How to Land your Ideal Literary Agent with Jeanne Covert

How to Land your Ideal Literary Agent with Jeanne Covert

How to Land your Ideal Literary Agent with Jeanne Covert

Jeanne Covert, a screenwriter and a member of the Writing Gym, came to us with a finished novel–a script that she novelized–after hearing conflicting information from different editors. 

Jeanne Covert

“A lot of the information they were giving me conflicted with a lot of things we do in film, especially when it came to the suspense and the pace. I was used to a very, very fast pace.”     

I took a brief look at her manuscript and, in her words, told her what exactly she was doing wrong and how to correct the situation. 

“And [coming to Annalisa] was the very best decision I’ve ever made. After working with [her], I saw what the editors were trying to tell me, but they didn’t know how to tell me because they didn’t understand screenwriting. But [Annalisa] did. It was eye opening the way she explained how elements in screenwriting translates over to the manuscript.” 

And [coming to Annalisa] was the very best decision I’ve ever made. 

 

Before the Writing Gym, Jeanne experienced a lot of frustration from the conflicting messages she received from different editors. But with the Writing Gym, she experiences a change. 

“Now I feel like I know what I’m doing. I feel like I understand the craft.” 

As a screenwriter, Jeanne worked more with the visuals. She enjoyed the pace, the action, and the internal development of her characters involved in films and writing for film. But at the Writing Gym, she also developed a love for writing novels.

“Now, I’m beginning to grow in love with the words, not just the visuals.” 

She’s also noticed an improvement in her screenwriting and marketing materials for a film. “No matter what kind of writing I’m doing, I can tell there’s been a huge increase in my skill.” 

As far as I can tell, this is a pretty good bang-for-your-back. Jeanne fell in love with writing and experienced a huge increase in skill and confidence. Besides these other accomplishments, we are celebrating two very exciting things for Jeanne. 

First, I just got off a meeting with her top-pick agent, who requested a script from her. 

“There was a manuscript request involved, which was extremely exciting to me because he is closed to queries at this point in time. So, even though he would be my top-pick agent, he’s not accepting unsolicited queries. It was off-limits until [Annalisa] was able to talk to him.”

Second, Jeanne received another manuscript request from a different agent–from a top agency, William Morris

“Because William Morris represents more media than just a novel writing,” Jeanne started, “I wanted them to represent me. I thought they would be a good fit for me. And it’s very exciting for me because you usually have to be recommended to that agency in order to get an agent to read your manuscript.” 

How does it feel to get two manuscript requests from two top agencies? 

“It is absolutely very, very exciting because as a scriptwriter and as a reader for a producer, I read a lot of scripts. I know what it’s like to be inundated with submissions. It’s exciting for me to have the scripts requested because that means it’s not just in that pile that piles up on their digital desk. I’m very excited that at the same time it’s like, is this really happening?”

It is exciting, indeed, and such a huge accomplishment. We asked Jeanne if she had any word of advice for the people at our Facebook group, Write to Publish

“There’s so much I’ve learned. But one of the things that I really value that we do in the Writing Gym is how we work on our mindset. What many people may not know is that I have a dissociative identity disorder. And so one of the things that I have been working on for years is rewiring my brain. The way that the Writing Gym is conducted and the way that Annalisa works with us helps with that. We are constantly doing things to rewire our brains so that we’re more creative.” 

“I’ve been doing all of these things for years, so it’s not like they were new to me, but all of a sudden I’m doing this with a group of people and we’re kind of all in the same place and we’re all supporting each other and we’re all doing these things. I was shooting light years ahead on my mind work. And I just, I can’t express how wonderful that is. ”

It is so great to hear that Jeanne found this kind of value in the work we do at the Writing Gym.

What she would say to anyone thinking of joining our Writing Gym?

“I would say join,” she stated. “A lot of people don’t realize it takes a lot of work and effort to be at the professional level.” And she’s right. Even people who have master’s degrees are not at the level where they can be professionally published. “You don’t necessarily have to have a degree, but you have to have the knowledge. And this is one of the things I really discovered with the Writing Gym.” 

