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1. CLOSED TO QUERIES 11-21 to 1-12

Hi gang,

I have a lot of travel + bookstore stuff + general busy-ness going on in the next six weeks, so as I do every holiday season, I am officially CLOSING TO QUERIES as of tonight (say, midnight eastern time) -- and I'll re-open January 12, 2015.

The exceptions being Referrals and Conference submissions.  If you are either of these, I urge you to SAY SO IN THE SUBJECT LINE. I will also, of course, look at material that I've explicitly asked to see.

This gives me the opportunity to catch up and clear out for the new year, and it is much needed. And you may well hear from me during this break, as I have a LOT to catch up on! ;-) Anything already IN the inbox before tonight will be responded to. All other new queries will be deleted.

So, what to do? Well, if you want to choose any of the other lovely agents at ABLA who are open, you may of course feel free to do so -- if you'd prefer to query me specifically, please do so today, or wait until January.

Let me know if anything is unclear! And have a great holiday season.

Jenn


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2. Have We Learned Nothing

Have we learned nothing from the recent news about authors trying to get rights back from their publishers? Authors who signed contracts without an agent, a lawyer or anyone paid to protect the author's rights?

As I'm sure some of you have heard I'm not always that fast on queries or partials. I can be really good at times, but throw in a week off, an influx of queries or clients who need me to read their works and I lose ground fast. Recently I heard from an author whose manuscript I had (for about 4-6 weeks). The author had received a contract from a publisher and, in her words, "didn't need an agent's help."

I'm an agent. Of course I'm going to tell you that you need an agent, but I'm telling you that not because I'm dying to get my 15% of what can often be very little, but because I've seen too many authors make career mistakes because they wanted to save that 15%.

These are the authors who find their books trapped with a publisher because they signed a contract without any sort of rights reversion or out of print clauses. I've seen authors who signed contracts which basically calls anything else they could write in their professional expertise competition. In other words, they can only write the one book they wrote. I've seen authors sign away copyright without even realizing it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that while I see why you might want to hold on to that 15%, I have a sneaking suspicion that in the long run you're going to end up paying far more by not giving up 15%. If that makes sense.

--jhf

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3. Query question: can you have Stockholm Syndrome without Sweden?

I wrote a scene in my fantasy WIP where a character was beginning to agree with the antagonist. Later on in the work, a supporting character asked him if the MC had Stockholm Syndrome. Then my brain, with a very good catch, thought of something really interesting that made me stop in my tracks.

In a fictional work, specifically works that do not take place in the world as we know it, is it even possible to use a phrase like "Stockholm Syndrome" when Stockholm never existed and the Norrmalmstorg robbery never happened? I tried thinking of other words or phrases to describe this syndrome, but none of them are as concise. I'm stuck on this one, and my research has proved unfruitful. What's your take? Yay or nay?




VERY interesting question.


If we take the lead from historicals, then the answer is no. The always Fabulous Gary Corby's great crime novels set in ancient Athens can't refer to things that the ancient Athenians didn't know or have.  Let me tell you, that's a really interesting list. You can be if we miss something, his discerning readers let us know pronto.


However, if the world is fictional, who's to know what happened or when?  I think Stockholm Syndrome which is so closely identified with a modern event, and entered the lexicon relatively recently is more problematic than say January, which indicates have a concept of linear time and cyclical seasons.


Not being able to use Stockholm Syndrome, or 23Skidoo, or QueryShark, or selfie, is a high price to pay for writing fantasy.  On the other hand...dragons!


I don't think there's a right or wrong answer here, but if you use it, you'll hear from readers who do have strong opinions one way or the other.

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4. The NaNoWriMo Progress Report: How Are You Feeling?

Just about three weeks of participating in National Novel Writing Month can leave even the best, consistently faithful writer sleep-deprived, ornery, and a little nonsensical. But if you’ve made it this far, that’s something worth celebrating.

The question becomes, are you writing now just to hit your goal of 50,000 words? Are you simply trying to meet a word count to say you did it? Or are you trying to construct something meaningful and worthwhile, even if it’s something that you won’t let see the light of day for quite some time?

In short, how do you feel about your writing right now? Are you satisfied with how NaNoWriMo forces you to work? Do you enjoy the quickened pace and constricted guidelines, forcing your inner-critic and inner-editor to take a backseat (until December)? Or do you wish you could plot along more, fine-tuning and tweaking?

What’s your plan for the final stretch? Share it with us in the comments!

Have you missed any of the other posts in our NaNoWriMo blogging series? Be sure to check the others out:

Question: Have you been disappointed or pleased with your NaNo efforts thus far? What has made it so? How do you plan on improving or keeping it up over the final 2+ weeks?


Natania Barron: I’ve honestly been really pleased. I don’t want to say it’s the easiest NaNo, but it’s a different kind of NaNo. Part of it is having a responsibility to another writer. Part of it is being in a different place, writing for a different reason. I had enough of a slow gain leading up to the weekend that I didn’t have to write much at all—it was my 10th anniversary—but I still wanted to, and I was still thinking about the story a great deal. It’s compressed creativity, but this time around it doesn’t feel like so much work.


Rachel Herron: Oh, boy, I’m always disappointed by my NaNo words. I think it’s healthy and normal to be that way. We’re sprinting here, folks. Remember: the only goal is TO MAKE WORDS. Awful, terrible, furiously bad words are par for the course. Everything can be fixed, but we don’t do that in November. We write the worst things we’ve ever written in November, and then we brag about how badly we’re writing. Here’s an excellent example, straight out of my manuscript: “Fern was even paler now, if that was possible, but her eyes were twin blackened marks of heat WEARS A LOT OF EYELINER.” (I make myself notes in all caps, wherever the idea occurs to me. This keeps me from going backward.) And no, I’m not going to try to write better words. I’m just aiming for that 50,000 mark. Better words are what we make out of crappy words, later. I aim for quantity, not quality. And man, am I good at it. 


Nikki Hyson: Until a couple days ago I was very disappointed. I didn’t feel like I’d taken care of my time management very well during the first week and my word count suffered in major ways (okay, so I was exhausted and sleeping through alarms, but still!) Then, this weekend, I hit my 2nd (or maybe my 3rd) wind and powered through 9,600 words in about 33 hours. I just crested the 20k on the evening of the 15th which is (kinda) close to the middle. To maintain momentum I think it’s time to take my novel on the road: to work, to doctor appointments, to the coffee shop, anywhere and everywhere. Just jotting words in whatever chunks of time I can find will keep me from needing a full-on marathon at the end. Although those are seriously a lot of fun.


 

November/December 2014 Writer's Digest

 With resources, tips, and advice from a bevy of experts the
November/December 2014 issue of Writer’s Digest is a surefire
way to help you finish your goal of 50,000 words during November.


Regina Kammer: I’m befuddled, really. Two of my characters are darker than I had originally intended. Another is surprisingly heroic for a minor character. So maybe this means I’m pleased because the magic of NaNoWriMo is happening.

On the other hand, I have a target publisher , so I’m spending way too much time ignoring my own advice of just writing and suppressing the inner-editor. I’m worried that the work might not be what they’re looking for. I need to stop that.

All I can do for the final two weeks is keep writing. I still have the pivotal scene and the climax to write, so those are like proverbial carrots on a stick. I need to take my own advice and just write the parts of the story I’m sure about!


Kathy Kitts: Here is a great anecdote that helps me get through the tough slog that is the 30 thousands. Ray Bradbury had just given a lecture and was taking questions. An undergraduate asked him how he could be so prolific. How he could write when he wasn’t in the mood? He replied that writing took care of those moods.


Kristen Rudd: My novel took a turn that I was completely unprepared for, and I’ve spent the better part of several days trying to get it back on track. So, on the one hand, I’m pleased that it seems to be its own living, breathing beast. On the other hand, I’m bummed because it seems to be its own living, breathing beast. It all happened from what I thought was an innocuous line of dialogue. I followed it where it led, and I’m worried I may have written myself into a corner. When I vented, a friend asked me, “But is the corner defensible? Does it have a nice view?”

