Why I Wrote My Book: A PitchWars Mentee Blog Hop

Many of the Pitch Wars mentees and alternates organized a fun blog hop for us all to kick off the agent round with a big bang, and I’m honored to get to participate. Not only should you read my post below, but feel free to hop around to the other amazingly talented writers being featured this week. Links below!

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The topic is an interesting one. Why did I write THE TRUTH ABOUT TWO-SHOES? I feel like there’s so many layers to this that I could either make it light hearted or super heavy. But the truth is– just like my book– the answer isn’t just one or the other. It’s a crazy mix of both.

I had the idea for THE TRUTH ABOUT TWO-SHOES a couple years back, and its working title was something completely different (however, it was so bad, I won’t even share it lol). But overall the general concept on a shallow level had been on my mind for awhile. Even in 2007, I wrote a short monologue called “Baby, Baby” that was featured in a showcase called “Words of Choice” in New York. It was about an inner city teen whose abusive boyfriend left her after she was pregnant. Even though she was abandoned and even though she didn’t choose the situation, she couldn’t bring herself to abandon the baby.

A lot of that is in THE TRUTH ABOUT TWO-SHOES except I flipped the story on it’s head, made it about a a Mississippi pastor’s daughter whose perfect Christian boyfriend left her because she’s pregnant, and made it actually…well…funny.

So this idea had been bouncing around for awhile, and midway through this past year while I was working with my lovely editor friend, Katelyn Stark, on my YA light Sci Fi, THE CURED, I decided I needed a break. My editor at one point said, “Not going to lie. In a couple of places, your male MC has the voice of a teenage girl.”

Obviously I had a teenage girl voice inside me fighting to get out–which I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised considering I was one at one point (Also, fun fact: my MG novel was critiqued by an author in a contest and she too said, “Hmm..your 12-year-old MC sounds more like she’s 16. It was fate, I tell you!). My Pitch Wars mentor Rachel even said she couldn’t believe I had written sci fi before because I had a strong voice for contemporary. So, it was time to take a breather from that story and start a new one. Basically, I had learned so much through the revision process for THE CURED paired with the other books I had recently written and thought, “Hey! Why not start a book with all my new knowledge!”

What happened to come from what I thought would be a month-long break was actually a whirlwind love affair with this book now entered in Pitch Wars. I didn’t even sit down thinking, “Yup. Finally going to write that book about that girl from that monologue.” It just sorta, well, happened. And then to my surprise– it came out pretty funny. I had so much fun writing the cast of characters and was beyond humbled when some betas compared it to FREAKS AND GEEKS. 

But when it came to the MC’s story arc, a lot of what I was exploring had to do with a conversation I had with friends over a particular topic (which, unfortunately, I can’t explain here in great detail because I would like some mystery to be surrounding the book for those who intend to read it). In that conversation, we all explained how we would handle it if it happened to us. I’m a pretty open, transparent person. I don’t really believe in secrets. I’d rather people see me and know what they get than to have to guess and wonder.

But that got me thinking, especially after hearing other friends express their personal takes on if they had to encounter such a situation. I wanted to explore a character who was the complete opposite of me. Someone who would rather die than people know the truth, someone who values her privacy above all else, and someone who doesn’t care that people have the wrong idea of her.

And that’s how my MC Ellie was born. It was more of a fun, soul-searching exercise drenched in empathy to explore a different type of person. But then, it turned into a whole lot more. Over the past couple of months, I’ve really channeled a lot of personal frustrations regarding certain things that I won’t go into too much detail about here. The book took on layer upon layer of different issues–often in a comical way–and came out with something I thought was reminiscent about how life as a whole really is.

It’s not all happy.  It’s not all sad. And sometimes, what seems like the big issue isn’t really the main issue at all.

Why did I write THE TRUTH ABOUT TWO-SHOES? The story wanted to be told. The subject needed to be explored in a new, fresh way. And I honestly couldn’t NOT write it. It just sorta happened. And I’m glad it did.

