Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Move On Or Hang Tough

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Every writer wants to see their work published, one way or another. But what happens when you finish your novel and it just won't let go. Move on or hang tough?

It's a difficult decision, especially if the novels you've written don't fall into a popular genre at the moment. My young adult fantasy, THE WALKER AND THE WITCH, is complete at 76,000 words. It's sequel, THE SENEX, is complete at 93,000 words, a third (untitled) is nearing completion with a word count that will fall near 80,000. The fourth and final novel in what has become a series is fully worked out and simply needs to be put to paper. However, the story is told from a witch's point of view, and it contains supernatural elements. Unfortunately, editors and literary agents are not interested in the supernatural at this time.

What do you do? I began writing a young adult contemporary thriller that's long overdue. It's a work of fiction with real-experiences in the mix. A story I owe to someone I lost at a very young age. Contemporary thrillers are popular with literary agents right now. But do you write it simply because it's a popular genre? After struggling through the first thousand words and with the help of my wonderful critique partners (and my imaginary friends from The Walker and The Witch), I realized now isn't the time. As hard as I tried to focus on the new story, my mind continued to wander back to The Walker and The Witch. So, do you write for publication or for love? If you write solely for publication, your work will suffer. Your story will seem forced and readers will pick up on that.

I thought I was simply having a hard time letting go, or putting The Walker and The Witch away in a safe place and continuing on. However, that's not the case at all. The story isn't finished, I know that, and so do my characters. One of my critique partners told me: "There's nothing wrong with continuing to work on The Walker and The Witch. Anything you do to make it better is going to pay off, either for this story or your next. And you have to be passionate about something to write it, you know? If you're still passionate about this one, keep your focus on it." I knew that, but for some reason I needed to be told. Words of wisdom! Passionate, that's the key word. If you're no longer writing for the love of the craft, it becomes a job. No fun!

I want to write the thriller. I want to tell the story. However, my focus is on The Walker and The Witch at the moment. That's where my passion lies. Am I supposed to put it away because it's not a "popular" genre? No. I love the story. I love the characters, and Willow isn't finished telling her story yet. The popularity of Young Adult Fantasy will come back around. All great trends do.

Everything happens for a reason. Maybe that's why you can't focus on the next task. So if you're experiences are similar, re-edit, re-write, revise. Make your story the very best it can be. Don't ever give up! Your turn is coming!


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Writer's Block

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When a writer loses the ability to produce new work. Writer's block has several causes. A writer may run out of inspiration, or be distracted by other events.

I tend to fall under the "distracted" category, namely social media. My day begins with checking email, which leads to Twitter, Facebook, and my Google profile page. Before I know it, an hour has passed--an hour that could have been used writing.

So what to do to move beyond it?

Freewrite/Brainstorm: Put the computer down. Pull out a tablet of paper and a pen, and just write. Jot down whatever comes to mind about your topic. Try adding questions. Questions will make you think. Your creative mind will want the answers.

Go for a walk or a drive: Explore new places. You'll be surprised what you can find, and what your imagination can turn it into.

Start in the middle or at the end: The first chapter is always the hardest. The first page seems impossible. So, don't start at the beginning. If you know what's going to happen half-way through, then begin there. You can add the beginning later. If you know how your story ends, begin there and work your way back. There isn't a rule that you must begin at the beginning.

Shut off the Self-Critic: Don't stress over grammar and punctuation, just write. There's a time and a place for the critiquing, it's called editing.

Set a writing schedule: And stick with it! If you're a morning person, take an hour or two in the morning. If your brain doesn't begin to fully function until later, use that time. The amount of time you set aside doesn't matter--ten minutes, twenty, an hour. Make this your writing time. Shut off the self-critic, and write. If your better with numbers, set a word count. Write 500 words, a thousand, or more. However you decide to do it, the goal is to write.

Carry a notebook: Just like a nurse carries her stethoscope--one of her tools of the trade. Never leave home without your notebook. You never know when an idea will hit you.

Edit a previous manuscript: Sometimes re-editing previous work does wonders, especially if that self-critic is hard at work. I can't do this. I have nothing to say. Yes you do! Look what you've already crafted!

Take a break: If you've just finished a project, take some time off. Give your creative juices time to start flowing again. Take some time for you. Read a book!

Think about what you're writing and why: Keep it fun! If you love to write in particular genre, then write in it. Don't try to write a story in a genre that's trending right now, your work will suffer. It will begin to feel like a job, rather than enjoyment. The best books always come from authors who are at play. Writing is too hard to do for anything other than love.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

H.M. Jones: An Interview

Today, I have the awesome opportunity to share an interview with the wonderfully talented author H.M. Jones.

H.M. Jones the author of the new adult, dark fantasy, Monochrome, awarded the B.R.A.G Medallion in 2014. She has also authored a series of poetry books, the Attempting to Define poetry collection, and is writing the first book in her soon to be released young adult series, The Old Wood Trilogy
Jones is kept very busy mothering her two preschoolers and teaching college writing and literature. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her two children, her husband and her very fat cat, Pepper. Besides the critical (or hungry?) meows from her cat, her work is being highly praised for its honesty, introspection and creativity. She moderates the Indie review site Elite Indie Reads (http://www.eliteindiereads.weebly.com) when she is not writing, teaching or mothering. 
H.M. Jones' novel, Monochrome, is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and most, if not all, e-book distributors. Visit her website at http://www.hmjoneswrites.net where there are also a few trailers for her books, Monochrome and her soon to be released YA book, Lexis.
Monochrome is a wonderful read! Merely touching the surface, I've included a few of the several positive reviews, Monochrome has received.
5 star rating: Beauty, Magic, and Betrayal: This story was amazing!
5 star rating: Unique and satisfying storytelling: This is a well-crafted story that makes an unlikely journey believable and thought provoking.
5 star rating: A journey of discovery: Ms. Jones has written a dark, Alice in Wonderland styled story that will touch your heart with the characters plight and perhaps, if you're like me, have you start your own journey of introspection.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to grow up to be a recluse with a large library, and I wanted to write. I have not changed my goals much, though I have added a family to them. 
What do you do when you're not writing?
Alas, I spend most of my time not writing. I only get a few hours in the day to create, since I'm a full-time mother. So, generally, I am chasing after kids. But I also like to work out, draw, read (a lot), garden and teach.
Do you have a day job?
My day job is being a full-time mom, but I also snag a few moments here and there in which to write (nap time is perfect for this). However, I do teach afternoons at the Northwest Indian College, as an English instructor, and I love it. All this should tell you that I don't make a lot of money, but I have tons of fun.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Monochrome just came to me, in large bits and pieces. I had severe postpartum depression after having my first child and was devastated by it. I talked to some close friends and family about it and learned that many of them had some form of depression after they had babies, too, some of them as severe as my own, but they were embarrassed to talk about it. It's a taboo discussion, really. I wanted to fix that. Had I not been so embarrassed, I would have got help sooner. 

