Sunday, May 10, 2015

Let the Secret Agent Round Commence!

Welcome, everyone, to the NestPitch 2015 Secret Agent Round! Our teams have worked tirelessly over the last several weeks to polish our pitches, whittle our words, and create the most pleasing array of selections we possibly could.

Speaking of pleasing arrays, my team and I would like to extend a special welcome to all of the Secret Agents who are taking the time to visit us today. We were up early to prepare a small spread that we hope will help energize you during your blog hop. Please help yourselves.

It's only breakfast...not a bribe in any way

Just like the comments section for the duration of the Agent Round, the buffet will be closed to the public and under strict moderation for twenty-four hours, beginning May 11th at 8:30 a.m. EST. (1.30pm London UK Time, 10.30pm Melbourne Australia EST) After that the comments section will re-open to all, but the food will probably need to be thrown away.

We are #TeamBasketCase

This event would not have been possible without the guidance and support of NestPitch creator Nikola Vukoja, who worked, at times quite literally, around the clock to make it a success. The NestPitch parent blog is full of details on exactly what went into #NestPitch2015. We dug MUCH deeper this year, our Mentor and Slushie teams read far beyond the first 300 words to ensure that quality was the theme of each and every manuscript we selected. We fought, yes. Cried, and threw things, but in the end every NestPitch team ended up with a list that we could present with pride, confident in its potential.

I, personally, could not have done any of this without the dedicated support of my Slushies, the incredible Heather M. Bryant and the exquisite Kristy Shen (who recently had her own shiny new MG novel published, available to buy here.)  These ladies have been THE BEST team members I could have asked for, they really went above and beyond. Follow them on Twitter, read their words, and be secure in the knowledge that they are just generally kickass chicks in every possible way.
Okay! Now, without further adieu, allow me to present the moment you've all been waiting for...

The Basket Cases:


BP2-YA/Contemporary THE KOSHERS

BP3-YA/Psychological Thriller SUN AND BONE


BP5-Adult/Thriller POOR BOY ROAD

While you may well find everything your heart desires right here, there are SCADS of other entries that you really should check out by visiting the other teams:









The agent round will begin 8.30 am EST (USA) and go on for 24 hours. Again, during that time, comments will be CLOSED to the public, and set on moderation to be published in a timely manner.

But spectators can still visit the comments to see how much chocolate is being doled out. Here's a handy treat cheat sheet so you know what kind of goodies are in our baskets:

Choc. egg basket w/ ribbon-Full Request
Choc. egg basket-Query + 150 pages + 1 page Synopsis
3 Boxes Caramel eggs-Query + 100 pages
2 Boxes Caramel eggs-Query + 75 pages + 1 page Synopsis
1 Box Caramel eggs-Query + 50 pages
1 doz. nougat filled Choc. eggs-Query + 25 pages + 1 page Synopsis
½ doz. nougat filled Choc. eggs-Query + 20 pages
1x nougat filled Choc. egg-Query + 15 pages + 1 page Synopsis
1 doz. hollow Choc eggs-Query + 10 pages
½ doz. hollow Choc eggs-Query + 5 pages + 1 page Synopsis
1x hollow Choc egg-Query + 5 pages

As a parting note, I'd just like to say that it has been an absolute honor to read the words of so many talented writers, engage with the other teams, and be a part of such a supportive and loving community. We all had each others' backs, Mentors, Slushies, and authors alike, throughout this entire process, and my thanks to everyone involved. I loved being a part of it.

With that, Secret Agents...the floor is yours.


Manuscript Title: MIKEY GOES TO MAINE

Category/ Genre:  MG / Humor

Word Count: 32,000

 35-word Pitch:

When Mikey's parents stick him with relatives so they can go have fun, his impetuous behavior causes problems. His disastrous schemes to set things right transform the lives of the strangers he's grown to love.
If your MC was an Easter Egg, what flavor would s/he be?:

I’d be sandy cheese flavor, because that’s what the stuff between my toes tastes like.

