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W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday – Mindy McGinnis June 20, 2012

 

 

 

Today’s featured author in the W.O.W. is Mindy McGinnis.  Mindy is a stunning writer whose debut novel, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, will be released on September 24, 2013.  One of the things I enjoy most about Mindy is her willingness to mentor aspiring authors.  She does this through her work as a moderator on AgentQuery Connect, but also through a feature on her blog called, “The Saturday Slash”.  This weekly series allows writers to provide their queries to Mindy who reviews them, and then gives thoughtful, yet constructive feedback.  I’ve been following this feature for a while and can tell you that many of the featured writers’ queries have improved immensely due to Mindy’s help.

 

I think anyone struggling with the writing process will take Mindy’s odyssey to heart.  She is the perfect example of someone who commits themself to the craft, and through hard work and dedication, gets a publishing deal. I also love the fact that she is a YA librarian!

 

So, without further ado, here is my conversation with Mindy about her writing journey.

 

 

Amy:    When did you first begin seriously writing with the intent of wanting to be published?

 

Mindy: By the time I landed an agent I’d been querying on and off for about ten years. I would get frustrated and quit for long periods of time, and to be fair, my first two manuscripts were horrible and I didn’t have the brain to go find a decent crit partner, so I sunk myself. I decided to get serious about writing and querying about four years ago.

 

 

Amy:    When did you complete your first manuscript?

 

Mindy:  In college. It sucked.

 

 

Amy:     How many completed manuscripts did you query before one garnered agent interest?

 

Mindy:  Depends on what you mean by “interest.” The YA ms I wrote before NOT A DROP TO DRINK had quite a few nibbles, but no offers of representation. By the time I landed Adriann with DRINK I had four finished ms’s under my belt.

 

 

Amy:     How laborious/frustrating was the query process for you?

 

Mindy: Oh, pretty horrific. I was at it for ten years, so that definitely makes you sit down and take a hard look at your goals and your accomplishments. I would stop for long periods of time (years), but never really with the intention of quitting. I knew publication and a writing career were the end goal, I just needed to make it happen.

 

 

Amy:    If one manuscript was continuing to get rejected, how did you know it was time to move on to a new project?

 

Mindy: Good question. I’m kind of a dumbass, so I had over 130 rejections on the YA urban fantasy I wrote before I decided maybe it was time to drop that particular dumbbell and move on to writing NOT A DROP TO DRINK.

 

 

Amy:   If you had bites on previous manuscripts, and then was ultimately turned down by agents, what kept you pressing forward?

 

Mindy: Honestly, a rejection. I was at a very low point in my life all around when I got my first full rejection. But it was the kindest, most complimentary rejection a writer could possibly receive, from a well-known agent at an established agency. In so many words, she told me I was going to make it, but not with her, and not with that ms.

 

 

Amy:    How many agents did you query for NOT A DROP TO DRINK?

 

Mindy: I think only about ten. I sent out the first round of queries and started getting full requests right away.

 

 

Amy:    Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for the requests/rejections?

 

Mindy: Things moved really fast with DRINK. I had eight fulls out at one point, and whenever an agent requested I let them know there were other fulls out, and lots of interest, which inspired them to read a little faster :)

 

 

Amy:     Can you give us a short summary of your call with your agent, Adriann Ranta?

 

Mindy:  Adriann and I talked for about an hour, and totally clicked. We had the same vision for DRINK. She didn’t want me to lighten the tone or take away any of the harsher aspects. She *liked* the darkness of it, and that worked for me. I also ran a basic synopsis of my other finished projects past her to see if they sounded interesting to her as well, especially because the voice in one of them is so drastically different from DRINK. She seemed like a good fit all around for me, not just for this book.

 

 

Amy:     What parting advice can you give other aspiring writers who may be on the cusp of giving up on their writing dream?

 

Mindy:  Be absolutely sure this is what you want, and accept the very real possibility that it may not happen for you from the beginning. I was starry-eyed and convinced I was a genius ten years ago, but I was an idiot sending out badly written queries for a horrific ms. Do your homework, get good crit partners, learn how to take criticism. Develop very thick skin. It is not an easy undertaking, but sometimes it’s the unexpected things (like a kind rejection) that will make you keep going to that end goal.

 

My sincere thanks to Mindy for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions.  You can find more on Mindy at her blog http://writerwriterpantsonfire.blogspot.com.  She also contributes to the group blogs From the Write Angle, Friday the Thirteeners, and Book Pregnant. She is also a moderator for the writing community at AgentQueryConnect under the screenname bigblackcat97.

