NaNoWriMo 2019

Guess what? I’m doing NaNoWriMo again.

Yeah, the writing program I once used to talk about never doing, but consented to try in 2018, and now am doing again in 2019.

I decided to continue 2018’s book! Because of course I’m a blathery weirdo and I’m sure I can get another 50,000 words out of this thing.

Wish me luck with another installment of working on In Bloom!

Finished NaNoWriMo 2018

Wow! I knew I would be able to do 50,000 words in 30 days because typically I write faster than that, but this was a really great experience keeping me writing every day and keeping the pace consistent. I’m pleased to say my NaNo novel,¬†In Bloom, hit 50,615 words on the last day of the event.

And I am a winner!

Yes I bought a shirt.

The book is not done of course–it’s not even close to being drafted, much less edited–but this was a great experience and I’d do it again.

NaNoWriMo 2018: Halfway

Continuing to plug away at National Novel Writing Month with great success!

Yesterday, November 15, is the halfway point of the event, and therefore of course we writers are supposed to have hit our halfway point to 50,000 words on that date.

I did.

It’s weird. On the one hand, it’s sorta reassuring; I can still write at the drop of a hat whenever I want to, and if I do it every day, a novel starts to take shape. It’s not particularly sloppy for a first draft, it’s doing some pretty cool things that are surprising me, and I think the third person storytelling is helping me avoid the tendency to get super cerebral or engage in unnecessary navel gazing.

One small issue I am having is that the romance in the story is front and center, and I’m not sure about the balance I should strike. Obviously as an asexual and aromantic author who does not engage in these kinds of relationships, I’m sorta faking it, though that’s not a hard thing to do really with the media the way it is. I’ve grown up with stories that tell me how people experience this and how they write about it. It doesn’t seem mysterious to me at all beyond the fact that I have never personally been through it, and since I’m also writing about humans and aliens living on another planet and I have never done that either, it’s about the same level of guesswork.

But I want it to feel authentic enough to NOT sound like it’s written by someone who’s guessing, and for that you need detail. So the issue then becomes, well, I’m writing about fifteen-year-olds getting interested in each other, and I’m a forty-year-old woman who doesn’t want to sound filthy if I get into too much detail about teenagers experimenting with, er, amorous relations.

So I’m aiming for sweet and a little hot sometimes, like it is for many people when they go through it. I’m focusing a lot on how it’s new or how it affects the characters as young members of families and communities, and on the unrealistic and very big thoughts they have that are nevertheless fully felt and legitimate despite lacking perspective.

I am definitely continuing to let some lessons I’ve learned from cartoons help me with my pacing. I’m still dealing with a little bit of “oh I thought of this thing, better dump it on the page now so I don’t forget,” but this is a first draft, so that’s to be expected. One thing I’ve learned from being such a¬†Steven Universe¬†fangirl is how satisfying a slow burn backstory reveal can be. I don’t have anything huge to dump to be honest, but I’ve learned that it’s still intriguing to do partial dumps of info that hint at more to come, and it will make people curious without irritating them too much when they don’t know.

It’s interesting how much of the main character’s daily life is actually super weird by our standards but I’m making it pretty everyday and only finding it important to mention when someone else finds it super weird. Because I don’t do much plotting and I make a lot of stuff up on the fly, I’m kinda discovering these things along with the characters, and I also seem to be planting things that I don’t actually know where they’ll go. I’m sure I can smooth things out later to make them look like they were intentionally moving in that direction, but for now there are a couple mysteries I’m considering actually just not solving, unless maybe the story does it for me without me trying.

There’s also the matter of a broken love triangle. In short, my protagonist’s race has a lot of beliefs that make outsiders view them as essentially a fertility cult, so their expectation that every girl will meet a boy and have babies is more than just a societal expectation; it’s a religion and a way of life. The protagonist believes she may be the first gay member of their species ever because there’s just no way to talk about it inside of her culture. But humans are also in the picture and they are known to have homosexuality in their species, so the protagonist does have some context–especially when she meets a cute human girl.

