Monday, June 24, 2019

#IWSG - The right pitch at the right time: good news from a #IWSGPit event!

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is pleased to introduce Charly Cox, who was offered a publishing contract after participating in our #IWSGPit event in January 2019! Please give her a warm welcome as she shares her story with us today!

When I first began writing, there was a little voice that insisted on intruding and whispering: What makes you think you can do this?

Whether you’re just beginning this journey, or like me, you’ve been plugging away for a few years amassing piles of rejections so high you don’t really want to admit how many there are, I’d wager you, too, have felt fear, defeat, self-doubt, or even impostor syndrome. For me, there are times the fear and self-doubt are so strong, I freeze even when my characters are telling me exactly what to write.

You might see how a site called Insecure Writer’s Support Group might appeal to someone like me. But, here’s the thing—until January 2019, I’d never heard of them. But, I’ll get to that.

It’s important to share your experiences with those negative voices because feeling these things means you care and want to succeed, that you’re willing to fight for it. Use those emotions to help guide you.

Because the fact is, writing is hard. It’s discipline. It’s getting your heart stomped on by rejection. But, it’s also handing a new world over to someone else. It’s finding a way to stand up and dust yourself off…repeatedly. It’s learning to trust, to recognize and appreciate constructive criticism that helps better your craft.

 It’s learning to keep on keeping on.

It took almost a year to write, edit, and revise (a billion times) my first novel. And as the rejection pile grew, I researched, studied, and refined. I’d heard it’s rare for a first novel to be published, so I kind of set mine aside, and wrote another. Different genre, different age group. And I queried my heart out, adding to my pile of rejections. But, I’d also heard it could take three, four, or even five novels before one was published. So, I wrote novel number three and spent two years querying it. And even though, for the first time, agents were requesting more material, rejections kept flowing in, each one another stab in the heart.

And, while I didn’t believe Novel #1 would ever see the light of day, every once in a while, I’d dust it off and send it out.

It was during one of those times I ran across other writers talking about this #IWSG Twitter event. Like I said, I’d never heard of this group, so I checked out their website to see what they were all about.

And discovered a smorgasboard of links, encouragement, and well—support. The first thing I did was pin the site to my taskbar for easy access.

As for the Twitter event, I almost ignored it because I wasn’t prepared. But, another little voice nudged me, and with a ‘what the hell attitude,” I took bits and pieces from everything I’d learned during past events and sent off pitches for all three novels.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. So, imagine my surprise when I received a coveted ‘favorite’ for… Novel #1. I kept my excitement to a minimum because this was still a long shot…but, at least it meant I was doing something right, and every little bit of encouragement is worth clinging to!

After I researched the publisher, I made sure every ‘i’ was dotted, every ‘t’ crossed. Then, I inhaled deeply and hit send.

And forgot about it.

That’s right. I honestly forgot it was out there. Until one day in March, I opened my email to find a message from Keshini Naidoo at Hera Publishing. I clicked on it, assuming it was another rejection for a different novel, so, it took me a second to realize, “Hey, wait a minute. This is the opposite of a rejection!”

I must have read that email a hundred times. And then I read it to my husband who assured me I wasn’t imagining things. Then, I read it to my son who said, “That sounds promising.”

So, I answered all the questions Keshini asked and hit send again. Even then I didn’t allow myself to become too hopeful. After all, I’d heard stories.

In fact, full-fledged panic with a new set of doubts wiggled in. Did I respond too quickly? Not quickly enough? Did she hate what I said?  I made myself sick. My poor husband had no idea what to do with me. I didn’t know what to do with me.

Six weeks of correspondence passed between us (and yes, those silent in-between times were difficult (waiting is hard, folks!) before the official offer finally came in May—a three-book deal for a series stemming from my very first novel. I was elated, excited, and absolutely terrified! I thought Holy crap. What if I can’t do this? To which my son said, “You’ve already done it; you’re just going to do it again.” (Isn’t he the best?)