 

Mindy’s story has inspired me to keep writing and I hope it will do the same for you.

 

 

 

NotADrop

 

 

 

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.

 

Chasing A Good Read – Pure by Julianna Baggott June 18, 2012

 

 

I am always looking for a YA novel that will blow me away.  Something so creative and original that I find myself wishing I would have come up with something so ingenious.  I finally found that book in Julianna Baggott‘s PURE.

 

From the first line I was hooked into Pressia’s post apocalyptic world.  How could you not be drawn into a world where your MC has a doll head fused to her hand, a grandfather exists with a fan lodged in his throat, and a love interest lives with birds growing out of his back?  The world building is brilliant in PURE, but it pales in comparison to Baggott’s beautiful prose.

 

The story is simple.  The world has been decimated by an atomic bomb. Those like Pressia, who exist outside the protected dome, live a tortured life with objects from the blast fused to their bodies. They survive simply by living on whatever they can find in the ruins.  Their lives a marked contrast to those who live in the sterilized dome. Many of whom are like Partridge, a Pure, who is unaware of what is going on outside his confined world. But after a series of events, Partridge knows something is amiss, and he escapes looking for answers.

 

Once on the outside,  Partridge encounters Pressia, and together they journey through the tortured land looking for answers to what really caused the Detonations. Their travels take them down a twisted path that will have readers shocked and surprised with every turn.

 

The only negative about this book is that at times it is brutally violent.  And while it is considered YA due to the MC’s age, there are some violent scenes that had me flinching.

 

Baggott left the book wide open for a sequel, and I can say without hesitation, that I am looking forward to seeing what new stones she can throw at Partridge and Pressia in Book 2.

 

Rating: Definitely Worth The Chase

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday: R.C. Lewis June 13, 2012

 

The idea to begin this series came to me when I read R.C. Lewis’s post on the AgentQuery Connect website about her recent success with her manuscript, STITCHING SNOW.  I was instantly drawn to her story and knew I wanted to share it with aspiring writers as proof that perseverance and confidence in your own writing pays off.

 

I started by asking R.C. some basic questions about her writing and then got into the meat of her story.

 

Amy: When did you first begin seriously writing with the intent of wanting to be published?

R.C.:   I began writing my first attempt at a novel in summer 2009, so a little less than three years.

 

Amy: When did you complete your first manuscript?

R.C.:  That first one took about a month and a half to draft, then several more months of revising before I started querying it.

 

Amy: How many completed manuscripts did you query before one garnered agent interest?

R.C.:  I fully queried two manuscripts before STITCHING SNOW. (I did a small batch of queries for one manuscript between those two, but I knew the timing and market weren’t right, so I didn’t go all-out.) Both of those manuscripts got several full requests but didn’t quite go the distance.

 

Amy: How laborious/frustrating was the query process for you?

R.C.: Silence is always frustrating. Rejection always stings. After going through the process with one manuscript, though, I knew what to expect. There were times I got down, but I tried to remind myself that if I kept working to improve, I’d get there.

 

Amy: If one manuscript was continuing to get rejected, how did you know it was time to move on to a new project?

R.C.:  I always queried in small batches so if I kept getting form rejections, I could revise the query and try more agents. When I got rejections on fulls, I tried to see if there were ways I could/should revise to strengthen the manuscript. Eventually, though, the pool of agents likely to be a good fit ran out. I also made sure to always have the next project rolling to keep me busy during the querying process, so “moving on” began as soon as I started querying.

 

Amy: If you had bites on previous manuscripts, and then was ultimately turned down by agents, what kept you pressing forward?

R.C.: Like I said, both previous manuscripts got full requests. Those rejections always stung a bit more than query rejections, but they were often useful once the sting faded. The project I queried immediately before STITCHING SNOW got all the way to a Revise-and-Resubmit (R&R). What kept me going was the knowledge that I was getting better, getting closer. That, and a critique partner who smacked me over the head when I needed it.

 

Amy: How many agents did you query for STITCHING SNOW?

R.C.: This one was strange, because I was involved in the Writer’s Voice contest, which involved posting our queries and first pages for a panel of eight agents to vote on (and votes translated to requests). The week before the contest went live, I sent out a batch of nine queries. Between those queries, the eight contest agents, and some agents who lurked the contest and requested, I ended up with eleven fulls out of about twenty agents.

 

Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for the requests/rejections?