But of course, her culture is pushing her to start being interested in boys, and there is a specific boy entering the picture now. I figured when I conceived of him that he would exist, story-wise, to represent tradition and that he’d probably be pretty angry and feel slighted when the truth came out and she likes a girl. But after I actually met him in the story, it kinda seems like he’s confused about just about everything too and he doesn’t seem the type to be possessive about her. Now I’m starting to think a boy like him would be a good ally for her. And now I’m starting to think that when the time comes, he will say or do something essential for the story.

It’s weird how these things work.

My first week of NaNo

National Novel Writing Month is going well for me. I wasn’t sure if it was going to. I have so much going on during November, and this is maybe the busiest November I’ve had yet. I basically kicked all this off doing some of my writing on the dang airplane because I didn’t have time to do it any other time.

What’s really interesting about NaNoWriMo for me is that the pacing gives me an excuse to¬†stop.

I’m such a binge writer. When I get into things I just get absorbed and want to finish, and I sacrifice a lot of sleep and attention to do so.

NaNo is supposed to press people into short-term sustainable writing patterns to get them writing, push them to turn off the inner editor, incentivize them to write¬†something¬†so they get some practice and have something to sculpt later if they like what comes out. I haven’t historically had those problems, but the problem I do have is that I know how much writing takes out of me and I have been reluctant to start a project because I’m already overwhelmed and stressed.

But if I write a little bit each day and pace myself, and keep an eye on the word count, and stop when I’m around the goal, I don’t have to make huge adjustments to the rest of my life just to write a book in a relatively short amount of time.

It’s neat.

Observations about my book so far:

  • The word count on Day 8 is 14,001.
  • I think this is my first third-person novel.
  • This is a science fiction story set in the distant future. The worldbuilding for it is very quiet, and I’m worrying that the reveals are a little too as-you-know-bob.
  • Lots of dialogue.
  • It’s more romantic than I thought it would be–the romance is front and center, and early.
  • I got the main characters to kiss. It took me 12,798 words to get there.
  • I’m not good at naming alien places. Who names a continent “Dry Lace”?
  • I am obsessed with¬†Steven Universe, which has a lot of space lesbians in it. I am also¬†writing about lesbians in space. And yet, it is nothing like¬†Steven Universe.
  • However, I think I’ve learned more about slow reveals for worldbuilding and character history from watching that show.
  • I’m reusing concepts and names from the short story I’m basing this book on. The short story was written almost 20 years ago. I’m not sure why I feel a loyalty to the names even though I’ve changed a lot of the specifics of their lives.
  • I cut and pasted a tiny bit of the original text into an interlude and I didn’t like the flavor, so I won’t do it again.
  • I like the book so far but I’m not super excited about it. Maybe it will totally surprise me soon.

NaNoWriMo 2018

I haven’t written anything new in a really long time so it looks like I need a kick in the ass. Guess I’m doing NaNoWriMo for the first time ever. Wish me luck.

(And come send a buddy request to swankivy if you want to connect with me. The search function seems to be misbehaving for some people so if you can’t find me, try to send me a message and add me from there.)

I once even¬†wrote a blog post partially about why I will never do National Novel Writing Month, but I guess I never foresaw a future where I would do what I’ve been doing lately: going a couple years without writing any new fiction beyond comics. (Not that the comics are nothing. I keep up my weekly schedule of putting out a new fantasy comic on Fridays, and that’s kept the juices flowing somewhat, but it’s not the same as writing a novel.)

I like to think I’ll handle it the same as I handle any other obligation I’ve ever taken on: I take it seriously and fulfill it, especially if it has to do with writing. But it’s been a while since I banged out a novel and I’m planning to write one for which I’ve done no preparation, except that it’s based on some characters in a short story I wrote eighteen years ago.

I am kinda annoyed about the genres we can choose from for our novels, too. You can’t indicate it’s fantasy AND YA, or YA AND LGBT+. I wish they wouldn’t try to list age categories and subject matter as “genres.” (In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m planning to write about gay teenage aliens.)

Abstaining from Pitch Wars

For the first time in three years, I decided to abstain from Pitch Wars this year.

