Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Reflections on 2015

With 2015 drawing to a close, I wanted to take a moment to reassess. Even though it felt like things were moving at a snail's pace at times, a lot actually did happen.

I finished my YA Gothic Horror. Revised it. Thought I was finished. Entered it into PitchWars. Got accepted and did yet another revision. I certainly learned how important it is to get feedback from others! This was also the year I took to social media. I'm the type of person who feels awkward sharing random details about my life... with the exception of a few dog photos here and there. Nonetheless, I opened a twitter account and befriended fellow writers who are going through very similar struggles as we all try to improve and ultimately get our work out there. Although I was a little hesitant at first, overall it's been great. I'm so happy to have found these new writer friends and to be part of the writing community.

With the year winding down and with my YA Gothic Horror drifting somewhere in the query trenches, I'm getting excited to start something new. I've been researching and brainstorming. I've even been plotting a bit. But I won't officially start drafting until January. With that in mind, I've been thinking about my writing goals for 2016. These will probably change, but as of right now, this is what I came up with:


  • I want to write with more purpose. Basically, this means I want to start with a rough outline--anything that will keep me focused so I don't rewrite half the book over and over when I realize the plot isn't going anywhere. I've always been a pantser, but this year I want to try something different. This leads to my next point.
  • I want to write faster. I don't want to churn out pages of junk just to get my word count allotment for the day. I want to make each writing session count so it won't take me over a year to finish a first draft. I'm setting the lofty goal of finishing my next book COMPLETELY by next summer (including revisions, feedback etc.) so that I can start querying in the fall. Gulp! I'm not sure if I can hold myself to this, but I'm going to try!

One of my fellow PitchWars mentees recently shared this blog post with us from YA author, Robin LaFevers. It resonated with me on many levels, especially this point:

"Instead of starting a manuscript with the intention to create a marketable, salable story, start it with the intent of mastering certain aspects of craft: compelling description, evocative subtext, nuanced language, layered characters."

Above all else, I want to keep challenging myself as a writer. When I started my YA Gothic Horror, I focused intensely on voice and somewhere along the way--after numerous drafts and thousands of cut words--I settled comfortably into a style that felt inherently me. For my next project, I want to make sure I don't keep writing the exact same way just because it's easy. I want to push myself. That leads me to my next goal.

  • I want to write more meticulously. This has less to do with scheduling and my overall approach to writing like my previous two goals. With this goal, I want to make every word count. This may end up crippling me in the end--I guess we'll just have to wait and see--but I want to focus more on description and my overall use of language. My style tends to be wordy and while I don't to lose what I feel is authentically me, I want to distill everything down even more in my next project. With that in mind, I already signed up for an online class starting in January that focuses purely on description. I'm excited to see what it's all about!
  • And finally, I want to take some risks in my writing. I already have some ideas I want to explore in my next WIP... some things I want to play around with, which may or may not work, but I want to give it a try. Hopefully, it will turn out pretty cool. Or I may have to scrap it. I guess my overall goal is to just go for it! 

So that's it. It's pretty simple, actually, if you look at it as a whole: my goal is to improve. Anyway, it helps me to lay things out as bullet points. :)

Happy holidays and happy writing!!






Monday, November 9, 2015

What I Learned from #PitchWars

Brenda Drake's annual #PitchWars has finally come to a close.  It's been over two months of whirlwind revisions and late night writing sessions.  I've been up and down emotionally.  So many times, I was ready to throw in the towel.  Somehow, I managed to make it to the agent round.  If anyone is curious, you can find my entry here: #246.

So, here's what I learned:

  • It is fabulous to have mentors.  I can't stress this enough.  My mentors, Meredith McCardle and Ron Walters, went above and beyond any of my expectations.  We worked so well together.  They picked through my MS on a chapter-by-chapter basis.  They cared about making my MS better and loved any changes just as much as I did.  It blew me away and did wonders for my confidence.  I am so grateful for their encouragement and praise.  I am also grateful for their ability to rip me to shreds and then build me up again into something so much better.  Which brings me to my second point.

