Eight #PITMAD Tips

Are you participating in #PITMAD on the 6th?

I’m on the fence this time. I’ve done #PITMAD twice and #REVPIT once.

My first time jumping into #PITMAD I pitched all three finished books and I had a hard time keeping up, but it was great fun and I met many new writers. The excitement of tweets flying everywhere kept me glued to my screen. 

You don’t have to be great at twitter to participate. I’m still terrible at twitter. Don’t let inexperience stop you if you want to pitch.

Tips for PITMAD

Write a great tweet. 

Polish it until it shines. It takes quite a bit of skill to reduce your manuscript into a tweet. I asked around in various groups for help with getting mine up to snuff. A tweet to pitch is not the same as an elevator pitch. It’s acceptable to use shortcuts, giving comps to movies, television, and books.

This is one I used.

GEM & DIXIE x Netflix’s ATYPICAL. Nina has a lot on her plate. A twin brother with autism, an almost-boyfriend, and a terminally ill mom who wants to give up cancer treatments. Nina refuses to let her go without a fight. #PITMAD #YA #CON #MH #DIS #ND

The stand alone book I’m querying now follows some of the same characters as in Nina’s story. It could be described as “A teenage ADAM x GEM & DIXIE” but since the movie ADAM may not be well known and isn’t a recent release, I didn’t use that reference. 

Time your tweets.

Space your tweets apart. You can schedule them if you like. I simply spaced mine.

Vary the wording in your tweets.

Twitter doesn’t like it if you post the same tweet, so you have to change it up.

Pin your latest tweet.

Pin your latest tweet to the top of your feed so it is easy to find.

Use appropriate hashtags.

This is how editors and agent find you. Different pitch parties may have different hashtags, so check the organizer’s site.

Connect with other writers.

This is one of the greatest benefits of a twitter party. Try to find a group of writers to support. You can share each others tweets for greater visibility and make new friends in the bargain.

Read all the rules.

Go to the Pitch Wars site (or whoever is organizing the twitter party you want to join) and follow all the rules.

Have fun! 

Tell me about your Twitter party experiences! Comment below.

If you are interested in updates on my work, sign up for my newsletter here.

Share. Like. Comment below.

Good luck tweeting!

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Agent Hope Bolinger Gives Publishing Tips

Part two of my interview with agent and author Hope Bolinger is up over at Almost an Author.

Click here to go to Almost an Author and read article titled The Path to Publication.

Read part one to learn more about Hope and her new book.

 

What Book Do You Wish You Had Written?

What book do you wish you had written?

I was tagged to answer this recently on Instagram by author @melaniejwalker  as part of the #authorschallenge2019 hosted by @debratorreswrites .

I would love to write a book that had and has the impact of Flowers for Algernon.

Being a precocious reader with older siblings, I read this book when I was very young, sneaking it from my sister’s bookshelf. The story resonated with me and influenced my thinking. It’s one of the books I recommend for all highschoolers to read.

If you haven’t read Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, go get a copy! It’s not a long book. I would consider it easy to read, even though all of the topics explored may not always be easy to think about. It’s about a mentally disabled young man who agrees to engage in an experiment to increase his intelligence. His story is told through a series of diary entries.

In my experience, even kids who aren’t into reading all that much seem to connect with this book. The story brings up loads of discussion worthy topics.

Flowers for Algernon always makes me think about the memoir, Switched On, by John Elder Robison, the true story of a person on the autism spectrum who participated in experiments meant to increase emotional intelligence. Switched On tells about his experiences during the procedure and the aftermath. 

I recommend both of these books.

The IG prompt made me consider my own work. I am often intentional about why I write the novels I do and who, in both a general and specific sense, I hope to communicate with.

I guess I could say I have written exactly the book I wished to.

One of my novels is about a family dealing with grief. I wrote it because there was a need. I could not find a novel addressing the issue of impending loss and grief against the backdrop of a family also dealing with autism.

As I spend time in the querying trenches, the ability to see how a particular manuscript fulfilled its intended purpose, at least in part, is a great encouragement to me.

I hope to see all my novels reach the readers who need to hear the stories. I hope to someday soon know hearts are being touched.  

#amquerying

 

 

Sometimes You Need a Story

 

My life is divided into before and after. I’m in the after now.

Eight years ago, this coming April, my world turned upside down. Eight years ago, this coming April, I began the slow journey back. I hadn’t written a book then. Since that time, I have finished penning three.

When I got sick, my daughter became frightened. Who wouldn’t be? It was the summer before her freshman year of high school, and she spent her vacation taking care of her mother who needed assistance walking and bathing. It didn’t matter what I told her, or how many reassurances were held out, she was terrified. All the soft gentle words and reassurances never made it past her fear wrapped worry.

