Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Jody Holford September 2, 2015





Stories of perseverance always stay with me. The ones where folks get knocked down time and again and still manage to brush themselves off and keep going. In this series I’ve featured a lot of success stories where people have been rejected yet returned to writing better – stronger. Today’s W.O.W. with Jody Holford is one of those stories.





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


Jody: In 2012, I attended a writing conference with the intention of sharing my picture books. At the time, I knew nothing of how the process worked—getting an agent, getting published, any of it. When I sat down with an agent and she expressed interest, giving me her card and asking me to email her, I thought she was just being nice. But within the month, she’d asked to rep my book. While that relationship didn’t work out, my desire to see my work published began to really take root; it became less of a hobby and more of an actual goal.





Amy: How many manuscripts had you completed prior to the novel that connected you to your agent?


Jody: In total, over the last 3 years, Fran read three of my manuscripts. In that time, I worked hard to learn more about writing and the publishing industry in general. It paid off, as it was the third try that hooked her.





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


Jody: I used to think my process was more unique than others, but I don’t know that it was. I was quickly agented, before I knew how hard it was to get an agent. That lasted less than six months, which put me back to querying (new genre entirely). I briefly signed with someone else in between, but feeling more confident about my understanding of the agent/author relationship, I knew it wasn’t right for me. It was hard to take that step and I queried for almost another year before Fran signed me this summer. It’s the waiting that is hard—the getting your hopes up and not letting rejection push you back so far you’re unwilling to try again. So, I guess, on a scale of one to “I’m never writing again”, there were times when it tipped both ends and times it was right in the middle.





Amy: Publishing can be a very difficult business. What do you think has inspired you to keep writing through good times and bad?


Jody: Honestly? People. My husband. My best friend. My daughters. My mom. Good friends. People I’ve really connected to via FB and Twitter. Without those people, even agents that rejected but ultimately encouraged, I wouldn’t have kept going. It becomes less about the writing sometimes and more about the process. You can get lost in the process and forget why you started. There were many times I just didn’t know if I had anything left. They assured me I did. They’ve read my work, talked me down, talked me up, listened when I needed them to, didn’t listen when I said I was quitting. I cannot stress how important it is to have people in your life who care enough to tell you the truth (preferably in a way that won’t rip your heart out of your chest). I am so incredibly lucky. Which is why, if I ever get rich (ha-ha) I will buy them all matching buddy bracelets.




Amy: From reading your website, I understand you’d been talking back and forth, and sharing stories with your agent, Fran Black before you signed with her. How did that unique relationship come about and how did you know she was the right fit for you?


Jody: This question makes me very smiley. When I parted ways with my first agent, I’d switched from writing PB to writing romance. Fran was one of the first agents I queried with a story called Sweet Seconds. She ultimately rejected it but she was just so straight-forward about it: she said, “I really like it, it’s a really nice story, but I don’t think I can sell it right now.” When I reached out to send another, she was completely receptive. I’ve actually sent her four manuscripts. On the third, she was, once again, completely upfront. She said my words just weren’t digging deep enough. She said she thought I could do it, but I hadn’t done it yet.


And because I couldn’t wrap my head around how to do it but knew I was improving with every story, I sent her my latest one. She emailed and said I was off to a good start. She did that more than once—updated me to let me know where she was at, even before she signed me. And I loved/love that. Then she emailed and said she really liked it and was going to do some research and she’d get back to me in a week. Before the week was up, she emailed and asked if I could talk. I actually planned not to say yes during that phone call because I had the book out with other agents, one of whom was trying to read quickly because she knew I was close to getting an offer. But there was Fran, phoning my house with her perfect New York accent and straight-up, no-nonsense words and I couldn’t help it. She’s honest and upfront and she won’t tell me she likes something if she doesn’t. She communicates and, as an obsessive-anxious person, that means the most. And that’s what sealed it for me. On agent appreciation day on Twitter, when she wasn’t my agent yet, I thanked her because I felt like she’d supported my journey from the beginning—good or bad, yes or no. So. To be completely corny, she had me at ‘hello’.




Amy: If you were giving a keynote speech at a writers conference, what would be the most important piece of advice you would share?


