Wednesday, April 27, 2011

15 Reasons An Agent May Pass on Your Manuscript

If you are at the stage of looking for literary representation, as I am, you are probably familiar with the following advice. But I find reviewing it occassionally keeps me on my toes. I hope you can benefit from it as well.

1. Story starts too slow. It should start on the day that is different.
2. Story does not match your query letter.
3. You introduce too many characters too quickly.
4. There is no clear cut POV. (point of view)
5. There is no distinct main character.
6. Too much bio/background information is presented too early.
7. Flashbacks are used too often or too early.
8. Opening scenes lack enough tension to pull the reader along.
9. One or more scenes do not advance the plot.
10. Reader cannot connect emotionally with the main character.
11. There are too many seemingly unrelated plot threads.
12. Narrative is description heavy--needs more dialogue.
13. Description is loaded with purple prose.
14. Dialogue is not interactive enough/not realistic.
15. Story starts too quickly. The reader needs a little time to get to know the characters before they can care about them.

Happy agenting!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Let's Discuss Edward...

I have a confession to make. I'm old enough to have a fifteen year-old daughter, and I'm in love with Edward Cullen (sigh), Stephanie Meyer's hero in the Twilight Saga. For all of you rolling your eyes and thinking I must be delusional, this post is for you.

Normally, young adult novels are not something I would choose to read, nor is science-fiction, fantasy, or anything else I can't close my eyes and see really, really happening. In fact, regardless of popularity, I wouldn't have read these if it hadn't been for my daughter--who usually limits her reading to the instructions on the back of a Hamburger Helper box--pushing, prodding, and begging. Hoping to encourage her reading habits, I gave in. (Okay, I wanted her to hush about it, too.)

For me, this was a big concession. Despite knowing the shelves at Barnes and Noble wouldn't be overflowing with vampire tales if someone wasn't reading them, I felt like I was being led to the guillotine, like I was being forced to fall in line with what big publishing (and my daughter) was telling me I had to read. I mean, vampires? Please!!! (Sorry, Edward. You know I love you.)

Even now, as I make a stand to defend Edward (be still my beating heart!) and Meyer, I have to admit, I laughed to the point of hyperventilation through most of the first book. (Mind reading, foretelling the future, mood control, Emmit fighting with a bear?) And yes, part of the second one, too. (Getting a paper cut and looking up to see "six suddenly ravenous vampires"?) But shortly after that, just as I'm starting to catch my breath, Meyer sneaks Jacob in, creating a love triangle. This is where my facination skyrockets, because under the weirdness (not you Edward, never you!) is now something tangible, romance and competition. Suddenly, I'm no longer laughing, but silently rooting for Edward. (my hero!)

So, can you imagine my shock (GASP!) when my daughter announces she's for Jacob? Even before Taylor Lautner lands the part in the movie?! What could she possibly be thinking? When I made the mistake of asking her that question, I was forced to endure a seemingly never ending list of "Jacob" attributes. Of course, I promptly responded with a sterling "Edward" review of my own.

I think, by now, you can see where I'm going with this. My daughter and I have had a LOT of fun with these characters. We still have fun with them.

That, people, no matter how you look at it, is entertainment.

And isn't THAT the point? I know that's my goal as a writer. When I can take the reader away from the hum-drum of their everyday life for a while, and entice them to really care about the fate of my characters, I feel like I have succeeded. To all you Stephanie Meyer critics out there, I have to say, so what if you don't think her writing is all it should be. As far as I'm concerned, she has done her job and done it well.

That's why I'm so facinated with Edward and his creator. And I bet you thought it was just because he's HOT!

Can You Say The Words?

 I am a writer.

Four simple words. Should be easy enough to say, right?

Well, they are easy for me to say, but it hasn't always been that way. A few years ago, when I first became serious about writing, I couldn't have said those words if my life depended on it. Not only was I afraid I hadn't earned my stripes by reaching the qualifying milestone--publication--but tagging myself with the label made me feel like I was painting a bullseye on my chest, like I was making myself a target for naysayers, skeptics, criticism, etc. And I'm betting there are a lot of beginning writers out there who feel the same way I did.

