Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Story Behind the Story

The best part of participation in writing contests is the chance to get to know other writers--like the wonderful Brenda Drake who organizes Pitch Wars every year. This year, I had the good fortune to be chosen as a Pitch Wars Mentee by Eden Plantz, who's been helping me whip my manuscript into shape. A big thank you to both Brenda and Eden.

As a 2014 Pitch Wars Mentee, I’ve enjoyed being part of one of the most supportive groups I’ve ever experienced. One among our ranks started a Facebook group for all the Mentees and Alternates where we’ve joined to celebrate, commiserate, and simply be community. Springing from one in that creative bunch was the idea for a blog hop featuring why we wrote our Pitch Wars novel. 

My manuscript, FRAMED, is a tale of starry-eyed dreamers who lose sight of their goals and themselves while chasing fame, an indictment of the spin used in news and social media to build, protect, or destroy image—no matter the cost. 

This story, however, is far different from the original premise. After spending three years on manuscripts built around one set of characters (something I’d been advised against multiple times), I wondered if I could tell another story. Truthfully, focusing on those novels was productive—it was a period of honing my craft, of chipping away at those million words they say it takes to become a proficient writer. But with completion of my first manuscript and its sequels, the inside of my head became too quiet. Could I write outside that world? The fear was real. What if that’s all I had in me?

FRAMED was the startling answer. Within days of posing that question, a story bloomed, triggered by a news report about a celebrity stalker and how she’d taken to social media to defend herself then disappeared. “What if?” questions rose around the news item, filling my head with ideas. I've long been fascinated by "spin" (maybe a result of my days as a corporate lobbyist); and with the advent of social media, spin has been taken to new levels. Since I'm a sucker for love stories involving unlikely pairs in untenable situations, I couldn't resist the obstacle-rich, behind-the-scenes world of celebrity fame as a setting. Unlike my other story ideas, this one came to me in a rush from start to finish with intricate subplots spiraling out from the main plot. After committing it all to paper, all six single-spaced pages of details, I felt like I’d been hit by a Mack truck. But I had my answer. And the best part, it was a story with characters and setting so different from my other manuscripts it gave me confidence and renewed belief in myself as a writer.

It was six months before I pulled out those notes and started writing. Of course, the characters had their own ideas about how the tale should be told, and I allowed them that; so there were plenty of surprises along the way. But that’s part of the fun of a first draft—discovering things along with the characters. I’m happy to say, I have another story brewing, and it, too, is a whole new world to explore. I can’t wait to get started on the next one!

Be sure and visit the other participating Blogs: 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Pitch Wars Tale - This Could Happen to You!

It's Pitch Wars time, again, the contest sponsored by Brenda Drake where writers have the opportunity to find a mentor who'll help them polish their pitch, query, and manuscript for a chance in front of select agents. The competition is tough. Right now, there are over 1,200 writers waiting for September to see if they'll get that chance.

I participated for the first time last year, and although not chosen, I received great feedback and discovered new friends. As the deadline approached this year, I decided to test a different manuscript, so I'm one of the many waiting--a nerve-racking process. For that reason, I thought it might be encouraging to hear from one of last year's Mentees, my critique partner, Paula Garner. It was a contest that initially brought the two of us together, and one of the benefits of participation in contests--finding new writing friends.

Paula J. Garner
Pitch Wars Mentee 2013
Thank you, Paula, for agreeing to answer a few questions and share your experience. You steered clear of social media until I pulled you, kicking and screaming, into Pitch Wars last year, and then onto Twitter. I'm sure there may be participants this year new to both.

Before we talk about your success last year, let's talk about your first foray into social media. Any regrets?

PJG: I have found the most wonderful friends, critique partners, and mentors since joining Twitter. It opened doors I didn't even know were there. So no regrets! Not a one. 

How did it feel hearing you'd been chosen as a Mentee last year? Tell us about your experience.

PJG: I ended up being chosen by a mentor I hadn't pitched to. Lindsey Sprague emailed to ask if I'd be open to sending her a few chapters, and the rest is history. Talk about lucky for me! She read my novel, gave me great feedback, and worked on my pitch with me endlessly. And her hilarious sense of humor kept me laughing through the whole process. And I will never, ever stop singing praises for Brenda Drake, who is the most generous and good-hearted person you'll ever have the luck of knowing. She was so helpful to me through the entire process--all the way until I was signed, in fact.

You wound up with nine requests, and those requests turned into five offers of representation. I know how hard it was making that decision because you had some incredible agents to choose from. How did you decide?

PJG: Having to choose an agent was a little surreal. They were all amazing agents, and I would have been lucky to work with any of them; but in the end, I chose the one who was the best match in terms of personality/style and whose vision for the manuscript best matched mine. Molly Jaffa is brilliant and has a well-earned reputation for being a total class act, but I also love her for her warmth, her constancy, and her wicked sense of humor. Honestly, if I had the whole Pitch Wars thing to do over, I wouldn't have done one single thing differently.

As your CP, I'm familiar with your manuscript and dearly love your characters. You and Molly have been working hard over the last few months getting it ready for submission, and I can't wait to see PHANTOM LIMBS on a bookstore shelf! Could you share a bit about your YA novel?

PJG: How about my pitch from last year's contest? 

Sixteen-year-old Otis copes with grief by swimming, training to fulfill the lost Olympic dream of his tyrannical one-armed friend/self-appointed coach, Dara, but her hold on him is threatened when the only girl he's ever loved moves back to town, forcing Otis to face the tragedy that drove them apart.

Thanks, Paula, for sharing your Pitch Wars experience. Be sure and find Paula on Twitter: @paulajgarner

And a BIG Thank You to Brenda Drake and all the Mentors who volunteer their time and expertise for Pitch Wars!

UPDATE: I made the cut! FRAMED was chosen by Mentor Eden Plantz. The month of September and October will be full of hard work on edits and revisions. Agent round will be in early November. Fingers crossed it could happen to me, too!!