Brighton Walsh, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author

Writing Tips & Tricks Catch-all

Now that this is my third year mentoring for #PitchWars, it’s getting a little difficult to gather up all past info I’ve shared. I figured it was a good idea to put it all in one place, as much for me as for any writers out there who are interested. While some posts are specific to Pitch Wars (and marked as such), most are relevant to all writers on their publishing journeys.

I’ll continue to keep this updated with any new tips and tricks I post, any blog posts that are relevant, etc, so feel free to check back regularly. And, as always, I’m available to answer questions on Twitter. (Please remember the underscore when tweeting me. The non-underscore WriteAsRain doesn’t like to be bothered, to put it mildly. LOL)

Garbage/Distancing words
Beat Sheets
Formatting your MS
First chapter do’s and don’ts
Showing vs Telling

Yes, You Need One (Pitch Wars specific)

Critique Straight Talk
Find a CP
It’s Okay to Say No
The Power of Perseverance
Are You Ready (Pitch Wars specific)

Miscellaneous Writerly Things:
Ten Things I Wish I Knew
Finding the Perfect Agent (for you)
The Road to Publication: Twitter Question Style
Do You Really Know Your Characters?
Every Step is Worth Celebrating
So You Feel Like a Fraud, Huh?



Assignment #2: Find a New Critique Partner

If you completed the first assignment, you might have uncovered some issues in your MS. If you didn’t, one of two things have happened: A) you already have a good handle on pacing and know how to work it in your own stuff. Yay! Or B) what you think are your beats aren’t actually your beats, which means something isn’t going to add up for your readers.

So how do you find out if you’re A or B? Enlist new CPs (Critique Partners). The second assignment I gave my mentees was to swap work. Why? Several reasons. First and foremost, it builds relationships. My CP and beta readers are my rocks and people I absolutely could not do this journey without. Finding those people and nurturing the relationships are good for this career. Besides that, the more you read and the more you help others with their books, the easier you’ll be able to see those same errors in your own and fix accordingly.

How do you find CPs? Well, right now is a perfect time to throw it out on the Pitch Wars hashtag. I’d also like to propose you use #PWCPSeek. Hop over to the hashtag, post your category, genre, and hook, and see who would be a good fit. I suggest you swap with at least two people. Three is even better. Having multiple opinions help you see if it’s a subjective opinion (1 person comments), something to seriously consider (2 people comment) or something you really need to work on (3 or more comment).

Next up? Should you take that feedback or not? How to decide what to take and what to leave from the comments your new CPs give you. This will be up sometime next week to give you guys time to do your homework!


Your First Assignment: Beat Sheets

As I mentioned on Twitter, my lovely Pitch Wars mentees this year, Lisa and Suz, gave me the thumbs up to share with you some of their homework assignments. That way, those of you who didn’t get picked can whip your MS into shape as best as you can. (Please note, this doesn’t negate the necessity of CPs and/or beta readers!)

I’m going to post the homework assignments here on the blog, in separate posts, as well as tweet about them. Some will be super short, so don’t expect a novel every time you come here. These will be posted after my mentees have been given them, and will be done when I have a spare minute to do so.

Your first mission, should you choose to accept it: Beat Sheets.

I know not everyone likes them. I also know some people are plotters and some are pantsers, and those who are the latter get terrified at anything like this. And that’s totally okay. However, it means nothing to me in this stage.

You’ve already written the book in whatever fashion you preferred, whether you used a beat sheet or the snowflake method or a cocktail napkin. Regardless, now it’s time to see if that actually worked for you. Enter the beat sheet.

A very common problem in manuscripts is pacing. Every story needs to follow an arc. I am going to be only talking about romance novels, because that’s what I write and that’s what I mentor. If you write something else, google beat sheet. I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding one for your specific genre and category. For all you romance junkies, here’s the one I like to use from Jami Gold.

The reason I want my mentees to do this is so they can see in black and white where issues might be. Once you fill this out, adjusting it for your book specifications, you’ll be able to see if there’s an issue within your book. Your points (or beats) should fall within a 10-15 page range, I’d say. And if they don’t? There better be a damn good reason for it. I’m always a fan of breaking away from rules when warranted, but this is not one of those rules. 99% of romances follow these beats for a reason–it builds the right amount of tension for the characters and the readers. Of course, there are always exceptions to some of these beats (first kiss and first intimate encounter, specifically), but never on the conflict, black moment, and resolution. Or at least I have not read a successful example of it.

Another very simplified way to look at beats is: 25% for first kiss, 50% for first intimate encounter (I’m being so proper for you guys…), 75% for the beginning of the end, 90% for the black moment/all is lost, and then the resolution.

Once you’ve got those filled out based on your MS, you’ll be able to see what, if anything, needs changing and can adjust your MS accordingly. Let me know in the comments or on twitter if you accepted the challenge and what you learned!

Up tomorrow: I don’t know. Come back to find out.