But after an intense, neverending study of the writing craft and the publishing industry, and after completing one manuscript followed by numerous edits, I have no qualms about telling you I'm a writer. Here are a few reasons why:

I realized I've always been a writer, even before I started writing. Writing is more than putting words on paper. It's more than having a general knowledge of grammer and a talent for making words flow smoothly. It's more than an overactive imagination that makes it possible to plot and create. It's more than having the courage to put myself and my thoughts under the microscope for others to judge and dissect. Though writing is certainly all those things, it is also a state of mind, a way of life, a part of who I am. Whether or not I take the time to record the words, they are always there waiting for me, and always have been.

My skin has thickened, giving me staying power. When I finished my first draft, I was terrified at the thought of letting anyone read it. In fact, the day after I left it with a published friend to read for the first time, I went back to get it (unread) and did a full revision before I relinquished it again. Criticism is scary, and it hurts. So does rejection, no matter how often we are told it's normal. But both, I now realize, are necessary to improving my work. So I have come to expect them, to welcome and learn from them.

I like chocolate. You like vanilla. And I now understand that's okay. Tough guys tend to like action. Techno-geeks tend to like science-fiction. Scholars tend to like an intellectual challenge. And the list goes on. So I have come to not let it bother me when a friend who loves Louis Lamour doesn't show enthusiasm for my sappy love story. And I no longer let it hurt my feelings that my sister who hasn't read a book in ten years, won't read one now, even mine.

I have earned the right to say I am a writer, and chances are you have, too. But if you find it difficult, I'll leave you with some helpful advice:

Say it is so, and so it will be. To feel legitimate, declare yourself outloud, first to yourself and then to your friends and family. Saying and hearing the words build your self-esteem, and therefore, have a direct impact on how others see you. And your work will benefit from the confidence that comes with saying the words. Try it. It works.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ten Reasons Agents May Reject Your Query Letter

1. typo's, misspellings, grammar, and punctuation.
2. lacks basic information such as what your book is about, who you are, word count, why you queried them as oppose to others, etc.
3. contains irrelevant information such as education, job, hobbies, travels, family pet, what you had for lunch, etc.
4. fails to state genre (romance, mystery, children's, etc.).
5. fails to differenciate your book from other similar books.
6. fails to show how your book is similar to other books.
7. fails to identify basic character goals and conflict.
8. is too flat in tone--query tone should match book tone.
9. lacks creativity, or fails to excite.
10. reads like an advertisement.
Remember: A query should have a respectful nature (Dear Ms. Agent). It should not be longer than one page. And resist, resist, resist including your rejection history.
Happy Querying!!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Is It Worth It?


I was reading Michael Hyatt's Blog entitled "Three Reasons Every Author Must Develop Their Own Platform" and, for a moment, it made me question my sanity.

Did you know there were more than 1 million books published in 2009? (According to Bowker, the service that assigns ISBN numbers to books) 2010 numbers, yet to be released, are expected to be higher.

Then Hyatt goes on to point out that not only is there an increase in books available, but also with other media: movies, tv channels, radio stations, etc. In other words, there is ALOT of competition for potential reader attention.

So I asked myself, as a single grain of sand on the endless beach of book choices, is writing worth this much of my time? Work by day, write by night--even when I should be sleeping. Proof read on my lunch break--ignore that mustard stain! Tote a notebook with me EVERYWHERE because I never know where my next idea might come from--yes, make a faux pas and you might see a version of it in my written words. Read the latest best seller on the drive home--oops, did I just admit that? Create a social network that requires more knowledge than I possess and more time when I should be writing. Research a topic for hours so I can write two knowledgeable sentences about the subject. Search for agents and publishers, then search some more...whew!!!

I said all that, to say this...

Thanks to all my wonderful friends who have read for me (you know who you are and I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart) and supplied me with ample support, praise, and constructive criticism, I already feel successful. While I would never turn away fame and fortune (who would?), my first goal has always been to entertain. I love to hear that something I wrote made someone laugh or cry. I love to hear "I couldn't put it down". ( Thanks Amy) I love it when I can make you concerned enough about my characters for you to say, "Don't mess with Pat". (Thanks Mary C) And I love to hear "I want to know what happens between Sam and J.J.". (Sorry, Pam, that's book two in the trilogy).

