Current Progress: #amwriting #amediting

Things have been going as per usual in my writerly life this week–a little progress, a little frustration. Editing Inductance has been my main focus. As I noted last week, the first ten chapters were a little rough around the edges, but now that I am in the thick of things, it is all sounding very good. Shockingly, I do better with a lot of action and tight suspenseful scenes, even though these are the hardest for me to write! Ironically, I enjoy the characters’ relationships with each other and especially the romance aspect of the story, but these sectors are where I see the most need for editing. I suppose this problem arises from the simple fact that–in all actuality–human emotions and relationships are more complex than an action-y, main characters being chased and escaping from danger type of scene. Thus, as opposed to the tight, driving action of the prose, when I am writing emotional scenes or internal dilemma, those sentences tend to get longer and more complex, and need more editorial attention.

On the whole, however, editing has been a very painless process. In fact, it has bolstered my self-confidence! As I am editing along and find myself not wanting to stop because I want to stay immersed in the story, I feel a great sense of pride–I even have myself (the author) hooked on the story! Pride and a sense of accomplishment are great sensations to feel in the author’s cruel world of agent denials and constant self-doubt. The only thing about Inductance which gives me trepidation is the word count–78,000 words is a little slim, compared to Capacitance which stood at 89,000 words. I feel great about the way the story arcs and finds its own sort of resolution and set up for the next novel, but the word count still makes me a little nervous. Perhaps I need to explore the idea of inserting another storyline somewhere in the novel. I have some ideas–for instance one my secondary characters from the first book has not shown her face in the second book. Characters have talked about her, but she is not present. I can’t decide if that’s something I should take up and insert to create a higher word count. However, I had in the back of my mind thought about bringing her back in a certain way in the third book which I think would be very effective. Hopefully, once I get through the initial edit and have the full sense of a straight read through the story I might have a better idea of what to insert.

The final note of progress (which is also a note of frustration) which I have to report this week is that I officially started Resistance! While I had composed the first sentence already, this week I went ahead, swallowed my procrastination and wrote the first chapter. And I absolutely love the way it came out! Now I need to continue this sense of trust in myself and go on to the next chapter. Procrastination still rules as yet, however. For my series, it is more like having to write two first chapters since I have two main characters; each of their individual situations must be initially presented to the reader and that makes things a little more challenging. A jumping off point for the entire novel is always a very delicate and difficult thing to construct. I finally have a free weekend ahead of me though, so I intend to make use of it in true writer’s fashion and get some more words on that page! I hope everyone has a very lovely weekend and I will post Chapter 7 of Capacitance on Monday! 🙂

Writer’s League of Texas Conference #WLT2015

I just returned from my fabulous weekend in Austin–I seriously could not have had a better experience at this conference! I would definitely recommend this conference to any author because of its professionalism and awesome selection of agents. 🙂

The location for the conference was amazing; Austin is a wonderful city and the conference was held at the downtown Hyatt. This made it easy to sight see during down time as many shops, bars and restaurants were within walking distance. However, there was not much downtime because the weekend was packed full of action for writers at the conference! Friday afternoon kicked off with genre meetings where writers of the same genre got together and had a Q&A session with published genre authors. This was a great way to get acquainted with fellow attendees and hear what they were working on. My favorite part of Friday was the evening cocktail reception–and, no, not just because of the wine! Rather, this informal gathering was set up for conference goers to meet the agents and editors that were present. All the agents and editors that were featured in the program WERE present at this cocktail reception, AND they were willing to talk and be pitched to by writers. After attending the Las Vegas conference, I realize how great and important this was. In Vegas, agents were never present during the informal times; they were either hearing pitches, teaching a session, or even hiding in their rooms. The agents at WLT2015 were always there and willing to listen to writers, even though authors were veritably swarming the poor agents! Thanks to this well facilitated reception, by Friday night I already had an agent request pages of my work.

