Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What's in Your Wallet?

The other day I spent some time at a local hospital with my sister. While there I made the mistake of leaving my purse behind (this is not the first time I've left it, but that's totally besides the point). Security called me and I arranged for my sister to pick up the purse. When she started talking to the security personnel she was told that based on the contents of my purse I must be a fascinating person with one officer wondering how it was possible that I got so much stuff into one purse. (It's a Mary Poppins thing).

This reminded me of a character exercise I thought I'd share where you define everything that is in a character's wallet, purse, backpack, bat belt, whatever and consider what that says about the character. Is there a condom at the ready? A punch card which has never been filled, or is filled and not used? A picture of a child or an ex lover? How many credit cards do they carry? What's on the cards? What does it say about them?

I've not used this exercise in a while, but having lived a version of it recently I've started applying it again and it's fun to see who someone is as seen through the lens of their wallet. So there's your challenge gentle writer, take your main character and dump their wallet out on the table. Decide what they carry and why and see how this informs the character and how they work in the story. You might be surprised at what secrets can hide in the depths of a purse.

And for the curious my purse held: flower shaped buttons, a headband, some random electronic cords (no idea what those go to, but I might need them some day), two thumb drives, a coupon book, 3 writing notebooks, a variety of pens, chapstick, an iPad with a cracked screen, a half crocheted baby dress and extra yarn, scissors, bandaids, emergency feminine supplies, a book of checks, M&Ms in a ziploc baggie and some random receipts. Mostly I think that says the owner is a geeky writer who likes M&Ms and craft projects, but take from it what you will.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Benefits of PitMad, Even When You're Not Participating

For the uninitiated #PitMad is a Twitter event which happens four times a year. It has also spawned a lot of other similar hash tag events such as #sffpit and #carinapitch, but the idea being this is a 12 hour period for folks to boil their new book down to less than 140 characters and put it out on Twitter. During this 12 hours and usually a day or two thereafter, agents, publishers, editors and other such folks look through the pitches and if they have interest they give the pitch a 'favorite' and instructions for how to submit the book. The whole event is chaotic and crazy and lots of fun even if you aren't participating.

Yep, you heard that last line right. #PitMad is worth popping in and seeing even if you aren't ready to pitch. And a note to that, if your manuscript is not completed, polished, edited, polished some more and as good as you can make it you're not ready. Now, if you're not ready there are good reasons to attend anyway, which I'll get to, but there is also a really good reason NOT to attend. If you can't resist the siren lure of joining in and tossing out a pitch when you're not ready then stay far away. Because you want to pitch when you're ready, not when you could end up sending out a manuscript that isn't ready because someone thought it sounded interesting and now they see a manuscript that they don't want because it was hastily completed instead of one they would have wanted in two months when it was actually done.

Provided you can resist this, here are reasons to at least check the tag out.

1: You can get a feel as to which agents are there and sometimes what they're looking for. They'll list submission guidelines and you can follow the agents on Twitter to learn more.

2: You can get a good feel as to what is popular right now. What are other people writing and how does your manuscript fit into that?

3: You can meet a lot of people and build your network of authors which can lead to beta readers, reviews, critique partners and general awesomeness. This event is all about writers and agents coming together, but there's no reason writers can't come together too.

Is the event perfect? Nope. It's very spammy and you can really get sucked in all day if you let yourself. I expect we'll continue to see streamlining as it goes forward and some agents would really rather you just query them directly, always do your research and follow guidelines! However I still believe #PitMad is worth a visit and can be really exciting and inspirational to your writing.

The next one will be in June. I hope to see you there. You can find me on Twitter @janastocks.