  • Even when you think you're done, you might not be done.  BE OPEN TO FEEDBACK!  When I was selected to participate, I was nervous about the changes my mentors might request.  I never thought it would be extensive--a little polishing here and there.  Well, it was pretty extensive.  I was reluctant to dive in and tear my MS to bits, but once I revised chapter one and incorporated their feedback, it was like a floodlight had been turned on.  I couldn't stop until I basically rewrote the whole book from beginning to end.  Well, it felt like it at any rate. ;)  My MS has improved so much because of Meredith and Ron.  

  • Time management is key.  I am a slooow writer.  The breakneck pace of this contest really tested me to keep focused and productive nearly every day.  I learned to revise things in sections and to leave things for later if they were driving me batty.  I also depended more on plotting and outlining so I wouldn't waste time writing in circles.  It didn't always work that way, but it helped.

  • Lean on your fellow writers for support.  I tend to be solitary when it comes to writing, but PitchWars has been an amazing outlet.  I loved being able to ask questions, to vent, or to just get a (virtual) hug when things weren't going my way.  It helped me through some difficulty times.

  • It's just a contest.  Don't misunderstand me--I love Brenda Drake, and I feel so lucky to have been part of this!!  PitchWars has been surreal in that we've been isolated in our little writing caves, working hard to perfect our manuscripts until they are super shiny.  But now the contest is over, and it's been a rude awakening from our incubators.  Yes, I feel more prepared to face the world of agents.  And yes, I am confident I'm in a much better place than I was pre-PitchWars.  But at the end of the day, it's still just a contest.  If an entry didn't get 20+ requests during the agent round (or any requests at all), it's not the end of the world.  Now, most of us are being thrown back into the query trenches, hopefully better positioned to snag an agent.  I wish all of my fellow mentees the best of luck.  And remember, this is only the beginning!

P.S. - Somewhere in the middle of all this, I managed to go to Europe for my fifth wedding anniversary.  (Talk about bad timing!)  But I brought my laptop with me, and even though I did do some writing, my husband and I had a really great time. Can't wait to go back!


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Official 2015 #PitchWars Mentee!!



I am so delighted to announce I have been selected to participate in this years #PitchWars!!!!  Before I can celebrate, however, I have to say my heart goes out to every single fearless writer who entered this contest and was not selected.  I understand disappointment and how hard it can be.  Before the announcement, I pretty much convinced myself I would not be on that list.  Nevertheless, I resolved to keep going no matter what.  I hope others feel the same. :)

I still can't believe I was chosen.  My fabulous mentors are Meredith McCardle and Ron Walters.  Yes, I have a team of TWO mentors!  How lucky can a girl get?  The thing I love about #PitchWars is that it's not just another query contest--it's an opportunity to revise your manuscript with authors who have ample amounts of experience.  I have to admit I'm a little fearful since I'm not sure what to expect during the revision process, but I'm up for the task!!

We have two months to work with our mentors to get everything into tip-top shape, then they open the contest to agents who can request pages.  I will be sure to update everyone with my progress along the way!!!  Best of luck and congratulations to all of my fellow mentees!!


Monday, August 17, 2015

#PitchWars Mentee Bio

#PitchWars is here!!!  The submission window closes today so if you are debating entering, you better get a move on!  For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, check it out on Brenda Drake's website.  Basically, a group of wonderful mentors will choose a mentee and then work with them to whip their manuscript into shape.  How awesome is that?

In the meantime, a few of us are putting together mentee bios in case the mentors want more info.  Check out the others on this #PimpMyBio blog hop.  So here's mine.  Disclaimer: I find these things extremely difficult to write.