Saturday, I ran into rather the same problem that I had at the Las Vegas conference–most of the sessions and workshops presented information I already was aware of. Thus, the Saturday sessions were more about listening to variations on a common theme. Most sessions were geared towards the business side, and I (once again) went a little heavy on those, but I think it is important to see agents in action, telling you their opinions. It makes them seem like more of human beings and less of heartless entities of rejection. The best part about Saturday were the pitch sessions. Each conference attendee could have two sessions, so I got the chance to pitch to two agents, both of whom were interested in my project and asked to see pages. The first agent I pitched to  was extremely nice and–although he wasn’t sure if he would be taking on a New Adult project–still wanted me to send him material that he would pass on to someone else in his agency who would lean more towards that. My second pitch was great because the agent took a great deal of effort to give me some very helpful tips for getting my pitch down into one line–she then said when I had that one line, I should send it to her along with pages. I thought that was a great opportunity as it gives me the opportunity to prove to her that I took her advice to heart and worked at it. However, possibly my most valuable agent experience was when I ran into an agent from the agency who requested my full manuscript a few weeks ago. I met this other agent by the elevator and casually mentioned that her boss had requested my full manuscript. She was super nice and said she would give Miriam (agent I’m on submission to) a nudge and tell her she had met me.

The best session of the weekend was on Sunday morning when I went to a first page workshop. I absolutely LOVED the advice that was given during that session. The session leader led us through several very successful first pages and pointed out some key elements of writing a good first page. If you have been reading my blog, you know that the first page/chapter of Capacitance has been a struggle, so this class was great for me and has inspired me to maybe give my first page another try before sending it out to more agents. Add to this the fact that even though most of the agents were trying to get to the airport, but they still stopped by the luncheon for last minute connections, and you have the perfect end to a great weekend.

In conclusion, this conference was great and I did learn a few words of advice that I will pass on to fellow writers who might be considering a conference. First of all (and this is most important), DON’T BE NERVOUS when pitching to agents!! Your words come out stilted, you forget things, and–worst of all–you don’t seem sure about yourself or your story. Agents are, at the end of the day, just people and they are nothing to be scared of. If they like you, they are more willing to like your work, so keep it on even ground when talking to them–trust me, they will appreciate it after a day of endless stammers and groveling from the majority of authors. Second, let the experience give you confidence, but don’t let it go to your head. Chances are at a conference, if you have a manuscript finished, you will get asked for material. Yes, that is thrilling, but it doesn’t mean you’ve “made it.” I made that mistake last conference–everyone asked for pages, so I came home with this enormous boost of confidence. However, from my (albeit limited) experience, if you are taking the effort to be at a conference, agents see you are one step ahead of the query slush pile, and thus, they will put you one step ahead and ask for pages almost by default. No matter what, when an agent asks you for pages, you should feel good, but don’t let it get to your head! Finally, don’t feel obligated to go to all of the sessions–this isn’t high school! If something doesn’t appeal to you, or even if you just need a nap, then by all means go take a break. You won’t burn out that way and you will be fresh and ready to make new connections. Now that you have all this advice, keep the Writer’s League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference in mind for next year! 🙂

Writers’ League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference 2015

I had so much fun attending the Henderson Writers’ Group Conference in Las Vegas, that I just registered for another conference next month! I will be attending the Writers’ League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference June 26-28 in Austin, Texas! Since I live in Kansas (and drive a fun little car) I am going to be road tripping down south–just me and the open road, mind clear, practicing my pitch. I can’t wait!

The pitch will be important as there are 19 literary agents from big name agencies such as Trident, Writers House, and Curtis Brown, to name a few! While pitch sessions with agents are paid add-ons to the conference fee and are limited to two agents (I won’t be table hopping my pitch to everyone like I did in Vegas, haha!), the number of agents at this conference makes it more likely that I will be able to approach them in a casual setting. This conference appears to include a lot of casual settings, like cocktail hours, that could be great opportunities to meet and network with the agents and editors. I am going for all three days of the conference rather than just one day like I did in Las Vegas, so I plan to take full advantage of the opportunities to meet new people.

Considering I already have one conference under my belt, here are some things I won’t be doing this time around.

1. Stressing about my outfit. The wardrobe choices I saw at the last conference were much more casual and varied than I expected. When it comes to conferences, stay true to your personal style and you’ll be fine–worry more about polishing your pitch.

