Work in Progress: Update

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Well, it’s not Wednesday, but I figured I’d give a much needed Work in Progress update.

The book is done.

D-O-N-E. Done!

In the last few weeks, I’ve finished my novel, done a rewrite, and given it to beta readers for feedback. I’m now taking that feedback and doing my final touch up before Thrillerfest, which starts on July 11th. It’s fourteen days away, counting today.

I kind of can’t believe that it’s here. I’ve been working towards Pitchfest for the last several months. I pitched in OKC and now I’m going to pitch in NYC. I’m optimistic but realistic. I’m going to get to as many of the 50-60 agents that I can during the allotted 3.5 hours. It’s going to be, in a word, exhausting.

My plan for that evening is grand.

I’m going to get a massage, order room service, and watch the mid-season premiere of Impractical Jokers.

I’m especially excited about Tuesday. I’ll be working with nine other writers alongside Andrew Gross for some one-on-one feedback about our novels. I just got the e-mail with some other people’s work in it. Exciting stuff!

With two weeks until I plant my butt in that classroom, I’ve got a lot to do. Not just on the book but in my every day life. I’ll get it all done, though. I always do.

 

OWFI Conference Update

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Whew!

So last weekend was the OWFI Conference in Oklahoma City. It was held at the Embassy Suites on Meridian and in a word? Amazing.

I’d never been to a conference before. I’d kind of forgotten how awesome it feels to be surrounded by other writers with the same goals as you. Everyone there acted like everyone else there was a colleague instead of a competitor. I heard a guy on the phone, telling someone that an agent had just called, requesting his entire manuscript.

It was sort of surreal to witness that happening.

Kelley Armstrong was the keynote speaker and she gave a speech on coping with the uncertainty of being a writer. She said that she gets asked all the time if she could go back in time and tell her unpublished self one thing, what would it be? She said she used to think it would be, “Don’t worry. You’ll make it.” But now she doesn’t think she would tell herself that. She’s not sure she would have tried as hard or had the drive and determination that got her where she is today.

She gave inspirational insights into her own publishing journey, citing many times that she was rejected and told that she couldn’t write. In college, she wasn’t even accepted into the creative writing course that she submitted a piece to in order to even get a spot in the class.

I went to an agents and editors panel that was really enlightening. They told stories about the worst queries that they’d ever received. Most of which involved people either not being able to spell or threatening their lives if they didn’t publish the author’s work. No joke. People really are that crazy about writing.

Another session that I attended was put on by a fantasy agent named Sam Morgan. He was awesome! He told a story about the worst query he ever received, which devolved into the guy harassing him on Twitter and via e-mail. Again, how crazy are people? Like, does it not occur to you that you’re crossing serious boundaries? Apparently not.

Anyway, I left there feeling more like a writer and less like I’m playing pretend at being a writer.

The editor that I was going to pitch my book to ended up having to cancel her appearance at the conference due to a family emergency. I truly hope that she’s doing well. I was able to pitch to another editor and it went really well!

Thrillerfest is right around the corner and I seriously can’t wait. I get so excited thinking about it. And I get nervous. But mostly excited. For now. I’m sure that the reality of being in New York City without a friend at the conference is going to hit me pretty soon.

I would encourage anyone who hasn’t ever gone to a conference to sign up for the next one they can attend. It’s well worth it!

OWFI Conference Preview

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Eeeee!

Get excited! This weekend I’m going to my first ever writing conference and you get to go with me!

That’s right. A writing conference. With agents and editors and Kelly Armstrong.

I kind of can’t believe it’s taken me this long to do this, but a friend of mine inspired me to just jump in with both feet, brave the deeps, and pitch this book I’m working on.

Yeah, that’s right. I’m pitching my book.

I’ve never done that before so I have just as much of a clue as to how to do that as you do, dear reader. I’ll be doing my research this week and trying to brush up on my interviewing skills as well as polishing the first twenty pages or so and getting some business cards. Whew. All that along with taking care of mom and making sure she’s getting all of her physical therapy in. Yeah, I’m already exhausted, too.

I’m nervous about pitching my book. Duh, right? Wouldn’t anyone be nervous doing this their first time? Or their fifteenth? Or their forty-forth? It really hit me the other night when I was lying in bed trying to go to sleep. In a few days, I’m going to be sitting across from a Tor/Forge editor who is looking for women’s fiction and currently building her client list. That’s huge. It dawned on me how real all of this is. For so long I’ve just hid in my little cavern in there in my study and hammered away at my writing. I haven’t queried, I haven’t pitched, I haven’t done much of anything besides write. I’ve been terrified, quite honestly.

Terrified of what, though?

Rejection?

Humiliation?

Haven’t I been dealt worse blows? I would say so. I’ve survived some things that would have broken others. Natural disaster, rape, death, the list goes on.

When I look at it that way, there’s really nothing to fear. So what if the answer is no? It most likely will be! But that doesn’t mean I can’t be positive about it and look at it as a stepping stone! Every pitch and every query is just going to get me closer to my destination.

I’m pretty sure the time I contacted my junior high crush on Facebook years later and he blocked me was a lot more embarrassing and excruciating than getting a simple no from an editor/agent on a query or a pitch. Maybe not, but there’s really only one way to find out.

The advice I was given was to jump in with both feet and that’s what I’m doing.

Time to hold my nose, plunge in feet first, and swim for the surface.

Twitter: @mnvinge

Facebook: @marnievingebooks

Motivation Monday! Week 18

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I love this quote.

I’ve seen it many times and just came across it on Pinterest this morning as I was searching for some words to get me going.

