Wednesday, September 2, 2020

It would be so nice if someone could just tell me the exact time I am supposed to write every day to access my most creative narratives and focused thoughts. I could set an alarm, call a sitter, silence my phone, and just write. It would be amazing. I could outline my book, write the dialogue for a specific scene, plan out chapters—I could do all the things! If only someone could just tell me when to do that...

But the truth is, I probably already know when that time of day is. Every writer, deep down, most likely knows exactly when they should be writing. Some people are early birds and feel their most creative powers come alive after just experiencing a restful night’s sleep filled with wondrous dreams. Others are night owls and feel inspiration strike when the house is quiet, their family is asleep, and a full day’s events are fresh on their mind and ready to draw ideas from.

If you’re an early bird, you’ll probably notice that your willpower is higher earlier in the day and distractions are less of a problem. You also might be aware that your creativity peaks in the morning before your analytical side of the brain takes over as the day wears on. And being able to draw on your natural good mood and motivation that are present in the early hours is definitely something to take advantage of.

As for the night owls, you might crave the feeling of being in no hurry to go anywhere or the need to move on with the day’s regular tasks. The distractions you’ve been dealing with all day are now hushed and you can focus on what is right in front of you. And all the wonderfully mundane things that happened to you that day are ready to process and stick in your story somewhere. The night is surely yours for the taking.

If by chance you don’t know whether you’re an early bird or a night owl writer, I suggest an experiment. Try a whole week where you write first thing in the morning. The next week try writing every night. After two weeks your mind (and probably even your body) will tell you when you’re putting out your best work.

While figuring out your best time to write is important and very helpful, it’s still not the most vital component when it comes to finding the perfect time to write. So when is the perfect time to write? That would be whenever you actually sit down and write! You have to be willing to take time from your day to actually put your creativity into words that someone can read. It might mean forcing yourself to write for 20 minutes even though you have no new ideas in your head. And forcing yourself to do that same thing the next day and the next. It also could mean that you drop whatever you’re doing and write out whatever inspirational thought just entered your mind. Just be willing to do it and then do it. As Jodi Picoult says, “You can’t edit a blank page.”

When are you going to commit to write? Tomorrow? Next week? That’s too far away. Do it now. Like right now. Switch your screen and start writing something amazing. Or start writing something crappy until something wonderful emerges. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike (although it’s so nice when it does) just force yourself to do it. I guarantee your future self will thank you!

Good luck everyone!

Jenna Madsen is one of the original Word Addicts. Her stories appear in the Medley of Fairy Tales Volumes I and II, as well as in Miscellany. Find these books HERE, and follow her on Instagram @sundercreekfarms

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

For NaNoWriMo in November 2019, I wrote a book, which I’ll refer to as Fire WIP. I had been querying a previous manuscript since June, which received a decent amount of requests but ultimately ended in rejections. I was crushed. But, as writers, we know we have to move on to a new project in the hopes that maybe that will be The One.

I worked on my Fire WIP well into 2020. I submitted it to Author Mentor Match, and was lucky to receive two full requests! But when both of those came back in rejections, I started realizing maybe this book wasn’t as ready for querying as I once thought. I had a few wonderful CPs take a look at it, and based off their feedback, I did another round of edits.

Around mid-March, I heard about Revise & Resubmit, AKA RevPit. With RevPit, you submit your manuscript to two professional editors. If chosen by one, you work with them from May to July, and on July 1st, there’s an agent showcase.

Right away, I saw two editors who basically asked for my exact book on their wishlist. I submitted my manuscript and held my breath. Keep in mind, this was also when COVID really hit. I was already going stir-crazy, felt incredibly bummed about the end of my senior year of undergrad getting cut short, and overall had a lot of anxiety for the world.

When I received full manuscript requests from both editors, I was floored. I eagerly sent it off, and on the day when the winners were announced, a rock was in my stomach from nerves. I scrolled through the list and screamed when I saw my name. My manuscript had been chosen by Katie McCoach.

This is when my RevPit experience truly took off. Within a week, Katie and I hopped on a Zoom call to talk about my book. She was so insightful and kind, pointing out areas of the book she loved and positively critiquing aspects she felt could be tightened up. We had two main goals: shorten the word count and up the suspense.

Another big problem point was the second chapter. My first chapter was fairly solid, but the second chapter needed work. So, Katie suggested we start with revising Act Two. I had never done that before, so with a Google Doc full of notes from Katie taken from our call, I began to revise.

And boy, it was tough. But, it was also a welcome distraction from the anxieties going on around me. Suddenly, I had a purpose again. I combed through Act Two, completely cut an entire character, added a murder, and upped the suspense tremendously. I think one of the most important things I learned from my time with Katie is there truly can never be a down moment. Every chapter has to be important to the plot somehow, even the soft, quiet ones.

I sent Act Two off to Katie and began working on Act Three, and then once both of those were approved, we tackled Act One together. Personally, I had a great experience with turnaround times. However, I will say that with any mentor-mentee competition, you have to take each story with a grain of salt. A lot depends on your mentor, sometimes things depend on external factors, and sometimes it depends on you! I have a fairly quick work ethic, which Katie was graciously receptible to.

We had at least three or four Zoom calls to brainstorm during the duration of those two months. She thankfully really liked my edits, and then all that was left was polishing the first five pages, my query letter, and my synopsis. We went back and forth with multiple drafts of those during the weekend leading up to the showcase, and then sent my materials off.

During those two months, I also was lucky enough to receive incredible support from the other RevPit winners. We’re in a group chat all together, and even with the competition now over, we still talk regularly. It’s lovely conversing with so many writers who are going through similar experiences as you.

In my opinion, one of the best parts of RevPit is the opportunity for your work to be put in front of agents. While the showcase is a quieter affair compared to bigger competitions, I still garnered about five agent requests. I put some finishing touches on my manuscript and sent the requests out with a first batch of queries about a week later.

I can’t say too much now because I’m in the midst of some exciting decisions, but after sending eighteen queries out, I so far have a 50% request rate. I truly believe that without the help of Katie and the RevPit experience, I wouldn’t have seen so many requests. I’m so excited to see what my future might hold and am so thankful for this experience. I strongly encourage anyone with a decently polished manuscript to think about submitting to RevPit or other mentor competitions in general. There’s truly nothing to lose and in the best case scenario, you might get chosen and have the experience of a lifetime. And if not, you’ll make some lovely friends along the way and can still keep working on your manuscript until it’s query-ready!

Mackenzie Reed is a writer and editorial assistant from Rochester, New York. On August 7 she announced on Twitter that she has secured a literary agent for her YA thriller, An Arsonist's Guide To High School. Find her on Twitter @mackenziemreed7

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