I am determined to let the story lead me and hope that it knows what it’s doing. So, yes. We are in a committed relationship, my novel and I. I have plenty of originally planned scenes I can always switch over to if I need. I am all of the prepareds. I will just keep writing, trusting that writing will solve all of my problems.


EJ Runyon: What’s pleased me is that I’m using excerpts from past NaNo’er for this book. That’s a great feeling, seeing work from a few years ago. And what’s disappointing is that it looks like 30K+ words will leave me with a finished How-to-Guide, and that leaves 20K +/- still to write on one of my WIP novels. Good thing this is a Rebel year. Maybe Ill turn that disappointment into a stab at more than one WIP, and touch three of them. Make the time count in a big way, instead of trying to just fill the time & word count


Jessica Schley: I’m behind schedule, but I’m actually very pleased with how this NaNo is going. This has been one of the first where more days than not, I’m hitting the word count and pushing my story forward. It also is shaking out pretty close to my outline—one thing I’ve discovered in revising my NaNo novels is that the pacing is usually WAY off in my finished draft, because while the fun of NaNo is that secondary characters and plot twists tend to show up ad hoc, that often means that a lot of explaining goes into them and they come in at the wrong point, making my novels out of whack. So I was hoping that this time, I could write something that was more evenly paced if I outlined a slightly more rigid 3-act structure.  The Act I turn happened right where I wanted it to, and the midpoint of the novel is on track to hit when I hit that word count. I’m very pleased with that.

How do I plan on improving? Just keeping on keeping on. I went to a great write-in this week with my NaNo community (we have a wonderful group here in the nation’s capital) and I’m going to hit up more of those to keep me going. Plus, I’ve won two NaNos with 10,000+ word counts on the final day (one was 20), and with half the month left to go, I still have a very reasonable daily word count to hit. So, I’ll just hit that. :) Easier said than done, I suppose, but as I said in the last post … it’s really hard not to finish once you cross 35K. Even if you cross 35K in the morning of the 30th of November!


Brian Schwarz: I have been happy with my efforts. I had lofty goals prior to NaNo that included finishing the first book in my series prior to November (I had 3 months) and then the second book during Nano, but instead I ended up with 10k words on the first one in 3 months. Given that I’m at 18k more in 16 days, I have to be pretty satisfied with that. If NaNo ended tomorrow, I could accept my progress as is. But, being that I’m a driven over-achiever, I do not plan on relenting. I am going to increase my word count, trying to furiously catch up (one day last week i actually wrote 8k words in a day) and I’m going to be happy when I make it. I have a rhythm now, which isn’t exactly one I was hoping for. I spend my weekends pretty much forgetting about writing while I spend my work-week going into work an hour early and writing furiously to make up for the two days lost as well as the previous days missed. I won’t question my flow, and I’ll just try to be more productive in it. For some reason writing before bed or in the morning hasn’t been as productive or effective this time round (whereas last year I did a vast majority of my book at night before sleeping), but I don’t mind how it happens. I just know I will find a way to make it happen.

*     *     *     *     *

Question: What is one weird word to describe your novel so far?


Natania Barron: Spiderpunk.


Rachael Herron: Erratic.


Writer's Market Deluxe Edition“The Writer’s Market book is an incredible resource on its own, just as the WritersMarket.com website is a wonderful resource. Combine the two, and a 60-mintue webinar on freelancing, and you get the power-packed combo of the Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition. It’s the same Writer’s Market print book, but it comes with an activation code good for a one-year subscription to WritersMarket.com, which houses more listings and more updates throughout the year.”

-Robert Lee Brewer, Writer’s Market Content Editor


Nikki Hyson: Unpredictable. At least while writing it. I don’t know. I may reread it in a month and realize you can see every plot twist a mile off. Right now my characters are toying with me.


Regina Kammer: Compost.

(Layers of rich well-developed material with a bunch of rough and green bits thrown in.)


Kathy Kitts: Sidestepping.


Kristen Rudd: Alive. My novel is like Frankenstein’s monster. It’s no longer under my control and is going wherever it damn well pleases, apparently. I’m just chasing after it at this point, trying to keep up.


EJ Runyon: “Simple”—that’s it. I’m rebelling this month, and revising a How-to-Write book on Revisions. Like my Tell Me (How To Write) A Story, (NaNo 2008, published 2014) this one also shows simple ways of looking at your work. Novembers come to a close, and in the time that follows, something simple is needed to keep a writer going. Hopefully this “simple” guide will be one of those things.


Jessica Schley: Convoluted. I don’t know if that’s a very weird word. But every scene I write introduces a new twist. So it is turning out very twisty. I hope I can bring all these threads together in Act III! 


Brian Schwarz:  I’d go with “Barmicide”. Look it up! :) God knows I did.

*     *     *     *     *

Write-A-ThonFind the focus, energy, and drive you need to start—and finish—your book in a month. Write-A-Thon gives you the tools, advice, and inspiration you need to succeed before, during, and after your writing race. With solid instruction, positive psychology, and inspiration from marathon runners, you’ll get the momentum to take each step from here to the finish line. You’ll learn how to: train your attitude, writing, and life—and plan your novel or nonfiction book; maintain your pace; and find the best ways to recover and move forward once the writing marathon is finished and you have a completed manuscript in hand!


Cris Freese is the associate editor of Writer’s Digest Books.

 

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5. Selfishly, Rudely Running Late....Or Not?

I've always been the type of person who obsesses over being on time. I think in 15 minute increments which means even if I know it will only take me 20 minutes to get somewhere I leave 30 minutes before. I'd always rather, in fact prefer, to be 10 minutes early. If I arrive and the other person is waiting I always feel like I'm late, even if we're both early.

Now I'm not perfect and I think its gotten harder for me to be regularly on time as my life has gotten busier, but I'm still pretty determined to do my best. It's why this article, You're Not Running Late, You're Rude and Selfish  really rang true for me.

The one thing I've always thought about people who are perpetually late is that it's just rude and inconsiderate. Like you, I could have used an extra 20 minutes in the office, or 10 minutes getting ready, but I was on a schedule, a schedule to meet you and I had to get out of there.

Which is why the issue of agent response times has always been a stickler to me. As we say on our website, we work really hard to respond in a timely manner, but our clients have to be our first priority and that sometimes (often) means that submissions and queries get placed on the back burner. Our clients are the people we promise arrival times to and those are the times we need to make (and let's face it, even that doesn't always happen).

Being on time, with submissions, reading for clients, phone calls, and appointments is something I'm always working harder on and beating myself up over. But I'm curious, what do you think about submission response times? Our website reads this:

BookEnds agents do reply to all submissions and queries and hope to do so in a timely manner. Our response time goals are 6 weeks for queries and 12 weeks on requested partials and fulls. Unfortunately, at times circumstances mean we fall behind in our responses. We do try to post status updates through Twitter and Facebook. For updates on where we are with queries and submissions, as well as what we're most actively looking for, please check out our Facebook page:

As you can see we used a lot of disclaimers, but if we're far later than 6 or 12 weeks do you see this as an agent missing an appointment? or do you hope it means that the agent is making all other appointments, especially those you hope to have at some point?

--jhf


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6. The Power of Journaling

Overcoming a painful past usually involves sharing one’s story and the associated feelings. Developing insight into past hurts, and connecting the dots between then and now enables one to make better choices moving forward. Journal writing is a powerful tool that opens the path to greater insight and self-knowledge.


 

Randy_Kamen_Gredinger 300 dpi colorBTD_Paperback_tone This guest post is by Randy Kamen, ED.D., author of Behind the Therapy Door: Simple Strategies to Transform Your Life. She is a psychologist and educator who helped pioneer new territory in mind-body medicine at Boston University’s School of Medicine and Harvard’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. She has long been on the leading edge of her profession, integrating insight oriented and cognitive behavioral therapy with holistic methods in her research and clinical work. She helps women build on their strengths and implement new strategies to deepen their experience of insight, healing, and happiness. Dr. Kamen has appeared on numerous TV and radio programs. She writes for the Huffington Post and other media outlets. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook @DrRandyKamen to learn about her speaking engagements and women’s retreats on Martha’s Vineyard and around the country or visit her website DrRandyKamen.com.


