Writer’s Block Caused By Stress: Ten Ways To Overcome.

I hope everyone had a fabulous time at the WD Conference this weekend. I know you learned a lot, and met some pretty awesome people. I’m sure some of you are already hard at work, critiquing, editing, and rewriting some of your manuscript, just from what you learned at the conference. Good job! Keep those words flowing!

However, a few might be a little overwhelmed, and I know at times for me, it can cause major writer’s block. Don’t get stressed! There are plenty of tips and info out there that may help relieve your writer’s block. This article here, in particular, really helped me. If you’re feeling a tad anxious or stressed from the work you know you have ahead of you, this article by, The Creative Writer’s Desk, can perhaps benefit you as well.

Some of these tips I may have touched on before, but let’s be honest, it’s never a bad idea for a review. Also, check out these great quotes by other authors, on how they combat the dreaded writer’s block – http://writerscircle.com/quotes-to-combat-writers-block/

Stress is one of the top two causes of writer’s block. When your mind is preoccupied it’s difficult, sometimes impossible to focus on creative writing. There are ways to get around it. Sometimes writing can actually be the activity that relieves your stress. Try these techniques to help you to relax and let the words flow. The top 10 ways to beat stress related writer’s block.

1. Designate one place that’s just for writing. It may seem like a simple task but if there is one place that you write every day it makes it easier for your mind to focus on writing and writer’s block won’t be as big of a problem. It’s the same concept as studying in the classroom where you have a test. You’re accustom to the surroundings so when you sit down in that area your mind recognizes that it’s time to write and it will more easily put aside the other worries of the day.

2. Write at least 500 words immediately after you wake up. The morning is when your mind is most rested and relaxed. The act of writing is, psychologically speaking, both soothing and stimulating. It sooths the mind by acting as an outlet for the stress you wake up with, allowing you to face your day with less on your mind. It’s stimulating because it gets your creative juices flowing, like mental pushups. By starting your day with writing, you’ll be facing the world with a creative mindset.

3. Give yourself enough time. Consider writing a prior engagement. If you’re serious about being a writer you have to give yourself enough time to work. Think of it as a relationship. You’ve promised writing that you’re going to devote the 5 o’clock hour to it. It’s a date. If you have to pick up the kids or go to class, pick a different time to write. You can’t write if you rush yourself. It will only add more stress and make the writer’s block worse.

4. Eliminate distractions. It sounds easy but in the world of cell phones and e-mail, it isn’t. Turn off your cell phone, disconnect your Internet or turn your wireless off, and put a “do not disturb” sign on the door. A woman I know has a sign that she puts on her door while writing that says, “If you aren’t bleeding, I don’t care.” Get rid of the clutter in your writing space and keep it that way. Your task is writing. Stick to it.

5. Keep a Journal. This is one of the classic tips of stress relief but how can writing help you with writer’s block? Writing a personal journal and creative writing for an audience are two different tasks. Put pen to paper with your problems in mind and you’ll be surprised what comes out. Sometimes there were stressors in your life that you weren’t even thinking about. Seeing these things in writing sometimes helps you to figure out solutions. Even when it doesn’t, it feels good just to have them written down.

6. Take a power nap. Most working adults and students aren’t getting enough sleep. This can lead to decreased focus and increased stress by 3 or 4 in the afternoon. There are studies that show a 20-minute nap in the afternoon provides more rest than 20 more minutes of sleep in the morning. The equation is simple: more sleep equals less stress equals better focus when writing.

7. You can only change yourself. If there is someone else who doesn’t like you, or your work, there isn’t anything you can do about it. Don’t let other people’s judgments of you affect your judgment of yourself. If your writing isn’t good enough for someone else, but it’s the best your capable of doing, then it’s their problem. It’s easier to say than do but you can learn to see past their opinions. When someone tells you something that sounds negative don’t immediately respond. Repeat their words in your head and ask yourself, is this constructive criticism or destructive criticism? If it’s constructive, consider their advice and ask questions. If it’s destructive, smile at them and thank them for their opinion. Watching how annoyed they get when you don’t seem hurt is often humorous in itself (also a technique for relieving stress).

8. Exercise. Take a walk. Do yoga. Dancercise. Whatever will get your blood moving will get more oxygen to your brain and allow you to think more clearly. You’ll feel better about yourself because exercise is productive and healthy and you’ll feel better about writing when you get to it.

9. Take a break. Unless you’re on a strict deadline, whatever project you’re working on can wait. Sometimes, feeling trapped into one project can be stressful enough to cause writer’s block. If you’re working on a novel, put it to the side for a few days and try a short story or an essay. The change of pace is sometimes a relief and your mind will probably continue to work on the larger project behind the scenes. In a day or two you’ll wake up with a brilliant new direction so keep a notebook ready.

10. Volunteer. If you have the time, and be honest with yourself about the time you actually have, spend some of it helping others. Volunteer at a hospital, library, school, or community center. The feeling that you’re helping others is a simple way to overcoming stress and writer’s block. As human beings we’re naturally very self-focused. By getting out and helping others it allows us to see that our problems aren’t the only problems in the world. For writers, volunteering also adds to the material and experiences that we later turn into creative writing. Win-win-win.