I’m not sure why. Part of it was probably that I felt like I’ve been ignoring my own writing in favor of paying attention to other media and wallowing in distractions, and part of it was that I feel like I’ve gotten a little jaded about publishing and whether I really belong giving anyone advice about it. I mean, sure, there are plenty of beginners I know more than enough to help, but the only difference between me and my potential mentees the past few years was that I had an agent and they didn’t. Even after securing representation with agents for two different books and selling one of them, I just kinda started doubting my competence. I haven’t been actively writing much at all, and my publishing career hasn’t gone anywhere since I sold a book in 2013. What I did worked for me, but I don’t know if it would work for anyone else, and it wasn’t fiction anyway.

But honestly I do think I have good advice on improving manuscripts and providing perspective on agent searches. I just think maybe I’ve been using the cause to avoid working on my own projects. It’s time to get back to it.

I have¬†Bad Fairy 2¬†to finish up; it’s been complete for a long time, but my test readers have all either finished or petered out on reading and dropped off the radar without explanation, and I’m still undecided on how to present the first half of the book since it still feels too much like a sequel in my opinion.

I have Ace of Arts to write. I got really jazzed about this book the other day, wanting to get back into it, but I had just returned from vacation and convinced myself I had some digital housecleaning to finish first. (I did that.) Maybe I should dive back in.

I have a short story I started but stopped writing after a page because I was kinda hating how it was going. I’ll want to start that over again and get it busted out.

I don’t think I have any short stories out for consideration right now. I had a couple rejections in June and then July was just a mess for me, so I didn’t bother addressing it. Need to get some short stories out there to be considered by magazines.

But it’s weird to not be in Pitch Wars. Part of me is glad I’m not, because as usual there have been some hiccups and some nastiness, though there’s also tons of excitement. I am kinda sad that I won’t have a mentee this year. I loved working with my mentees. Year 1 I mentored Whitney Fletcher, who got an agent immediately through the contest. I had alternates Ryan and Jessica; Ryan’s gotten close but his project never hit the right agent, and as far as I know he hasn’t tried writing something new, while Jessica got picked up by a small publisher without an agent. Year 2 I mentored Megan Paasch, with whom I don’t really chat much anymore, and we never found our match, but my alternate Natalka found representation for a book she wrote after Pitch Wars and that book sold also to a small publisher. And Year 3 my mentee was Lynn Forrest, whose book didn’t hit with an agent during the contest but seems to be getting a ton of full manuscript requests these days. I love having a relationship with another writer the way I do during Pitch Wars, and I’m sad I won’t have a Year 4 mentee to put in this list.

I hope whoever I would have picked does well. :/

It sounds weird, but the part I really enjoyed besides mentoring an individual was sending feedback to the people I didn’t pick. I was a bit overwhelmed the first year, but the second and third years I had a ball picking apart and analyzing query letters and initial chapters. And people were so cool about it, taking my feedback so professionally and in some cases having great discussions with me about their work. I miss that part of it too. But you can’t have that without the whole package, and I just couldn’t handle the package this year.

I don’t know if I’m done with Pitch Wars forever or if it’s just this year. Time will tell.

Pitch Wars feedback is out!

Just a short one today to say I spent part of the weekend sending out all my feedback to everyone who applied to me in Pitch Wars. I think I wrote around 600 to 800 words for each Pitch Wars participant, with a little more sent to the people whose additional chapters I sampled.

Many of them have replied to the feedback, and I’m amazed (though not surprised) that everyone’s being so gracious about it.

It’s hard to take feedback. Especially on the heels of disappointment if you didn’t get into this particular contest. Even if the feedback comes with some praise, every piece of feedback that would seem pretty tame to most people will feel like a pick-axe on your heart sometimes–especially if you’re not used to it, haven’t had much critique, or thought you were really close only to hear that someone thinks you have a lot of work to do.

And yet everyone’s being so nice about how I beat them up.

I would honestly expect people who are seeking agents to be professionals here. That’s why I’m not¬†surprised¬†it’s like this. And many of them have been very understanding about the fact that the Pitch Wars mentors are usually pretty busy people who have volunteered for the contest and should be prioritizing edits with their mentees. They’ve made it clear to me that they saw my feedback as above and beyond the call of duty, and they’ve expressed so much gratefulness and appreciation.

