Accountability Time For Morgan

For me, accountability is key for me moving forward with my writing. So, here’s my irregularly scheduled check-in post, to let you know what I’ve been up to!

1. Query novel #1 at least 3 times every other week until I get an agent

(unless I’m revising it)

Well, thanks to that little caveat, I’ve only missed about 3 times this year. Because every time I hear back on a query, I take another look at my pages…

For reals, though. I’m planning on sending out another 3-8 queries in the next few weeks on WIP #1.

Although, from checking my SPAM folder with a hitherto now unknown diligence, I now know that the Nigerian Prince scam isn’t actually an urban legend. They come in ever 3-6 weeks, like clockwork.

2. Move forward with my picture book

I’ve done no research or revisions. I need to decide if I’m moving forward on this. It’s a sweet bedtime story, with little to make it stand out.

Plan? Find some picture book writers and see what they think: does it stand out, how should I edit it, or back to the drawing boards.

3. Revise at least one of my shelved rough drafts

Nope. But the year isn’t over? I don’t *think* I can count revising my WIP #1, again…

4. Write something NEW during NaNoWriMo

Well, I’ve got something new in my head. Working on getting a story ready, so I’m pretty sure I’m gonna write something new. I’m just hoping it’s more than 5,000 words.

I may start it early, but 50,000 in anything new should be reasonable for this goal.

5. Keep blogging and decide if vlogging is worth it

I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job at the blogging thing and I’m slowly building a vlogging audience.

My blog is growing – I average over 100 views a week thanks to viewers like you. I started a new Query Corner feature, that’s up to 25 queries already. I’m looking into a published author spotlight feature, so look out for that!

Plus, my vlog is growing – I average 25 views per post – eventually. Not amazing, but I remember when my blog was there.

6. Try to use  social media better

This one I think I’m doing fine at.

  • This is the year I wrote my own guide to social media
  • I hit 5,000 followers on Twitter (last night)
    • I’ve tried to use it regularly, not just for posting
  • I’ve posted 132 things on Instagram – so beating my goal of 1 thing a week
  • I’ve been using Tumblr more, joined the #writeblrs?
  • I’ve earned 81 Reddit karma – even writing a couple short stories to add to r/noSleep. Thus, practicing this whole ‘writing short stories’ thing.
  • I’m using Pinterest — we’ll see if it helps
  • I joined a couple blogger groups, but I’m not sure if I’m the right demographic

7. Read an average of 2 books a month

BAM! Got this one.

I’ve been ranking them on GoodReads – and sometimes on Amazon. No bonus points for reviewing them, but I’ve already read 23 books this year – putting me 1 away from my yearly target.

2018BooksJuly

* Bonus – Networking!

Okay, this one wasn’t a written goal, but I’m giving myself points for attending 3 different writers groups in the last 2 months, joining 2 of them, and reading my work aloud to an audience. Plus volunteering to help judge a writing contest.

Note to self: Remember to make time to write your fiction. Not just blogging, networking, and all the rest…

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3 Tips for Deciding What Point-of-View to Use

Picking a POV

All The New Things

This has been a weird week for me. Between Amazon Prime Day last week, a little space in my budget, and my beginning dealings with a new story, I’ve been trying something new every day this week.

Last week, during Amazon Prime Day, I finally replaced my fitness tracker that I broke up with 2 months ago. If you’re gonna make me un-pair/re-pair every time I want to sync my tracker? AND not save any data from previous days? You’re not worth it.

So, this week has been full of reminders to get up and walk around every hour while at day-job. And me actually using the My FitnessPal App to track my meal intake. Which of course led me to put in for that standing/sitting desk topper that my work offers to get people if they put in a request. Which led me to finding a $50 elliptical on Craigslist. Which is now sitting in my sunroom, awaiting time to see if it can fit into my tiny spare bedroom of a ‘workout room’.

