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I have two queries. One is a red-hot mess based on feedback from my critique group. The other I perfected with your help from Chum Bucket. (Thank you again! Your response felt like a big hug across the Internet).
The problem is that the red-hot mess has gotten three requests out of ten. Two months later, the better query has netted zilch out of fifteen.
The crummier query is starting to feel like a lucky penny, and now I'm looking at the better query like it's a stumble instead of a foot in the door. Figuring out which to use is fast becoming a philosophical question. What if there is no better query, only different queries? If you and the blog readers have a any advice, I'd much appreciate it.
Figuring out which to use? Have you taken total leave of your senses?
This isn't a philosophical question at all.
I can't believe you're even asking.
USE THE ONE THAT WORKS!!!!!!!
Feedback and help and advice is great, but when it comes to results, the only thing that matters is yes or no. You have a query that's getting yes.
I don't care if I said the query is the cat's pajamas. If it's not garnering requests, DITCH IT.
hi this is my first prompt so feel free 2 criticise.(btw my name is rafay i am 11 years old)
it was 5 millenia ago that it happened , this place , this time , this life
O how i miss those two , my daughter Altheia…her art,her wisdom. it was all copmparable with the godess Athena… in fact better.
My son Demitrius, he was nine… 5 days away from his tenth birthday.
he was such a good strong boy, always making his Mama proud.
he had A future ahead of him.
BEING THE KING OF LIBYA AHEAD OF HIM.
my daughter O her sculptures were the finest in all of Greece!
but that , thats all over now beacause Hera killed them
KILLED THEM. just beacause Zeus the king of all the gods prefered marrying me.
none of it was my fault all hers.
she deserves to rot in tarturas NOT ME!
I remember that day… demetrius was in my lap and Altheia at my side i was telling the story of Heracles
when the palace doors flung open and that little pregnant goldfish Hera came in with a long staff
and she smashed it on the ground and the lifeless bodies of my beautiful children laid at my feet
and hera walked towards me and screamed
this will be a lesson to you for marrying my husband
and everything blacked out
and when i woke up i was in tartarus and i looked at myself
i was a monster my nails had become long talons
my eyes were glowing red i had long leathery wings with spikes all over
and she turned me into the monster world calls Lamia
and i would like too tell my children who might have reincarnated or might be in elisium
that they should stay strong and know mama is watching them
but what am i going to do?
And now for the one in the spirit but not the letter of the prompt. I’m sure I will upset some people with this one, but I gotta be me.
Oh Captain My Captain
You were in my life but I was not in yours. Not beyond that basic connection we all share anyway. Why has it taken me so long to speak to you, to speak of you? Because you were one of my heroes. You were one of the giants treading the world with an I don’t give a shit attitude and a devil may care smile. Then you did the thing I have never been able to forgive. You made yourself into a coward when you had it all.
No matter how unfair it is that stigma will taint my memory of you. My father taught me that suicide is the coward’s way out. Every religion tells me it is the one unforgivable sin. I know I overstate but most of them say it at least conditionally. That was who you became to me. You were a giant and became your own unruly David. How could you do that to yourself? You had so much to live for. How could you do that to us? You brought us so much joy and now we had to mourn you. How the hell could you do that to me? I needed men like you in the world.
A quirky entertainer. An actor who openly gamed? I don’t mean played video games, now every actor does that but you were the first big name to admit he table topped! You gave me hope for the world, for humanity, for everyone who was different. Then you took it away in a moment of shameful weakness. I will never forgive you. But maybe that’s the point. Maybe I don’t need to.
I don’t understand your battles. I know, and looking back I see how much pain there was inside. A desperate man battling the same fights we all must endure. How much harder was it for you with such a sensitive soul? How heavy did it weigh on you that we all looked to you for a laugh, to help us escape our every day pains when all you wanted to do was heal yourself? You tried, but still you were our golden calf, our doorway to a different place. I know you tried and I wonder if maybe we had just let you if things could have been different.
You gave us so much and we could not even give you privacy. You overcame your addictions, more than once, and yet you tried to stay healthy. How hard was it for you when you were warring with the feelings that finally overtook you and we splashed it on the internet and ate it up. In the middle of your struggle you had to pause and reassure us that you had not started using again. Time you could have been using to heal and we just weighed you down.
I cannot forgive the act but I can focus on your legacy. Nobody can replace you but I can live my life to bring entertainment to others as you did. I hope that is a fitting tribute. I hope that can help make those religions wrong and let you rest in peace. I hope you can forgive yourself.
