Liebster Award

So, I was nominated for the Liebster Award. Huh. This little blog has never been tagged for one of those, or really for anything. I guess there is a first time for everything! I am actually excited on the inside. I promise.

There are a few rules, and lots of questions, so hold on to your hats everyone!

Rule One: Thank the Blogger who Nominated you.

Thank you so much Bookmarked One! I am truly honored that you like my blog and tagged me for this! (and I apologize for being late, I, uh, didn’t check my email…)

Rule Two: Answer the Eleven Questions.

Is there a reason why there are eleven? No? Alright then.

What book/movie/pop culture thing do you recommend to everyone?

Well. All must read the Nevermoor series by Jessica Townsend! The series is a riot to read or listen to, and I love practically everything about it. If you like Harry Potter, you will like it. If you like middle grade, you will like it. If you like fantasy in general, you will like it. If you like to laugh, you will like it. So go read!

What are you reading right now?

*glances around house at all the bookmarked books*

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. That book is big enough to be a weapon. I fully plan to use it if my house gets broken into. Probably after the bear spray. Honestly though the whole book reads like a soap opera. So. Much. Drama.

Undaunted Courage by ???. A biography of Merriweather Lewis that mostly talks about the Lewis and Clark expedition. I have been obsessed with it (and Sacajawea), since I was little, so reading it all from his perspective has been really fun!

Hollowpox by Jessica Townsend. The latest book in the Nevermoor series. I have been listening to it on my daily commute. It is nice to laugh while on the way to work, instead of worrying about what the day will hold.

West From Home by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I just started this one, it is letters Laura wrote to her husband while she was visiting their daughter in California. I love the Little House books, so this is like revisiting childhood!

I think that’s it…

What is the coolest thing about your blog?

Um. I am not sure I am the best one to ask about this. But I think my sassy book reviews are the best part. Coming up with snide remarks (all in good fun) about the back cover blurbs is so much fun. I enjoy writing them, and people seem to enjoy reading them!

Why did you decide to start blogging?

I was a little teenager who had lots of opinions she wanted to share. But she didn’t really like speaking in front of people. ‘Nuff said.

What random thing about yourself do you want to share (can you yodel? Do you hate polka dots? Did you once sail around the world)?

I don’t know why, but I really hate the sound of people chewing. Honestly, if I hear people chewing really loud I have to leave the room. Sometimes I even irritate myself. Which isn’t good, because I can’t get away from myself… And then I decided to get a job as a preschool teacher. And half of those kids don’t know what it means to chew quietly. Can I just say that they all got a crash course in table manners?

Favorite travel destination (real or fictional)?

Ireland. As a desert girl, being in a country where almost everything was green was so amazing. The people were friendly, and I loved exploring the island.

But if I could hop inside a fictional world, at the moment I really want a cup of tea at the Hotel Deucalion in Nevermoor.

What piece of wisdom did you once really need to hear?

Ugh. This is a hard question. I have some wise friends who always have good advice during difficult times. It also assumes I have a good memory for specific occasions… However, one that stands out to me is when my friend told me that whatever happens in my future, the Lord will be there to sustain me. I was freaking out about what my future could hold at the time, and that steadied my wailing heart and helped me to remember that God will never leave me nor forsake me.

Where do you go when you need inspiration?

For my stories? Pinterest. I love looking at all the pictures and getting story ideas from them. I spend way too much time laughing at jokes or reading and saving writing prompts. If I have no idea what to write, I go look at my huge board of writing prompts, find something that catches my eye and imagination, and then write a short story. My sister and I used to do it together, and finding out the vastly different ideas we got from one prompt was really fun!

What is the most beautiful place to you (your couch, a meadow under the stars, etc.)?