AND? I picked up an Instapot. A friend came over and we (mostly she) experimented. I’m still getting used to my new grocery store and I might have to switch because this one didn’t have everything I wanted. But the honey-garlic glazed chicken was AMAZING. (Plus, we finally got back to watching Grace and Frankie on NetFlicks for the first time since I moved!)

And? Remember that story I was talking about last week? That new one that I was scared to write, worried it could never measure up? Well, I’m about 900 words into it and I, for the life of me, cannot decide if I want to use 1st-person or 3rd-person point-of-view (POV).

True, I could also debate tense, but I’m comfortable in past tense and not looking to switch it up for a novel.

You’re more likely to see, “The welcoming aroma of a savory stew drifted past the cupboards and made my stomach grumble, but CHARACTER politely ignored it.”

than

“The welcoming aroma of a savory stew drifts past the cupboards and makes my stomach grumble, but CHARACTER politely ignores it.”

Morgan looks stressed and confused

POV Decision Factors

    1. What are you most comfortable with?

      Me? I’m most comfortable with 1st-person. It’s how I think, how I see my world and characters. When I’m first learning about a character and world, I make notes, but when I’m starting a story, I fall directly into 1st-person.

    2. What are the genre expectations?

      Traditionally, novels were written in 3rd-person.

      You have options in 3rd that you don’t have in 1st.

      • You can have outside information.
      • If you have more than one Main Character, it can be less confusing to the reader.
      • You can be all-knowing. OR.
      • You can do what’s known as ‘3rd-person close’, in which your story is told from basically a GoPro watching over the main character(s), that can also dip into your main character’s head and share their thoughts.

      But I write YA (and maybe MG? A chapter book? What is this new thing turning into) These days, 1st person is becoming more and more popular.

      Look at your genre’s trends.

    3. What Feels Write Right For Your Story?

      When all else fails, just see what works for your story!

      If you need to, write a chapter in one POV, and then switch it to the other.

      Personally, my 3rd-person still feels clunky, but I’d like my story to have a fairytale sort of feel to it, so I’m going to keep on trying and see if I get it right. So, this is a case of ‘wrong for me, but maybe right for the story.’

      I’ll just have to keep writing to find out if I made the right call.


***

How do you decide what point of view and tense to use in your stories?

Have you ever gotten it wrong?

Writer’s Block – Intimidated By The Blank Page

I never thought it would happen to me.

I was arrogant and short-sighted.

I thought writer’s block was censoring out bad writing (you know, like rough drafts), an inability to apply butt-to-seat, or thinking you’re going in the wrong direction but not knowing the right one.

I didn’t think the blank page could scare me until I decided it was time for me to try something new.

Now? I understand.

Searching for a story

For the past few weeks, I’ve come to realize it’s time for me to start something new.

But what? A new story in my old world? A new world? A story in the real world?

And whose story should I tell?

I’ve been rolling settings and motivations around in the back of my brain. Letting ideas flow through my head without conscious attention, enjoying the feel of the endless possibilities.

And tiptoeing around my fears.

The thoughts that intimidate me?

Hand holding a magnifying glass

Photo by fotografierende on Pexels.com

Basically all the good reporter questions:

  • Who are my characters?
  • What do they want? What’s their goal? What stands in their way?
  • When and where is this set? [Either in the real world or on a technological advancement scale.]
  • Why? Why is this my story? Why do the characters want their goal?

Behind these questions, though, is where my real fears lurk.

Maybe what I’ve already written is better than any new world. Maybe the manuscript I’m querying was just a fluke. I know that story better than this vague inkling of an idea, how could I possibly do this new story justice?

Except, of course:

Signpost

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Only Way Out Is Through

I’d contemplated and thought about my first world for years before I wrote it.

This new story? These new characters? This new world? They’re all so durn new to me, they’re basically transparent. I don’t know them yet, how can I even imagine I could tell their tale?

