Finding your tribe

Being a writer can be a lonely existence at times, especially if it’s your full-time job, so this month I thought I’d give you some tips on finding your tribe – those like-minded individuals who share your love of writing and will celebrate and commiserate with you, whatever the writing milestone.

Whilst many writers are introverts, needing time alone to recharge their batteries, there are also many extroverted writers out there who need social interaction to refill their cups, so I’ve included some suggestions that will appeal to both types.

Not sure whether you’re an introvert, extrovert or ambivert? Take the Myers-Briggs test and find out!


Blogging and blog hops

First things first, blog hops are excellent for getting to know other writers and bloggers! Not only do they help you build a list of brilliant blogs to follow, they encourage you to interact with as many of your fellow bloggers as possible, building a real sense of community. You’ll make internet friends that might even become IRL friends! And you’ll learn a lot in the process, so you can’t really lose.

Suitable for both introverts and extroverts, as there’s a lot of interaction involved but it’s all from the safety of behind your computer screen, plus you can pick and choose when and who you interact with.


Social media

The main places you’ll find a big writing community are Twitter and Instagram, and there are about a million hashtags that you can start by searching, e.g. #amwriting and #writerlife. You can also find most of your fellow bloggers’ social accounts listed on their blogs, so you’ve got a ready made list of people to follow and connect with right there.

There are loads of Twitter chats you could join in on, some generic and some specific to genre or demographic, e.g. #storysocial, #storycrafter, #RWchat for romance writers or #FemalesInFantasy for women SFF writers.

Again, there’s no pressure for introverts on social media – getting overwhelmed? Log off for a few hours. Don’t enjoy a particular chat? You don’t have to join in next week. Share as much or as little as you feel comfortable with, and don’t forget the gifs!


Writer groups

This one’s for the extroverted writers out there. If you’re happy to read your work out loud in front of a room of relative strangers and receive criticism to your face, then writer groups could be for you. You can search online for your nearest group, or head down to your local library where many writer groups meet, or post flyers on the notice board. Most groups invite published authors to speak about their work, their writing process and publishing journey, so you’ll learn something as well as getting valuable feedback from your fellow writers.

In my experience (from that one time I attended a group… #introvertsunite), there’s often a weekly (or monthly, depending on the group) theme on which you’re expected to write a piece, so it’s not all about your passion project, but that in itself can be a great way to broaden your range and practice using different styles. Plus, you’ll be meeting writers who live near you, so if you become firm friends with someone you could even ditch the group and start your own little writers meetup at your favourite coffee shop!


NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month is a fantastic way to connect with other writers, and there’s a good mix of activities to suit both introverts and extroverts. You can register on the website and track your writing progress, adding your writing buddies from social media and the real world. You can join your regional group and chat with local writers in the forum, sharing tips and advice. You can even attend write-ins and meet your regional group in person, if being surrounded by other writers tapping away at their keyboards gets your creative juices flowing.

If you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo (have you been living under a rock?) it’s a month long challenge that takes place every November, where writers aim to clock up 50,000 words in 30 days. There’s also Camp Nano every April and July, when you get to choose your own target, whether it’s a word count, page count, or hours spent writing. You can join a “cabin” with other fellow writers, making it an even more interactive experience. And now you can use the Nano website to track your writing goals all year round!


Pitch competitions

If you’ve been around here for a while, you might know I entered Pitch Wars back in 2017 with my manuscript The Fair Queen. I didn’t get in, but that almost didn’t even matter, because I discovered a community of writers at a similar point on their publishing journeys who share their experiences and advice, boost each other up when they get knocked down, and celebrate each other’s wins on a daily basis. There’s such a sense of kinship and friendly support when you take part in pitch competitions – despite the fact you’re all competing, there’s no bad blood whatsoever. Everyone cheers everyone else on, there’s room for all of our books out there in the world, after all!

There are lots of pitch competitions on Twitter throughout the year, Pitch Wars even has their own pitch party on Twitter for those who didn’t get into the main mentoring competition, called #PitMad. iWriterly has compiled them into a handy calendar so you can plan your entire year around pitch competitions!

Getting into the competition is honestly just a bonus – OK, OK it’s a bit more than a bonus – but the greatest thing about these competitions is, you guessed it, the community! Take the opportunity to find some beta readers and critique partners, and build a support network of like-minded writer types who’ll be there for you on every step of your journey to publication.


I hope these tips help you to find your tribe like I have, I really recommend taking advantage of some of these brilliant opportunities to meet other writers and start building your own writer community.

Do you have any other suggestions for great places to make writer friends?