So, it's about depression, not just postpartum depression, but about the darkness that can overcome someone, that can disable them. Some readers were looking for a "how to" when they found out that my book was about depression, but it's not a guide. It is, simply, a book that is honest, sometimes hard to read, often sad, but open. I made it a fantasy because I feel that when one lives in depression, they are living in an empty, dark place. The world, Monochrome, is the physical representation of the depressed mind, and I always knew what it would look like, having lived there, on and off, throughout my life. 

Don't let this description fool you, though.  Monochrome is about how one protagonist finds the beauty in her life, and shares it with others. It is a very hopeful book, actually. It's about fighting against the darkness that feels overwhelming. It's also a bit romantic, so, if you like that sort of thing, pick it up.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Depends on the book. I started seriously writing books after my children were born, though I've always written poetry, stories and musings here and there. Being a mother to two tiny ones means, of course, that it takes me a lot longer to get my work out there. I don't have a full day to sit and write, so I write during nap time and at the end of the day, when the kids are sleeping. I'm also pretty picky with the end result, so I revise my work several times before allowing anyone else to read it. Then, I revise again, with beta reader suggestions. It took three years for Monochrome to be ready, and I'm still finding things I wish I'd done better. I've been working on Lexis, my unfinished YA novel, for about a year, and it's still in early revision stages. 
What was the hardest part about writing Monochrome? 
Putting my character through hard times. I mean, if the protagonist does not face difficulty, you have no book. But I love my characters, so I have a hard time making them suffer. Also, I'm not a fan of marketing. I have to learn to sell my product better because it's worth it, but I don't come by it naturally. That's not really 'writing,' but it is very much related for an indie author. 
Do you have an interesting writing quirk?
I often think of important plot points while I run. I don't listen to music when I run, so my mind is open and clear to get it all out there. Most of my really great reveries have come from run-writing. I also tend to write a book from beginning to end, without a guide of any sort. I free write until I hit an ending, then I revise. 
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your book?
I first started writing Monochrome in 2010. I finally published it in 2013. My poetry books were all pieces composed from poems that were pretty much finished (a life's worth of poetry), so it was easier to get them out. I simply had to format the ebooks and the covers and content. I released them all in about 2013/2014 because they were all fairly polished before I put them into their respective poetry books.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
I'm a huge fantasy fan, both contemporary and high fantasy, so most of my books come out fantastical in some way, though I tend towards contemporary/modern fantasy. I'm going to branch out, in the future, but fantasy is my go-to genre. I blame Tamora Pierce, J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien. They woke something dormant in me with their fantasies, and it made me want to be a writer who made fantasy relatable, like they do.
How did you come up with the title for Monochrome?
Monochrome is just so catchy. It stuck right away. My world is all steely blue, navy blue, black-blue. It's as dark as the mind of a person about to give up on life. So the meaning of the word and how it ties into the story, and the very heavy sound of it when it rolls off the tongue just made it the perfect title. 
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way, either as a child or an adult?
There are too many to list. As an English M.A., it would be disingenuous of me to say that I created something uninspired. My work is creative, it is my own, but it has hints, brushes and flourishes that will remind readers of other books they've read. As such, I will be more than happy if a reader is reminded of this or that author when reading my work. Some of my favorite authors are Tamora Pierce, Hawthorne, Dickens, Poe, Austen, Alexie, Rowling, Avi, Lowry, Chaucer, Malory, Suzanne Collins, Sharon Olds, Aphra Behn, Donne, Neruda, and Tolkien, among others. So, yeah, I've been influenced a plenty. 
Is anything in Monochrome based on real life experience or purely all imagination?
Monochrome is heavily based on my life experience, but it's not my life in a nut shell. Abigail is not me, though she shares some of my traits and my depression. Many events were completely made up, some altered beyond recognition. It's a work of fiction, mostly, because my life is not as interesting as my writing, thank goodness! I would not want to have to deal with all the stuff Abigail has to deal with, or Ishmael, for that matter. But many events that triggered my depression are mirrored in Monochrome because it helped me to generate the feelings I needed to make the book feel real. 
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
Lexis is a lot different than Monochrome. It's a contemporary fantasy, too, but for a much younger audience. It's about first love, about gender identification, about growing up and finding oneself. I wanted to write something that would speak to the generation that's up and coming now, those who will be changing the world. Lexis is a fantasy that is about much more than a magical world and secret ancestry, but it's very unfinished, so that's all I can say for now. Visit my website for a little sneak peek, and to watch the trailer. I have not decided whether I will self publish it or seek an agent or publisher. 

I'm also writing a short story for a sci-fi compilation that has yet to be announced. So, sadly, I cannot give you much more on that, either, except to say that I was actually asked to write something by the publisher because they loved Monochrome, which made me pretty darn happy.
What book(s) are you reading now?
I'm currently beta reading a book for an indie author friend, T.L. Searle. It's the book that follows her book Aquila: From the Darkness. It's going to be great when she releases it. I'm also reading Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, which is amazing!
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Write all the time. If you want to be a writer, live it. And get people to read your work, give you advice, before you release it or present it to an agent or publisher. Your work will say a lot about you, and you want what is said to be positive. 
Is there anything specific you'd like to say to your readers?
I love you! Honestly. Especially you readers who read and review, even if you don't give me glowing reviews. I love that my book spoke to you, that you gave my words time and importance. I love that you suspended disbelief and walked into my world. What I do, I do for those who love to read. It's my gift to you, and you are a gift to me. 
H.M. Jones is the wonderfully talented author of Monochrome. She also wrote a series of poetry books, the Attempting To Define poetry collection, and is currently writing the first in a series of soon to be released young adult novels, Lexis: book one of The Old Wood Trilogy.
Thank you, H.M. Jones, for the awesome interview and sharing your wonderful writing talent with the world.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Edit, Edit, Edit

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Some things I learned during the editing process:

Every word counts! There is a basic word count guideline for each literary genre. Failing to follow this guideline, chances a rejection over a request for further material. Take the Fantasy genre for example. The word count guideline suggests your manuscript contain 80,000 to 100,000 words. If you query with a word count of 200,000, chances are an agent won't even give it a second look, if they read your query letter at all.

I found during the editing process, cutting unnecessary words, dialogue and eliminating redundancies cut my manuscript from 86,000 words to 73,000. That's 13,000 words! Simply by cutting one word at a time. It tightened my sentences and made my manuscript flow better.