Excerpt (first 300 words):

Hitting what you want with a rock gives you the best feeling in the world. After you throw it, your mind steers the rock right to where you wanted it to go, as if you had super powers. It feels so good that you want to do it over and over again, and it feels so easy that you think you can.

Just because you can do something, though, it doesn't mean you should do it. If you pick the wrong target, throwing a rock can also give you the worst feeling in the world. You won't just break a window--you'll break and ruin everything else, too, including your own heart.  I learned that the hard way.  That means I actually did it.

Don’t worry though, because I'm really good at inventing plans to solve problems. It's my specialty. I'm so smart that I can even invent more plans when my first plans go wrong. That happens a lot.

My name is Mikey and this is my story. It's filled with smooth rocks, slimy worms, and sticky mud, and is crawling with hairy spiders, smelly pigs, boys acting like pigs, and girls with pigtails. If you don't like these things, maybe you should go read a book about nice clean fairies, but then you'll miss out on all the fun.

Chapter 2  

"Welcome, welcome, welcome!" Aunt Millie literally sang as she swung open the squeaky screen door. She looked as happy to see me as I was mad to be there. Her friendly, sparkly blue eyes didn't help. Nothing could.

"Hello, Millie," Dad said as he popped out of the car. "Good to see you, and thanks for letting Mikey stay. He's really looking forward to it."  Mr. Not Telling the Truth opened the trunk and grabbed my bag.

BP#2-YA/Contemporary THE KOSHERS

Manuscript Title: THE KOSHERS

Category/Genre: YA/ Contemporary

Word Count: 61,000

35 Word Pitch: After the cook’s beat down and the mess hall's incineration, Megan, shoplifter extraordinaire, must learn to trust her posse of unlikely new friends. It’s that, or rot in juvie for something they didn’t do. 

If your MC was an Easter egg, what flavor would she be?

Caramel—nice and sticky, just like my shoplifting fingers! 

Excerpt (first 300 words):

Diamond studded perfection is why I’m here. They were beautiful, tempting, and worth enough to pay more than one utility bill. But definitely not worth the twenty-thousand questions cranking from this shrink’s mouth. 

She doesn’t look like any mother I’ve ever seen, although she insists I speak freely, consider her a mother figure. It’s the lack of wrinkles around her eyes and the way her teeth click that annoying stick of gum in her mouth that give her away. She’s not old enough to be someone’s mother. Definitely not a mom, not that I have much to compare her to.

“Megan,” she says, twisting the black ball-point pen between her finger and thumb. “If you don’t talk to me, then there’s nothing I can do for you.”

I cross my arms over my chest. Part of me wants to talk, tell her I only pocketed the diamond earrings to pay the light bill and put some groceries in the cabinets. But I know better than to say that. Hinting at Mom’s unfitness will only land me a cozy foster family. No thanks. I’ve kept my life a secret for the last four years, since Dad died when I was twelve. And that’s exactly how I intend for it to stay.

My eyes lock on my fidgeting hands. The pretty, non-mom scratches her pen across the notebook on her fancy desk, and I really hope she’s no mind reader, filling that paper with all my secrets. She can write whatever she wants about me, it won’t change who I am, or what I have to do to survive. That part of my brain has already adjusted to the choices I make, choices that keep me alive, Mom alive. No amount of words in a file can change that.

BP#3-YA/Psychological Thriller SUN AND BONE

Manuscript Title: SUN AND BONE

Category/ Genre: YA Psychological Thriller

Word Count: 83,000

35-word Pitch: A girl with OCD, raised in an isolated religious sect, trades favors with a vengeful migrant worker to save her dying brother’s life. Gated meets The Butterfly Clues with a dash of Eleanor & Park.

If your MC was an Easter egg, what flavor would s/he be?

Eve: Wild berries, lavender, and brushfire smoke. Mana: Tsokolate (chocolate) with siling labuyo (hot peppers).

Excerpt (first 300 words):

Dying children can’t shock me.