I would so so so love to hear about how everyone did at the conference and what they thought about it. Feel free to comment or message me on here, or any of my social media sites! Thanks again for reading, and of course, writing!!!

Happy Writing Ya’ll!!

6 Ways to Hook your Reader from the Very First Line


I’d like to take a quick second, and wish everyone a great writing conference experience this weekend! Do ya’ll have butterflies yet? Are ya’ll panicking that you forgot to pack something? It’s crazy to think that it’s been a whole year since I was doing the exact same thing as all of you. Like I said before, just relax and have a great time!!! I’ll be thinking about ya’ll! I would love to hear some experiences when ya’ll get back!

So, on to our subject today. Obviously, it’s important to keep your readers interested. Sure, not all of your book is going to keep your reader on the edge of their seat (well, unless it’s an intense thriller or mystery). But, let’s face it, there will possibly be a slow paced part in your manuscript. That’s cool. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But, you need to make sure that it’s not excessive or lingers throughout your manuscript. The worst thing a writer can do, is fill the pages with words just for a word count. You don’t want your reader to start skipping or skimming over pages. It can happen in all sorts of ways, starting with too much description, or dialogue that doesn’t really have a purpose. With the snap of your fingers, it can cause your reader to sit your book down and move on to the next. Believe me, there are plenty of choices for them out there. Don’t aid them in choosing a different book.

But, before you start worrying about the middle or end of your manuscript, the valleys and peaks of it, you must concentrate on capturing your audience with the first few pages. This is very important as well, when searching for a literary agent. Agents are VERY busy, and if you can’t grab their attention in the first single page, some will simply move on to the next manuscript in front of them.

Something they said at the conference that stuck with me, is that every reader who picks up a book, goes through a process when they’re interest is sparked. The cover or title of the book catches their eye first, then they flip the book over to the back. Still intrigued, they move to the inside jacket flap, and if you’ve hit gold, igniting their interest even more, they begin to read the first page or first few pages. This, is where you get them hooked. So, the question is, how do you do that? How do you capture your readers, whether it’s a literary agent or a bookstore customer, from the very beginning?

I found this article by, Suzannah Windsor Freedom, about how to do just that.

Although I consider myself an avid reader, I must admit I have a short attention span when it comes to getting into books. If you fail to grab my attention in the first few lines, I start spacing out.

Most readers are like me. Most people don’t want to spend the first 50 pages trying to get into a book.

Here are a few things I find annoying in the first lines of a story:

  • Dialogue. Nice somewhere on the first or second page, but not in the first line. We won’t know who’s speaking or why we should care.
  • Excessive description. Some description is good, but not when it’s long winded. Skip the purple prose and opt for something more powerful.
  • Irrelevant information. The first few lines of your story are crucial, so give your reader only important information.
  • Introducing too many characters. I don’t like to be bombarded with the names of too many characters at once. How are we supposed to keep them straight when we don’t know who’s who?

The last thing you want to do as a writer is annoy or bore people. Instead, try one of these 6 ways to hook your readers right off the bat:

(N.B. One of the easiest ways to check out the opening pages of nearly any book you want is with the ‘Look Inside!‘ feature on Amazon.com.)

1. Make your readers wonder.

Put a question in your readers’ minds. What do those first lines mean? What’s going to happen? Make them wonder, and you’ll keep them reading.

2. Begin at a pivotal moment.

By starting at an important moment in the story, your reader is more likely to want to continue so he or she can discover what will happen next.

  • “It was dark where she was crouched but the little girl did as she’d been told.” ~Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden
  • “I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975.” ~Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

3. Create an interesting picture.

Description is good when it encourages people to paint a picture in their minds. Often, simple is best so it’s the reader who imagines a scene, instead of simply being told by the author.

  • “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” ~Daphne DuMaurier, Rebecca
  • “She stands up in the garden where she has been working and looks into the distance.” ~Michael Ontaatje, The English Patient

4. Introduce an intriguing character.

The promise of reading more about a character you find intriguing will, no doubt, draw you into a story’s narrative. Most often, this is one of the main characters in the book.

  • “I was born twice: first as a baby girl on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.” ~Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

5. Start with an unusual situation.

Show us characters in unusual circumstances, and we’ll definitely be sticking around to see what it’s all about.

  • “They had flown from England to Minneapolis to look at a toilet.” ~Nick Hornby, Juliet, Naked
  • Last night, I dreamt that I chopped Andrew up into a hundred little pieces, like a Benihana chef, and ate them, one by one.” ~Julie Buxbaum, The Opposite of Love

6. Begin with a compelling narrative voice.

Open your story with the voice of a narrator we can instantly identify with, or one that relates things in a fresh way.

  • “As I begin to tell this, it is the golden month of September in southwestern Ontario.” ~Alistair MacLeod, No Great Mischief
  • “I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.” ~Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants

No matter how you start your book, keep your readers in mind. What will make them want to continue reading? What will potentially make them put down your book?

How does your favorite book open, and what makes it so compelling?

Hope everyone has a stupendous, exhilarating weekend!!

Happy Writing, Editing, Pitching, and Conferencing Ya’ll!!

Last Minute Conference Tips!!


