Slush Pile Lessons Pt. 2

For those of you who don't keep up with my non-stop 140-character fangirling statements and publishing muses on twitter, I had the wonderful opportunity to return as a slush reader for Brenda Drake's PITCH MADNESS contest this past weekend. We were Slush Zombies this time, trekking through the pile, splattering blood and guts everywhere as we searched for fabulous stories.

There were a LOT of fabulous stories. That's the hardest thing about a pitch contest like this, especially for the competing writer, because there are lots of writers to compete with. But it's also pretty dang cool because it shows how many talented writers there are in the world, and how many totally awesome books could end up on bookstore shelves someday.

(I'm looking at you and your book.)

Without further ado, I wanted to share some of the things I learned digging through the slush pile. A lot of it is similar to what I learned last time (which you can read about in detail in this post), but this time there was one big difference for me: I'm a contracted writer now, as well as a senior in college with a hefty work load, so I had a lot less time to devote to reading submissions. Which meant one very important thing: every pitch and first page I read really had to pop with brilliance on the first read-through, or I'd likely skip to the next one to keep searching for a "yes." (In case it's unclear, we Slush Zombies were the gatekeepers -- the ones deciding which pitches the team leaders would look at, and which they would never see.)

So, without further ado, here are some quick tips for those of you who find yourself on the other side of a Slush Zombie:

1. Stare at this beautiful man all day and be just like him:

2. Be specific in your pitch. If your novel is about a nine-hundred year old Time Lord who travels through time and space in a police box, fighting aliens who wield toilet plungers, make sure you say that instead of just: "It's a story about a time traveller." Specifics make a pitch much more interesting and go a long well in helping a story stand out.

3. Make the genre clear. When you submit to a contest like this or send a query letter to an agent, there's usually a spot where you mention what the genre is. But genre should also come across in the writing. A sci-fi should have some element in the first page that makes the reader go "oho! there may be cyborgs in this novel," or "this may be set on a spaceship," for example.

You don't want your reader uncertain whether your story is a contemporary set in NYC or a fantasy set in a Celtic-inspired world where animals talk, because such uncertainty takes away from your story. By the end of the first chapter, at the very least, the genre really should be clear.

(Bonus point: Come up with a title that sparks the genre!)

4. Double-check spelling. First impressions are really important. Yes, if your pitch is brilliant and your writing is stellar, spelling mistakes are easy to overlook, but why test fate? Triple-read your submission. Maybe even have someone else read it to double-check if you missed anything.

5. Double-check instructions. Always, always, always read the instructions for a pitch contest, or an agent's instructions about submitting a query letter. If someone asks to see your first page or first couple pages, make sure you send them! Sometimes stellar first pages can hook an agent who otherwise didn't see much of a spark in the pitch.

And, last but not least, remember to revise revise revise your pitch and first page. End the excerpt on a cliffhanger, maybe. Make the pitch and pages so brilliant, no one will have any choice but to keep reading out of curiosity.

That's all for now!

                                                   KICK SOME QUERY BUTT LIKE UMBRIDGE.


**ADDENDUM (3/20 at 1:06pm PST): I just wanted to make sure readers understand that there are always, always, always exceptions to the tips I mentioned above. There are no rules when it comes to writing. These are suggestions based on my experience, but publishing is highly subjective. :)**


Winner + Darcy

The winner of SEVER by Lauren DeStefano is...





Congratulations! Ashley, I've shot you an email. If you don't respond within 48 hours, I'll have to pick a new winner, so please respond! :)

Thanks to all who participated and spread the word. Hope you all have a fun-filled weekend!

By the way, if you don't watch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, you're missing out. Because DARCY.


Updates: Publishing Contract, Fan Art, and more!

Today has been a pretty cool week! I turned in my first round of revisions last week, which allowed time for excessive reading over the weekend. Of course by Monday I had to dig into a big school writing project, but it's going well so far, thankfully.

But the more exciting thing: I received my very first fan art! A book cover, no less. The lovely ~CvetiM over at Deviantart made this beauty:

Isn't it GORGEOUS?

I also attended Shannon Messenger's launch party for Let the Sky Fall on Tuesday night. So much fun!! Writers/readers are pretty much the coolest people to hang out with. Ever.

Photo By: Natasha M. Heck
And, last but not least, I finally got to sign my publishing contract! This book writing thing is official. We're doing this.

Hope you all had and continue to have a great week!

(P.S. Sorry, I had to turn CAPTCHA back on due to major spam overload)


Giveaway: ARC of SEVER by Lauren DeStefano

I did this crazy thing over the weekend where I read three books, each started and finished within 24 hours. The first was Just One Day by Gayle Forman -- and oh my gosh I NEED THE SEQUEL.

The second and third were Fever and Sever by Lauren DeStefano, the second and third books in the Chemical Garden Trilogy. If you've read Wither, you know Lauren's writing is lovely. I read the sequels so fast because I just HAD to know what was going to happen. Sever was an excellent ending to the trilogy. :)

And it just so happens I now have an ARC of Sever that I'm not sure what to do with. So I'm giving it away! I'll ship it to anyone in US or Canada. Simply enter the rafflecopter below.

With the clock ticking until the virus takes its toll, Rhine is desperate for answers. After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them.

Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for her future—and about the past her parents never had the chance to explain.

In this breathtaking conclusion to Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, everything Rhine knows to be true will be irrevocably shattered.

a Rafflecopter giveaway