Whether I’m stabbing them with a kitchen knife or they’re burning in a house fire. Whether it’s me or a disease or a natural disaster doing the killing. It happens every day in the dark corners of my obsessive mind.
Though I’m ninety-nine percent sure I would never act on these thoughts, for a few seconds I see myself suffocating my six-year-old sister instead of helping Mama wrestle her into the kitchen chair. While the Attendants stand by, waiting to fill a vial with Theresa’s blood, I blink four times to make the image retreat.
“Let me go!” Theresa shouts, bucking like a wild animal.
Her bare foot wallops my gut. For a second, I can’t breathe.
“Theresa Marie Thomas, you cooperate right now,” Mama says in a voice that could freeze the sun. “The Healer is watching you.”
My sister must be more scared of Mama or The Healer than the needle because she stops thrashing. Once the tip pierces the crook of her arm, her hazel eyes widen. The thin red stream shooting up into the glass is beautiful, though it seems wrong for the blood to leave her body.
After we release Theresa, I avoid Mama’s eyes and mouth a prayer, then tap the back of the chair four times. Not because I want to, but because I can’t stop myself. That way it won’t be my fault if Theresa tests positive. 
Sarah’s next. Nearly nine, she’d rather live with nonbelievers than let anyone see she’s scared. She jumps into the seat, jaw clenched and lips mashed together. When the vial’s full, she pivots toward me, beaming.
“Your turn.”
“They already took my blood,” I say. “I’m done.”
“Humph!” She marches off while I rock baby David in his cradle.


Manuscript Title: LITTLE BLACK BOX
Category/ Genre: YA contemporary
Word Count: 56,000
35-word Pitch: No one knows 16-yr-old Charlie’s the school’s Advice Doctor, prescribing chocolate and music in her coveted cure kits. But when her best friend turns in a symptom sheet for betrayal, Charlie’s perfect remedy is revenge.
If your MC was an Easter egg, what flavor would she be?
I would be a red velvet Easter egg, the same flavor as the pancakes my dad’s boyfriend always makes.
Excerpt (first 300 words):


It was only last week that I’d overheard Penny Hill spilling her guts in the girl’s D-wing bathroom, and the acoustics in there are fabulous. Through the whole of her weeping, I couldn’t stop thinking about Joan Jett and how she was way too badass to care if people talked behind her back. She would have given them the finger and lived her life.

Unfortunately, Penny Hill was not a kick-ass female rocker, and she did care if people talked about her. That’s what the black box in my lap was for, a package filled with books and music and other ways to help her move on.

“How well do you know Penny?” Luke asked, glancing at me from the driver’s seat. He stayed well within the speed limit as we passed Taco Bell and headed to the Valley.

“You’re not supposed to use real names,” I said.
Luke smiled, the dimple in his cheek only a shadow in the dimness of the car. “You know we mute real names.” He flicked a glance at the video camera secured on his dashboard. “We’re almost there, black box at the ready.”

“For the record,” I say to the camera, “this excursion is brought to you by Joan Jett and all the other girls out there who are through putting up with shit—”

“Language. I have to mute that, too.”
“Bad Reputation” blared on the speakers, and I sang along in my throatiest rocker voice until Luke laughed.

Luke was the only one who knew about my double life. I needed a partner in crime, so he’d agreed to be my chauffeur. I’d also agreed to let him film tonight: a documentary featuring me as the emotional doctor, prescribing various forms of cheer to people after life had knocked them on their asses.

BP#5-Adult/Mystery/Thriller POOR BOY ROAD

Manuscript Title: POOR BOY ROAD

Category/Genre: Adult/Mystery/Thriller

Word Count: 70,000
35-word Pitch: A leg breaker wants out of the mob, but to earn freedom he must kill a rival drug lord and save a kidnapped girl while dealing with shadows of the past in his abusive hometown.

If your MC was an Easter egg, what flavor would he be?

Coffee—seemingly bitter on first taste, but quickly turns into an addiction.

