The Pitch Wars Experience

If you follow my Twitter account, you’ve probably seen an abundance of writing related tweets using hashtags such as #PitchWars. What is Pitch Wars?

Pitch Wars is now one of many contests/author events geared towards helping writers who seek publication. The contest was created by the lovely Brenda Drake, and you should check out her page for the details and schedule here.

Basically, writers can submit their query letter and first chapter to select mentors who are participating in their genre. The mentors are published/agented authors, editors, interns who are offering up their free time to read each submission they get. After they read through their submissions, they can only select ONE author to scoop under their wing as a mentee.

What does this mentor and mentee partnership mean? Great knowledge! And the mentor will assist the mentee with polishing their query letter and manuscript to become ready for the final round of the contest: The Agent Round.

During the Agent Round the mentees submissions will be made available to the select agents participating in the contest. There’s no guarantee of scoring an agent, but if you get this far in the contest, you should feel rewarded knowing you’re on the right track.

This year the numbers totaled at a little over a hundred mentors and well over a thousand submissions were received. So there’s no guarantee of an agent and the odds are tough no matter how strong your submission might be, so why enter? Regardless of whether you get an agent or even selected to be a mentee, the overall Pitch Wars experience is very rewarding.

Why?

First, submitting is great practice and that’s never a loss! You might even score some feedback from the mentors. Feedback is not required because the mentors are already devoting their free time to the contest and have to focus on helping their mentee. So, let’s keep things classy and make sure to be both patient and appreciative if any mentors take the time to offer feedback to you.

Second, this was my first Pitch Wars and I was not chosen as a mentee, but it was a pleasure connecting with the community. The mentors are pretty active on Twitter, and they provide valuable information via Twitter and their personal blogs. This also gave me a chance to make new writer friends! So basically, search the Pitch Wars hashtag for the chance to learn from industry professionals or meet some awesome writers who might be looking for a critique partner.

The contest is annual, and it’s never too early to work on your submission for next year’s Pitch Wars! Also, visit Brenda Drake’s page for other contest options scheduled throughout the year. Good luck and happy writing!

Writing Tip: Play 21 Questions with Characters

I like to play a little game when new characters pop into my head for a story. Maybe you’ve done something similar with a new friend or romantic interest. I play a game of 21 Questions, but the game doesn’t always require a total of twenty-one. Using more or less questions, you can get to know the characters living inside your head.

Here are 15 fun questions I’ve used, and hopefully you can use these suggestions to inspire even more.

1. How old is he/she and what’s the maturity level?

2. Where did he/she grow up? (Is your character a city loving NYC native? Or from a military family and relocated a lot?)

3. What kind of childhood did he/she experience?

4. What words would you use to describe him/her? (loud, fun, sloppy, clumsy, hermit?)

5. If this was a love interest, what kind of emotional baggage would he/she confess?

6. Biggest fear? (Zombies? Commitment? Heights?)

7. What are his/her strengths and weaknesses?

8. What secrets would he/she keep from friends and family?

9. What are his/her passions? (Art lover? Looking to save the environment?)

10. Favorite food?

11. Optimist or pessimist?

12. Preferred style of clothing? (Casual dresser, dapper suits, or high maintenance always in heels?)

13. If your character could have lunch with one celebrity dead or alive, who might they choose?

14. If your character showed up at a party, how would he/she act? (Would they be the life of the party? Looking for a hook up? Sitting in a corner hiding?)

15. If he/she could travel anywhere in the world, (or perhaps even out of this world) where would he/she choose?

Hopefully these questions helped someone further develop their characters, and feel free to share other questions which might be fitting. I would also recommend keeping character Q&As on file with any other bios or notes you might use.

Opinions Are Just Opinions

Yesterday I went through an evening of shear panic and proceeded to berate myself for decisions I made as a teen. I read an article by a former MFA teacher and suddenly questioned myself as a writer. Seriously, I sat and questioned everything I was so sure of. I may not be the best writer, but I’ve known for a very long time that writing was my passion. Novels, short stories, comic books and video game reviews. I love to write. I chose this path shortly after high school and took a few wrong turns, but I eventually found my way and improved. I didn’t choose the easy path or the path others would’ve chosen for me.

