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Friday, August 3, 2012

Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself...and Maybe Movie Theater Nachos.

Yes, I know we have already had one or two blogs on the Romance Writers of America national conference last week, BUT I DON'T CARE. 

A) I haven't shown off my pictures yet.

Erin Knightley and I on our way out to CA. I was so excited I couldn't breathe! ;)
It's the uber-talented Darynda Jones! I love her grim reaper Charley Davidson series.
Julia Quinn! I managed not to spill my drink. Points for me!
Miranda NevilleBeatriz Williams and Isobel Carr. Umm. No comment.
Courtney Milan challenges Jo Bourne to a lemon duel, for the Historical RITA win. Jo is wily. And also got the RITA. ;)



B) I have something to say and I'm just arrogant enough to believe you might benefit from hearing it.

In case you don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook, I'll just say I had a blast last week. I really couldn't have had a better first RWA conference. Not only was everyone lovely and fun, but the workshops were fantastic, the signings amazing and I did exactly what I went there to do.

I pitched my manuscript to three agents and got three requests to see it. (I want to stop right here and thank Shana Galen and Maya Rodale for their awesomeness. We'll just leave it at that.) 

For those of you who don't know what a pitch is, at conference, it's exactly like Speed Dating. A bunch of editors and literary agents sit at small tables spread throughout a room and the writers are herded in like a Hollywood cattle call. We then find our way to the agent/editor we have an appointment with and have precisely eight minutes to express why said agent/editor should be interested in our baby...er...book.

Anyway, there's a reason that the herders (for lack of a better term) kept telling us all to breathe and "no one faint!" It's nerve-wracking to plop yourself down in front of a total stranger and tell them about one of the most intimate things you've ever done. 

Yes, we are still talking about writing a book. Get your mind out of the gutter.

I was so nervous earlier in the week about my pitch that every time I thought about it, I wanted to toss my cookies. But after a few sit-downs with some amazing and lovely ladies (Kieran Kramer, Leigh Evans, Marni BatesErin Knightley and Samantha Grace- I adore you!!!) who allowed me to pitch all over them, I started to lose my nerves. Not nerve, but nerves. It wasn't the practice, although I'm sure that helped, but it was learning to answer the question "Why did I write this book?"

That's when I remembered something. 

I wrote The Lost Room, the contemporary that I pitched last week, because I fell in love. First, there was a tingle of excitement when I came across a tidbit of recent historical lore about a lost treasure. As I read on, clicking over to the next article and the next, my interest grew into a need to know. I needed to know what would have happened if... The characters and story were born out of that need, and I tripped head over heels into love.

Again, I feel the urge to stop and clarify. I love my book, but that does not mean that there isn't room for improvement. It doesn't mean that I'm going to be offended by critiques or  sob wildly if there are revisions to do. What's that line? "If you truly love something, set it free." Do not cling to your writing like Gollum with a shiny, gold ring. Be ruthless, be brave, and for God's sake, just because you love a line, paragraph or even chapter, if it's not right for the novel, cut it

Marni Bates will have a heart attack if I don't mention here that you should save everything in a separate document, so...do that.

*Steps off soapbox*

Where was I? Oh, right. I fell in love. And when I sat down at those tables, or in one case, cornered her in the lobby, I let it show how much I loved my book, how excited I was about it and how well I understood my characters. I'm sure the story sounded interesting and fun, but I'm certain it was my enthusiasm that carried the day. 

Remember, and this goes for anything in life, if you don't promote and advocate for yourself, who's going to do it? You must take the helm and steer your own ship. If you have a book to pitch or sale to make or business to fund, let it shine. Let your love for your project, whatever it is, come through and I promise you that people will be drawn to it. If you don't put forth your best effort, then you will always wonder "What if..." and that's a crappy way to live. Don't do that. Just...don't. Because I will hunt you down and force you to be the awesome person I know you can be. 

Have you ever taken a big chance on something important to you? Did it work out? What's your advice for someone gearing up to put it all out on the line?

38 comments:

  1. Congrats on your pitching success! I always hated pitching because I feared I would forget pertinent facts, oh, like the names of my characters or what my book was about. You know, those things editors and agents want to know. But, I forced myself to face this part of the business and when it was all over I realized it wasn't nearly as bad as I made it in my mind. By far, pitching has been the hardest part of writing a novel, followed closely by query letters and the dreaded synopsis. As for advice, take a deep breath and then take that step with confidence, even if your stomach is in knots and your knees are about to give out.

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  2. I absolutely second that advice! Fake 'til you make it... Smile big, push those shoulders back and walk tall. No one will ever suspect you're having a mini-meltdown inside, lol...

