and hope that something good comes from one of these requests.

The one downside of this whole situation, a downside I had to be prepared for, is that I did receive a rejection on a full a few days ago.   And it sucked for a day or so, I won’t lie.  Then again, I still have two fulls and four partials out currently.  Maybe it’s because of those numbers that the sting of that rejection diminished a little more quickly than I would’ve expected.

For those of you in the querying trenches like I am, keep chugging ahead.  When I’m unconvinced or feeling down, I tell myself that eventually, all my hard work is going to pay off.

And you know what?  It almost always works.

Facing the Music Deconstructed

I just finished the first draft of my most recent manuscript FACING THE MUSIC, so I thought I’d take a leaf out of the lovely Savannah Foley’s book and deconstruct the process for the novel.  Why?  Because I love talking about what I think of my stories and why.  If this isn’t your thing, feel free to ignore it.

Original Idea:  As is the case with most of my novels, I’m not one hundred percent sure where the idea came from.  What I do know is this.  When I started getting serious about polishing my last novel THE RECRUITED, I had to cut the first two chapters off the draft.  One of those chapters has since been consigned to the mire of unused documents on my computer, and the other, for whatever reason, stuck with me.  The chapter that I mentally held onto involved a scene in which my MC was abused by her boyfriend.  In that story, he was trying to get information from her (not that that excuses what he does).

When I started considering my next idea, I came back to that deleted chapter and wondered who a character dealing with that kind of abuse on a regular basis might be.  Naomi, the MC of THE RECRUITED, kills the boyfriend who abuses her.  How would a girl without the same kind of attitude respond?  Would she stay because she loved the boy, or because she felt like there was no other choice?  How would she deal with a situation from which there wasn’t as easy an escape?

These were the questions I considered while I was writing Leslie’s character.  However, I’d also planned on there being a male MC.  (What can I say, I like books with multiple POVs.)  When I first started, I figured that Evan would be a foil to Leslie, the friend she turned to without any experience of his own to ground him in her situation.  It wasn’t until I started plotting that I realized I was dead wrong.

As for the music side of the plot?  For once, a simple answer.  I’m a music nut, and I thought that music (even if it took a few different forms) would be a good hobby for the two of them to share.  Little known fact:  I also borrowed the basic premise (talented but stifled female singer, independent but lonely male composer) from the book Phantom of the Opera.

The Writing:   

So far (and admittedly, I’ve only done a draft), this was the hardest story I’ve ever started.  Before I managed to actually come up with a draft I didn’t hate, I rewrote the beginning four times.  The first, or it might have been the second beginning, involved Leslie going to stay with her aunt and cousin in another state to get away from the abuse.  Not nearly as good a story, right?

Once I actually got underway, the writing process was kind of hard to dig into at first.  I had troubles getting the voices in place for both Leslie and Evan, as well as problems turning off editor’s brain and just going back to writing.  I also had a deep ceded concern that the beginning I’d selected was still the wrong one.

This story was a lot quieter than THE RECRUITED, and I enjoyed the chance to really dig deep into the intricacies of the friendship between Leslie and Evan without a lot of extra plot happening around them.  That being said, there were plenty of parts of this story that were difficult for me to write for personal reasons.  I don’t like writing violence of any kind, but the domestic type of violence featured in this story was supremely difficult for me to get my head around.  There were certain scenes I delayed writing, simply because I really had to get myself into the mentality where I could actually put words on a page.

I started writing the draft I stuck with in mid June, ironically, when I was trying to complete Camp NaNoWriMo for the month with an earlier draft.   I spent the rest of June and a large portion of July re outlining the story in its entirety, and by the time August rolled around I’d finished eight chapters of a planned thirty five.  Then I dove into the second month of Camp Nano, and added another 51,000 words to the already existing draft.  I finished the story right around the end of the first week of September.

It’s a few more chapters than I’m used to writing, but the word count finished about two thousand words above THE RECRUITED.  By the time I finish edits on it, it should be right in the sweet spot for a YA contemporary.

