Friday, October 23, 2015

Pitch Perfect?

One of the most important steps in selling your novel is the pitch. If you’re sending your manuscript to an agent or publisher, then the pitch is your query letter. A query letter differs from an actual face-to-face pitch in that you have time to run it by others to make sure it’s perfect. With the face-to-face pitch, my biggest concern is trying to keep idiocy and desperation at bay. Let’s face it, trying to fill three or five minutes weaving an enticing and unique story description with a complete stranger is, at best, daunting—at worst, terrifying. What’s a lowly writer to do when faced with her Holy Grail?

First, if you’re pitching, you have to be prepared for the request. You know, that coveted goal where someone asks for a full manuscript. If you don’t have a finished or nearly finished product, you shouldn’t be pitching. Trust me. My initial pitch experience was great. The publisher asked for a full manuscript. I floated out of that room, accepting accolades from my fellow writers. The only problem I had was that the story wasn’t finished. Instead of trying to finish it and send it in later with apologies, I gave up.

So, maybe you think you could pitch it and finish it later and send it in. You could, however, think about how many others pitched to that same person that day, and those people probably sent their manuscript in immediately. Now, the agent/publisher selects one or more stories. By the time your manuscript arrives, the slots that were available to that agent/publisher have been filled. No matter the quality of your story, there is no more room. So, do yourself a favor and be ready.

Remember that the person to whom you are pitching wants to hear what you have to say. They are actively looking for their next book and hope you may be its author. They’re rooting for you to succeed.

Next, have a good grasp of your work. It’s all well and good to have memorized a catchy paragraph about your story, but what happens when the agent asks about your character motivations or story arc? Oh no, not the blank face! If they’re interested, you need to be prepared to field questions and flesh out your story. What sets your story apart from all the thousands out there?

And that catchy paragraph needs to not only
outline your story, but tell the listener what will pull the reader in. What is unique about your story? Is the protagonist famous? Remember Eleanor Roosevelt solving mysteries? Does the story take place in a different setting like the Supreme Court? Was the body found in highly unusual circumstances, i.e. the locked room? An agent or publisher is looking for fascinating situations that will pull the reader in. Whether your protagonist belongs to a witch's coven or is the wife of the president of the United States, mention it in your pitch. Throw in a hook at the end that will prompt questions from the agent/publisher as well as the reader.

Most conferences have a class to help you perfect your pitch. Take it!

The last piece of advice I have is the one I find most difficult. And that is to relax and be yourself at the session. By the time I sit down at the table to begin my pitch, I’m in such a frenzy, I want to throw up. It doesn’t help to know I’m not alone in my terror. Of course, by the end of those few minutes, I feel much better and can even smile. I wish I could be more relaxed, but I’m sure the person across from me is used to the nervous writer. I can tell you that if your pitch is part of a fest where you get to pitch to more than one person, then it gets much easier to be yourself.

Multiple pitches? If you are lucky enough to pitch to more than one person, you need a plan. I learned this at Thriller Fest two years ago. First, make sure to research all the agents/publishers ahead of time and choose the ones who will value your work. Rate them in order of your preference. Then, make your first pitch to the person least important to you. Why? Because you will shower the worst of your nerves and mistakes on that person and learn from the experience. By the time you speak to your number one option, your pitch will have become much better.

Good Luck! I’m in the process right now of revving up my own pitch to deliver at the New England Crime Bake conference in a few weeks. Yikes!

Remember, keep writing!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Going to Crime Bake

The temperature this morning was in the 40's. Brrr! Almost too cold to type. All right, maybe not that cold, but I had hoped that, by this time, I'd be in the toasty, warm climate of southwest Florida instead of the cooling temps of Massachusetts. We just can't seem to sell our house. Something always happens. The Universe speaking to us? 

One saving grace, however, is that I won't have to take a plane to get to this year's New England Crime Bake conference.
The weekend of November 6th, I'll be driving to Dedham with my writing cohort, Dianne Herlihy. We've gone together for the past four years. 

This year's theme is Murder by George with Elizabeth George as guest author.
If you've never been to a writing conference, you're missing a great opportunity to schmooze with your peers, take writing classes that range from setting up Chapter 1 to promoting sales for your published novel, and, oh yes, speak to agents.    