I love making people laugh and cry, but above all else, I just love writing. I hope people enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Now if you were to ask me why I’m writing my next book, THE LIFE AND DEATH AND LIFE OF CRAIG-- well, that’s an entirely different story involving my neighbor who asked for me to write his semi-fictionalized autobiography. I accidentally started an entirely fictionalized YA thriller about doomsday prepping foster kids on the run from drug lords, but that’s sorta the same thing, right? Stay tuned!

NaNoWriMo is COMING!

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Whoa…whoa..whoa. I know. You’re probably thinking, “NaNoWriMo? What about Pitch Wars?” Don’t worry. I’m definitely very much still involved in Pitch Wars (read about it here), and actually my entry was finalized last night! I’m in the home stretch of making “final” tweaks (well, final before I acquire my future agent who may have some of his or her own suggestions). But, of COURSE I’m still doing NaNoWriMo for the month of November.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with NaNoWriMo, it’s a fun exercise with the online writing community where thousands of people worldwide write 50,000 words in a month. I wrote my first novel, TALES OF THE LANDLOCKED, this way to prove to myself I could do it. Up until that point, I had only written plays, short stories, and journalistic articles because I didn’t think I had the attention span for book writing. Boy, was I wrong! That first NaNoWriMo I realized I write FAST. Like Super Fast.

In fact, I haven’t been able to stop writing books. Since November 2012, I have written four complete novels and intensively revised one and half (the “one” being THE TRUTH ABOUT TWO-SHOES coming up in Pitch Wars). Last NaNoWriMo, I actually knocked out my 50,000 words in a week (That resulted in THE CURED, which is halfway through revisions, but I took a break to write my current book).

Will I write that fast this year? Probably not. It’s true, I do need a break after the intense revisions for Pitch Wars the past two months, but I am dying to write a new book (which I’m teetering between two concepts, though knowing me, I may write them both simultaneously). So, I’ll probably set manageable goals for myself and not worry about it. It’ll just be nice to connect with other writers again and let the creativity fly to distract myself from all the awesome agenting stuff going on as a result of Pitch Wars and querying that will *hopefully* happen next week (EEEEEEK!).

Are you doing NaNoWriMo or considering it? Let me know! I’d love to connect with you and feel free to friend me on the official site. My username is NikkiRobertiMiller.

Happy writing!

A Pumpkin Pie-Pocolypse

It was one of those days. I had been working on my novel revisions for probably 12 hours straight on a Saturday with the only scheduled break being dinner with out of town friends. It wasn’t until we were on the way to the restaurant that I realized how hungry I was. But what I really wanted was…pumpkin pie.

A strange craving, yes. Then again, it is the start of Fall, and over here, it’s already cold with changing leaves. And as a result, the idea of that seasonal pumpkin pie clung to my thoughts in a way I couldn’t shake.

We had a nice long dinner with our friends, and at the end, Hubs was like, “Didn’t you say you wanted pumpkin pie? There’s a store right there! Let’s get you some. You’ve earned it.”

So we entered…not realizing it would lead to the most ridiculously doomed night of all time.

Hubs rushed in, picked up a pie and took it to self check out– only to realize it was really a sweet potato pie. Yeah…no. NOT the same thing. So I rushed back as he waited by the register only to find out that under the pumpkin pie sign was nothing but a pile of lies— a big stack of sweet potato impostor lies.

So I ran to inform him of this travesty but assured him that I’d just grab a frozen one instead. Easy solution…right?

WRONG.

There I stood, like a hopeful fool in the freezer section, staring at a pumpkin pie-less zone. They even had blackberry pie. WHO EATS BLACKBERRY PIE IN THE FALL? WHAT HAS THIS WORLD COME TO?

