Welcome to IdeaJones.com

Articles, radio stories, ads, columns, corporate communications, novels or scripts – we’re never short of ideas. You can see some of our designs in our Redbubble shop, and read Joey’s political humor blog, Dear Donny: Presidential Pen Pals, right here at IdeaJones.

Joey Jones has published and edited many newspaper and magazine articles, radio stories, advertisements and commentaries, and has ghostwritten everything from speeches to love letters. She is a past Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting semifinalist and Fade In: Screenwriting Awards quarterfinalist. She also gathers sound and conducts interviews as a freelance field producer in the Sacramento area, and her on-air performance as “The Dying Fish” can be heard in the Water Education commercial series.

Mark Jones makes a living producing radio shows (like Connections on Capital Public Radio’s Music Station). As Martin Jenkins, he’s heard weekday evenings on CapRadio’s four news stations, and Sunday mornings on 91.3FM KUOP Stockton/Modesto. Mark has also sung, acted and directed local theater and TV.

We’re about the story. Whether it’s the facts and figures of nonfiction, or the deeper truth of fiction, we want to find just the right words, sounds, and/or images to get it across.

We’re also about the process. “Do the work right, and on time.” Life’s too short to make things harder than they have to be.

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Oh, no… here comes “Secret Crush!”

How To Make Life More Awkward

Some ideas fail because they were bad in subtle, complex ways that weren’t obvious at launch. Others… are Facebook Secret Crush.

The app, which has already rolled out in some countries and is due to come to the U.S., has lunch stains on its tie from the start. It lets you select nine of your Facebook friends as people you have a yen for. If one (or more) of those people also lists you, the app informs both of you. If not, the other person only knows that he or she is the object of someone’s “secret crush.

If this sounds fairly junior high school to you, you’re not wrong. If you’re no longer having to rush to make 3rd period before the bell, you should be able to decide if you’re interested enough in someone to say so. Maybe you wouldn’t want to risk it, in which case you don’t want that person enough to do so, but that’s a choice adults can make without resorting to, “Yes, but do you LIKE me like me?”

So off the top, it’s pretty juvenile. Then it gets awkward and a bit creepy.

Let’s say you get such a notification. Someone has a “secret crush” on you. Leaving you to wonder who it is. Maybe you don’t care at all. Cool. But maybe you start wondering who it is, trying to decipher it from clues you think you find… maybe you start talking to people differently, because you don’t want to encourage this person in his or her unrequited love. Maybe…

I don’t need or want to know if any of my Facebook friends are eyeing me for romance, or a quickie, or whatever. It could only make things awkward. I also don’t want to know if my friends think I’m as homely as a baboon’s butt and NOBODY finds me attractive. Before Secret Crush, this was something that wasn’t even on my radar. I never wondered about it. It’s not a major obsession, but now I do wonder. Yet I still don’t want to know, and I’m certainly not going to ask.

One more thing to be insecure about. Thanks, Facebook!

And let’s say you’re the person who put that person you fantasize about on your list and… nothing. Cue crickets chirping. Now you get to wonder if s/he doesn’t find you attractive or simply isn’t on Facebook Dating. So… awkward chat where you ask and find out yes, s/he is (so doesn’t find you attractive, or at least you don’t make the top nine), or no, in which case you suggest s/he try it. “It’ll be fun!” And s/he does or doesn’t, and you aren’t on the list, or you are… this sounds exhausting.

The one thing that saves me is that I’m married and not on Facebook Dating. But if you are, get ready to find out if any of your Facebook friends find you toothsome, or none do. Or someone does, but you don’t, so you know someone does, but not who… And eventually, why would they not extend it to all users? It wouldn’t be the first time someone looked at a bad idea and thought, “The problem with this poop pile is that it’s not big enough!”

Facebook, social interaction can be difficult enough for most of us. It does not need you laying land mines all over the landscape like a dog who isn’t housetrained yet.

Given Facebook’s history of trouble handling the personal information of users, what could possibly go wrong there?

They say they won’t use the information for marketing purposes, but they’ve said similar things before, so… You do know those cute “click here to find out which Beatle you are” surveys are for gathering data, right? Facebook can be fun, but it does exist, as a business, to gather and sell information about users, and target advertising. That’s the business model.