Excerpt (first 300 words)

The apartment door was a cheap, brown, six-panel hollow core with a dirty peephole and colorfully articulated graffiti that would make a priest blush. But, Jake Caldwell was no priest. The door would splinter off its hinges with a swift kick from his boot, just like the previous dozen he’d kicked in over the years. Still, it would be easier if Carlos just opened the door so Jake pounded again.

He waited, listening for sounds of movement over barking dogs and crying babies in the units behind him. He felt conspicuous in the littered hallway with the Glock at his side. Even in this shitty neighborhood, a guy his size with a gun would warrant an eventual call to the cops. Shadows flickered across the bottom of the door – Carlos staring out the peephole. A stupid move. If Jake were here to whack the guy, he could just shoot him through the door. As it was, the worst Jake planned to do was break his kneecaps.

“Open the door, Carlos,” Jake said. No answer, but the shadow remained.

Jake sighed and stepped back. With his good leg, he exploded forward, driving his heel just above the knob. The lock assembly collapsed against the splintered wood and the door burst open. Carlos cried out as the door cracked his face, his wiry frame collapsing to the floor. He landed on his ass, holding his nose. Blood poured through his fingers and onto his stained, white t-shirt. Jake entered the apartment which reeked of cigarettes and fried onions, shutting the remains of the door behind him. Carlos pushed back toward a kitchen stacked with crusted plates and glasses, his wide eyes fearful.

With the gun trained on Carlos, he walked to the kitchen, grabbed a dirty dish towel and dropped it in the bleeding man’s lap.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Drumroll, please...

It's time!!!!

Last night I had the distinct honor of inducting five extremely worthy authors into NestPitch 2015, and the grass-lined madness that is Team Basket Case. After weeks of submissions, spreadsheets, and slapping hands, my teammates Heather, Kristy, and I have a dynamic group of authors to introduce to you! We will be working with them for the next few weeks to get those submissions razor sharp, so there's no peeking on pages just yet, but I can tease you a little bit to get the ball rolling.

So here, in no particular order, is our team!

Christopher Equinox

Cindy R. Wilson

Amy Smead

YA/Psychological Thriller
Heather Davis

James L. Weaver

I think it's really important to note just how many outstanding entries passed through our hands, and how difficult it was to narrow our selections down to just five. My slushies (ask them, they'll tell you!) worked tirelessly with me to discuss all of the submissions, and, guys, this was hard. NestPitch has an absolutely outstanding pool of talent this year, and everyone who entered should be extremely proud of themselves.

On May 11th I will be posting each author’s entire Pitch, so you can appreciate them properly!

You can find more clues to the other pitches here:

You can also go to the Nestpitch Blog where you'll find a link to all the blogs, as well as a complete Title, Category/Genre & Author list.

Be sure to check in before May 11th because that clever Nik is running Unmask the Agent again this year, and I promise to update you on the details!
(There’s a $20Amazon Voucher up for grabs and you don’t need have submitted to Nestpitch, all you need is a bit of a detective spirit and to know your (our) agents!)

For now Team Basket Case is going to retreat to our cave of solitude and get cracking on edits, but be sure to visit the other mentor blogs to check out the other teams (even though, ya know, our team's the best ;)



Monday, March 23, 2015

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About NestPitch (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Okay, I doubt you were afraid to ask...but in case you were, I am here to help!

For those of you who don't know, NestPitch is the brainchild of Nik Vukoja, and to put it plainly it is SO MUCH FUN! Last year was the official debut of NestPitch and we all found our footing together, so this year promises to be extra dynamic. So dynamic that we might explode from excessive dynamism, only time will tell.

I (found here!) am a NestPitch Mentor on Team BasketCase (Go #TeamBasketCase!), along with my fabulous Slushies,  Heather Bryant and Kristy Shen. There are teams aplenty in the NestPitch family, and you can learn all about who we are and what we do by checking out the *Teams post!

*It will serve you well to follow all the Team members on Twitter. After the submission window ends and selections are made we may post hints, clues, and other maddening intriguing teasers about our picks! It will also make it easier for us to stalk you if we choose your pitch and don't want you to know about it yet.