I hope because it is all I have and there is less of it in the world without you. Thank you for everything you gave us.
Wow, I’m starting to think your music career may be in country. Again, this is beautiful and touching and just makes my heart ache. There are so many things I want to say but about certain things any advice no matter how well intentioned can only make it worse. Not your fault but you can’t believe that until you reach it yourself and I’m sure many others have already told you that. The simple act of securing the planes speaks more of love than most anything I can think of.
Very beautiful story. You captured my own sentiments and reactions around this prompt in here. Well done.
Gorgeous. I’m not going to ask because these are so personal but I want to know. If this is fiction it feels just too real.
Wow, if anyone had asked me I would have been sure this was fiction. Very touching and I echo Tim’s sentiments.
Powerful fiction that speaks of real emotion. Well written there. In the end art imitates life just as life imitates art. An original thought is not one nobody has ever had before but one you came to on your own before discovering another has had it. That is not to say this would have been any less powerful if you had seen the story first. It just means that would have been a tribute but as it is this is an original thought that resonates with something so deep in the collective soul of humanity that someone else did it. Okay, stupid prompt has me way to philosophical for my own good. Beautiful story.
Okay, these are really hard for me. I have had this idea for a book called Lessons on Being a Man: Shit I learned from by dad for a long time now. When I looked at this I thought a letter? Bullshit! And I wrote a chapter for it about my great grandfather. Problem is it was about 3.5k words so I’m not going to post that here. If you want to see it you can go look at my blog which is mostly reposts of stories from here and mad political rantings. When you get there it will be below this letter. Oh, and my dad’s still alive so you can guess who the dead one is in there. http://patrickelliottwrites.blogspot.com/
I’m still uncomfortable with this but I’m going to post it anyway. I have another idea for one that will probably shock and horrify and is in the letter of the prompt but not the spirit. I’ll do and post that one soon too is my guess. I think I’m a masochist since I keep going with things that are opening old wounds. Anyway! To the letter, no editing on this one since both this and the other one are just too raw for me to reread.
What I remember most is the fishing. At your funeral I remember the phrase, we don’t miss the years we miss the minutes. I remember thinking how catchy that bullshit was but I still miss you every day. I still hated the fishing though. Up before the sun because that was when the worms woke up. You told me that, remember? Then we went down to a river and stood in cold water. I never caught a damn thing. All I wanted to do was talk to you because I loved you but I had to stand there and be quiet to not scare off the fish. Later I decided you wanted to spend time with me when I was quiet since that was rare. Later still I realized you were teaching me patience and the value of quiet time with your loved ones. You taught me a lot and I didn’t even realize it.
I don’t want to tell you my life, you know it. You know I am okay because you made sure I would be. As one of the two oldest grandkids I was more like your child than grandchild. For a long time I envied that but now I know the rest of them envy the strong connection I had with you.
I want to say two things.
Thank you for being there. When I tried that stupid door to door sales job and you let me come and do the pitch for you even though I wasn’t really talking to you then. That you didn’t think you needed it but you wanted to buy it to help me out meant the world to me. That you always knew I was busy and asked about me even when that wasn’t why I didn’t come by… You were a better man than I can hope to be. Your faith in me kept, hell keeps me going. Thank you for everything.
The second is I’m sorry. The years I stayed away because in the middle of my parent’s divorce grandma said something nasty about my father. She was defending her daughter but I didn’t see that. I know you didn’t like my dad but I also know you understand I love him. That was part of who you were. I’m sorry I let my petty anger rob me of years with both of you. The year before you died when you hurt yourself you talked to me more deeply and openly than you ever had. Even when you didn’t know who I was you were there for me. I’m sorry I took so much of that away from us.
Mostly I’m sorry about the fishing. I had this plan to get two licenses and borrow some gear. I planned to do it the next summer. I wanted that time with you and to give you the gift of memory. Then you died and I’m sorry I didn’t do it the year before.
I love you always.
I’m a new writer, so resources like this are exceptionally valuable. I’m hoping for exciting things in 2015. Thanks for making this available and sharing your expertise!
She’s got this smile, see?
Makes you want to stay awhile, hang
your hat on the corner.
She’ll beguile you
with silvered kisses,
and days and days
of waiting for her
to get her fill
We’re all looking
wide as the whole world,
than this bright skin.
Every year at this time the BookEnds team sits down to reevaluate what started out as the company's business plan. We take a look at things like our mission statement and company objectives, both short-term and long-term. We also take a look at our own personal goals for the upcoming year and share them with one another.
