I’m a Pitch Wars 2017 Mentee!

So. I’ve got news.

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I’m so excited to announce that I am an official Pitch Wars 2017 mentee!

For the next two months, I’ll be working with my brilliant mentor Ashley Hearn to revise and edit YEAR OF BONE my spooky YA horror manuscript about cults, curses, witches, and the teenage shepherdess who tries to stop them all. If you’re curious, you can learn more about it here.

If you’re a writer looking for an agent, I highly recommend submitting to Pitch Wars next year. It’s a wonderful opportunity and the Pitch Wars community is incredibly warm and welcoming. Plus, the contest offers so many resources and opportunities (critique groups, writing forums, webinars, etc.), whether you’re selected to be a mentee or not. For more information on Pitch Wars you can check out the website here.

A big thank you to Brenda Drake and the Pitch Wars team for their tireless commitment to the contest and of course my amazing mentor Ashley Hearn.

In the coming months, I’ll be updating this blog with posts on my experience as a mentee. If you have any specific questions about Pitch Wars feel free to comment or shoot me a DM on Twitter!

Until next time,

Alexis

Photo credit: Carine Felgueiras 

Pitch Wars 2017 #PimpMyBio: Year of Bone

ABOUT ME: I’m a horror/thriller #ownvoices writer obsessed with all things creepy. When I’m not reading, writing, or stalking the Pitch Wars feed I like to blog about books on Instagram.

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ABOUT THE BOOK: For my first Pitch Wars I’ve entered my YA horror novel Year of Bone, which takes place in a religious commune that’s haunted by a series of four apocalyptic curses (Blood, Blight, Sickness, & Slaughter) and the woodland witches who cast them. The story centers around Immanuel Moore, a teenage shepherdess who fights to save her home from the plagues. As her loyalties shift and her faith is tested, Immanuel begins to question whether the cost of defeating her demons is becoming one herself.

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Year of Bone features…

  • A cult commune setting

  • An #ownvoices diverse protagonist

  • Witchery

  • Creepy sheep

  • Haunted forests

  • Ghosts & ghouls

  • Twisted villains

  • Forbidden romance

WHAT I LOOK FOR IN A MENTOR: I really want a mentor who can help me hone my strengths and address my weakness. I love hard work, sprawling revisions, and critiques that inspire me learn and grow as a writer. I look forward to burning the midnight oil in order to make Year of Bone the best it can be, and I want a mentor who will challenge me to do that. Also, it doesn’t hurt if you share my love of ghosts, ghouls, and all things creepy. 😉

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RANDOM STUFF I’M INTO:

  • Black cats

  • Female-centric horror

  • Good books (The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Winter’s Bone are three of my all-time favorites)

  • Social justice

  • All things witchy

  • Memes

  • Antique books (I’ve got an ever-growing collection of pre-19th century novels)

  • Tea (I’m a tea-fiend)

  • Collecting tarot decks

  • Creepy playlists, albums, and film scores (my Year of Bone playlist has over 200 songs)

  • Twin Peaks

Thanks for reading and best of luck to all of my fellow Pitch Wars hopefuls!

Alexis

Photo Credit: David McConway, Gorchakov.artem, and Mark Robinson

Writer’s Digest, Updates, and Good News

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So a lot has happened since I was last posted. Most recently (and most excitingly) my short story “Baby Doll” was selected as an Honorable Mention in the Writer’s Digest 84th Annual writing Competition. A few weeks later the same short story was picked up by a literary magazine and will be published in the spring.

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My super duper fancy shmancy official Writer’s Digest button. As you can probably tell I’m pretty excited about it.

“Babydoll” won’t be published for a few months but if anyone is interested in reading my work my short story “Sin Eater” was published in the online literary magazine Beorh Weekly a few months ago.

That’s about it! Expect new posts on creative writing portfolios, short stories, and editing soon.

Alex

(Photo by Szabolcs)

10 Things I’ve Learned from Creative Writing Workshops

Now that I’m engaged in my third creative writing workshop I figured I’d share a few of the more pertinent tidbits I’ve picked up during my time at the roundtable.