SIDE NOTE: Despite what others think of the career choice, writing is rarely a life of luxury and vacation. The life of a writer is usually filled with sacrifices and deadlines, but we choose this because we love to write.

So I woke up today, still feeling a little off from the internal battle from last night. I couldn’t shake the thoughts because there were so many other writers who agreed with the article. Surely, I had to be doomed. This article just told me I was unlikely to ever be successful because I didn’t read the classics or take writing seriously in high school. Why didn’t I read those damn books we were assigned in high school? I read a lot of books school, but I almost never read the ones assigned to us.

SIDE NOTE: I was an angry and often rebellious teenager. Like many teenagers before me.

So why did I not bother to read those novels later? Was I even serious about writing in high school? My thoughts? I read what I liked and I wrote what I liked. My reading is much more well-rounded now, but I still believe you should enjoy what you’re reading. You shouldn’t sit and get a headache trying to translate text that doesn’t interest you, simply because it’s a classic and you feel obligated. Try it, don’t like? Then just move on. And I did write crazy stories in high school with my best friends as the characters. Was I writing? Yes. Was it super serious? No.

So still mentally beating myself up, I started my normal wake up routine of checking emails and social media. I was exhausted and my head hurt like a bad hangover.

SIDE NOTE: I didn’t drink last night. Maybe I should have.

Then I read Chuck Wendig’s response to the article, which is fairly vulgar and amazing. I had a great laugh and felt so much better knowing that I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only one who completely disagreed with that writer’s opinions. See, I had forgotten that’s all the article was. Opinions. Everyone has them, but doesn’t mean they are always right or that they even apply to you.

It’s ironic because I just recently read Chuck’s book, The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience, and he had me in a great mindset about writing. Honestly, writers need motivation and not negativity. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. And read Chuck’s book about writing because his no bullshit approach to giving tips is hilarious and at least you’ll get a positive experience from his opinions. Most likely.

Stay awesome and keep reading and writing. ❤

My Methods for Avoiding Writer’s Block

A friend recently asked how I fight writer’s block, and I realized that I don’t suffer from the dreaded condition often.

Why?

I’d like to pretend that I’m just fortunate, but the truth is that I’m always doing activities that allow for great brainstorming. I’m going to share my top methods for avoiding writer’s block, so grab a pen and take some notes!

ART- You can try to sketch your own characters, but this doesn’t have to be related to your writing at all. I enjoy both acrylic painting and sketching portraits which can act as great meditation. Art can really help you relax and free your mind for a brainstorming session.

MUSIC- I like to build a playlist of music for each of my projects. I do a lot of brainstorming when I’m in the early stages of a new writing project, and I try to consider what music would set a good tone for the story. I use the selected playlist shortly before I begin a writing session, and I let that set the mood for my writing.

I really like to implement this method when I am plotting out fight scenes too. I envision the scene with music that fits the mood, and then I ask myself one question. If this scene was turned into a live-action movie trailer, what would the scene look like? I let my mind really visualize the part.

I also love combining art and instrumental music to free my mind for ultimate creativity. I enjoy writing or painting while listening to video game soundtracks. You’ll find some really beautiful instrumental pieces inside Assassin’s Creed, Skyrim, and Dragon Age games.

DREAM JOURNAL- This is a fantastic way to spark ideas! I kept a journal by my bedside that pretty much held the inspiration behind my current work in progress. I haven’t used this method in a while, but I would wake up from some crazy dream and jot down as much detail as possible. When I decided I wanted to try writing a new story, I flipped through my journal for something that spoke to me. I’m not even exaggerating when I say that over half of the crazy events in Sacrifice actually spawned from my dreams.

EXERCISE- I saved this one for last because I’m sure it will receive several groans from my readers. Get off the couch you lazy bum! I’m kidding, it’s rude to call you that! In all seriousness though, I’ve had great brainstorming sessions during and after a workout. This is not only beneficial for your body, but also for your mind as well. Exercise doesn’t have to be some strenuous full body workout either. I spend a lot of time sitting down writing or sketching, and I find that it helps to walk away for some fresh air. I’ve spawned great ideas while taking my dog for a short walk.

So those are the methods I use to keep myself inspired, and I hope the information helps another writer! Want to know more writing tips? Send me a topic suggestion on Twitter or Facebook, and your topic may inspire my next blog!