Well…10 more days till the Writer’s Digest Conference. How’s everyone feeling? I’m sure some of you are a tad anxious. Especially, if you’ve never gone to a writing conference before. This is a great one to start with, believe me.

Anyway, I just wanted to wish everyone luck, particularly the ones who are involved in the Pitch Slam. Again, deep breath, you’ll do great!

Here are a few last minute tips:

1. Don’t be shy.

If you asked my friends if I was shy, they would say, “Heck NO!!” And that would be the truth, at least to them. But when I’m with a bunch of strangers, it takes me a little while to let my guard down. So if you’re like that, do your best to open up. I can’t tell you how freeing it was to just let myself kick back, and not be afraid to join in the conversation. Quite honestly, it’s how I learned some things and got more comfortable talking about my own book.

2. Make friends.

Again, this goes back to not being shy. This is a HUGE opportunity for you to meet all types of people. Writers, editors, agents, and others who have a part in the writing industry. Form friendships, and celebrate in the fact that you’re not alone. Learn from one another, and bond over the things you have in common. I met a great group of people while I was there, and I know some of them will be life long friends. When I have writer’s block or when I just can’t seem to get my seat in the chair to write, I’ll text them and they’re great at motivating me back to where I need to be. Writing is about so many other things, than just the words that come from you. I’ve said it before, WE are a tribe. We celebrate each other’s successes, and are there for support during rejection.

3. Take it in strides.

Be prepared to be overwhelmed. There’s a lot of information given to you. But don’t feel like you have to remember everything, or know it all by the time you leave. Writing is a continual learning process. If you feel like you’ve reached an end to that process, well, that means you’re not doing something right. It’s forever moving. Your mind will be so full, that when you leave the conference, you’ll almost be in a daze. Don’t fret, it will all come together.

4. Be prepared.

What do you do with all that information? Well…you’re a writer. Write it down. Or tap it in your IPAD or laptop, whatever you’ve brought to take down notes. Just make sure you have a pen and notebook. Anything. I guess, unless you’re an audio learner, but even then, it’s so much, you’re bound to forget something. I actually brought a messenger bag with pens, highlighters, notepads, my business cards (those are to hand out to fellow writers that you want to keep in touch with. Not agents.), the first few pages of my manuscript, and that was about it. Just make sure, to be prepared.

5. Take a chance.

One great thing I have found at the Writer’s Digest Conference, is how interactive they make it. From the guest speakers, to the agents, editors, etc., they encourage you to ask questions and give you time to actually ask them. DON’T BE SHY!!! I can not stress this enough. Get up there, take that microphone, and ask whatever question your little heart desires. This could be your only chance to ask your question, so do it. I promise you’ll regret it if you don’t. A lot of times I found that someone would ask a question, and it would be the very one that was on my own mind. You’re helping other writers around you, just as much as you are yourself. It gets easier too, after you do it a few times.

6. Don’t put pressure on yourself.

Don’t put so much pressure on yourself, that you forget to enjoy the time at the conference. I know it feels like this might be your only chance to find an agent or to sell your book, but it’s not, I promise. This is simply another step. It opens the door for many more things. Yes, there are writers who get signed from the conference. I know of three of them personally, from last year when I went. But the conference is not just about getting signed by an agent. It’s about learning the skills and industry as well. Don’t be so focused on signing with someone that you miss out on some other really good stuff. You’re time is still coming. Don’t get discouraged.

6. Have fun.

This will probably be one of the greatest experiences in your lifetime. Revel in it. If I could go to a week long writing conference like Writer’s Digest, I would do it in a heart beat no matter the cost. There are no words to express how refreshing and how liberating it is for a writer to be surrounded by people who love it just as much as you. Sure, your friends and family are supportive of your writing and dreams, but it isn’t the same when you can talk to someone about how freaking scared you were during the Pitch Slam or that you received 50 rejections from 50 different agents. Nobody understands that better than a fellow comrade in paper. They don’t look at you crazy when you want to just talk about writing for hours, cause they want to do the exact same thing! I’m telling you, I didn’t want to leave. 🙂

And, just a word of advice. If everyone seems a tad anxious on Friday. I promise after the Pitch Slams on Saturday, everyone will be like college kids who just finished their graduate exams. They all breathe a sigh of relief and go, “Oh…that wasn’t so bad.” LOL!

Happy Conference Ya’ll!

And please please, when ya’ll get back, let me know how everything went! Can’t wait to hear!


Tips on Pitching to an Agent and what to Expect (In my experience)…Part 2

Untitled pitch

Here we are again with Part 2 of pitching to an agent and what to expect. Plus, a few tips on how to prepare. If you haven’t gotten a chance to check out Part 1, here’s the link, http://wp.me/p5cSvb-8I. Let’s get right to it then, shall we?

Let’s talk about things you should do prior to the Pitch Slam.

1. First, stop saying 90-seconds. It sounds better when you say 3-minutes, like it’s more time or something. Yes, I know it’s a mental thing, but whatever. Saying 90-seconds is bad. You’ve been telling your friends and family that you have the opportunity to pitch your manuscript, (the one they’ve heard about nonstop for eternity now) to actual agents, face-to-face. They’re super excited for you, until you mention that it’s only for 90-seconds. That’s when they cock their head slightly to the side, and give you a look, “come again? How the crap are you going to do that?” Don’t let that go to your head and don’t freak out about those 3-minutes.

