Tag Archive | Writing progress

Parts of the Query Letter

There are three parts to the actual query letter and each part is only one paragraph. Query letters must be short. They should never, EVER be more than a page.

The first paragraph is a short intro, with one sentence that lists the title of your novel, the word count, and the genre. The second sentence should explain why you chose to query that particular agent. Personalize it if you can; agents like to know you didn’t just randomly pull their name out of a hat. If, however, the only reason you are querying them is because a search engine said that the agent represents your genre, then I would strongly suggest you leave that sentence blank. Some agents say that you don’t need to do this, that you can jump right into your query, but I will say this: 90% of the request I have gotten are from agents that received personalized queries.

The second paragraph is a short (and I mean SHORT; no more than THREE sentences) synopsis of your novel. It should read like the blurb on the back cover or jacket flap of a book; short, to the point, and most of all, interesting. We will discuss this section of the query letter on Friday.

The last paragraph of the query should have a short author bio, with any publishing credits you might have. What’s that you say? You don’t have any publishing credits? That’s okay; we’ll discuss what to put here on Monday!

And, finally, you have the closing, which I tack on to the author bio. It should read something like this: “Thank you for taking the time to consider my work. Upon your request, I would be happy to send you a partial or complete manuscript. I look forward to your response.” (You have your manuscript done, right? Because you might need to send it in IMMEDIATELY. The partial request I got the day before yesterday came only TWO HOURS after I sent the query. You need to be ready to send it out almost immediately. Some agents say they expect your manuscript within the week, but really, the sooner the better.)

Then you sign your name and include you mailing address, your phone number, your email address, and your website address if you have one. You want to give your potential agent as many ways as you can to contact them!

And that’s you’re basic query letter. Tomorrow, we’ll cover a list of do’s and don’ts for a query letter. Trust me, there are a lot of mistakes a new writer can make that will irritate an agent. Luckily, you have me, with my hard-won experience, to tell you what NOT to do. (To bad no one told me! My mistakes could fill a giant bucket!)

Vetting a Literary Agent you Think you Want to Query

Today’s post is a few days early, due to the holidays! And yes, we will still be interviewing a literary agent on Thursday! Have a wonderful week everyone! 

Remember, when you are selecting an agent, be choosy. You’re hiring THEM to work for you, even though it might seem like the other way around. Don’t just say yes because it was the only offer you got. No agent is better than a bad agent. A bad agent can take your money, negotiate a bad contract, place your manuscript at a poor choice for publisher, and screw up your publishing career for life. There are a lot of fraud agents out there. There are also agents who mean well, but just don’t have the contacts or the experience it takes to be a good agent. Some of these agents might acquire these things over the years. Those who do not will fold.

Here are some helpful tips to make sure an agent is the right one for you:

  • Never NEVER sign with an agent that charges reading fees. Yes, there are a very few legitimate agents out there that charge fees, but it is very few. Why take the chance? In fact The Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR- the literary agents’ guild) won’t allow any of their members to charge reading fees. It’s best to avoid agents that do.
  • Double check each agent you chose to query with the list of resources below. If they’re listed with at least two, they’re probably legit.
  • Just because an agent is not a member of AAR, doesn’t mean they are not legit. To become a member, you need to make a certain number of sales within a certain time frame, which can be hard for newer agents to do until they become more established.
  • ALWAYS check submission guidelines-both with the agency AND the agent. Sometimes the agent themselves will ask for something different. A good way to check on the specific agent is to use the resources I mentioned yesterday, especially Publisher’s Marketplace. Also, QueryTracker will list in the agent’s overview if they have a blog, Twitter feed, Etc.

Also, one other tip: keep track of who you query, and which agency they are with. Many agencies frown on querying another agent within their agency if the first agent has rejected you. There’s no point in ticking off people at the very beginning of your querying process. Try to stick to their rules and submission guidelines.

Resources for vetting agents:

  • AgentQuery
  • QueryTracker.net
  • Preditors and Editors– This is the number one site for checking an agent or publishers legitimacy. ALWAYS check with them. Their rating criteria are listed here.
  • AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler: These forums are a great place to see what an agent is like to work with. There are threads on most agents, and sometimes some of their actual clients stop by and talk about what it’s like to work with them. There are also warnings posted about bad agents.
  • AAR

 

 

 

Conflict vs. Tension in Your Writing

Okay, everyone, The Literary Mom has been doing lots of “mom” stuff, and is exhausted. Please enjoy this article I wrote last year about conflict vs. tension in your writing, and have a nice Wednesday!