2. Bringing my entire manuscript. This is absolutely unnecessary. I know I said otherwise last time, but my aching shoulder and the entire universe of common sense would argue otherwise–everything is done through email these days. What makes you think an agent is going to love your work so much that they would be just as eager and willing as you to lug around a 300 page boxed manuscript all day? Save your posture, leave it at home.

3. Attending only business related class sessions. In Las Vegas, I stuck to the business side of writing lectures. This led to immense boredom and repetition; I had read most of the advice on the Internet due to my extensive and slightly obsessive research on query writing, agents, etc. Of course, I still plan on attending some business aspect classes as I know I still have a lot to learn, but I want to experience some writing craft sessions as well this time around.

Leave me a comment below if you’re planning on attending the #WLT2015 ! Also, I don’t believe I have mentioned this on the blog just yet, but I will be posting the first chapter of Capacitance once my Facebook page hits 100 likes. If you want to speed this process up a bit 😉 please like my page at https://www.facebook.com/emhardenburger ! Can’t wait to start sharing my work with you all!

#QueryKombat

I have posted before about writing as a “pantser,” and now I am entering my first writing contest as a pantser. I heard about #QueryKombat at the writers conference in Las Vegas, and it sounded intriguing and a great way to gain a social media presence and, potentially, agent representation. However, querying quagmire and vacation came up and occupied most of my time, and before I knew it, the contest date had arrived. Thus, my “pantser” attitude towards it all. I was not going to enter, because I have not spent countless hours preparing. This fact still gives me pause, but I think I need to throw my hat in the ring, just as a learning experience.

The #QueryKombat contest opens today (right now, actually), and contestants submit their query and the first 250 words of their MS. 64 contestants are chosen and their queries go head to head until only one winner is left. There is a judge round and then an agent round. It all sounds very interesting and certainly beneficial to make it to the agent round! If you want to learn more about the contest, you can visit this link: http://michelle4laughs.blogspot.com/2015/04/query-kombat-2015.html

After an intensive day of polishing my query and first 250 words, I am going to enter. I won’t deny the fact that I am a little nervous about it, but as I have said every time doubts pop up, I have to be persistent and start somewhere. Never try, never know has been a useful motto in many areas of my life, not the least in my career as a writer.

Is anyone else entering #QueryKombat? Wish me luck, and I will keep you posted!

Social Media & Being an Author

Sorry for the lack of posts lately! I was on a (much needed) vacation to California! The need for vacations to take a step back from your work is a topic for an entirely different post, but I can sum it up to this: sometimes it’s necessary to not think about your novel, to escape and have new experiences which will influence your writing, and to be in a more sublime environment so when an agent rejection pops up in your email, you take it in stride and order another wine sample! 😉

Today, I wanted to focus on a subject that has been giving me major headaches–the dichotomy between being an artist and thus trying to be a free spirit while at the same time being cognizant of the pressing need to create an online presence. This need for a writer’s platform necessitates the use of social media. Writers, as a rule, hate social media. We would rather be writing! However, our ultimate goal is to be read, and to be read and gain notice in today’s world means hashtagging and blogging our way to fame. Hopefully that prospect turns everyone’s stomachs as much as it does mine. It is a very imposing goal; in the millions of individuals out there on the internet, how do you make a difference?

It’s a question I, unfortunately, cannot answer in this post. But I do welcome good suggestions! The first step for me is simply, getting out there. One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was literally: “Tweet less.” Obviously, that is not going to fly. I have been trying to force myself to tweet more lately, and have gone to excessive use of hashtags. Today, I activated a Facebook account (under much mental stress), and a LinkedIn page. I am looking into #QueryKombat, which appears to be a great way to get some exposure as well as potentially awesome contacts with agents and editors! The Internet is a crazy, intimidating place, but I hope to do my research and find some success in it.

I want to get the word out soon because I am going to be doing something very exciting here on the blog. I am going to be posting sample chapters of Capacitance! I want the novel to get exposure and hopefully build momentum. Stay tuned on chapter one coming soon!