Jody: I would want people to know that everyone’s journey is different, but it’s also the same. You need to surround yourself with people you trust—which unfortunately takes some learning the hard way about who you can’t. You have to be able to reach out to others and understand that those authors you admire, the ones you feel like you couldn’t be in the same room with because you’d embarrass yourself—they’ve all been right where you are now. It takes courage to keep going after someone tells you your work just wasn’t right for them. It takes courage to reach out to people you admire and say hey, I’m struggling and I don’t know why. It takes strength to listen and hear their answers and to improve your craft. Writing is an industry where there is room for everyone to succeed. Success comes from working hard, surrounding yourself with good people, giving back, and continuing to move forward even if you trip along the way.





Jody HJody Holford lives in British Columbia with her husband and two daughters. She’s a huge fan of Rainbow Rowell, Nora Roberts, Jill Shalvis, and Emily Giffen. She’s unintentionally funny and rarely on time for anything. She loves books, Converse shoes, and diet Pepsi, in no particular order. When she has to go out into the real world, she’s a teacher. She writes multiple genres but her favourite is romance because she’s a big fan of love and finding happily ever after. Probably because she’s lucky enough to have both. For more on Jody, follow her on Twitter @1prncs .  On her website or on Goodreads or Facebook.






Monday Musings: You Are Your Brand August 24, 2015

Filed under: Blog,Publishing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 10:19 am
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When I received my college degree in journalism I thought I had a pretty good idea about what I wanted to do with my life. I’d had an internship the previous summer and was lucky enough to get a job via that opportunity. With my little Honda loaded down one hot June morning, I drove the long eight hours to my new home and job in Los Angeles.



While the work was fun, and I met a lot of great people, I realized after a year L.A. wasn’t for me. I packed up once again and headed back to Arizona without a job, or a clue, about what I was going to do next. Luckily enough a few months later the stars aligned and I landed a dream job in advertising. Now to a lot of people the world of advertising seems glamorous (and it can be at times), but really it’s a lot of hard work, late nights, and many, many weekends if you want to get ahead.



One of my first tasks in my new job was to help with an account the agency had just landed. It was a start-up and needed the works: an introductory campaign, a memorable tagline, an eye-catching logo, etc. The work was thrilling, especially watching the brand grow from the bottom up. I learned how copywriters formulated what they wanted to say. How the client reacted, and most important of all, how the public accepted the company (and the brand). Later, I went on to work in marketing and public relations and saw branding in a new light. With established brands it was all about keeping the integrity of the image. How in each and every situation we wanted the public to view that company.



What does this have to do with writing you may ask? Well, it’s simple – like a company, you as a writer are in charge of your own brand. How you want people in the marketplace to see you. This doesn’t just boil down to what category and genre you write in, but how you portray yourself as a person to the public at large.



Social media provides an amazing chance for writers to build their brand. Through avenues like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram, authors can share ideas, lines from their works-in-progress, cover reveals, even buy links to their books. In earlier days the only way you could promote a book was via an end cap at the bookstore, or by snagging a good review in a newspaper or magazine. Now there are countless opportunities to promote yourself and your work.



While the world had opened up in this great way, it has also generated a broad canvas for writers to damage their image and brand too. Recently, I’ve seen authors go off on long, angry tangents about industry issues. Watched as frustrated writers trying to land an agent, skewer a name or two. Even those who are participating in contests go off the deep end when their work isn’t selected.



It’s easy to get upset. These are real issues that mean a great deal to us, but in any and all of these situations there needs to be a cooling off period. A time to type a nasty rant into that “Tweet” box and then use that lovely out called “save draft.” The key is to measure how much you want to share, knowing every word will affect your brand. Personally, I’ve stopped following certain writers, and no longer buy their books, because their messages have turned angry, and in certain situations down right cruel. I can’t think of a worse way to damage your brand then by ostracizing those who once believed in you .



In my opinion there are many great writers who use social media to their advantage. They use Twitter, Facebook, and even their own websites, to build their image in a way that keeps their audience begging for more. Their posts aren’t only about their work, but about helping other writers. Some even share writing tips and insider information on their own paths to publication. They are careful about what they share and how they share it. Sure, a few have had their own moments of fury, but in the end somehow they’ve circled it back to how it affects their work, and what they want to bring to their readers.



Personally, I have a very solid idea of how I want to brand myself. I went into writing knowing it was going to be a long, hard road. I’ve worked in many difficult industries and learned that if you want to succeed you have to keep your head down, take a few knocks along the way, and keep going. When I started blogging, and being active on social media, I knew I wanted to be honest about my journey, but also take a positive stance on the experience. Sure, I’ve had my moments when I’ve let my guard down and shown my frustration, but it was measured and thought out – always keeping in mind how I want my readers to see me.