You’re not freaking out anymore, are you? Good. Cause you actually need to make that 3-minute pitch into a 2-minute pitch. “That’s impossible,” you scream. I can actually here you right now. Stop holding your breath! Just breathe and hear me out. You can do it, I promise. How do I know, well, cause I’ve done it. This is not a race where you say an entire paragraph without breathing, and then get up and leave. The agent needs to have enough time to ask questions or hand you that golden ticket, their business card. You need to have enough time to write down what they want. There’s all kinds of scenarios, so as best you can, get that pitch down to 2 minutes.

2. Research the agents. I can not stress this enough!!!! The worst thing you can do is sit down with an agent who only represents nonfiction, and start spouting off your sci-fi novel. That’s not really gonna work out.

Another important reason for research, is that you don’t want them to feel like a number, just like you wouldn’t want them to treat you. Take time to research the agents and find out different things about them. Most, if not all agents, have some type of website or social media that will help you delve into them more, what their interests, likes and dislikes are, or what they represent and what they don’t. Take time to know them, as you would hope one day they would you, if your partnership continues. Prior to me meeting Marisa Corvisiero, I learned from her website, that she has her own law practice as well as her own literary agency. That lady is amazing, if I haven’t already said it. She is fluent in Spanish and Italian, and can even speak some Japanese and Portuguese. I wouldn’t have known that except I did my research. Or the fact, that Kaylee Davis, who is super super sweet by the way, had a family pet rabbit named Dash. (Funny side story, at the cocktail party I asked Kaylee how Dash was, to which she graciously and so kindly told me he had died. I was mortified, of course, that I had asked at all after that. But she was a good sport about it, and found me asking humorous…whew. Shout out Kaylee! And thanks for understanding!)

3. Practice your pitch a lot prior to the conference. A lot. Time yourself, and repeat it to friends, family, and anyone who will listen. I, actually, was so blessed to meet a few fantastic girls the first day at the conference. They were awesome help with listening and giving suggestions for my pitch. It totally helped with my nerves and coming out of my shell when talking about my manuscript. Sure, you love talking with your friends and family about your writing, but it was an entirely new excitement that I can’t quite put into words when I finally talked to other writers that understood the whole journey of ups and downs in writing a manuscript.

When saying your pitch, as best you can, try to make it a natural transfer. Try to look at it like a normal conversation between two friends. It’s super hard when you’re so nervous, but as best you can try not to sound like a robot. Again, agents understand completely how stressful this is. I had one or two give me a nod and a smile, silently speaking to that it was okay and to just take my time. Take a deep breath. You’ll do great!

What exactly do I need to say during my pitch?

Chuck Sambuchino does a fantastic job in explaining this prior to your Pitch Slam. Here are the basics, though. Think of your pitch as the back of a DVD movie description. Just imagine what it would say. Which duh, everyone hopes that their books will become movies or some super fantastic HBO show. So, that’s what you need to picture when describing your manuscript for your pitch. I actually, got some of my fantasy/paranormal movies out and looked at the back of them to get some wording ideas. That’s totally okay! Also, you will need to say at the very beginning of your pitch what the title of your book is (if you have one), genre, word count, and if it’s considered an adult, middle grade, young adult, etc.

So what are you exactly seeking from a Pitch Slam?…(other than the obvious finding an agent to represent you.)

You want a business card. You could say it’s your Golden Ticket, sort of. If an agent gives you a business card that doesn’t mean they’re ready to sign the dotted line of a contract with you, BUT it does mean you just took another step in finding representation. You’ve captured their attention and they’re interested in knowing more. Good Job! That’s half the battle! I actually got business cards from all five agents I pitched to. The writing gods were with me!! LOL!

Should I go in order of agent I want the most to least, or just go to whichever line is the shortest at the time?

Again, this is your own preference. Some choose lines because they’re shorter. Their main goal is to pitch to as many agents in their genre, as possible. Others go by the agent they’re most interested in and go from there. They’re willing to wait in line for that certain agent, sacrificing possibly having time with two others. Just keep in mind though, that an hour and a half goes by quickly, and it would be terrible to miss out on pitching to the number one agent you wanted, just because you ran out of time. I preferred, the route of going from my top choice agent to my last pick. I also looked at the table map that was given ahead of time, to see exactly where my agents sat. I was in luck that two of them sat at tables next to each other. That saved time in itself. (P.S. you will be given the table map either in you’re welcome packet or during the, Pitch Perfect session, with Chuck Sambuchino.)

How many agents will I be able to pitch to during my pitch session?

Well, that’s really up to you, and how well you prepare. The Writer’s Conference website constantly updates new agents that will be at the Pitch Slam. They give you plenty of time to see which ones are right for you, so that you can map out who you want to see first, second, and so on. If you get there early like I suggested, than you’re closer to the front when they open the doors. You can be one of the first people to enter and head straight to your first pitch with the agent of your choice.

