Chalk one up on the winning side!

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Today I got a piece of news guaranteed to make a writer smile — I won a contest!

In a previous post, I talked about Twitter contests. They provide excellent opportunities to meet other writers, get critique partners and polish your work. There really is no downside to entering — win or lose, participants learn all kinds of things. Feedback is almost always part of the deal, and writers can gain objective suggestions to improve their work.

I entered a contest by some awesome people at The Scribblers Blog (thescribblersonline.com). The Scribblers are a group of writers who met a couple of years ago at a writing course and decided to start their own group. Since their meeting, several of their members have become agented.

The Scribblers offer all kinds of articles and advice on their blog — but they also offer contests.

This particular contest was called #1st50. Participants sent in the first fifty words of their manuscript. A panel of judges first chose a longlist, then a shortlist, then finally today, the winners. I tied for first place with an excellent writer named Oscar Allen. I saw his post and was pretty happy about my entry being compared to his work — it was good.

During the process, this contest hooked me up with a couple of dozen new writer friends on Twitter, but more importantly, through feedback and critique, I developed a manuscript opening some judges thought was worth scoring first place.

For winning, I will get my first page critiqued by some experienced writers, and my polished page will be posted on their blog site. But the real first prize was the validation that some talented folks found my entry worth voting for.

This definitely put a big smile on my face.

 

 

#Pitch Wars PimpMyBio 2017

This year has truly been a year of new adventures for me:

  • I have begun using Twitter
  • I have started my own blog
  • I have learned all kinds of things about writing books
  • I have entered my books in contests
  • I am entering #Pitch Wars 2017 on Twitter

madea hall

What do I have to offer my first Pitch Wars?

  • I am mature. I have overcome many challenges in my life and I won’t fall apart during stressful times
  • I am determined. I work hard and don’t give up
  • I take feedback well.  I understand it isn’t personal and can go right to revising without having to shrug off drama
  • I am a creative problem-solver
  • I can attack this without a lot of other distractions in my life

 

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About me:

  • I am 56 years old
  • I have been married 26 years
  • I have 3 children and 7 grandchildren — I write for them!
  • I live in Michigan
  • I am an avid gardener
  • I am active in my community
  • I am a leadership program facilitator

My manuscript: Jaz and the Mysterious Tablet: Faraway World

Growing up as the only child in a senior citizen retirement home isn’t easy for a twelve-year-old boy, but that’s where Jaz lives with his mother, who cooks for the residents. And while he has a roof over his head and food to eat, Jaz is definitely at a loss for essential pre-teen things such as cool clothes, electronic games and friends under the age of seventy.

He also doesn’t have a dad.

Jaz believes his dream of a home and friends his own age is about to come true when he inherits his paternal grandparents’ farm. But the farm is…..strange. In addition to finding different items with inexplicable properties, Jaz uncovers an old stone tablet with weird scratches and drawings on it.

He also learns his dad didn’t really die before he was born; rather, he left a note stating he was in danger, then disappeared.

When Jaz realizes the items he found are related to his dad’s disappearance, he sets out on a quest to decipher the cryptic clues on the tablet.  If he can find the six magic stones that will open the portal to the world where his dad is being held captive, he can save him.

If not, he will lose his dad — and possibly his life — forever.

 

I am looking forward to the challenge of my first #Pitch Wars!

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http://www.lanapattinson.com/pitch-wars-2017-pimpmybio-contestant-blog-hop/

 

 

Here we go…

I’ve never had my own blog before, nor written a blog post. I’ve never even been a particular fan of reading them.

However, my previous life and career(s) have never warranted one.

In my most recent position, I was a Chief of Staff to a Michigan State Senator. That particular job was wonderful — the Senator was fabulous to work with, and we built a capable, intelligent and incredibly fun team. We provided not only excellent legislation, but superior constituent services as well.

But then term limits forced the Senator out of office, and our team to seek new jobs.

I decided I was going to use the time to do something I’ve always wanted to do — write books for Middle Graders. I went back into consulting — helping businesses/non-profit/government/faith-based entities improve via becoming temporary management or else via workshops — which offered a flexible schedule and enabled me to start writing.

Now, I’ve always been a reader. I can easily go through a book per week when I’m not concentrating on writing one. But I never, EVER realized how much work goes into the process.

First there’s the coming up with the story. I started out being a “Pantser,” meaning I wrote the story by the seat of my pants. There are also “Plotters” out there — those individuals organized enough to actually plot their story out scene by scene, or chapter by chapter. I have discovered issues with being a full-fledged Pantser, so I have worked hard to become a “Plantser” — a hybrid of the two.  It seems to work better.