1. Experimenting with genres outside the ones your most comfortable in is one of the best ways to hone your craft.

2. You don’t have to be an incredible writer to be a good editor and offer valuable critiques.

3. Good writers accept and consider criticism. Defensive writers don’t grow. A writing workshop helps you develop thick skin.

4. Noting the mistakes in the works of other’s can help you to recognize the same mistakes in your own work.

5. A group of writers who are collectively committed to becoming better writers is one of the best writing resources around.

6. Good critiques aren’t knee-jerk reactions to a text. It takes time to cultivate fully formed ideas and opinions.

7. Reading books on writing is one of the best ways to develop your craft (I highly recommend Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird)

8. Sometimes workshop assignments can detract from time spent on other projects and that’s okay.

9. Short stories are great ways to experiment and challenge yourself as a writer without committing to long-term projects.

10. Public speaking is important. Very important. Knowing how to read your work in front of a crowd is a skill that’s honed with practice.

Until Next Time,

Alex

(Image by Max Klingensmith)

Plotting for Pansters: A Brief How-to

As a natural panster I find that sitting down to plot a book before I’ve begun it is one of the most challenging, parts of the writing process. I’ve tried everything from flow charts to mind maps to chalk-board wall decals, summaries, outlines, you name it. What I came to realize that the way a story unfolds is unique not just to every writer, but every story as well. However over the years I’ve compiled a couple cheats and tricks into a sort of plotting process for scatter-brained pansters like myself.

Start by taking the scenes you want to write, settings you’d like to explore, snippets of dialogue or even feeling and place and compiling all of your ideas into a folder or word doc. Then draw parallels with the information you need to communicate and the imagery that inspired you to write the story in the first place. You’re trying to create a complete image, develop details and ideas into full-fledged scenes, plot points and story arcs. This is, essentially, the brain storming phase.

Once you’re finished developing your ideas try  to arrange the scenes/images based on tension and significance to the plot. This is the tricky part, and as a panster I can say with confidence that this part of my haphazard “plotting” is where poop starts hitting the fan. It helps to have some idea of what scenes come first, create connections (I find that the free web app Realtime board is great with that) you’re looking to create a sort of chain reaction.

Once you’ve got a rough idea of where your story is headed, try to group scenes together into chapter and look at the chapters as mini plots of their own. Each should have a rough arc, and defined beginning middle and end, even if there are unanswered questions and cliffhangers there should be a general sense of story. During this process a range of problems are going to become apparent, your plot is too fast, the estimated word count is too low, the estimated word count is too high, there are too many introspective moments, your scenes are too similar, your scenes seem disconnected, etc. DO NOT DESPAIR. This is where the whole plotting thing can become a panster’s salvation. Essentially you’ve made your job easy by fixing mistakes before you make them.

After you’re finished working through all of these issues give yourself a firm pat on the back. You’ve got the bare bones of your story and are now free to enter the trenches and write the damn thing.

Until next time,

Alex

(Photo by: Sonny Abesamis)

How to Write Around a College Schedule

With winter break ending and the spring semester around the corner (cue the chorus of weeping students) I wanted to draw up a little cheat sheet on how to write productively while balancing a load of college courses.