The desert of Western Colorado in early spring. The desert surrounding my town is varying shades of brown. Even the few plants that struggle into life are brown from the constant sunshine and lack of water. When the wind blows, the dust blows with it, stinging the back of your legs if you are foolish enough to wear shorts. During the winter, everything is brown. The trees, the mountains, the desert, the buildings. Just when you feel as if you will go crazy from all the brown, it rains. The spring rains coax the seeds just under ground to the surface. Whispering that there are fresh breezes and gentle sunshine if they would only push up toward the sky. Up they come, giving the whole desert a greenish tinge that rests the eyes after the monotony of the last few months. The air feels fresh from all the growing things. It doesn’t last long, but those few weeks every year remind me why I make my home here, and why the desert is so beautiful to me.

What would you love to try (crochet! Yodeling! Sailing around the world!)?

Someday, I want to try sky diving. It seems like the closest thing I can get to flying in this world, so it sounds great. No, not bungee jumping, that looks like something straight out of my nightmares. (literally) My sister and I want to go sky diving when she turns eighteen. Though we may just tell our parents after the fact… (shoot, my mom is going to read this.)

Favorite dessert (everyone should have at least one)?

Cheesecake please and thank you. Plain is just fine, though I do also love other kinds. Homemade is the absolute best. I also love white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. And chocolate covered strawberries. And brownies. And pudding. And lots of other sweets I am not going to bother listing out here. Suffice to say I really like sweet things.

Rule 3: Nominate eleven more bloggers for the award.

Um. I don’t follow eleven bloggers? Sorry guys… (in my defense half of the blogs I used to follow sadly stopped writing)

However, I will nominate as many as I can!

Christine Smith at Christine Smith Author She is such a lovely person, and her blog is one of my favorites!

Tracey Dyck is where I get quite a few good book recommendations. My favorites are her Subplots and Storylines posts.

Sabrina Frantz at The Story Alchemist. She has some great fanfiction on her site. And she might be my sister…

*coughIneedtofollowmoreblogscough*

Anyway…

Rule 4: Ask your eleven nominated bloggers eleven questions

Oh dear, this might be the hardest part of this entire post. I have to think of interesting questions to ask??!?!?! Great.

  1. What is your favorite genre of music and why?
  2. What was your last read and what did you think about it?
  3. If you could hop inside any fictional world, where would you go? One catch, you have to stay there for your whole life.
  4. What is your favorite aspect of writing and/or creating?
  5. What is your least favorite food?
  6. Would you rather listen to a book or read a book?
  7. Do you listen to podcasts? If so which is your favorite?
  8. What is one book you want to see a movie made out of?
  9. What is your favorite fantasy creature?
  10. If you could travel back in time, where would you go?
  11. What draws you the most to reading?

Phew, we made it! And I have now realized that I need to go find more blogs to read. Excuse me while I search.

Shaina Merrick

Pitching, the hardest thing you will ever do.

I am attending the Virtual Realm Makers conference this year. Cue the confetti!! It is really exciting and it will be so awesome to attend all those classes and one of my favorite authors is speaking and… Oh yeah, I signed up for a pitch. *internal scream*

So I have never done one before. Ever. I barely even knew what a pitch was before this. I mean, it is just talking about your book to someone else, right? Not!

Have you ever written a resume? The ones where you are trying to convince the hiring manager that you are the perfect one for the job. Well, a pitch is, in its basic form, the same thing. You are trying to convince the editor or agent that your book is worth publishing. And the pitch is only the beginning. To complete you pitch, it is also a good idea to come up with a one sheet, a synopsis, one, or two, author bio’s (depending on who you ask), and to top it all off, a book proposal. I hate book proposals.

This is not something that was taught, or even mentioned, when I was learning about writing. None of the classes I ever went to discussed the book proposal. That is either because I didn’t go to the right ones, or because no one taught how to write the most important piece of writing you will ever do after your manuscript.

So now to give you a leg up, we are talking about writing a book proposal.

Step One: Like your Book

Are you excited about your book? I hope so, because you are trying to impart that enthusiasm to someone else. A someone who has the power to get your book into the hands of readers. If you aren’t excited about your book, they won’t be either.

Step Two: What is the plot?