This post is going to be reserved for the basics: Rules and Regs, important dates, helpful hints for making your pitch the best it can possibly be. The information herein has been taken directly from the NestPitch blog, and it highlights a lot of issues we saw last year, so careful reading will help you avoid tragedy and tears.

Ready? Without further adieu, allow me to present...

#NestPitch2015 – is your manuscript pitch ready?

For those who don’t know what Nestpitch is, here’s a quick run-through.
There’s a special Easter tradition throughout central and northern Croatia – making Easter Nests for the Easter Bunny.  On the afternoon or eve of Easter Saturday children go out into the garden and collect leaves, grass, twigs, flowers and then make a “nest” for the Easter Bunny – that’s where he places his Easter-Egg-Presents. The children go to bed that eve wondering if the Easter Bunny will like or love their nest, because the best nest gets the best and biggest eggs!
And that’s the basis of Nestpitch, but the ‘nests’ are the author’s pitches and the ‘Easter Bunnies’ are the agents – get it? Great!

How does Nestpitch work?
This year we have changed things a bit, therefore even if you participated in Nestpitch 2014 you will still need to read the below:

This year we are NOT accepting Picture Books. We are accepting MG, YA, NA and Adult FICTION ONLY. I had someone ask if we are accepting memoirs or similar- the short answer is NO. This is a FICTION ONLY pitch + 1st 300 for manuscript length fiction only. We are accepting all genre’s within these categories. If your novel is either Erotica or Christian, please state this. For example: Adult Romance (Erotica) or YA Historical Romance (Christian).

We support diversity and strongly encourage authors with GLBT, geographic, cultural and/or social diversity within their manuscripts to submit. Having said this, we DO NOT support sexual violence, violence against children, bigotry and racism, paedophilia and/or animal cruelty. While it is true that violence and cruelty features within some genres, horror for example, or racism in a historical fiction set in the time of slavery, we will not accept manuscripts that support or promote, directly or indirectly, racism, misogyny, rape, sexual, physical or emotional violence.

This year there are nine Teams made up of one Mentor & two Slushies. The Teams are listed here:

The Pitch window will be open for 48 hours, thereby allowing everyone, regardless of where you live in the world, to prepare and submit a pitch.
The Pitch will be made up of three parts.
(i)                 a 35-word pitch
(ii)               answer to a question (in your main characters voice)*
(iii)             the first 300-words of their manuscript

*QUESTION: If your MC was an Easter Egg, what flavour would s/he be?  Keep your answer to NO MORE than 15-words.

How to submit your Pitch:
On April 1st the submission window will open. Please follow the guidelines as set out below. Last year some people put their first 300 words at the top or mixed up the order. Please do not do this. There is a reason for the order and failure to follow the below will likely mean your submission will not pass Round #1 (refer below).

Send the following in your email:

In the Subject line: Nestpitch2015 Sub and your name/author name

In the body of the email type these words: 
By submitting this pitch + first 300 words I agree to allow the Nestpitch blog and/or any other affiliated blogs to post my submission on an open forum for the purposes of critique and feedback.  I understand this can be for the life of the blog(s). 

Manuscript Title:
Category/ Genre:
Word Count:
35-word Pitch:
QU (in your MC’s voice), if your MC was an Easter Egg, what flavour would s/he be?:
*First 300-words of your MS:
*1st 300 = if your MS has a prologue, then your 1st 300 starts from your prologue. Also, finish at the end of a sentence. This is 300-word MAX, so your last word is 300-words. If your sentence finishes on 292-words, submit that. If your sentences run into 30 or more words, then you might want to rethink the length of your sentence(s). Broken sentences do no one favours.

Example of a Submission:
Subject line: Nestpitch2015 Sub – Nikola Vukoja
By submitting this pitch + first 300 words I agree to allow the Nestpitch blog and/or any other affiliated blogs to post my submission on an open forum for the purposes of critique and feedback.  I understand this can be for the life of the blog(s). 