I don’t need them to lick my butt or praise me for paddling their babies. But it’s just so affirming to hear that I made the right choice in offering feedback to everyone. I don’t do it for the praise or to get followers on Twitter. I do it because every time I see someone reaching this level of expertise, feeling they’re ready to make that step into the professional world, I know that person must be serious. So I take them seriously. And I treat each one–for the minutes I can spare–like it’s the only story in the world, knowing they’ll probably put my words to good use in fertilizing their gardens.

If they weren’t willing to do that, they probably wouldn’t be willing to do research on publishing or enter contests like this anyway.

So this is¬†my¬†thank-you to everyone who’s expressed thanks to me, and I hope you all continue your quests and reach the destinations you desire.

Pitch Wars Analysis: My Submissions

It’s time for me to commit more nerdery upon you!

Pitch Wars was lovely. I got pretty much exactly what I wanted: lots to choose from, but fewer submissions than last year. Since I love giving feedback on everything I receive, it’s much harder to do a good job on it if you get over a hundred (like I did last year), so this year’s 92 was okay with me. (I got 90 that were eligible; two were marked for categories I was not accepting.)

I selected¬†Lynn Forrest, author of urban fantasy THE MEASURE OF A MONSTER, for my mentee. We don’t have alternates this year, and I was not one of the mentors who volunteered for a second mentee.¬†

So Julie, what was in your inbox, anyway?
For those who do not want to review my¬†Pitch Wars 2015 Nerdy Analysis¬†of my submissions, I received 60% Adult, 40% New Adult. Of my 90 eligible submissions, I got 45 fantasy, 25 science fiction, 6 paranormal, 5 speculative fiction, 3 contemporary, 2 magical realism, 2 women’s fiction, 1 historical, and 1 thriller. I had two manuscripts below 50,000 words and one over 150,000 words, but most were between 80,000 and 100,000 words. And the mentor I had the most submissions in common with was K.T. Hanna.

Hey Julie, what kind of feedback can we expect?

I will be sending out my feedback soonish to everyone who submitted to me, but my day job and my social life have been more demanding than usual this week, so I’ll be rolling it out as soon as I can.¬†I composed 55,646 words of feedback during the consideration window.¬†None of it is “form letter” stuff–though I think form letters with a little bit of feedback are also a good way to handle feedback for the mentors who are not able to offer lots of individualized feedback for various reasons. I had the luxury of working a job that doesn’t take up much of my life and I don’t have to take care of any children and I wasn’t on deadline, so I probably have more opportunity to devote time to this when compared to some of the other mentors. I hope nobody uses my feedback offerings to shame anyone else if they are not able to do the same.¬†Giving feedback is optional in this contest.¬†I hope those of you who submitted to me will be able to benefit from mine!

I am giving specific advice about what to change in query letters, and there are quite a few places where I started line editing. I tended to give¬†more¬†feedback to people who had better submissions, because they were almost there. If I didn’t give much feedback, it’s because I felt like there was too much to fix and stampeding in to micro-manage might not be a good idea for a developing voice. My feedback is fairly irreverent and sometimes extremely goofy. Hopefully it is not going to be interpreted as mean if I joke around with you a little. And there are a few of you who might get personal notes or questions from me. I like to make friends during the contest too. ūüôā

Yo, Julie, didn’t you say you give some kind of “score” to submissions?

If you weren’t aware of my nifty¬†Pitch Wars report card, you may be interested to know I gave a rating to every submission I considered, with 25 points possible for the query and 25 points possible for the writing sample. No one got 50 points. The highest score I gave was 22 on the query, 23 on the pages, 45 total. And that score was given to someone who was not my mentee. My mentee was the #2 spot, not the #1. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

Weirdly enough, the person who received the highest score from me isn’t even one of the writers I asked for more pages from. She doesn’t even know she was one of my favorites. (I’ll tell her in the feedback.) I didn’t ask for more pages because I had a personal reason I knew I could not take her manuscript, and it’s frustrating to get someone’s hopes up if you know you won’t end up taking them. Everyone I requested more pages from was someone I honestly considered for the mentee spot.