But then I remember, it took me three attempts to figure out my first world, to actually get past that 20,000-word mark and get the full story out of me. Three tries before I committed and followed the story till it was long enough.

You know what happened AFTER I finished writing 131,000 words in my then-brand-new manuscript?

After I finished and looked around is when I began to realize the theme of my story–what it had been working toward the whole time. And every draft, it becomes clearer and stronger and better plotted.

The only way for me to know for sure what story is trying to come out of me is for me to write it.

So now what?

A path through a garden

Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

My (Writing) Path Forward

They say every writer works differently, and that sometimes a writer’s method will even change from story-to-story.

My plan right now is to try what worked for me the last couple times.

Writing Plan

  1. Pick a setting
  2. Pick a character
  3. Do a stupidly high-level outline. Something like:
    • ch 1 – inciting incident
    • ch 2 – complain to a friend
    • … ch 19- final battle!
    • ch 20 – denoument
  4. Start at a beginning (likely 2 chapters early while I explore the world and main character) and write until I get stuck
  5. Look at the outline. Either:
    • it helps
    • or
    • I need to rewrite the outline cause I’m going a different direction

When you’re starting a new project, what’s your process?

Do you just wait for a new idea to intrigue you and start writing while it’s fresh?

Or do you decide when you want to write something new and seek out that new idea?

As always, thanks for watching and feel free to subscribe (<<<<) I’ll be back again next Thursday with more writing tips and writerly musings. If there’s something you’d like me to talk about, feel free to email me at morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com. See you next week.

Balticon 52

No query corner this week: instead here’s a quick review of Balticon 52. I’ll be going into more depth on some of the panels later.

After a long week away from home learning about Aeronautics, my bed got me for one night before I hit Balticon 52. I saw old friends, made new ones, and–as always–brought home loads of notes to share with you!

Balticon 52

For those of you who don’t know, Balticon is an annual Science Fiction and Fantasy convention hosted in Baltimore, Maryland. It’s not a for-profit convention like the Comic-cons and the AwesomeCon’s of the world, this one is a labor a love, run by fans, for fans.

Balticon is a bit smaller and more mellow than DragonCon, though chock-full of activities and panels. There are writers and agents, scientists and publishers galore. But, unlike some of the writer-targeted conventions, there are no ‘pitching sessions’, etc. At least outside of BarCon* (the habit of some agents/etc to hang out at the bar. ‘Can I buy you a drink’ is often a good conversation starter…)

In years past, I’ve attended up to 21 different writing panels and workshops in the 4 days of the convention. This year was a bit lighter. Partially because some panels repeat, and partially due to me pacing myself a bit better.

I would have liked to get to the convention before the traffic picked up on Friday afternoon, but it was not to be.

gray plane wing

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As I mentioned earlier, I spent last week learning about aeronautics and my flight home wasn’t until after 4pm on Thursday.

If I had to list the biggest misconception I had corrected, it would be the concept of the ‘sonic boom.’ I’d thought it was a boom that emitted from the aircraft as it passed the speed of sound, radiating out from that point in space.

Nope! Instead, it’s the sound of the air leaving the speed of the aircraft and returning to standard pressure. It follows the vehicle like a dude water-skiing follows the boat.

But anyway, I’d made the decision to schedule an evening flight home to DC, aiming for the latest flight possible as to not miss any of the class. As it was, I had to miss the final review and the certificate ceremony.

I was pleased because flying back the next day would have me landing at Dulles, during rush hour, on a Friday–OF A HOLIDAY WEEKEND. Basically, a nightmare for getting to Baltimore.

However, that decision set me up for a 90-second layover in Detroit.

woman walking on pathway while strolling luggage

Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

WHAT? Do airlines even allow that?

Well, it started out as a 42-minute layover, with the same airline, so it seemed reasonable.

Until you realize that planes start boarding 30 minutes before takeoff, and typically have to close the doors at least 20 minutes before taxiing.