You can pitch to as many agents as you like, and have time for. Plan from anywhere between five and seven agents to pitch to. That way, if one cancels, you still have others to choose from. You don’t want to wander around because you didn’t do your research on enough agents and you still had time to pitch. Let’s get real here too, you paid for this, so make the most of it. It would be terrible to pitch to three agents and then have to twiddle your thumbs for the rest of the time because you weren’t prepared. Just remember, most of your time is used up waiting in line. I’ve heard of some people getting to pitch to up to eight agents. It just depends. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get to all of them. Just make the ones you do see, count. Quality, is better than quantity at times.

I pitched to five out of the six agents I wanted. The only reason I didn’t get to the sixth was because one of them canceled at the last-minute. (The conference workers are very good at letting you know if an agent has had to cancel before you have your pitch session, so don’t worry about that.)

Can I give the agent my business card or my query letter during my pitch session?

NOOOOOO! Do not hand the agent, anything. I can’t stress that, enough. Can you imagine if everyone gave an agent just the first page of their manuscript? That would be a ton for them to carry around! I wouldn’t want to do it and neither do they. I promise you, if you get a business card from them, you’ll definitely be giving them some things soon enough.

Is there anything in particular I need to bring to my Pitch session?

A pen is an absolute necessity (one that works, obviously). Hopefully, the agent is going to give you a card and tell you exactly what they want you to send them after the conference. Keep in mind, no agent is going to want the exact same thing. Believe me, you will have so much adrenaline rushing in, and your brain will be mush once the Pitch Slam is over, so you won’t remember much. It’s kinda like your wedding, if any of you have been married you know what I’m talking about. A lot of preparation prior to, and then BAM! It’s over and you’re so exhausted you can’t remember half of it. Thank goodness for wedding photos.

Anyway, keep that pen handy. Hold it in your hand the entire time if you have to. You don’t want to be digging around in your bag for it. I suggest, when the agent hands you their card, you jot down immediately on the back of it, exactly what that particular agent wanted. Otherwise, you might end up forgetting something, and send the wrong stuff. That would be a travesty. Like…seriously. Other than that, there really isn’t anything you HAVE to bring with you. You can bring a copy of your pitch for yourself in case you forget exactly what you need to say. But ,I would recommend you not read it from the page when pitching. If you can help it at all, memorize that bad boy way before you even get to the conference. During your Pitch Perfect Session with Chuck, he may tell you a few things you might want to tweak on your pitch, but at least for the most part you won’t have to start from scratch re-memorizing it.

What if the agent doesn’t give me a business card?

Well, move along then. Thank them regardless for the opportunity and their time. Because their time is important. They don’t have to be at these conferences. They choose to be. They want to have the opportunity to hear your pitch but not every single one is the right fit. Don’t get discouraged. Every agent just like you, have their own tastes. Don’t take it to heart. Remember, in this business there is A LOT of rejection. I repeat, a lot of rejection. The right agent might be the very next table. Keep your chin up!

Whatever you do…DO NOT argue with an agent about your pitch or manuscript. Be gracious, even when the agent tells you that they’re sorry and it’s not something they see would be a good fit for them. You want your agent to love your manuscript and the ideas behind it as much as you do. (There was a story going around last year that someone from a previous conference actually lunged towards an agent because she told him it wasn’t for her. Seriously guy, you just murdered your career before it even started. Can you say, psycho?) If you snap something back to them, or worse, no one would ever touch you after that, even if your manuscript was made of gold and shot out stars from the pages. Don’t do it. Be professional, and even if you believe the agent is wrong, don’t show it. Have some respect for their experience and knowledge. If anything, keep your own dignity and have some self-respect. There are plenty of agents out there.

Can an agent stop me in the middle of my pitch?

Absolutely. Don’t be surprised if they do. Sometimes, it’s to ask questions. Which is actually, a good thing. Answer them as best you can, and continue on with your pitch if they still want you to. I wasn’t as prepared for this, as I thought. All you focus goes into your pitch prior to the conference, and basically all the way up until you finish your pitch session. Gina Panettieri, started asking me questions in the middle of mine, and I was so thrown off. But duh, that was a super good thing she asked questions. She was intrigued! Other times, it’s because they’ve heard enough to love it, and want to give you a business card. Some unfortunately, after a sentence or two realize it’s really not something they’re interested in. That’s okay. They’re actually doing you a favor. You can go ahead and move on to the next agent you wanted to pitch to. You don’t have to stay there for the full 3-minutes (I’ll talk about this in just a second). The agent, is actually being respectful to you, by saving time that you could spend with another agent who might be interested.

Do I have to use my entire 3-minutes with an agent?

Well, there’s two parts to that question.

Let’s say you pitch so fast and get all your feedback from the agent before that 3-minutes is up. I know it sounds crazy, but it happens. If you’ve practiced your pitch enough times, it can flow pretty quickly. You can choose to stay until your 3-minutes are up, or you can choose to give it to the next person in line. In my opinion, I believe that the admirable thing to do is giving the next person extra time if your finished. Obviously, you would love for someone to give extra time if the roles were reversed. Remember, this isn’t a competition. Writers are a tribe. We stick together and encourage. If we truly want to be a good writer, then it goes past the words we put on the page. We respect and help each other.