 

The pioneer work of James Pennebaker in his book Writing to Heal and subsequent research on the topic of journal writing, confirms what many of us already know intuitively: Journal writing is a highly effective way to manage stress and alter a wide range of problematic behaviors. Strongly encouraged in the field of psychology and medicine journaling fosters deeper insight, self-awareness, and behavioral change. Behavioral psychologists often say, “If you can track it, you can change it.”

Journaling opens the door for the writer to express personal impressions, daily experiences, and evolving insights as well as reflections about the self, relationships, experiences, dreams, fantasies, and creative musings. This can be done without judgment or restriction. Reviewing earlier entries cultivates the writer’s ability to learn from past events and circumstances that might otherwise go unnoticed. A repetitive, self-destructive behavior becomes more apparent when seen through the lens of these journal entries.

A Vehicle for Mindfulness

Journal writing can be a vehicle for deepening mindfulness as it helps to clarify and refine thoughts and emotions and brings the writer into the present. Like meditation, journal writing helps to clear the mind by transcribing emotional clutter onto the written page. The writer becomes a witness to his or her past behaviors which then paves the way for fresh thought and perspective. Journaling provides a forum that can be both cathartic and revelatory.

A journal creates a great companion wherever you go. It is a resource for observing shifts in your inner world and outer behavior.

Getting Started

Begin the journaling practice by buying a notebook that you can slip into a pocketbook or even a pocket. Consider keeping a separate notebook by the bed to record dreams. Keeping a journal as a private file on the computer is another option. Choose any method that enables you to write consistently for at least ten minutes a day. Some people find that lingering over the writing takes them into a state of reflection about the past, present, or future. Others prefer to track their thoughts about particular subjects, such as dreams, and certain behaviors like smoking, eating, or mood variations. Journaling helps to identify and clarify goals, wishes, and emotional reality without inhibition. Consider a brief meditation as a prelude to journal writing. At a minimum take a few deep breaths for grounding purposes before beginning each new entry. In this way, you will create the condition for even greater focus and lucidity in capturing thoughts and writing.

There are many ways to keep a journal. You may wish to consider the type of journal you would like to keep. There are four kinds of journal that I am proposing here: free associating, gratitude, sentence prompts, and dreams.

Free Associating Journal

In a free associating journal the writer records what- ever comes to mind. This type of journal helps with processing events and clarifying thoughts. It is a venue for noticing feelings, insights, and matters of the heart. This kind of journaling also creates an opportunity for recording life lessons and reflecting on important questions.

Gratitude Journal

In a gratitude journal the writer makes daily recordings about several events for which she is grateful. The idea behind the gratitude journal is to strengthen the part of the brain that focuses on positive thoughts and deepens the capacity to appreciate. This type of journaling is strongly associated with diminished depression and the heightened experience of inner peace and well-being.

Sentence Prompts Journal

In a sentence prompts journal the writer uses open- ended questions or incomplete sentences to evoke (unique) thoughts, feelings, and associations. For example: My relationships will improve when…A risk I am willing to take today is…My life feels most harmonious when I…My goal today is…I believe that…I have always wanted to…I have decided to…My greatest strengths are…I am grateful for…I love…I am happiest when…

Dream Journal

In a dream journal the writer records her dreams upon awaking. Dreams can be a powerful source of insight. Once you begin keeping this kind of journal, you are likely to improve your dream recall. Your dreams are a window into your subconscious mind, which is a powerful way to understand your inner world. Sometimes, in the time it takes say “Good morning” to your partner, your dream can slip away. At first, you may only remember fragments or images from your dreams, but in time you will find that you have access to more vivid recollections.

Healing Childhood Trauma through Connection

Getting in touch with one’s early childhood memories, particularly memories from a challenging history, can cause old emotional pain to resurface, sometimes with a vengeance. Journaling can be a powerful tool to rethink your past, your current behaviors, and explore opportunities for change going forward.

Enjoy the process

Journal writing can become your guide and confidant. Most importantly you can tap into your authentic self without inhibition or judgment. The precious time spent journaling will deepen insight, and wisdom. You may find that your journaling ushers you into a healthier and happier place within yourself and with others.

Thanks for visiting The Writer’s Dig blog. For more great writing advice, click here.


Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
Sign up for Brian’s free Writer’s Digest eNewsletter: WD Newsletter
Buy Brian’s book OH BOY, YOU’RE HAVING A GIRL, A DAD’S SURVIVAL GUIDE TO RAISING DAUGHTERS

 

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7. Chum Bucket tonight





Chum Bucket tonight.
7pm

Remember: do not link to this post from elsewhere (your blog or Facebook page), or post/tweet about it.

Chum Bucket works because everyone who participates has invested some time in learning how it works.  I LOVE doing Chum Bucket so I really want to keep it to those people who buy in to the premise.

The premise is that if you query me between 7pm and 8pm tonight, I will reply to you personally, not with a form letter.

The response can range from "this isn't for me" to "send full" but you'll know I'm sitting there typing it out when I get your query.

Of course, I often do reply with more than "not for me" because I think it's helpful to say why it's not for me. Sometimes it's because I'm not much on eyeball removal (eww!) and sometimes it's cause you
think a 240,000 memoir is publishable.

If I think I can help you, I'll try to do so.

Chum Bucket is NOT a critique.

And your part of the bargain is you will not email me back telling me I'm a cretin of the first order for failing to appreciate your masterpiece.  (While that may be true, we will observe the social niceties of not stating the obvious.)

The reason I ask you to NOT tweet or link is that people who aren't regular blog readers, or twitter followers, who only see the announcement, may not know about the social contract not to reply with venom.  I really want to keep doing Chum Bucket so the longer we can keep it to invested readers, the more likely it is to continue.

Questions?
The comment column awaits.


And in case you're interested, here's the run down from last week's Chum Bucket:

Total queries: 19


1. Not for me/some comments on why: 5
2. Suggestions to improve red hot mess queries: 5
3. Request full: 3
4. Not for me/suggest other agents: 2
5. Misc. 2
6. Not for me/some comments on correct category: 1
7. Writing needs a lot of work 1

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8. WD Poetic Form Challenge: Terzanelle Winner

Thank you to everyone who submitted a terzanelle! This form was a fun read and tricky to decide upon a winner.

My initial short list included 30 poems, but I cut it down to one winner and 10 finalists. This time around, that winner is Jane Shlensky for her poem “Food Chain,” which won me over with its images, its lyricism, and the thought of connection and observation.

Here’s the winning Terzanelle:

Food Chain, by Jane Shlensky

An ibis settles on the shoal–
white plumes in shallows, standing still
until the fish forget his goal

to make of them his morning meal.
He’s in the moment, focused, clear,
white plumes in shallows, standing still.

He does not see me watching, near;
he stares beneath blue mirrored sky.
He’s in the moment, focused, clear,

reflected in the water’s eye
where languid fish seek smaller prey.
He stares beneath blue mirrored sky,

then strikes and pulls a fish away,
joining a chain that holds us all
where languid fish seek smaller prey,

in answer to a primal call.
An ibis settles on the shoal
joining a chain that holds us all,
until the fish forget his goal.

*****

Win $1,000 for Your Poetry!

Writer’s Digest is offering a contest strictly for poets with a top prize of $1,000, publication in Writer’s Digest magazine, and a copy of the 2015 Poet’s Market. There are cash prizes for Second ($250) and Third ($100) Prizes, as well as prizes for the Top 25.

The extended deadline is November 21, so enter today.

Click here to learn more.

*****

Here is the Top 10 list:

  1. “Food Chain,” by Jane Shlensky
  2. “Before the Fire Burns,” by Susan Schoeffield
  3. “Motel, You in the Window,” by Barbara E. Young
  4. “Enchanted Exile,” by Daniel Ari
  5. “Under the Milky Way,” by William Preston
  6. “Untitled,” by Joshua
  7. “Ringside,” by Taylor Graham
  8. “Repaired,” by Bruce Niedt
  9. “Fractured,” by Tracy Davidson
  10. “Calling Orion,” by Laurie Kolp

Congratulations to Jane and everyone in the Top 10! And thank you to everyone who took the time to participate and comment on each others’ poems.