So, that leaves me with a bare 22 minutes before they stop boarding.

Plus, that doesn’t include disembarking time. And did I mention it was a smaller plane so my rolling luggage wouldn’t fit in the sloped overhead compartment, so I had to wait for my luggage to be brought to me?

There I am, watching the clock, a map of the Detroit terminal on my phone, ready to run. And run I did, because my plane arrived at gate C15 and my next flight was at gate A73. The FAR end.

There were several people-movers (moving sidewalks) and I scurried. And in 12 minutes, I made it to my gate. With about a minute to spare before they belatedly began to board my flight.

*whew*

After I got home, I made the intelligent decision to assemble a new nightstand that had arrived while I was gone. I finished around 1:15am. What can I say? I haven’t assembled the 2 bookcases that also arrived! Because I couldn’t assemble just one. And after assembling them, I would’ve needed to finish unpacking from my move! (not my trip)

But back to the convention. By the time I got up, got moving, and got on the road, it was 1:30pm. And my radiator needs to go into the shop.

Blue car on the side of the road, hood up, person in blue shirt and khakhis looking in.

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Fun Facts About Morgan’s Radiator Issues:

  • It was 90+ degrees on Friday
  • If I went over 65 mi/hr, I could have my AC on
  • If I was under 40 mi/hr, I could have the AC off, but the temperature still cool
  • If I was under 30 mi/hr, I had to have the heat on
  • If I was in stop and go traffic, I had to blast the heat

If I didn’t? My radiator overheat warning would come on! I only had to pull over twice before I got my levels properly calibrated.

I arrived, splurged on valet parking, and the line for Registration was done in under 15 minutes, my dad handed off my room key, and I was ready to convention!


Panels I Managed to Attend At Balticon

  1. Writing Characters with Agency
  2. Sustaining Tension In Your Writing
  3. Keeping Your Topic Interested (ended up being a lot about how to interview people)
  4. Reading Your Own Work (workshop)
  5. Pitching Your Own Work (workshop)
  6. What Makes An Idea Worth Exploring
  7. Ask Me Anything – Editors & Publishers
  8. Sassafras – (Concert! Including a Loki/Thor duet)
  9. Class Structures in SF/F
  10. [Nap Attack — missed some panels and was late to the next one]
  11. Useful Rabbit Holes For Writers
  12. What Good Is An Agent (I thought it would be preaching to the choir, but got useful stuff!)
  13. Making Fantasy Feel Realistic
  14. This Kaiju Life  (live podcast)
  15. Writing Compelling Villains
  16. Pitches We’re Sick Of (And One’s We’d Like To See More Of) (mostly boils down to writing what you’re passionate about, don’t chase trends, Zombies, Urban Fantasy, and Paranormal Romance are currently out, Steampunk may make a resurgence in the next 3-5 years. And vampires are coming back)

Cosplay!

 

 

I like to wear silly shirts, play dress up, and–I like bad puns. I kicked off my weekend with a ‘My Weekend is all Booked!’ T-shirt, and then followed it up with my Book-shaped bookbag wearing copper and red dragon, otherwise known as my ‘BookWyrm’. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of my button-eyed Other-Morgan, as inspired by Coraline, but I did manage to creep out a few people and get several double-takes. Maybe next time?

I lost the hall costume votes by 2 votes TO A MUPPET!! A guy dressed as a Jurassic Park scientist, with a giant egg and a baby velociraptor muppet who visited the kids’ room during their ‘Dinosaur Dig’ hour, but STILL. I lost to a muppet. I blame the lack of costume title/explanation on the vote sheet.

 


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I also helped hostess the DC 2021 bid party!

Confession: I’m a second generation geek and when I decided to hit Balticon, I emailed my dad and asked, “Hey, can I room with you?” To which his reply was, “Only if you’re okay helping Bill with the Bid Party. Cause I’m signed up, as usual, to work the midnight-3am shift in the ConSuite (food and relaxation space open to all Con attendees).