So in one last fit in defiant rage, I figured I should just bake one. Hubs had suggested that right before we decided to slip into the store for our “quick” errand. So I grabbed some frozen pie crusts and ran to the baking aisle but alas…

THERE WASN’T EVEN CANS OF PUMPKIN PUREE OR PUMPKIN PIE FILLING?!?!?!?!Picture 167

Had all the pumpkins in town been raptured? Was this literally a pumpkin-pocolypse and there wasn’t any pumpkin left in the world? Maybe it wasn’t October, but really a chilly June and we jumped the gun? Not, it was definitely October. Were we even in a store? Or was this some kind of demented nightmare maze of grocery nonsense?

I think we both know the answer to that one.

“No worries,” I think to myself. “I do have some cans of pumpkin stowed away in my pantry. I’ll just buy eggs.” So I RUN to the egg aisle while googling a pumpkin pie recipe on my phone…nearly getting mowed over by a stock boy pushing a gigantic rolly cart of boxes…

Did I mention it was 11 p.m. at this point?

And by the time I get to the egg aisle– don’t worry. There were eggs. But the recipe finally popped up on my phone revealing I had every ingredient except evaporated milk.

BACK TO THE BAKING AISLE!
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Are you exhausted with this annoying story yet? Because I surely was.

By the time I make it back to the Hubs at self check out, he is shouting in his usual quiet way, “WHAT?! WHAT HAPPENED! I THOUGHT YOU DIED OR RAN OFF WITH THE PUMPKIN PIE TO HAVE IT ALL FOR YOURSELF.”

“No, honey. My soul just died a little. There is literally no pumpkins in the store– AT ALL. RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!”

And our $5 pie quick errand turned into like a $20, 30 minute one.

Oh, but it gets worse. We get in the car, exhausted, and I glanced down at my phone. I still remember the horrifying words that flashed across the dull glow of my iPhone screen. It said: Total Prep/Cooking Time: 1.5 hours.

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So long story still long– we swung by Food Lion on the way home and found a $4 pumpkin pie, bought whipped cream and ate pie the way pie was intended to be eaten– PRE-FREAKING-MADE.

And boy was it tasty. But as you can tell by the picture below…it may take the Hubs a little more time to recover from this traumatic experience.

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“Meet My Character” Blog Hop

Well, I’ve been tagged in another author-y blog hop! I’ve been tagged by the lovely Kathleen S. Allen for the “Writerly Meme” which is all about my main character from my latest novel. Surprisingly,  the TRUTH ABOUT TWO-SHOES isn’t my latest novel (that’s right! Already have another in the works). But because Pitch Wars is approaching and because my TWO-SHOES main character Ellie deserves her day in the sun, I figured I’d go out on a whim and feature her.
1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person? Ellie McSatterfield is 16-years-old and completely fictional.
2) When is the story set? Because this is a contemporary young adult fiction, it is set in current times. And just for fun and Southern flare, it’s set in Eden, Mississippi.
3) What should we know about him/her? When you meet Ellie in my book, you find out she’s six months pregnant, super quiet about it, and begrudgingly the daughter of a well-known pastor. She also used to be a super talented color guard flag person with her former best friend Francis Grace. But FG and her boyfriend Brandon both dumped her after she, ya know, got pregnant.
4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life? Obviously what shakes things up in her life is her unexpected pregnancy. But the main conflict surrounds the abandonment by her friends and rejection from her father– two things which terribly shake up her faith in God. Also, as a result of being abandoned, she joins a group of random misfits who are a bit rough around the edges but insist on taking her under their wing– and as a result, one of those new “almost-friends” insists on seeking revenge against Ellie’s baby daddy– something she’s not sure she really wants to pursue.
5) What is the personal goal of the character? Ellie just wants to survive junior year and still somehow be herself, if she is still in there. She also wants to keep all her secrets surrounding her pregnancy because she’s afraid it’ll ruin her life even more.
6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it? The title for this novel is THE TRUTH ABOUT TWO-SHOES. The name comes from the nickname her new friends give her. They call her “Two-Shoes” because she’s a former goodie-two-shoes now that the goodie is gone. A short excerpt about the book will be posted on Brenda Drake’s blog as a part of Pitch Wars starting Nov. 4th. So be sure to check it out there! I may post an excerpt on my writer site too at www.NikkiRoberti.com. 
7) When can we expect the book to be published? There’s no telling, but hopefully I’ll get an agent through Pitch Wars this year– but agent has to come first. I’ll keep y’all posted.
And now to tag! I hereby tag Emily Herring Dunn and E. G. Moore!