Even if "The Third Time" is never read again, it has all been worth it!

You Are What You Read

I've always heard you are what you read. So...what does that make me?

I'm the type person who can't be idle. No, I'm not talking physically. I can sit still, well...fairly still, for as long as I have to. But my brain? NO WAY. It's going full speed 24/7. (Yes, this does make sleeping difficult, but the up side? When I finally do crash, I have dreams that people would pay good money to see.)

T.V.? Out of the question...unless I also have the latest Diana Palmer paperback in my lap to keep my brainwaves up to speed.

Driving? For most people, there's road signs, advertisements, and bumper stickers...but for me, if the checkbook is balanced, Nora Roberts is looking pretty good.

Waiting rooms? Most would be satisfied with checking out the weird shoes on the person next to them, or take a chance that the magazine on the table was printed sometime after 1999. Me? Fully prepared with the second book in the latest Brenda Novak trilogy should I be anywhere near the end of the first.

Eating? The newspaper or the back of the cereal box will do in a pinch, but, my preference? Fork in one hand and Linda Lael Miller's latest in the other.

So...I guess that makes me a combination of....useless information...and emotional diarrhea.

Oh, well. At least I'm a HAPPY combination of useless information and emotional diarrhea!
So tell me, if you are what you read, what does that make you?

Ever Play The "What If" Game?

Ever play the "what if" game?

What if I woke up tomorrow and discovered my best friend had posted my darkest secret on her Facebook page? Yikes!
What if the hunkiest guy in the world walked past me with his nose in the air, and despite trying really, really hard, I lost the battle with my self-control, and stuck my foot out just in time to topple him? What if his prosthesis slipped off and he flailed around on the cement until he found his cell phone and called his brother for help, his brother who had to leave his best friend's funeral, in a wheelchair, to help him up? (Um, did I do that?)

What if I won the lottery?  What if the owner of the store where I bought the ticket called to congratulate me and fell madly in love with me, offering me his hand in marriage? What if I had a last fling with the stripper at my bachelorette party, only to discover a week later he's my new brother-in-law? What if one month later I find out I'm pregnant? (oops)

What if I gave birth to a warewolf? (miraculous conception, of course)

What if I gave birth to Edward's son (no miraculous conception here!). What if he grew up to help me remind his sister everyday that their mother had the hots for his father? (BRAHAHAHAHA)

If you ever find youself bore, lost in the direction your heading, give this game a try. I can't gaurantee it will lead to the next best seller, but I can gaurantee, that if you do it right, you'll have a little fun.

Back To The Drawing Board

Wow!

I finally finished the synopsis--summary--I've been working on. I didn't realize it would be so difficult to reduce a 350 page manuscript to 5, but after it was complete, after I'd shed ample blood, sweat, and tears, I was quite satisfied with the finished product. But before I could wallow in happiness and pronounce it ready to go, I was informed it was too long. I have to reduce it to 2 pages.

Hmmm, maybe my next one will read...

Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy and girl live happily ever after.

Think I can get away with it?

When Life Gets You Down

When, with socks in your mouth and shoes in your hand, you're running late for work and hurriedly lock the door before realizing the keys are still on the microwave.....

When your tempermental boss approaches you at deadline to request a moment of your time and you distractedly tell him "yes, ma'am".....

When you go through the super carwash, paying extra for wax and a spot free rinse, and it rains before you get home.....

When, while sitting at a redlight, your best friend calls you on your cell phone (probably to bore you with the details of her latest breakup) and you toss it aside without answering only to look up and see her glaring at you from the car beside you.....

When your daughter flushes a cherry Poptart down the toilet (when it clearly prefers blueberry) and it protests with a seemingly never ending gurgle before spitting it out with a vengence.....

When life gets you down, take my advice and laugh at your problems.

Everyone else does!

What have you done lately that was worth a good laugh?

Is Big Publishing Broke?

I recently read a blog by J. A. Konrath were he did an interview with Smashwords CEO, Mark Coker. In this interview Coker says he feels Big Publishing is broke.

It makes me wonder...are the bookshelves at Barnes and Noble overflowing with Vampire novels because that's what we want to read, or is it because that's what we are being told to read?

What do you think? 

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