Deadly Ever After

The Writing Adventures of The Undead Duo–Julie Hutchings and Kristen Strassel

Archive for the tag “pitch wars”

ALL MY OPINIONS ON WRITING by Julie

TODAY’S BREW: So much water, all the water I can find except toilet water

By Julie

Oh, some people probably won’t like this.

I’m seeing on Twitter lately an awful lot of writers feeling down on themselves for a variety of reasons. This is probably as ranty as you’ll ever see me. PREPARE FOR THE ALL CAPS. Were you ready?

A lot of people say, “Stop putting it off. Stop looking for the right time. Just do it.” Then a lot of other people say, “So if I can’t write every day I’m not a real writer? Stop telling me what to do. I have REASONS.”

FIRST OF ALL, WRITING ADVICE IS LIKE PARENTING ADVICE. LISTEN TO SOME, BLOW OFF WHAT DOESN’T WORK FOR YOU. THERE IS NO NEED TO DEFEND YOURSELF. THERE IS NO NEED TO LIST YOUR REASONS. YOU HAVE NOTHING TO PROVE TO ANYONE BUT YOU. NOBODY IS SAYING YOU HAVE TO DO IT X WAY.

Next, I see a lot of people skulking in the shadows about a certain pitch contest IT’S CALLED PITCH WARS. I HAVE OPINIONS. (shocking)

First, I have a problem with pitch contests in general. Publishing is a beast. You’re the tiny wave in the big ocean no matter what you do. It’s a fact. You’re one of thousands doing exactly what you’re doing, fighting to be heard, to be represented, to see your book on shelves, to just FINISH YOUR BOOK sometimes. Adding to that a peer-driven contest in a fight that we’re all TOGETHER in adds a layer of stress that just doesn’t need to be there. There are lots of success stories, lots of them, I’m sure. But I find that the people entering are scared to death more often than not, if they don’t get picked they feel like failures, and it’s all over Twitter constantly, in a positive way consistently, but if you’re one of the folks not entering? IT IS ALL YOU SEE. It creates this behind-the-eight-ball feeling at best. For me, it’s a struggle to see mentors talking about all their likes and dislikes personally while everyone else waits to see if it’s them they’re talking about. We are each other’s peers. Support comes in many ways, and I find adding competition to it to be the exact opposite of how I feel: that writing isn’t a competition. There’s room for everyone to write.

Which brings me to my next THING TO RANT ABOUT. Writers worry about failure. We worry about failure constantly, then put ourselves out there in a world where failure is fairly inevitable much of the time. You can feel to finish the book. You can fail to start it. You can fail at querying, at self-publishing, at traditional publishing, at NaNo, at revising, at getting agented, at your own goals every day. AND YET WE DO IT.

In regards to pitch contests, this works against us. Because there are a lot of folks that worked their asses off that didn’t get picked to be on the dodgeball team. They took a lot of hits, and still didn’t make it. Two things about this:

  • WHY IN HELL WOULD WE PUT EACH OTHER IN THIS POSITION WHEN WE GODDAMN LIVE IN THIS POSITION??
  • YES, MANY OF US WILL NOT BE CHOSEN ONES. BUT WE DID NOT START WRITING TO GET A TROPHY FOR PARTICIPATION.

Failure is in the eye of the write-holder. (I made up “write-holder.” *jazz hands*). Did you start writing because you wanted a trophy? Because you wanted to prove yourself to a bunch of people you met online? Because you thought it would make you rich? Because you thought it was easy? Because you were looking for an award for just showing up? NO. YOU DIDN’T. YOU WRITE BECAUSE YOU NEED TO WRITE. YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT, I’M SAYING “YOU,” BECAUSE I AM NOT JUST SPEAKING FOR MYSELF. SHOW ME THE WRITER THAT DOES IT FOR ANY OTHER REASON THAN THAT THEY NEED TO, AND I WILL SHOW YOU A PERSON THAT HAS SPENT TOO LONG OUTSIDE THEIR OWN HEADS.

Do NOT let other writers and mentors, or agents and editors or ANYBODY ELSE make you feel like a failure. WRITE THE BOOK YOU WANT TO WRITE. IT MAY NOT BE AN AWARD WINNER, IT MAY NOT BE SOCIALLY RELEVANT, IT MAY NOT BE AN AMERICAN CLASSIC BUT IF IT IS THE BOOK YOU WANTED TO WRITE, COMING ACROSS THE WAY YOU WANTED IT TO IN THE END, THEN NO AMOUNT OF AGENTS, PEERS, REVIEWS, ANYTHING CAN MAKE YOU FEEL LESSER ABOUT WHAT YOU’VE CREATED.