Manuscript Title:      Easter Bunny goes to Vegas
Category/ Genre:      MG/ Fantasy
Word Count:             26,000
35-word Pitch:                      
After losing all his eggs in a card game to March Hare, the Easter Bunny heads for Las Vegas where he plans to win enough money to buy back the world’s Easter eggs.
If your MC was an Easter Egg, what flavour would s/he be?
I’d be every flavour, colour, shape and size imaginable; I’m the Easter Bunny… geez!
First 300-words of your MS:
Easter Bunny Blah Blah…

Send your submission to: (please note the submission window below, submissions sent prior or post those times/dates will not be accepted)

Either Times Roman or Arial (we are aware that there may be issues with some email accounts regarding font, please do your best to use either Times Roman or Arial, or something as close as possible to these two)
No indentions. Single Spacing. One space between each Paragraph.

Your prologue is where your first 300 words begins.

Word Count:
Rounded to nearest 1000. For example, 86,000 not 85,798

Selection Process:
Last year we contacted all submissions that had made a mistake or left something out (listing only category or genre for example). This year we will not be so lenient. Aside from formatting issues, authors will be expected to follow the above. All submissions will be read by me (Nikola) first to ensure each submission has followed the above rules/guidelines.
There will be three rounds before final selection.
a.       Round #1: To get past #1 the author’s must be able to follow guidelines.
b.      Round #2: This year each Team will select an initial 5-8 submissions and then request more pages/material. Based on the additional pages/material, each Team will drill their selection down to between 4-5 to go to the next round. Note: authors may receive more than one request from more than one Team.
c.       Round #3: On having picked their final 4-5, each Team will then critique the first 2,500-words and ‘get to know’ the author(s). This is a 3-fold process. Being selected does not necessarily mean being featured. Teams will want to know that the author(s) are willing to accept feedback etc.  The Teams will work with their authors for 3 weeks, offering feedback, sharpening pitches, and suggesting improvements. After this, the authors have a full week to re-read their MS in full & make any final changes before the agent round.

From the Slush-pile Picks.
My Team #Team2Beat, will be hunting through the slush-pile and the reserves, looking for gems that have been missed. We will have the option of selecting between 1-5 pitches (at our discretion) to feature. This is basically a bonus-pick so, you may just get an email after the date, but if you do, you’ll be expected to work twice as hard as the other authors as you’ll have less time – so be ready!

Additional Rules:
a.       Only manuscripts which HAVE NOT been featured in another online competition are eligible to enter. This DOES NOT include workshops, critique groups or similar. It also DOES NOT include twitter or any other tag-line style pitches either. Please feel free to ask if you’re in any doubt.
                                                              i.      If you have submitted the same manuscript to #Pitchslam, due to the time-line cross-over, we are accepting these submissions. However, if your submission goes to the final stage of either or both competitions, please advise us and the host of #Pitchslam.
b.      Submissions MUST follow the submission format. We accept that sometimes emails de-format fonts and tabs, what we don’t want is people forgetting to put CATEGORY & GENRE (for example) or not answering the question; that sort of thing.
All pitches that have followed the rules (round#1) will then be forwarded to each Team. After the internal cat-fight, erh...discussions take place each Team will select their top 4-5 author submissions (round#3). Expect to also see teasers and cryptic clues via Twitter & Facebook (*don’t forget to follow the Mentors and Slushies, lots of fun to be had!)

My Team #Team2Beat will be the Bandit Team. I bet all of you have a brother or sister who always stole your favourite Easter Eggs – well that’s what we’ll be doing – sort of. We will be looking for hidden or missed gems. They could be from the slush-pile or from #round2 & we’ll feature them. #Team2Beat may have as few as one submission featured or as many as five – it all depends on how many diamonds in the rough we believe have been missed.

This year there will again be an Amazon Gift Voucher Prize for the submission with the highest number of requests and another for Matching the Agents with their Masks (more on that at agent reveal).