I just finished making a couple of goal lists. The gym I belong to asked each of it's members to write up two goals and pass them to our trainers. I think it's a great idea. Obviously these goals are gym related, but by sharing them I have the support I need to help make them happen. I then made a list of personal goals. I printed these out and hung it on the Vision Board I told you about last year. This list includes the goals for my gym, some goals for things I'd like to achieve at home and the BookEnds goals I'll be passing along to my team for our business plan.
The thing to remember about goals is that it's good to have some that seem tough, nearly unattainable, and that it might take you a year to achieve. Those could include things like selling your first book or finishing your first book. But to make goals really effective you need to also include those things that you're better able to achieve. Maybe finishing the first draft or actually querying agents.
In my case I'd like to discover a wonderful new suspense or general mystery and add it to my list. I'd also like to sell that mystery. The first might take me at least 6 months, it's conceivable the second will too. No matter, I'm looking forward to the challenges.
Sometimes it’s a lone writer who’s been putting off a story idea for too long, and decides it’s now or never. Sometimes it’s a pair or a group determined to find out what they can achieve by sharing self-imposed deadlines and strong pots of coffee. Sometimes it’s peer pressure or curiosity about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.org), that challenge that rallies ever-increasing numbers of writers around the globe every November to band together in pursuit of a 50,000-word “win.”
This article is by Jessica Strawser, editor of Writer’s Digest. For more great writing advice, follow her on Twitter @JessicaStrawser.
Book-in-a-month challenges take all forms, fueled by all stripes of writers with all manner of motivations—make the most of that time alone in a borrowed cabin, hunker down for the winter, stop procrastinating, have something ready to pitch at that conference, prove to yourself you can do it, prove to someone else you can do it, get a fresh start—and in this hyperconnected age of 24-hour fingertip resources and networks, of tiny portable keyboards and glow-in-the-dark screens, they’re more popular than ever.
What do writers really glean from these write-a-thons? What have those who’ve set out to achieve the seemingly impossible learned, good or bad, and what advice would they share with others thinking of setting out with that same single-minded focus? We asked the WD writing community, and responses came in waves—with refreshing honesty, admitted mistakes, tales of redemption, palpable pride, self-deprecating humor and, above all, contagious enthusiasm. We’ve collected an array of the best insights here—one for every day of the month—along with a roundup of resources offering more help along the way. Because who knows? It’s so crazy, it just might work.
1. Embrace a new mindset.
After working five years on perfecting a novel, I sent out a round of queries, received some requests for the full manuscript, but ultimately was rejected every time. I’m not one to give up, but I also knew my novel still wasn’t right. I decided to shelve the manuscript and start a new book. That date was Oct. 30, 2010.
For years friends had been trying to get me to participate in NaNoWriMo. I didn’t want to spend five years writing my next novel, so I decided this time I’d give NaNoWriMo a shot, but without putting pressure on myself—either I’d complete 50,000 words in 30 days or I wouldn’t. That November was crazy busy: I was chairing a big awards banquet, raising two boys and juggling a host of other responsibilities that I couldn’t set aside. But writing is my dream. So, on Nov. 1, I set out to write 1,667 words a day.
The results were amazing. I forced myself to write with a new mindset (no editing, not even for misspellings), and the more I just let the words pour forth, the better my story became. It was easier to keep track of plot and I was able to delve deeper into my characters because I was spending time with them daily. I ended that first 30 days surpassing 50,000 words, and, despite hosting two major family holidays among other commitments, I used that momentum to complete the first draft of my 90,000-word thriller by early January. That novel has since been revised numerous times and is currently being read by four literary agents at top agencies considering it for representation.
[21 Fast Hacks to Fuel Your Story With Suspense]
I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo every year since, and now share what I’ve learned from writing quick first drafts. I teach a “How to Write a Novel in 30 Days” seminar at The Carnegie Center, Joseph-Beth Booksellers and Kentucky libraries. Also, I’ve helped establish a new event—the Overnight Write-In—which I’ll host for the second year at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington this November for local NaNoWriMo participants.
I had no idea in 2010 that so much would happen just because I embraced a challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. My life has improved, as has my writing. What do you need to do to pursue your dream? Give yourself a 30-day gift, and as the folks at NaNoWriMo proclaim, “write with literary abandon.”
Jennifer Hester Mattox, Paris, Ky.
2. Answer yes.
Before you jump in, think about it long and hard. Do you want to spend hours sitting in front of your computer? Do you want to have characters and plot twists swirling around in your head at every turn? Do you want the daunting task of placing the perfect words in each and every sentence? Do you, at times, want to smash your head against your keyboard? If your answer is yes, and not a mousy yes, but a standing-on-the-couch-Tom-Cruise yes, then maybe you’re just crazy enough to write a novel in a month.