I’d like to tell you everything has changed, but the truth is, writing is still hard, even with a fantastic editor with crazy good ideas and suggestions, and self-doubt still creeps in sometimes, sabotaging my efforts and holding my brain captive.

What I can say is I’m happy I didn’t give up. And, if I’m being completely honest, if it hadn’t been for my husband, my biggest cheerleader, and my son (who is the world’s best plot-hole finder and fixer-suggestor), I might’ve quit long ago.

As it is, I’m still finding it hard to believe that this is actually going to happen—October 2019, to be exact.

All of this to say: KEEP ON KEEPING ON. And when you have those days when you’re wondering what the heck you think you’re doing, remember, it only takes one. And when the time is right, you and that one will find each other.  

Charly CoxAs for me, I’m sending out a collective group hug to the creators of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. My gratitude is heartfelt, and I credit you for the path that led Keshini Naidoo and Hera Books to me. 

Thank you for recognizing a need and setting up a place for writers like me to share their hopes, fears, failures, and successes. You all rock!
Charly Cox
P.S. If you get a chance, check out my website (a work in progress, but I’m getting there).
Twitter: @Charlylynncox

Thank you and best of luck, Charly!

Interested in joining our next event? Use this LINK to get more information!

The next #IWSGPit  will be in January 15, 2020
8:00 am - 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time

Our annual anthology contest is now open! Use this LINK to find all the details!

The 2019 Annual IWSG Anthology Contest is now open for submissions!

Guidelines and rules:

Word count: 3500-5000

Genre: Middle Grade Historical – Adventure/Fantasy

Theme: Voyagers

Submissions accepted: May 1 - September 4, 2019

Monday, June 17, 2019

Staying Positive After a Rejection


It happens to everyone at some point in their writing life.

This year, I've been trying some new things. I'm challenging myself in new directions. So, rejection has been happening and I still keep on writing and I keep on sending out queries for short stories, novels, and poems, and I'm still okay. 

But rejection stings. 

On some days, I might struggle for a minute or two (or sometimes a few hours) with an icky, insecure worry that maybe all of my work sucks. I have had moments where I've looked at the subject line of an e-mail in my inbox and just not opened it for a few minutes. 

I have to remind myself that my work is still okay, that it's not for everyone, but there is a market for it. I have to find ways to stay positive.

I know I'm not the only one who struggles with rejection. I've read posts from fellow writers who are struggling with it. 

While preparing for this article, I also found a post by Anne R. Allen entitled: "Rejection: Why It Feels So Awful and 7 Ways to Heal the Hurt."  It contains information from a psychological study on rejection. 

So, the hurt from rejection happens to many of us and it is real. But to succeed as writers, we still need to move forward and keep writing, keep submitting our work, and keep ourselves positive. 

How do we do that?

I would like to say I'm all wise and knowing, but I'm not, so I asked for some help from some fellow writers via e-mail, Instagram, and Twitter. Here's what we came up with:

Tips for Staying Positive After a Rejection

Take a deep breath, take a walk, pray, go outside and look up. 
Find your favorite part of your story, novel, or poem, and read it again. 
Look up stories of famous authors who were rejected multiple times before making it. If they could survive the storm of rejection, so can we! 
- Tyrean Martinson - author, teacher, and IWSG Admin

Remember, it’s not personal – it’s business. Don’t let your ego take a hit.
 - L. Diane Wolfe - author, publisher, and IWSG Admin  

If I’m lucky enough to get some feedback with the rejection, I pay attention to it. If the reject is simply a no, I check that submission as unsuccessful and try again. If I get several rejections for the same piece; then I know I need to work on it, and I go through it again before sending it off to a keen-eyed editor. Repeat the process.
- C. Lee Mckenzie - author and IWSG Admin

Stephen King wrote in On Writing that he put a roofing nail in the wall and was going to quit once it filled with rejections. Once it was full, he added another nail. Knowing rejection is part of the process keeps me from getting too disappointed. Learn from the no and keep going. 
- Elizabeth Seckman - author and IWSG Admin

In the days of snail-mail, I used to tape rejection slips to the wall until it became quite shaggy with them. I had a series of favorites from Gordon Lish.
And - Have the next market you're going to send the piece to already lined up and ready to go.
- Cat Rambo on Twitter - author, editor, teacher, and President of the SFWA

And remember that the rejections is from ONE person and not the whole world!!!
- Soulla Christodoulou @soullasays on Instagram - author, blogger

And, this last thought for staying positive- find a community. We can share our insecurities. We can encourage one another. That's what IWSG is all about. 