With that being said, follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@elisemarie52), and Facebook (Elise Hardenburger)! And comment below with any tips how you got your online following started. 🙂

Rejection–A Necessary Evil

Last week I started sending out query letters. Inevitably, I started receiving rejections. My biggest surprise upon receiving these rejection emails was that the agents had taken the time to actually hammer out a rejection;  usually it was only one line of text, but it was more than I expected after reading the horror stories on various blogs of sitting anxiously for months and months, never getting a response. Thus, a quick “Sorry, this isn’t for me.” was completely more shocking than the denial itself.

I was denied by three agents last week–plus, I had the bad luck of all three denying me on the same day! Rejection is always hard to take, but I was expecting it, so I didn’t take it as hard. I began my queries with some of the top agencies in the country, and it was asking a lot to ask my query to live up to their exacting standards. But it was worth a shot. It’s always worth a shot–you never know when that one special agent will read your words and fall in love with your novel. Many blogs and websites say that finding an agent is a lot like finding a romantic partner; you have to just get each other. I’m sure most people would agree that the search for love is not supposed to be easy, and you almost never get it right the first time. Just like we’ve all had a bad date, the querying process isn’t going to be love at first sight with every agent. But just because you’ve had a bad date, or the relationship you thought was sure to be “the one” didn’t work out doesn’t mean you stop dating. Thus, rejections shouldn’t mean it’s time to stop querying–yes they are frustrating, but who wants an agent who isn’t the right fit?

In the meantime, between these “bad dates,” I am making myself fall a bit less in love with Capacitance. If I sink my heart into it too much, rejection gets all the more difficult to handle. Now my challenge is to walk the thin line between confidence and blind adoration of my novel. It is not “my baby” anymore, it is a marketable product–while I can be confident in its qualities, I cannot be overly sensitive if it is not the right product for everyone.

Admittedly, I did take a few days off from querying. Maybe that is not weakness–maybe it’s for the best, since I have gotten rather off track in my work on Inductance. However, I will resume my efforts to find and agent and get published; I want my books to be read and I won’t stop until that effort is fulfilled.

Disconnected

Through all my adventures lately–both in attending the conference and querying–working on my second novel Inductance, has taken a backseat. This has been frustrating both because it is leading to a few errors in the work as well as because I don’t like days where I don’t write; unless it is a specified day off, I feel anxious and less accomplished than I do on those days where I have written a chapter. Don’t get me wrong, I usually take the weekends off, unless I am sitting at home with no plans (there have to be some days to recharge the mind and give the story a break!). However, especially with the conference, I did not have time to write for four days, and before that, preparing for the conference was time consuming as well. I started Inductance a little less than a month ago, and now I have 27,000 words done, so I am not doing awful at the whole thing, but I am definitely not as prolific as I was in my heaviest work phases of writing Capacitance.

I want this to change. This disconnected process that I have going right now is causing just that–disconnect–in my story. Once again, I am forever thankful to my Dad, the in-progress reader and editor, as he has caught some of these disconnects as he reads the new chapters of Inductance. For the most part, they have been relatively small, easy to correct errors. For example, today at lunch he caught a snag where the characters had planned to change their meeting place to different room, but then later on when the meeting actually occurs, I forgot to change its location to match the new plans. A minor detail, but one that readers WILL notice. I am glad it was caught, and I am actually excited to go back and change it because by connecting the details and having the characters meet at the new room, I think I can insert some really cool scenes into the story.

All that being said, I have decided to go back and read my work so far on Inductance–when I write, sometimes it is such an organic process that I literally don’t remember what I wrote after it’s done. This isn’t such a problem when I am writing a chapter each day and the flow remains fresh in my mind. I think that by going back and reading my manuscript thus far, I can refresh myself with the story and that will make it easier to keep on track with things, as well as possibly spark some new plot lines (the necessity for an action packed book is still daunting me!). It will also give me a chance to get some early edits!

Today I prepared and sent out five query letters, and hope to get a couple more done before the day is through. I think once I have all those sent out, then focus on Inductance will come much more easily.

Query Week!