One of the most important elements in fiction writing is conflict. You can’t write a good story without it, period. But conflict has a counterpart that is equally important; tension. What’s that you say? Aren’t tension and conflict the same thing? No, they’re not, and here’s why: tension is what your readers experience when waiting for the conflict they know is coming.

As I get nearer and nearer the black moment (You don’t know what that is? Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post!) in my NaNo novel, I’ve been thinking more and more about tension and conflict. Today, I had a breakthrough. I realized I had my two final scenes in the wrong order. The way I had it originally had the most conflict. However, today I realized that if I reversed their order, it will actually increase the reader tension. Reader tension is what keeps the reader turning the page, even when it’s one in the morning and they know they have to get up at six for work.

Sometimes, you have to hint to your readers that a big conflict is on the way and then delay it. The delay is what creates the reader tension. They know it’s coming, but when? They continue reading, breathless and anxious, waiting for that ugly conflict to pop out from behind a bush and scream “BOO!!”

Writing: When Should One Give Up?

Well, I think that does it! We’ve covered everything there is to know about querying an agent. Did I miss something? Is there something you would like covered? Do you have any questions about the writing process you would like to discuss? I’m open to suggestions, so please let me know.

There’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, and I was wondering if anyone else had gone through it in the course of their writing career. As those of you who follow my blog know, I’ve finished four novels and have maybe six more that I started and didn’t finish (from the early days of my writing). I’ve written five picture books as well. I’ve yet to land an agent, despite receiving interest. Currently, my most recent novel is making the rounds with the agents; and I’ve been wondering; what do I do if it doesn’t pan out again? Other then being a wife and a mother, writing and being a successful author has been, and continues to be, my biggest dream. But there’s no sugar-coating it; breaking into the publishing world is hard. Sometimes, I feel like it’s impossible. So what do I do?

It takes me an hour and a half to type 1200 words (on a good day). That means that it’s taken me at least 250 hours to type just my four finished manuscripts. Revising those manuscripts more than doubles that total, probably taking it to about 700 hours. That’s like working 17 ½ weeks for no pay, no agent, nothing except for improving my writing with each finished manuscript. And yes, that improvement is huge and important, but if I can never land an agent or a publishing contract, it’s still for nothing.

Yes, I enjoy writing, making up worlds, and living vicariously through my characters. But I’m nothing if not honest, and honestly, I want other people to read and enjoy my work. That’s why I’m really doing it. And so I have to ask myself; why do I put myself through the stress, and the worry, and the rejection over and over, if there is the potential that I will never have anything to show for it? There are some easy answers here, but I don’t think they’re the truth. The truth is; I don’t know.

Hope plays a big part in it, and also the unwillingness to see my dreams die, but I can’t come up with an explanation other than that. I could give it up and be content being a wife and mother; I know I could. But a small part of me would also die. As I sit here, waiting to hear back from the agents who have my manuscript (three fulls and four partials!) a part of me is contemplating all of this and wondering; if this doesn’t work out, do I have it in me to start all over again? Honestly, I’m not sure. I want to say yes, my heart says yes, but my brain says I might just be wasting my time. I feel like the two parts of myself are at war with each other, and at this point, I’m not quite sure who’s going to win.

Partial Request of my Manuscript!!

Sorry folks, the query letter series will have to wait one more day, because yesterday I got my first partial request for my new manuscript! WHOO HOOO! I totally wasn’t expecting it either, because I’ve only sent my query out to a select few agents. I was SHOCKED to see it in my inbox yesterday!

Okay, okay, I know I shouldn’t get my knickers in a knot. I’m trying not to get my hopes up too much, because then they’ll have so much farther to fall. But I will say this. This partial request couldn’t have come at a better time. If you follow my blog at all, you know how discouraged I’ve been lately. A small part of me was even wondering if I should throw in the towel, while a much larger (and much louder) part of me was yelling at the smaller part. This yelling was mostly made up of unsavory names, such as “quitter” and “dream crusher,” among other, much worse names I can’t repeat on this blog.

Anyway, this was exactly the boost I needed to get back to work. My sprits are lifted and hope has sprung eternal once again.

What Genre of Fiction do You Write?

Well, everyone, I’d like to wish you all a “welcome back!” after the holiday season. I don’t know about you, but if your holidays were like mine, you probably have a stomachache from too much food, a headache from too much to drink, and a few too many pounds around your waist. What? Did you say it’s NOT smart to try to force your belt into its normal hole when the belt buckle is straining against the leather like a hot air balloon against its tether?? Hmm….