“If I was going to spend the money getting my MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) or spend the money on the Writing Gym, there is no question that I’d put that MFA money into the Writing Gym. The MFA may or may not get you where you want to be. But the Writing Gym, the work we do in the Writing Gym, gets us to where we want to be.” 

“I’ve had other writing coaches in screenwriting and whatever, but [Annalisa] bats for us harder, stronger, more than any other writing coach I have ever worked with.”

Thank you Jeanne for your kind words and for celebrating with us. 

Until next time, happy writing. 

How to Finally Shed that Skin, and Write the Book

How to Finally Shed that Skin, and Write the Book

How to Finally Shed that Skin and Write the Book

 

 

On this episode of our Writing Gym Podcast, we have Manny Wolfe as our guest. Manny Wolfe is a personal branding consultant as well as a writer and here, he talks to us about his book, The Tao of the Unbreakable Man

Manny Wolfe

“It’s the thing that launched me into space,” Manny says about his book, “It was written from… a desperate need for catharsis. It’s a book about catharsis and it gave me catharsis at the same time. I wrote the book to once and for all perform an exorcism on the way that the judgment and the disapproval of my family affected my life. [I see my book as] the final piece of shedding the really, really unhealthy skin of my childhood.”

It’s a book about catharsis, and it gave me catharsis at the same time.

 

 

 

 

Naming a book is one of the things that writers struggle with, and Manny shares his titling journey, one that is rooted in very important experiences from his life. 

 

He took inspiration from the Chinese philosophical concept of the Tao (or Dao, 道). 

“Eastern philosophy has played a big part in framing the way I look at accountability, responsibility, dealing with challenges. All that stuff is very sort of important to me. And the reason I went with unbreakable was actually because of a rare moment where my mother and I were talking about some protracted struggle that I had been going through.” 

“And she just looked at me and said: I have no idea where you get that strength from. It was very uncommon for her to give direct complements. And it just stuck with me. ” 

Manny also wrote a paper in college in which he explores the idea of what it really means to be unbreakable, and these two moments met in his head.

“It was no question. I’m calling it the “Tao of the Unbreakable Man.” 

One of the interesting observations from where I sit, at Date with the Muse through the Writing Gym, is there’s always a moment of breakdown and a moment where healing happens.

At the Writing Gym, we help fiction and nonfiction authors alike, regardless of what genre they’re writing in. And it’s funny, because these moments of breakdown and healing happen to fiction and non-fiction writers alike. 

As a fiction writer, we asked Manny what his healing journey from writing was able to give him. 

“I do have a childhood and a young adult life that most people can’t wrap their heads around and so, if I’m being honest, I tell these stories to show off sometimes. But as I told these stories to my wife, she clearly and sincerely told me to write these experiences down. I didn’t know what to say. I tried to give her the excuse that I always planned to write a book, but I thought I’d wait until I was more successful. And she was flabbergasted.

She told me: “The fact that you’re alive and that you’re trying to be a good parent and that you’re trying to be a good man after what you went through is all the success you need to justify writing the story.”

He went home that night and started writing, “without trying to make [himself] look good, without trying to make the people [he’s had bad experiences with] look bad.” The whole thing was “therapeutic,” as Manny describes it, and he greatly credits his wife for grounding him. When it got to the point where he needed to end it, he was at a loss.

Yet, this was also the point in which his catharsis came in. “The whole book was really about my trying to fit in with my family and my guys and my dysfunction as a group.”

Being born in a cult, Manny stated that it affected how he created meaningful connections with others. He felt like he’ll never feel a connection outside of his own group that he grew up with. When he pulled away from them, little by little, the rift between him and them, as well as his identity was unavoidable. 

“I couldn’t stop writing until this is all out of me. It was physically hard and it was slow. But it felt like I pulled a cancer out of my mind. I felt all the injustice and the anger and the frustration and the sadness leave me. My whole life changed after writing that.” 