Today marks the day I started sending out the first of the dreaded query letters to literary agencies! While rejection is to follow, I am sure, I am glad I have finally settled on a query letter format to go with for each individual email I send. I plan on querying 10 agencies this week, and perhaps 10 more next week. I have read conflicting views–some sites say to query around 10 at a time, while others say that 50 is better for the initial round. I am starting large and working my way down; for example, today I queried agents at Trident, Writer’s House, and Janklow & Nesbit. I also sent my synopsis and requested chapters to the agent from the LKG Agency who requested them at the conference.

The most time consuming part of querying–after you have your hook and mini-synopsis constructed–is researching the agents you’ve decided to query. It takes time to narrow down which agent in each agency will be right for you and find some little detail of evidence to support this which can be added to your query letter to give it a personal touch, but I am sure that showing you’ve done your homework makes your query stand out to the agent reading it.

Here is the query letter I finally settled on sending out (excluding the personalized opening paragraph); it is not perfect, but I think I could have done a million drafts and never felt fully confident!

Mara is a university student of genetic engineering who has just discovered a deadly DNA mutation in users of Meditrinum—a genetic enhancement drug used by the government, society’s elite, and Mara herself. Faced not only with her own impending death, but the potential destruction of society as a whole, Mara’s ultimate focus is to develop a cure for the mutation before time runs out.

 

However, things get more complicated when Mara meets Runey—a shrewdly personable design student with a hidden agenda. A member of an underground government resistance organization, Runey has been tasked with the mission to find out what Mara is working on through any means necessary—specifically, by making her fall in love with him.

Under increasingly threatening demands for results from the ruthless leader of his resistance group, Runey endeavors to reveal Mara’s secrets—while keeping a few of his own. Although Mara tries to remain focused on curing the impending mutation, she finds herself growing closer to Runey. Despite her internal struggle to keep her distance, Mara falls in love with Runey and tells him about the mutation—after this disclosure life is never the same for either one as both Mara and Runey realize the stakes are much higher than they ever expected and the distinction between right and wrong is not as clear as they once thought.

 CAPACITANCE is the first of a planned trilogy set in the dystopian future on a university—creating a setting which is a marriage of the unknown and the familiar. The manuscript is complete and full or partial submission is available upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Elise M. Hardenburger

I googled “how to write a query letter” and found a lot of great examples; many of which were structured in short paragraphs such as above. I think this allows for points to be emphasized and clarified, allowing for a presentation with more impact. Hopefully, this is a correct assumption! Call me crazy, but I am looking forward to seeing how this all turns out–even a rejection imparts a lesson that I need to try a different tact. Stay tuned!

Conference Contemplations

This past weekend was a big step in my career as a writer–I attended my first writers’ conference! It was the Henderson Writers’ Group conference in Las Vegas; the crowd was small (limited to 150 people), the classes offered were a mix of business and craft, and the faculty was interspersed with interesting individuals. It was a good first conference, in my now slightly more qualified opinion; since it was relatively small, it was not too overwhelming, yet it still offered the opportunity to make some influential connections with agents!

I will start with the pros of the conference. The first and foremost bonus is getting to pitch to agents. Yes, it’s scary, and intimidating–but do it! When I arrived at the conference I didn’t know that formal pitches were an option, but quickly found myself signed up to pitch to two agents and two small press editors. Did I panic slightly? Of course. But I simply reminded myself that I know my book and am confident in my book, and it went just fine. In fact, all of the agents and editors requested either partial or full manuscript after my pitch! I had a good experience, but that is not solely why I advise authors to take the plunge and pitch at conference–you should do it because chances are relatively limited for you to run into agents during breaks and such. Before I attended the conference, I had read the opposite advice which told me it’s better to try and casually run into agents and spark conversation. However, after having been to the conference, I have to say that is leaving a lot to chance. If there is a chance to get your name down for a (no matter how small) amount of time to talk to an agent or publisher about your book–do it!

The next pro for me was that I met a potentially great friend/colleague; we met at the breakfast section of the day, and ended up being in the same class sessions, so we got a lot of chances to get to know one another and talk about each others’ books. Now we plan to email regularly and exchange critiques and editing advice. This isn’t to say that I just met one person and stuck to only talking to them all day–I talked to a lot of different people, and that in itself was a pro. Meeting fellow writers is always interesting.

