Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Owning Rejection Like a Boss, A.K.A. The Gallery of Rejection

(Scroll halfway down to the heading if want to skip my musings and get to the GALLERY OF REJECTION)

I've been on Twitter a lot lately, and watching some new, aspiring authors come up through the Pitchwars feed, has been eye-opening. I'd forgotten what it was like to be pushing your first baby out into the world. The peculiar mix of awe, hope, and terror.

But the thing it's made me most grateful for, were the years I put into developing a thick skin around rejection. Because after two agents, two traditional contracts, and books out in the world for almost three years now, there's one glaring truth that I learned early:

Rejection is everywhere in this industry. Seriously. EVERYWHERE.


The thing that surprised me over the years was that it didn't stop. Early on I thought once I was established, I could expect relief. But it doesn't matter what stage of the game you're in, rejection is literally unavoidable. And when you've finally been published? That's a unique kind of torture.

I say unique, because once a book is out in the world there's nothing you can do to change it. At every previous step, be it negative feedback on critique, revision letters from your agent, or your precious words being skewered in editing, you've always had a chance to change (or defend) the identified flaws. It's all been behind closed doors, and you've had the freedom to do something.

But reviews? That story has left the building. There's nothing you can do to change it if you think they're right. And if they aren't, their words exist in perpetuity. Not only can you not address (or answer to) the flaw, you have to let other people be influenced by that individual's perspective. *Insert sensation of medieval torture here*

Look, here's a hard truth that you'll do well to accept before you get that far: No book makes everyone happy.

Literally, not a single one.

Now, I'm actually blessed because overall, my reviews are very good. I have almost 300 reviews on Amazon and books average out at 4.5 and 4.3 stars respectively. Trust me, that's a huge relief.

But no matter how your book comes together, it will generate reviews from people who didn't connect, or just plain didn't like it. Luckily for me, in a recent conversation with Author Rebecca Podos, I discovered a brilliant (and hilarious) way to deal with the unique rejection that comes from bad reviews:

Turn them into motivational posters.

That's right. From today forward, anytime a review slices and dices my insides, I'm removing its power to hurt me by owning that sucker. 

I've already started with a few from Amazon and Goodreads. If you run into any blogger reviews that are less than complimentary, let me know. Because this is turning out to be more fun than I thought . . .

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you...

Aimee L. Salter's 

Clearly I went off track when I chose to use only one punctuation point per sentence........
*Bows*



That's a relief. I would have been horrified if they were only partly crap.



And I'm sorry to have put you through this.



So, you're 100% behind recommendations for Average-to-Middling?



In fairness, it was my sophomore book, so I'm counting that as a win.



I'd have to agree with you there.
I blame my editor.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Rule #1: Take the Reader With You

The last 3 weeks of reading have been a very interesting exercise for me. I have red one series which was incredible, bookended by two books which were not. All three taught me the same lesson: Take the reader with you.

There's an author whose books I read years ago, but who ended a series in a very unsatisfying way, so I stopped purchasing her books for a long time. I wish I hadn't done this. For years I left her to her devices, and only recently picked up the first in a new series. I was so blown away I devoured the entire series in days.

The last book in that series, I am happy to report, was not only amazing, it was inspiring. They were none of the technical, or storytelling issues that I'd observed in her debut series. I kicked myself for not believing earlier reports that these books were crazy-good. The thing that made this series incredible was not the character development, or how I was completely absorbed by the story (though those things are masterfully done). The incredible thing was that the premise of this series was ridiculous. If I were to describe these stories the entire premise would sound not only weird, but literally impossible. To have this many plots, and all the insane details converge on a small handful of people in a small town would seem implausible. But this author observed rule 1:

Take the reader with you.

Her world-building was steeped in reality, despite the fantastic nature of the story. Her characters were deep and complex, realistic despite their relative youth and inexperience. And the story was compelling despite the completely improbable elements that came together to make it up.

In short, she achieved The Impossible. The good news is that means we can too. You and I. All we have to do is take the reader with us.

There's any number of academic exercises I could do to explain what that means. But honestly, I think this is a skill we develop with time (just like this author did). Instead I want to tell you about the other reading experiences I had over the past 3 weeks, and why they didn't achieve this:

In the first, I read a fantasy book that, while beautifully written, and of a fascinating premise, never pulled me into love with the hero. And because the entire story hinged on me falling in love, the entire story was boring. I did not finish it.

