Hi, So You Think You Can Write Participants!
2011 & 2012 SYTYCW winners Kat Cantrell and Jennifer Hayward are here to give you the skinny on the contest, their advice on writing, and hopefully answer some of your burning questions. Not only did SYTYCW launch both their careers, but it inspired a great friendship!
We’ve decided to have some fun and do a chat in Q&A format. So… let the fun begin!
How helpful was the conference itself and did it contribute to your success?
Jen: I thought the conference was amazing – to get all that sage advice from authors and editors… I took it all on board as I finished up The Divorce Party (which was only 70% done when I entered. Shush 😀 )
Kat: LOL! You were just practicing for when you had real deadlines, right?
Jen: Actually I was! I figured if I’m gonna do it I’d better be able to do it!
Kat: I thought the conference was amazing too! I especially liked the podcasts with editors because it really helped me know I was targeting the right line.
What about posting my chapter online—and eventually the whole manuscript? I’m very nervous about that! What if someone steals it or worse, criticizes it?
Jen: Ah! This is a good point! I had exactly that worry when I entered The Divorce Party into SYTYCW. I loved the unique concept and I was worried someone else might use it before I ever got published. But – life is all about taking chances. Sometimes you just have to go for it! And look what happened
Kat: My first chapters are posted online all the time now in the form of excerpts. No plots are original. Even if someone takes your idea, they’ll execute it differently. Your voice is what will sell the story!
Jen: Absolutely! Kat, if you and I wrote the same book we’d have completely different stories!
Kat: Yes, completely different stories and yours would be better.
Jen: And of course I would say YOURS would rock! I loved your debut – Marriage with Benefits! And everything else you’ve written since…
Kat: Also someone will criticize your work. Maybe not during SYTYCW, but what are revisions and reviews? Criticism. And sometimes it’s not nicely worded at all.
Jen: Not everyone is going to love your book, your voice. I found the feedback in both New Voices and SYTYCW empowering. Most people were amazing and I learned a ton about my writing. You did New Voices, too. Right, Kat? Was a top 10 finalist?
Kat: Yeah, I was a top 10 finalist and that’s an excellent point…that manuscript turned into two different full requests, both of which were ultimately rejected! It wasn’t until SYTYCW that things turned around for me. Never give up!
Isn’t the whole contest based on whether you can get votes or not? I’m not very savvy about promotion. Should I still enter?
Jen: YES! Honestly social media is a conversation – online. Get that twitter account up and running and just talk!
Kat: Once you have a book on the shelf, promotion is a critical part of your job. I’m still not great at it. I like to pretend sending “buy, buy, buy” vibes out into the world actually works.
Jen: My thought, also, was I was gunning for one of those editor wild card spots! I had no thoughts of winning.
Kat: YES–the wild card spots are an important point. Even if you don’t get votes, if your writing is strong and your voice is there, don’t worry. The editors will find you!
Okay, I’ve entered! But the waiting…it’s so awful! What can I do to get through it?
Kat: My local grocery store gives a six-bottle discount on wine. Maybe yours does, too? Kidding…
Jen: Divert yourself! Do your promo but make sure you also keep everything in perspective! It will get heart pounding the further you go.
Kat: Two really important things you can to do make waiting easier: Find some writer friends to commiserate with. No one understands waiting for The Call like other writers. Second, work on something new. Jen and I BOTH got two-book deals. You have to, you know, have other books to do a two-book deal. Make sure you do.
Jen: Right! Actually when I entered Kat became an amazing mentor to me! I remember her saying she was “paying it forward.” She was my lifeline
Kat: Awww, that’s so sweet. (She was amazing before I got ahold of her. Don’t tell, but I only said I’d read The Divorce Party because I HAD to know what happened!)
Jen: Big smile!
Kat: And we’re far past the point of mentoring now. We’re friends. That’s one of the greatest things about SYTYCW, meeting other authors. I can’t stress enough how important this is for you. For everyone who writes.
Kat: So don’t be scared off by the voting aspect!
What about those aspiring authors who won major contests and it led nowhere? Was your experience with SYTYCW different?
Jen: Well, I also know other great writers who won contests and DID make it big like the lovely Lynn Rae Harris and Sylvia Day! SYTYCW is so different. There is so much visibility for a writer. So many writers had requests for manuscripts after SYTYCW last year. And a bunch sold.
Kat: SYTYCW is different! We’ve got genuine careers with Harlequin. Other contests might only get you one book on the shelf, but I’ve signed contracts for eight books now. Jen, how many are you under contract for now? A bajillion I hope!
Jen: Six! Weeeee… And 8 for you! That’s amazing! I can’t say it enough!! Enter! You have nothing to lose.
Kat: Six…and many more to come, I’m sure.
Jen: I sure hope so! What say you then Kat? Should we open the floor to any questions? We’re more than happy to chat…
Kat: Sure! Ask us anything in the comments…except what we brainstorm while Jen is in the Lego store (love scenes). Some things are better left to the imagination.
We can’t wait to read your chapters! Good luck everyone and enjoy the ride!