It just goes to show you how much that “subjective” thing really is true. Everyone does it, all the way up the ladder.¬†Right now¬†I have a manuscript on submission to editors that¬†today¬†got a “not my thing” rejection, you know? I dunno, I think it’s kinda like dating. Some mixture of attraction, common interests, mutual availability, and shared goals results in good matches, and someone who wants to be a good match with you can’t just barge in and say¬†Excuse me, I fulfill what I have determined to be your requirements; you are now required to give me a chance!¬†(Well, they¬†can¬†do that, and sometimes they do. While insisting that they’re quite eligible mates and¬†deserve¬†your attention. Which makes them even less attractive, right?) Oh dear, I have digressed again. Silly me.

How many writers did you request more pages from? 

I only asked for more pages from six writers. I’m not going to reveal who they are here, but I will say¬†I requested four adult urban fantasy books, one adult science fiction book, and one new adult fantasy. Three authors got the same “score” as my mentee did. The one in my group of six with the lowest score–41 points–was the one I came closest to picking for my mentee before I decided to go with Lynn. So I guess my scorecard helps me figure out which individual aspects of writing my applicants are good at, but doesn’t necessarily help me make a decision.

Initially I thought I ought to ask for more pages from everyone who got 40 points or above. That would have been 17 authors! Maybe I should have. If I do Pitch Wars again next year, maybe I will do that.

Julie, did you go to battle over your mentee? Did you lose any battles?

Two of the authors I was considering had at least one other mentor either considering them or choosing them as a mentee. I am a pacifist in most senses and declared that I would not fight any other mentors over mentees. I had enough stuff I liked that I would have simply chosen someone else if it came down to it. So no, no battles for me.

You’ve been doing Pitch Wars for three years, Julie. Did you get any submissions from authors you recognized from previous years?

Yes! One author who’d submitted to me last year submitted to me again this year with a new manuscript. And one author who’d submitted to me last year submitted to me again this year with the same manuscript. Both got high scores from me but neither was my selection.

How many authors who submitted to you had really good submissions? How many just weren’t ready?

This is a hairy question and a sometimes-subjective one. I did sort my submissions into the following categories:

  • Ineligible–wrong category
  • Not ready
  • Ready, but not for me
  • Low maybe
  • High maybe

The high maybes were reserved for folks I requested pages from. If I hadn’t connected with any of the additional chapters in my high maybes, I would have started requesting from my low maybes, but it didn’t happen.

Of my 92 submissions, I had 2 ineligible books, 42 not-ready books, 34 ready-but-not-for-me books, 8 low maybes, and 6 high maybes.

Sometimes stuff I determined to be not ready was enjoyed by other mentors, so I can absolutely say it was subjective. I also put perhaps unfair emphasis on the query letter. Many of the other mentors say the pages matter more than the query, and they’re right, but I also know agents use the query to decide what they want to read, and I did that too. Sometimes if the query was way off, I still put it in the “not ready” pile even if the pages were okay, because it made me feel like the person did not do basic research on what a query is supposed to be, and that indicates lack of readiness in a different way. There were a couple even in my high maybes who had queries that needed some serious work, but they weren’t¬†way¬†off. You definitely need to pay attention to what query letters are if you’re entering a query-letter-centric contest.

What were the biggest problems in the query letters? What were the biggest problems in people’s writing samples?

More or less exactly like last year, in the queries I yelled at people for lack of trajectory or too much/too little detail. I gave specifics in each case and a push in the direction I’d like to see it go. For some, I suggested picking up a couple paperbacks in their genre and modeling a query synopsis after the back-of-the-book description. And when I commented on pages, I would talk about whether I connected to the character, why I thought their language was too passive or inundated with unnecessary speech tags or adverbs, and how I’d like to see them reconceive their opening if I thought it didn’t work. If I didn’t read the whole first chapter, I sometimes told people so and explained where/why I disconnected.

And, of course, I screamed about grammar. Dashes, mostly, and curly quotes/straight quotes. If you didn’t know there are differences between hyphens (-), en dashes (‚Äď), and em dashes (‚ÄĒ), you may have gotten yelled at by me. If you didn’t know that some quotation marks and apostrophes get “curled” by certain programs and others are left straight (and you used more than one program to show me your document, including Scrivener), you may have gotten yelled at by me.