About Me


  • I'm a dog lover living in Minnesota.  My two papillons are Hugo and Samson.  
  • I lived in New York City for twelve years. I had the time of my life!
  • I majored in Film Studies and also received a Masters in it, which means I ought to gravitate towards intellectual cinematic oeuvre.  I don't always.  In fact, my husband has caught me watching Miss Congeniality on TBS more times than I can count.
  • Favorite movies include Amadeus, Gone with the Wind, Philadelphia Story, Unforgiven, Rashomon, and yes... Tremors. 
  • Lately, I've been more into TV.  Favorites include Game of Thrones and Walking Dead.
  • I love history.  I'm obsessed with the Victorian era and the Wild West.  I was really into Ancient Rome for awhile.  I also have a strange obsession with witches and anything dark. 
  • Speaking of dark, Hieronymus Bosch is my favorite artist.   
  • I'm of Korean and French descent.

About My Manuscript


  • My story is a Young Adult Gothic Horror, inspired by Frankenstein among other things.  It's set during the Victorian era although I purposefully kept the location vague.  
  • It has elements of steampunk and magical realism.
  • Even though the story falls within the horror genre, it's not particularly scary... at least I don't think.  It's more atmospheric and creepy.  There's also some gore--not anything super violent like the movie Saw.  (No way could I handle that.)  But there's definitely some blood.  :)
  • I forgot to mention my favorite books!  I grew up loving the classics.  19th century fiction is my favorite: Thomas Hardy, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Brontes, Austen, Whitman.  When I wrote this story, I tried to capture their classic voice.  One reader called it Modern Gothic, which I thought was pretty cool.
  • I love tragedy.  I tend to prefer a tragic ending over a happy one.  :)

Why I Would Love a #PitchWars Mentor



  • I feel that my story is a little out of the box in terms of style.  It's fairly literary, wordy, and there's quite a bit of telling.  I, personally, love it because it reminds me of 19th century literature.  But at the same time, I know it needs to find an audience so I would kill for a mentor willing to work with me to make it more commercially viable.
  • I'm also having some issues with pacing, particularly in the second half.  I revised it already in preparation for this contest (squee!!) but another set of eyes would be awesome.

One last thing to note: I am willing to work hard!  I will revise till my fingers bleed!  I want to make this story the best it can be so please pick me!  

Okay, enough begging.  :)   No matter what happens, I'm thrilled to participate!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Online Pitch Contests


I recently had the opportunity to participate in three different pitch/query events and wanted to share with you observations about each!  


THE WRITER’S VOICE

This event was hosted by Krista Van Dolzer although I learned about it through Brenda Drake’s website--a great resource for any writer.  Everyone had to enter a lottery.  200 participants are chosen and then asked to post their query letter and writing sample onto their blog.  (Mine is here if you want to take a look although the query letter has changed since then.)  The coaches then review all of the posts and choose teams of eight.  The coaches then polish their team’s entries and submit them to participating agents at the end of the month. 

Sadly, my entry was not chosen for this event but I wanted to include it in this blog post because it is a great opportunity to keep in mind for the future.  I received very helpful feedback on my query letter and writing sample and the coaches and hosts are super sweet and encouraging.  I also found a supportive community of fellow writers.  If given the opportunity, I would definitely do it again!


QUERY KOMBAT

This event was running simultaneously to The Writer’s Voice and since I was entered in both, it certainly kept me busy!  It’s hosted by Michelle Hauk, Michael Anthony, and SC Author.  I don’t remember how I found out about it but when I did, I knew I had to take the plunge!  From the entries, the three hosts chose teams for a total of 64 participants.  This time, I was selected to be on Michael's team!!  Awesome!  Just goes to show how subjective the publishing world can be--you win some, you lose some!  Even looking over the picks of both Query Kombat and Writer’s Voice, there's not a lot of overlap and it blows my mind to see how different they really are.  I suppose that’s a good thing so that there are enough books to go around for everyone!

The 64 picks were then pitted against one another based on genre.  Secret judges then voted on the individual battles, resulting in a winner.  My first round entry is here.  I was up against Joe McCourt who had an AWESOME YA Horror entry.  Seriously, give it a read if you have a chance!  It was a tough battle.  Both of us got a lot of good feedback... and some bad. :)  In the end, I came through with the win!

