June 25, 2012

Why Contests Help Everyone

I love agent-judged contests. Participants get the benefit of direct agent feedback, but the information is useful for all writers.

It's a learning experience to read through real examples of what pings an agent or what turns them off, what we should do more of and what an agent might be tired of seeing. Keeping in mind, of course, that responses might be particular to that specific agent, especially concerning taste.

For me, it's fun to see what other writers are working on. But I also like to read through the submissions and compare my response with others, including the agent's reaction. It's interesting to see how opinions vary, and whose opinions fall in line with mine.

When I was still querying, I liked to find contests a particular agent judged and read through her/his responses. It was a great way to gauge how they might receive my query.

Happy Monday!

June 18, 2012

Novel Beginnings

So a couple weeks ago, I said I had started my wip, but I left out the part where I spent an entire day agonizing on how to start it. On the bright side, a day is nothing compared to the two weeks it took to write the first couple sentences of my previous manuscript. And for the manuscript before that one, I rewrote the beginning three times. Which is to say starting a new story is always the hardest part for me.

It was never this hard when I was writing fanfiction, but that changed when I began researching agents. All the advice out there from writers and agents emphasizes how important a story's beginning is and all the many, many ways you can ruin it. There are all these lists for how not to open your story--don't open with a character waking up or getting into a car accident or mid-action scene or with back story or picking herbs in a field or description of setting or a flashback or dialogue or a prologue, etc etc, until you feel like there's no way to start the dang thing without hitting someone's 'What Not to Do' list.

By this point, writing that first sentence has become such a daunting task that you're debilitated by the fear that, if you fail, you will completely blow your chance at getting an agent or editor or reader or what have you.

With my previous manuscript, the pressure to get those first few pages right was hardest because I wasn't agented yet. Yes, it IS important to get that opening right, but don't let it become so overwhelming that it stifles your writing. Just write. You can always come back and fix it later even if it feels, at that moment, Too Important To Mess Up. Sometimes, a beginning will become clear only after you've written the ending.

It's also important to keep in mind that what's not right for one story might be right for yours. Those 'What Not to Do' lists can be subjective. I agree that it's probably not a good idea to start with your character waking up and describing how the sunshine falls across her bed, but whatever you choose, you have to make it work for YOUR story. The Hunger Games begins with Katniss waking up on the day of the Reaping. City of Bones starts with a brief scene from Clary's pov before it shifts into the pov of an insignificant demon who dies a few pages later. Nightshade begins mid-action scene with Calla fighting a bear to defend a boy she doesn't know. My favorite book this year Shadow and Bone starts with a prologue.

So while I'm not sure if the beginning of my wip is right, I'm not too worried for the time being. I can always fix it later :)

How do you guys feel about openings? Easy? Hard?

Happy Monday, all! ♥


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