Jocelyn Frentz, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
3. Do the math.
Daily or weekly word count goals help you track your progress toward your end-of-month goal, regardless of whether you average the same number of words every day. For instance, NaNoWriMo challenges participants to write a 50,000-word novel, and provides word count trackers to help you log and measure your progress as you go—but it’s worth noting that in most genres, 50,000 words doesn’t constitute a commercial book-length manuscript. So no matter when your write-a-thon takes place, know what you’re setting out to accomplish. A rough draft of a draft? A full-length manuscript? Then do the math. For an 80,000-word novel, for instance, that’s 2,666 words/day for 30 days—or, if you prefer weekly goals, 20,000/week for four weeks.
4. Plan to make sense.
My advice is simple: Plan ahead and outline. It’s possible to write 50,000 words in 30 days, but what is really difficult is having a finished product that really makes any sense. When you’re in the heat of the moment trying to crank out thousands of words every day it is very easy to get off track. That’s where your planning and your outline can save you.
Andrew Setters, Cincinnati
5. Just start—and keep going.
NaNoWriMo? It looked like a text message. What the heck was it? I discovered the challenge just two days before Nov. 1, opening day. I had no idea what I would write about, but I was determined to do it, just to see if I could.
This was 2009, and my first time writing any length novel in any length of time, let alone 50,000 words in one month. Up to then, I’d written a few magazine articles, a how-to book, a children’s book and untold numbers of unpublished short stories. And now for something entirely different.
I did finish that year, and went on to finish every year since. You never know what you can accomplish until you try. Everyone tackles the job in a different way, some with a meticulous plan or a detailed outline—but not me. Here’s my advice: If you have an idea in mind, it helps. Otherwise, pick it out of the air and start writing. The key is to keep writing and let everything else fall by the wayside. Turn off your phone. Disconnect the TV. Buy paper plates; send out for pizza or stock frozen tacos, whatever—just don’t take time to cook. Or clean. Or shop.
[Learn the 4 Successful Approaches You Should Consider for the First Chapter of Your Novel]
Get those words onto your page and count them each day. And kick that persnickety editor out of your head. To hell with spelling, punctuation, the precise word, the perfect reference (and I’m a copy editor by profession!). What you need right now is the story and nothing but the story, no matter how outlandish or unorganized.
I wrote a lot of junk, and stuff that had possibilities. What was in 2011 a 51,000-word story-in-the-rough has grown to a 71,000-word novel that will be on its way to an agent soon. But even if you don’t get that far, there is satisfaction in meeting the challenge and finding that you can do it.
Jenny Garden, Seattle
6. Go all in.
Passion will get you started, but discipline will see you through. The only way to succeed is to set a schedule, write like mad and never stop, even if you despair. Get your first draft finished before you pay attention to your feelings, because—in the early stages—most of your feelings will steer you off a cliff like a GPS for lemmings. The first words will rarely be your best, and the fear of bad writing often keeps writers from the initial click on the keys. But writing is like jumping into a cold lake: You squirm less once you’re all in.
Rev. Dr. David McDonald, Jackson, Mich.
7. End a writing session only when you know what’s next.
During my first two Novembers of novel writing, most of my time was spent cajoling characters instead of penning the daily words. But sometime between my second and third year, I discovered words of wisdom from author Scott O’Dell that changed everything: At the end of a writing stint, stop before the ideas run out. Write a sentence or two about what happens next. Next time your fingers meet the keyboard, you already know where the story is headed.
S.B. Roberts, Orlando, Fla.
8-9. Do what it takes to make it feel real. Fill the sandbox, then make castles.
I worship at the altar of NaNoWriMo. Anytime someone says, “I’ve always wanted to write a book,” I tell them about it.
So often this writing stuff can just feel pretend. It exists in solitude. Some of it exists only in my head. The only thing I have to show for years of work is a huge Word document. Sometimes when I do try to share it with people I feel crazy. So one gift of NaNoWriMo is its tangibility. It’s a concrete, external goal. There are pep talks. You watch your word count widget grow. You share the experience with others. There are rewards. I have a NaNoWriMo poster hanging in the stairwell of my house. It says things like, “The world needs your novel.” NaNoWriMo helps it feel real. NaNoWriMo helps ideas become things.
NaNoWriMo also reminds me of this superpower I keep forgetting I possess. One year I committed potential NaNoWriMo suicide and on Day 8 started over with a new idea. I wrote 10,084 words in one day. It made me feel like I could do anything. I managed to win that year, too.
