Dear Manuscript: It’s not you. #pitchwars

I’ve been assessing my position from the query trenches with over 50 rejections. Phew! That was hard to admit. But I’m ok with that number because I’m constantly strengthening my work before sending back it in the world. Today I thought I’d share some of the reasons why manuscript gets rejected which have nothing to do with writing abilities.

Book Petals Love Writing Novel Author Lorraine Ambers

Recently I entered Pitch Wars, a competition to be mentored. On average I’m competing with 300 authors for each mentor I’ve submitted to, meaning my chances are slim. This echoes the same stakes as sending a submission to agents. Competing with hundreds of other applicants for the chance to win an agent.

Now I love twitter, it’s fast paced, honest, and has some great tips for writers. And what I love most are the amazing threads that come up offering a glimpse into the minds of mentors and agents.

One of this year’s Pitch Wars mentors is Adalyn Graces. She tweeted: ALSO, if you get 0 requests, it isn’t always because of your submission material. Some possible reasons:

-We are writing or plan to write something with a similar concept.

-The concept just isn’t right for us in that moment

– It could also be a mood thing. Or that a mentor only wanted to request 10 manuscripts out of 300. Literally there’re so many reasons. It’s never a bad idea to get more eyes on your work to see what you can strengthen, but sometimes it’s not about your material.

 

The Magicians - Quentin meme

Another Pitch Wars mentor, Kim Chance (read her interview with Ari Meghlen) tweeted: No requests in NOT an indicator of the quality of your work. There are just SO many factors that go into the decision to request or not. The talent this year is incredible and the mentors are so proud of you and your hard work.

Over at Jason Hine’s blog he sheds some light on why our stories are loved but just not enough to be chosen. For peace of mind and inspiration I suggest you take a look.

https://www.jasonhine.com/blog/2018/9/5/pitchwars-insights-reading-for-the-one

Last weekend I attended a Writers & Artist writing event, where I met the fellow blogger M.L. Davis. She’s a fantastic writer and superb beta partner. Together we absorbed the advice from  a panel of agents answering some of the elusive questions surrounding their Slush Pile and demystifying the process.

About 80% of the queries/ cover letters end up straight in the bin. Simply because the writer hasn’t taken the time to do their homework. So be sure to address the letter to the correct agent and make sure they represent your genre.

Sometimes the concept or voice is too familiar to them. Perhaps they’re already working with someone who’s wrote something similar. Maybe the planets aren’t aligned or they woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Every agent, publisher or mentor is just a person with individual likes, dislikes and ideas.

Keep writing. Don’t stop believing in yourself and chase your dreams. I have faith in you.

Author Lorraine Ambers - YA fantasy romance writer

What are your thoughts on receiving rejections? And dare you admit to how many you’ve had. I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2018.
Novel Story Worldbuilding Fantasy

Whats your favourite pitch? #PitMad

Calling all writers ready for pitching and all book bloggers – help me pick a pitch.

The first #PitMad event of the year, hosted by @pitchwars, is coming up soon! June 7th kicks off the first round at 8am – 8pm EDT. Stay up to date on events by following @pitchwars on Twitter or by checking out the #PitMad page at pitchwars.org/pitmad. For more information about the event head over to www.polishandpitch.com

So what is #PitMad exactly?

Well polish and pitch say: #PitMad is a Twitter hashtag event used by agents and unsigned authors alike with the goal of connecting the two. During the event, unagented writers are invited to share their story pitch via tweet with the #PitMad tag. Agents will be spending the day reading tweets with these tags, “liking”… the tweets that they are interested in and eager to receive further material from. Best case scenario, an agent likes your tweet, loves your additional material, and then offers you a contract!

valkyrie_3_by_lamuserie-Fantasy-Writer-Lorraine-Ambers
Artwork attributed to LaMuserie http://www.lamuserie.net

1. Lovesick, princess Alysia escapes the siege, when her coveted guard Sander, becomes fatally wounded. She must choose between saving his life, fearing he’s involved in the massacre or focus on rescuing her father, the King.

2. Sheltered princess Alysia bargains with a magician to save her beloveds life, knowing any vows made will have powerfully binding consequences for her kingdom.

3. Lovesick, imposter, guard Sander must choose to reveal his identity to his coveted princess or risk his magician brother capturing her to steal her powers and kingdom.

4. Telepathic princess Alysia’s kingdom is overthrown but she escapes. Should she sacrifice her freedom & powers to save the king or rule in his stead?