The most common problem I saw was lack of trajectory.¬†The one comment I found myself typing over and over was a request for firming up the straightforward direction of the query. This means when evaluators look at queries, they’re generally looking for you to tell them what happens and who it happens to/who makes it happen. We want to see your character(s) defined; we want to see the problem in your story; we want to see how your character(s) might approach solving said problem; and we want to know the stakes (what will happen if they don’t succeed).

This won’t do for every query, because obviously not every story is so straightforward, and some have more than one problem. But remember, this isn’t an attempt to sum up your book in two paragraphs. This is an attempt to pull us into your story enough to start reading it. You don’t have to tell us everything. You don’t even have to tell us about every plot if your book has several. This is a document that is designed to do nothing more than get us to open your book and read page one.

A list of common issues I saw in the synopsis bits:

  • Too much detail (we need broad brush, not explanations of each plot point)
  • Attempts to insert storytelling into the query (we need story, but not “and her heart soared when he kissed her in the rain”)
  • Presenting final stakes as a question (“Can she save her mother in time?”–yes, probably; now we don’t have to read it)
  • Vague stakes (“or he will lose everything”–nah, tell us what he will lose specifically)
  • Cursing (snark is okay, but I recommend against actually using swear words in the query)
  • Giving too many character names (main characters and villain okay; every member of expedition team, not)
  • Telling the ending (yes, you tell the ending in a “synopsis” attachment; you do not tell the ending in a pitch blurb)
  • Message and themes (show us what your story illustrates, but don’t tell us it’s deep or unique or that it examines human nature)
  • Too much setup (you need to bounce right into the plot, not spend a paragraph on who the character was before the plot happened)
  • Lists of what happens in what order (pitches are not a stark outline of your book’s plot points)

Your Query’s Personal Section:
The most common problem I saw in the bios was irrelevant information. Most people did pretty well giving me just a little taste of their writing background and pub credits (where applicable), but I did get a fair amount that went into loads of detail about their other projects–especially when said projects were unpublished, reviewed by nobodies, or published by nobodies. Queries are for agents who want to get you a mainstream publishing deal. They care about your publication credits and writing affiliations, but they don’t need to know about them if yours aren’t impressive or indicative of a building career.

You should personalize your queries and by all means tell an agent a little something about why you think their website, blog, or Twitter presence suggests you have something reasonably professional in common. But you should not deviate into rambles about your personal life or shift focus onto other projects.

A list of common issues I saw in personal sections:

  • Authors telling me who they think they write like
  • Authors comparing their work to established work and giving me long-winded explanations of why it’s similar
  • Authors telling me this is their first book (and I say don’t do this because this is like going into an interview saying “Hello, I’ve never done this before, but hire me!”)
  • Authors claiming their self-published books or small-press books got good reviews on Amazon (please focus on THIS project, and only quote professional reviews for other projects)
  • Authors telling me they’ve been rejected by others
  • Authors sharing details about why they wrote the book
  • Authors launching into in-depth explanations of special rules in their fantasy books and explaining their cool concepts, divorced from story
  • Authors discussing their writing or publishing process (do not say how long it took to write, how many agents you’ve queried, how long you’ve been looking for representation, how many revisions you’ve done, or who you hired to edit it–notifying me that it’s been proofread as a guarantee of quality is a mistake, because we expect professional quality)

I hear that agents also often get promises from authors that the book is going to sell well and/or transform the genre and life as we know it, but I didn’t actually see any like that. If you were considering making promises about the sales and success, don’t.

Your Sample Pages

By far, the most common problem (and the most fatal problem) in people’s sample pages for me was unnatural backstory. If you are already launching into history and context and setting up your world while your characters stand still and it’s in the first five pages, I know you haven’t quite figured out how to tell this story. You’ve figured out your stuff, you’ve realized it needs to be in the story, and then you’ve . . . dumped it on us at the beginning. I tune out. Because I’m not invested yet. I have to care first. If you begin a novel by expecting me to sit for a lecture first, you’ve mistaken your book for a class I have to take. I don’t have to be here. I can put the book down anytime I want. Remember that and get us hooked immediately.

