Tuesday, July 18, 2017

My 2017 #PitchWars Mentor Wish List!

Pitch Wars Flowchart
Congratulations! You've traversed the Flowchart Forest, scaled the castle walls, made it past the sixth-grade bully, solved an intricate assortment of clues left behind by an eccentric gamekeeper, said the magic words, and unlocked the PitchWars treasure chest to reveal MY 2017 MENTOR WISHLIST!!!

Or maybe you just took the well-lit path around the forest and rang the doorbell at the castle gate. In which case, a recap: I am here for all your CONTEMPORARY, FANTASY, MAGICAL REALISM, or MYSTERY middle grade novels! But, fair traveler, your journey is not over quite yet. Next stop...the details! (Lean in a little closer, now, these are important. Here's a Butterbeer and a Chocolate Frog to replenish your energy while we chat.)

Contemporary
Give me your heartwarming, tear-jerking, laugh-out-loud-in-all-the-right-places contemporary. Make me feel all the feels! I want sincere, relatable characters—with personalities and voices that leap off the page—and I'm open to heavy issues handled with honesty and grace.

Examples of contemporary styles I'd love to see: Stef Soto, Taco Queen; The Meaning of Maggie; The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher; Forget Me Not; Root Beer Candy and Other MiraclesBecause of Winn-Dixie.

Fantasy
In this dish, I'm looking for very specific ingredients. The key seasoning: humor. If you have a rollicking fantasy adventure with quirky characters, kooky settings, and/or over-the-top villains and heroes, order up! Badass heroines also a plus. EDITED TO ADD: I am open to animal MCs! But, I prefer the stylings of Fenway and Hattie or The Wind in the Willows. Stories in the vein of Wings of Fire or Warriors aren't really my cup of tea. 

Flavors I don't love quite as much...
Dragons as MCs. (I'm open to non-human main characters, but dragons just don't...light my fire. *ba-dum-bum-chh*)
Christmas stories. 
Dark scary/horror/paranormal (Scooby-Doo/Ghostbusters-level, goofy ghost stories okay). 

Examples: Fortunately, The Milk; The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates; Pugs of the Frozen North; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Flora & Ulysses; Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Mystery
Any and all conundrums—whether a lost treasure, a brain-tickling puzzle, or a whodunit murder mystery. My favorites have larger-than-life characters/settings and a compelling emotional backdrop.

Examples: The Flavia DeLuce novels (I know these are technically adult, but the MC is 11 and I adore them); The Mo and Dale Mysteries; Last in a Long Line of RebelsEscape From Mr. Lemoncello's LibraryThe Mysterious Benedict Society.

Magical Realism
I love magical realism with heart, where the bit of magic in the midst of everyday life is the thing that gives the MC hope and/or is part of a strong emotional journey. As with contemporary, I'm open to weighty themes, and my favorite characters are the ones who never give up, even if things don't turn out the way they thought they wanted them to. 

Examples: The Key to Extraordinary; A Snicker of Magic; Hour of the Bees.

A few last wish list notes...
• Genres are listed in no particular order. 
• #OwnVoices welcome! I'm also interested in diverse characters not written from an own voice author, if they've been well-researched and run by a sensitivity reader.
• No matter which of these genres your book falls in, the biggest hook is going to be voice, voice, voice!
• The holy grail of my Pitch Wars wish list: if you can make me both laugh AND cry in your one single book, I will fight off even a blood-thirsty killer rabbit to make it mine. 

Now that you've gotten to know my wish list, a few things about me... 

Name: Ashley Martin
Occupation: Middle-grade author/graphic designer/homeschooling mama
Represented by: Marietta B. Zacker, Gallt-Zacker Literary Agency
Personality: INFJ
Hogwarts House: Hufflepuff!
Preferred Drink: Early Grey Tea (with cream)
Current Obsession: Anything lavender (the flower/flavor, not the color)
Favorite Book: Hahahaha! See above lists and add Harry Potter.
Favorite TV show: Parks and Recreation
Favorite Movie: You've Got Mail
Favorite Literary Couple: Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe
Misc. Loves: My husband, my church, tattoos, kittens, podcasts, 
Seattle, Cola LaCroix, vintage books with charming inscriptions, and pie.