A Free Spirit Forever Dreams, Dares, & Does

As I gear up for the agent round of Pitch Wars next month, I’ve been researching all the fun publishing dos and don’ts when it comes to agents. Today’s article was about making sure your online presence is on point, so I decided to do a routine check on what happens when you Google me.

And… I came upon this beautiful recap of the Al Neuharth Free Spirit conference back in 2012. It was a great time, but they also had this super short video of all the alum (including me!).

When I got into the Free Spirit program back when I was a high school senior, I was over the moon and back. I was super hopeful about everything: my future, my dreams, my career, my education– there was no end to my optimism.

Heck, I was even voted “most optimistic” for senior superlative by my high school class.

Watching this video now, it reminds me how important it is to keep dreaming, daring and doing. While I haven’t stopped any of those things (hello, epic journey with my novel-writing career), I know it’s easy to fall out of. It’s easy to think that adult life will just consume my younger self’s spunk and confidence that anything is possible. And yes, sometimes it happens. Sometimes it’s easier to brace for disappointment than to work so hard for something that may never happen.

But as my hero “Uncle” Al Neuharth once told me (and everyone who has ever read his awesome autobiography), it’s important to fail in a big way before you turn 40, because it’s those failures that teach you how to succeed.

This super short clip was a great reminder to me that my hard work doesn’t lead to disappointment. Ever. I’m a Free Spirit. And I will always dream, dare, and do with the best of them.

How My Pitch Wars Journey is A Lot Like “The Princess Diaries”

Don’t judge me, people. You can a learn a lot from Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews in all situations. Plus my inner tween really loved The Princess Diaries when it came out. (And for those who are behind on what Pitch Wars is and how I’m in it…click here)

Okay, so it’s one month into the revision/mentor process and one month until the agent round of the contest where my pitch and first 250 words will be displayed for super awesome agents to review. And I’m literally still feeling like this:

WHAT DO YOU MEAN I’M THE PRINCESS OF GENOVIA!

Because, let’s get real. Being a writer who has had her fair share of navigating a weird learning curve regarding the wiley ways of the publishing world and rejection, I still can’t believe I get this opportunity. I mean, my everyday writerly existence was pretty much like this:

But when I applied to Pitch Wars, I got picked by a super cool mentor, Rachel Lynn Solomon, who not only said she liked my book, but saw enough potential in it that she wanted to help me to take it to the next level over the course of the next two months.


And with Rachel’s help, I’ve been able to see some things in my manuscript I never realized were problematic (I mean…how in the world did I have the word “just” in my manuscript 519 times? Excessive much?)

But it’s okay! Because she assures me that there is definitely a light at the end of the tunnel and that someday (hopefully soon), an agent will really love THE TRUTH ABOUT TWO-SHOES and want to represent me.

Sure, sometimes revisions have been like this (Like completely cutting two characters)…

And yes… I’ve combed through every word (and still combing. The “justs” are now in the one hundreds. PROGRESS! Still need to do more).

But overall, I can’t believe how my language is tighter, my pacing is quicker, and my characters are stronger!

So I’m very hopeful that by November 4th when the agent round rolls around, THE TRUTH ABOUT TWO-SHOES will be ready!

One thing I didn’t take into account about this extended Princess Diaries analogy is that I guess that means my mentor Rachel is really secretly Julie Andrews!


Which I guess also makes her MARY POPPINS!

Yay Pitch Wars!