I’ve been working through the gogyohkas and hope to announce the winners of that challenge soon. In the meantime, watch for the next poetic form and poetic form challenge.

Also, be sure to read through the 200+ comments from the terzanelle challenge. Click to continue.

*****

roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He loves hosting, reading, and judging these challenges.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

*****

More poetic good stuff here:

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9. Thrillers v. Suspense

You would think that after 20+ years in this business I would have all the answers. Well there are days when I definitely still feel like I have more questions than answers. One of those questions is how do you define the difference between thrillers and suspense. I tend to think that I like suspense more than I like thrillers and I think I know what the difference is, but when asked by writers to define them I'm not sure I know exactly how to do that. I guess I'm not sure the answer is always cut and dry.

So today I'm asking you. How do you define the two?

--jhf

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10. Writing about writing

Your opinion--should writers blog about writing, or about the other things they do? I've read different opinions, and I'd be interested in yours. :) 


Well, who do you want to read your blog? Me? Better not write about writing then, cause frankly, I'm not interested in how many pages you finished today, or your difficulties figuring out how to get that 15th point of view in your 49k manuscript.

I think writing about writing is best done in small doses and infrequently. 

If you're writing to build a readership, no one is interested in your process except other writers.  You want to reach beyond that group.  You want to reach READERS.

Thus, writing about BOOKS is better suited to building a readership.

Of course, Chuck Wendig's blog is an absolute exception to this, but he writes so fiercely that really, I'd probably read anything he wrote including  "17 Uses for Kale"


Writing short form blog posts is a really good way to practice writing. I encourage you to do so, but it's all pointless without readers.  Plus, it's a whole lot less fun.  The readers of this blog crack me up , and I look forward to reading the comments column every day.

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11. 2014 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 19

I’m not sure how November always gets away from me so fast. Maybe it’s the beginning of the Market Book cycle; maybe it’s this challenge; but November often seems to be nearly over before I get my bearings on the month.

For today’s prompt, write an excuse poem. People are full of excuses–I’m no different–and sometimes they’re valid; other times, not so much. Write a poem about making excuses, listening to excuses, or hey, maybe excuse someone for making them.

*****

Quit Making Excuses! Enter for a Chance at $1,000!

Writer’s Digest has extended the deadline to their Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards competition to November 21. As you may have guessed from the bold statement above, the winner will receive $1,000 cash!

The winning poem will also be published in a future issue of Writer’s Digest magazine. And the winning poet will receive a copy of the 2015 Poet’s Market.

Even poets who don’t win can win, because there are prizes for 2nd through 25th place as well.

Click to learn more.

*****

Here’s my attempt at an Excuse poem:

“out”

i used the last one an hour ago
on my homework that did not
materialize when i had hoped

it would and now here you are
asking me where i was when
you waited all night & avoided

dancing with the guys who
asked & there were many
because you were saving

your dancing feet for me &
me alone & i know i’ve used
them so often in the past

but i’ve completely run dry

*****

roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He knows all about excuses from first-hand experience and realizes they’re often lacking. His five little poets often remind him that excuses are not the same as making good choices and performing the right actions.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

*****

Find more poetic goodies here:

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12. Oh the Choices

Two objects sit before you: a golden hammer and a cup of what seems to be water. A note on the wall says: “Go ahead, make your choice. The outcome will decide whether you’re ready or not.” Ready for what? What is this place? Why these objects? Which will you choose?

writing-promptsWant more creative writing prompts?

Pick up a copy of A Year of Writing Prompts: 365 Story Ideas for Honing Your Craft and Eliminating Writer’s Block. There’s a prompt for every day of the year and you can start on any day.

Order now from our shop.

 

 

 

 

 

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13. How Many is Too Many?

When I was a newbie, my boss told me that I should never answer the question "How many clients do you have." See, it's a question with no right answer, in which the asker can interpret the answer any way they want.

If I say a high number, does that make me sound Healthily Busy or Totally Overwhelmed? If I say a low number, am I Selective, or Lazy? And what would BE a "low" or "high" number, anyway?

Since I'm no longer a new agent, and I believe in transparency, and I love love LOVE talking about my authors - I have a list of my clients posted on my blog. You can count them if you are so inclined. (Spoiler: it's about 50). I still shy away from saying an exact number out loud, and I don't have a number that would be a "ceiling" in mind, but, you know, basically I am pretty full. I am busy enough. I don't need more clients. But I shall certainly leap to grab one if the perfect fit comes along!

I don't remember where I got this analogy but I think it's a good one: it's kinda like being an obstetrician. While I might have dozens of clients, most of them are busy gestating or taking care of books under contract that already exist - they aren't in my waiting room with their water breaking all at the same time. This metaphor has gotten a little gross now, but you see what I mean - there are only a few pressing matters "in play" on any given day/week.

So how many authors IS too many? I think of my list kinda like Mary Poppins's bag crossed with the TARDIS. Magical, flexible, sentient, bigger on the inside, and obviously able to navigate wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff. There's no answer, is what I'm saying -- how much work I can do adjusts according to how much work there is to do.

If there is ever a time I am feeling burnt out or overwhelmed - I take a break and/or ask for help. If I was feeling like that all the time, I'd cut back my list -- but so far, luckily, that has not had to happen. Other agents' answers may vary -- for some, 20 clients would be their limit. Some, I'm sure, juggle 100. But I think everyone would agree that there is no magic number, and no right answer to this question.

Make sense?


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14. The Tax Man Cometh

As the year comes to a close agents and publishers are preparing to send out 1099 forms. As per IRS guidelines those need to be mailed by January 30. If you've moved or changed your name anytime in the past year I would strongly recommend you get that information to your agent now so come February 1 you aren't freaking out that your 1099 is missing.

--jhf

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15. Query Question: Now that I have an agent, what mistakes can I avoid?



What the most common mistake debut authors make when they sign with an agent? (Yes, I'm asking for myself *throws confetti*) I've read every QueryShark blog post on catching the eye of an agent, but now that I'm signed, I couldn't find much info (other than not being rude to support staff) on How Not To Screw It Up. 

 Yay for you *plucks confetti from gills*!  Congrats and huzzahs.  There's not just one thing to remember there are nine:

1. Surrender the idea that things get done on a schedule or to deadline. I think this is the number one thing that bugs my clients. It bugs me too, but it's just a fact of life.  If I tell a client I plan to read a manuscript over the weekend, I do plan to do it. Many times, I don't get it done. One thing or another happens to keep me from it.  Sometimes it's just I'm really tired and cranky and that's NOT when you want to be reading your stuff. (Trust me on this.)

A lot of times manuscript reading is delayed for weeks. Sometimes longer. That's no one's preference but the world operating system does not run on Janet Reid Preferences. Would that it did.

 


2. Do Not Assume/Fear casual comments made on Twitter or Facebook about the job are about you. They never are. Never. They're always about That Other Client.


3. Support the other clients.  Retweet their book news, good reviews, awards and accolades.  Follow them on Twitter; like them on Facebook.  Several of my clients have build lasting friendships after meeting across my bar.  Of course, you don't have to be a slave about this. Follow your gut on this. Not all my clients appeal to each other.  Some agents have lists where not all clients appeal to each other.

4. Don't be afraid to ask for what you need.  If I can do it, I will. If I can't, at least I'll know and we'll avoid misunderstandings.

5. Don't suffer in silence. If somethings wrong, tell me. I am a mind reader but only if you're within a certain number of feet of my desk.

6. Ask when you don't understand something. You're not stupid. Royalty statements and contracts aren't pleasure reading, and my job is to make sure you understand them.