Some words I found, more than not, to be unnecessary:
the (believe it or not)
that (I bet I deleted "that" 500 times)
had (almost always unnecessary)
just (almost always unnecessary)

The list could go on and on! But these are the most common. Researching editing and continuing on with my manuscript I learned that almost every word that ends in "ly" is unnecessary. They also fall under the redundancy list more times than not. An easy way to look for these words is to "find". Under "find what" type ly. I believe I have one word in my entire 73,000 word manuscript that ends in "ly" now.

Some I've found are:
slightly (deleted so many)
literally (get rid of all)

The other problem with these words: If you find them in your manuscript, chances are you're telling vs. showing and that's a deal breaker! When you find an "ly" word, try to re-write the sentence to show action rather than tell. Another fateful word is "felt"! If FELT is in your sentence, you are telling rather than showing.

Some other things I found:

Don't use a name in every sentence of dialogue. No one talks like that. Example:
"Dad, what are you doing?"
"I'm going for a drive, Emma."
"Why are you doing that, Dad?"
"Because, Emma."

Use contractions:
People do not talk so formal. Your sentences will flow better.

Don't search for other words to say "said". Said disappears in the sentence for the reader. They don't even realize it's there. Therefore, it doesn't interrupt the flow of your sentences. Always put the speaker before "said". Joseph said vs. said Joseph. Most of the time, you can "show" with an action vs. "tell" who is speaking. Example: Joseph slammed his hand down on the table. "You are not going!" You just eliminated the need to use "said" at all. I'm not saying don't ever use it, just use it sparingly. Also, using other words for "said" is absolutely acceptable but use them sparingly. As my wonderful critique partner told me: Think of them as only for "special occasions".

Asked: When your character asks a question it is punctuated with a "?" Therefore, you don't always need to say: Joseph asked. Instead try using a sentence to "show" who is asking the question.

Don't repeat dialogue. Example: "Dad, what you doing?" "What am I doing? I'm going for a drive." Unnecessary dialogue! Also, I read somewhere that it's a red flag to agents, and screams inexperienced, new author!

Try to eliminate redundancies. If you use whispered, don't say softly or quietly, you're repeating yourself and taking up valuable word count space. Whispering is soft and quiet.
Brushed her cheek gently. Brushing something is gentle.
He crept slowly. Normally if you crept, it's slowly.
He ran swiftly. Running is swift.
Caressed tenderly. A caress is tender.
He rose up. Rising is up.
He sat down. Sat is down.
He shrugged his shoulders. What else is he going to shrug.
It was 7 p.m. at night. P.M. signifies that it's night.
The hairy gorilla. Gorilla's are hairy.
The dress was blue in color. Blue is a color.

I hope this helps with your editing endeavors. If you have examples of your own, or further suggestions, please feel free to comment!


Friday, October 3, 2014

The Obvious Next Step

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I began a new book yesterday. It's been bouncing around in my head for awhile (for more years than I'm willing to admit). It's a tale I owe to someone, but that's another story.

My first manuscript, The Walker And The Witch, poured out of me like water from a spigot. I'm not saying it was a simple task, but my characters were relentless. They had a story to tell and they weren't about to let me forget it; constantly knocking on my mind's door. They were there when I went to bed, when I woke up, when I went on a walk (I started carrying a tape recorder), and through every other part of my day. As with most writers, my characters became real. They became my imaginary friends. I cried with them, laughed with them, shared their anger, fear, courage, failures and triumphs. Their story is in black and white, and waiting patiently for an interested agent.

While waiting, the obvious next step is to begin a new story. Staring at a blank computer screen, or typing and erasing filled my days for two weeks. The first page is always the hardest, but this was ridiculous. I kept telling myself, I had to let go of Willow, James, Mags, and the rest of my characters/friends from the previous project. I felt like I was betraying them; turning my back on them. I couldn't even come up with my "new" main character's name. It raised a wall in my mind. Yes, the dreaded writer's block!

I put my computer away and read a book by a wonderfully helpful author. GMC: Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon. I recommend it to all aspiring authors. By the time I was finished reading, I had the beginning, middle, and end all worked out in my mind. I was excited to begin! So, I stared at a blank computer screen again. I still felt like a traitor. I even tweeted about it on Twitter: "I began a new story yesterday. It's slow going. Can't let go of the first one." A lovely lady commented on my post. She said not to look at it as "letting go". Simply that it's in a safe place.

A short little post that had a monumental effect. In "real" life we don't discard a friend simply because we found another. We add them to our circle. Willow Young meet Abby Woods! We're all going to be great friends.

Writer's block affects all authors in some form or another. The way it affected me may seem silly in your mind. I know there are authors out there who whip through manuscript after manuscript, creating new worlds and whole list of new characters. It's such a simple feat for some. However, I don't think I'm alone in my "crazy" little world of make-believe. I have to believe there are other aspiring authors out there who struggle in the ways I do.

What walls have you hit? And how did you break through them?


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Maria Vicente - Finding Hope

Maria Vicente - P.S. Literary Agency

I've never written a post about a literary agent before, and I hope she doesn't mind the mention. While researching some content for another post, I came across Ms. Vicente's website. It is very informative and I recommend all aspiring authors check it out!

The research I was doing was directly related to my post, "What Literary Agents Don't Want". I couldn't let hope die without a fight, without exhausting all my search options. Maria Vicente is one of the exception I spoke of in What Literary Agents Don't Want.

My search today entailed: Literary agents seeking witches, vampires, shape-shifters, and so on. MariaVicente.com popped up! I followed the link and began reading the content on her website, as I said, very informative. This is what I found under her "Representation" tab: (I copy/pasted as not to miss a single word)

Literary Representation

I am an associate literary agent at P.S. Literary Agency. Below is an overview of categories I represent as well as my current “wish list” items. I will consider manuscripts in the following categories even if your story doesn’t fit with the contents of my wish list. I’m always looking for a unique manuscript or book proposal. Surprise me with something new and exciting!
If you’d like to send me a query for potential representation, please take a look at P.S. Literary Agency’s Submission Guidelines and send your query letter to query@psliterary.com.

LITERARY FICTIONI am interested in realistic adult literary fiction or literary fiction with a touch of genre (horror, science fiction, fantasy), but I’m not currently looking for genre-focused manuscripts (something you’d find in the speculative fiction section of your local bookstore). I love magical realism. I’m looking for excellent writing combined with a high concept plot.
Literary Fiction Wish List:
  • Magical realism. Example: Of Bees & Mist.
  • Contemporary literary fiction. 
  • Contemporary twist on classic detective fiction. Great mystery, a femme fatale character, etc. Example: an updated The Big Sleep.
  • Modern historical fiction (novels set in the early 20th century; 1910-1960).
  • Realistic stories with a touch of horror/thriller or fantasy. Examples: Night FilmThe Golem and the Jinni, The Night Circus.
  • A serial killer story. Introduce me to the next Dexter.
  • Manuscripts that play with narrative structure and/or incorporate different mediums (art, photography, illustrations, etc.).
YOUNG ADULTI am interested in a variety of YA genres: contemporary, horror, thriller, science fiction, fantasy, and magical realism. I enjoy literary prose and a strong, unique voice.