R.C.: Again, this was a strange situation. I sent those queries on a Thursday. The contest voting happened the following Monday, and I also got a full request that night from Jennifer Laughran. Jennifer emailed me Wednesday to arrange a call that night. I informed agents the next day that I had an offer, which led to more requests, more calls, more offers … and a week later I made my decision. So, as these things go, pretty lightning-fast.

 

Amy: Can you give us a short summary of your call with Jennifer Laughran?

R.C.: We talked about STITCHING SNOW—both the strengths she observed and some points she had questions about. Then we talked about my other writing, her style as an agent, and I’m not even sure I remember what else. It was an hour and fifteen minutes of “Is this really happening?” brain buzz. :)

 

Amy: What parting advice can you give other aspiring writers who may be on the cusp of giving up on their writing dream?

R.C.: Think about what you want, what it will take to get there, and whether you’re willing to do that. When one manuscript doesn’t make it, are you taking steps to ensure you’re improving and getting closer next time around? There are a lot of options these days, particularly with self-publishing. If you decide to go that route, make sure you understand what it’ll take, and make sure you demand a high enough standard of quality from yourself. If your dream is worth it, work for it.

 

Many thanks to R.C. who took time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions. I hope her story will inspire you to push on with your own writing.

 

 

 

 

R.C. Lewis is a self-avowed science geek and linguaphile who  merges both passions into writing science fiction and fantasy for young  adults. When not writing, R.C. teaches math—that’s right, math—and has done so with both hearing and deaf teens. She’s represented by Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Check out her blog at www.crossingthehelix.blogspot.com

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday

 

 

I love following other aspiring writer’s blogs.  It’s fun to watch their progress and somewhat comforting to hear they have the same struggles I do when it comes to editing, querying etc… But one of the most amazing aspects of following these blogs is when the writer posts what is known within literary circles as “The Call…”

 

For those of you not familiar with this phrase, this is when the author posts news that they are officially agented.  I must admit I am a sucker for these posts – they always motivate me to keep writing.

 

I have been reading quite a few “The Call” posts lately and it made me wonder about the author’s odyssey to that final success. Had they been writing for years without a bite, until one manuscript finally struck gold?  Or was this their first lucky shot?  Did they come close in a R&R (revise-and-resubmit) only for it not to happen?

 

Recently, I started reaching out to new authors and began asking about their journeys. Their answers have now become a new series I am going to call –  W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday.

 

Each of the authors’ stories of success are incredibly inspiring as well as encouraging. They had a dream.  They wrote for long hours.  Edited until the words blurred into a jumbled mess.  Battled the query monster and succeeded. Their stories reflect what we already know about the craft of writing – if you want it and are willing to work hard – it will happen. It’s all a matter of finding the right spark and seeing it through.

 

So please join me each Wednesday as I profile an author’s writing odyssey.  I can guarantee that after reading their story you will be itching to get back to writing.

 

If you know of a writer that should be profiled, or you have an inspiring journey you’d like to share, please reply in the comments below.  I’d love to hear your story.

 

Amy

 

First post tomorrow:  R.C. Lewis’s Journey

 

Believing in the K.I.S.S. Method June 9, 2012

 

I just finished writing a short story for a contest over at teenreads.com.   Entries are to be a modern retelling of a fairy tale or legend.  The creative challenge inspired me and it didn’t take long to come up with a great idea.

 

I pounded out the story, and because it couldn’t be any more than 1,200 words, did a lot of editing. When I finished, I read it to my 11-year-old daughter who was the perfect target audience.  As I recited the final word, I waited for her seal of approval.  She sighed, looked at me, and shook her head. Not a good sign.  Then she said in her most serious tone, “You’re overwriting Mom.”

 

If there was ever a time to insert  the cliché “out of the mouths of babes” it would be right here.

 

I was shocked by her comment at first.  Stunned, I stumbled out of the room, went somewhere quiet, and read it again.  Really read it this time, thinking about the intended audience.  My daughter was right.  My words were too big. My transitions too jarring. In just 1,198 words, I had created a convoluted mess.

 

The experience reminded me of an encounter I had with one of my first English teachers in college.  After reading one of my first short stories, he too claimed I should join the local chapter of Overwriters Anonymous.  He droned over and over in class that the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) Method should always be employed when crafting any story.

 

My papers bled red ink at the beginning of the semester, but once I implemented his theory, my stories turned into tales I was proud of.  The prose was clean.  The plot clear.  The climax stunning. And the end satisfying.  The idea is so simple, yet brilliant, how had I managed to forget it?

 

So now the piece is rewritten, and ready to send, thanks to the K.I.S.S. Method.  I don’t know if it will win, but  I will tell you after my daughter read the revision, she patted me on the shoulder, and proudly said, “Now that’s a cool story.” Enough said.

