“Where words fail, music speaks.” ― Hans Christian Andersen
I’ve hit a number of writer blocks in the years since I began writing Capture the Tide. And an interesting thing I noticed, about myself, is it wasn’t so much that I didn’t have an idea. But I couldn’t find the mood. I remember driving in my car and listening to the radio. And this song came on, I liked it so much I bought it for a buck 29 on iTunes! Anyway, why did I like it….. as I listened, an entire scene unfolded in my head, it was everything I needed. I simply needed to feel the feeling, hear it, away from the sterile blue light of a computer screen. The intense rawness of new love, of being young and totally impetuous. It’s so easy to forget those feelings when your day’s full of toddlers or you’re feverishly typing notes into your phone between ballet classes and lunch time.
I should note that if you find yourself having those wondrous feelings, enjoy them, please don’t stop to write them down for fucks sake!
This question seems to pop up a lot, here’s my take:
What kind of writer are you? Do you stream consciousness, shoot first and ask questions later? Or are you an airtight, color coded, outliner with a calendar of to dos?
I’d like to say I’m something in between… but I’d be fuckin lie’n if I did. 😉
My first novel came to me as a vague dream and one sentence. I taught myself to write by editing and rewriting the first 10 chapters. What did I learn?
I learned that the voice that is passive sucks, and adverbs suckingly suck.
(I filtered paragraphs through free websites like Hemingway.com and pro writing aid to learn this.)
I came a long way writing those 10 chapters over and over. By the end of 7 years I finished the remaining 21 chapters with a pretty defined picture of where the arcs and ending would take me, a journal of hard to read notes and a hope for what the hell I’d do with this infernal book when I was done.
With all my hard work I decided to invest in a pro editor from skribendi. (Its worth it! And no one told me to say that.)
And now? Working on a query package that will slay em dead. Because if your query’s bla, agents and publishers won’t even turn the proverbial page. (I know this because the internet told me.)
Feel free to share what kind of writer you are through comments.
Paid book reviews and the independent or emerging author.
Is it worth the cost or the effort? Good question. Here’s my take.
I entered the Readers Choice Awards Contest the last day of the deadline. My book wasn’t finished by my editor yet but I really wanted to find some literary street cred and based on my research, this contest is the real deal. Not only do they judge completed works, they also judge unpublished works. Exactly what I needed. For more info go to http://www.readersfavorite.com
Needless to say. I did not win the contest. If you’ve followed my blog for some time, you’ll know I’ve had my fair share of rewrites since I started my journey and my book is a different book today. However… I did submit an updated manuscript to be reviewed and got a really nice 5 star review for my novel CAPTURE THE TIDE. I will post the review below. I’m pretty pleased with it.
Now, some people might think that a paid review is meaningless. You’ve probably seen them on Amazon or something, but it doesn’t mean that all paid reviews are equal and that they don’t have value. As an emerging writer, I see no reason not to take opportunities that give you legitimacy. Everyone knows that a strong platform pays. Agents love a platform, and even better? A platform with a healthy following. And I’m working on that here. I don’t have staggering numbers like some literary bloggers, but I am pleased with the growth of my website and blog. But up until now I have mostly talked about my writing process and managing mom life with entrepreneuring, I haven’t actually discussed my book itself with much detail. And I think its time to change that. So for the first time on http://www.amy-westphal.com I’d like to use my professional review to share a taste of what CAPTURE THE TIDE is all about.
Readers Favorite Book review for CAPTURE THE TIDE by Amy Westphal
Reviewed By Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers’ Favorite
“Life is ugly, gritty, complicated, glorious, and beautiful. But not pretty. Stories are pretty, saccharin tales of black and white and no gray.” It takes Lauren a remarkable journey of discovery to learn those simple truths about life and about humanity as a whole. There will always be the good and the bad, the glorious and the evil, the happy and the sad. Even with a fresh start, a cleansing if you will, humanity will always recover with the same mix and make the same mistakes. When an asteroid hits Lauren’s world, it takes away her home, her family, her life. She has to start again. But she is not alone. And once she discovers that simple fact, she is able to fit together again the pieces of the puzzle that disrupted her life and will create her new life.
Amy Westphal’s novel, Capture the Tide, is more than an Armageddon story of total destruction and the survival of the few in the aftermath of disaster. It’s a powerful story about the human tenacity to recover and to try again, to survive in the best possible way under unknown, uncertain circumstances. The plot develops from Lauren’s entrapment in a bomb shelter, securely locked away for two years with no connection to the outside world. She has no idea what will await her when the clock finally ticks down and the lock on the door disengages. She finds a world totally different from the one she remembered, but also a world not so different. There are the good, the bad and the ugly, as well as the glorious and beautiful everywhere she wanders. Until she finds her family again and a way to create a new life for herself. A powerful plot that outlines the many faces of humanity. The description invites the reader right into the story and the characters are so real that the reader feels they know them intimately.
So honestly my darlings, what do you think? Does this sound like a book you would like to read? Inquiring minds (mine) want to know..
I am the patron saint of mediocrity. Antonio Salieri, Amadeus
For the past few days I have been in a pit of rewrites for my novel. After a handful of rejections from agents, I have done what the internet told me to do: review my first five pages.