Young Adult Wish List:
  • Psychological horror. The creepier, the better!
  • Contemporary with an incredible main character who has interesting quirks and hobbies. Example: Fangirl.
  • The novel version of a teenage TV drama like Dawson’s Creek or The OC (in-depth character development for an ensemble cast, complex friendships and relationships, clever dialogue, and relatively over-the-top plot).
  • Magical realism. Ex: The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender.
  • Science fiction with a tone similar to Fringe (creepy) or Firefly (comedy). A female lead character like Olivia Dunham would be a nice bonus. 
  • Contemporary with a focus on friendship rather than romance.
  • A break-up story. Either a relationship or friendship break-up, filled with drama and honest emotion.
  • Contemporary with LGBTQ characters. Not necessarily an “issue” book. I like stories that involve identity politics and characters who go against gender norms.
  • A story from a witch’s point of view. I love villains.
  • Fairytale retelling with macabre sensibilities.
  • Manuscripts that play with narrative structure and/or incorporate different mediums (art, photography, illustrations, etc.).
MIDDLE GRADE & CHAPTER BOOKS I am interested in contemporary, magical realism, fantasy, and horror for middle grade projects. Chapter book submissions need to be never-before-published topics and have series potential, so something that won’t grow tiresome after one or two books.
Middle Grade Wish List:
  • Realistic with a quirky plot. The perfect mix of commercial and literary.
  • Graphic novel.
  • Short story collection. Ideally every chapter should be its own story, but connect through one common theme or setting. Example: Wayside School series.
  • Animal story with a classic feel. My all-time favourites are Watership Down and Silverwing.
  • Contemporary Sweet Valley Twins series. This doesn’t need to focus on twins — friends or sisters would be just fine. Contemporary stories about real-life issues for younger readers, featuring likeable characters they can relate to.
  • Cute chapter book series for young readers. I’d love something featuring dinosaurs or unicorns.

PICTURE BOOKSPicture book submissions should be high concept and character-driven (nothing too didactic). I like whimsical and eccentric characters with a fun story to tell. Author/illustrators are preferred.

NONFICTION I’m interested in nonfiction that covers the following categories: pop culture, geek culture, pop psychology, design, and lifestyle. I love online and pop culture, particularly television and its many fandoms, so I’m always willing to look at projects with that angle. I’d love to see lifestyle and design books like cookbooks, DIY guides, fashion or art themed projects, etc. I also welcome blog-to-book proposals. I expect any nonfiction book proposal to offer a new perspective on an entertaining topic.

If you look closely at her Young Adult Wish List, you will find a short entry stating: "A story from a witch's point of view. I love villains." This is what promptly caught my attention. The main character of my manuscript, Willow Young, is a witch! However, she's not a villain. But, she's a witch! I also found in her Fall 2014 Manuscript Wish List: "I’ve always loved witches. I want one to call my own for the rest of forever. I’m looking for an excellent YA told from a witch’s point of view. I have no other specifics; I’ll know it when I see it." My excitement took over and I immediately sent Ms. Vicente a query letter!

I'm not saying I expect representation simply on the fact that she loves witches. What I am saying is: There are still Literary Agents out there looking for submissions with paranormal elements. If you review Ms. Vicente's wish list you'll find that she's currently seeking manuscripts that other literary agent's "don't want". She is absolutely one of the exceptions, and I found hope.

Monday, September 29, 2014

What Literary Agents Don't Want

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It's sad but true, almost all Literary agents are tired of vampires. It's nearly impossible to write an original vampire novel these days. I personally love vampires!

While researching agents, I found most had included "vampires" into their "What I'm Not Looking For" list. There are always exceptions however. Following novels like Twilight and The Vampire Diaries, literary agents inboxes were flooded with similar manuscripts.

Some of the toughest sells in young adult:
  • Dystopia (think Hunger Games, or fallen government books)
  • Paranormal love triangles (think Twilight, The Vampire Diaries)
  • Paranormal (anything with werewolves, shape-shifters, selkies, mermaids, anything with tail, teeth or wings)
  • Zombies (editors are over zombies, and if an editor doesn't want it, neither does an agent)
  • Parallel Universes
  • Time Travel
  • Fairytale Retellings
  • Pregnancy Horrors
  • Apocalyptic Aftermaths
  • Trilogies
Paranormal and Urban Fantasy are becoming tougher sells because of the flooded marketplace.

What most Literary agents are looking for in young adult:
  • Contemporary
  • Science Fiction
  • Stand-alone novels
Literary agents are always looking for "voice" and "good writing". If you research literary agents you're going to find that most want the same thing. They want something they haven't seen before, something unique/original. Agents are also looking for something that will lure more male readers into the young adult genre. They'd like to see more young adult novels that feature a strong-but flawed-male protagonist. They want to see more contemporary thrillers.

As trilogies are becoming a hard sell, editors are looking for more stand-alone novels.

As I said, there are always exceptions and most, if not all, literary agents don't care what genre the manuscript falls under, as long as the writing is good. Whether it's contemporary romance, horror. or a paranormal love triangle, agents want a story that they've never seen before. Something that captures their attention and won't let go - a great story with good writing that's original and unpredictable.

I wrote my manuscript, The Walker And The Witch, six years ago because I love writing. I've been told that it's unique, but it falls under the paranormal categories and includes The Orenda (witches), Skin-Walkers (shape-shifters) and Balkan Eternals (vampires). It has a slim chance of getting picked up by any literary agent, I know that.

Don't get discouraged by this post, write because you love the craft. Write because you love your story. Don't choose your genre based on what other people think, your manuscript will suffer, your writing will seem forced. As with all great trends in the world, it will come back around. They always do.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Literary Agent Wish List

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What do literary agents look for in their inbox? What do they hope to find? Searching for your dream agent is part of the querying process. Unless you plan to self-publish, this is an unavoidable and important step. Every literary agent has a wish list. What they'd love to see in their inbox. Finding agents isn't an impossible feat. It's rather easy actually, and you don't even have to leave your favorite chair. Typing "literary agent" into any search engine on the internet will produce thousands of results. It's easy, but time consuming.

To help you along with this process, I thought I'd add a "work in progress" here. I'll add the represented genres and wish list of literary agents to this post in the hopes to make your hectic life just a little bit easier.