The second part to that question is this, and boy, did I not know it. You can actually sit past your 3-minutes if the agent is still talking to you about your manuscript. Now, I won’t tell you that the people behind you won’t be a little upset, and obviously the ONLY reason you should stay seated after the bell is because of this situation. Again, it’s all about respect, and you don’t want to eat into someone else’s time. The agents notice that stuff. But, in my case again, I was pitching to Gina. She was still asking questions when the bell rang. I got up thinking that I absolutely had to, which meant I rushed the last of my answers. (She still asked for my full manuscript, which was SUPER exciting. I basically floated around the rest of the Pitch Slam). So, just heads up if this happens. Again, try to be respectful to the other people in line, though.

Well, that’s it. Or at least, the main things I believe are important. Feel free to comment with your own suggestions if you’ve pitched before, or if you have any questions I’ll be happy to answer them if I can. I really, really hope this helps everyone! To the people who are going to the conference, good luck! You’ll do fantastic! It is going to be one of the most exciting times in your life! Enjoy!

I wasn’t able to download any of my own pictures of the conference last year, but here’s a link to the Writer’s Digest website, https://www.eiseverywhere.com/ehome/83905/219684/, that shows a bunch of pictures from the 2014 conference. There are even some pictures before and during the Pitch Slam, so you can get an idea of what it’s like.

Happy Pitching Ya’ll!!




Tips on Pitching to an Agent and what to Expect (In my experience)…Part 1

Untitled pitch

Well, it’s finally here. The month you’ve been waiting for. That is, if you’re going to the Annual Writer’s Digest Conference in New York on July 31st. Oh! It’s so exciting!! I can’t tell you the anticipation I felt last year as I prepared during the final days for my trip. It was going to be the true beginning of my adventure towards publishing and really learning the industry.

I would have the opportunity to not only meet fellow writers who were also embarking on their writing journey, but also agents, published authors, editors, and publishers. For three days, I was going to be able to soak up like a sponge as much knowledge as I could from them. My heart is pounding just thinking about it. For a writer who has just finished their manuscript and is ready to take the next step, it can be thrilling as much as terrifying and overwhelming.

But, as I have said many times before, the experience is priceless. It gives you so many opportunities. Even without taking part in the Pitch Slam (one-on-one pitching to an agent), you still receive a wealth of knowledge, meet some super cool people, and possibly develop lifelong friendships with some fellow writers.

If you’re like me though, the Pitch Slam, for the most part was the only thing I could focus on. What was it going to be like? How could I possibly explain my book in 90- seconds? Are the agents approachable? Are they going to shake their head and say, “don’t quit your day job.” What was I going to wear? (Yes, I’m a girl, so I most definitely asked that question.)

Believe me, all those thoughts and more are completely natural. So what did I do to find out those questions? I took to the internet trying to read any shred of information and personal experiences others had while pitching to an agent. After all, it’s a HUGE deal to even get 90-seconds of face-to-face time with a literary agent. It doesn’t sound like much, but truly it’s an opportunity of a lifetime. Think about how many writers send hundreds of queries and never get more than a polite form email rejection. Not even a phone conversation to actually talk to that agent you dreamed of, before getting that electronic rejection. (Now, don’t get me wrong, I totally understand why agents have to send you those emails. They’re swamped! More than you understand until you go to a conference and really see the magnitude of it all.) But you, you lucky devil, get 90-seconds of awesomeness because you signed up for the Pitch Slam.

So, let me answer a few questions about the Pitch Slam and what to expect when pitching to an agent. Hope this helps!!!

First, let’s start with the easiest.

What was I going to wear?

Here’s the thing, you may have written your entire manuscript in sweat pants and a holey t-shirt in your basement. Cool, whatever works for you. But, would you wear that on a job interview? Probably not. Whatever and wherever you were applying in most cases, you would want to look professional. Well, that’s sort of what your doing when you meet these agents. You are both choosing each other. Would you want representation from an agent who hasn’t washed his/her hair in a couple of days and wears their ratty yard work t-shirt and biker shorts to the office? Ummmm…no. Be professional. Your clothes can say a lot about you. And first impressions are important. There’s not really a do-over in this one. You want the agent to take you and your work seriously. They’re investing in you just as much as you’re investing in them. This is a simple very easy step to get the process rolling. Now, I don’t want you to feel like you have to wear a ball gown or a tuxedo. I’m not saying that all. It’s super important that you’re comfortable. You don’t want to be so focused on the six-inch heels you decided to wear or the super tight belt that you can’t breathe in. And I would suggest no blue jeans. Will they kick you out if that’s what you wear? No. But, with all the styles and variety of clothes out there I’m sure you can find a nice/professional but casual outfit without wearing jeans. I opted for a long maxi skirt and a sleeveless blouse with nice sandals. Again, the choice is yours.

What should I expect before and during my Pitch Slam session?