This is one of the more important bits of your book proposals, you need to tell that agent/editor the entire plot. The synopsis. Sometime they will ask you for the short synopsis, which is generally what your pitch will be, and for an entire synopsis covering everything from the inciting incident to the conclusion. This is NOT the time to be saying, “But wait, spoilers!” You are spoiling the entire book for them. On purpose. The editor needs to know if you can stick the landing. Can you write a good beginning, middle, and ending? That is what your synopsis will tell them. So make sure all the important plot points are in the synopsis. Give them all of the tid bits that make your story interesting and unique.

Step Three: The author bio

I really struggle with this one. I can talk about my book all day long, but myself? Not so much. In its condensed form it is what would be on the back of a book. A short introduction of you. This is not the time to be cute and funny. Author bio’s are serious matters. The first impression the editor will have of you is that bio. So make sure it shines!

The long form includes your writing experience, any awards you may have won, any previous publishing experience, and why you wrote the book. That latter one may be included in a different spot so check the guidelines for each editor or agent you pitch to.

That is why I struggle with it so much. I don’t have much in the way of experience, and no awards to speak of. But that doesn’t mean I skip it all together or make a joke about it. Like I said earlier, this bio is serious, and so I treat it like I would any other resume. I say the bit I can, mostly about my blog, and that is all. If you are in the same boat as me, I give you the same advice. Do what you can, but don’t make up stuff. Also, it looks a little tacky if you talk about a writing award you got as a ten year old if you are an adult, so keep your experience relevant and fairly recent.

Step Four: Log Line

A log line is the very, very condensed version of your synopsis. A sentence is all it is. Two sentences at the very most. Think of it as the marketing line of your book. The one that goes first in the blurb on the back. This is the phrase that tells people what your story is about, and at the same time makes them want to read more. Sounds hard? You bet! One site I visited recommended writing 15 to 20 of them right off before even deciding which one was the best. No, I didn’t write that many, but I wrote quite a few! After I finally decided which one I wanted, I then refined it to make it as perfect as possible. This one is important, so do the work to make it good!

Step Five: Marketing

This is the part of the show where you tell the editors how you will help to market your book. The market is super saturated with books, if you couldn’t already tell, and the ‘build it and they will come’ mantra no longer works for books. Unfortunately. And while we may despise it, the hard truth is that the publishing companies will not do all the work to market our books. We have to take some of that into our own hands.

You will need to tell the editor what kind of platform you have, and how many followers you have. I did not say the exact number because 1) it is embarrassing and 2) it is changing all the time. So I just said it was small but growing.

It is also a really good idea to tell the editor what kind of contacts you have that you could exploit to get your book out there. (mwahaha…) I have lots of contacts inside the homeschool community, so I mentioned that. You can mention authors you know (as in know personally), business contacts you have, and things like that.

Do not. Do not! Give them your ideas on how to market your book. There are sites that recommend this, and I might be proven wrong, but other sites have said that that is what the marketing team is for. They probably have way better ideas than you have (unless you are amazing at marketing, and if you are, why are you trying to get published?). You are there to show them your platform. Not tell them how to do their job.

Step Six: Details

If your head isn’t already spinning, I commend you. Mine was when I researched all this! But I am not finished yet. Oh no. There is still more you must add in your book proposal!

These are all smaller details that you could have as one lines, or a small paragraph. Things like how many words and how many chapters are your book. Who you book is intended for. Is it middle grade, young adult, or adult? It is important to be specific, but not too small, because the editors are looking for how to market this book as they are reading it. If your intended audience is middle class extraterrestrial immigrants, it will be harder to market than a book for kids in elementary school.

You should also include other books that your book is similar too. Are you writing a book about talking animals? Consider citing Wind in the Willows as a similar book. However, avoid the urge to compare your book with classics, or best sellers. You don’t have the next Lord of the Rings. And when you say that it just sounds proud and pretentious.