Agent Reveal: March 27th

Submission Window Opens April Fools Day (April 1st 2015)
10pm Aust. Eastern Standard Time
7am USA New York Time
12 noon London UK Time
Submission Window Closes Good Friday (April 3rd 2015)
10pm Aust. Eastern Standard Time
7am USA New York Time
12 noon London UK Time

Secret Agent Bunny Mask Reveal: April 9th

Teams send out requests for 1st 2,500 words Sunday 12th April
Authors reply by Tuesday 14th April
Final Selection Sunday10rd May (Mother’s Day)
Agent request open Monday 11th May to Tuesday 12th May 2015
Unmask the Agent: Wednesday 13th May 2015 (Amazon Voucher)
Agent request(s) sent out to authors Wednesday 13th May 2015
Authors to send requested pages to Agents by Friday 15th May 2015
Winner of Most Requests: May 20th or 21st
Stats: May 28th or 29th
Nestpitch2015 Close: May 31st (follow up blog with success stories as they come)

Helpful Guides: Novel Word Count: 
Although we are not going to eliminate anyone who does not match the below, we recommend you try to follow as closely as possible the suggested word-count.  The to – from word-count is a guide only and takes into consideration genre variations (for example fantasy genre novels tend to be on the longer side)

ADULT:                     70,000 – 115,000
NEW ADULT :          60, 000 – 90,000
YOUNG ADULT:     50,000 – 80,000
MIDDLE GRADE:    25,000 – 45,000

Useful Tools/ Things to Avoid:
Common Punctuation Errors: (selected examples taken from Maeve Maddox’s post, March 20, 2015)
Incorrect: To become fluent readers students must read outside school hours.
Correct: To become fluent readers, students must read outside school hours.
“To become fluent readers” is an introductory infinitive phrase and should be followed by a comma.
Incorrect: If you want to write well you must be prepared to practice the craft.
Correct: If you want to write well, you must be prepared to practice the craft.
“If you want to write well” is an introductory clause and should be followed by a comma.
Incorrect: The boys, who vandalized the public gardens, are in police custody.
Correct: The boys who vandalized the public gardens are in police custody.
“Who vandalized the public gardens” is essential information because it identifies which boys are meant. It should not be set off by commas.
Incorrect: Circumstances required the children to live in a homeless shelter, nevertheless they kept up with their studies.
Correct: Circumstances required the children to live in a homeless shelter; nevertheless, they kept up with their studies.
Also correct: Circumstances required the children to live in a homeless shelter. Nevertheless, they kept up with their studies.
A comma splice results when two independent clauses are joined by a comma. The main clauses here are “Circumstances required the children to live in a homeless shelter” and “nevertheless, they kept up with their studies.”
The word nevertheless is a conjunctive adverb. Its function is to provide a transition between two thoughts, but it is not a joining word like and or but. A comma splice can be avoided by placing a semicolon after the first clause or by ending the first clause with a period or other end stop and starting a new sentence with a capital letter.
Incorrect: The spelunkers found, that the caves were closed to protect the bats.
Correct: The spelunkers found that the caves were closed to protect the bats.
The noun clause is “the caves were closed to protect the bats.” The clause functions as the direct object of the verb in the main clause, found.
Main clauses that are not part of a compound or complex sentence require an end stop. When a period or other end stop is omitted, the result is a “run-on sentence.”
Incorrect: The rushing waves capsized the boat indifferent gulls wheeled overhead.
Correct: The rushing waves capsized the boat. Indifferent gulls wheeled overhead.
The simplest way to correct a run-on sentence is to put a period at the end of the first clause and capitalize the first word of the next one.
Multiple Exclamation Points!!!
Incorrect: Before my astonished eyes, the house sank into the tarn!!!!
Correct: Before my astonished eyes, the house sank into the tarn!
On the rare occasions that an exclamation mark is needed, one is sufficient.
Quotation Marks.
Incorrect: Our staff is required to take three “safety” courses every year.
Correct: Our staff is required to take three safety courses every year.
In most contexts, placing quotation marks around a word suggests that the word is being used with a meaning other than the obvious one. Writers who enclose words in quotation marks merely for emphasis risk annoying their readers. No one likes to waste time trying to discern a hidden meaning where there is none.
There are more examples on Maeve Maddox’s post found here:

Below is a list of words I have selected which are often incorrectly used:

Affect vs. effect

Affect is usually a verb, and effect is usually a noun. When you affect something, it produces an effect. To affect something is to change or influence it. An effect is something that happens due to a cause.