Sometimes you need a story.

I wrote her a book about a girl who was afraid her mother would die and leave her alone. In the book, the mother does die. The girl is not left alone, however. She has family and unlikely heroes to depend on. I wrote my daughter a book to make her laugh and cry, but most of all to help her see she was not alone and it wasn’t up to her to save the world. I think maybe it was both comforting and uncomfortable for her to discover how much I understood her.

She’s not a character in a book, and she is not this character. But young girls everywhere get angry with their mothers, at times think they’ve been abandoned, and generally feel treated unfairly by life. They’re often surprised when they discover their mothers were once girls and understand all of these deeply held, secret feelings.

Among the pages of this made up place filled with pretend people my daughter finally understood what I was trying to tell her. She wasn’t alone.

Sometimes you need a story.

A funny thing happened. Out of the story, two more grew. Each of these novels stand alone, and while they don’t lean on each other, they do rub shoulders, exploring the lives of the various characters in the same fictional small Texas town.

It’s quite a surprise to find at the end of these eight years I have three complete novels. I’d freelanced in my former writing life, and even written a novella, which resides in the dark recesses of my computer files, but I’d never attempted a novel length work.

As my health improved and my responsibilities shifted, I had more time to write books. With each novel, I learned better and went back, refining and polishing. I hunted down critique partners and entered contests. I was quite pleased with the feedback I got. Now I’m ready to start querying agents.

I’m telling you this tale because, as with all of my stories, I want to encourage and bring hope to the reader. Because sometimes you need a story.

Donna Jo Stone writes YA contemporary novels about tough issues but always ends the stories with a note of hope. She blogs at donnajostone.com.

#PitMad, NOLASTARS Spring Retreat, and Announcement

This coming Thursday, March 7th, is #PitMad!

PitMad is an opportunity for unagented authors who have complete novels. Writers pitch your novel in a tweet with appropriate hashtags. Agents search tweets for specific genres and if they like a tweet, the submission process begins.

If you’re on Twitter March 7th, please leave a comment or retweet my tweets to show your support at my twitter donnajostone. Likes are reserved for agents interested in my project.

I will be pitching all three of my finished YA novels. Last month I sent out a few queries for the first book in my series, but shifted gears with the intention of pitching all three at the next PitMad.

It’s a bit unusual to have three completed novels at the same time. The drafts were all finished around the same time primarily because I dictated them while I was waiting to recover from my cipro injury before I started editing. Hiring an editor was not an option for me at the time. My typing isn’t as good as it was before I got sick, but it is passable. Currently, I’m doing my best to reduce a 93,000 word manuscript to 80,000. I’m well on my way and hope to complete the edit before the 7th. It’s a pity I can’t take all those discarded words and put them on another project.

Besides editing, I’ve been writing synopses and working on tweets. Condensing an entire novel into a single tweet can be challenging. You only get 280 characters, including spaces and hashtags. It’s an excellent exercise in being concise.

NOLASTARS/RWA is having a Spring Writing Retreat Saturday, March 9th. Check it out. If you are local and are looking for a group, it’s a great organization. See how friendly we are?

 

 

In other news, this month I begin my new position as the YA columnist over at Almost An Author. Woot! My first Almost An Author post is scheduled to go up on March 21st. I’ll share a link on the home blog right here, so come back and visit, or you can subscribe to get posts in your mailbox, or visit Almost An Author.

Do you have any topics you’d like to see me cover in the blog? Leave your comments below.

Please consider signing up for the blog and/or my newsletter to keep in the know.

How I Ruined Snowflake Plotting

Repost from my old blog. I’ve finished a few books since then and this is still how I plot, more or less.

The Snowflake Method

I am a girl in need of a plan. My book requires a second in the series. I have most of my characters, my theme, setting, and I know the message I want to convey. It’s time to plot the story.

Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method of Plotting always looked interesting. I thought I’d give it a try. My previous approach had been to use massive amounts of note cards and tape them to the walls, shuffling and adding to them periodically. This worked fine, but it seemed a bit random and tedious to me.

Many writers have been helped by plotting with The Snowflake Method. The method has been so popular and worked for so many that now you can buy Snowflake Pro software or his book How To Write A Novel Using The Snowflake Method but he still provides the original article free of charge. (Thank you, Randy Ingermanson!)

From the get go he says to take what you can use and don’t worry about the rest, but something in me wants to follow lists. I want to know the plan.