Now, the cons. First and foremost, I was already knowledgeable on most of the information presented in the classes. Most of this information is accessible on great websites such as AgentQuery and Writers Digest. Due to my extensive research on querying and agents after I finished my novel, I had stumbled across most of, if not all, the information presented in the class sessions (I stuck to mostly the business/querying type of presentations, so I can’t speak as much to the craft sessions). Thus, for me the conference was a learning event, but not in the sense of the structured classes.

The second con I will list is the inaccessibility of the agents that were present at the conference. The only time I saw an agent outside of the pitch session room was when they were teaching their classes. This made it difficult to interact with them (which was most likely by design, at least in the case of one particular agent!), so had I stuck to my original plan which was to organically strike up conversation, I would have been sorely disappointed. Like I said above, the pitch sessions saved my weekend from being disappointing!

Now that I have attended my first conference, I have been getting asked whether or not I will attend another one. The answer is “probably.” I think I will be more selective in the conferences that I attend; I want them to be a bit more high profile. Now that I know more about agencies and agents I may want to target, I can look out for conferences they may be attending. I will be looking to see what kind of pitch opportunities will be available. There are a couple high profile events that I will consider–namely, the New York Pitch Conference and the San Francisco Writers Conference. However, right now, I am switching gears and will be exclusively focusing on my first round of querying agents; I sent out my first materials requested email today to an agent who requested a synopsis and partial, so I am very excited about that (excited, but also fully prepared to wait for a response or simply never get one). Aside from querying, I will, of course be diving back into my work on Inductance; I think getting back in the flow of writing might be a little tricky after my mini-vacation, but I am excited to ebb back into the story!

Writers Conference Packing List

This is a post that most likely will become a before and after comparison in two parts as I will probably need to post once I get back regarding what I forgot/should have brought. However, I noticed a couple followers mentioning they have not attended conferences, but might in the future, so I will give you a little cheat sheet summarizing my list things I plan to bring after extensively scouring the web for tips.

Of course I am bringing the obvious things: pen and paper, business cards, etc. I am also bringing three copies of my synopsis and one copy of my first ten pages. I don’t know if anyone will actually ask to see them, but I want to have them on hand–it’s better to be prepared. One other item that I stumbled upon yesterday was a One Page. A one page is just like it sounds–one page in which you state your name, bio, contact info, book title, word count, tag line, one paragraph synopsis, target audience, and series description (if applicable). I thought this was such a great idea that I immediately threw one together! I included a picture on mine, and used textboxes for blocking it out and including pops of color–best of all, I matched the fonts, color scheme and picture to my business cards for a professional, coordinated look. I plan on bringing ten copies of my one page with me to the conference as I think it will be the most distributed piece of information.

Finally, I am going to bring a copy of my manuscript. I read a lot of conflicting views on this choice, but what stood out to me was the advice to bring it along just in case. Being the type of person I am, I would simply rather lug around a 275 page manuscript all day than miss out on the opportunity to give it to an agent who might request it! My soon to be aching shoulder will probably argue me on the advisability of this decision, but I am sticking to it. On another note, I read a lot of disturbing advice saying not to stalk agents, sneak your manuscript into their bags, or corner and pitch to them in the bathroom. To me, I find this advice laughable as it is purely following the laws of common sense and courtesy…but I saw this similar admonishment on SEVERAL websites! I truly hope I don’t see any examples of that embarrassing behavior this weekend, and I can assure you all I don’t intend to be so aggressive with my manuscript. In fact, I fully expect it to stay in my purse and travel back home with me.

That’s what I will be carrying along with me in my (obviously gigantic!) purse this Saturday. As far as the outfit to coordinate with said purse…well, I haven’t gotten that far yet! Unfortunately this lack of wardrobe selection is troubling me more than my lack of pitch preparation. However, I am of the firm belief that my pitch will turn out a lot better if I am impeccably attired. With that being said, I am off to my closet to plan! I will be posting one more time tomorrow (if I am not too rushed), and then I am leaving for Las Vegas through the weekend! If anyone else is attending the Henderson Writers’ Group Las Vegas Writer’s Conference, please let me know–I would love to meet some of you!