I've already submitted my twenty pages for a manuscript critique, sent in my 150-word flash story to their competition, put in my name for a manuscript pitch, and signed up for the banquet where everyone is encouraged to dress up as an English crime solver. 

I'm on the fence about that last one, but I know I'll have a wonderful time. Last year's award winning guest author was Craig Johnson, whose books were made into the television series, Longmire. Dianne and I dressed the part.

Positive attitude! This conference may be the one where my work finds an agent or publisher. So, instead of worrying about selling the house, I'll be worrying about choosing my vacation home.

Remember, Keep Writing!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Haiku - an ancient form of Japanese poetry.

Although I love poetry, my numerous attempts to create it have always failed. Until, however, I discovered Haiku, a lovely short form of poetry. A Haiku is made up of only three lines--five syllables for the first and third lines and seven syllables for the second line. 

I begin with a word or topic and let my imagination fly. Here are two I wrote, the first for spring (here now) and the second for summer (soon to be upon us):

Winter's cold caress
grudgingly suspends its reign
as spring tiptoes in.

Warm sunlight dancing
atop eager new blossoms
sings a summer tune.

Harness your creative spirit and create your own Haiku. Put it in a reply. I'd love to see it.

Remember, keep writing!

A Writer's Night Out

What's more fun than discussing books? Discussing the hows and whys of writing books. This past Friday, I joined a group of friends to attend a book launch, Edith Maxwell's latest 
in her local foods mystery series, Farmed and Dangerous. I'm currently in the middle of the first book, "A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die" and am thrilled that I have two more waiting for me when I finish it. 

On the ride up to the Jabberwocky Bookshop in Newburyport, laughter and excitement dominated the atmosphere as four energized writers discussed books, authors, and their own creations. With writing being such a solitary existence, it feels wonderful to be able to chat about all things literary with people who share your passion. 
Me, Edith, and Kristin at Jabberwocky

I love to attend book signings because the author always talks about things having to do with the art of writing--the how-to's. Where did they get the idea for the plot, the characters, the setting? How do they keep a series interesting? When do they write? How long does it take them to finish a book? How do they stay focused during the difficult middle pages?

For the most part, writers are generous with their knowledge. I've had the most helpful conversations with some awe-inspiring authors at various writing venues. 

I have to confess that I'd never been to the Jabberwocky Bookshop. It's a wonderful place, offering two floors of books and set inside The Tannery Marketplace, a beautiful two-story building that offers comfortable seating surrounding the stores. 

If you miss the feel of an old-fashioned bookstore, take a trip to Newburyport, MA and check out the writing events Jabberwocky has scheduled. 

I've found one of the best ways to learn the craft of writing is to listen to other writers. Investigate your local libraries and bookstores to see what surprises they have scheduled. Then grab a few friends and enjoy the evening. 

And, remember. Keep Writing!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Complex Villains

Villains always cause me problems in my stories. Not only do they hide their identity, but they hate telling me anything about themselves. 

So, when Sisters in Crime offered a class on crafting characters, villains included, I signed up. My membership in SinC and their offshoot, Guppies has been invaluable to me. If you don't belong to some kind of group of authors helping other authors, please check out the options in your genre. I also belong to RWA (Romance Writers of America) and its sub chapters, KOD (Kiss of Death) and FF&P (Fantasy, Future and Paranormal).

The day-long workshop helped me diagnose my villainous problems and have a great day with like-minded writers. I was so impressed that I wrote a post with links to other nefarious sites about villains. Click the link at the top to get there.

As always, keep writing!      

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mondays Finish the Story 5.11.15

Mondays Finish the Story

A writing challenge from Barbara Beacham that supplies the first sentence and a photo prompt. Write the story with 100-150 words not including the sentence provided.

Here is the photo and my story - Word Count 130:

Not To Worry

Arriving at the beach, she reflected on her life.

True, it hadn't been too wonderful lately, but on the whole she was happy. Her children were adults, living on their own.

The little problem with her husband and his side dish had been difficult. She hadn't seen it coming. But she wasn't about to let some home-wrecker steal everything they'd built up together in a messy divorce.