In the end, only one person can control your brand-you. Whether you are a seasoned vet, or just starting out, it helps to be mindful of how you want your readers to view you. In heated situations this may be difficult to remember, but if you want to be in the publishing game for the long haul, it helps to remember that every word, every image, is telling your reader something about who you are and how you write. Be mindful of what you share. In the long run, you will be much happier and so will your audience.



What about you? Do you think about your brand? How your readers see you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.








First Five Frenzy with Brent Taylor of Triada US, Inc. August 21, 2015


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If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript. You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight. You examine the next few paragraphs hoping your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.


The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first pages of a manuscript. It’s tricky to get just the right balance, but I hope by reading each agent’s comments you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.


Today I’m proud to share Literary Agent, Brent Taylor’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.





Amy: There is a belief among many writers that having a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?


Brent: Very important. I am more forgiving for bad query letters than I am for bad writing samples. Because of the amount of queries I receive in a day, I have to move quickly – there are just so many other things going on. When I open a query letter, I skim to see the genre, category, and word count. Then, I jump straight into the writing. If a first line is weak, it’s not a good sign. That being said, I will usually suspend that prejudice and give it about five pages before I give up completely. If I’m really excited about the writing, then I’ll go back and read the query letter before requesting or rejecting.





Amy: Many times a writer is told to stay away from common openings like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, etc. What are some common openings you recommend writers stay away from?


Brent: All of them. If you can describe something as “common” and “cliché,” then stay away from it. Of course, sometimes it’s not always that black and white, and you really have to stay true to your creative license as a storyteller. My best advice here is to just be really critical of where you start your novel. Ask yourself all of the questions: Does the story have to start here? Why does the story start here? Is there an alternate opening that makes more sense?


I see a lot of openings that are fine, but just not great. A great opening entices the reader with the voice or the writing, and then makes them ask questions about the protagonist and their circumstances.





Amy: When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?


Brent: It can be many things! Writing is very important to me as a reader and an agent, so a handful of good sentences alongside a fresh premise is usually what seals the deal that I’ll ask for a full manuscript. But sometimes I’m just intrigued to see where a story will go, or if I’m lukewarm about something, I’ll try to give it a chance and see if the writing and story take a turn for the better.





Amy: What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?


Brent: Starting their stories in stagnant places. Placing the reader in scenes where there is no forward momentum.




Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?


Brent: All of the above. I like books that are well-written, but also appeal to a wide, commercial audience. I want stories and voices that I’ve never encountered before. Pacing, however, is one of the biggest reasons I reject novels. If the writing impresses me, though, I’ll usually request a manuscript anyway, just in case everything clicks 25 pages later.



Brent Taylor joined Triada US, Inc. as an assistant to the agency’s founder in 2014. Prior to that, he interned at The Bent Agency. He represents a wide range of upmarket fiction for kids, teens, and adults: middle grade, young adult, graphic novels, women’s fiction, literary fiction, and crime fiction. You can find him on Twitter @NaughtyBrent.


For submission guidelines, please visit his Publishers Marketplace page:



Monday Musings: What I Learned On My Summer Hiatus August 10, 2015

Filed under: Blog,Publishing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 8:27 am
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It feels really good to be back to blogging again, although I have to admit I enjoyed the break. When I was thinking about what I wanted to say in this post, I came up with a very fitting title, but it was so long it wouldn’t fit in the header. Before I edited it down, the title of this entry was, “My Summer Hiatus: What I learned from binge-watching Veronica Mars, being nudged from the circle, and dropping out of social media.” A mouthful, I know. But really, this title encompasses everything I experienced this summer and what I want to share today.



Topic 1: Veronica Mars






Three weeks. Three seasons. One movie. No joke.


My love for Veronica Mars knows no bounds.


From a writing perspective Veronica Mars is a case study in how to hit amazing storytelling marks. The character development was beyond incredible (P.S. – Keith Mars is the bomb!!) The thread of the mystery in each season was meticulous. But most important of all, even though the main storyline ended at the conclusion of Season 1, I was still dying to follow Veronica through her adventures and into the next season. This is a great feat in itself. How many first seasons have you binge-watched and then decided Season 2 wasn’t worth the time? For me, this has happened a lot.