Are You Ready?

updated for 2017

The time is ticking down until the PitchWars submission window opens, and nerves are abundant! You’re probably wondering if you’re ready, if you made the right mentor picks, if your MS is good enough, if you’re good enough, plus about a thousand other worries our neurotic brains come up with every minute of the day.

Hopefully this will be a catch all post–a checklist, if you will–to make sure you’re ready.

The list

1. Breathe. You wrote a book! That deserves its own celebration, and you should do so. You’ve done something 90% of the world only talks about. So hooray for being awesome!

2. Do your homework. Did you hop to all 120+ of those mentor blogs? Double check and make sure you didn’t accidentally skip one. I know it’s time-consuming and a lot of work. Welcome to publishing.

3. Polish that query and first chapter, but don’t forget about your entire MS. Any one of the mentors could ask for a partial (three chapters or 50 pages or some other variation) or a full. At any time after you submit. If last year’s numbers are anything to go by, we’re going to have a lot of subs to go through. Don’t make us wait to read. Be ready.

4. Follow the #PitchWars feed on Twitter. There is a plethora of helpful info as you get ready–and even stuff to take with you beyond PitchWars. Everything from writing a query to putting together a synopsis to getting rid of crutch words, plus dozens of others. This seems like a good place to mention that just because a mentor doesn’t take your category or genre, that doesn’t mean they don’t have nuggets of wisdom to share. We’re a helpful bunch, so venture outside your category and genre and make some new friends (and possibly future cheerleaders for your work).

5. Get your submission ready. When the window opens, there’s going to be a form on Brenda’s site. You’ll need to fill out your name, title, category, genre, word count, and twitter handle, and upload your query as well as your first chapter. Query should (ideally) be 250-350 words. First chapters vary widely in length. Brenda has also said that you may include your 3 page or less prologue with your first chapter. Chapters should be a Word doc in standard manuscript format.

6. Take your time. I can’t stress this enough. Whether you’re submission #1 or #100, you will get the same attention and consideration. Getting your entry in early does not improve your chances at all. Make sure you’re ready before you hit send, because once that baby’s gone, you can’t take it back.

7. Wait with bated breath, constantly refreshing your e-mail. Or maybe not. Just me while on submission? Okay then.

Some things to ease your mind

I can only speak for myself, so this only applies if you’re submitting to me (so submit to me!), though many other mentors have echoed the sentiments. If you’re unsure, double check their twitter feeds and/or bios!

  • I will read all pages, regardless of your query. If it’s a hot mess, I’m still going to read your chapter. Now, if it’s a hot mess because there are loads of spelling and grammar errors, that’s a whole other issue entirely. But if it’s a hot mess in that it doesn’t tell me what it needs to, the stakes are unclear, it reads like a synopsis instead of a query, or it meanders, I’m still reading your pages. I’m here to mentor someone, and that includes help with a query.
  • I will be asking for a synopsis if I feel like your MS is a good fit for me, and I’m interested in it. I don’t care if it’s super voicey or is as bland as a history textbook. I don’t care how short or how long it is (but please don’t send me ten pages), as long as it gives the entire story. Yes, that includes any twists, turns, or spoilers. A synopsis is like a cheat sheet for your MS. A query is like the back blurb on a book. One makes us want to read more (query!). One allows us to see if your book jumped the shark (synopsis!).
  • I am not looking for perfection. In fact, I don’t want it. If you submit a perfect MS to me, I will read it (just for fun) and love it…and send you on your merry way. If I don’t feel I can help you in any way, I will tell you and encourage you to begin your agent hunt now.
  • We share behind the scenes! This one doesn’t apply to only me, so feel confident that if you submit to 4/6 awesome mentors who don’t feel a connection with your story but think it would be a good fit for someone else, we will share it. My alternate from 2014 and one mentee from 2015 did not submit to me. When this happens, a mentor will contact you and make sure you’d be open to working with them before requesting additional pages (should they so desire). If you don’t feel like you’d be a good fit, don’t be afraid to say so.
  • I don’t auto-follow anyone back (ever, but especially during PitchWars to avoid hurt feelings). If I haven’t followed you back, that doesn’t mean anything! I won’t be following back until after the announcement has been made, and then only to those who’ve been engaging (and nice, but that goes without saying).
  • Having a mentee bio will not increase your likelihood of becoming my mentee. If you’re too busy polishing your MS/query/synopsis to do one? Okay. If you don’t like talking about yourself and would rather not? Okay. If you’re an introvert and the thought of putting yourself out there that much is more terrifying than sending your book baby into the world? Okay. I’ve never read any bios before I selected my mentees. I stealthily twitter-stalked. The mentee bios are one-hundred percent voluntary.

In case you’ve somehow missed it (or you’ve read this post and thought, damn…she’s super cool. I totes need to submit to her.), my wishlist can be found here. The gist: I want all your NA/Adult romances if they’re contemporary, paranormal, or suspense. I want swoony boys and strong girls. I want sex and lots of it. And please, for the love of Ryan Gosling, will someone send me a pierced hero?

I know I’ve managed to forget something, so I’m sure I’ll be back with some edits, but until then…any questions or concerns? Pop over to twitter or leave a comment.