My new year came with some resolutions (mainly to lose a few pounds and to clean up my language which is very mild compared to most people I know, mostly just hell and damn. However, I’ve discovered it’s NOT funny when your year and a half year old says “damn it” in front of your relatives.), but I’ve always found the new year to be a time to contemplate the direction my life is going in and decide if I want to make any changes.

 

My writing life is included in this contemplation, and I’ve found myself wondering if I’m writing in the right genre. As some of you may know, my most recently completed manuscript is young adult-contemporary. I enjoyed writing it but…  I’ve also written manuscripts that were YA-fantasy, contemporary romance, and historical romance. I enjoyed them all but… I just don’t know what I should be writing. I’m not sure if I’ve hit my stride.

I think part of my problem is that I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and, in a sense, I’m looking for the perfect writing experience. I know that, much like a man (or a woman for that matter!), that doesn’t exist. But still, I wonder, should I be writing something else?

So You Think You Can Write Contest: Wish me Luck!

Well, it’s time again for Harlequin’s big yearly contest. Contestants submit a full manuscript and first prize is a publishing contract. I just submitted my entry yesterday, after a lot of good help from my new critique partner. The winner(s) will be announced sometime around February 14th, which is appropriate, since it’s a romance manuscript contest!

 

I’m not expecting too much. Unfortunately, I didn’t follow my own advice from the other day. I don’t know if I stayed in the box well enough. I entered the Romantic Suspense division, but there isn’t much of a mystery, more a “Woman in Jeopardy” plotline, which they do say they accept… I don’t know. I’ve got my fingers crossed! There’s no harm in entering, but I’m not going to hold my breath!

 

Writing is kind of an odd profession. You have to work and work for months or years (which is my case! I started writing seriously in 2008, with about six months off when I had my son) and there is no guarantee you’ll ever get anywhere with it. And every time you send something to a contest, or an agent, or a publisher, you get to hope that maybe this time will be the time. Maybe this time you’ll get noticed, or even get some sort of encouragement.

 

So far, I’ve only had detailed rejection letters, and two full manuscript requests from agents, which ultimately resulted in rejections. This was encouraging, but it was way back in May. I haven’t had anything encouraging happen since, and it’s hard not to feel discouraged, like I’m trying to move a mountain, one grain of sand at a time.

The two Most Important Qualities for an Author to Have

As an unpublished writer, I’ve been told many many times that I should write for the pure joy of writing, as there is no guarantee that I will ever get anything more out of it. That I should write the story I love, and never expect anything more from my “hobby.” Do you know what I think about that? I think if you believe that, then you don’t have the makings of a true author.

To me, a true author has one quality above all others; the constant drive and determination to share their stories, their characters with the world. To have someone read their story and say, “I loved it! I couldn’t put it down!” To take their place on the bookstore shelf, where some unsuspecting reader might pick it up and find a book they’ll re-read for the rest of their lives

A true author has one more quality that they literally cannot do without. Hope. Hope that this time, with this story; you might catch an agents eye. That this time, it might find its way into a publishers hands, and then into a bookstore, and then finally, into the hearts of readers everywhere.

Hope and the painful longing to share your stories with the world. Now that’s a real author.

Another Rejection for This Writer

Well, I got some bad news at the end of last week. Another rejection. At this point, I barely feel a twinge when I get a rejection, but this one was a little different. I had been waiting to hear back for 19 weeks on this one. It wasn’t so much the rejection that stung, but that  it was a form rejection. Lately, I’ve been getting personalized rejections, with comments about what the agent or editor likes, along with what they don’t. I feel like I’ve taken two steps back in my writing, like somehow, it suddenly got worse.

I know agents and editors are busy. I understand the need for a form rejection. At least I got some response. I hate when agents have a “no response means no” policy, especially when they don’t have some sort of auto-response system in place. Then you never even know for sure that they got it, you just have to assume they did, and didn’t like it. Ugh. That’s the worst. Plus, how hard is it to set your email to automatically send an auto-response?

Anyway, pushing on. I sent the rejected manuscript out that same afternoon to another publisher. Their response time is fourteen weeks, so at least I won’t have as long of a wait!

My Two Favorite Words

Yesterday, I typed my two favorite words: THE END!!!!! So my rough draft is finally done. Now it’s on to revisions. Right now, I’m thinking a lot about my characters and the arcs they’ll be following over the course of the story.

My protagonist is a teen girl, and there is a romantic subplot, which got me thinking a lot about male heroes in novels. Hence the poll! Let me know what you think about male heroes, what you think is most important to make them believable, to make a romance believable. I’d appreciate it!