She smiled as she listened to the surf. Too bad about the accident. They say it was alcohol and drugs.

After the funeral, she'd taken her devastated husband out here to recuperate. Poor thing. He was inconsolable. It would be a shame if he tried anything foolish. What he needed was a good drink.

She smiled again, looked out at the blue water, and cradled the bag of pills in her pocket.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Lose Some Weight--Write Tight!

Writing critiques have often pointed out that I add superfluous information to my scenes. Sometimes, I have superfluous scenes. Sigh. Writing isn't easy.
Lots of people have the same problem. If you're one of them, fear not. I've found a wonderful antidote to that particular dilemma--a cool exercise that's helped me tighten my writing. Flash Fiction!

A few years ago, my friend Dianne encouraged me to enter a flash fiction contest at a the Crime Bake writing conference. The challenge was to write a short story having to do with a mystery or crime. Okay. That didn't sound too bad, although I've always had trouble writing short stories. I tend to take up too much time setting up the plot and adding (you guessed it) superfluous information. Still, I thought I could do something.

Then she added the kicker. "It has to be under 150 words."
What? Not only was I certain that I couldn't write a story with so few words, but we also had to use ten of twenty words given to us. My first thought was, Impossible. Dianne assured me that not only was it possible, but it was attainable. She had done it the previous year. My back straightened as my competitive streak took over. If she could do it, so could I.

I began searching for a story idea, wishing I'd never agreed to write the stupid thing. It took many attempts before I found something I could live with. The story would be about a little boy whose family had just moved to the area and, to his parents dismay, had acquired an imaginary friend. I decided to center the story around the boy's fifth birthday party where an old mystery is solved.
Things I wanted to include:
  • ·      That they'd just moved to the area
  • ·         That neighbors were aware that the boy talked to himself or some imaginary person.
  • ·         That the boys invited to his party had never met his "friend".
  • ·         That there had been an unsolved kidnapping of a young boy twenty years before whose name people would recognize.

I wrote the bones of the story, inserting everything I deemed necessary and making sure to use ten of the twenty words on the list. The finished piece was clever, interesting, and long-- way too long.
It took me days of re-writes to finally get a crime story that adhered to the rules. if you're interested, you can find it on my blog at the bottom of the page under Exciting WritingChallenge. Here is the photo of the happy winners. Dianne (on the left) and I (on the right) were both shocked to find out we had each won.
Encouraged by my success, I entered the flash word competition for the next two years, and made the winner's circle each time. Me! The person who couldn't pull together any kind of a short story. How did I do it? Let me tell you what I learned and how I try to keep the lessons fresh in my mind, because they work as well with my full-length manuscripts.

I know that all first drafts are important. They spell out the plot and allow the writer to get a handle on characters, motivations, and themes. That draft allows me to see the big picture before I start editing. When I begin the edit, I go back over the manuscript and delete all the irrelevant material. Next, I focus on each scene as if it were a short story. I decide exactly what I want the reader to take away from it and then make sure I have all the necessary elements. This is the same exercise I use in my flash fiction.

After that, I look for things I can combine. In flash fiction, each word must be essential. Redundancy won't fly. It's the same with my manuscript. Once I've ousted the unimportant information, I have to make sure I've included the necessary. The reader needs to be able to see the scene in his head, with all the  images, smells and sounds. When I write, I know exactly what I want to convey, but I often forget that the reader can't see into my mind.

Finally, I read it again, looking for the flow. During this process, I usually consult my writing group, getting critical help as well as new ideas.

Since my introduction to flash fiction, I find it much easier to spot areas where I can tighten my writing. Not all the time, mind you, or perfectly, but I've done so much better. Often, when I read over what I've written, I'm amazed. It's difficult to believe that I could lose so much weight without harming the story. Writing tight keeps the reader involved. Add a few hooks at the end of scenes and chapters, and you'll have a bleary-eyed reader, too caught up in your story to go to sleep. 

I highly recommend flash fiction contests. Try these: Mondays Finish the Story, Three-Line Thursday, Microbookends, and Friday Fictioneers. They're easy to enter and fun to do. Many blogs have them, usually with pictures or word prompts. You can some I've entered below with their photo prompts.