Lyndsey

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Lyndsey's Book Blog 2

In the query trenches

Hello lovely folks! As you’ve probably come to expect, I’m going to focus my post today on the stage of the writing/publishing process that I am currently at, which this time around is querying.

In the query trenches Author Toolbox Blog Hop Lyndsey's Book Blog

My querying journey began back in October, after a little over a year of plotting, drafting, editing and polishing (read: procrastinating) my first novel. After entering Pitch Wars and not getting chosen, I didn’t have any more excuses to put off querying, so I decided to bite the bullet and jump into the trenches.


Crafting your query

As part of the Pitch Wars submission requirements, I had to have a query letter prepared, so I already had mine ready to go. If you’re just starting to think about writing your query letter, one of the best explanations I found for how to write a killer query came from bestselling author of Truthwitch, Susan Dennard’s blog:

Fortunately, as part of the PW community, I had the opportunity to share my query with hundreds of fellow writers and get a few opinions and suggestions (also known as critiques). It’s just as crucial to have a polished query as it is to have your manuscript at its absolute best, so once you’ve drafted your letter ask a few writer friends to give it a once over, or post in one of the many amazing Facebook groups for writers and see if anyone would be willing to take a look. A few of the writing groups I’m in that have been invaluable for support and advice are:

  • Your Write Dream (Kristen Kieffer)
  • Edit & Repeat (Zoe Ashwood)
  • #PITCHWARRIORS (Morgan Hazelwood)
  • PW Query Team! (Morgan Hazelwood)

Writing a synopsis

Most agents request a synopsis along with your query letter and sample chapters, and the usual format is one page, single spaced. The key difference between a synopsis and a query letter is whilst the query doesn’t give away the ending of your story, the synopsis does. Again, the best explanation for how to write an amazing synopsis that I found was from Susan Dennard, this time on the Publishing Crawl website:


Researching agents

Now your submission materials are ready to go, the next step is to make a list of the agents you want to query, their submission guidelines and contact information. As I’m in the UK, I use Lit Rejections list of UK literary agents to find out who accepts my genre (Young Adult), and where I can find them online. Websites and Twitter accounts are really handy resources for learning more about an agent, their tastes and what they’re looking for. Don’t just rely on the list sites as you never know how up to date a particular site may be, always check the agency website in case an agent has moved, or their preferences or submission guidelines aren’t correct.

Other places you can research agents include the #MSWL hashtag on Twitter or the Manuscript Wishlist website, Query Tracker and Publisher’s Marketplace.

I keep a spreadsheet of all the agents I want to query, with columns for the agency name, the agent’s name, email address or submission website,  submission guidelines, when I sent the query and whether/when they responded. I highlight the agents green when I send a query, and red when I receive a rejection, as well as putting the dates in, so I can see at a glance how many queries are still out.


Sending your query

A few tips to make sure you’re not rejected immediately, before the agent even reads your sample chapters:

  • Don’t paste the email address into the recipient box until you’re ready to send, that way you can never accidentally send a half-typed email.
  • Use the agent’s name and make sure you spell it correctly! (Simple, but effective.)
  • Triple check you’ve met the submission guidelines before clicking send – you can’t take it back once it’s winging its way through cyberspace.
  • Make sure you’ve formatted your pages and synopsis correctly – single-spaced, one-page synopsis, double spaced pages with indentations at every new paragraph, except the first of a chapter/scene.
  • Give everything one last read through before sending, I’ve seen agents say a misspelling or two in a query won’t put them off but it’s better to not give them any excuse, especially when the slush pile is huge. You want them to want to keep reading!

Expect rejection

We’ve all read stories of authors who bagged an agent within a week of starting to send queries, but the truth is that most agented authors sent over a hundred queries before they finally found their match. Rejection is a necessary part of the publishing journey, unfortunately, so get comfortable with the word no and don’t take it personally when your carefully crafted query receives a less than enthusiastic response.

One of my very first queries received an almost immediate rejection at 11pm because the agent didn’t accept YA. I’d been reading the bios of a couple of agents from the same agency and gotten muddled – well it was late and I’d probably been researching for hours. So that was a pretty embarrassing faux pas, but we all make mistakes and you’re unlikely to come out of this query trench without a few teensy snaffoos of your own!

This week, I received my first real rejections (I don’t count my little error as a real query) after starting to send queries back in October, and I couldn’t be happier! As my Dad said when I told him, despite some mild confusion as to why I was so excited to receive a rejection email, “You’ve got to kiss a few frogs before you find your prince”. The first was a form rejection, but the second was personal and stated that my submission had stood out amongst the many they received. Unfortunately, they just weren’t enthusiastic enough to represent my novel, but they wished me luck with it. It doesn’t get much more positive than that as a rejection!