    And thank you, Jane! We all know this is only the first step, but I'm hopeful... :)

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  3. Congrats on a great RWA experience. I'm a naturally shy person, so the times I have gone to RWA I had to put on my game face when it came to pitching. The first time I was pitching to agents and the second time, becasue I was already agented by then, I was pitching to editors. Some of the editors already had my book so it was basically a reminder pitch, but it was still hard. Yet, I felt, and still do, that every time I do it, I'm taking one step forward toward capturing my dream. Hope you capture yours real soon!

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    1. I'm having a hard time picturing you being shy, Julie!! :-)

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    2. I can totally relate to the urge to hide in the corner, and I'm so glad you found a way to push yourself out there! I didn't mind the pitching like I thought I would, but I don't really want to keep doing it, lol...

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  4. Congratulations, Olivia. I fondly remember my first pitching experience. Shear terror. Conference, and all its many moods, is one of the great things about RWA. There's so much to learn and experience. I hope to make it back next year...when you'll be a published author!

    I'd have to say that my big chance was making the decision to indie publish. I haven't regretted it for a moment. My advice to someone putting it all on the line: Breathe. Every moment of the experience is precious, so slow down and don't rush through the wonder of it.

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    1. Aww, thanks, Lucie! And I think you've gotten a great reception for your books. I'm so glad you took that leap!

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  5. Be brave. Be bold. Have faith that your vision is possible. What you want is just as important as someone else's goal. I've reached so many great personal milestones in the past couple of years. But I'm quieter about them. For everyone elses success, I'm as noisy as hell.

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    1. And I love you for it! Mwah! But you really should be more noisy about your work, too. I love your stories. :)

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    2. It's so much fun to celebrate our friends' successes,isn't it? That's why I love Twitter so much- I can really see what happening for everyone. :)

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  6. I'm so proud of you for putting yourself out there and seeing positive results from it. :) Yay!!! Pitching is kind of funny. It is so nerve-wracking at first, but the more you do it, the easier it gets to do it.

    Hmmm...taking a big chance? Well, back when I was 21, I picked up, sold everything I owned, and drove off to Alaska. I lived there for a year, and while none of that experience was easy, it was something that I wanted desperately. And it taught me a lot about myself. It taught me that I can do things that most other people are afraid to do. It taught me that change doesn't always equate to things being better. It taught me that whatever life throws at me, I can find a way to get by and still have fun in the process. I learned a lot about myself and about life that I never would have learned, if I hadn't taken that chance.

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    1. I have never been brave enough for that- you are a strong woman, Catherine! In fact, I wasn't even brave enough to live on my own, lol...I moved right from my parents in with the man I eventually married. I love the idea of living in Alaska, though. Sounds like a good novel plot... ;)

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    2. LOL! I wonder if I can find a way to take Regency England characters to Alaska for something. :)

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  7. Hey Olivia, I can feel it, your getting closer to getting a book published. Yep, once it does I'll head to B&N to get it. This time a I have a friend with me, so I can like a fool and celebrate.

    Ok, taking chances. I guess my little blog, because it's out there on the web for others to look at. At times it's a little scary. The many reason I did it was for my friend to see what I'm reading instead of emailing her a 50 page list of the books a I read with my little comments.

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    1. I love that you started your blog, Melody! I think its very bold and a fun and useful endeavor :)

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    2. I love reading your blog! It gives me a good indicator of what I should be reading...because you and I seem to have very similar taste in reading material. :)

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    3. Melody,
      That was incredibly brave, and you've done a fantastic job with your blog!

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    4. You guys are going to make me cry. You guys are so sweet. Thank you.

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    5. Melody! I think one of the best things a reader can do it show how much they love the novels they read. And you are so great about that. I hope you know how much it means to an author when someone tells her they read her work and loved it! Hugs!

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  8. You are a brave woman. Don't hate me, but I never had to pitch face to face--and I am so DAMNED grateful for that fact. I'm the sort to draw a blank, lose my lunch and babble like an idiot, and God forbid someone ask me why I wrote the damned book. I don't know. It was in my head and needed to be let out for my sanity's sake. OK, so the sanity part is debatable.

    I have, however, pitched--online where editors were taking pitches on blogs or websites. Easy peasy, because you need to copy and paste your pitch paragraph from your query letter. Now I've heard people say I'm brave for doing that, but to me, that is way less intimidating than having to sit down in front of a big bad editor who's heard it all (in my mind she's wearing one of those 80s power suits with the big shoulder pads and dark-framed severe glasses--and she never smiles, oh no) and tell her about your book. She's the type who interrupts you just to rattle you and ask you impossible questions like why you wrote this book. Give me the online pitch any day. Hell, I even pitched on Twitter when an agent was taking them.

    Whenever you put your work out there, it's a risk, but it's one you still have to take unless you're happy with it living on your computer for ever and ever. So my advice is to go for it anyway, even if it means facing the big, bad editor.