Have a little fun, see how much weight you can lose, and, remember--Keep Writing!

Purloined Prose or Synchronicity?

Check out my new post on Mostly Mystery. Why do the same stories repeat over and over in movies and books? Check out my latest blog post.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

How It Starts

 Hi All,
I'm a little late, but this is my story for the Mondays Finish the Story challenge. We're given the first sentence and a picture and asked to write a 100-150 word story.
Here's mine:
© 2015, Barbara W. Beacham
After losing her head, she realized that the rest of her body was falling apart. Not actually falling apart as much as being ripped apart.

Junior laughed and punched his horrified sister, Mindy as she cried, "You killed my doll."

"Shut up you little baby, or I'll hit you again."

Mindy cringed and backed away from her brother.

He picked up all of my pieces and took me to the woods outside the house. When he dug through the dirt, I saw something--a little yellow piece of fluff. Oh no. Mindy's cat. Poor Max. Junior delighted in killing everything Mindy loved.

When he grabbed my head, getting ready to toss it into the hole, my painted eyes widened. Another deep pit lay next to mine, empty and waiting. Oh dear--just the size of my poor little Mindy.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Only A Dream

Hi Everyone. I'm trying the Friday Fictioneers photo prompt from Rochelle Wisoff-Fields' blog, Addicted to Purple. The challenge is to write a story about the photo in 100 words or less. Here is my story, "It's Only A Dream".

It's Only A Dream
91 Words

The whispers, late at night when the overseers slept, carried hope, hope that our lives could change.
Being a Grub was hard. We worked all day, never left the dungeons, and only met the Carriers when it was time to breed. We never saw the Place of Light. All we had were our dreams.

Each night we looked forward to stories of the Time Before and wild tales about our wished-for future. Tonight a hushed voice added another dimension to the dream of escape. "What if the Goodlaw built multiple domes?"

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Fitting and Funny Justice for Plaigarism

I just read a blog from an author who was plagiarized and can laugh about it. The blog had me laughing and I bet you will, too. Check it out:

Enjoy and remember, keep on writing.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Winning With Flash Fiction

How many ways can you win with Flash Fiction? Check out my blog post  on Winning With Flash Fiction at Mostly Mystery. I think you'll like it.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Rita Mae's Legacy

Genre Paranormal
Word Count 100
Rita Mae's Legacy
In response to Friday Fictioneers challenge

photo prompt is courtesy  of Rochelle Wisoff
Something terrible happened that night, the night Rita Mae came screaming out her front door covered in  blood.
Bud had bled out right there in the hall. We all thought Rita Mae had done it.
She kept babbling about her great granddaddy and some curse. She never was the same after that night and they never found the killer.
Some nights I sit here and watch lights moving around her house.

She never remarried, said her great granddaddy wouldn't like it. She's a mite touched in the head, now. Funny thing, though. The knife that killed her man? Great Granddaddy's.

Read the other creative entries.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Lisa's Tuesday Contest

Tuesday Tales Challenge!
Tuesday Tales writing prompt. Write a short story between 25 to 300 words based upon the picture provided.

Just Desserts


She never let go of my ear as she dragged me to the porch.

"I told you not to enter that pie-eating contest."

Her accusing finger pointed at the purple mess on the lawn and then towards the shed.

"Get the snow shovel and feed the worms."

Thursday, January 22, 2015

My Writing Journey

Check out my latest post, A Writer's Journey, at MostlyMystery.
It has some good information about conferences and my favorite blogs.

:)  Keep Writing

Friday, January 16, 2015

I'm a Published Author!

I'm pleased to announce my first publication, a short horror story entitled, Micah's Gift.
It appears in Issue #70 of Black Petal's Magazine.

A flash of lightening, a strange gift, and lives change. Micha's Gift is a tale of hubris.

This story is a deviation from my usual lighter writing. CAUTION! For those who aren't fond of noir (dark) writing, this may not be something you'd like to read.

A lighter tale of terror (Is there such a thing?) follows my story. "Not Safe" was written by one of the excellent authors in my writing group, Emily Livingstone. A great read.

Keep Writing!