The other book I read, and did finish--barely--was a contemporary romance. It was very well written, with complex characters, and a family dynamic that in normal circumstances would have kept me flipping pages late into the night. However, there was one major flaw in the story, and it took me several chapters into the book to identify it: Why was I not connecting with the story in the way that I should? Why was I able to put the book down, and go to sleep.? Answer: There was no character intent. There was never, at any of the divergent points in the story--every action, transition, or internal narrative--a description of what the protagonist wanted.

So on one hand I was left wallowing. Where are we going, and when can I expect to arrive? And on the other hand, I was frustrated. Why are we here? What's the freaking point?

I have to say that this last was, in fact, the most frustrating even though the writing was probably the best I've read in a long time. Knowing that there was a talented author behind the story and these characters, who clearly needed to be putting words out there, but also knowing that the reason this book was not receiving the accolades it should, or the reviews, or the sales, was because of this one missing element, broke my heart.

I'm guessing most readers would not be able to identify this unless they've taken some kind of creative writing structure training or study. But the fact remains unless you take the reader with you it's an unsatisfying story. And in this case I never got on the train because I wasn't told where it was headed.

I've talked on this blog before about character intent. I've talked about motivating stimulus and reaction. I talked about those things years ago, before I was a published author. I stand by those words. Mainly because the more I learn through my own writing, through reading, through being edited by a very experienced editor, and just generally in my own study of the craft, the more I know this to be true: Unless you take the reader with you, your book is going to fail.

Do you want to know what a book looks like when it doesn't take the reader along for the ride? It looks like a mediocre reviews, readers left questioning why they read the book, lackluster sales, and lots of "Did not finish". Whether they're able to pinpoint it or not, there's something missing, a critical element that effectively ruins the read.

So, what's my point here? My point is that you can't skip an understanding of the craft of writing and expect readers to fall in love with what you do. You, the author, must first understand what you want the book to do, then you have to figure out what your protagonist needs to want in order to take the story there. And after you've communicated that through their voice, you need to surround them with such tangible detail and response to stimulus, that even the most ridiculous premise is gobbled down whole.

You can do this. So can I. But just as our character needs to strive for something, so do we. There's no short-cuts here, folks. Study the craft. Understand the rules. Then when you break them, it's because you know another, better way to achieve what they do within the parameters of your story.

Good luck! (And I'll take all prayers to that effect for my current books *wink*

Sunday, August 7, 2016

CRITICAL PLOT ELEMENTS - The Whole Picture

A while back I wrote a "Critical Plot Elements" series that hit the highlights of a story's structure and progression. After recent developments in my own WIPs, and discussions with aspiring author friends, I realized I still hang my hat on these plot-points as CRITICAL for a story that delivers. So here they are, linked in story-structure order. Does your book have all the critical elements? Perhaps more importantly, do mine?

ACT 1

Beginnings #1 - World Building

Beginnings #2 - The Inciting Incident

Beginnings #3 - The Plot Mirror

Beginnings #4 - The End of the Beginning


ACT 2

Middles #1 - Schematics

Middles #2 - Raising the Stakes

Middles #3 - Catastrophe and the Missing Link

Middles #4 - The "Almost Lull"


INTERLUDE

The Black Moment


ACT 3

Endings #1 - Crisis

Endings #2 - CLIMAX

Endings #3 - Ribbons & Bows


THE PLOT ROUND-UP 

Putting it all together


If you have questions, or would like me to add more beef to any of these bones (I wrote these a long time ago, before I was published), comment on the individual post and let me know. I'll help as much as I can!


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

My Pitchwars #PimpMyBio

Welcome to my (neglected) blog, #Pitchwars peeps! Lovely to meet you all! The #Pitchwars community is so cool. Can't wait to get to know some of you better. If you're a newb, fear not. I  know several of the author mentors involved, and I have to say they're an amazing bunch. (Incidentally, you can get help with YOUR #Pitchwars bio if you make your own post and link it here.)

For the purposes of #PimpMyBio, see below. All critique for improvement and/or PITCH ME, PLEASE comments from mentors welcome! Kidding! HA HA HA KIDDING... *cough*


In all seriousness, though....



ABOUT ME:

My name is Aimee L. Salter. I'm twice published by Alloy Entertainment's newest imprint. I'm back on the agent hunt because both my books were acquired by my editor directly (I'd just lost my agent to her own starship author career when they contacted me about Every Ugly Word), so this year I'm taking the next step in my career.




ABOUT MY BOOK:

What Eyes May See (working title) is a high-concept speculative YA romance (near-future setting with minor sf/f elements):

In near-future America, two orphans' only weapons against a deadly government program are a live TV show, and the pretense of their romantic entanglement—which becomes more real than either can afford, placing both their plan and their lives in jeopardy.

