Vlog: 10 Questions To Ask Your Beta-Readers

Since this week’s blog post is 90% vacation photos and stats, this week’s vlog post is a site favorite, from before I started Vlogging.

Iceland, Finland, and WorldCon 75

I’m back.

I’ve had three full days in Iceland, four flights, and five days of WorldCon in Helsinki, Finland.

I tasted whale, puffin, and reindeer.

I saw two hot springs, three waterfalls, about 8 geysers. (I fell in love with Iceland’s Gullfoss waterfall. It’s now my favorite place on earth.)

I saw where the North American tectonic plate is pulling away from the Eurasian plate at the site of the Thingvellir. I saw artifacts from 1000 BC, archeological sites, and churches. I climbed a mountain.

I took 73 pages of notes over four workshops and seventeen panels. I spent 21 hours in panels and workshops and very likely 20 hours in queues. I dubbed 478 pictures ‘worth keeping’ and 7 videos (see my facebook and Instagram for most of these).

On the four planes, I read three-and-a-half books, took two one-hour naps, and watched one movie.

My biggest takeaways

  • Iceland was amazing, primitive, and beautiful.
  • Helsinki was welcoming, clean, and easy to navigate.
  • WorldCon was popular, had excellent speakers, and was full of new friends.

Over the next month or so, I’ll be sharing my notes from most of the panels. Some were presentations or workshops that I consider proprietary to the speaker and those I’ll limit my remark on.

My 3 Favorite Writing Epiphanies/Quotes:

  1. If you remember all the things that make listening to a book-reading enjoyable and apply it to your writing? It becomes lyrical! I always thought lyrical just wasn’t a type of writing I could do, but when you consider rhythm, repetition, and pace? Evocative lyrical writing can happen, even to me.
  2. I’m a lay person, but I know a decent amount about weaponry and injuries. One of the panels had an excellent break down of weapons and the injuries that sort of weapon creates that just organized it perfectly for my writer-brain with an ‘if X, then Y’ sort of connection.
  3. When Connie Willis was quoted for killing characters that are too uppity (by not cooperating with her plot), George RR Martin gasped, “Killing your characters? How Horrible!

Vlog: A Message To My Fellow #PitchWars Hopefuls

Best of luck to all of you! In #PitchWars and Beyond!

A Message to My Fellow PitchWars Hopefuls

Most of you know that I’m involved with the PitchWarriors community*. I help run 2 Facebook support groups: One general group, and one group specifically for YA writers. This post is for them.

Some of you are new to PitchWars and some of you have been here before.

Some of you are new to the support groups and the network — even if you pitched to PitchWars before, and some of you have been critiquing and learning with each other for years.

Some of you eagerly sent off your newly polished draft that you started in early this year and some of you are anxious to find out how to fix that novel you’ve been reworking for ten years.

Your nerves are shot. You’re trying not to get your hopes up, but you really think this manuscript might be the one and you’re praying to everything you believe in that you picked the right mentors to submit your manuscript to.

That among the mentors you queried is THE MENTOR.


The mentor that will see the heart of your story, who will read your pages and just can’t bring themselves to walk away. The mentor who sees what’s holding your manuscript back from being the legendary thing you know it can grow into. The mentor who knows just what you need to get it there.

You’re hoping for the mentor who not only gets your novel but gets YOU. Who becomes your friend, your cheerleader, and the harshest-kindest taskmaster as you prepare your novel.

The mentor who crushes your manuscript of coal, who drives you harder than you’ve ever worked before, who helps reveal the diamond it was destined to be, letting it glimmer before the agents.


Waiting is hard. You hear rumors of people getting asked for more pages, synopsis, or more (but people stay discrete). You see tweets with teasers about everyone else’s stories.

You second guess yourself. Should you have chosen that other mentor? Should you have written THIS thing instead of THAT thing? Maybe your query should have been that OTHER style.

In the end, some of you will be selected and some of you won’t.

It hurts.


I know this personally.

I will be excited for everyone who is selected.

I will be So. Very. Proud. of all of my writers from my PitchWars support groups who have helped each other grow, who I’ve watched learn and blossom as writers.


And after the selections?

I know that those who are selected will be excited and nervous and maybe, just maybe, suffering a touch of survivor’s guilt or impostor syndrome, that you made it when all those other writers you know and love didn’t. But you’ve got a spark and the mentor who selected you knows just what you need.

I know that those who are not selected will be excited for their friends. And they will hurt.

Some will feel the energy of all those fellow writers revising, will look around and decide, “I didn’t get chosen, but I choose to go on!” And they will find Critique Partners and revise and push forward, to see what they can achieve without a mentor, just by leaning on each other. And I will cheer you on.

Some will decide it was a sign that they need to stop polishing their novel and put it out there. It’s time for them to query agents. And I wish them the best of luck!

Some will decide that the traditional route is not for them and self-publishing is where it’s at. And I wish them amazing sales!

Some will need to take time away, to heal, to recover from their disappointment. And that’s okay.

But no matter what? You’ve done it.

You wrote a novel. You plotted, revised, and polished that sucker.

All those people out there, just talking about their big idea, the story they want to write, or want someone else to write for them? You’ve done what they only talk of.

Once a PitchWarrior, ALWAYS a PitchWarrior.

Go. Write. Polish. Publish.

I wish you all the best of luck, in pitchWars and beyond.

Vlog: 3 Things That Make a Great 1st Line

Tips on how to start your novel. Plus! Famous examples and discussion about how they work.

To Query or Not To Query…

Yes, I’m back here again. You’ve seen me ask this question before.

Once upon a time, way back in January, I was feeling pretty good. I’d exceeded my resolutions for 2016 and was confident in my abilities to rock a bunch of new years resolutions.

2 weeks later, I’d already tripped.

Since we’re halfway through the year, let’s see how I’m doing on those goals.

2017 Goals

1st Quarter:

  • Edit #WIP1 with editor                                                        Well, I got my notes from my editor in March. I finished that edit in May. And my new Critique Partner’s checking it for typos and things that confuse 1st time readers…
  • Finish rough draft of #WIP2  [minimum 5k a week until done]        DONE
  • Start querying #WIP1 & #PB1 [minimum 3 queries a month, each] NOPE
  • Post 3 book reviews on Amazon/Goodreads                    Does putting stars on the stuff I’ve read count?

2nd Quarter:

  • Edit #WIP2 [minimum 50 pages a week]                          Not even touched
  • Send #WIP2 to beta readers                                                                      NOPE
  • Query #WIP1 and #PB1 [minimum 3 queries a month, each]           NOPE
  • Write a short project                                                                                  NOPE
  • Balticon                                                                                                         DONE
  • Post 3 book reviews on Amazon/Goodreads                   Does putting stars on the stuff I’ve read count?

That’s a lot of red and very little green…


I decided I wasn’t done with my original Work-In-Progress. I decided I could make it BETTER, STRONGER, MORE POIGNANT. Also, when I ask people for help, it happens on their time frame, not mine. The feedback I’ve gotten has been invaluable and worth the wait.

The Questions Are, As Always:

  • Have I done enough?
  • Is there more I could do?
  • Is there more I should do?

Agents want to see your polished work, but perfectionism is the enemy of done.

I’m proud of my novel and my work on it. I really feel it’s ready. So, that leaves me one week out from PitchWars and sitting on the fence…

Am I ready to query agents?

Or should I query for a mentor?


I’m going to enter PitchWars and if I don’t make it? It’s time for me to query an agent!

Best of luck to everyone who’s entering!