Beth Campbell BookEnds, LLC: According to the agency website, Ms. Campbell is working hard to build BookEnds client list and has a distinct flavor for fantasy/sci-fi. She's also interested in romantic suspense, cozy mysteries, and YA.

Laura Bradford Bradford Literary Agency: Ms. Bradford is actively building her client list and is currently seeking: Romance (historical, romantic, suspense, paranormal, category, contemporary, erotic), urban fantasy, women's fiction, mystery, thrillers, YA, and some select non-fiction.

Andrea Somberg Harvey Klinger, INC: Ms. Somberg's client list is quite full, however she's always looking to take on new authors. In Fiction she represents: literary, commercial, women's fiction, romance, thrillers, mystery, paranormal, fantasy, sci-fi, young adult and middle grade. On the Non-Fiction side: memoir, narrative, popular science, pop-culture, humor, how-to, parenting, self-help, lifestyle, travel, interior design, crafts, cookbooks, health & fitness, business, and sports.

Ginger Clark Curtis Brown LTD: Ms. Clark represents sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal romance, literary horror, young adult and middle grade.

Katie Reed Andrea Hurst & Associates: Ms. Reed represents all areas of young adult and adult fiction. She has a special interest in YA and fantasy. She also represents non-fiction, and has an extensive fiction and non-fiction wish list on the Andrea Hurst site. Check it out!

Cate Hart Corvisiero Literary Agency: Ms. Hart's favorite genre is historical, whether it’s Middle Grade or YA, Adult Romance or something even spicier. She will consider any genre, but is especially looking for YA Fantasy and Magical Realism. Ms. Hart has a detailed list of what she's looking for on the agency site. Check it out!

Nephele Tempest The Knight Agency: Ms. Tempest is actively building her client list, and is currently seeking: literary/commercial fiction, women’s fiction, fantasy, science fiction, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, contemporary romance, historical fiction, young adult and middle grade fiction.

Holly Root Waxman Leavell Literary Agency: Ms. Root is currently seeking middle grade and young adult fiction, women’s fiction (both commercial and upmarket), urban fantasy and romance. She also represents select non-fiction.

Suzie Townsend New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc.: Ms. Townsend is currently building her client list and is specifically looking for new adult, romance (all subgenres), fantasy (urban fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, epic fantasy) and crime fiction (mysteries, thrillers). She loves YA (all subgenres) and is dying to find great Middle Grade projects (especially something akin to the recent movie SUPER 8).

Kate Testerman kt literary: Ms. Testerman concentrates on young adult and middle grade fiction.  Her interests cover a broad range including contemporary drama, urban fantasy and magical realism, adventure stories, and romantic comedies.

Clelia Gore Martin Literary Management: Mrs. Gore represents middle grade and young adult books. In YA she is particularly looking for contemporary, realistic novels, as well as "light" fantasy. She is very interested in YA memoirs featuring unique stories about extraordinary youths. In MG she is currently seeking books that have interplay between the illustrations and text. Humorous MG is her favorite.

Sarah Davies The Greenhouse Literary Agency: Ms. Davies is currently seeking fiction by North American authors, MG through YA and across all genres.

Rebecca Podos Rees Literary Agency: Ms. Podos is interested in MG and YA fiction of all kinds.

Joanna MacKenzie Browne & Miller Literary Associates LLC: Ms. MacKenzie's true passion lies in commercial fiction. She's looking for women's fiction, thriller, new adult and young adult genres.

Hannah Bowman Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency: Ms. Bowman specializes in commercial fiction. Her interests are science fiction and fantasy, young adult, women's fiction, cozy mysteries, and romance. She is also interested in non-fiction, particularly in the areas of mathematics, science and religion (especially history and sociology of Christianity).

Kevan Lyon Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, LLC: Ms. Lyon represents women's fiction, with a special interest in commercial women's fiction. Young adult and all genres of romance.

Natanya Wheeler Nancy Yost Literary Agency: Ms. Wheeler loves to find new writers and doesn't shy away from debut talent! She's particularly interested in literary fiction that touches on current events or multicultural issues: family sagas; dark and edgy psychological thrillers and crime fiction. She also represents select non-fiction.

Laura Zats Red Sofa Literary: Ms. Zats represents middle grade, young adult, romance and sci-fi/fantasy.

Kristin Nelson Nelson Literary Agency, LLC: Ms. Nelson has an extensive detailed list of what she's currently seeking. Check it out! She represents young adult and upper level middle grade. Big crossover novels, commercial literary, upmarket women's fiction, single-title romance (especially historical), select sci-fi and fantasy.

Jordy Albert The Booker Albert Literary Agency: Ms. Albert is looking for romance (contemporary, New Adult, erotica, or historical-especially Regency). Any genre of Young Adult (especially very strong romantic element). Middle Grade (action, adventure, contemporary).

Maria Vicente P.S. Literary Agency: Ms. Vicente is looking for literary and commercial fiction, LGBT, New Adult, high-concept Young Adult, Middle Grade, high-concept Picture Books, and select non-fiction.

Jennifer Udden Donald Maass Literary Agency: Ms. Udden represents speculative fiction (both science fiction and fantasy), Urban Fantasy, and Mysteries, as well as Historical, Erotica, Contemporary and Paranormal Romance.

Rebecca Strauss DeFiore and Company LLC: Ms. Strauss is especially interested in emerging writers and developing long term relationships. She focuses on Literary and Commercial Fiction, Women's Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance, Mystery, Young Adult, Pop Culture and select Non-Fiction.

Diana Fox Fox Literary: Ms. Fox is currently seeking: Young Adult Fiction (all genres), Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Historical Fiction, Thrillers, Graphic Novels and select Non-Fiction.

Rachel Brooks L. Perkins Agency: Ms. Brooks is actively building her client list. She is seeking Young Adult and New Adult Fiction (all genres), and Adult Romance. While she is looking for all sub-genres of romance, she is especially interested in Romantic Suspense and Urban Fantasy. She is also on the lookout for fun Picture Books.

Uwe Stender TriadaUS: Dr. Uwe Stender is interested in all kinds of commercial fiction especially: Mysteries, Young Adult, Middle Grade and Women's Fiction. He is also interested in select Literary Fiction and all kinds of Non-Fiction projects.

Becca Stumpf Prospect Agency: Ms. Stumpf is interested in Adult, Young Adult and Middle Grade literary and commercial fiction. In YA and MG she is especially looking for spine-tingling mysteries (historical or contemporary). YA thrillers, Fantasy and Sci-Fi. In Adult she is literary mysteries, thrillers, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and spicy Romance novels (Contemporary, Historical, Sci-Fi, Urban Fantasy, Steam Punk).