While both my previously published books are YA Romance / Magical Realism, my current work is a new genre for me, so I'm eager to gain feedback from authors with greater experience in this kind of story. I'm a huge supporter of the critique process and know how necessary it is to get objective eyes on my work to figure out the flaws before it goes in front of professionals. I'm praying I get picked up by a PitchWars mentor for exactly that purpose.


WHY PICK ME? 

I'm a full-time author with a genuine desire to receive feedback. I'm not precious, not defensive of my work, and I love to laugh. I am ready to work hard because this is my career. I adore it, but let's face it, this industry is something of a crapshoot. Anyone willing to give me their time will find me grateful and willing to return the favor--or pay it forward.

I'm happy to answer questions about myself and my work anytime. (Seriously. ANY TIME AT ALL.) Just tweet me. Or, you know, choose my book, be my best friend, and then I'll give you my cellphone number.

No, seriously. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Advice on Pitching at Conventions/Conference

So, I was stoked when I was invited to Panel at RT Booklovers Convention 2016. It wasn't until I'd gotten all the "work" details sorted that I realized I would be attending it post-release, agentless, and with a new project to shop. I immediately became terrified. After all, what better place to meet and chat with agents and editors? But that would mean, you know, pitching.


After several weeks of ensuring my projects would be polished enough, I made a vow to myself:

I will wear my Big Girl Panties. I will take opportunities that present themselves. I will not back out for fear of annoying someone. I will not wallflower out of fear of failing. I will try.

And after taking the opportunity to pitch three editors and seven agents, and receiving nine requests for my material, I have the following to say:

All the advice I've read from agents and editors in the past is true.

So I won't reheat the tasty morsels as if I was the chef. I will just regurgitate the meal for you:

1. Publishing professionals really do expect to be pitched while at these events. Except in the bathroom. (Google it. It's a thing. And not a good one). Don't hesitate. Do ask if they have time, unless the event you're at is specifically for pitching (then see point 3.)

2. Editors and Agents really do want to see if your project is a good one. So they will listen when you talk. As long as your talking is polite and professional. And within the parameters of point 3.

3. They really do want you to be brief. So you better know how to boil your book down to 20-30 seconds of words. Maximum. If they want more information, they'll ask. If they don't ask... Well, you have your answer.

4. Be prepared to pitch at any moment. Literally. (One of my friends ended up being introduced to two agents in a bar at two in the morning. Opportunity? If you're sober enough....)

5. No one has time for pulling you out of your shell. Either you want this, or you don't. When an editor turns to you and says "What are you working on?" they aren't being nice. They don't want you to apologize, or qualify, or prevaricate. They want you to pitch your project. (See point 3.)

6. The only way you can achieve point 4 is to prepare ahead. Seriously. At the advice of an agent blog I carried with me at all times:
- One sheets for the two projects I was shopping that included contact details, pitch, blurb, and author bio.
- My business card
- My pitch notes (Bullet list of what I needed to cover regarding my experience/background).
- A notebook/wallet. (Because when one agent gives you their card and says "Send me the first three chapters + summary, and another says "send me the full ms" you better send the right material to the right person!)

7. Professionalism goes a long way. In the end this is a business. No matter that we're selling creative work, the professionals you deal with to help you reach your goals are business people. They dress like business people. They keep business hours. They relate, at least initially, on a professional, slightly formal level. Don't show up in jeans and a wrinkled t-shirt. But you also don't have to wear a suit. Look polished, in whatever style is yours. Make eye contact. Shake hands. Don't apologize for yourself. In short: Own it. Own your project, own your experience (or lack thereof). Own your goals.

In the end, there will be falls and failures. But you can't get good at this stuff until you've tried it, figured out what didn't work, and tried again.

This is not an industry for the faint-hearted. Yes, it's scary. Yes, there are lots of opportunities to fall on your face. But there is also potential to see doors open.

You can't walk through unless you knocked first.

Your Turn: Have you ever pitched professionals face-to-face? Any advice? Or any questions for what that looked like for me?

Saturday, April 9, 2016

VEGAS BABY! Are you coming?

Join me for two events in Las Vegas on Thursday, April 14th:

I'm appearing at the RT Booklovers Convention for the You're Never Too Old for YA panel at 11:15am. Come and join my table, we'll have a blast!



And that evening, from 7:00-8:00pm, I'm part of this awesome romantic author reading and signing event at The Writer's Block, 1020 Fremont Street, Las Vegas, 89101


Be there, or miss out on being photobombed by me. Your loss...

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Danger of Comparisons

During a conversation with a dear author friend (who happens to be VERY successful), the issue of comparisons was raised. My friend commented that no matter how far along her author journey she traveled, she was still vulnerable to comparing herself, her work, her achievements with other authors.