So what does that mean?  Next week I will submit a revised entry based on the feedback I received and then submit it for yet another round where I will matched up against a new opponent.  The best part is this next round is judged by AGENTS!!  So even if I don’t advance, I get more exposure for my manuscript, which is kind of the point, right?  :)


#PITMAD

This is a Twitter event hosted by BrendaDrake.  I believe it happens four times a year and lasts for 12 hours.  Anyone can post a short tweet pitching their manuscript.  Then agents troll through the twitter feed and ‘favorite’ pitches that catch their eye.  If you are favorited, you have the opportunity to submit your manuscript to that agent.

Non-agents can show their support by re-tweeting your tweet.  I’m not that experienced with social media but I found this to be invaluable.  When any of my pitches were re-tweeted, I instantly got more re-tweets from their followers and so on and so forth.  I’m not positive but I believe I even got an agent favorite because someone re-tweeted my pitch and it found its way into his stream!  Thanks everyone who helped me with this!!!

I wanted to share with you the tweets that I put up during #PitMad because some were definitely more successful than others.  Before the event began, I did some research in an attempt to write more effective pitches.  If you are interested in participating in the future, check out Diana Urban's blog.  She has some great advice and a very useful worksheet you can use for preparation.  This helped me immensely.  So without further ado here are the tweets that I used.

These were by far the most effective.  I think it’s because they follow the rules that everyone talks about--make the stakes obvious!

  • Born disfigured, 15yo Talmage builds a clockwork twin. When twin murders, Talmage must dismantle his only friend. #PitMad #YA #Gothic #Horror


  • Disfigured teen ends his loneliness by creating a clockwork twin from corpses. Then twin rots, murders & refuses to die. #PitMad #YA #Horror


These next tweets were somewhere in the middle.  They got some response but not as much as the ones above.  I tried to be creative and try different things in terms of format etc to see what worked best.  Also, I tried to vary my tweets so that people didn’t get sick of seeing the same pitch over and over again.

  • In a curiosity wagon, two monstrous brothers--one good, the other made of clock parts & stolen corpses. As he rots, he murders. #YA #PitMad


  • When 15yo Talmage falls for Alice, his mistakes catch up to him--the clockwork boy he built hunts her in a jealous rage. #PitMad #YA #Horror


  • Rob a grave. Build a clockwork twin with corpses. Watch it rot and murder. 15yo Talmage shouldn't have meddled with creation. #PitMad #YA


And sadly, these last two fell flat.  I took them out of the rotation after just one post.

  • 15yo Talmage builds a clockwork boy covered in stolen corpses. Unlike Dr.Frankenstein's, this creation is welcomed as a brother. #PitMad #YA

  • Sibling rivalry at its worst: a clockwork brother covered in rotting flesh who wants to kill your girlfriend. #Gothic #Horror #YA #PitMad



So that's it for now!  I hope my observations help anyone who may be in the same boat as me!  I'm not sure how useful ANY of this events are in the big picture (I suppose that's still TBD) but if I'm trying to get my novel out there, I figure I should try all avenues.  And even if they don't lead me directly to an agent/publisher, participating has given me a sense of empowerment during this whole crazy process. I've met a lot of great people too.        



Thursday, May 21, 2015

Writer's Voice Entry

I won the lottery for #TheWVoice 2015 contest!  This is my first time participating.  I am so excited.  Thank you so much to everyone for putting this contest together!!

***Update: I have posted a new version of my query letter below based on feedback received from the contest.  Thanks to everyone for taking the time to leave comments! 


Query:


Dear Amazing Coaches and Agents,

When Talmage True was born, people said it was a mercy that his mother died for the child’s razor-sharp teeth would have torn her apart. He was born with a full set.

Now fifteen, Talmage hides his misshapen face from those who condemn him for being unnatural. But a chance meeting with his estranged uncle, a curiosity peddler hawking the medically grotesque, brings Talmage a spark of hope. For the first time, Talmage feels a kinship with the bizarre creatures on display--the eight-legged taxidermied kitten and the dog whose body ends in a shell. After all, Talmage, too, is an aberration.