Affluent vs. effluent

Affluent describes something or someone has having a lot of money. It can also mean something is fluid or flowing in a large quantity, either literally or figuratively. A person who is wealthy is an affluent.
Effluent is the liquid sewage that is released as waste. 

Farther vs. further

Farther and further both mean at a greater distance, and they are used interchangeably in this sense. In the United States farther is more often used to refer to physical distances, and further more often refers to figurative and non-physical distances.

Imply vs. infer

To imply is to express something indirectly. For example, you might imply that it’s time for a guest to leave by saying that you are getting tired.
To infer is to surmise or deduce. For example, if you were to tell a guest that you’re getting tired, the guest might infer that it’s time to leave.
More broadly, infer means to deduce. For example, when the sky grows dark in the middle of the day, you might infer that it’s probably going to storm.
Infer has been used in place of imply so often and for so long that some dictionaries now list it as a synonym of imply in a secondary sense. In edited writing, however, the traditional distinction is usually kept intact.

Lightening vs. lightning

Lightening (from the verb – lighten), where to lighten is to make light or lighter. Lightning is the flash of light associated with thunder.

Literally vs. figuratively

Literally means exactly, in a strict sense, or to the letter. For example, “I am literally foaming at the mouth,” this literally means real foam is coming out of his or her mouth. 
Figuratively means in a metaphorical sense—so when someone says, “I am figuratively foaming at the mouth,” we can infer that he or she is using the idiom foaming at the mouth, which means very angry, and that no mouth foam is actually present.

Misinformed vs. uninformed

Something that is misinformed is based on bad information. Something that is uninformed is based on no information or inadequate information.

Oppress, repress, suppress

To oppress is to keep someone down by unjust force or authority. To repress is (1) to hold back, or (2) to put down by force. Suppress, means (1) to put an end to, (2) to inhibit, and (3) to keep from being revealed, such as suppressing evidence.
Peek, Peak & Pique
A peek is a glance or a quick look. It can also mean to glance or to peer at. Peak is a topmost point, such as a mountain peak. Finally, pique is to upset or excite someone, such as, to pique interest, you are exciting their interest not taking a quick look at it.

Re-create vs. Recreate

Recreate means to amuse oneself with an activity, and is a word in its own right. The verb re-create, meaning to create again, benefits from the hyphen. But because recreate is an exceedingly rare verb, there’s actually little chance of the two being confused, so many publications omit the hyphen and use recreate to mean to create again.

Whiny, Whiney, Whinny

Whiny is an adjective meaning habitually complaining or like a whine.
Whiney is the same as whiny.
Whinny is the sound horses make & is synonymous with neigh.

Wreath vs. Wreathe

The difference between wreath and wreathe is similar to that between breath and breathe. Wreath is a noun and wreathe is its corresponding verb.

Variations in British English and US English
As a general rule, the use of the letter ‘u’ in certain words differentiates the two types of English, for example Favorite / Favourite. The first being US English. Another example would be Color / Colour.
Also the replacement of the letter ‘S’ with the letter ‘Z’ is a common difference between the two versions. For example Realize / Realise, with the first being US English.
Then there are words where US English has only one ‘L’ when – ed is added, for example Traveled is US English and Travelled is British English

A good source of reference I found where here:

This site also highlights changes in ‘re’ and ‘er’ for example Centre/Center and other variations.
Sometimes words have a very different spelling as is the case with Jewelry / Jewellery. The first being US English.

I hope some of these will help you with your grammar and word selection and of course, if you have any questions about #Nestpitch please feel free to leave a comment or contact me on Twitter either @nestpitch or @Nik_Vukoja

Come back in a few days to see our truly smawesome list of Agents!