While being reminded of your superpower is important, I think the biggest takeaway is remembering that you’re not done when you hit 50,000 words. Bask in the glory of victory. But don’t leave it alone forever. Rewrite. Edit. Fix it. Finish it. NaNoWriMo helps you fill the sandbox. It’s up to you to build castles.
Emily Echols, Fort Polk, La.
10–11. Find your rhythm. Learn as you go.
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. One day, I’d actually do it—write a complete story. I just hadn’t done it yet. I had plenty of ideas, and many starts, but no completion. Then one day my 10-year-old daughter was given an assignment to write a 15,000-word novel for NaNoWriMo. I was encouraging her, letting her know that she could accomplish anything if she set her mind to it, when I thought I should put my word count where my mouth is and join her. If she could write a book in one month, then why couldn’t I, a grown woman who has aspired to be a published author my whole life?
I had a lot of theoretical time on my hands as a stay-at-home mom, but let’s just say some things suffered. There was no from-scratch pasta sauce that month. November is also the month of my daughter’s birthday, and of course Thanksgiving is an unfortunate timing issue. But I plodded ahead. I was surprised to find that my biggest challenge was finding my writing rhythm. I didn’t have that much creative gasoline when everyone was awake, but after they went to bed I could accomplish anything, and I did. I didn’t, however, sleep much, and one of the things that keeps me awake and engaged is eating and drinking while I write. I put on 10 pounds that month, but I wrote the story—all the way through to that ever-elusive ending. (Sadly, there is no one-month path to publishing … NaNoPuMo, anyone?)
After that first year, I convinced a friend to join me, so I would have a partner to meet and write with in the daylight hours, far from food temptations. I plan to be successful at this writing gig, and I don’t want my jacket photo to look like Jabba the Hutt.
If I can do it, so can you! It helps to have a general idea of your story and characters before you begin, but once the clock starts, get cracking! Don’t fret over word choice or character names. Don’t reread and edit. If you decide to change your protagonist’s nationality 1,000 words in, just do it and move ahead. You can fix it when you sit down with a smile to read your completed draft a month later, red pen in one hand and giant latte in the other (nonfat, of course).
Angela C. Lebovic, North Barrington, Ill.
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12. Don your painter’s smock.
My first finished book is thanks to NaNoWriMo. The experience was a whirlwind of creativity, as I was forced to put aside my Inner Critic and Grammar Nazi (a rowdy bunch that like the last word). By the end of the 30 days, I had a manuscript of which I realized I could only keep less than half, but that was OK. I’d learned a lot about story building. I knew exactly how I wanted to edit my manuscript—and I did, over the next couple months. Forcing yourself to write 50,000 words in 30 days is a bit like putting paint into a shotgun and pointing at a blank canvas. Something will stick, but there’ll be a lot of clean-up.
Himani Shah, Scottsdale, Ariz.
13. Claim every spare minute.
I’d been thinking about this fantasy/thriller trilogy idea for about a year, but hadn’t written anything, not even notes. One day, though, I just felt the overwhelming need to start writing. I didn’t set a deadline of a month, but that’s how it played out.
[Here are 10 Questions You Need to Ask Your Characters]
If you’re like me and work full time, you might be hard-pressed to find time to write. What I did was write at every opportunity. I wrote during breaks at work, on the train in the morning and evening, and—just between us—occasionally at my desk when my manager wasn’t looking.
In the past, I’d spent too long overthinking chapters, characters and plots, to the point of making my stories convoluted. My month-long power session produced far better work, and was the best thing I ever did with my writing.
Gregory Paul Burdon, Melbourne, Victoria, Canada
15–20. Build Your Bookshelf (Resources for Writing a Book in a Month Include …)
15. Book in a Month: The Fool-Proof System for Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Ph.D. (WD Books): This book takes an interactive approach to help you complete your
write-a-thon step by step, with expert instruction accompanied by spreadsheets to track your progress.
16. Fast Fiction: A Guide to Outlining and Writing a First Draft Novel in Thirty Days by Denise Jaden (New World Library): Jaden’s books Losing Faith and Never Enough began with NaNoWriMo, and in Fast Fiction, she shares what she’s learned to help you speed-complete a rough draft you can revise into publishable shape.
17. First Draft in 30 Days: A Novel Writer’s System for Building a Complete and Cohesive Manuscript by Karen S. Wiesner (WD Books): Award-winning author Wiesner is a big believer in detailed outlines—and she’ll show you how to create one that will keep you on track for a month and beyond. Includes worksheets, day-by-day planners and brainstorming exercises.