Hostessing is something I’m usually pretty comfortable with, so he didn’t really need to talk me into it.

Anyway–at SF/F conventions like this, room parties are usually on the ‘party floor’, and put on by other cons that want you to attend them as well, committees bidding for the next WorldCon to be scheduled, or other groups. You wander down the hall, check out their snack and drink offerings, and chat with people.

We got a fair number of sign-ups of people buying supporting memberships for the DC bid (currently unopposed…) I gave out tiny stickers as long as people promised not to vote against DC, and the last people wandered out at 2:52am–the last party to shut down on the hall by quite a bit.

Good chats and I hit the chips&dip pretty hard.

I cleaned up, changed into my pajamas, and the alarm went off. 3:03am. So, I tromped down 5 flights of stairs and waited for the all clear. It took about 10 minutes. Then, back up to the room, helped carry all the left-overs to the ConSuite.

I’m sure I was asleep before 4am, but barely.


Between panels, I managed to fit in meals with friends, a few walk-throughs of the dealers’ room and art show, and, of course, SUNDAY night’s ‘return of the fire alarm’ at a more respectable 12:48am.

I met a lot of lovely people everywhere I went, dropped into a round of CodeWords for a bit, and overall had a pleasant visit.

Now, I’ve got to wait til next year.

When Querying A Novel: Hope Can Be The Scariest Thing

If you’re a regular reader, you saw my post two weeks ago about how I started to lose faith in my story. I believe in my story, but I was worried about its ability to stand out in an over-crowded market full of amazing stories.

I don’t know if it was karma, persistence, or simply comedic timing, but I got a FULL REQUEST on Monday.


Querying and Life

For those of you who haven’t queried a novel, I’ve been sending 1-page ‘query’ letters to agents, asking if they would like to represent my novel and me, and find me a publisher. Each agent and agency is different in what they ask for, some just want the query, some want anywhere from 5 pages to 50 pages, some want the synopsis as well.

As you might remember, I just finished a move that turned into a two-month ordeal. Well, I didn’t really get time to recover from that. The past 2 weeks, I’ve been helping coordinate my cousin’s wedding, which culminated in the official event this past Saturday. The beach was hot, the bride looked lovely, and we were surrounded by friends and family.

And? Let me tell you–if putting in that much time and effort to help a loved one earns me the karma for a full request on my manuscript? I’d do it twice a month. (I just don’t know where I’d find the time to work full time, write, and throw a wedding…)

A couple, kissing on a sandy beach at sunset (sunrise?)

Photo by Ibrahim Asad on Pexels.com


Hearing Back On A Query

But, going back to the full request. I’d queried this particular agent with just the query 104 days ago. The agency website says they TRY to respond in under 8 weeks for queries and under 12 weeks for page requests, but it’s not guaranteed.

Personally? I like to be patient and am hesitant to nudge unless a timeline for that is explicitly noted. Otherwise, I’ll likely wait double the suggested time limit. I don’t want to irritate the agent, and as long as they aren’t a ‘no-reply-means-no-thank-you’ agency, I’ve yet to not hear back eventually. (And many are now sending “we got it” automated replies, so that worry is alleviated.)


My Reaction To Getting a Full Request From An Agent

Confession?

When I got the email, I had to read it twice. I’ve gotten fewer than a handful of non-form-letter rejections. My one other FULL request, from two revisions ago, turned into no-reply.

Reading this one, I started breathing hard and my hands flailed in the air.

Tears welled up in my eyes, as I covered my face with my hands, and tried not to let my entire cube farm know that something was up.

Hope is terrifying!

I’d given up. I’d emotionally stopped expecting to get any traction with this story I love so much, that I’ve worked so hard on. I’d even entered a writing contest last week to try and get feedback, to see if someone could help me try and add that SPARK to get the interest that my story deserves.