For those writing a trilogy, VM is a great example of how to build interest in a story while still developing character. It taught me how to grow the personalities I’ve built, while still feeding off backstory. How to incorporate pacing and dialogue to draw in an audience. Oh, and how to create a smoking hot relationship. Hello, LOVE (Logan and Veronica!)


If you enjoy mystery, fast-paced storytelling, and are looking for a show with an incredible cast of characters, I highly recommend you watch Veronica Mars as soon as you can. As a writer, you will find it invaluable.



Topic 2: Being Nudged From the Circle (Why it’ll be okay)


Over the years I’ve made incredible friendships in the writing community. Like many friendships though they change over time. Some get stronger. Others fade away. When they fade away, it’s hard not to take it personally. You still want to be in that circle. To add value. Be asked for your opinion.


But sometimes people grow faster than you. Experience change. They find others who are on the same rocket ship toward success. It’s hard to admit you no longer belong. That your path may be slower. Realizing this may be the hardest thing to accept, but if you’re going to succeed you need to acknowledge that your friendship/skill set may no longer fit into what other people want or need. Accepting this is the key to moving on and finding others who are in the same place as you.


No matter what happens, it’s important to keep writing and reaching out to the community to make those all important connections.



Topic 3: The Highs and Lows of Social Media


As a blogger, social media has helped me build my reader base. Without Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr my posts would receive a lot less exposure. I’d be behind on industry changes, and clueless about new trends in writing. In many ways social media is important to a writer, but if left unchecked, it can also be harmful. Harmful? Yes, harmful and here’s why: social media exposes you to other writers’ experiences. And while many times this is a good thing, it can also create a sort of repressed anxiety and anger.


If you’ve been on sub as long as Writer A and they sell their book, you can’t help but wonder what you’re doing wrong. When Writer B just entered the query trenches, then quickly lands an agent, and you’ve been working at it for years, it’s easy to get down.


I know I’m always the one saying follow your own path. Don’t compare yourself. Everyone has a different journey. I still believe that, but I’m human, and doubt can creep in and be a seriously hurtful thing. Sometimes stepping completely away from the blitz of news and announcements can be a good thing, not only for your writing career, but also your mental well-being.




(My happy place – The Hotel Del Coronado)



As you can tell, even with a break, I never stopped thinking about writing. What my time away proved was that at my deepest core I am a writer. Stories will continue to churn in my head no matter how hard I try to repress them. My hiatus taught me that my love of creating will always be there, but I need to give my mind a bit of breathing room in order to let it flourish!



I hope you all had a fantastic summer. Can’t wait to see what fall brings!





 (My new favorite saying and life motto!)


Monday Musings: Taking A Break June 8, 2015

Filed under: Blog,creative writing,Publishing — chasingthecrazies @ 1:00 pm
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Ferris Wheel





Most of my childhood memories from summer involve rollercoasters, log rides, or turns on the Ferris Wheel. The reason why is pretty simple. I grew up a fifteen minute drive from Disneyland. At night you could actually climb onto my roof and watch the fireworks in the distance. Living so close to Disneyland fed an obsession I had for rollercoasters and anything that would turn me upside down, spin me around, or basically twist in the air. I loved the feeling of free-falling when the log ride dropped me down that final chute, or the inability to walk a straight line after a speedy turn on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.




Funny how nowadays I feel like my life has turned into one long spin on the teacups. For the last year I’ve been in sort of a whirlwind. Trying to get a handle on being in the publishing world (querying, signing with an agent, working on two new books) has in a lot of ways made me feel like I’m on 100 mph ride that does not want to stop.




Don’t get me wrong, I feel absolutely blessed to be in the great position I’m in. Writing every day. Working on new ideas is a blessing I don’t take for granted for a second. But I must admit that in a lot of ways it has taken over my life in a way that’s not really healthy. Important things have fallen by the wayside. Events I should be paying more attention to have sort of slipped away. Honestly, my life feels really out of balance and it’s taken my focus away from important things that matter a great deal to me.




With this in mind, I’ve decided to take the next month and a half to restore my life back to normality. Part of this means focusing on the here and now. Being present in the moment. But that’s hard to do when you’re constantly worried about being active on social media or what you’re going to post on your blog for the next several weeks. So I’ve made the decision to go quiet for a while. Fall in love with a few good books. Take the time to reconnect with family and friends. But most important: take a breath and remind myself why I love to write.




I hope you’ll stop back in August when I return. There are lots of cool things in the works including many more successful queries to share, as well as an important BEHIND THE CURTAIN post you won’t want to miss.