Some of My Mentor Strengths:
• Increasing tension
• Pacing
• Cutting passive voice
• Chapter endings
• Consistency in character voice/actions
• Sentence structure/flow

What You Can Expect From Me:
• Edit letter with overview of revision suggestions + recommended resources
• Line edits for entire manuscript
• Second read-through post revisions, prior to agent round
• Help with query + synopsis + pitch
• Cheerleading and encouragement!

Thanks so much for reading and for considering me as a mentor! I've been in your shoes—I was a Pitch Wars mentee in 2015 and my book went through plenty of revisions—so I know how hard and nerve-wracking and exciting and terrifying this process can be. I also know how much it means to have someone believe in you and your story, and I can't wait to come alongside you and cheer you on! If you have any questions, feel free to comment below, or hit me up on Twitter (@papergram).

Now go check out the other mentors' wish lists!


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Monday, March 13, 2017

Writing: A Survival Guide for INFJs

Note: If you don't know your personality type, I highly suggest taking the 16Personalities test.

The day I discovered I'm an INFJ and read my first personality profile, it was like WHO ARE YOU AND HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN SPYING ON MY LIFE? Suddenly, all my weirdness made sense. As I continued to learn about common strengths and weaknesses for my personality type, it was illuminating not just for my everyday life, but for my life as a writer.

They say INFJs make up the smallest percentage of all personality types—less than 1%. And from my very unofficial surveys it seems like writers ARE the 1%. It makes sense, since most INFJs are naturally creative. But while being an INFJ can make us feel unique, it also comes with a unique set of challenges, especially as writers. These struggles are something all writers may face (and on the flip side, not all INFJs may struggle with these), but if you find yourself having a particularly hard time in these areas (like me), here are some tips for surviving and thriving as an INFJ writer...

Struggle: We tend to be more sensitive to criticism and critique.



Why this can be a problem: If you're going to write a book, you're going to need critiques and you're going to face criticism.

What you can do: Realize that critique of your work is part of the process and business of being a writer. And it is NOT personal. When your critique partners read your latest manuscript and come back with suggestions, it's easy to get defensive. It's also easy to despair. Resist the urge to get sucked into either of those whirlpools. Find writing partners you trust and then remind yourself that they don't hate you or your book, no matter how many comments they make on your manuscript. In fact, they want to help you succeed. Critique is essential to growth and success as a writer—and FYI, none of us ever reach a point where we've "made it" and no longer need feedback. If it's not coming from your CPs, it's going to come from an agent or an editor. Learn to see this part of the writing life as a positive, not a negative.

Criticism can be a harder beast to face. My advice? Don't dwell on it. I know—easier said than done. But again, it's par for the course as a writer. Reading is subjective. What one reader thinks is amazing, another might hate. Think about all the books you've loved...and the ones you didn't. Yes, it might feel like a personal assault when someone dislikes our book, but in the end, it's just one person's opinion, and we don't have to let that opinion become part of our identity—as a person, or a writer.

Struggle: We can be extremely private.



Why this can be a problem: We try to go it alone.

What you can do: Find yourself a community of writers who know what you're going through. You don't have to tell them every detail of your life, but having friends who understand the ups and downs of the writing life—and who can offer encouragement and a safe space to feel all the feelings that come with it—is essential to staying emotionally healthy as a writer.

Struggle: We tend to be perfectionists.



Why this can be a problem: We can be tempted to quit in the first draft, or edit and revise for ages, convinced our words are never good enough.

What you can do: Learn that first drafts and perfection do NOT go together. Writing is messy and it takes time. Find trusted CPs and send them your work even when you know it's not perfect. In order for that manuscript to grow up into a book, it has to leave the nest. It will be okay, and so will you.