At first I was flabbergasted, spluttering  "but....but...you're a REAL bestseller!"

Of course, having reached those ranks, she's now friends with many other bestsellers. She still finds weaknesses in her own writing. She still has projects that don't reach the heights expected by her publisher. She still, at times, feels inadequate.

Just like me. And, I'm guessing, just like you.

It got me thinking: When I first started writing for publication (and frankly, to this day) I constantly ran into writers who were so much better than me. When I first looked for an agent, there were friends who got agents sooner, faster, easier... When my book went out to editors, there were writers who got contracts. And not just nice contracts like mine, but big offers that came faster, better, with fewer obstacles than mine. 

And now I'm staring down the barrel of my third book as a firmly midlist author while many friends books sell more, or their contracts get bigger instead of staying steady. Or they turn out five books in two years so their income is much higher.

I realized that I give it any thought at all, it quickly becomes clear that no matter what stage of the writing journey I am in, there is always someone further ahead, more talented, or more successful.

Is there anything to gain by comparing ourselves to others who've done better? (Or conversely, to others who've done worse?).

I think not. 

I'm not going to feed you platitudes about us all being in this together, or sharing the joys and trials of your fellow authors. We definitely do share the ups and downs--and no one is more empathetic about the journey than other writers. But the fact is, there will always be people and projects you and I can point to and say "I'm crap", or those we can point to and say "I'm not doing so bad..."

So, I want to tell you that there is no comparison. No one else wrote your book. No one else created your world. No one else's audience is exactly the same.

The question can't be about whether someone else is more successful or has a better fan club. Because their fanclub adores THAT book.

The thing you and I need to focus on isn't whether or not some other writer wrote a better book. Because I write for my audience, and you write for yours. Neither of us writes for theirs. The question we really need to ask is whether or not we've done the best for our readers.

Have I worked hard to get the technical aspects right, to better deliver my world to my reader?

Have I made sure that someone who hasn't heard me explaining characters and talking plot for the past six months can follow my story?

Have I done the best research to ensure my characters are realistic in their motives, their reactions, their intents?

Have I written the story I'm urged to write. Not the one I think will WIN?

Then the only comparison can be with my own work. 

Is this book better than the last one? Is this book in the very best shape I'm capable of molding? 

If the answer is yes, then that is winning.

Goals are good. Dreams should be pursued. But there are just too many things in this industry that we can't control. 

The only thing firmly in my hands is whether or not I'm still growing and developing. Whether I'm the best writer I'm capable of being, for my personal audience.

And for today, at least, I say "Yes. Yes, I am."

Can you?

Your Turn: What's the hardest thing about your current point in the writing journey?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

BEST. TEDTALK. EVER.

I think I'm going to online stalk Galit Breen and make her my best friend. If you're a parent you need to watch this. Seriously. Could save your kid's life.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

DARK TOUCH IS HERE!




It happened. Dark Touch is out today. I FINALLY have two books in circulation. Can you believe that?! Because I can't. Seriously. Can't.

Because my brain is fried, and my heart is full, and there's so much more going on than you know, I'm useless today. There's going to be a lot more thoughtful, analytical, and just plain silly content coming over the next week, but for now, let's just look at this beauty, shall we? (Insert heart eyes here).

Dark Touch - Buy here

Tully isn't alone in her skin. Whenever she touches someone, they feel everything she feels. All her ugliness. All her darkness. All her pain. 

The only thing she wants is to be left alone--and to finally get out of her small Oregon town.

But then she meets Chris. He's everything she's not. Light. Trusting. Innocent. And he wants Tully.

Tully knows she should spare him the heartache of being with her. But when he touches her, she's not sure she'll have the strength to push him away--until he learns about her dark past, and what really goes on in her ever-decaying home.

From the author of Every Ugly Word comes a poignant, emotionally raw story about the violence that plays out behind closed doors and the all-consuming passion of first love.


And just in case you missed it, you too can be the proud owner of Dark Touch just by clicking here!

And now, let's dance!







Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Win swag, books, and more!

DARK TOUCH IS ALMOST HERE! *Pants*

Things are crazy, kids. But before they spiral into actually insane I want to say thanks for sticking with me through 2015 and into this new book release!

I'm offering a ton of prizes BEFORE the book comes out --this will be drawn the morning of the release (which next Tuesday, can you believe that???)

Don't be fooled if the title of the giveaway only shows one prize, those little circles underneath the prize are each a new prize offering, so tick along and enter for all of them!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We're almost there, folks! ALMOST THERE. *Faints*