My wish for you is a summer filled with precious memories. I hope you’ll drink some lemonade. Watch the sunset. Maybe get your feet wet in the sand. But most of all, I hope you’ll hug the ones closest to you. They are really what this life is all about.









BEHIND THE CURTAIN – Listening To Your Gut – A guest post from Christina Lee June 3, 2015

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Even though we are in an age where information is readily at hand, it still seems many things in the publishing world are kept in the dark. Things that we’re taught not to talk about or share. One of these things is rejection and how long it takes to sell a book.



The authors who seem to get the most exposure are the ones who have whirlwind experiences. They write and sell their first book in a year and suddenly they’re on the New York Times Bestseller list. As most writers know, this is NOT the norm. But for those outside of publishing, that’s all they see. This exposure puts pressure on a lot of writers to sell the first book they’ve got out on sub. If they don’t, they walk away feeling like they’ve not only let themselves down but others who believed in them (agent, family, critique partners).



This leads me to a conversation I had with Christina Lee when I attended my first RT convention. One evening the organizers arranged a scavenger hunt through Bourbon Street. While I was in one location, a good writer friend, A.J. Pine introduced me to an author I really admired, Christina.  I actually had a hard time speaking after we met. I’d  just finished her book, ALL OF YOU and loved it.



As we talked, Christina opened up to me about the ups and downs she went through in publishing before she sold her first book. That conversation was over a year ago and to this day I still think about it vividly.



Her story makes for the perfect “Behind The Curtain” post because many times writers don’t talk about what happened prior to selling their first book. Rejections, unsold books, and failed agent relationships are forced back into the shadows like pieces of dirty laundry everyone is too afraid to talk about. To be honest, by keeping quiet I think we’re doing the writing community a disservice.



If you want to write, then I think you should go into the publishing world with your eyes wide open. You need to be aware that there’s not some magical formula you can create to sell a book. It takes years of hard work, sacrifice, and perseverance for many writers before it happens.



So today I’m proud to share this guest post from Christina Lee. I hope it will touch you and open your eyes to the realities of publishing. We each have our own path and it takes bravery and guts to follow wherever it may lead!






Guest Post From Christina Lee




Thanks for inviting me to write something for your Behind The Curtain series. To tell you a little bit about my journey, I wrote my first book in 2008. It was like a hybrid NA/YA romance that will thankfully never see the light of day. HA!




But finishing that first book was so liberating because I gave it my all and figured out my passion for writing fiction in the process. Plus, I began learning my craft. You can only do that with lots of practice, rewrites, revisions and critiques from other writers.




In hindsight, that wreck of a book still wasn’t ready and no surprise that it was never picked up by an agent. So I began writing another young adult novel immediately. That one got some attention from a few agents but ultimately I had to shelf that book as well.




I landed my first agent with my third YA book. We went on submission, but then something strange happened. She left the business suddenly with no forewarning to her clients. There were other disappointments that went along with that situation (that I won’t mention publicly) but honestly, I should’ve known better. Because in the end, I never listened to my gut when I signed with her. I was so excited about being repped—she seemed cool, legit, loved my book, and had the right contacts—but other things were way off that were red flags.




So I queried again with the same book while writing my fourth. I found an awesome and reputable agent who loved that book, was really passionate about it. We went on a couple rounds of submission, got rejections and R & Rs (revise & resubmits) with no result. So we tried my next book and got even fewer bites.




It was around that time that I got an idea for a new adult romance, but I knew my agent only repped YA. I wrote the book anyway and did it with wild abandon. It opened up this new world for me. A world I didn’t realize I was passionate about from the writer’s side, only from the reader’s side. The world of new adult and adult romance.




I had a candid discussion with my agent about my desire to write in a new category/genre and we ended up parting ways. Our goals had become vastly different. And that’s okay. The important thing was to recognize it.




I considered querying a few agents who were accepting NA submissions at that time, but I was also asking myself some tougher questions about my future goals. Did I want to continue with my dream of traditionally publishing my first book or should I go with a smaller press or maybe self-publish? Just keeping it real here. I wanted to be an author and get my book in reader’s hands. But I also wanted to be smart and put out a great product.




So I queried a handful of agents I thought sounded like the right fit, while I studied the market and talked to other writers about their experiences. I got an immediate response from my current agent, Sara Megibow, who asked for the full, and then contacted me with an offer a couple of days later. And this time around felt especially right. We were on the same page, had the same general philosophy and goals. Especially when it came to communication.