7. Never, ever, ever be dismissive of the support staff.  I've fired clients for that. I have no trouble doing it again if the need arises.  Support staff here are called godsends and there's a reason for that.   IF you have a problem with the people who work for or with me, you will tell ME. 

8. Don't worry about calling or emailing me.  I'd rather hear from you than not if you've got something on your mind.  

9. Never EVER send an email to your editor, or anyone at your publisher that is less than polite. EVER. My job is to run interference for you.  If you've got a problem with your editor or publisher, we'll figure out how to deal with it together.  Or I'll tell you you're all wet. Or you'll fire me.  



Most of this is second nature to the civilized among us. If you're thinking about this, you're going to be ok. It's the people who make assumptions that will go astray.

 

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16. 2014 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 18

It’s a Tuesday, which means we’ve got two prompts today:

  1. Write a sweet poem.
  2. Write a sour poem.

*****

Running out of Time for a Chance at $1,000!

Writer’s Digest has extended the deadline to their Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards competition to November 21. As you may have guessed from the bold statement above, the winner will receive $1,000 cash!

The winning poem will also be published in a future issue of Writer’s Digest magazine. And the winning poet will receive a copy of the 2015 Poet’s Market.

Even poets who don’t win can win, because there are prizes for 2nd through 25th place as well.

Click to learn more.

*****

Here’s my attempt at a Sweet and/or Sour poem:

“Thai”

I love to eat Thai food,
because it tastes so good.

I love the sweet and sour
chicken with the sauce poured

over veggies and rice.
Mmmm. Thai for lunch sounds nice.

*****

roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He really does love eating sweet and sour chicken at Thai restaurants. He also favors writing rhyming poems when he’s not sure what to write. The rhymes get his brain turning, especially on cold November mornings.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

*****

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17. Halfway There: Finishing NaNoWriMo Strong

You’re almost there; you’re halfway through National Novel Writing Month, at least based on the calendar. Whether or not you’re halfway through your goal to 50,000 words (or whatever your goal this month is) may be another story.

These next two weeks now become as or more critical than the first two and a half weeks that you’ve spent writing. If you’ve made it this far (and presumably even if you aren’t exactly half way to your goal, you still have a decent chunk of words), then there’s no way you can throw in the towel.

So how are you going to motivate yourself to finish what you’ve started? Have you been through a deadline like this previously? How did you survive? Be sure to share any tips or thoughts on getting through the rest of NaNoWriMo in the comments below.

Have you missed any of the other posts in our NaNoWriMo blogging series? Be sure to check the others out:

Question: Now that we’re at the halfway point, what’s your number one tip or suggestion to help other writers get through the rest of NaNoWriMo?


Natania Barron: Make it an incremental change. Don’t go crazy and type 10,000 words a day. I did that once. Sure, I got my word count in. But most of it was terrible. Not to mention my whole body hurt afterward. As a writer that struggles with repetitive stress injuries every day, it’s no laughing matter.

But incremental word countskeeping it under 2,000 a dayI find are more attainable in the long run. I find that the writing is better, too. And I find that the sanity factor is sincerely less an issue when you’re not scrambling to catch up and panicked. If you’re in this to get into the habit of writing, don’t get into the habit of binge writing. Get into the habit of writing well, writing focused, and writing sustainably.

Also bring wine. This isn’t easy.


Rachael Herron: My number one tip? Sugar. After that, some coffee. And then some more sugar. In normal life, I don’t let myself eat sugar very often, but in November? This is my favorite month of the year (because of the writing) and I let myself go there. Other people let themselves get a little out of control in December, but for me, November is the month to binge on Twinkies and Reese’s. And when I’m flagging, when I just can’t get that extra thousand words I need to reach my goal, a Twizzler appetizer followed by a hot chocolate chaser will get me the words I need (especially if I have the reward of a sugary aperitif to look forward to after I’ve done my words). 


Nikki Hyson: Just DO NOT quit. Even if you feel you won’t hit 50k; that you’ll never get to the end of it. Keep writing. Every day. As much as you can until midnight of November 30th. You’ll mine magic if you do. An odd twist of words. The coolest of names will spring out of nowhere. A side character might take charge and inspire you. You made a promise to yourself to write for 30 days and I promise you, if you stick it out, you won’t regret it. 


Regina Kammer: Plot got you down? Concentrate on the parts of your story you are sure about and ignore the parts that are giving you headaches. That is, get down on paper (or up on the screen) all the parts of the story you know need to be written, even if there are huge plot holes. That will keep up your word count, with the added benefit that sometimes plot holes get filled in while you’re writing other parts of the story.

Another bit of advice is to read some posted excerpts on the NaNoWriMo site. What you’ll find might inspire you, motivate you, and make you realize you’re right on track.


 

November/December 2014 Writer's Digest

 The November/December 2014 issue of Writer’s Digest
has all of the resources, tips and tricks you need to finish
off your goal of writing a novel in a month.


Kathy Kitts: Keep on keepin’ on. I’ve had an absolutely exhausting weekend and I had fallen about two days behind in word count. All I wanted to do was go to bed, but I told myself, just 250 words. Just write 250 and then go to bed. I didn’t want to break the chain. It’s hokey, but I have a calendar, and I put a star on each day that I write. I didn’t want to miss my star for today. So, I wrote my 250 and then got inspired and wrote 1750 more. Words beget words.


Kristen Rudd: Just keep writing. It’s all downhill from here. If you’ve made it this far, then you can finish this. I find I have one of two problems around this time in the month. It’s either “Oh, crap, I have too many things to write, and I’m not going to finish” or it’s “Oh, crap, I don’t have enough material to see me through until the 30th.” Really, neither of these is a problem. The first one just means I’ll have plenty of stuff to work on, and the second means I need to start killing people off.

There is a third problem, which is, “Oh, crap, I’m totally in over my head/I hate my story/I don’t know what I’m doing.” This one may or may not be my problem this year. But I just keep writing. Writing solves all of these problems.


EJ Runyon: All I did to get me to the mid-point in this month of writing is to do it daily. I didn’t miss a day of writing. Sometimes I made my word count goal, other days I exceeded it a bit. So the tip is: Work at it consistently.

You can enjoy all the fun in NaNo’s playground of forums, and FB feeds, sure camaraderie is wonderful. But writing is what this is all about. Three of my NaNo titles were accepted for publication, and this year’s been picked up too, because I did the work. During the NaNo Months and out of them.

Just sit and do the work.


Jessica Schley: Years ago, there was no detailed stats bar that told you how many words you were behind or how many you wrote that day, or how many words per day you needed to finish on time. The only motivator you had was the blue bar, going further and further until you hit 50 and it turned purple. Personally, I found it more usefulit wasn’t easy to quantify if you were falling behind short of getting out a calculator and doing the math. You’d just push yourself to keep going every day.

So if you find yourself behind, a) you’re in good company (I’m not even going to talk about how many days I’m behind right now!) but b) don’t focus on the count relative to where you “should” be. Focus on pushing that blue bar forward as far as you can push it each day.

And two, it is almost a NaNoWriMo impossibility to not finish once your book hits 35,000 words. As you turn into the fourth week, words tend to start tumbling out. So if you feel like quitting, just stick with it no matter what is going on right now, and get to 35k. When you get to 35k, then you have my permission to quit. Because you won’t be able to.


Brian Schwarz: When I was in high school, I subjected myself to a “sport” known as cross country, which was really just another form of torture. I remember every race began the same way, with me and my fellow torturee’s saying “I will never run another race again after this.” We always told ourselves that we were finished, that we would cease to volunteer, but all of us were always there a month later for the next race. We found comradarie in the whole ordeal. On one particular race, I found myself struggling through the last leg of the race and repeating in my head over and over again, “No one has ever died from running.” I found the thought comforting, and this was a common thing I would say to myself to press onward, to keep running despite how much I wanted to stop. Unfortunately for me on this particular race, it was hot enough out that one student had literally passed out while running. I saw the ambulance while I repeated my phrase over and over in my head, and the thought crossed my mind—did someone actually just die from running?