To be offered this chance, this opportunity to display my work to an agent I was super excited about was overwhelming.

I had hope. Which meant now I had something to lose.

I stared at the clock. I couldn’t wait to go home and work on my novel.

clock


Prepping My Manuscript For Submission

Wait! But Morgan, you’re only supposed to query novels that are already edited and ready to go? What work did you need to do?

Well, true. And my novel IS revised, edited, and ready to go.

But, I’ve been slowly working on a read-through of my novel, just for a final polish while waiting on rejections to try and make it shine. I’d slowed down after I passed the 50 page mark, thinking anyone who asked for more pages would start with a partial (i.e. Where they ask for more pages, but not the whole thing.)

And with the move and the wedding and all? I was sitting at about page 160 out of 340.

I could have just sent it and trusted my earlier edits, but honestly? I wanted to finish this read-through.

5 Bic pens fanned out. Green, black, pink, blue, and red.

All of my Bic editing pens.


The Odds That A Full Request Will Lead To An Offer

Now, I’ve been querying for a while and I know the odds. A request for more pages means that my query is working (and maybe my first pages if they’re included in the submission package.)

It does NOT in any way, shape, or form mean I’m about to have an offer on the table.

For one? Remember that 104 days I waited to hear back on my 1 query letter? A full manuscript takes a bit longer to read — assuming always that they don’t read the first chapter and decide it’s not for them.

In addition? This particular agent hasn’t read a single page of my manuscript, yet. The voice, the tone, or the pacing might not be right for her.

But then again? It could be just what they’re looking for.

Picture of a roulette wheel.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com


Responding To On A Full Request

Back to my manuscript polishing. I could have spread it out a little–as long as I replied in the next couple days I would be okay.

But, I didn’t want to give the impression that I wasn’t ready.

I didn’t want to give the impression that I was slow to work with or that I looked at standard guidelines as mere suggestions.

Plus, I’m the kinda girl who finishes her test and turns it in first, because every time I try to review my answers, I only change right answers to wrong ones. Overthinking things isn’t my forte, so I just send it off and make sure it’s out of my hands. I wasn’t about to start sitting on things now.

Also, I’m the sort of person who, once I have a decided course of action, moves forward. (Assuming it’s something I want. Not just the lesser of two weevils.)

WIN_20180517_00_16_07_Pro


Focused On Polishing

Thus, I got home at 6 pm and I polished until 1:30 a.m., prepped the submission package, and sent it off before I could work myself into a tizzy.

The first about 150 pages I polished had my complete focus.

Wait. That’s a lie.


Distractions From Writing – Gaining Traction

About 25 pages in, I got an email from my dad asking if I wanted to collaborate on a short story. And remember that writing contest I entered? They were asking for more pages.

❤ Traction. My little story is starting to get some traction. ❤

I had to take a few moments to fan myself and take it all in.

Meanwhile? A thunderstorm was blowing in, with strong winds and heavy rains. I watched the trees in my backyard sway and decided I’d be working a little further away from those great big windows.

Sitting on my couch, away from the windows, listening to the howling storm, I had to just sit back and laugh.

When it rains it pours. In this case? Literally.

A hand reaching out to feel the falling rain - in black and white/greyscale.

Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com


Late Night Writing

So, there I was, burning the midnight oil to finish reading through my polished draft one last time before I sent it off.

Honestly? The last 50 pages? Well, my eyes were starting to blur from staring at the screen, but the ending’s been rewritten and reworked a lot, so likely needed less polish than the middle.

A bit rushed, but acceptable work. Plus, now I know I can polish nearly 25 pages an hour, so I have no excuse next time for working so slow.

Social media can take care of itself without me for a while.

Now all I can do is cross my fingers and hope that my manuscript touches a chord.


 Best of luck to all of you out there and don’t give up hope!

Let me know if there was a time YOU got feedback at just the right time to keep you going. It doesn’t have to be writing related.