And that’s where I am on my query journey, one step closer to finding the right agent who will fall in love with my book and want to represent me and it on the long road towards getting published. Fingers crossed 2018 is my year!

Where are you on the query journey, just starting out or deep in the trenches like me? Let me know how it’s going and what your most positive rejection email has been so far. Here’s hoping we all find our agents this year – next step, publishing deals!

Lyndsey

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In the query trenches Lyndsey's Book Blog Author Toolbox Blog Hop

Caring for plot bunnies

In today’s post, I thought I’d talk about something we have all done battle with at some point in our writing lives – plot bunnies.

We’re well into week three of Camp Nano, and I’m just under halfway to my goal of 35k words of draft two for The Fair Queen. So, naturally, I’m being besieged by plot bunnies.

Now, the most important thing when you’re in the middle of a big project is to not let the plot bunnies distract you from your work. You might be losing momentum, struggling to stay motivated and finding your current work-in-progress boring – we’ve all been there! But, writing isn’t all about the shiny and new sparks of inspiration, sometimes it’s about hard work.

That said, what do you do when a brilliant idea pops into your head whilst you’re busy working on something else, or not in a position to sit down and start writing?

Caring for plot bunnies.png

Make a note

If you’re a smart and sensible writer and human being, you will have one of two things within reach at all times – a notepad or a mobile device. If not, grab any stationary surface and inscribing implement (your sleeping cat’s back and an electric razor are not recommended).

Write it down.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a 300 word synopsis or a single phrase, write that idea down right now. You will not remember it when you come to sit down and write later, I can almost guarantee it. How many times have you been to the supermarket and thought “I won’t make a list, I know what we need”, and come home with everything but the one thing you went for? It’s not just me. Write that line of dialogue/character name/plot twist/cover design idea down.


Make it legible

Hands up if your handwriting is terrible? Some of you are probably thinking “I’m a writer, my handwriting is carefully crafted calligraphy, how very dare you”. Well, I’m not one of you, and I’m sure I’m not alone. There have been many times when I’ve come to read my own handwritten notes, usually quickly scribbled, and had no clue whatsoever what they said. Don’t let this be you, do not waste your beautiful plot bunnies by scrawling your notes in chicken scratch that not even an FBI handwriting expert could decipher.

Write in all caps if that helps you to read it later, draw a picture if it’s easier than describing your mental image. Just make sure you will know what the hell you were talking about later.


Proper care and feeding of plot bunnies

It goes without saying that you should keep track of all your notes, use a separate page or document for each project or for ideas that have no specific purpose as of yet. This will help when it comes to raising your plot bunnies into fully grown WIP rabbits (I just made that up, can you tell?).

If you’re between projects, or need a break after completing a first draft or round of edits, then now’s the time to whip out your notes and get turning those plot bunnies into fully-formed ideas. Lay out all your notebooks and open your phone or laptop to your document of notes (I use OneNote on my phone, it syncs to my laptop so I never lose any ideas). Now start trying to connect words and phrases together to make a story concept.

Maybe you’ve scribbled down a couple of great character names, pop them into Google and see where they originate from, which era they suit best, and what characteristics they are associated with.

If you’re a visual person and have a collection of photos saved in your phone why not mine these for potential locations, architectural details and scene prompts? Then, see which of these might fit together with your other ideas. Maybe you’ve got a photo of a gorgeous sunset over a plaza in southern Spain from that holiday three years ago, an elaborate fountain from a Turkish bath, and a dress you’ve always dreamed of buying – could you combine these ideas to create a scene, or even an entire story?

If you take care of your plot bunnies, they’ll take care of you by providing endless inspiration for new writing projects.


Hunting those wiley wabbits

Not sure how to get started collecting plot bunnies? It’s really simple, you just need to make it a habit to write down any little sparks of inspiration you get throughout the day. Carry a notepad and pen, even if you always have your phone on you – for some just the action of handwriting a note can set the muse free.

When you’re out and about, take notice of the little details around you and take a quick photo or jot down a word or two. Listen in on other people’s conversations (subtly, don’t be that guy) and write down any turns of phrase you like or find interesting, record accents you want to use or even steal plot points from real people’s lives. You’ll be amazed at the places inspiration can spring from if you just open your eyes and ears and pay attention.

And there you have it, you’ll be farming an entire herd of plot bunnies in no time, and you’ll never struggle for something to write about. What are your tips for finding inspiration and keeping track of all your ideas? Give me your advice in the comments, I’d love to hear how other people do it!

Lyndsey

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Caring for plot bunnies Lyndsey's Book Blog