 

Now that his message is out in the world, we asked Manny what kinds of benefits he has experienced from this.

“Virtually all of the benefits were what you might call secondary or unexpected.” He admits that it feels great to say that his book is an international bestseller; it has an impact. To boil it down, he is happy about how many doors his book has opened up for him.

Manny has also shared what important lessons he got in the process of writing. “I realized that I was sort of processing the voices of all the authors I liked… Now, I literally have over 200 pages that I keep of false starts and I use those to remind me to just be my effing self. It was a real decluttering process to get to my own voice and to have courage. I’m writing for me. We hit the sweet spot in branding when we are our authentic selves.”

I’m writing for me.

Writing is one of the most intimate acts that we have because we’re sharing our soul with the world. It doesn’t matter if we’re writing fiction or not–at some point when we get into that piece of our soul, we become vulnerable. Manny then shared with us some insightful thoughts about writing as an art.

“I would argue that just telling the truth isn’t quite enough. Other people share great ideas, but it’s not always done in a way that makes me feel connected. A good writer, for me, has the ability to get their most important ideas out in a simple and engaging way.” 

Lastly, for aspiring writers, he advises them to grow their audience massively.

“And get to the point where you’re telling the truth. I’ll leave that vaguely so you can ponder that.” 

How to Finally Write that Book this Summer, Even if You Haven’t Written a Word

How to Finally Write that Book this Summer, Even if You Haven’t Written a Word

How to Finally Write that Book this Summer Even if You Haven’t Written a Word

 

In this summer of COVID, many of us may find ourselves with additional free time on our hands from fewer barbecues, farmers markets, or fairs. However, some would-be authors might overwhelmed by the size of a book-length project. 

How can you use this time to finally write your book? 

 

Here are some of my top tips from my writing coach archives: 

Write down your end goal. 

We’ve heard this one a million times. However,  if you don’t know what you want to accomplish, you’ll never get it done.

As Lewis Carroll famously wrote “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” 

 

Know what you want to accomplish. If you’re like most writers, when you start to untangle this “what I want” knot,  you’ll find it’s far more complicated than you first thought. 

For example, maybe your dream isn’t just a book, it’s a series, movie rights, and a worldwide book tour. Those are all great ideas, but one step at a time.

If you can hone in on the first step toward your dream, then you can break it down into actual action steps, moving it from nebulous dream to achievable goal. 

 

Choose a deadline

Choose a day you are going to have this project done. This step cannot be overlooked. 

While deadlines are a huge motivator, here’s a pro tip: Post your deadline out on social media.

Tell your friends, parents, and especially someone who intimidates you a little bit. Let these people hold you accountable and keep you motivated.

Once you set that deadline for yourself, you’re going to work backwards from that date to create your work plan. How much writing do you have to do each day to reach your goal, and how can you carve out the time to make it happen?

Remember that Creativity is Wonky.

Despite the best laid plans of mice and men (Thank you, Steinbeck and Burns) to write 5,000 words a day or a chapter an hour, creativity is not always a linear process. 

You may want to finish that chapter today, but your book and your brain have other ideas.

When our characters (or ideas) misbehave, they’re often right.

You may feel like you want the piece to take a certain shape or go in a certain direction. The brain is sending us a caution flag, though. When your creativity takes the lead, following it always bears fruit. I promise. 

Now, the piece you create today may not make the final cut for your book, but the information you garnered from the experience of following your creativity will always bring a benefit to the piece as a whole.

Find your best writer and be that writer 

All kinds of would-be mentors want to tell you that you have to do it one way in order to be a real writer. However, there are some rules, especially if you want to traditionally publish. 

That said, in the creative phase the most important consideration is finding your creative flow. 

Write with a pencil or a tablet, outdoors or in your bed, use an outline, or allow the natural flow of ideas. None of this fluff matters, but here’s what does:

 Find the place where you can be at your creative best to get that draft out of you. 

After all, you can’t publish until you have a book. And you can’t have a book until you get it done.