 

Amy

 

 

 

YA Flash Fiction June 5, 2012

 

 

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am a big fan of getting out of your writing comfort zone.  I am currently polishing a short story for a contest over on Teenreads.com, and I just sent another flash fiction entry over to the WOW Women on Writing website for their spring contest. Taking on these projects takes time away from my current edits, but I feel it makes my writing overall so much better.

 

What I am finding, as I take on these new writing challenges, is that I am always gearing my stories toward the YA market.  Makes sense.  Both of my finished manuscripts are YA and every story I wrote for my writing class was YA- focused. With this in mind, I started googling and yahooing my way through the web trying to find flash fiction contests that centered on YA.  The market is so big for this audience I thought for sure there would be dozens of sites looking for this type of material. I was so wrong.  I only found one or two sites that were looking for stories and those contest opportunities had already come and gone.

 

With this in mind, I decided I’d start a new feature on this blog where I spotlight an aspiring YA writer who wants to submit a flash fiction story.  Along with publishing their story, I’d like to share their bio and inspiration behind the flash fiction piece.

 

As this is YA, all submissions will need to appeal to this audience and the content and language appropriate. The story should be NO MORE than 750 words.  Make sure it has a clear beginning, middle and end and truly grasps what the YA audience is interested in reading.  It can be of any genre: contemporary, paranormal, fantasy, steampunk, as long as it falls into the YA criteria of having an MC that is between the ages of 15 and 18 years old.

 

If you are interested in submitting, please comment on this blog and include your story.  If I receive enough response I’ll try to publish one story a week. Be sure to include your bio, and your social media platforms. You do not need to follow my blog to participate – but I would LOVE IT if you did! Please also pass the world along to any and all writer friends who are interested in providing a piece for this audience. You don’t necessarily have to write YA full-time in order to provide a YA piece.

 

I look forward to hearing from you and reading your stories!

 

The Writer’s Quandary

 

I felt so accomplished when I wrote “The End” on my first manuscript.  It was an achievement I had worked on for two years and felt so proud of.  As a “newbie” I donned my rose-colored glasses and went about the process of doing minor revisions before sending out my first queries.

 

I was dismayed after receiving numerous form rejections, but this was to be expected.  I knew getting my first MS published was a shot in the dark, but I persevered.  That was until I went to my second writers conference. Luckily, it wasn’t a conference where I had to book a hotel and a flight.  It was a local writer’s event in my hometown and promised to be helpful.  I was sure that my MS was gold and just needed a few tweaks before it could be published.  My concept and MC were original – it was bound to happen. Right?

 

It took me about an hour into the conference to realize how wrong I was.  At the agent’s panel they went over the do’s and don’ts of queries. Then someone asked the agents what they were tired of seeing. Two agents from the same well-respected agency looked at each other and then repeated verbatim my story idea, plot, as well as everything down to the hair color I had chosen for my MC. Oh cr..! I was sunk.  What was I going to do?  All that hard work down the drain.

 

I licked my wounds for several weeks after that and then woke up one morning resolved to come up with an even better MS.  I sat down and plotted and outlined for days and then wrote my next MS in six months. I was so happy with the results that I went and pitched it at a writers conference in NY.  Imagine my elation when I got two requests for pages from MAJOR publishers. Needless to say, I did the happy dance all the way home.

 

I was cautioned though that I should really be sure my first 50 pages were as polished as possible before sending. I toiled for months.  Then I learned that one of the editors no longer worked for said “major publisher.” That’s all right I thought, I’ve still got one on the hook.

 

Well, here I am six months later and I still haven’t sent anything to the second publisher.  Why? You may ask. Is it fear? Worry that my pages aren’t worthy of going to a major publisher? Honestly, I don’t know the answer. I am still here today toiling and moaning over the smallest detail.  I finally gave in and sent my MS to a professional editor for help.

 

Was this the right choice?  I’m still wondering.  He had some great comments and suggestions but it means a major overhaul and I’m left wondering if I’ve got it in me right now.  As soon as I sit down to write, I open my word documents to other stories I’ve got boiling rather than my current MS. There is something holding me back and I’m not sure what it is. IT IS DRIVING ME CRAZY.

 

So I put this out there to all my fellow writers (published & unpublished). Am I the only one in this writer’s quandary? Unable to let go of a project that perhaps should have seen the inside of a drawer a long time ago?  Let me know.  I’d love to hear your stories.

 

Amy

 

 
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