YOU WRITE BECAUSE YOU HAVE YOUR OWN VIEW OF THE WORLD AND IT’S ONE THAT HASN’T BEEN SEEN YET. DON’T LET ANYONE MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE IT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

AND ANOTHER THING. *YOU* CAN CONTROL THIS FEELING. NOBODY ON THE OUTSIDE IS GOING TO MAKE ME FEEL LIKE THE THING I CREATED ISN’T GOOD. NO CREATION IS BAD. NO. CREATION. IS. BAD.

*breathes deeply* *coughs*

So, I would also like to say that no matter what stage you’re in of writing, you are no less a writer than published ones, famous ones, self-pubbers, traditional pubbers, none of them. You’re a writer if you write. Every writer has moments of self-doubt. That’s good. Self-doubt makes us work harder. I had the conversation earlier today with a writer that said she was starting a book that was so ambitious it was inconceivable even to her. I said that’s the work that’s always best because we worry over it so much that there’s no chance of anything slipping by. But you do have to write it to find out.

And we come full circle. Telling writers that they have to write is like saying you’re not a student unless you go to school. You’re not an architect unless you build. You’re not a Subway employee, especially if you just go behind the counter and start making sandwiches and get removed from the building. What.

It is a fact. TO BE A WRITER YOU HAVE TO WRITE. Nobody is trying to make you feel bad about yourself when they say it. They’re trying to encourage you to create the thing you want to create, even if maybe you don’t feel like it. I don’t feel like going to the gym a lot but I always feel better after I did it. Unless I didn’t eat first, and then I mostly pass out. But anyway, don’t fail yourself by looking for ways out of writing. Whether it be every day, every week, only on Christmas, whatever. Coincidentally, if anyone tries to tell you that your process of writing is the wrong one? They suck. We are writers because we suck at sticking to rules. Because we were tired of looking for approval. Because we create, and do it our own way.

THE ONLY STEADFAST RULE THAT CAN’T BE BROKEN BECAUSE IT IS GODDAMN SCIENCE IS THAT TO BE A WRITER YOU HAVE TO WRITE.

No one is better than you at telling your story. Nobody else can do it like you do. Write it for you, not for anyone else’s approval, and you’ll shrug when even the most disappointing of “rejections” or bad reviews roll in. Above and beyond anything else, writing doesn’t have to be solitary, but it starts there. Trust yourself, writers. You know what to do.

Getting the Point Across in a Hurry

Today’s Brew:  I’m not sure coffee is going to cut it today.

by Kristen

Sure, I did get to go to the beach with Johnny Depp this summer (but it was Revere Beach and he was in costume as Whitey Bulger), but for the most part, my job isn’t that glamorous.  I do a lot of corporate work, and my job is to make sure CEOs don’t get shiny when they sit in front of a green screen and read from a Teleprompter.

One of my regular clients asked me to do one of these jobs over the weekend. I actually like corporate work.  The productions are usually small, everyone is nice, and the hours aren’t crazy long.  Since this one was for a medical company, I got to do some wound and bruise work  (Yesssssssss!).

When the spokeswoman began to read the copy from the Prompter, the director stopped her.

“We need to fix this,” she said.

Once the script was  read out loud, the problems came to light.  There were many repeated words, and three sentences were being used when one would have got the message across. It had a sing-songy rhythm.  This was a sales video aimed towards medical professionals. Busy people who don’t have time to waste. Every word needs to do a job, and do it quickly.

As they started to work through the script, I asked if I could join in. The director knew that I wrote, and was happy for the help. We all worked together, eliminating redundancy, unnecessary backstory, and weak wording.  One sentence read “Blah blah product is unique.”

Unique means nothing. You could put any adjective at the end of that sentence and it would have as much meaning as unique.

Show me why it’s unique.

We took that word out, and went straight to the features that made this product unique.  “Blah blah product does this and doesn’t do this.”  Take away: this product is unique.

Some voice-overs were meant to compliment power point presentations. We gave the words purpose, didn’t repeat the information the viewer could see, and didn’t complicate things.

By doing all of this, we cut the length of the video significantly. Not only did we save people time, but we ensured that the viewer would actually make it to the end of the video, taking away the message the company meant to convey, and hopefully be excited about the product.

This all made me think a lot about Pitch Wars. (waves to anyone who is considering entering.)  You’re selling your story. You’re pitching mentors, and once you’re published, you need to sell readers on your book and then keep them reading.

You get so close to your own work, and it can be  hard to see clutter and confusion on your own. These things will help make sure everything works:

  • Read your work out loud to someone else. Have them listen for clarity.
  • Make sure you have a variety of sentence lengths.
  • Give every word power. Eliminate weak words that tell or aren’t specific.
  • Once you use a descriptive word in a scene, try not to use it again.
  • Get to the point. Give backstory only when needed. Keep description lean.

Happy editing!

 

 

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