5. Princess Alysia’s kingdom is overthrown. Should she sacrifice herself to save her realm or place her trust in a deceitful guard, knowing his magician brother is responsible?

6. Guard Sander’s identity is jeopardised when the place is conquered. Should he unite with his brother, the one responsible for the attack, or defeat him to save his secret love the princess.

Ok guys, there you have it. I can use three variations to help me hook an agents interest.

What are your favourites?

I need your help.

Author Lorraine Ambers - YA fantasy romance writer

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2018.

 

 

Creating a Logline for a Novel, The Perfect Pitch

Query writing tips

I’ve been stuck in the query trenches for a long time. I’m determined to be represented by an agent and my perseverance has taken me on quite a journey. My next step is to submit to American agents. I’m finding this process similar yet different. Let me explain.

Unlike British agents who ask for a synopsis of one page. Agents in America tend to allow 3-5 pages. Meaning on top of revealing the plot, character arcs can be shown. Read my post How to Write a Synopsis for more details.

paper pen writing novel author fantasy Lorraine Ambers

Agents in America will only ask for a partial or full manuscript based on the query. Some agents ask for the first five pages of your novel, perhaps the first chapter – but no more. It’s a great way to ensure that writers utilise every word in a concise and intriguing way.

The query pitch has a slightly different format too. Over at Query Shark, hundreds of queries are critiqued by willing participants. The agent’s comments are brutal but honest. By reading through examples you can learn the best way to introduce your main character, how to reveal the stakes and let the reader  care. Of course, it goes without saying, a great hook is universal. And knowing your premise is the first place to start.

I highly recommend my fellow writers to take a look. Even if you’re planning to self-publish, the tips are helpful for blurbs too – the writing on the back cover of a novel that entices readers to by your book.

Happy writing fellow authors.

Remember, for dreams to work – you must too.

Author Lorraine Ambers - YA fantasy romance writer

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2018.
paper pen writing novel author fantasy Lorraine Ambers

Discovering my story’s premise

Every story has a beating heat. And though every story has been written before, it has not been written by you. Therefore, each story takes on a unique premise. Now I’ve hear this a million times, but honestly I’ve only just grasped the concept. The importance of hooking readers with the premise, by either immediately revealing it or by sowing the seeds throughout the opening pages. Allowing the premises butterfly effect to ripple through your story.

If you like, it’s the first building block of your story. I thought I knew my story. I thought I’d nailed my hook. I was wrong.

YA fantasy romance Author Lorraine Ambers Desk

If you’re struggling to identify your premise, then read this great post on: How to Find Exactly the Right Story Hook by Helping Writers Become Authors. It’s written eloquently with great examples. Honestly K.M Weiland is my go to bible for writing tips.

I didn’t know this until I sent my submission package to a literary agent to be critiqued. A service Writers & Artists provide. I’d come to a dead end with my first MS. It has been rejected by 30 agents with no feedback. It was either shelve it and focus on my second novel, or give it one last attempt. And I’m not a quitter.

Debut Novel NA fantasy Author Lorraine Ambers Beta Reader

So I took a bold move and opened myself up to feedback from Sallyanne Sweeney from MMB Creative. She taught me a valuable lesson about the first few chapters. I hadn’t introduced the premise. I hadn’t introduced my hook. Therefore, I hadn’t rewarded my readers with the foreshadowed inciting moment. Which also came in too late, chapters 4 and 5. Huge mistake!

I had opened with a fast paced scene believing that was the premise. Wrong. It was simply the first domino effect of my story. Then my story floundered to world build, without teasing the reader with my premise. Therefore the story lacked enough tension to drive the plot forward to the all-important inciting moment. The protagonists call to adventure.

Now, I knew what was coming… but my readers had no clue…. worse still, they might have given up and put the book down.

Once I discovered my premise, the revisions came easily. And now the antagonist, the conflict and goal are easily identified within the first few paragraphs. And my story is much stronger for it.

Thanks for reading and best of luck with your WIP. Remember, failure is proof that you’re trying. Don’t ever be afraid to grow and learn. 🙂

Author Lorraine Ambers - YA fantasy romance writer

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YA fantasy romance Author Lorraine Ambers Desk

How to Hook an Agent

This year I’m jumping a massive fear hurdle. In April I’m heading down to London to an event by Writers & Artists at Bloomsbury. I’ll join four literary agents who’ll enlighten me on How to Hook an Agent. The talks will include; how to know when your novel is ready, advice on how to pitch your novel, and the agents will tell us what submissions have appealed to them, with examples. This is followed by the opportunity for networking, and I’ll have my first one-to-one pitch session. Eek!