Talmage is drawn into his uncle’s dark world and together they create a clockwork figure in his exact likeness--a mechanical boy made of metal, covered in the flesh of stolen corpses. Late one night, the figure comes to life and Talmage--who has never had a friend before--welcomes it as a brother. But the world is no place for a clockwork boy especially when its body starts to rust and rot. Desperate to stay alive, it turns to murder to harvest fresh body parts. When it sets its sights on Alice, a girl scarred by fire who sees beyond Talmage’s monstrous appearance, Talmage must decide: dismantle his clockwork brother or watch it kill the only person who has ever shown him kindness.

A SAVAGE MISCREATION is an 86,000-word young adult Gothic horror novel. There is a possibility for a sequel although the manuscript could stand alone. I have degrees from Columbia and New York University, both in Film Studies, and have worked for several years producing TV documentaries. I currently live in Saint Paul, MN.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Runnoe



First 250 Words:


I always supposed it would be difficult to kill someone you love.  More than difficult.  It would be impossible, a gut-wrenching, mind-numbing horror that, if achieved, would haunt your soul forever. 
It has haunted me every single waking moment of my wretched life. 
You see, I did.
But if I had the opportunity, I would do it again.  I would tear his body limb from limb, extracting bone from delicate socket and shattering them into a thousand pieces.  From those shards, I would grind what was left of him into powder and then bury it miles apart so that there would be no chance his body could ever come together again.
If only I had. 
His chest weighed against the curve of my back, his breath rasping into my ear.  Gripping one arm, I dragged him down the rickety stairs, his bare feet knocking against the planks.  Outside, amorphous shadows clawed at the edges of the cobblestone street--only the moon would be witness to my heinous act tonight--and so, without looking back, we slipped into the trees. 
He was not awake and yet his lips began to murmur.  I must move quickly but how to do it?  How to kill?  A swift stone to the temple?  His skull was too thick.  Saw his head off his shoulders?  The spinal column too wiry.  A blade, then, through the center of his heart?
“But he has no heart,” I laughed a bitter cry. 
Inside the metal brackets that held his body together, I knew his chest was empty.



Saturday, March 28, 2015

Final Stretch and Preparing for AWP 2015

I am almost finished with my YA Gothic Horror novel.  Almost.  I've been working on it for the past year or so and it has undergone so many transformations it is mind-boggling. (Seriously, it started out as a MG Adventure.)  I thought I was finished earlier this year but then I realized it still needed some changes.  And so I am once again in the throes of revisions!

I keep asking myself... when is it ever over?  I've been working with a professional editor who has been amazing.  It really is shocking what someone outside of the process can see when you are eye-balls deep into the nitty gritty.  With each revision, I feel more confident with the story so I suppose that makes it all worth it.  Still, I am anxious to send it out to agents to see what sort of response I get.  I also know I shouldn't pull the trigger until it is the absolute best it can be.

In the meantime, I am preparing for my first AWP Conference.  It is coincidentally in Minneapolis so I figured I should check it out!  I'm not sure what to expect but I'm already dreading crowds and parking and traffic.  Plus I have to board my little dogs while I am away for the day.  But I am also getting really excited.  I'll be sure to post some photos of the conference once I'm there!

Here's a photo of me and boys in California.  We are ready for spring.  Honestly, Minnesota.  Any time now would be just fine.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Year, New Possibilities.

Happy 2015!!  To kick off the new year, let's start with another Insecure Writer's Support Group post.  This is a blog hop so please check out the other insecure writers here.

I'm feeling really optimistic about my writing goals this year.  Maybe because I am truly in love with my current WIP.  It's funny because I've written two other book before this one but somehow I didn't feel the same way about them.  Right now the manuscript is off in the hands of a professional editor and some friends of mine who are giving it a read through.  I'm expecting it back with notes sometime in February so hopefully then I can make changes, polish it up and then send it out!

There is a part of me that is dreading the upcoming query process.  I've had so many rejections before along with some small sparks of hope that didn't end up turning into much--it's such a let down when that happens.  But I know I have to try as much as it scares me.

In the meantime, I've started a new story.  It always feels good to start something new.  :)

Wishing everyone happy 2015!!  Hugo and Samson are super excited.