Monday, June 10, 2019

Writing for Voice First Devices

Writing for Voice First Devices

As a writer, it's probably time to start paying attention to "voice first" devices. I’m talking about the Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant line of smart speakers. Ignoring the odd-looking cylinders and muffin tops that are popping up in more households every day could end up costing you an untapped source of avid new fans.

You probably already know that people are consuming fiction in many new ways. While most still engage with stories by reading or listening to audiobooks, a growing audience listens to stories on podcasts, reads bite-sized episodes in mobile apps, or lives the story via a chat app or game. Especially younger fans of fiction are seeking stories via these “alternative” channels.

You can now add voice assistants living in smart speakers to the list of alternative channels for the consumption of fiction. But what types of fiction work best on devices that include Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU)? Here are some possibilities:
      Streaming Audio
      Passive listening with no input from the listener, such as listening to Alexa play an audiobook
      Example: "Alexa, read my book 'Lincoln in the Bardo.'"
      Branching Narratives (Non-linear, Choose Your Own Path)
      The listener hears a story and is asked to choose between two or more paths to drive the story in a different direction
      Examples: "Alexa, open the Magic Door," "Alexa, play Jurassic World"
      A story is used as a way to engage the listener is a game
      Examples: "Alexa, open SpongeBob Squarepants," "Alexa, start Westworld," "Alexa, play Tricky Genie"
      Conversational Storytelling
      Conversational elements, such as questions, accompany a story in an attempt to engage the listener and personalize the experience
      Examples: "Alexa, open My Box of Chocolates"

The challenge for writers of traditional fiction is to discover new, but intuitive, ways to invite readers to interact with a story. The current default model for interactive fiction seems to be the branching narrative.  Some of these offerings have been very successful and have grown large followings, such as The Magic Door.

At Tellables, we find the idea of conversational storytelling more interesting than branching narratives. Our first attempt at designing a conversational experience is the My Box of Chocolates voice app ("skill") on Amazon Alexa. We've also created a way for independent authors to submit original stories for publication in each monthly box of chocolate stories. Our goal is to create a publishing platform authors can use to publish voice first stories, as well as an audience of avid listeners who enjoy engaging with these stories. 

Whatever path you choose, it's not too late to get in on the game. The world of voice first fiction is just starting to take shape. Now is the time to begin exploring the opportunities.

Amy Stapleton is Founder of Tellables, a publisher of voice first conversational stories. Apart from designing voice apps, Stapleton is a writer and editor of content for the Tellables Amazon Alexa story experiences "Tricky Genie" and "My Box of Chocolates." Stapleton retired from an IT career at NASA to pursue her vision of transforming talking devices into a platform for engaging new story experiences.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Insecure Writer's Support Group Post Day - #IWSGPit, Anthology Contest, WEP, Instagram

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The co-hosts for the June 5 posting of the IWSG are Diane Burton, Kim Lajevardi, Sylvia Ney, Sarah Foster, Jennifer Hawes, and Madeline Mora-Summonte!

June 5 question:
Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology Contest opened last month – only three more months to enter.
Middle grade historical – adventure/ fantasy.
Theme - voyagers.
See the site for full details on how to submit.

Our #IWSGPit Twitter pitch event will be January 15, 2020. Be sure to follow us on Twitter.

Over at the IWSG Instagram, we have prompts set for the month.

The WEP challenge for this month – caged bird. There are also some new rules in place – visit the site for full info.

What upcoming event excites you? What's your favorite genre to write?