Marry background details to character perspectives, natural revelations through story, or dialogue. And you can probably leave out more than you think. We’re pretty observant–we’ll figure it out.A list of other common issues I saw in sample pages:

  • Telling (narration tells me a protagonist is good, or has been a doctor for 10 years, or has three children, instead of letting me just see it come up)
  • Characters have an awkward conversation about things they both/all know so I can learn about it
  • Setting and situational backstory relayed through narration and divorced from character
  • Spelling and grammar errors (!!!)
  • Disconnected storytelling (I passively watched the character do things without understanding what they wanted or why they were doing it)
  • Opening with something exciting, then backing up halfway down the page to tell me how we got here and slowing the momentum considerably
  • A feeling that I would have to be patient to get to the good part (I shouldn’t feel like I’m humoring an author by reading their stuff; they need to make me want to read it!)

I was excited that I really got very few clich√©s, though. I didn’t see a lot of authors writing the opening that describes the sky or the weather. I didn’t see the protagonists waking up on a normal day and trying to decide what to do next. I don’t think I had anyone describe their protagonists by having them look in the mirror.

Anything else cool to tell us? 

Well, you tell me what you want to know! Here’s just one more cool factoid: Protagonist names!

I’m a name nerd and I love paying attention to naming trends. There was no one Most Popular Name in my submissions, but I went through to see if I could find any patterns, and the most I could find was I had two Alexes, two Ambers, two Claires, and two Victorias. (I only counted one protagonist for each book, and if it had multiple perspectives, I just picked the character whose name was mentioned first.) Here’s the list of protagonist names in my 92 submissions, for all you other name nerds!

  • Abigail
  • Addie
  • Addisyn
  • Adela
  • Adele
  • Alby
  • Aldonza
  • Aleks
  • Alex (2)
  • Alistair
  • Allison
  • Alyssira
  • Amber (2)
  • Ami
  • Ana
  • Anna
  • Arietta
  • Blake
  • Brandy
  • Cami
  • Carrie
  • Cassandra
  • Charlotte
  • Christine
  • Ciro
  • Claire (2)
  • Cole
  • Daphne
  • Dhel
  • Dillard *
  • Dinah
  • Edison
  • Eithne
  • Emma
  • Enzo
  • Erissa
  • Erling
  • Evelyn
  • Freya
  • Greg
  • Hadley
  • Hope
  • Horatio
  • Ian
  • Inga
  • Jack
  • Jamie
  • Jay
  • Jem
  • Jeremiah
  • Jim
  • John
  • Katherine
  • Keegan
  • Kerry
  • Kharis
  • Kitty
  • Lavie
  • Letty
  • Linus
  • Luke
  • Maggie
  • Marietta
  • Marla
  • Mike
  • Natalie
  • Nathan
  • Nora
  • Nyra
  • Peet
  • Reilly
  • Rhiannon
  • Riam
  • Robert (R.J.)
  • Rose
  • Sam
  • Santos
  • Sara
  • Silen
  • Simon
  • Suzanne
  • Theo
  • Tilly
  • Tiny
  • Verity
  • Victoria (2)
  • Vivian
  • Zayria

* (“Dillard” was listed as a protagonist’s last name, but no first names of protagonists appeared to be listed in the query.)

My Mentee for Pitch Wars 2015

Last night, Brenda Drake surprised all the Pitch Wars participants by announcing the mentors’ picks early, and it was so much fun watching my new mentee celebrating on Twitter and getting so excited!

Er, oh yeah . . . everyone meet my new Pitch Wars mentee for 2015, Lynn Forrest!

Lynn is the author of a nifty urban fantasy entitled THE MEASURE OF A MONSTER. It is a¬†very¬†odd pick for me because it includes both vampiric creatures and a sort of detective story, neither of which is generally my bag¬†at all. But there are a ton of reasons I picked it . . . and I’ll be able to discuss these more coherently after I’ve had some time to settle into editing the book. ūüėČ

I’m quite happy to be working with Lynn. And it really is a great feeling to make someone’s day (even though it meant I had to disappoint 91 other people), and because I think Lynn and I are really going to get along well. Before I knew if I was going to pick her, I definitely wanted to be pals based on her values and her interaction style. Making a new friend is always something to get excited about. (At least, if you’re me!)