So far, messages are just text, no pictures (thank God), so if you’re using Facebook Dating and that weird guy (whose friend request you accepted only because you work together and it seemed awkward not to) wants to send you pictures of his junk dressed up in a little top hat and bow tie, he can’t… at the moment. Wait for the new feature that has a filter of silly outfits you can put on photos of your stuff! I haven’t heard it’s coming, but I don’t doubt that it is.

Why the cluelessness? This may go back to Facebook’s DNA as a place to rate the attractiveness of other people. It’s baked into the cookie, in this case, a chocolate chip/used deoderant cookie. Someone decided to add something to the basic recipe that it absolutely didn’t need. Might look okay, but as you get closer, no. Just… no.

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The query letter has to be as good as the book. Maybe better.

“Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book? It took me years to write. Will you take a look?” — The Beatles

Something I’ve learned while searching for an agent: writing the book may be the easy part. Here I thought all that time spent mumbling to myself, scratching notes on diner napkins, and otherwise trying to put together one really good sentence, then another, and stack them together into something worth paying to read was the heavy lifting. Editing, polishing, polishing again… that had to be the hard part. I didn’t expect finding an agent and selling a book to be easy, but I didn’t expect it to be the start of a secondary writing career, either.

I didn’t know how many documents have to march in front of an unpublished book, carrying the banner and blowing trumpets. Loglines. Synopses. And, oh God, Query Letters.

Looking back, my first query letter, as artist Berke Breathed put it, “wasn’t that bad, but Lord, it wasn’t good.” Each form of writing has its own sales style. I could, and had, write a successful pitch to land a freelance assignment, but writing a query letter for my novel that way left it as dry as a cracker.Plus, I’d gotten to the point where I was getting assignments through other editors or producers who had recommended me, so I wasn’t pitching often.

In Girl Scouts, I was the kid who towed the wagon full of cookie boxes if the other girl would ring the doorbell and talk to people. I’m a major introvert. My pitch skills were near zero.

So I did the research. If you’re trying this, seriously, do your homework. It’s fine to ask other people what they think, but also read articles on reputable writer sites (like Writer’s Digest, and literary agent blogs). I did, and here are some of the tips that come up repeatedly (in no particular order):

  1. Be brief. A query letter is supposed to be a single page.
  2. Include the name of your book, genre and approximate word count. Target audience, too (and do NOT, whatever you do, say, “This book would be popular with everyone!” Nothing is popular with everyone. Who, really, is probably going to enjoy this book?).
  3. Include qualifications (both to write this book, and as a professional writer), if you have them. Placed (or won) any writing competitions? Participated in writing workshops or taken classes? Been published (for example, if, like me, you’ve had articles, etc. published)? How do you know about this subject (especially important for nonfiction books)? If you haven’t had anything published, then you haven’t, but if you have, the bio paragraph is your chance to say so.
  4. Describe your book in a paragraph:
    1. Protagonist/antagonist
    2. Conflict
    3. Stakes (What does your protagonist need? What threatens him/her getting it?)
    4. Some idea of why this book would be interesting for a reader
  5. In your bio, if you belong to writing groups/associations, mention it.
  6. Address the letter to the agent by name AND DOUBLE-CHECK THE SPELLING
  7. Contact info
  8. Comparable books in your genre. People like something that is a twist on something familiar — the actually completely unfamiliar is something most people won’t risk their careers/income on, and you’re asking an agent to do just that. Show that you’ve given this some thought. Best if your comps are fairly recent and fairly successful. Comparing your car to a 1970s Gremlin isn’t likely to sell it
  9. Platform (social media) if you have one. Twitter handle, Facebook, etc. Keep in mind the agent, if interested, will likely check you out on social media, so watch the posts of half-naked pictures of you passed out, drunk. You don’t have to wear a muzzle, just, y’know, be aware that the most important word in “social media” is SOCIAL. All kinds of people see it.

Craft your query letter with as much attention as you spent to craft your book. It’s your sales rep, knocking on doors and pitching you and your book as something every good agent needs!

While crafting your query letter, logline and synopsis, craft a rejection strategy, because you are, at the start or at some point, going to get rejected. Comes with the territory. If Kathryn Stockett, Stephen King, JK Rowling and even Dr. Seuss got rejections, you and I probably will as well. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Some successful authors were rejected over a hundred times before getting a break. My personal routine is: 2 minutes to be disappointed, chocolate, exercise, pet my dogs, send out a query letter for each rejection. Sometimes more.