18. No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty (Chronicle Books): The new revised edition of NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty’s guide is stacked with how-tos, week-by-week checkups and trademark motivation to help you cross the finish line on schedule.
19. Write-a-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (and Live to Tell About It) by Rochelle Melander (WD Books): Melander teaches the muscle mechanics of writing at a marathoner’s pace. Chock full of brain-stretching exercises, this book will have you running to keep up.
20. Write Your Novel in a Month: How to Complete a First Draft in 30 Days and What to Do Next by Jeff Gerke (WD Books): This comprehensive guide embraces the process start to finish, from shaping your preliminary ideas to exploring next steps for your completed draft.
Kenneth McNulty, Writer’s Digest Intern
20. Tap into a network.
When I started getting serious about writing, one of the first things I did was seek out like-minded individuals. That’s how I discovered NaNoWriMo, in 2009. I love the idea of banding together with others poised for the same goal. Our competitive streaks help us shine. I’ve met some of my best friends and most trusted literary advisors as a result of participating, and can promise you my writing success (with the publication of my NaNo books Modified Flight Plan, the true story of a triple amputee pilot, and Walk Me Home, about the last execution in Nebraska) is in a large part because of the discipline I learned by undertaking the book-in-a-month challenge.
Lisa Kovanda, Lincoln, Neb.
21. Work ahead.
The trick is getting extra words in the bank early. Things always pop up as the month goes on. You will also be more burnt out by the end of the month, meaning that both the quality and quantity of your writing may suffer.
Michael Young, Eagle Mountain, Utah
22. Silence your editor.
NaNoWriMo is a marvelous tool for the über-editor. Normally I edit my words in my head before the poor things can even get on my computer screen, so it was very freeing to just get it all out because of a deadline.
Tricia Pimental, Zambujal, Portugal
23. Gain insight into your past—and future—writing process.
The first year I participated in NaNoWriMo, I learned:
1) My usual slow pace didn’t make my writing more thoughtful or grammatically correct. I whipped out 25,000 words in a month, and darned if they weren’t just as good as the 27,000 words I’d previously spent a year and a half on.
2) I should know more about science if I’m going to set my story on another planet.
3) Although I didn’t make the 50,000-word goal, 25,000 still made me happy.
The second year I participated, I learned:
1) Having an outline helped.
2) Setting my story in the here and now eliminated the need for research (which consumes precious writing time).
3) Apparently 25,000 words/month is the fastest I can go!
Marie Millard, Rohnert Park, Calif.
That’s ridiculous, I thought. One month to create a story that had been brewing in my mind for years. But what kind of a writer am I if I didn’t accept a challenge?
And it was a challenge. Forcing myself to write when I wasn’t feeling “inspired” was my biggest obstacle. I would berate myself every second I stared at that blinking cursor. It would be a half hour, an hour, as my eyes darted back and forth between the screen and the glow of the TV.
But I soon discovered that just typing away was the key. The more I typed out my grocery list, my “I hate myself, I’m not a real writer” notes, and quirky-things-I-could-be-tweeting-right-now tangents, the more the words just came. And out of the nonsense came a thoughtful sentence, and then another, and another. I had to sift through a lot of garbage to find a few treasures. But I found them.
[Did you know there are 7 reasons writing a novel makes you a badass? Read about them here.]
You know how they say you need to unplug? Well, they’re annoyingly right. Turn off the TV, the iPhone, the Internet, all of it. If I needed a break I picked up a book. Every time I read, I got an idea for what to write next.
Write anything, write everything. Read what you love. And in the end know that you are a real writer. You always had a story to tell. And it may take longer than a month. But you can do it!
Pamela Delupio, Lakewood, Calif.
My co-author Erin McRae and I wrote our first novel (a 70,000-word gay romance) in a month. We didn’t do it as part of NaNoWriMo, and in fact told no one about it.
Having each other as an audience kept us going, and wanting to be able to share it with others kept us going fast. We did the next two drafts in a month each as well, and then submitted. Our book was published by Torquere Press in September, and the publisher has bought its sequel.
My advice: Find someone to work with as a first audience even if you aren’t collaborating, and don’t tell anyone but your partner about it until that draft is done. Sharing it with others is your reward for the work.
Also, if you do have a co-author, find one in another time zone! I was in Europe for my day job for a big chunk of our writing cycle, while Erin was in Washington, D.C. With the six-hour time difference, one of us was working on the story at almost all times.