The biggest key to success I have seen in writers who finish and publish is that they find and embrace the writer they are, so they can write book after book with creative ease. 

Show up every day like it’s your job. 

My writing mentor, Julia Alvarez, wasn’t the first one to say it, but she was the first one to say it to me: Being a writer is 90% applying butt to chair. 

Write at the beach. Write in a hammock. Write on your lunch break. Whatever you do, make writing a habit, and you’ll see the results. 

You don’t get a dream body by going to the gym once, or even once a week. The same is true of writing a book. Show up. Do the work. Even when it stings. 

Remember that writing is art, and art takes time

Many writers get lost in the rabbit hole: Why is it taking me so long to finish my manuscript? This trap turns into self doubt. “I must not be a good writer.” “I’m never going to get it done.” Believe me, I’ve heard it all, and I’ve seen self-doubt and fear stymy project after project. 

What if you reframe this fear?  What if instead you say, “Writing is art and art takes time.” 

Consider the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo. It took four and a half years for him to complete that masterpiece, which–frankly, if you’ve seen the level of detail–you know it’s astonishing he completed it so quickly. 

What else?

The Washington Monument took thirty years to construct; thirty full years.

Let’s think about more writing-related references. 

It took Victor Hugo twelve years to write Les Miserables and Harper Lee spent two and a half years writing To Kill a Mockingbird.

Writing is art, and art takes time.  Completing your manuscript is not going to happen overnight, not because there’s something wrong with you, but because you are an artist.  Allow yourself to get into creative flow, and creativity will reward you with a cornucopia of ideas and finished pages.

Promise. I’ve watched it with my own eyes hundreds of times. 

Pace yourself. 

Working with the creative process and the brain’s natural function means you must be really honest with yourself about how much you can get done. It’s very admirable and ambitious if you say you’re going to get everything done today, but you also might be setting yourself up for failure. When you set yourself up for failure, you’ll feel yucky about yourself. You don’t want to come back to the project feeling like you failed. So, make reasonable goals for yourself and pace your project in a reasonable way.

 

If you’re ready to take the next step and follow these steps above, give us a call or book an appointment.

Annalisa Parent is a writing coach who has helped hundreds of authors to finish and publish well. She used neuroscientific principles to guide the writing process through her programs in the Writing Gym. To find out more, and to download her free e-book The Six Steps to Go from Struggling Writer to Published Author, visit www.datewiththemuse.com. 

Never Give Up on Your Writing

Never Give Up on Your Writing

Never Give Up on Your Writing

 

Today, I am ready to feature Barbara Pattee, who has an amazing message about never giving up. Barbara is writing a romance novel, but one that dabbles a little in crime.

“I like romance that is a little more than ‘boy meets girl,’ or ‘girl meets boy,’ where everything ends happily ever after,” Barbara said.

Barbara joined the Writing Gym after years of writing on her own. For as long as she can remember, she felt compelled to express herself through her writing.

“I’ve always been a writer,” she said. “I used to write in secret, because it wasn’t considered an important career. I even learned how to do shorthand.”

Her writing has taken many forms over the years. She has done short stories, poetry, and memoir pieces–including one she put together from stories her father told her when he had fallen ill.

“He started talking about his childhood, I started writing notes, and I wrote a memoir based on what he said,” Barbara said. “I read it to him, and he loved it.”

 

As much as Barbara enjoyed writing, there was something about it that left her unfulfilled.

“I wasn’t happy,” she said. “I knew that I wanted more. I’ve wanted to write something full-length.”

Barbara knew she wanted to write a novel. However, when she sought feedback–professional writers, writing groups, etc.–she encountered a lot of resistance.

Yet Barbara wouldn’t allow this to deter her from her dream.

“I said I would never give up,” she said. “And I didn’t.”

Like many writers, Barbara has her share of horror stories about what can happen when you look for feedback in the wrong places. One professor, a professional writer herself, read one of Barbara’s stories and drowned her in a torrent of negative criticism.