Good luck! Hope to meet you on the bestseller list some day!

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Into the Twitter(pitch)verse: The Basics

There are opportunities to get your project in front of agents and editors, and, I’m learning, ways to do it (and not do it).

An intro to Twitter pitch events for writers.

Twitter pitch contests — I’m no expert. I’m experimenting and figuring it out. But it’s a chance to get your work in front of agents and editors, so it’s worth exploring. Here’s what I’ve learned so far (my opinion. If you disagree, fine, do what makes sense to you):

1) How to find them — I searched “Twitter pitch contest” and then did the legwork, reading up on the various pitch contests, who runs them, who participates, articles by writers and agents who’ve participated to find the ones I wanted to participate in. There are contests for novels, scripts, etc. There are contests by genre.

2) Crafting your pitch… You’re pitching your project in 140-280 characters. It has to be a complete pitch in itself as the agent/editor might not see your other pitches.

You’ll find articles by agents on what they want to see, and by writers on their experiences pitching, but basically, you include your protagonist, maybe antagonist, and the stakes. I’m still experimenting. Our novel is contemporary fiction (mainstream/women’s fiction), with humor, so the pitches have a humorous tone.

If you had to boil down your project for its essence, like distilling vanilla beans for extract, what is the essential heart of your story?

3) Space out your pitches. you’re usually allowed 3-6 pitches across the day. Remember they’re usually EST (not always, so check), so don’t post your last pitch after 3 pm PST.

4) There are no guarantees. Getting a request depends on the right agent seeing the right tweet at the right time. It’s just an increased chance you’ll be seen. You get between 3-6 tweets across one day.

I’ve done a couple of them so far. First one? Three chances, zero requests. Second? Six chances, six requests. Don’t think that getting no requests means your project isn’t good — it can just mean the right person didn’t happen to see your pitch.

5) If you get a request, do your homework on the requester — just like cold querying an agent. There are hoaxsters and even some legit pitch events don’t vet participants. It’s on you to find out if this person seems legit.

6 If you do get a request? Check out the requester. If s/he seems legit and a good fit, check submission guidelines. Go for it.

7) If you get no requests? Look over your pitches. Look at other pitches. Which stand out? Which are interesting? Learn from the competition. If your pitches are sound, then maybe your person didn’t see them (there can be a LOT of pitches). Get back to querying and be prepared for the next event. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

Hope something here is helpful to you. Any legit chance to get your work out there is worth pursuing, in my book. Show the industry you’re trying to get into that you have what it takes!

#writing #writingcommunity #writingtips

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Into The Twitter(pitch)verse

More on Twitter pitch events… Da Etiquette

Into the Twitter Pitchverse. An introduction to Twitter pitch events for writers.
Navigating the world of Twitter pitching.

I’m not an expert, just another writer trying to navigate the jungle of getting and agent and getting published. In that quest, I’ve been finding my way through Twitter Pitch Valley, and in the interests of #WritingCommunity, I’m offering what I’m figuring out in the hopes it might be helpful to someone else. First, because it’s that important, Da Etiquette.

As mom used to say, “Manners matter.” There is etiquette to Twitter pitch events. If you don’t follow it, you will probably get chastised, and may find yourself banned, so it’s worth noting.

1) Be thou not a jerk. Criticize not the pitches of other participants.

2) Follow thou the rules. If allowed three pitches, confine yourself to three. If allowed six, whoopee! Do six. Not seven. Read Da Rules and follow same.

3) Seriously, be thou not a jerk. Don’t criticize the worthiness of other participants, or their right to participate.

For example, one pitchfest for books is #DVpit. For writers from marginalized groups, such as the disabled. It’s on the honor system and if someone cheats they will be found out, but it’s not for you to make that call. If you personally know this participant and have concerns you can politely DM, I suppose, but otherwise? Leave ya nose outta it.

4) Only “like” a pitch if you are a legit agent or editor and wish to see the manuscript. That’s how this works. If not, some allow you to retweet pitches you like. Some ask you not to. Read and follow Da Rules.