Ann Behar Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency: Ms. Behar is seeking Children's books, from Picture Books to Young Adult.

Jim McCarthy Dystel & Goderich Literary Agency: Mr. McCarthy is interested in both literary and commercial works in Adult and Young Adult categories. He is particularly interested in Literary Women's Fiction, underrepresented voices, Mysteries, Romance, and Paranormal Fiction. He is also interested in narrative Non-Fiction, Memoir, and Paranormal Non-Fiction.

Ethan Ellenberg The Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency: Mr. Ellenberg is interested in all kinds of literary and commercial fiction, including Thrillers, Mysteries, Children's, Romance, Women's Fiction, Ethnic, Science Fiction, Fantasy and general fiction. He is also interested in select Non-Fiction.

Paula Munier Talcott Notch Literary Services, LLC: Ms. Munier is interested in Mystery, Thriller, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult, Memoir, Humor, Pop Culture, Health & Wellness, Cooking, Self Help, Pop Psych, New Age, Inspirational, Technology, and Science. She's very involved with the mystery community, so if you write crime fiction, send it along.

Margaret Bail Inklings Literary Agency: Ms. Bail is only interested in Adult Fiction in the follow genres: Romance (all subgenres except Christian or Inspirational), Mystery, Thrillers, Historical Fiction, Westerns, and Fantasy. Ms. Bail is also interested in select Non-Fiction.

Wendy Sherman Wendy Sherman Associates, Inc.: Ms. Sherman is interested in women's fiction, historical dramas, and suspense. She is also interested in select Non-Fiction.

Alyssa Reuben Paradigm Talent Agency: Ms. Reuben is seeking Literary Fiction, Chic Lit, Commercial Fiction, Women's Fiction, Humor/Satire, Romance, Family Saga, Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Multi-Cultural, Adventure, Offbeat/Quirky, and Middle Grade. She also represents select Non-Fiction.

Jodi Reamer Writers House: A Literary Agency: Ms. Reamer is interested in General Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult, Middle Grade and Children's Books. She is also interested in select Non-Fiction.

Laura Rennert Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc.: Ms. Rennert is seeking upper Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction. She's drawn to Contemporary, Multi-Cultural, Alternate Histories/Realities, Fantasy, Paranormal, Science Fiction, Thrillers and Horror.

Christine Witthohn Book Cents Literary Agency: Ms. Witthohn is currently seeking well-written Romance (category or single title), a high-concept, voice driven domestic Thriller, and a smart, sexy New Adult Thriller. She also represents Romance (Contemporary, Paranormal, Romantic Comedy, Mystery/Suspense), Young Adult and New Adult, Women's Lit, Mainstream Mystery/Suspense, Thrillers, and Literary Fiction. She also represents select Non-Fiction.

Karen Solem Spencerhill Associates, Ltd.: Ms. Solem is seeking Literary and Commercial Fiction, and Non-Fiction, primarily for the adult market. She especially loves southern Women's Fiction, and given her passion for animals, seeks any work involving dogs, horses or the natural world.

Emmanuelle Morgen Stonesong: Ms. Morgen represents Adult and Children's Fiction, as well as memoir and select narrative and prescriptive Non-Fiction books. In children's books, she primarily represents Young Adult. In Adult books she represents General fiction, Women's Fiction, Romance, Historical and Mystery.

Miriam Kriss Irene Goodman Literary Agency: Ms. Kriss focuses on Commercial Fiction, and represents everything from hardcover Historical Mysteries to all sub-genres of Romance, from Young Adult Fiction to Urban Fantasy, and everything in between.

Beth Phelan The Bent Agency: Ms. Phelan represents Young Adult Fiction, Romance, and select Commercial and Literary Adult Fiction. She also represents select Non-Fiction.

Pam Van Hylckama Vlieg D4EO Literary Agency: Ms. Van Hylckama Vlieg is seeking Genre Fiction, as well as Middle Grade, Young Adult, and New Adult Fiction.

Reiko Davis Miriam Altshuler Literary Agency: Ms. Davis is interested in both Literary and Commercial Fiction. In Children's books, she loves Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction--whether Contemporary, Historical, or Fantasy. Ms. Davis also represents select Non-Fiction.

Christina Hogrebe Jane Rotrosen Agency: Ms. Hogrebe represents General Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Suspense/Thriller, Juvenile Fiction, Women's Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction.

Monika Verma Levine Greenburg Rostan Literary Agency: Though Ms. Verma's client list is primarily Non-Fiction, she also enjoys working on Young Adult Fiction, whether it's Paranormal, Historical, or Contemporary.

Greg Aunapu Salkind Literary Agency: Mr. Aunapu is interested in Commercial Fiction, Historical, Thriller/Suspense, Mystery, Detective, Adventure, Humor, Science-Fiction, and Fantasy. He also represents select Non-Fiction.

Amanda Panitch Lippincott Massie McQuilkin: Ms. Panitch is currently seeking Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction and Non-Fiction across all genres.

Valerie Noble Donaghy Literary Group: Ms. Noble is seeking Young Adult and New Adult Fiction in the following areas: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fantasy and Historical Fiction.

Caitlen Rubino-Bradway LKG Agency: Ms. Rubino-Bradway is building her client list. She is currently seeking Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction. In teen novels, Sci-fi/fantasy is her sweet spot.

Rena Rossner The Deborah Harris Agency: Ms. Rossner is most interested in Israeli writers of Fantasy and Science Fiction, but she will also look at Sci-fi/fantasy with Jewish content from writers all over the world. She also represents Middle Grade and Young Adult Contemporary stories by Israeli authors or with Jewish content or theme. She would love to find a New Adult or Adult novel written about the Israeli army (LGBQT also!)  Also, historical fiction set in Ancient Israel, or historical fiction with Israeli/Jewish content and themes - for Adults/Middle Grade/Young Adult. She is also willing to look at literary novels set in the Middle East - historical fiction, fantasy, and especially multicultural romances.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Agents Queried - Now What

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There is no "easy" feat in the querying process. You've sent a batch of query letters out to your selected literary agents, and now - the wait. Don't sit around playing tidily-winks (as my dad used to say). Don't check your email every five minutes - it will drive you crazy. So what to do?

  • Go for a walk. When was the last time you saw the sky?
  • Visit family and friends. No, your computer is not the only interaction you need.
  • Clean house. The dust is piling up on those end tables.
And Then:
  • Review, Re-edit, Revise. Every time you go over your manuscript, chances are you'll find something. A misspelled word. A forgotten word. A missing word. A duplicated word.
  • Begin a new story. There are dozens flying through your mind. Aspiring authors are never at a loss for ideas.
Querying agents doesn't mean you've reached the end. It doesn't mean that manuscript you've slaved over all these months is sold. Agents are always on the look out for the next best-seller, but they are selective. Finding a literary agent/publisher who loves your story as much as you do, is not an easy task. Re-read that, nowhere in the last sentence was the word impossible ever implied.