And remember, editing doesn't stop until that book is in print. Any agent you sign with is probably going to request a few changes, and once you have that glorious book deal, you'll be working with an editor who's going to request a whole lot more. Learn to let go and not obsess over every comma. Or should that be a semicolon? Maybe I should just rewrite the entire sentence so I don't have to figure out which one is right...(Don't pretend you haven't done this.)

Struggle: We hate feeling like we're not making progress, routine tasks are an annoyance, and interruptions push us over the edge.



Why this can be a problem: Cranky writer snaps at anyone and anything that causes delays in their writing goals or interrupts writing time. Despair sets in and we begin to question our life choices. Is this really worth it? Is it ever going to happen? I should just give up. 

What you can do: First, give yourself grace. Life happens. Sometimes you have a week where everything goes according to plan and you hit your daily word count goal with ease. Other weeks, the kids get sick, or appointments stack up, or bad news leaves you mentally and emotionally exhausted. You're lucky if you manage a paragraph. Realize that this is okay. It may be frustrating, but it's also out of your control.

Secondly, learn to prioritize. 99.9% of the writers I know (including myself) don't write full time. We're also students, employees, business owners, SAHMs trying to juggle writing and motherhood...all with tasks that *aren't* writing screaming for our attention. It's easy for writing to become that thing we do when we've managed to get everything else done. I don't know about you, but I have a strong tendency to get overwhelmed by the length of my to-do list, and I don't always prioritize that list very well. I want to check everything off the list as quickly as possible, but what I need to do is decide what HAS to be done today, and what can wait until tomorrow or the next day. If I have a graphic design job that's not due for two weeks, I don't have to finish it in the next eight hours, I can space it over the next few days. As much as I hate the stack of dirty dishes next to the sink, they'll still be there after a quick writing session. Figure out what part of your day is going to be the best time for writing (said time may shift from day to day), and when that time comes, write. For me, it's usually in the afternoon when the kids' homeschool work is done and they're free to watch cartoons or play video games. Sure I could be tempted to tackle that stack of dishes, but it's a lot easier to write during that window of relative peace and quiet. Later, when the husband is home and the kids are running wild through the house with their Nerf guns, and the dog is barking because the neighbors have dared to pull into their driveway—then I can do those dishes.

Struggle: We tend to neglect self care.



Why this can be a problem: Creative burnout is a real thing.

What you can do: This goes along with the last problem, in that it's easy to push yourself TOO hard to juggle life and responsibilities AND write your novel. That's why balance—and knowing when to take a break—is so important. 

Confession—when I'm deep in a project, writing or otherwise, I forget to eat. Yeah, you're not the first person to make that face at me. This is the point where I usually lose people. I have a couple of friends who totally feel me on this, but most folks hear that and are horrified. ("You forget to EAT? How is that even possible?") Turns out it's an INFJ quirk. I mean, I'm in the middle of a five hundred-word streak! Having to stop and make food is SO annoying. Do you know how long it takes to microwave that noodle bowl? Four minutes! I just...give me a second...if I don't write this down, I'll forget this brilliant line...it's okay, I had breakfast this morning...I think...how long have I had to pee this bad? 

Even on days where the words aren't flowing, it's easy to spend hours trying to squeeze something out of your brain and through your fingertips. When you're not actively writing, your mind is still swirling, trying to craft that perfect sentence or fill in that plot hole. Soon you're tired and cranky and your brain is mush. Every sentence sounds idiotic. Your anxiety is skyrocketing and you're convinced you're a sham—you'll never be a successful writer. Who were you kidding? Whut R werds? 

This is your hint that you need to take a break. Rest. Do something that inspires you creatively and/or relaxes your mind and body. Take a walk. Listen to music. Watch a film or read a book. I'm not a person who believes you have to write EVERY SINGLE DAY in order to be successful. In fact, I've found that I'm much more successful at meeting my goals if I include consistent breaks and moments of rest. Take time to recharge. Your manuscript will thank you. And when you do get back to writing? Take a muffin with you.


I'd love to hear from you! Did you connect with any of these struggles? What strategies have you implemented to help you overcome? 

This post is also appearing on To the Shelves - be sure to check out the other great writing tips available on the site!