So my creation turned out to be one long story broken into two, 60,000-word books. It took me about six months to actually write each of the two,  usually consisting of writing like mad for a week, then taking a couple of weeks off.

When they were finished I really thought the difficult part was done, and the rest would be much easier.

Au contraire…

I spent another couple of months researching “what next?” And learned there is more to the next steps than the initial writing portion.

I learned about the magical, mystical “Query,” or the one-page-ish sales pitch you write to interest an agent. I read all kinds of articles on writing them, then did the smartest thing I could have done —  I took a few professional workshops on writing them. Since liking or not liking queries is a subjective business, there is no such thing as a one-size-please-all query. But my last several critiques have been very positive, so I think mine now has some good bones.

There’s also an evil villain called “The Synopsis,” which is a summary of your story’s highlights from beginning to end. This one I’m still struggling with, but like the query, I’ll keep going until I get a good one.

I learned that agents are wonderful people who are very, very, very busy and don’t have time to help every single writer who send their story, hoping for representation. However, if you follow them on Twitter and/or their own blogs, lots of times they’ll offer helpful advice.

That brings up social media. I’ve been on Facebook for years, but have never jumped on the Twitter bandwagon.

Until recently.

Twitter has been a huge source of support and information. I’ve only been active a few months and I’ve made some wonderful writer friends, learned many helpful do’s and don’ts from agents and editors, watched other writers proudly announce they’ve accepted representation or have a book release, and picked up some great critique partners.

Twitter is also a good source for contests. First-page contests, seventieth-page contests, first-X-amount of word contests, 140-character pitch contests, 35-word pitch contests, mentoring contests, etc. The prize can be a short or long critique, a revision of a work-in-progress (WIP) or it can result in representation by an agent. But regardless of the prize, participating in Twitter contests offer excellent opportunities to polish your words.

The editing and polishing of a WIP takes a great deal of time and effort — much, much more than I would ever have envisioned. One of the hardest things I have had to do is cut a bunch of my story out because it was unnecessary. I learned I don’t have to say “he said” or “she said” EVERY time a character says something. Nor did I need to walk a reader step by step through every action. Words like “just,” “and then,” and “well” were way overused and I had to seek them out and abolish them. Learning the rules on how to write numbers, then going back through two novels and changing them took more time than I would have liked. I successfully trimmed 15,000 words from my manuscript.

Then, after purchasing a live critique from an editor at a writer’s workshop, I learned something horrible — I was guilty of making my main character “too perfect.” She very kindly informed me it was a common rookie error, but I had to give him flaws or nobody would be interested in him.

GIVE MY BABY FLAWS?!?!?!?!? HUH?!?!?!?

Of course, she was right, but it initially felt horrible. It was like setting up one of my children for failure!

So I had to go back and revise again, this time making my character flawed. And that editor was right — he’s much more interesting now.

Then I learned the elusive term “voice.” Oh this one was tough, because nobody could seem to define it. I took a workshop, read a book and went through endless articles on voice — but the first thing they all said was it was very hard to define.  Then they all tried in different ways.

Since I’m a person who learns more by doing, I decided to try an experiment — I asked several agents/editors on Twitter to offer a middle-grade title they believed had a strong voice.  Then I read several of the books they suggested, paying attention more to the voice than to the story.

Then I went back and changed my entire WIP from a third-person point of view, to a first-person point of view. And I found my voice.

At this time, I’ve won a few contests and have been shortlisted in others. The feedback I used to get covered my submitted material — now I receive a couple of tips. And the last two agent critiques I’ve received told me the voice was good.

I’m getting closer.

I’ve created this blog because it’s part of the process. No, “process” isn’t the right word. I’d say a better word is “journey.” Because when you start a new career in your mid-to-upper 50’s, it is a journey. I’ve travelled to a place where a different language is spoken, unfamiliar tools are used and unknown rules seem to pop up every time I turn around. There are times I feel as though I was dropped onto a new planet and I am struggling to make a new home here.

But one of the positive things about being in my 50’s is that I am centered. I’ve been in unfamiliar places before and have successfully maneuvered them. I’ve long ago learned how to not get sidetracked by drama, get discouraged by something not going the way I wanted, or letting one rejection get the best of me. Most of all, at my age I know how to learn from both acceptance and rejection, and that perseverance is key.  I’ve learned how to be a rock.

I. Won’t. Give. Up.

I invite you to hang out with me during my journey. I am still polishing my manuscripts, but I have also begun plotting a new book.

I’m excited.

I’ll share my experiences as well as what I learn along the way. Hopefully, another writer dropped into this planet will gain a few tips that will help them navigate.

I’ve learned one new thing today — I’ve enjoyed writing this blog post.  🙂