Racheline Maltese, Brooklyn, N.Y.
26. Don’t force methods that don’t work for you.
I had fallen behind early with my word count, and then started obsessing with trying to catch up. Halfway through the month I asked, “Is this about numbers or words?” There is value in monitoring word count, if not setting word count goals. An apt comparison is running, where one may set out to run four miles a day, but some days runs may be shorter (or longer) based on how the runner feels on the trail. I’m beginning to believe it’s best to write from scratch for a set period each day, a stream of consciousness download, and then to return to works-in-progress and revise, revise, revise.
Jim Breslin, West Chester, Pa.
27. Write fearlessly.
If NanoWriMo taught me anything, it was to not be afraid to try.
Kait Heacock, Brooklyn, N.Y.
28–29. Entice your muse with whatever will make the process enjoyable. think of yourself as a conduit for your story.
In February 2014 I finished the fourth book of my Amazon bestselling series Whill of Agora. I’d been tossing around another story idea and was eager to start the project.
I wanted to try to write the book in 30 days. My plan was 2,000 words a day minimum, and February was a great month to attempt such a feat, as it can reach -20 degrees here in northern New York. I outlined my ideas (most of which never made it in—my work tends to take on a life of its own and not conform to my plans) and made myself comfortable at the kitchen table with my laptop and Bob Marley playlist.
That first week I drank 21 coffees and wrote over 26,000 words, averaging 3,800 a day. The following week I wrote another 24,000 words, averaging 3,400 a day. By now the plot was getting thick, as were my character worksheet folders. I was writing 6–10 hours a day, getting up early so I could do most of my writing while my daughter was in school. (If I work too much while family is around I feel like I’m neglecting them, even though I write full-time.) When I started to lose steam, it would keep me going to log onto the Kindle author boards’ “2,000 words a day club” to find (and offer) motivation.
I finished the book in 18 days at 70,000 words—not a heavyweight, but a good size for my genre. I self-published The Windwalker Archive, Book 1, Talon, on May 7, 2014. As I write this it is No. 4 in Amazon’s Children’s Coming of Age Fantasy Books Kindle store.
My advice: Lure your muse out with some chocolate and pinot noir, grab a hold of her, and tie her to your desk until you are done. Show up every day with your goal in mind and do not leave until you’ve surpassed it. Don’t try to create the story—listen, and let it be told through you. When you take the responsibility of creating the story out of the equation, it becomes quite easy. You are simply a conduit.
Michael James Ploof, Brushton, N.Y.
30. Know that the end of 30 days really marks the beginning.
In September 2010, the idea for a novel fell onto my lap. Knowing NaNoWriMo was six weeks away, I stockpiled mental notes, developing character profiles, plots, conflict. I’m a morning writer. Once my day job invades my head, the brainpower and willingness to work on fiction dries up. So on the evening of Oct. 31, I set my alarm for 4 a.m., excited to write a novel in a month.
Some mornings I managed at least the average number of words I needed to hit 50,000. Others, I struggled and vowed to make it up the next day. Every day, I marveled at the twists my story took from the sparse outline in my head. I typed the last word—58,313—on Nov. 29. Success!
But what I wrote wasn’t a novel. Sure, it had a beginning, middle and end, it had a theme, and yes, the main character’s story had an arc. But it was disorganized, overly ambitious, repetitive and, for some reason, full of foul language.
Four years later, Men of Sorrows is longer, structured, less repetitive, less cuss-laden. And it has a theme readers can relate to: How far will a person go to make life seem worth living?
There has been one deleterious effect of the 30-day-novel exercise: I can no longer sleep past 4 a.m. And what’s worse, I don’t even need an alarm. I spend my early mornings now writing my synopsis and elevator pitch, and researching agents to try to get Men of Sorrows published. Maybe when that happens, I can finally get up after the birds do.
Stephen D’Agostino, New York, N.Y. WD
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I should say first, for the record, I have an agent who I love. I am completely happy with her, and I have no complaints at all. That being said, she is fairly new (4 years in, now) and has a growing list of clients. I noticed that you have 20 or so clients listed on you sidebar on the blog. I think my agent already has more clients than that.
I know there's probably a balance you strike between further developing your clients careers and signing new clients (vertical versus horizontal development), and I know that I personally want an agent who has time to dedicate to my work, and I am sure most authors would agree. I also understand some clients may only write one (perhaps non-fiction) book, while others may require much more time and effort.
My question is this: at what point (if any), for my friends who are currently seeking representation, should an author be concerned that an agent is signing too many clients? I wonder whether newer agents might sign too many clients (perhaps some who aren't really ready to have an agent) and therefore not have enough time to really represent any of them very well? Should a prospective author even worry about that?