I guess my point, and my advice, are to lie to yourself. Lie early and lie often and lie over and over again, because I’m pretty sure that someone somewhere has died from running, just like I’m pretty sure some person has died from a lack of sleep caused by an excess of writing. But NaNoWriMo has a lot in common with cross country, because at the end of the day it isn’t about a battle of you and another person. It’s you versus you. Of all the paralyzing frustrations and disappointments that happen during Nanowrimo, none is worse than this—getting discouraged. Because the only person that can stop you from finishing NaNoWriMo with 50,000 wonderful new words is—frankly—you. I mean, you’ll end up blaming it on your cat getting sick, or your favorite television show starting up, or that thing you had to do for work or school that you weren’t expecting—but at the end of the day its all on you.

So whether you have 25,000 words written today or 25 words written (mind you I’m at 18,000 and still very much plan to finish at 50k), don’t limit yourself by telling yourself all of those bad lies, and tell yourself some good ones. Tell yourself that writing 5,000 words a day for 15 days is WAY easier than writing 1,667 words a day for 30 days. Tell yourself that you’ve got all the time in the world even when you don’t, just to calm your nerves. Tell yourself that everyone is as far behind or as far ahead as you. Be convincing. Believe it. No one has ever died from writing 50,000 words in 30 days, and neither will you. Forget sleep. Sleep is for the weak. Write something that takes your mind off sleep. Just don’t let yourself be the reason you didn’t finish NaNoWriMo with 50,000 words, or with 25,000 words, or with 750 words. Readjust. Change your goal if you must but I would recommend just convincing yourself that you’re not in bad shape. That’s what I’ll be doing. 

*     *     *     *     *

Write Your Novel in a MonthEveryone thinks about doing it, yet most people who do start a novel end up stalling out after a few chapters. Where do these would-be novelists go wrong? Are the characters dull and clichéd? Did the story arc collapse? Did they succumb to a dreaded bout of “writer’s block”? Or maybe it was all just taking too long?

These problems used to stop writers in their tracks, but nothing will get in your way after reading Write Your Novel in a Month. Author and instructor Jeff Gerke has created the perfect tool to show you how to prepare yourself to write your first draft in as little as 30 days. With Jeff’s help, you will learn how to organize your ideas, create dynamic stories, develop believable characters, and flesh out the ideal narrative for your novel—and not just for that rapid-fire first draft. Jeff walks you through the entire process, from initial idea to the important revision stage, and even explains what to do with your novel once you’re finished.


Cris Freese is the associate editor of Writer’s Digest Books.

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18. From Proposal to Contract in Under a Week

For several years I labored in the agent fields, trying to harvest one for my book on helping doctoral candidates finish their dissertations. My approach, I was sure, was new, based on my longtime practice of coaching doctoral students and editing their dissertation drafts.

I also knew from much research, and the students themselves, that the traditional dissertation-writing handbooks largely ignored the major subjects of my book—the emotional and interpersonal troubles students come up against in achieving this difficult goal. These aspects can trip them up as much as not knowing the right chapter headings or correct scholarly jargon.

In my quest for an agent, I mined the writing annuals, sites, reviews, and interviews for anyone with a hint of graduate education and interest in self-help. Amassing a thick file, I wrote to every one of them. All I gleaned were a few compliments and plenty of good lucks.

**************************************************************************************************************
Noelle Sterne, Author, Head Shotnoelle-sterne-trust-your-lifeThis guest post is by author, editor, writing coach, and spiritual counselor, Noelle Sterne, who has published more than 300 pieces in print and online venues, including  Author Magazine, Funds for Writers, Children’s Book Insider,  Inspire Me Today, Transformation Magazine, Unity Magazine, Writer’s Digest, The Writer, and Women on Writing. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, Noelle has for over 28 years assisted doctoral candidates in completing their dissertations (finally). Based on her practice, her handbook addresses dissertation writers’ overlooked but very important nonacademic difficulties. Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles will be published by Rowman & Littlefield Education in 2015. In her book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books, 2011), Noelle draws examples from her academic consulting and other aspects of life to help readers release regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. Her webinar about the book is on YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95EeqllONIQ&feature=youtu.be  Noelle invites you to visit her website: trustyourlifenow.com
***************************************************************************************************************

Dogged Doing

I kept at it, following all leads. I also continued to rethink the book and refocus the premises. I reflected on how many of my clients not only shared their emotional turmoils and relationship problems with me (dissertations often, unfortunately, precipitate divorces) but also admitted that they needed a more spiritual approach in their torturous graduate school journey. After repeated academic sucker punches, they would gingerly assert their faith in a power higher than their dissertation chair.

Spirituality and scholarship don’t often mix. Some of the nursing journals publish a few articles on spiritual qualities and practices (nurses are, after all, helpers and healers). But such a topic for dissertation help in academic circles is generally frowned on or completely shunned.

Today, though, the spiritual is popping up everywhere else, with spiritual-oriented books making bestseller lists, spiritual-themed movies making box office history, and even meditation techniques making the Internet homepages and supermarket magazine covers.

Clients shared with me much personal evidence on the effectiveness of spiritual techniques. I reflected too on my own use of spiritual practices to help students solve the problems their doctoral committees threw at them. So, heartened (and praying), I summoned the courage to incorporate another component in my book in addition to the emotional and interpersonal—the spiritual.

I revised the outline, reworked the chapter synopses, refined the introduction, and restructured the entire proposal. And wrote to more agents.

Nada.

Practitioner, Practice Thyself

Never mind, I thought. As I advised clients, I told myself to keep affirming success. And as I also advised clients, I kept visualizing myself working on the book daily. I also revisited the buoying words of one graciously rejecting agent: “You’ll publish this book in no time.”

During a meditation session, an idea surfaced: switch gears from submitting my proposal to agents and go directly to academic presses. This may not seem like an astounding revelation. But please understand: as a primarily nonacademic writer I’ve always craved an agent—the undisputable symbol, I’ve believed, of finally gaining credibility as a writer.

Following my inner guidance and doing more research, I drew up a list of academic publishers, all reputable, all stalwart. Each had its own proposal guidelines, and I dutifully filled in the blanks and sent the first out.

Speed Emailing

From here, things happened unbelievably fast. You probably won’t believe the chronology, so I chronicle the specifics.

  • Tuesday night, 7:17 pm: sighing, back aching, I emailed the proposal to the first publisher.
  • Wednesday morning, 8:52 am (seeing address and suppressing incipient elation): I opened the email from the vice-president/publisher asking me how this book would be different from the other three they most recently published, and another due out in two months.
  • Wednesday afternoon, 12:29 pm (more research, no lunch): Drafted my reply and checked for typos. Sent!
  • Wednesday afternoon, 1:28p: (between gulping sandwich bites and guzzling water): Opened his email: “Very convincing.” I then read, holding onto my desk chair arms so I wouldn’t faint, that they wanted to offer me a contract. “Delighted to have you as one of our authors.” I let go of the chair arms and floated to the ceiling.
  • Wednesday afternoon, 1:30 pm: Two minutes later, surprised, I opened this email. The sandwich stuck in my throat. The projected length, he said, would make the book too big and expensive for the very audience I was aiming at, graduate students. And the original title was too long and amorphous and lacked good searchable words. He asked me to suggest alternate titles that “reflect the book’s purpose.” I slid under my desk chair.
  • Wednesday evening, 7:41 pm: All day avoiding the latest request, and incidentally attending to a couple of clients’ dissertations, I finally squeezed out three alternate titles. Sighing mightily, I agreed to cut the book length and sent off the email.
  • Thursday morning, 8:17 am: He thanked me for agreeing to cut the text and suggested another alternative to my three alternative titles.
  • Thursday afternoon, 3:20 pm: After ruminating and chewing on the edges of several research books, I suggested yet other alternatives to his alternative alternative titles (was this a verbal pissing contest?). And waited.
  • Friday, 10:00 am: He chose one of the alternative alternatives with a modification.
  • Friday, 2:32 pm: I agreed with his choice and suggested a slight remodification (couldn’t appear a complete marshmallow).
  • Friday, 2:46 pm: He thanked me and considered it settled. He added,
  • “Ready to go, then!” I stood on my desk chair and shouted.
  • Friday, 4:06 pm: From his associate, in my inbox appeared a passel of forms, information, tips, and THE CONTRACT. I ran into my husband’s office screaming and jumping to the ceiling.