Well, complete and utter chaos. No! I’m only kidding. LOL. Inside, you might feel like that as you prepare to spout out the writings of your soul, but truly the people who work for Writer’s Digest, have organized it well and it goes smoothly. As we say in the south, “this isn’t their first rodeo.” I would suggest highly, that you arrive an hour ahead of time for your pitch session. Even if it means you missing another class you signed up for. You need that time to practice your pitch and mentally get ready for what’s next. Not to mention it helps to get in line early. Cause, yes, there will be lines. (More on that in a minute). Last year, the way they had it set up was, you stood in a little lobby area, (I think it was called the Palm Room). There are two closed double doors leading into a massive room. Employees and agents walk in and out of the doors periodically as you wait. As it gets closer to the time to start, someone will come out and go over a few things with you like how the 90-second time limit would work, etc. Once, they open the doors, I kinda felt like it was the beginning of a horse race when they released the gate and the alarm sounded. Don’t worry no one tramples each other and there is no loud trumpet sounding, except for maybe in your own head. The agents are lined at tables around the huge room. Each has a sheet behind them saying who they are and what agency they represent. Hopefully, you know that already because you researched them before you got there. Next, be prepared to wait. Remember, how I said there would be lines? Well, obviously if you have 200 writers in a room with only like 50 agents there’s bound to be lines. Now, I believe this year’s conference offers more Pitch Slam Sessions so the lines possibly won’t be as long. Again, they did a beautiful job in being organized so it’s really not as bad as you might imagine it. There is a separate table with a few Writer’s Digest employees who will oversee progress and control the 90-second timer or bell. Listen for the bell! This is when your time either begins or ends depending on what you’re doing.

Don’t be embarrassed…about anything!

First off, agents are people too. Don’t forget that. They totally understand that this is your dream and that your a ball of nerves. The agents I was able to pitch to, were patient and really made me feel at ease as they listened to be intently. You would think they would be distracted by the buzz of all the people or the other person pitching to another agent only inches next to you. But they don’t. Every one of them I pitched to made me feel like in those 90-seconds, I was the only one in the room with them. Hopefully, even by this time, you’ve had the opportunity to interact with some or attend a class they taught the previous day. This helps immensely with your anxiety. Try as best you can to make it a conversation between two people and not anything more than that. I have to give a shout out to, Marisa Corvisiero from the Corvisiero Agency. Her class was the first class I attended at the conference and it was fantastic. A few of us even had the opportunity to read the first couple of pages of our manuscript to her and the rest of the class. (Side note, if you have the option to take this class, DO IT. This helped me soooo much in terms of not being as nervous when I pitched to an agent. If you can read your first few pages to an agent and an entire class, then the one-on-one with the agents in your Pitch Slam makes you tremendously less nervous. I promise you.) Anyway, she was so awesome in the class, and taught me some things right there about my manuscript I had no idea about. She was the very first agent I pitched to during my session, and she greeted me like we were old friends. She truly put me at ease right away and because of her kindness it help me flow through the rest of my session. The jitters were still there but she really made things a lot easier. Thank you so much Marisa!!!

The second thing, don’t be embarrassed standing in line talking to yourself. When I tell you everyone does it, that’s the truth. Sure you might talk to a few people while you’re standing in line but for the most part they’re doing exactly what your doing. Repeating over and over in their head their pitch. If you need to do it out loud, do it! No one will notice, I promise. You’ll be surprised how many actually are doing the same thing.

Whew! Apparently, I had a lot more to say about the Pitch Slam than I thought. I’m going to end Part 1 here, but please come back and read Part 2 tomorrow, on more of my own experience and tips I learned along the way.

Happy Pitching Ya’ll!!!

Agent Do’s & Dont’s

Literary agents play an important role in your writing journey. They’re a vital asset in helping you achieve your goals.

However, a lot of first time writers have a misconception on exactly what a literary agent does and doesn’t do. They obviously know it’s good to have one and there are certain steps to acquire an agent, but that’s about the extent of their knowledge without research.

Again, I will sing the Writer’s Digest Conference praises. That conference was a priceless experience to me. Who knew that I was the one responsible for my PR unless I hired a Publicist, and that my agent was NOT responsible for any part of that? Not me, I didn’t know. I thought an agent was all-in-one. Sort of. I mean, adding an editor and publisher of course, too. Then I had the whole package! Uh…maybe not.

In tomorrow’s blog, I’ll dive a little deeper in the differences between a literary agent and a publicist. But for now, here’s an article I found in Writer’s Digest, explaining some of the things an agent does and does not do:

You’ve landed an agent. Now what? You’re probably wondering what a literary agent does and does not do and how they can help you. Discover the truth about what literary agents actually do for authors from today’s writing tip. This excerpt from Your First Novel discusses the author-agent relationship.

What Does a Literary Agent Do?

The author-agent relationship has often been likened to a marriage–but so have business partnerships. There’s the glowy honeymoon period where you both believe that only good things lie ahead. Then reality sets in, when you come to know the other person’s strengthens and weaknesses, the things s/he can be relied upon to do and the things you’re going to have to get on his/her back about. As long as you both accept that you’re each going to have to row to stay afloat and to get somewhere, you’ll probably be okay.

Communication is a key to this partnership as it is to any other. It’s important to remember that while you have only this book, this contract, this editor, this publication, an agent has many of the same. I don’t want to imply that your agent will or should be too busy to talk to you. But given the many demands on his/her attention, it’s no good sitting around waiting to hear from him/her and hoping s/he’ll read your mind. You’ve got to ask, and you’ve got to learn how to ask in a way that makes him/her, and eventually your editor and publicist, want to return your calls.