I’ve settled many times in my life. For boys, men who were actually boys, jobs that I hated, friendships that were toxic, and in many other areas of my life. That being said, in the last couple of years since I sought treatment for PTSD, I’ve learned to settle less. I’ve tasted how sweet life can be on the other side of the cage that my experiences had put me in and I’ve realized that my only limitation is myself.

I have a friend that I talk to a lot about dating even though I’ve been out of the dating scene for some time. At one point we were talking about what we were looking for in a guy and she said, “Well, he doesn’t have to be great-looking if he’s got a good personality.” That really struck me.

I remember saying back: “I really want to find a guy that has it all. I’ve had good-looking guys with awful personalities and bad-looking guys with great personalities. I’m sure there’s someone out there who has it all going on and I’d like to meet him.”

Maybe that sounds vapid. Maybe I’m a bitch for wanting a guy who I think is hot. I don’t really care at this point. I’ve paid my dues in that area of my life and in many others. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to have the whole package and not settling for anything less.

This translates to every area of life.

I want to have a career that makes me eager to get out of bed in the morning and a partner that makes me eager to crawl back in at the end of the day. Maybe I’m a fool for believing I could have that, but I’d rather be penniless and alone than have a career I hate and a boyfriend that I only half-love.

Life is too short to love things in halves.

Don’t settle.

Over the next ten years, make choices that bring you closer to your goal and see how that works for you. I guarantee you’ll be happier than you would have been if you had settled.

And P. S. If you think you might have settled, you did.

Work in Progress Wednesday! Week 15

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“I forced a smile even though I wanted to throttle the toddler and then her mother.” — the last line in my WIP, Stand Up Guy

96 pages and 33,979 words and counting.

Wow. It seems like a lot but there’s still so much more that needs to be done before the conference that I’m going to in May. It’s a daunting task but I think I’m up to the challenge.

This week, the biggest obstacles I seem to be facing are my lack of time to do much writing due to my mom’s surgery next Monday and my inability to come up with any decently written sentences.

That seems to be a recurring theme in my writing struggles. Sometimes I feel so blocked when it comes to the structure of the actual sentences even though I can see the scene playing in my mind like a polished scene from a movie. There’s a disconnect that I think has to do with being self-conscious. The ultimate ambition of most any writer is for someone to read their work and the idea of someone reading something as intimate as what I’m writing now is quite paralyzing at times.

At the moment, one of my other struggles is social media. Can we just say, ‘yuck’? There’s nothing that I find slimier (Grammarly says that’s not a word but I really think it should be) than people trying to promote and sell themselves. It grosses me out to think about having a Facebook page where I try to get people to “like” my stuff. But from what I’ve been reading, it seems like this is the way of things now. Apparently, agents and editors want to know that you’ve got some marketability and an ability to promote yourself and a web presence. There’s got to be a way to do this that doesn’t feel like the emotional equivalent of a root canal.

I want to use these WIP Wednesday posts to track my progress on my current novel and to try and see what other writers are doing with their own WIPs. I guess with all of that being said I should stop blogging and get back to writing.

Let’s do this.

 

Writing Through the Years and Through the Tears

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Writing has always been a huge part of who I am from the moment I picked up a pencil and penned (penciled?) that first story: It Came Floating Up. It was a chronicle of a mysterious Sargasso seaweed monster off the coast of Corpus Christi. This was as a seven-year-old, I think you should know. I was precocious.

From there, I went on to write about a vampire bat with a blood-sucking problem and later, as a teenager, I wrote about a character named Sabre Nero and her adventures with her pet squirrel. After that, I wrote some romances that I shared with my friends and it was in college that I found myself writing women’s fiction primarily.

I’ve loved to write since I was able to read. I’ve always loved the idea of telling my own stories the way that other authors have told theirs. There’s some sort of magic in picking up a book and reading a passage, feeling your own thoughts echoed back at you, written by a person that you’ve never even met. I’ve always wanted to provide that for another person the way that someone else provided it for me.

I spent college meandering between majors, straying from creative writing into funeral service and eventually coming back to my one true calling. I’m nine hours away from graduation, though I put it off like the plague. Something about that forty-five-minute drive and the anxiety of being at school again.

Writing has been how I coped with situations throughout my life and how I continue to cope today. One subject that is very dear to my heart is mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder and PTSD. I feel that they are both very often misunderstood and misrepresented in pop culture. It’s not uncommon for the scary bad guy on Criminal Minds to be “bipolar” and thus, a serial killer. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Most people with bipolar disorder are far more of a danger to themselves than anyone else.

Recently, I’ve been writing primarily about PTSD and the aftermath of rape. That’s a huge cornerstone in the foundation of the novel I’m currently working on: Stand Up Guy. The main character is raped by someone that she trusts and has to rewire her brain after suffering from PTSD for a very long time. Ultimately, who can be trusted? It seems that by letting anyone in, we are giving them the opportunity to destroy us. This is a quandary that she struggles with throughout the book.

My own journey with PTSD has been similar to hers. Though our stories are not identical, they share similarities. For nine years I kept secret the fact that I’d been raped. I had mentioned it in passing to people but never truly let myself feel the depth of the wound. Holding it inside for so long made me sick. So sick that I ended up in the hospital for six weeks. Fortunately, I’m better now and I plan on blogging about that journey in the future, but for this post, I just wanted to talk about what keeps me writing, and it is this: I must.

That sounds trite, but writing is the only release that I’ve found for the energy that builds up inside of me due to bipolar disorder and PTSD. Writing is a place that I can go where no one is judging me, at least not until I share that writing with the world. And even then, if it helps one person, it was worth it.

I hope that someday my story and the story of my heroine in Stand Up Guy can affect someone’s life the way that so many stories have affected my own.