I can’t tell you how excited I am. Thanks to Ari Meghlen for her fantastic critiquing, and thanks to Judith Barrow for her Creative Writing workshops and her unwavering belief in my work. I’m finally ready to charm the pants off of the unsuspecting agents by revealing my first novel in the Shadow Knight Series. (Gulp)

All bravado aside, I’m dreading this verbal pitch. I’ve tweaked my original pitch to an unrecognisable mush of words. I could always wait for the event and see what the professionals have to say, but we all know I need to walk in there prepared.

 

Conquer fear Author Lorraine Ambers

Instead, I’ve turned to my fellow bloggers for advice which I’m happy to share with you.

A pitch should address five specific elements.

  • What is the title, genre, and word count?
  • What is the setting?
  • Who is the protagonist?
  • What is his conflict?
  • What does she have to do to overcome this conflict?

An important question to consider is what makes your book different from similar books within your genre. In business terms what is its USP – Unique Selling Point. Identify that and you’re on to a winner.

Remember that a one-to-one pitch is a two-way conversation, therefore it’s likely that you’ll be asked questions. They could be:

  • Tell me about yourself?
  • What else are you working on?
  • Why do you write?
  • Where did this story come from?
  • How does your book fit into the market
  • What authors do you compare to?
  • Who are your favourite authors?

At conferences and events, there’ll be the chance to ask them questions too. They might be:

  • About the industry
  • The process of the transition from writer to published writer
  • Their style as an agent
  • About the craft

The most important piece of advice that I’ve found is that practice makes perfect. Pitch aloud, in the mirror, and to anyone willing to listen. Until the pitch sounds natural, not stunted. Until the words flow without thought or hesitation.

Remember, agents are normal people. Relax, smile and enjoy the event. Even if all you’re doing is learning from your mistakes for future success. We’re only human after all.

Author Lorraine Ambers Web-Banner YA fantasy book review romance

Have any of my fellow writers pitched to agents? If so, do you have any additional advice to share? I’d love to hear from you, don’t be shy and comment below. 🙂

© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2016.
paper pen writing novel author fantasy Lorraine Ambers

Why rejection is important?

Writers need to deal with rejection. The industry we work in is subjective and competitive. Striving for greatness comes at a cost, usually to our pride.

Recognition is important for everyone. Unfortunately artists tend to get the least amount, unless you’ve made it to the top. I haven’t I’m still way down in the trenches, striving for that elusive goal of being appreciated for my craft.

desk writing novel author Lorraine Ambers

I submitted my debut novel to ten agents. At the time my writing was the best I could achieve. So I sent my book baby off and used my excited/ anxious energy into creating the second in the series. Four months later, that driving force of anticipation had manifested into book two of The Shadow Knight Series. Amazing.

When all of the submissions came back with a polite ‘Not what we’re looking for.’ or ‘We don’t think your material is the right fit for us.’ I took a look at my submission package.

I was surprised to find my writing had improved. I cringed at my old material. The rejections morphed with my inner critical voice and attacked. We’ve all been there and it’s brutal. Rejection hurts. We get stressed out, upset and frustrated. That’s a useful tool.

writer worry rejection author Lorraine Ambers

This is where rejection can actually be useful. The driving force behind the hurt and disappointment allows us to re-evaluate and try again.

Remember: Successful people have made it because they didn’t give up.

Fear not, with the right mind-set and some initiative and introspect we can turn things around. By taking control of the situation, we can turn that negativity into something positive. Next time we’ll do better, or learn to be better. This isn’t the end of the road, it’s a bump in the path.

To paraphrase Samuel Beckett: fail again, fail better.

I revised the first 10,000 words, three more times. I’m confident that at this moment in time I have done my best. Who knows, maybe after revising book two, I’ll realise that I’ve grown some more. That can only be a good thing.

Conquer fear Author Lorraine Ambers

Keep going. Have faith and above all else believe in yourself.

Have you learnt any valuable lessons from rejection? If so, tell me about them. We’re all in this together and I’d love to hear from you.

Author Lorraine Ambers YA fantasy romance

© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2016.
water sunset beach fantasy writer Lorraine Ambers

Look how far you’ve come

 

love pen book tea - Author Lorraine Ambers fantasy writer

Four months ago I finished my first novel and submitted my book baby to a select few literary agencies. It’s equally exciting and nerve wrecking. Patience is proving not to be my strong suit, especially when I’m awaiting a reply from an agent who has blogged that it will take her a lot longer if she’s torn on a MS.

