Posts Tagged ‘Campfire Series’

S’more to Learn

Monday, May 15th, 2017

There’s no better feeling than typing the words “The End” on the last page of your first completed manuscript! But, after the elation wears off other feelings begin to crop up.

I remember feeling accomplished but also overwhelmed and a little sad. Most of all I was confused.

Like so many writers I had dozens of half completed projects. Ideas that translated to a couple of chapters but for one reason or another, I didn’t see through to the end. So, when I completed One S’more Summer I wasn’t really sure what to do with it. I passed it around to some friends who shared feedback but mostly were just proud of my efforts. I showed it to family who sang its praises (which, of course they would) but didn’t have many critiques. What I was looking for was more constructive feedback and sound advice.

Living in New York City, I figured there were probably some workshops or writing groups I could join. I began Googling and ended up on a website for authors looking to get their works published. I read through posts and noticed a lot of writers talking about “Pitch Conferences” where an aspiring author could learn how to write a query letter (essentially an elevator pitch of the book) and would then be given the opportunity to share that pitch with different agents and publishers for critiques. It sounded perfect!

I did some research and found a respected conference taking place in New York a few months later. I signed up and began working on my pitch. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the experience, but it turned out to be exactly what One S’more Summer and I needed to get to the next level.

For two days, I worked with other aspiring authors to perfect my query letter. We collaborated to find comparable titles in the marketplace and the right tone for my pitch. It was the first time since college I’d sat around with other writers talking about the mechanics of writing and the first time I’d ever gotten a chance to talk to more experienced authors about their experiences in publishing.

On the third day, I presented my query letter to three agents and two editors from publishing houses. I got four requests for my full manuscript (letting me know for certain the book idea was both enticing and marketable, which was exciting), however, in the end, all four rejected the book. Although I was disappointed at the time, looking back they were 100% right to turn the book down. It needed a lot of work! The good thing was that all four provided me with great and consistent feedback I was able to apply to my second and third drafts. And by the time I submitted One S’more Summer for real (three years later), it was a very different version!

Putting my story out there for critique was scary, but it was absolutely the best decision I made. My pitch group stayed in touch long after the conference ended, emailing each other status updates on our books and progress. Every time one of them emailed that they got a publishing contract or signed with an agent it propelled me to work harder.

As a writer sometimes it’s hard to have perspective on your own work. so I would recommend joining a writing group or taking a class–doing anything that forces you to reexamine your work and make it better. Attending a pitch conference gave me the confidence to know I had a story idea worth championing (which was great), but more importantly, it taught me that simply typing the words “The End” didn’t mean my book was anywhere near complete.

S'more to Learn - The Writing Journey of Beth Merlin, author of One S'more Summer (The Campfire Series, Book One) | inkmonster.net

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Something S’more About Beth Merlin!

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

And yes, all my blog posts are going to include the word S’more while I am writing this series 🙂

I’ll be the first to admit… I chose the road more traveled. Even though I wanted to pursue an MFA, I went the perceived safer route and got my JD. I took the NY Bar exam, practiced law for a bit, and somewhere along the way realized I was completely miserable. I remember coming home after a particularly brutal day at work and telling my husband I wanted a do-over of the last couple of years. I regretted my decision to not follow my passion for writing, and felt that pipe dream would now be forever out of my reach. I wanted something more.

My husband turned to me and said, “Do you need an MFA to be a writer, is that a prerequisite?” I shook my head no and told him I didn’t think it was. He then calmly asked me what I did need. I thought about it for a moment and answered, “Just a laptop and an idea.” He pointed to our kitchen table and said, “There’s the laptop. As for the idea, I have a feeling you have a couple you’ve been mulling over.”

About Beth Merlin, Author of One S'more Summer (The Campfire Series, Book One) | Ink Monster
 

He was right–I had one idea for a book I kept coming back to. I’d even written the first chapter of it on some scraps of paper while riding the New York City subway home. I kept imagining a story about a girl in her twenties who decided to run away from the problems in her life to her childhood sleepaway camp.

Growing up, I loved all the summers I spent at camp. There’s just something about sharing a cabin–creating a home for the summer with friends–that forms a completely unique bond. We weren’t just cabinmates, but a support system, a team, sometimes group talk therapy, and even a sisterhood. I kept imagining what it would be like to go back as an adult to try to recapture some of those same feelings. From those musings came the rest of the ideas for One S’more Summer.

It took me another ten years to finish the book on that same laptop my husband had pointed to on the kitchen table that day. Real life came calling and I did eventually find a career that made me happy, but I never stopped writing. At night, early in the mornings, on the subway–really every little amount of time I could scrap together–I worked on the manuscript. I wasn’t sure if anything would come of it but I kept forging ahead.

In just three weeks, One S’more Summer is getting released followed by Book 2 and 3 of the Campfire Series. In my wildest dreams, I never could have imagined I would be the author of not just one but three novels. I think the greatest lesson I’ve learned is that calling yourself a “writer” isn’t about million dollar publishing contracts or throwing that particular title on your business card, it’s simply about wanting to write and the willingness to keep perfecting your craft.

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