* * * * * *

How Long?

All this took place in less than a work week—faster than I could ever have imagined. Well, let me correct that: less than a week—and several years. My proposal had to “sit” before I was ready to see it anew and change my focus. I also had to be ready to take the daring leap to include what I consider a major facet of my work, the spiritual.

I knew too that the many proposal revisions had increasingly brought out my expertise in the subject, and my passion for the project became evident. I believe the publisher liked these qualities, as well as my quick replies. I commend him too, an academic publisher, for not being put off by my audacious inclusion of the spiritual. His responses bolstered my conviction that during the many steps to book production we would have a simpatico relationship.

As I now absorb the miracle of this lightning proposal-to-contract, from under my desk I drag out the carton of materials, and from my computer open the windows of swelling collection of files, notes, and articles. And the work begins.

P.S. A bonus: One of the agents who had complimented the work earlier invited me to keep her informed. On Contract Friday, once I simmered down, I wrote her with the news. She then agreed to represent me! So, my toiling in the agent fields bore serendipitous—and wonderful—fruit!

 

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19. An EPIC POST about the Submission Process, from an Agent's POV.

A lot of authors are curious about what happens when a project goes "on submission", so I thought I'd lay it out here. I want to stress that this is from MY POV ONLY. There is no one way to do this -- other agents might have different styles, and that doesn't make them (or me!) wrong -- just different. And I'm only speaking for myself, I make no claims about what any other agent may or may not do, even in my own agency. Also, of course, a lot of stuff may be variable depending on the author, project, time of year, phase of moon, etc, so all of this is not even applicable to all projects! And now that the epic disclaimers are out of the way, on to the epic post:

MANUSCRIPTS ON SUBMISSION 101

STEP ONE: Once we've been through revisions and have a clean ms to send out, I will re-read the project. As I read, I think about the style of book it is. With a book that is really submission-ready, I'll be able to visualize what I think it will look like on the shelf. Does this FEEL like a light and fun paperback? Does it FEEL like a beautiful epic fantasy with maps and fancy gilt edges? Who will buy this book most - Librarians and teachers? Teens? Hipster parents? Doting grandparents? Based on these calculations, I narrow down the list of publishers to those who would be open to publishing this type of book. I'm also thinking about who amongst my editor acquaintance might also like the story.

STEP TWO: I create a submission list and share it with the author to see if they have any input. For example, if they worked with a certain editor before, or something of that nature. My submission strategy is to target wisely rather than widely. I don't, for example, go to multiple people at the same house. I like the editors to whom I send projects to feel they've been selected especially, as indeed they have been. You can read much more about choosing imprints and the fun game of crafting the editor submission list and all that goes into that in this post from the archives.

If I an torn between who at a given publisher might like a project, I might email or call either the boss or the editor I know the best and ask their opinion. Yes, this works. Everybody WANTS to connect successfully and find projects they love! 

STEP THREE: I either call or email the editors (unless I happen to have a meeting or lunch scheduled with them in person during this time-frame in which case I pitch in person) -- and ask if they'd like to see. 99%* of the time they DO ask to see -- I like to think I know their taste well enough and they know mine well enough that they know I'll at least show them something worth looking at, even if they end up passing. Even editors I don't know well will generally agree to look at the project because, you know, they are polite and they work with our agency a lot. :-)  Annnnd then I send it out and we wait for responses!

(* The 1% of the time they don't ask to see, that is usually because they have something too similar already in the pipeline -- like, I had a chapter book about a certain historical event go out and one person passed on looking because they have a book about the same event already coming out in 2015. So, obviously, I targeted them correctly, just somebody else was faster! That's OK, it happens.)

How do you decide between giving an exclusive and making it a multiple submission?
For me, it is nearly always a multiple submission. If I were to give an exclusive, I would explicitly state it to the editor and give a time-frame, and it would be because:

1) The author has worked with an editor before and this is the next logical book -- let's say, you have a YA fantasy out, and this is a new YA fantasy in the same world - even if we don't HAVE to show the current editor contractually, we WOULD, because it just makes sense. I like to keep good relationships going!  ... or

2) We have an option that we need to fulfill (ie, in the contract it is stated that the publisher gets first crack at anything new) -- in which case they'd only have it exclusively for whatever term the contract specified, say, 30 days ... or

3) You've discussed the project at length with an editor and you think they will LOVE it, or it was inspired by something they said, or written specifically with them in mind, or something of that nature -- in which case I'd let them know that they have a limited window head start. Not that they HAVE to get back in that amount of time -- but we'll be going out more widely after that time.

If none of these apply, then it is a multiple submission.

So what should I, the author, be doing while you, the agent, are waiting for responses?  You should be working on the next book. WORKING ON THE NEXT BOOK. Oh heavens, please be working on the next book. Outline a sequel if you like - but I wouldn't get too married to it until you have proof that somebody wants the first book. I'd rather you be working on a completely new, shiny and different project. Something you are excited about and thrilled to write! So that you will not be obsessing over the thing that is on submission.

And will you share all the responses you get with me as you get them?  When I first started as an agent, I always shared all declines immediately with my authors. But then I realized that the authors were getting majorly bummed out and oftentimes this knowledge would derail them from their work on their happy-shiny new projects! So I changed my stance on this and started doing it a little differently. 

If I get an OFFER, or a request for revision, of course I share it immediately. The same goes for a really kind/complimentary or otherwise uplifting decline. If it makes me happy to read, it will probably make my author happy to read, too, and I share. If, however, I get an ambivalent decline, a nonsensical (or even mean) decline, or just generally non-helpful decline, I just mark it in my little book as a "pass". At a certain point, when the round is winding down, around the 8-12 week mark, I'll compile all these and just give an update and 'state of the ms' report. If an author wants more frequent updates, they can ask me at any time -- some people want to know what's up more often, and that's fine. And some authors REALLY REALLY want to know every gory detail as it happens - that's fine too, they can just let me know. I happen to think it is a bit unhealthy for the majority of authors, but of course I will send as my author prefers.

How long does it take to hear back from editors, and do you nudge or give a deadline?  I don't give a deadline unless we have an offer on the table. I usually hear back on picture books and short chapter books within a few weeks -- sometimes, for novels, a few months. After 8 weeks, I'll nudge people as needed. There are often a couple of outliers who don't reply unless shaken vigorously, but the bulk of responses will come in by 8-12 weeks.

What happens if we get an offer??!  If we get an offer, I nudge everyone who is still looking immediately, letting them all know that we have an offer and that I need their responses ASAP. If that's the case, usually everyone replies immediately to either pass or express interest, and we go from there. If we do get two offers, I'll compare and contrast, and ask for improvements as needed, and the author will decide. However, if I know other offers are coming. . . .

OMG!! What if there are MULTIPLE offers?!? IS THAT AN AUCTION?? If I know we are getting multiple offers, we call an auction. (You theoretically CAN call an auction any time you want -- but I would hate to throw an auction and have nobody come! I personally only declare an auction when I know there is significant interest from more than two parties.)

The agency has "auction rules" that define what we want offers to look like and include, so that when it comes time for the author to decide between offers, they are comparing apples to apples. I'll set what's called a Closing Date (usually a week, week and a half, depending on the time of year and such) -- by which time everyone needs to come to me with offers if they are going to. Different kinds of auctions are structured in different ways, but usually auctions are either "best bids" (one round, everyone just gives their best possible offer and the author decides) or "rounds" (in which the agent can go back and forth and ask for improvements and the author decides). There are benefits and drawbacks to each, and your agent will make sure you understand what is going on when it happens!

So auction means BIG MOOLAH, yes? $$$$ WOOOOHOOO!!! $$$$$  Sorry to disappoint. Despite sounding V V Fancy, Auction doesn't mean the book will automatically sell for a million bucks. Auction just means there are multiple offers, but it does not define what those offers might be. Everyone COULD offer pocket change and belly lint! But usually auctions inspire editors to at least TRY to put their best foot forward.