When you are writing a book proposal, those are the main things you need to include in every single one. However, do your research. Different editors and agents want different things. One might want a full book proposal, another might want only a synopsis and a one sheet. A one sheet is a book proposal that has been cropped to one page. Don’t send editors pages and pages of things they don’t want! That is the fastest way to end up in the recycling bin.

Also, do not send your full manuscript. Send whatever chapters they want, and that is all. No one has time to sit and read a full manuscript they aren’t sure about. I’m sorry, I wish it wasn’t so, but it is.

As a quick reminder, a pitch is the quick synopsis of your book that is generally not beyond the first act. It is generally spoken directly to the agent or editor. It’s purpose is to pique interest and to promote excitement!

A synopsis is the full overview of a book. Try not to go over one page. It’s purpose is to prove that you can write an interesting plot from start to finish, and to help the editor understand your story.

A one sheet is a short book proposal. It’s purpose is to convince the editor to take your book.

A book proposal is to convince the editor or agent that you are serious about getting this book out there. It is a professional piece of writing that helps you to get your book signed by an agent or editor.

To all those who are jumping into the realm of pitching, good luck!

Shaina Merrick

The Precarious Balance of the Writing Life

Writing. A career path only for those who wish to feel guilty every moment of their life. Every moment of every day becomes a choice between writing, and not writing. If you aren’t writing, you feel guilty because you should be writing. If you are writing, you feel guilty because there is a whole family outside of your novel who could be talked with. Or an email to be sent, or another hobby to be practiced. But if you don’t write at this moment you won’t at all, and you worked an eight hour shift today dang it!

Yup. It kinda sucks.

On the one hand, we know that if we don’t write we will never get better. On the other hand, if we commit to writing for so many hours every day, won’t we become kinda, well, like a hermit? The stereotypical author who spends all of their days writing, and only ventures out into real life when their groceries run low. If they haven’t decided to get all their groceries shipped to them already.

And that was all before the internet. Now, we have Facebook, Instagram, blogs, and countless other ways to be ‘doing the job of writing’, without actually writing. Now there is one more thing to juggle, one more thing to feel guilty over.

And here I almost forgot the infamous day job that every writer slaves away at, all the while hoping to someday break free and only write. Never mind the fact that their day job is the one place they never feel guilty at. They have to be there, and that is that.

The thing is, I am not about to give you some momentous advice about how to balance it all and still keep yourself sane. This is something I am not good at. In fact, you could say I am tremendously, awfully bad at it. Even when I have a schedule.

But sometimes those who are so terrible at it that any step is a step in the right direction, have more to say than those who have done it perfectly their entire lives.

Like this momentous realization that was probably obvious to the rest of you.

Multitasking doesn’t work.

Ever.

I can’t write an interesting scene and write a blog post at the same time, or color and try to teach myself grammar. The best I can do is listen to very, very tame music and write a blog post. But even then I have to pause the music if I really want to concentrate. I realize that some of you are wizards of multitasking. I ain’t. So I keep the tabs low and the projects one at a time lest I overwhelm myself and get nothing done.

The other thing I realized after a long time of trying and failing is that I can’t get everything done in one day. It isn’t possible. Unless of course I decided not to sleep, or eat, or talk with anyone. But that isn’t a good idea (though don’t think I haven’t considered it.).

I have tried to do everything in one day. And at the end of the day I either had a finished to do list and no energy whatsoever to read or be nice, or I had a half completed to do list and loads of guilt to go along with it.

Well. I don’t like feeling guilty, and I also like being able to read. So I stopped trying to do it all. Most of the time.

It’s called a weekly schedule, and I am still trying to figure it out. Turns out they don’t write themselves, and writing down the things you did after you did them doesn’t work. Also, it doesn’t really count if you never look at it during the week.

I still have a long ways to go before I can properly consider myself good at scheduling my days.

Till then, I will muddle through and do my best to have my blog posts done on time.

Shaina Merrick

Since we are one the topic, got any advice for the scheduling writing? Things that worked for you? I’m telling ya, I need all the help I can get!