First I read them over and tried to lightly edit. That didn’t work. So I deleted them and started over. I have printed them out, draft after draft, scribbled on them, crumpled, ripped, chucked… And just when I thought I was getting somewhere I was told they were so overwritten they couldn’t be read. 😔 That sucked…
So I recoiled into a ball of self-pity and sulked, cursing the very notion that I had a right to write a book.
And now? I am finally getting somewhere, I’m close to trying to shop it again. I might end up in another sulking assball but that’s okay.
They say the pen is mightier than the sword. It might cut deeper too. But nobody said this shit was easy. My advice? If you want to be a writer, keep writing, write more, write often, and be tough. Your book is yours but it is not you. Separate the work from the person you are and be proud that you aspire to something, because that is something.
I’m drowning here, and you’re describing the water!
-Melvin Udall, As Good As It Gets
This post is about the importance of critique partners and beta readers.
So you wrote a book and had it edited, your mama and your friends love it. So obviously, you’re ready to hit the query trenches.
I learned this one the hard way.
Even your smartest, most well read loved ones are not enough. And your editor? Their job is to clean up your book with out destroying the integrity of your writing. But if your integrity is questionable, you have a problem.
NOT ONE OF THESE PEOPLE ARE GOING TO TELL YOU YOUR NOVEL SUCKS.
So who will tell you your shit sucks? Hopefully your CP will. And perhaps a beta or two who have no need to stroke your fragile ego.
So now that you know you need one, where do you find a CP?
I only have one answer for this, and please advise that this is only my opinion, I advise you to take to the internet. Join a writing group, connect with fellow bloggers on WordPress (👍) and cut a deal.
If you don’t find someone suitable to CP with, you could look up people willing to beta read for a small fee. Or, if you are time and cash-strapped, you could check out the super awesome resource http://www.querytracker.com that I mentioned in Query, Querying, Queried…and sign up to post in the forums. Here you can not only post your query for anonomous critique, you can also submit your first five pages for a critique too! Just remember to reciprocate.
I love haiku, I find it very cathartic. So much that my novels protagonist writes Haiku.
For me, utilizing poetry in my fiction novel offered another level of depth I was searching for. For both my writing and my protagonists character. But how do you take that further? Music, Art, Astro physics? How do you merge your passions and create a deep and believable world full of history and meaning?
I’ve spent a month in the blogosphere and I am still in awe of the incredible artists I have encountered. Novelists, poets, lifestylers, storytellers…..writers. It’s good company to be in. And it got me into some inspired thinking….
Feel free to tell me how you merge your passions in the comments….I love it…..Until then, I’ll be rubbing all my sticks together to see if they make fire🔥
I recently blogged about my querying journey, but how did I get there? Let me backtrack a bit and talk bout editing…
You’ve written a book, now what? Now it’s time to edit. Oh you already did? Ran it through spell checks, reread it a hundred times? That’s nice. You haven’t been edited though.
If you’re serious about launching your book and you don’t find a pro, you are doing yourself an enormous disservice. Even the best writers need a fresh eye.
So what do you do? If you’re lucky, you know someone who will do it for free or a small fee. Or if you’re more lucky, you can rely on critique partners and beta readers to help you work it right. If you’re me, you got Nothing and need to start from scratch.
I researched local editors first. People I could meet in person. I found a few. They had different styles, all valuable but Difficult for me to life manage, so I checked out internet services. There are a lot of those too!
Here is what I learned:
Benefits of In house editor- offer the chance to meet in person or Skype. Together you can go line by line and really get gritty with your work. Time consuming but a great option.
Benefits of Internet services- offers you opportunity to send them your work and they will edit your book using a tracker on Microsoft word, that way you can see every change they make or suggest, always keeping the integrity of your work in tact.
This is what I chose:
I chose the internet. Quick efficient and time tested.
I recommend skribendi, book baby or standout books. Each are excellent. I particularly love the comments and questions from my editor that allowed me To make the change, or take a suggestion, or to note any inconsistencies. And even better? It works with my limited schedule. I will admit that pros on either platform aren’t free. But it’s an investment in your career right?
So what’s your editing process? Tips to share or questions? Let me know in the comments. I love it!
Literary agents. How do you find one that’s right for you?
I’m currently querying….
And this is what I’ve learned:
In the meantime I thought I’d share my process and some processes I’ve learned.
1- make a list of all the agents that fit your genre, and are accepting submissions.
2- put those agents in order of preference. (I would recommend searching quick responders to get your toes wet, querytracker helps you there.)
3- indicate on your list, the agents submission guidelines, estimated response time and whether the agency is a no from all or free to query another after a pass. You may also note something unique about them to help keep memory fresh.
4- send out batches of 5-10 queries and find something to distract you while you wait.
And how do you organize said list???
If you’re computer smart (not Amy) I recommend using an excel spreadsheet.
If you crazy, I’d just send out emails in batches of 10 to random agents and see what happens…
What an amazing resource for querying writers. Querytracker allows you to upload your query letter and select agents from their database to query. It helps you track all the info above plus clues you into a plethora of details about the agent.
And it’s free, unless you go premium for 25$
And if you struggle to busy yourself with something other than your hopes and dreams in the palm of someone else’s hand, you could always twitter and tumblr stalk your favorite agents. Some of them update when they are caught up reading by a certain date. You don’t even need accounts to do it… I wouldn’t know anything about this of course😉