  1. Schedule classes with your writing schedule in mind. This may seem slightly crazy to some, but in a previous post (link) I mentioned the importance of being territorial about your writing time and that principle still applies when it comes to school. I’m not going to advise anyone to put their writing before their school work, however there is nothing wrong with trying to accommodate and come to terms with your writing and school schedules in order to find a happy medium between the two. Have I switched classes and altered my schedule to better suit my writing? Yes. However, I would warn any freshmen, sophomores and even upperclassmen to get those required classes out of the way fast.
  2. Finish assignments and homework Fast. Do your work when it’s assigned if possible, that way you’re not forced to write through guilt. It’s tough to be creative and devote yourself to your work when you have the thought of that paper you didn’t write or test you didn’t study for lingering at the back of your mind.
  3. Utilize the library. Where else can you find a silent environment with comfy couches, free books, free wi-fi and almost unlimited resources. In the library I’m able to get some of my best work done, and in between breaks sometimes I like to thumb through volumes on the Anthropology of Death or textbooks devoted to parasitic diseases or whatever strikes my fancy. You’re paying enough to go to school, so make use of all the features that are afforded to you. The library is chief among these.
  4. Learn to write on the go. Download a word-processing app for your phone and write when you have the spare time to. I’m talking in the minutes before class starts, in line at the coffee shop, on the walks between classes. If you can text on the go you’re already writing on the go so why not devote some of that word count to your WIP. Make a point to write something (one sentence or five paragraphs, it doesn’t matter) , anything, when you leave your dorm, house, apartment, whatever. Try to create a habit. Next time you’re standing awkwardly among of group of people and you’re preapring to pretend to text someone so you don’t look like an idiot, enter your note/writing app and writing something instead. It doens’t have to pertain to your story, do a word chain or character descriptions, poetry, song lyrics, dialogue it doesn’t matter. Just try to make it a habit. You’ll be surprised by your productivity, trust me.
  5. Take Writing Courses and Join Writing Communities. A bit of a no brainer, but I think that college students tend to underestimate just how much the act of writing (in all genres and mediums) can affect them. Write a lot, surround yourself with writers, join writing communities and clubs and get creative about keeping yourself inspired.

Good luck and happy writing!

Alex

10 Ways to Finish Your Draft Fast

  1. Have a Plan: Create a schedule, a daily word count of what you need to do and when you want to do it. This can be as strict or lax as you want it to be, as long as you’re careful to cater your plans to your life and the way that you write.
  2. Be territorial about your time: In order to stick to your plan you’ll need to establish set time periods that are devoted to writing. Guard them the way you would a shift at work. For many this may mean disconnecting from social media, forgoing time that would typically be spent with friends (or even family) in addition to other sacrifices. Make your manuscript a top priority.
  3. Enter the zone: Studies show that “the zone” is actually a neurological state (often called flow state) where your brain reaches a production peak. In order to find your own flow you’ll need to eliminate distractions (many people find music helps with this) and, in doing so, enter the mental space where you feel most comfortable creating. Essentially you’re trying to lose yourself in your work.
  4. Plot: I know this is difficult for a lot of my fellow pansters (expect a post on plotting for the non-linear minded sometime in the near future) but it will save you a lot of time and a lot of strife if you have a vague idea of where your story is headed before you begin.
  5. Don’t use getting stuck as an excuse to stop: If you can’t force yourself to write then plot, if you can’t force yourself to plot then read, if you’re not in the mood for reading research by watching films that inspire or educate you. Just because your muse hasn’t showered you with grace does not mean you should abandon your efforts. Remember time is of the essence.
  6. Stay Energized: This means managing your sleep schedule, eating well, and doing all of the things that help you stay healthy both physically and psychologically. You can’t expect to produce when you don’t give your body the basic components it requires to function. Be kind to yourself.
  7. Read: Read good books and read them a lot. They will help you, they will inspire you, they will help you become better and write faster.
  8. Don’t second guess yourself: It’s not the time and it’s not the place. This means no massive revisions, no obsessive editing. Take notes as you go and save your misgivings for rewrites and revisions.
  9. Push Yourself: Of all the things I’ve mentioned this point is the most difficult for me (and I think many other writers) to grasp. In order to finish a novel you need to force yourself to write when you’re tired, when you’re uninspired, when you’re angry, when you have other things to do and when you have other things you want to do. It’s a commitment and it’s a challenge and it’s one you have to devote yourself to completely if you want to finish fast.
  10. Keep your eye on the prize: This is imperative. If you fail to do this you will drag your feet or abort the idea of finishing entirely. Remind yourself why your story is valuable to you, reread your favorite parts, write the scenes that give you chills. Indulge yourself by loving your story, your characters and your work.

Happy writing!

Alex

(Image by David Mello)