If allowed to RT pitches you like, it’s a nice way to show support.

So it follows that you do NOT “like” your own pitches, as you are not an agent looking to see your own manuscript.

5) Be not a daft twit. Check Da Rules. If it’s a genre thing, be sure you legit fit somewhere in that genre before you participate. If you don’t know what the genres are and where you fit, for crying out loud, do some research.

If it’s for left-handed writers and you can’t even brush your hair left-handed, stay out of it. If it’s for Women’s Fiction and your book is about a guy who hates women and kills people with a dinner fork, stay out of it.

6) Time marches on — and you need to know which way. Most of those I’ve seen are Eastern Standard Time. If you live otherwhere than the east coast of the United States, plan accordingly. If it ends at 8 pm EST and you post your pitch at 8 pm PST, It’s 11 pm where the organizers are and nobody will see your post.

7) Don’t take any of this too seriously. Just seriously enough. Do your homework. Follow the rules. Set up your pitch event calendar so you don’t forget when the next one is coming. Get your pitches ready and polished. Be ready to tweet when the time comes… then relax. You may or may not get requests. The requests may or may not pan out. It’s a chance, not a guarantee. You can still query agents traditionally whether they request you through the event or not. Enjoy life. Don’t let your happiness hang on this. Take the chance because it’s a chance, then take the next one, until one pans out.

Good luck!

#writing #writingcommunity #writingtips #writerlife

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Our Semifinal Year

Semifinalist award badge from SoCreate.

Got the word this week that a script of ours made the semifinals in SoCreate’s first competition, “Get Writing.” This is our second semifinals so far this year (a novel in the Screencraft “Cinematic Books” competition and now this script contest).

Some people ask if it’s “worth it” to enter writing contests. Some yes, some no. If it’s from a reputable organization and the entry fee isn’t too high, and you can afford it, probably “yes.” Here’s why:

  1. If your ms is polished and ready, you get it in front of people you want to see it (look to see who the judges are).
  2. If you think it’s polished, but you’re not sure and you want feedback, some contests offer feedback, and it can really be helpful (again, look into the contest, who’s running it, who sponsors it, who the judges are, etc.)
  3. If you do place in the competition, you get to put that on your query letters, and like anything else in the arts, people do like to see confirmation that you’re good. Just human nature — they’re getting so many queries, so trying to weed through them must be like trying to shovel a mountain with a teaspoon. Any hint that this rock might be better than that rock must be helpful.
  4. Some offer prizes. Not just money. Revise & Resub offers help from a professional editor. PNWA offers feedback, similar to the report a script reader issues for a studio when reading a script. PitWars offers mentoring. See if the prize is something you would like to win.
  5. If you get anywhere in the competition, it’s validation. Sure, sure, you should be confident in your work and all, but who couldn’t use a bit of encouragement? I’ve had that award notification arrive on the exact day I thought I was hopeless and should give up writing to herd goats.

Do your due diligence. Look into who is running the contest, how long it’s been around, who sponsors it, who the judges are. Check Writer Beware and other sites for potential problems. Then, if the signs are favorable, get your act together and submit! Here are a few I’ve entered:

  1. Pacific Northwest Writers Association (https://www.pnwa.org/default.aspx). Annual competitions for unpublished and published works. Offers feedback. I can say that I have gotten feedback twice, once very useful (thoughtful, comprehensive, easily applicable to the work) and once not much (too vague). The useful feedback was useful enough so that I entered again.
  2. Revise & Resubmit (https://www.reviseresub.com/ ). Offers 5 weeks of help from a professional editor. Entered for the first time this year. I’ll let you know what happens.
  3. #PitMad and #PitWars (https://pitchwars.org/ ). Offers mentoring. I may enter Pitch Wars this year. If I do, I’ll let you know what happens.
  4. Screencraft Cinematic Books competition (https://screencraft.org/screenwriting-contests/ ). Offers a cash prize, mentoring, and introduction to film industry people.

There are others, such as the Writer’s Digest competition, that have been around for years, offer prizes, and publish your short story.

It can be a good experience as you ready yourself to send out queries. If nothing else, it gets you used to sending your work out to people who will judge it, which is what is going to happen at every stage of publication from agent hunting to getting reviews. Are you ready to become a “contested” writer?

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