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Thursday, May 14, 2015

WriteTip: Query Smarter

Query anxiety should be a DSMVI listed phobia.

I spent days working-reworking; checking, double-checking my files needed to send off submission requests received after a pitch contest.




I mean, I had one foot in the door- my pitch did well enough to garner agents interest and they asked me to send my query, synopsis , and additional sample pages.
Happy Dance, Right?

Except Moronic-oversight never rests--especially when I'm anxious. My chances of doing something stupid rise tenfold.

The synopsis had me most concerned, since I struggle with that document, which is a step-by-step guide on the major events throughout the book. It let's the agents know what will happen, if the story arc is interesting and if you know how to close the dang thing satisfying enough for readers.

What I hadn't anticipated, was file corruption when working from a document. And it wasn't my synopsis- it was the actual query section--the first item in the email--the thing that says "I'm either a competent writer you can trust, or a total moron."

My query file looked perfect, when I copied and pasted it in the body of the email, because no one wants to open mystery attachments in emails anymore--virus/malware candy, but as soon as I hit send the document added shadow files from the file I had worked from in order to develop and spruce my query letter.

I didn't even know it. Until, later, out of writer-anxiety to make sure I sent files to the correct email accounts, I noticed something odd. My parenthesis marks indicating areas I needed to add for my query, which I only use when developing a document. Inside the parenthesis says, (personalize for agent).
Seriously.
How much dufus-ier can it get?
Much.
It duplicated the shadow files multiple times in the sent emails.

So the first thing any agent I sent the query to  sees, after the actual query I intended to send,  is impersonalized notes about needing to address and personalize my document--repeated two to three times.

Good first impression. I was mortified to say the least.

First I panicked and assumed my writing career was over, because obviously I'm a dufus. Who wants to sign a dufus? I don't--and I'm not even an agent.
Completely embarrassed and highly apologetic I sent an email stating my error and apologizing for sending a confusing and unprofessional submission.
I heard back from two of the agents, who were so kind and reassuring- informing me that human error happens, and computer error likes to jump on board wherever it can.

I wanted to jump through the screen and hug these agents, because I was truly in despair over this error.


I also learned a valuable tip. Here it is:
When copying and pasting files to the body of an email send a test copy to your own email address first to check how it's translating once sent through the internet. Or have a good buddy willing to receive your tester submission to check the files- do this at least once for each file you are copying to the body of an email.

Believe me. This is a good tip.

Dignity is something I gave up on in third grade when I ran into a tetherball pole during a recess game of freeze-tag, knocking out my front tooth and bloodying my entire face in the process.

It was my twelve embarrassing occurrence in my elementary experience and I realized it was best to stop holding myself to a dignified standard.
My nature opposed such things.

Basically, I'm Elaine Benes of Seinfeld.



Learn from me:
Send a dummy version of submissions to yourself. There's no harm in checking how your submission looks once it's been sent. And it's a whole lot less horrifying than realizing you sent something riddled with shadow file duplicates.

Write Smart--or if you're like me, Just Write On.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Conquering Fear of Contests

Contests scare me.



I'm determined to improve my skill and scope. So I challenged myself by entering a contest.
I chose to enter contests without an entry fee, because this is my first experience in any type of writing contest. I approached it as a learning opportunity and not a monetary investment.
I still needed to figure out what to enter and if I had the right material ready before any deadlines.

 

Step 1.

Find free contests. (Oprah isn't giving things away anymore? Bummer).



Thanks to Twitter, Facebook, and friends I heard of two similar contests within the entry window.
PitchSlam and Nest pitch. Both of those contests are based on a 35 word pitch, or tight summary of the novel, and the first 250-300 words of your novel.

 

Step 2.

REFINE REFINE REFINE



I formed a group to tackle this one and invited anyone also involved in the contest I was going to enter to join in order to refine our entries as a group. We posted our original Pitch and 250. The group commented on things that worked (positives) and things that didn't (constructive). Then we revised based on feedback. We posted revisions and commented again. There were many impressive entries in our group. I filled expected over half our group to be chosen as finalists for PitchSlam, the contest with the first announced results. Two out of our 18 active members were picked. No I was not one of them.

Step 3.

Keep Trying.



The first contest provided me with feedback that I needed to improve my work in ways I had not known.
I applied the information I was given to my novel, pitch, and first words.
(Nestpitch contest's submission window actually closed before I received feedback, but I applied changes to my own work anyway--hoping the selection committees/teams would see potential in my story with what they had on hand)

I was selected in the Nestpitch contest!
The last three weeks have been working with my contest team to refine my entry for the final round. That round begins in two days from the time I'm writing this post.
.
I'd love to say I obtained an agent from entering my first ever contest, but that is not what this post is about (and I have no idea what the final results will be yet). It is about conquering my fear of entering contests, which is not related to results.

In a short window of time I have gained not only the stamina to lose, and the determination to continue with my personal goal, but also the confidence to be selected.

These lessons are essential for me in my continued growth as a writer. Pushing myself to the next level.

My Personal Motto:

Embrace your Quirks.

Pursue your Talents.

I can't accomplish those things without a little fear conquering.

On to the next challenge.