What if we send it out and get ... no offers :(  ?   This happens, too, even to manuscripts I love and think will sell -- and they often DO sell, just perhaps not in the first round. Nothing to worry about. What I'll usually do is compile the feedback we've received and see if there is anything useful to be gleaned from it. Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn't. We'll discuss whether you want to revise or not, and I'll send the work out to more people and begin a new round of submissions.

What if we never ever get an offer? At what point do you consider a ms completely shopped?  Well... depends on the book, and depends on the feedback we've been getting. If we're just getting nothing useful, or no responses at all, and I don't feel I have anywhere else to go with it where the results will be different, that is quite dispiriting, and it might be time to back-burner the ms for a while and try something else, maybe revise with fresh eyes at a later date. If we're getting THISCLOSE but just not quite putting it over the top, like every editor is saying they "love it but..." -- well, then I'd be inclined to keep going even longer. I have sold books in less than a day... but I've also sold books that took a year, two years, or longer, over multiple rounds with revisions and tweaks in between. Sometimes it just takes a long time to get to that yes! So, there's no magic number of editors -- it's a case-by-case situation. The good news is, you have a lot more stories to tell, right?

Is there any question about the submission process that I forgot to answer? Ask in the comments!

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20. Dispatches from the query queue

Don't joke around at the start of your query

By this I mean don't start with something that is "obviously" funny or not to be taken seriously, then say "oops, let's try again" and start over.

Here's why: I never assume you're joking. When you start out with "my memoir as Felix Buttonweezer's gun moll is 300,000 words in the second person" my first thought is NOT "oh this is clearly a joke."

I stop reading and send the "not for me" form rejection.

The only reason I noticed what might be a joke in the query that prompted this post was I paused before replying to swill some shark brew and got to the "oh I'm kidding" part of the morning's entertainment.

What's obviously outlandish to you is stuff I've seen in my queries for real.
You simply can NOT make up something that is "worse" than what I've already seen. And please, do not take that as a challenge. 

Leave your hilarity to the comments column of the blog and the flash fiction writing contests.






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21. uh oh, Mom's ROFL again


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22. 2014 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 16

For today’s prompt, write an explanatory poem. Back when I took dozens of creative writing courses in college, the mantra was, “Show, don’t tell.” Well, today’s prompt is sort of different–in a way–in that it’s a tell poem, or explaining poem, though how and what you explain may vary a great deal.

*****

Submit a Poem for a Chance at $1,000!

Writer’s Digest has extended the deadline to their Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards competition to November 21. As you may have guessed from the bold statement above, the winner will receive $1,000 cash!

The winning poem will also be published in a future issue of Writer’s Digest magazine. And the winning poet will receive a copy of the 2015 Poet’s Market.

Even poets who don’t win can win, because there are prizes for 2nd through 25th place as well.

Click to learn more.

*****

Here’s my attempt at an Explanatory poem:

“I’m not sure how I got here”

I mean, it started with an arcade game over
before picking up Tetris on my Game Boy,

which I played under cover of my blanket fort
wondering about Thor (new and old versions)

and numbers. Now or later, I will dream about
being blinded by the moon and bomb cyclones.

Ultraman doesn’t have these kind of troubles,
or maybe he does–I don’t know. The point is

that I think I’ve been here before in this car–
the back seat–fighting with my siblings, even

though we had the “no fighting” option at our
disposal, and we’d fight over everything,

especially who would be the leader, though
we were always followers–in the back seat–

with our “holey” pants, and speaking of who
set the house on fire, you sure look nice today.

*****

roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He often has no idea what he’s going to write for these prompts before he writes it. And it often shows. And that’s all right. And it’s fun.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

*****

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23. 2014 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 17

For today’s prompt, write an afflicted poem. Someone or something that is afflicted is someone or something that is in a troubled, injured, or humbled state. Or distressed to the point of constant suffering and anguish. In other words, the perfect poem for a Monday, right?

*****

Running out of Time for a Chance at $1,000!

Writer’s Digest has extended the deadline to their Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards competition to November 21. As you may have guessed from the bold statement above, the winner will receive $1,000 cash!

The winning poem will also be published in a future issue of Writer’s Digest magazine. And the winning poet will receive a copy of the 2015 Poet’s Market.

Even poets who don’t win can win, because there are prizes for 2nd through 25th place as well.

Click to learn more.

*****

Here’s my attempt at an Afflicted poem:

“Ultra-Ham”

I have a bad habit of singing random songs
and making up new lyrics–partly because

it’s fun to do and partly because I have a bad
memory–like the Ultraman theme song might

turn into the Ultraham theme song and “Singing
in the Rain” might turn into “Singing in the Pain,”

and it’s really cool at times, but not so cool at others,
especially when I’m trying to focus or be serious

or care about the feelings of others, but then,
I’m afflicted by the smooth voice of Barry White

singing “I Can’t Get Enough of Your Blood, Baby,”
because he’s a vampire, right? And well, it’s sort

of a pain to have to explain the joke when it’s not
even the day for the explanatory poem prompt.

*****

roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He doesn’t always know what to put in this paragraph, but he still likes trying to change it up from post to post, because, well, why not? He has a sense of humor that only some get, and he’s fine with that.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

*****

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24. Query Question: more on who to feature in the query

Dear Sharkly One:

I have a quick follow-up question to your most excellent post of 30 October, about starting a book with the MC or not. I'm wondering - does your stand on this change, when the book is a mystery? It seems fairly common for mysteries, thrillers, and other books of that ilk to begin with the crime, not necessarily the main character and his/her problem(s).

So if I query you about Miss Detective and her New Cozy Quilt-'n'-Criminology Shop, which the local Knitting Society is trying to shut down, and my sample pages open with Chris Corpse, and how he came to be lying in a forest covered in shark bites, would you stop reading? Or would you keep going, assuming that Miss Detective will show up shortly to begin unraveling the mystery?

(Of course, my query would be about Miss D and her problems - quilting, sleuthing, or otherwise. I'm just wondering about your comment on opening the book with what appears to be a secondary - or even tertiary - character rather than the main protagonist.)

Thank you for your most excellent insight. I await your response with shark-baited* breath!



* Yes, I know it's supposed to be "bated," not "baited," lest I offend your grammatical sensibilities. But I couldn't resist the pun!


Why would you tell me how Chris Corpse came to be in the copse when Miss Detective will be trying to figure that out in the book?  In other words, don't tell me more than your main character knows UNLESS that's what you're also doing in the book.  


In the soon to be published DEATH AND THE RED-HEADED WOMAN, Fabulous Loretta Ross told me about Wren Morgan finding a dead body in the house she's preparing for an upcoming auction.  She did NOT tell me how Mr. Corpse came to be there because that's one of the things Wren needs to solve very early in the book.





However.


There is one rule, and one rule ONLY for effective queries: entice me to read on. Generally I try to give you advice that will steer you in that direction.  Things like avoiding rhetorical questions, or don't give away all the plot points, or don't start with weather, driving or waking up.  Those generalizations apply to 98% of all queries.  If you're the 2% it doesn't apply to, well have at it.


The problem is, it's hard to know if you're in the 2% catetogory, and you're the worst judge of it.  That's why you don't query everyone in the known universe on round one. Leave some wiggle room to change up your query if you're not getting the response you hoped for.



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25. Inside an Agent's Head

It's amazing how much a new submission can mess with an agent's head.

We take on a new project from a new client or we finally get that fresh manuscript from a client whose books we're always excited to read. And as we're reading we're getting more and more excited about how amazing this book is and how we can't wait to sell it. And then the panic sets in. Just as the excitement rises, so does the doubt. But what if it doesn't sell, what if I'm jinxing it with my excitement? Oh crap, I just told my colleagues how amazing it is, I'm sure to have jinxed it now.

So the next time you worry that you're bugging your agent or too neurotic to talk to her don't.

--jhf

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