Move on to the next project while you wait for agent replies. Keep those creative juices flowing.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Rejection: Even the best go through it

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Never Stop Trying!
Rejection is one of the worst feeling in the world. Most aspiring authors are very familiar with the dreaded rejection letter. However, you're not alone. Did you know ...
 Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell received 38 rejections before publication.
 Anne Frank's The Diary Of A Young Girl was rejected 15 times.                            
 Lord Of The Flies by William Golding received 20 rejections before it was published.
 A Time To Kill by John Grisham was rejected by 12 publishers and 16 agents before it was published.
 Agatha Christie waited 4 years for her first book to be published.                       
 Stephenie Meyer's Twilight was rejected 14 times.                                               
 The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks received 24 rejections before publication.    
 J.K. Rowling was rejected 12 times and was told "not to quit her day job." If it wasn't for a CEO's eight-year-old daughter, who begged her father to print the book, we may still be waiting for Harry.
 Stephen King's Carrie received 30 rejections before being published.                 
 And last but not least, Louis L'Amour received 200 rejections. That's not a misprint, two hundred!
They all persevered and look where they are today! Never give up on your dream! Don't let anyone tell you, you're not good enough. Be proud of your work, and never stop trying. Eventually, you'll make it!




Word Count Guidelines

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Agents are bombarded with queries, and they look for a reason to say no. A high word count will give them the ammunition they need to reject your project. There are always exceptions to the rule, but don't count on being an exception. If you do, chances are you'll be disappointed. A high word count throws up red flags to an agent. It either means the writer hasn't edited their work enough, or they have two or more books combined into one. I've read articles that state because agents are so busy, some simply look at the genre and the word count. If the word count doesn't match the genre guidelines the query is automatically a no.

Previously published authors don't have to sweat this rule much. However, first-time authors should always follow the genre guidelines.

Some Genre Guidelines
Literary/Commercial/Women's: 80,000 to 110,000
-Literary can run as high as 120,000
-Chic Lit: 80,000 to 100,000
Crime Fiction: 90,000 to 100,000
Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense: 70,000 to 90,000
-Cozy Mysteries: 65,000 to 90,000
Romance: 40,000 to 100,000
-Category Romance: 55,000 to 75,00
Fantasy: 90,000 to 100,000 (some will accept 120,000, but don't aim for it. More doesn't equal better)
Paranormal: 75,000 to 95,000
Horror: 80,000 to 100,000
Science Fiction: 90,000 to 125,000 (big exception due to descriptions and world building)
Historical: 100,000 to 120,000
New Adult Fiction: 60,000 to 85,000
Middle Grade: 25,0000 to 40,000 (debut averages 35,000)
-Upper Middle Grade: 20,000 to 55,000
Picture Books: 500 to 700
Novella: 20,000 to 50,000 (Most agents and editors don't ever want to see a novella)
Non-Fiction: 70,000 to 110,000
Short Stories: 1,000 to 8,000
Flash Fiction: 100 to 500
Western: 80,000 to 100,000 (Almost no editor is buying Westerns these days)
Young Adult Fiction: 50,000 to 80,000 - YA fiction is one of the hardest genres for writers concerning word count due to all of the sub-genres within it. It's a category where the word count is very flexible. However, 55,000 to 70,0000 is a great range. For mainstream YA it's always best to stay under 80,000 words.
-YA contemporary tends to be shorter at 60,000 to 70,000
-YA Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Paranormal tend to run longer due to world building at 70,000 to 90,000 words.
Science Fiction and Fantasy is another hard genre for writers. Some agents and editors will accept a manuscript over 120,000 words but it has to be extraordinary, and you will still be expected to cut it down.
Before you submit your work to an agent be sure to edit, revise and polish, and then ... edit, revise and polish! Make sure you've done your very best work and research each agency. Some include word count preferences right on their site. Study the guidelines carefully, and submit your work accordingly.
Be The Rule. Not The Exception.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How I Make Characters Real

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The characters in my stories are real to me. They are my imaginary friends. I have a clear depiction of each in my mind. Their height, complexion, hair color and especially their eyes. I have this thing for eyes. I know their mannerisms, their personalities, and all about their childhood. But I like to put a real face to the people who frolic in my mind. A picture I can view with just a click of my mouse.

When I began writing The Walker And The Witch, I spent weeks searching the internet. I typed: new actresses/actors, models, and simply people, among other things into the search engine. It doesn't always work as in my main character, Willow. She's a combination of 3 faces I found.

Most of the time I find the perfect match. I'll happen upon the picture and talk to my computer screen: "There you are!" (Yes I talk to my computer. Doesn't everybody?)

This is also an excellent way to find new characters you didn't even know were characters. That's how I found Euros. I didn't know he was a character in my book until I saw a picture of this man. His eyes told his story and Euros was born.

It's a strange process, I know. But it's one that works for me.

What process do you use? How do your characters come to life? 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Twilight ~ Stephenie Meyer - A reference point

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Chances are, I'm not going to win any popularity contests with this post. That's okay. I'm not an expert in the writing field. I have my own opinions and I'm really only using Twilight as a reference point. This is my own personal viewpoint.

There are two types of groups for the Twilight series: Those who loved it and those who hated it. I'm sure those who loved it outrank the latter. But you'll very seldom find someone who says, "It was okay? I could take it or leave it."

The point of this post is my being appalled by a review of Twilight or more so, Stephenie Meyer. I've stuck to one book genre my entire life. (I know, I've lived a sheltered life.) I fell into YA by accident. My son was struggling with his reading assignments. He hated to read. So I bought the first Harry Potter book and planned to help him with his grade. We read it together and I was hooked! I'd been missing a whole world of books that I found I loved! I proudly own every Harry Potter book and movie! When Twilight came out my friends were all in a frenzy to get the book. I didn't buy it at first but later I thought why not? I loved J.K. Rowling's books. I admit, the writing wasn't as lovely as J.K. Rowling's, but I found the characters intriguing and who could forget Cedric Diggory! I was "Team Edward" all the way! I own all the books and movies now!

I should clear up my statement about only reading one genre my entire life. To be honest, I only read one author my entire life, who we'll refer to as "my author" for this post. I fell into this author's world as a teenager and had no desire to venture farther. In my opinion, "my author" was a writing god/goddess. I'd always wanted to write a book, to get published, but my own mind was an enemy. I could never write as well as "my author" so why even try. However, after reading Harry Potter and the author's bio, I thought: "She's a real person, just like me. I can do this! I can write my book!" I'd played up "my author" so much in my mind that he/she wasn't real anymore. J.K. Rowling is a real person. If she can do it, why can't I? So I did!