While part of me pats my shoulder for at least hooking an agent, the other half is wondering if my submission ever made it to her slush pile. As I’m not planning on embarrassing myself by asking for confirmation, I’ll have to hang tight.

During these months I’ve busied my obsessional brain by starting book two of the Shadow Knight Series. I’ve almost finished! I know how I’m going to tie up the two remaining subplots to conclude this novel, but my writings floundering. I’m dragging out scenes and adding pointless interactions with characters. I know why, fear, I never planned on finishing the novel so fast.

Book Petals Love Writing Novel Author Lorraine Ambers

I heard a great mantra today, ‘Look how far you’ve come and not how far you have to go.’ It put my author career into perspective. Three years ago I joined a creative writing class to discover my sense of self. Six months later I discovered my niche and started a rough draft of my first novel.

During the past two years I’ve designed my brand, built my platform and as of a year ago launched my blog. Thank you to my 400 followers; you’ve been a constant source of encouragement and kindness.

Most of us writers have family and work commitments that need to be juggled. Looking at the bigger picture, I’m reminded of how far I’ve come in a short amount of time.

So take a look at your own journey and congratulate yourself on your hard work and dedication. You deserve it.

Drop me a message; tell me about your progress. We’re all on this journey together and I love hearing from you.

Author Lorraine Ambers Web-Banner YA fantasy book review romance

© Author Lorraine Ambers & http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2016
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Submission hopes and fears

Are you embarking on the submission phase of your writing journey? Or perhaps like me, you’ve forged head-long into the process, only to feel lost and disorientated.

You’re in the ‘The Magic Eight Ball’ zone. The inside of your mind, has been shaken to its core. Only able to answer; Yes, No or Maybe to your pointless rhetorical questions. Will you find an agent, is your work polished enough, have you spelt the agents name correctly? Blah, Blah, Blah.

I knew going into this process, that waiting and rejection was inevitable. And still I was unprepared.

Submission writer agent hopes fears

As I discussed in my previous post Searching for an Agent. I’d researched the best fit agents for YA fantasy novels, fine-tuned my synopsis, pulled my big girl pants up and repeated, show no fear, you’ve got this.

I’m just five weeks in… I want to share some of my hurdles, blunders and worries I’ve faced:

  • Well-meaning friends congratulating you and ask, ‘When are you going to be published?’ – Urm, I don’t know. It’s about as helpful as asking a heavily pregnant woman, when is the baby going to arrive?
  • Having the best dream, where an amazing, talented agent hired you. Pulling you into a massive bear hug and promising that the world is your oyster. – Only to wake up. At least you know you’re passionate about your writing dream.  Right?
  • Stalking agents via Twitter, Tumbler or LinkedIn, heck maybe all three. Only to humiliate yourself with a miss understood tweet. – Hide from all forms of social media, close all the curtains and spend your life like a hermit. Yikes!
  • Doubting your skills and creativity. Questioning every plot decision that has led you to this point. – It’s hard passing your precious novel over to the great unknown. As a control queen, I thrive on setting my own goals and reaching them. This part requires blind faith in your work, leaving it up to the masters of the literary universe.

Submission writer agent author

I’ve already learnt from this process. By revaluating my hook and short bio, I’ve strengthened my chance at making a good first impression. There are some fantastic bloggers out there who have helped me develop those skills.

Shout-out to: 

http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/secrets-of-story-structure-pt-2-hook/

The Submission Process

That magical moment when you decide NOT to quit writing #writing #writers — BlondeWriteMore

Love writing agent submission

An important part of the process is acknowledgement. It’s easy to let it corrode your self-esteem. You’re not alone in these worries; every writer has struggled with them. Embrace those fears. The whole experience is tinged with What If’s. Use that momentum to evaluate where you’re going and what you plan to do next.

I’ve come to realise that this process, as painful as it can be, is also liberating and exciting. Even if I don’t find the agent of my dreams, I’m not quitting. I can’t. What a huge eye opener. In fact, I’m already 20% into my first draft of book 2 and loving every minute. There’s a sense of satisfaction, in knowing my craft. In the continuous growth of mastering a skill.

Writing inspiration agent submission
Perhaps it will take a 100 submissions, perhaps it will be lucky book number 5, maybe it will never happen.

I’m still going to keep on writing, dreaming and plotting my way to the end.

I hope this blog gives a little bit of hope to anyone embarking on or wading through the query trenches. I love your advice and moral boosting comments, so don’t be shy.

Author writer Lorraine Ambers

Thanks for reading.

© Lorraine Ambers & http://www.lorraineambers.com 2017