    In reality, she probably isn't as bad as your mind makes her.

    Probably.

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    1. Online pitches, even if you don't have to face the editor, do require a lot of bravery, Ashlyn. I mean, if you post it on the internet, it is there forever. And then if the editor responds, whatever they respond with is also THERE FOREVER. For anyone to see. Augh!!! Terrifying.

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    2. And I was never too fussed with that, because even if they did reject me, I was sure I wouldn't be alone.

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    3. See, I don't like the internet pitches because I'm pretty sure that I'M the one selling it and my written pitches are awkward, lol... I actually was quite fond of the face to face, once I tucked away the nerves, because you can't gesture dramatically and make expressive faces over the Net! ;D
      And I have to say, I spoke with 4 agents (one only took YA, but she let me practice on her, which was lovely) and all 4 were SO NICE. They asked a few tough questions, but I can handle the questions- it gives me somewhere to start. It's the "throwing my idea into space" thing that threw me in the beginning!

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  9. You did a BRILLIANT job of accomplishing your goals at the conference! Pitching, networking, learning—you were like a spongy social butterfly, lol. I'm so glad for your success!

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    1. Why, thank you. It helps to have lovely friends to encourage you every step of the way. <3

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  10. YAY!!! Olivia, I'm a so proud of you, and I never doubted for a moment that you would do well. :) Now get those requests in!

    Let's see....my latest venture is writing a late Victorian/early Edwardian series. Putting my first book out there for everyone to read (judge) was pretty nail biting but I'm super happy with the results. That's all I can think of right now. LOL!

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    1. You SHOULD be happy with your choice! I think you wrote a really fun book. My favorite scene was the one where Christen gets a little handsy...and, well, Zoe has to defend herself. ;D And it was very brave of you to make that choice. *throws confetti*

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    2. So stabby heroines make you happy? Got it! *snort*

      And thank you!!! I can't wait for you to be unleashed on the readers. Everyone WILL love your writing!!!!

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  11. Olivia ~ I am sooo glad you had such a wonderful time at RWA. It is a huge event, with all of the bells and whistles.

    I don't know that I'm a huge risk taker, but I don't want to live with regret either. So, I guess my best advice is decide what you want, and if it's really worth having, don't let anything stand in your way. :)

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    1. Ooo, I agree. Regret sucks. I have a lot of that from my first couple of decades. Not doing THAT anymore. From now on, if I want something, I'm going for it! :D

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  12. Olivia,
    Your enthusiasm for your project made me excited about your story, too. I'm sure every agent you spoke to felt the same way. I can't wait until I get to read the book!

    I hated pitching in the past, but I think I would be better at it now. My problem in the beginning was not knowing how to approach it. The whole situation felt so awkward with only 8 minutes to talk with a person. No time for small talk, it seems. I was relieved to hear my agent say I never have to pitch again. Well, I have to pitch to her, but she's not very scary now. :)

    But you know what I found most scary? The first time I posted a chapter for critique I thought I was going to be sick. NO ONE had read anything I had written until that point. Thank goodness, I found the kindest group who was willing to guide me without tearing me down. I love those ladies!

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    1. Eight minutes felt like a lifetime to me! Lol... There was no way I wanted to talk for eight minutes. You can barely keep me on the phone that long, much less talking to a perfect stranger about why they MUST read my book. ;D
      I also had huge butterflies the first time I posted chapters for my critique group to read. More like pterodactyls, actually, bashing around in there like drunken concert-goers in a mosh pit. But I also had a good experience, thankfully, and realized constructive criticism is absolutely vital to my writing.

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  13. Yay for you, Olivia! I could tell you were having a great conference--you were smiling every time I saw you!

    Now, butt in chair and get those requested pages out there!

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  14. I just want to say that I love the Lady Scribes. You gals have the funnest blog (yes, it's a word, I made it up.) If I were a romance writer I would jump right in there with you, but alas I write for kiddos. Still love reading what you have to say and get lots of good tips and ideas!

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    1. Hi, Carole! Thanks for stopping by to tell us that. :) I know I think we're the funnest blog out there, but it's hard to know if others would perceive us that way or if it is all in our heads sometimes.

      Come by any time. The best thing about writing is that the basics of it apply no matter what genre you work in.

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    2. Oh, thank you, Carole! I''m so glad you enjoyed it. :)

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  15. Oh, I remember pitching. I hated pitching. My first pitch was to Michelle Grajkowski, and she was so nice. My second pitch was a group pitch to Lucienne Diver. I think I got about 3 seconds to speak because one person spoke for like 5 minutes. Who doesn't have a story like that? Anyway, I'm sure you were great and fingers crossed on your requests!

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