Then "my author", my celestial being, reviewed Twilight, and nothing nice was said. That almost broke me. What if I did get published? What if "my author" reviewed my book poorly? The fear of my god/goddess possibly reviewing my book and saying I couldn't write, set my querying process back by 5 years. Seriously!

Then I got angry. "My author" had at one time been modest and said: "If I can do it, anyone can." When did he/she move past modesty? When did his/her head grow so big? I don't remember the exact words in the review my author gave about Twilight. But in my mind, what I read was: "You'll never write as well as me, so give up!" Really?!

Authors are not created equally. Some have great stories, but not so wonderful words. Some have poor stories, but great words, and some have both, (they are hard to find). The point to my rant is: Stephenie Meyer was like every other aspiring author out there. The courage it takes to put yourself through querying, rejections and bad reviews is immeasurable. So Kudos to you, Stephenie Meyer!!

As I'm often told I live in a fantasy world. I had this fantastical misconception that authors should stick together. Veterans should encourage the new-comers. I still love my original genre but I've since ventured farther. So I guess I should thank "my author" for that. But the review has left a sour taste in my mouth for any of "my author's" new books and an astounding disappointment in my heart.

So to conclude: Don't ever put all of your stock into one person. Don't ever give up! And when you do make it, please don't ever bash another author. You were them once.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Critique Partners

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Critique Partners are invaluable and awesome! I have two CP's at the moment, and they have both become such good friends.

A great site to find CP's or Beta Readers is Agent Query Connect. Join today! It's free and I promise you, you won't regret it. AQC has several forums full of wonderful people and helpful advice. Finding trusted Critiqe Partners is extremely important before beginning the query process. I don't know where I'd be without mine. Thank you ladies!

It's stressful at first. You're entrusting all your hard work to a complete stranger. Everyone goes through it, you're not alone in what you're feeling right now. Sharing personal email addresses is how my CP/friends and I connected. We share our work with one another and help to the best of our abilities, whether it's suggesting eliminating unnecessary words, changing how a particular scene plays out, or pointing out grammar and punctuation errors. Also support and praise for a job well done! Soon you find yourself emailing just to say hi, have a great day! You're sharing everyday events, rejection letters, requests... Before you know it, a friendship blossoms and that's the greatest thing about the invaluable critique partners!

Monday, September 22, 2014


So a little off-subject today. But I can't help it. I'd like to introduce the newest edition to our family. Sweet and handsome Wesley Allen. He warms my heart.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Agent Requests

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Querying is an emotional roller coaster! Following a few "not right for me" rejection form letters I received a request for further material, and to boost my excitement even more, it was an agent from my "top agent" wish list. So exciting!

What does it mean when an agent requests further material? You've successfully piqued their interest with your query letter and sample pages. Good Job!

Depending on the agent's interest they will request a partial or a full. If it's a partial then you should send the amount the agent has requested, this is usually 50 pages but it can vary. A full is obviously your entire manuscript.

Some agent's ask for an exclusive. This can be tricky. If an agent requests an exclusive, they are asking you to stop everything until the agreed upon time has expired. No querying, no accepting further requests, just sit and wait for them to finish reading your manuscript. If you're comfortable with that, go for it! If it's an agent from your agent wish list and you're certain you'll snatch up an offer of representation then by all means, do it! Accepting an exclusive is completely your call. I know it's exciting, but try to avoid pestering them during the agreed upon time. If it comes and goes, then a polite "nudge" is acceptable.

I don't think a one to two week exclusive is an absurd request but when you move into a month or more, seriously think about it. A request doesn't mean an offer of representation. The agent may still pass on your manuscript, and that will be a month or more of querying other agents that you missed out on.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Four Basic Components Of A Query Letter

When submitting your query to literary agents you only have one shot to grab the agent's attention. So make every word count.

Don't skip the query letter. Some writers make the mistake of sending their sample pages in place of a query letter because they find the query too difficult to write. You wrote an entire manuscript. You can write a query. Literary agents don't have time to read all the sample pages they receive and if you fail to send a query, your submission might end up unread and discarded. There went your chance.

Don't forget your contact information and the date. You want a formal format:

Chris Smith
1402 20th Street
Kansas City, KS 12345
chrissmith@ gmail.com

September 19, 2014

Terri Knapp
Kringle Literary Agency
2463 58th Street, Suite 302
New York, NY 10001

Dear Ms. Knapp,

A basic query letter is made up of four essential components:

An Opening Line
Mini Synopsis
Author Bio

The opening line, also known as the hook is meant to catch the reader's eye, pique their interest and keep them reading. Most agents frown on questions as the hook. Example of a bad hook: Have you ever wondered what it would be like ...

The mini synopsis. I've read a couple different viewpoints on what makes a good mini synopsis. One author/literary agent said to keep this paragraph to three sentences. How can you get the plot into three sentences you ask. It's not easy, but it's doable. He further explained to leave any names out of the query. If you add names that distracts the agent because now they have to store away a name. The author/literary agent's book is packed full of information and great advice, although I'm not a big fan of the three sentence synopsis. I tried it out. I sent one query letter using his advice and received a rejection the following day. That's a record as far as my query replies go. So my advice is: keep your mini synopis to the recommended 250 - 300 words and make every word count. Focus on the main plot, settting, and characters, but don't introduce any more than two characters. Let the agent know what your main character is facing, what's at stake and the choices they will have to make.

Author bio. Again this is an area I've read different points of view. Some say if you have nothing to show, then skip the bio. What you include in this section is totally up to you, but I'd caution against hobbies or anything unrelated to writing. Some agents don't mind reading about your obsession with chocolate or that you're the official cookie-baker your son's t-ball team. But unless your manuscript specifically pertain's to chocolate, baking or t-ball I'd leave it out. Your query letter should be a formal introduction to a professional literary agent, not a Hey Buddy! What are you up to today? However, if you've been published in magazines or any other form, do tell and be specific. If you've won any writing contest or if you have any expertise in the subject of your book. Some agents request a bio, even if you've never been published. They want you to tell them about yourself. So always read the agent's submission guidelines and follow them closely.

Appreciation. I will repeat how important it is to follow the agent's submission guidelines one more time, and don't forget to say thank you. Something as simple as: Thank you for your time and consideration. If the submission guidelines request sample pages or your synopsis this can read along the lines of: Per your agency's submission guideline, I have included the first ten pages of my manuscript below. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Check your spelling and spell the agent's name correctly. Don't fret too much. You will do great! Good Luck!