“She hated it,” Barbara said. “But classmates came to me, some in tears, saying they loved what I wrote. So I was getting a mixed messages.”

The feedback wasn’t helping at all; if anything, it hurt. Then, at a writers’ conference, Barbara saw Storytelling for Pantsers. She felt as if the book had been written just for her.

“I started reading it, and I thought, ‘She’s talking to me. She’s saying what I’m feeling,'” Barbara said.

“I have dozens and dozens of books (about writing) that did not move me. But Storytelling for Pantsers spoke to me.”

The book spoke to Barbara’s aversion to outlining her stories. Finally, she had confirmation of what she believed:

She didn’t need an outline to write a good story.

“I’m a pantser,” she said. “I can’t do outlines. I had to do it in school and I hated it from the beginning.”

Reading the book inspired Barbara to get on a call with me.

“The call was very encouraging,” she said. “I liked that you don’t tell us we have to do something. What you do is you make suggestions, give us ideas, and ask us questions to answer.”

I invited Barbara to join the Writing Gym, and she accepted. Since then, we have been working together on her novel. Barbara enjoys the information and encouragement she get from the video modules on the Writing Gym website. She also loves the Salons, in which writers get together, write for 20 minutes based on a prompt, and share their writing with each other.

“There’s no negativity in Salon,” Barbara said. “And you also get feedback on what other writers hear in your story. Some things you may not think are that important wind up being extremely important and that encourages me as a writer.”

During one of the early Salons, Barbara wrote a piece that involved slavery, similar to the one her college professor had treated with disdain. As she shared it with the other writers, she braced herself for another barrage of negative feedback.

“I thought, ‘Am I going to get slammed again?’” Barbara remembers. “But I wasn’t. I was encouraged, and that was beautiful.”

Barbara said she has grown a great deal as a writer since joining the Gym.

Barbara’s writing is thriving. She credits her encouragement from me, and from her fellow “Gym Rats,” for helping her summon the courage to be vulnerable in her storytelling.

I have added a lot more emotion in my stories, which, as a child growing up I was taught that I had to hold back. But, as a writer, I have to look inside myself, think about what I am feeling.

In the Writing Gym, we talk a lot about the inner critic.

Listening to your inner critic can hold you back in your writing, and you have to learn to silence it in order to maximize your storytelling potential.

Barbara has wrestled with her inner critic for years. But now, she’s winning!

“My inner critic is upset, because she doesn’t have much to say now,” she said. “I’m smiling a lot more. Even my husband has noticed that.”

Barbara has been an amazing advocate of the Writing Gym; she recommends it to whoever will listen.

“I tell them about what it’s like being in the Writing Gym, and I’ve tried to encourage them to join,” she said. “I’m hoping that they will join even before my book is published. But after it’s published, I know they’re going to want to join.”

Barbara realizes that the Writing Gym isn’t for everyone. She knows it’s not a place for hobbyists.

“I think it’s really about deciding how serious you are,” she said about joining the Gym. “How much do you want to be a writer? Is it a hobby, or is it something you want as a career?”

Barbara has made her choice; she wants a writing career, and she’s willing to put in the work to get there. The more progress she makes, the more resolute she becomes.

“I will not give up. I’m going to continue.”

Thank you so much, Barbara! We love having you in the Writing Gym!

If you’re serious about your writing career, we’d love to chat with you. 

 

Writing during a time of International Crisis

Writing during a time of International Crisis

Writing during a Time of International Crisis

As you obviously know, we are currently dealing with an international health crisis. People have a variety of feelings about it. Denial, stress, anger, fear, and panic–all of the natural things humans feel when they are faced with a crisis. 

However, over here in the Writing Gym, we are all about being real and having real solutions.  

I’ve been working with writers for a long time, and one of the most popular statements I hear from writers all over the world is this: “I wish I had the time to write.”

Here’s a new spin: you have been given the gift of time. What writers have always been wishing for is here. So use this time that you have been given to write.

But how? 

