#nestpitch: Making It To The Agent Round

I have finished my rounds of edits with my editor, Tanis Nessler, from ReVision Editing! My goal for April was to (1) polish up my query letters, (2) make a spread sheet of agents I want to query (I’ve been using Query Tracker), and (3) then send out queries. I’ve done the first 2 of these 3.

So, “Why J.R.”, you ask, “are you not sending out your queries?”

Well, it’s very simple, I’ve made it to the agent round of #nestpitch! On May 11th, the Nestpitch blog will post our pitches and a sample of our work. In the meantime,  mentors will help us polish our first chapters in the upcoming weeks. Even though I’ve spent the majority of the last year editing my manuscript, I’m always open to a fresh set of eyes. There’s always room to improve.

So here’s the new plan. Once all of the final feedback is in from my Nestpitch mentor, I will begin querying.

I want to send out my deepest gratitude to Tanis, from ReVision Editing. She helped elevate Unspeakable into a polished, agent ready manuscript. Because of her, I feel confident moving forward.

I also want to thank the Nestpitch Team for seeing something in Unspeakable, and giving me the opportunity to present it to a tremendous panel of agents. Thank you.

And of course, thank you to You. My supporters, friends, and cheerleaders.

A Glimpse of Kendra: Creating Hybrid Characters

When I attended the recent workshop, Focus on Character,  at the Alexandra Writers’ Centre, Emily Ursuliak discussed creating hybrid characters. That is, creating characters that contain elements from different people in your life, and blending them together into a whole new person – a hybrid.

Kendra, my main character Hanna’s sister in Unspeakable, is just that: a hybrid.

Physically, Kendra is a cross between my sister and my close friend (who is of Asian descent.) Both of these special women’s first names start with a K, so to keep things straight in my head when I first started plotting out Unspeakable, I gave her the name Kendra – and it never changed.

Personality wise, Kendra is a combination between my sister and myself. But her backstory, to me, is the most interesting part.

Now, some elements of her backstory are invented of course, and some are inspired by elements of our childhood (my sister’s and mine) and my good friend’s childhood. But one essential element about Kendra came from a rumour that was started when my sister and I were kids. I asked myself the question: What if that rumour had been true? The answer to that question helped me create a plot point that was essential to the subplot of Unspeakable (sorry, you’ll have to read Unspeakable to know what that is…)

Here’s a sneak peak of Hanna with Kendra (with a little hint as to how Hanna meets Hank for the first time).

I go through the motions of completing my order and then take my sandwiches and drinks out to the picnic table.

Kendra whistles and shakes out her hand like she touched something hot. “Wow, did you see that hottie pants who just walked out of the restaurant? This town may stink, but the view sure is fine.”

I shrug and unwrap my sandwich.

“C’mon, don’t tell me you didn’t notice.”

I don’t want Kendra to know the effect he had on me; she’d never let it go. “He was nothing special.”

Kendra shrieks and slides her sandwich over. “Nothing special? Uhmygod, that’s like saying the sun isn’t bright.” She pauses in the middle of unwrapping her sandwich. “Huh, maybe that’s it.”

“What’s it?”

“You’ve stared at the sun too long and it broke your eyes.”

I chuck a piece of lettuce at her. “Eat your sandwich.”

Kendra plucks the lettuce out of her hair. She scans the sandwiches and drinks I’ve placed on the table, raises her palms, and frowns. “Hey, you forgot my cookie.” So much for not letting him affect me.

#nestpitch: Making It Past The Slush

Happy Easter Monday everyone!

The Little Yates' Eggs
The Little Yates’ Eggs

I debated about what to post this week. I was thinking about posting a deleted scene from Unspeakable, and use it as an example of Showing vs Telling – which if you’ve ever taken a writing class, you’ve no doubt heard about ad nauseam.

But the scene I was thinking about sharing was…well, deleted for good reason. It didn’t add anything to the story and when reading it back, I couldn’t help but notice all the mistakes. Even though there are nice instances of showing, there’s also filtering, telling, adverbs, and the list goes on. Although frightening to see how poor my writing was in the early stages of the first draft, I am buoyed by the fact that I noticed these mistakes immediately upon re-read (which means I’ll be less likely to make them in the future…right? – I can only hope.)

If you’re wondering about filtering etc., don’t worry, I plan on explaining these concepts in future posts.

But today… I want to share some exciting news! I was preparing my query letter and synopsis to send out to agents, when I noticed a contest on Twitter called #nestpitch.

What is #nestpitch?

#nestpitch is a contest where you submit a 35-word pitch and the first 300 words of your manuscript. If you make it to the final round, your entry is posted on a blog where 12 pre-selected, reputable agents will take a look, and hopefully request more.

Here’s how it works:

In Round #1, entries that don’t meet the qualifications are removed.

In Round #2, there are 9 teams that then whittle it down to their top 5-8 submissions. At this point they may request additional pages.

In Round #3, they pick their final 4-5 and work with the authors to improve their manuscripts. Once this is completed, they go to the next round!

The Agent Round: Submissions are posted on a blog, where a number of preselected agents peruse and hopefully make requests for you to query.

Basically, this helps take your query from the slush pile to the “I want to know more” pile. Anybody who knows anything about the publishing industry knows that this can be a huge advantage.

I felt like I was pretty much done with Twitter pitches (I had participated in 2 others), as I felt that my novel was perhaps best represented in a traditional query letter (and p.s. I never win anything!!). But I figured, since my manuscript is now truly ready, the timing was right, so I entered.

And guess what? I have received requests for more material from two three different teams! Cross your fingers for me that Unspeakable makes it to the agent round.