Unlike a marriage, where the roles of the two partners grow and change, merge, and divide over time, the agent in this partnership has a certain number of clear-cut duties. Yet there are also things you shouldn’t expect. Here are some things a literary agent does and doesn’t do:

What an agent does

  • attempts to sell your book to a reputable publishing house
  • keeps up-to-date with editors’ interests as well as their contact information
  • negotiates the terms of your contracts with publishers
  • works on commission

What an agent does not do

  • guarantee fame and riches
  • sell every manuscript s/he agrees to represent
  • write the publishers’ contracts for them

What an agent can do

  • offer guidance or suggestions for improving your book
  • get it into the hands of editors
  • secure an advance or sell your book at an auction

What an agent cannot do

  • rewrite it or make it perfect for you
  • guarantee those editors will read every word
  • guarantee anyone will come to an auction even when they’ve told the interested editors they’re holding one

What an agent should do

  • return your calls and e-mails within a reasonable period of time once you’ve signed on together
  • give you realistic expectations
  • be as interested as you are in getting a good advance–the better you do, the better s/he will do

What an agent should not do

  • refuse to tell you anything s/he has done (Even if s/he has taken no actions at all, s/he should tell you that.)
  • promise you a fortune
  • accept or turn down advances without consulting with you

And if you need another great article to read check out this one from bookbaby: http://blog.bookbaby.com/2012/08/10-things-literary-agents-dont-do-for-authors/

Hope this helps! Thanks again for reading! See ya’ll tomorrow!! Happy Writing Ya’ll!!

Quick Little Info!

I know…I know…its been weeks since I’ve blogged! Crazy life stuff has been keeping me busy as I’m sure everyone has experienced one time or another. Anyway, sadly I won’t be able to attend any of these this year, but I wanted to share a list of upcoming writing conferences in case anyone else might be able to attend. Good luck and happy writing ya’ll!

Agent-Conference Opportunities There are plenty of opportunities for writers to meet agents face to face at writers’ conferences and pitch their work in 2015. Remember: Meeting agents in person is a great way to get past the slush pile. If an agent is interested in your work and requests a sample or book proposal, you can write “Requested Material” on your submission, making sure it gets a fair read and consideration. Know that there are two types of conferences. There are general writers’ conferences, that address a variety of subjects, and then there are specialized conferences, which usually tend to focus on a single genre-such as western, romance, or mystery. You will find both kinds in this list below.

Carolina Writing Conferences, Columbia, SC (April 17) and Charlotte, NC (April 18) Attending agents: Sam Morgan (Jabberwocky Literary); Melissa Jeglinski (The Knight Agency); Diana Flegal (Hartline Literary); Cherry Weiner (Cherry Weiner Literary); and Robin Mizell (Robin Mizell Literary Representation).

Las Vegas Writers Conference, April 23-25, 2015, Las Vegas, NV Attending agents: Pam van Hylckama Vlieg (D4EO Literary); Paul Lucas (Janklow & Nesbit); and Caitlan Rubino Bradway (LKG Agency).

Northeast Texas Writers Conference, April 24-25, 2015, Mt. Pleasant, TX Attending agents: Cherry Weiner (Cherry Weiner Literary).

Milwaukee Writing Conference, May 15, 2015, Milwaukee, WI Attending agents: Jennie Goloboy (Red Sofa Literary); Laura Crockett (Triada US Literary); Abby Saul (Browne & Miller Literary); Elizabeth Evans (Jean V. Naggar Literary); Jodell Sadler (Sadler Children’s Literary); and Dawn Frederick (Red Sofa Literary).

Chicago Writing Workshop, May 16, 2015, Chicago, IL Attending agents: Marcy Posner (Folio Literary); Jen Karsbaek (Fuse Literary); Jennifer Mattson (Andrea Brown Literary); Tina Schwartz (The Purcell Agency); Dan Balow (Steve Laube Literary); Jodell Sadler (The Sadler Agency); and Laura Crockett (Triada US Literary).

Pennwriters Conference, May 15-17, 2015, Pittsburgh, PA Attending agents: Danielle Chiotti (Upstart Crow Literary); Uwe Stender (TriadaUS Literary); and June Clark (FinePrint Literary).

Books-in-Progress Writers Conference, June 5-6, 2015, Lexington, KY Attending agents: Adriann Ranta (Wolf Literary); and Melissa Flashman (Trident Media).

SoCal Mystery Writers of America Conference, June 6-7, 2015, Culver City, CA Attending agents: Joshua Bilmes (JABberwocky Literary); Jessica Faust (BookEnds Literary); and Kimberley Cameron (Kimberley Cameron Literary).

Jackson Hole Writers Conference, June 25-27, 2015, Jackson Hole, WY Attending agents: Sarah Levitt (Zoë Pagnamenta Agency); Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein (McIntosh & Otis); Katherine Fausset (Curtis Brown, Ltd); and Ken Sherman (Ken Sherman Associates).

Writer’s Digest Conference East, July 31 – Aug. 2, 2015, New York, NY The website is live, and we have 47 agents already confirmed to be there. The conference’s Pitch Slam features more than 50 literary agents to pitch.