The Reflection:  In retrospect, this was kind of a difficult book to write, and I definitely second guessed myself a few times.  When I started writing parts of Evan’s history, where he tells Leslie the story of how he came to be where he is, I actually went back and started writing the story as it might have happened to him.  I still intend to finish that, because I love that part of the story, and I’m already wondering if there’s a way I might work it into the novel.

The biggest fear I have is that I’m going to have to do the same thing I did with THE RECRUITED and cut down the story to one POV because I can’t make the voices distinctive enough.  Lucky for me, I do feel like I have learned a lot about voice in the writing of my thesis and the rewriting of THE RECRUITED, so I’m going to do a lot of work making the characters sound like individuals.

That being said, if I end up cutting one of the POVs, I already think I’ll cut Leslie’s.  There are two reasons for that.  One, Evan was the character whose sole perspective I intended to use for the story, and two, his provides a much more unique look at an otherwise slightly stereotypical abusive relationship tale.  Still, I’m hoping I don’t have to cut any one character.

I think there are two reasons why I related to Evan’s character slightly more than Leslie’s.  For one thing, I have a huge soft spot for the protagonist of Phantom of the Opera, Phantom, and all the side stories it has inspired.  I sympathize with Erik much more than I do with Christine in most cases (which says a lot about my penchant for tormented men).  Even though Evan is only loosely based on Erik, I love him for a lot of the same reasons.

Also, the problems that Evan suffers in the story are mostly centered around his parents and whether or not he should help Leslie even though it means putting himself into a situation similar to the one he just escaped.  I know a lot of people who have been in situations like Evan, not fully trusting their parents or not feeling close enough to them to confide.  And, to a lesser extent, I know people who have been in situations they didn’t know how to handle, where they weren’t sure whether to tell someone or hope a particular problem got dealt with.

Trust versus lack thereof is a major theme in this book, although one I didn’t insert on purpose.  It’s an issue everyone deals with, and one I hope to expand upon in later drafts.

What’s Next:  I’m currently sitting on this novel for a month or so before I dive into edits.  After I make a run through (or several) on my own and get some feedback, then we’ll see where it goes.


GUTGAA Meet and Greet!

Hello all!  My name is Ellen and I’m an aspiring author who sometimes writes adult, sometimes YA, but always contemporary.  (Much as I love fantasy and all its sub genres, I simply don’t have the brain for it.)

I’ve recently graduated from college, so I’m still getting used to writing in the ‘new’ environment that is my parents’ house.  When I am hard at work, you can find me on the family room couch, usually sitting smack dab in the middle and taking up too much space.   I have a journal and my cell phone off to one side, just so I don’t have to get up off the couch to go scavenging for those things later.

I can and do write basically any time except mornings when I first wake up.  Today might be the exception to the rule, but this is a blog post and not fiction so it feels a little more doable.  But I digress.  My favorite time to write is after lunch to when my family starts coming home from work.  Maybe it’s because I’m still mentally on a college schedule, but mid afternoon is my most productive time.

Though I don’t usually drink or eat while I’m working, I do love to have music on, depending upon the project.  The novel I’m currently querying was written and revised almost entirely while music played in the background.  When I actually have new things to listen to on YouTube, I’m there.  If not, I find that my iTunes or Stereomood works just fine for providing an endless stream of songs while I’m in the middle of a scene.

The manuscript you guys are probably going to become familiar with during this contest is the first thing I’ve ever seriously sought publication for.  Because I started writing it so long ago, I’m a little vague on where I got the idea.  What I do remember is that I had two characters who I smooshed together to make my FMC.  The story just sort of built itself around her from there.

My most valuable writing tip, and the one that’s served me well, is to try and write a little every day.  I know that’s not suitable and (for people with busier lives than myself) not possible for everyone, but when I was in school, that was the only reason I finished anything.

So as not to ramble, I’ll cut myself off here.  If anyone stopping by this blog today has any questions, just ask!