It was all such a whirlwind after that. My book went to auction with six publishing houses. I accepted a two-book deal with Penguin. This spring, my fifth and sixth books will publish with the same house. One is a gay romance and the other is an adult contemporary, so I’m still evolving and challenging myself, and I have an agent in my corner who supports all of that.




So my advice to any new or even seasoned writer would be: Ask yourself some difficult questions and then really listen to your gut. It sounds cliché but that little voice inside of you will never lead you astray. If something feels off—with an agent relationship, or your book, or your offer—if you’re not writing in the genres or age categories you’re most wild about, LISTEN!




Ask yourself what you can or should do differently to meet your goal. And then do it—even if it feels uncomfortable and disappointing at first. Because later on the discomfort may be greater.



Keep trying new things in the general direction of your ultimate dream. Don’t stay static. Always move forward, even in baby steps, to learn and grow and change. Eventually something good will happen!




Christina WOWMother, wife, reader, dreamer. Christina lives in the Midwest with her husband and son–her two favorite guys. She’s addicted to lip gloss and salted caramel everything. She believes in true love and kissing, so writing romance novels has become a dream job.  Author of the Between Breaths series including ALL OF YOU, BEFORE YOU BREAK, WHISPER TO ME, PROMISE ME THIS, and THERE YOU STAND are all available now from Penguin. Her latest release, TWO OF HEARTS, an adult contemporary romance, is now available via Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


She is represented by Sara Megibow of The Nelson Literary Agency. Also the creator of Tags-n-Stones (dot com) jewelry. For more on Christina, check out her website, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.




Monday Musings: All Those Contests June 1, 2015


If you look around the internet these days it seems more frequently than ever new writing contests are popping up. They used to be sporadic throughout the year and now it feels like there’s a contest at least once every month.



If you’re a writer, these contests offer a unique opportunity to hone your query, pitch, and even sometimes your first 250 words or an entire page. In addition, it can get your work in front of some amazing agents who you would otherwise have to query normally via their agency websites (aka “the slush”).



Personally, I have benefited from some of these contests. When I was still querying it gave me the unique opportunity to polish my work and make great contacts/friends in the writing community. In fact, I’ve been so blessed by these contests that I even host one now with Michelle Hauck every January/February. And this brings me to my point…



When Michelle and I did our contest this year we had everything buttoned-up. Almost every agent we asked to participate said “yes.” We were both blown away and grateful. Then when it came time, we opened our submission window and “BOOM” within six minutes all 200 spaces were filled. To say we were both shocked is putting it mildly.



Once all the entries were in, our contest got underway. Our mentors did their jobs (beautifully!) and the posts went up. And then a very sad thing happened. We discovered another person on the internet had started a contest at the same time (a contest that we had never seen advertised – although Michelle and I blew out the doors publicizing ours just to make sure there wasn’t ANY crossover).



Several of our selections also appeared in the other contest. Agents were not happy about the double entries. We smoothed things over and everything worked out.



So Amy, where are you going with all this you may be asking? Here’s the deal: there are a lot of contests out there. Each offering a unique opportunity to share your work. What I caution is you choose wisely. Agents are beginning to see many of the same entries over and over and are tiring of it. This causes them to stop participating in contests.



I get it. Contests cause a frenzy. When you’re proud of your work it makes sense you would want to get it out there. But what I recommend is you take your time and look at what contests can do for you in the broadest scope possible:



1) Help you improve your submission materials


2) Connect you with agents/editors


3) Introduce you to possible critique partners



All these are critical to your process, but they are not the end all be all. If you don’t get selected, don’t let it stop you. Move forward. Improve your craft. Polish up your work as best you can and then send your unsolicited queries. Many times “the slush” gets a bad rap. But I can tell you from personal experience the slush can pay off.



Yes contests are important, but you can’t get caught up in them. Focus on your goals and your writing. Once you’re ready, polish up that query. Get those submission materials required by the agency ready (because you’ve done your research and YOU ARE following the guidelines) and then send them.



At that point, the future is out of your hands. Work on something new. Be confident in your writing and know that if this manuscript isn’t the one, the next one might be. Remember to keep improving. Your “yes” could be right around the corner. It could come from a contest or from the slush. The most important thing to remember is that if you want it bad enough you can NEVER GIVE UP.



Have you entered a writing contest? Did you find it helpful? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.



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