Perhaps you can find 15 minutes in the morning or after the kids go to bed just to jot down some of your ideas. Think about it. 15 minutes? You could probably write at least 2 pages. If this goes on for a couple of weeks, you’re gonna have several chapters done by the time we are out of our homes, embracing one another and socializing in person once again. 

So, please use this time wisely. It’s a real gift to write. 

I’d like to give you a tip I usually save just for the Writing Gym members. 

When you’re in moment of strong emotions, like fear, anxiety, anger, write it down. Write exactly what you’re feeling. Write it all down and then save that. Save it in a notebook, in a file on your computer. Title it “uncertainty” or “fear” or whatever emotion you were feeling while you were writing. You’re creating for yourself a bank that you can go back to. 

Maybe 5 years from now, you’ve got a character who’s feeling really uncertain but you’re not sure how to convey this emotional authenticity into your piece. Well, you’ve created a bank for yourself where you can access a distant memory of that emotion. 

Here’s the thing. At the Writing Gym, we always want to reframe things positively. Let me reiterate.

You’ve been given the time to write and you’ve been given the gift of emotional authenticity to really add to your writing. 

Take care. Happy writing. 

Imagine Writing and Loving Every Minute of It

Imagine Writing and Loving Every Minute of It

Imagine Writing and Loving Every Minute of It 

 

There are many writers who get into a deep valley of writer’s block. They put aside their writing and never pick it up again.

We don’t want that to happen.

I am here with Lauren Barker, who will share with us her journey as a writer in the Writing Gym

Before the Writing Gym, Lauren stated she had a hard time finishing a book that she had been working on for many years.

“I was really getting frustrated about not finishing it and not getting it where I wanted it to be. Every time I get momentum, I waste so much time nitpicking and worrying myself to death around how to get my elbow to my nose and so on and so forth.” 

As much as writing makes her happy, Lauren was scared of the idea of sitting down and not knowing what to write–like “walking down a dark hallway without a flashlight” as Lauren described.

For many years, she wasted time and money on different writing programs and articles online telling her how to write. 

“I’m not gonna say that I didn’t get anything out of all of those things. It’s just that none of them did for me what has happened for me in the Writing Gym. It has totally revolutionized my writing. It is, by far, the most productive and helpful writing resource I have ever used.”

At the Writing Gym, two of the many things we offer are one-on-one meetings and writing salons. During one-on-one meetings, Lauren was able to get into the right mindset before writing. She worked with our personal trainer, Gretchen, on weekly modules that build up over one another. This helps writers progress. 

Writing salons are Lauren’s favorite thing to do. During these meetings, writers from the Writing Gym get together for about an hour, and write for only 20 minutes. 

“20 minutes sound extremely tiny,” Lauren exclaimed, “but it is so that our inner critic does not get in the way of our writing.” 

After the 20 minutes are up, we immediately give the writers positive feedback. With these, writers can hone their strengths instead of beating themselves over the head with what was negative or what could be improved.

Salon is also a great way to make positive relationships with other writers. Indeed, we boast a strong writing community. 

“Being at the Writing Gym has been really helpful for me,” she continued, “because I can work with other writers who are further down the line than I currently am. I am able to see what’s working for them in their writing, and I also become encouraged as I see their successes. I keep thinking that if they can do it, so can I. And these writers are all really sweet people.” 

At the Writing Gym, we are very welcoming of the kind of writer you are.

 

Lauren first came to the Writing Gym as an outliner. Now, she thinks that she can both be an outlier and a pantser: “Being both has always been seen as a good thing and it’s always been a gentle encouragement at every step.”

Our personal philosophy at the Writing Gym is: to find your best writer. 

Lauren’s last words to you writers who may be falling out of love with your writing: “Number one, talk to Annalisa because she has done wonders for me. Number two, don’t give up. You love writing because you love writing. Don’t let all of the bad feedback and conflicting advice and the scary things take that away from you.”

We love having Lauren at the Writing Gym. We hope to see you there too. 

To find out where you are, where you’d like to go, and how you can get there, put yourself on my calendar

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