I have looked at his directions before. I usually got bogged down about halfway through reading and would give up before I started. Since then I have learned that for me, with some projects, I need to just go ahead and jump in. It’s hard because I tend to want all the details ironed out before I commit. If I can’t see the end I don’t like starting down that path.

I got through steps one to four with no trouble. It was fun and easy. Then, when I started on the next step, parts of story began to pop into my head so I started making a list of scenes before they got away. Randy Ingermanson suggests using a spreadsheet for your list of scenes, but I started the list in the same document I was putting everything else in. I didn’t want to forget what I needed to write while trying to figure out a spreadsheet. I was already out of order with the Snowflake Method instructions anyway.

So far I have a decent direction for the story, more than I had when I started writing the first book in my series. This method helped me figure out holes before I started writing the novel, even if I made adjustments to the system early on.

I’m not sure if I will be able to go back and pick up with the rest of The Snowflake Method from where I’m at right now with this book. I will try The Snowflake Method again, though, of that I am sure.

Will my plot work out even though I’m deviating from my originally intended mode? Probably. Would it work better or easier if I follow directions? I don’t know. Did I ruin it? I don’t think so.

Just Write, Create, Jump In

The point is, I am writing my own story. I got a jump start from suggestions and tools, but it’s okay if I take another route. I know I will make it to the end.

Life is like that. Don’t be scared to be a little creative with the format and structure of approaches as long as you stay true to the course. You are not going to ruin it.

It’s your story. You know how to tell it.

Jump in.

P. S. The Paper Snowflake Ballerina

The directions for the snowflake ballerina in the picture can be found at krokotak, but there is no printable template for the skirt. There are pictures. I eyeballed the designs and took a stab at it and it worked fine. You can’t let a little thing like a missing template stop you.

Did this encourage you? Please share it! Have you made adjustments to a plan recently? How did it go? I’d love to hear from you. Comment below.

Four Simple but Significant Gift Ideas

Four Simple but Significant Gifts

 

I am sentimental. I love old photos and quilts, but the things I cherish most are memories. I like to give gifts with significance attached to them, and I love books.

 

Journals or Fill in the Blank Books

Most people think their lives are boring, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! I love getting and giving journals. Some people may need journals with prompts.

 

 

My mother’s and my grandmother’s stories are irreplaceable treasures. If I hadn’t given each of them a spiral-bound set of cards with short, easy to answer questions, I would have missed some gems.

My mother is from England, and as a young bride her experiences arriving in America are noteworthy, even if she didn’t think so. For instance, one of the prompts was a question about the Fourth of July. My mother wrote about her first celebration of this holiday. My grandmother, her mother-in-law, told her there would be a picnic. They were to have the usual fixings, including hotdogs. My mother wrote, with typical British understatement:

“I’d never eaten a hotdog before. I’d read that the Indians ate dog, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to try it.”

Thinking about how the scenario must have played out, with my grandmother in charge and my reserved, soft spoken mother trying to fit in, cracks me up every time. My mother never mentioned this bit of family history until she was prompted by a journaling card. This one incident made me see my mother in a completely new light. Before, I hadn’t taken the time to imagine how strange it must’ve been to be young, newly married, away from family and everything familiar.

I learned from my grandmother’s responses about my father, as a toddler, climbing to the top of the windmill. My grandmother could do nothing about it. In those days, there was no 911. No one was around to help her, and besides, the structure was too fragile for an adult to climb up or she would have gone up after him herself. With no other recourse, she reprimanded him and yelled at him to get down right now. Then she went inside and closed her eyes while she gripped the edge of the kitchen sink, waiting for a scream. Can you imagine?

Recently my daughter and I were going through some of our old journals. We found plenty to laugh about, and a few things to cry about.

 

Books, Old or New 

The older I get the more I appreciate things that are handed down. One of my greatest treasures is a set of books that was originally a Christmas gift given to my father when he was a boy.

 

 

Finding an old book with an inscription in it ties us to the past. Old favorites shared by generations through the ages makes me feel a certain kinship with people of the past that I have no connection to otherwise. There’s something magical about a book given as a Christmas gift, inscribed with love. The sharing of beloved tales is a marvelous gift.

 

A Book of Memories

One year my mother wrote a compilation of her life and made copies for all of us grown kids. What a gem! How can you put a value on this kind of gift?

 

 

 

Recorded Storybook

If you have a young child in your life, a storybook accompanied by an audio recording of you reading the book aloud is sure to be a hit. My mother did this for my eldest when he was small. It’s not something he’s likely to ever forget.

Stories connect us in a way nothing else does.

 

What are some of your favorite gifts to give or receive?