Of course a new author IS going to worry about that. Writers are woodland creatures who worry about every single thing they can think of and when that isn't enough, they look for newly discovered things to worry about. Particularly attractive worry targets are things over which they have no control. This is one of those things.
There is no way to know when an agent has "too many" clients. 15 may be too many for some. 105 may be just right for another. And 105 one year might be 75 the following year. Client lists ebb and flow like every other living thing. I've been as high as 44 and as low as 0 (although that was the year
I decided to come over to the Dark Side, not at any point during my career....so far anyway.)
The only thing you can measure is how your agent works with you. Is she prompt on replies? Does she get work turned around quickly, or at least on a timeline or schedule? Can you talk to her about these things?
I will tell you that I'm so behind on email and reading right now I'd probably fail this test if asked to take it. It's going to get better soon, but like all living things, my inbox and To Do list waxes and wanes.
Worry only about things you can control. Assess a prospective agent's behaviour, and talk to her existing clients. Evaluate based on information received, not worries churned up to distract you from
the plot hole on page 300.
My newest writing reference book, GET A LITERARY AGENT, is finally out from Writer’s Digest Books! As the book subtitle says. it’s a complete guide to securing representation for your books. This book has been a long time coming, and it’s a small labor of love, so I’m excited to share it with you now.
Every year, I edit the Guide to Literary Agents, which is essentially a huge database of agents — who they are, what they seek, how to submit, etc. It’s got good instructional articles upfront, but it could have so many more if space would simply allow. That’s why Writer’s Digest Books came to me a while back and said, “Why not compile everything you know about getting an agent into one book? And while you’re at it, loop in advice and opinions from active literary agents — at least 100 of them.” And thus GET A LITERARY AGENT was born. I’ll explain more about the guide in a moment, but first — the giveaway!
GIVEAWAY: I am giving away 3 copies of GET A LITERARY AGENT to random commenters. Simply comment on this blog post anytime before the end of Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. If you want to be entered 3 times instead of once in the contest, simply share this tweet about this giveaway: There’s a Book Giveaway going on at for the new guide, GET A LITERARY AGENT: via . Make sure you leave my handle in there so I can see you tweeted it. And include your own Twitter handle below in your comment if you tweeted it.
TWO BIG REASONS TO BUY THE BOOK:
1. More than 100 literary agents offer advice and guidance in its pages. For this book, I wanted to create something that brought together tips and instruction from as many places as possible. That meant getting tons of literary agents to chime in on all topics. It’s their advice that drives this book. It’s them chiming in on query letter pet peeves. It’s them chiming in on the difference between romance and women’s fiction. It’s them chiming in on why agents reject your work after reading the first chapter. They’re offering advice through every section of the book.
2. The book truly is a one-stop resource. I try to cover everything that you’d possibly need to know when seeking a literary agent. If you’re just starting out on your writing journey, the book is an ideal for you because it addresses the entire process of submitting your book to agents for consideration. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing — nonfiction, fiction, books for adults, books by kids, self-published books — GET A LITERARY AGENT addresses your concerns.
THIS BOOK WILL TEACH YOU THE FOLLOWING:
- What literary agents do on a daily basis, and what they can do for you
- How to polish/revise your own writing and understand when you can stop rewriting your work and finally submit with confidence
- How to find the most agents to query through researching both books and the Internet
- What word count guidelines (low and high) may make some agents balk at your submission
- How to write a compelling query letter that gets attention
- How to write an effective synopsis that conveys your plot
- How to write a thorough nonfiction book proposal that makes your title seem timely and interesting
- Several ways to contact literary agents that don’t involve a query letter
- The pros and cons of signing with a new literary agent
- How many agents to submit to at one time
- How to prepare a complete Submission Checklist to consult before sending out your work
- How to write an interesting Chapter 1 that pulls agents (and readers) in quickly
- The basics of writer platform and marketing yourself
- How requests for an exclusive submission work
- What questions to ask an interested agent when they call you
- How to work well with an agent and foster a long-term, multi-book relationship
- How to tell what genre you’re writing in
- How to get a literary agent interested in a self-published book
- And much more! Buy the book here!
GIVEAWAY: I am giving away 3 copies of GET A LITERARY AGENT to random commenters. Simply comment on this blog post anytime before the end of Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. If you want to be entered 3 times instead of once in the contest, simply share this tweet about this giveaway: There’s a Book Giveaway going on at for the new guide, GET A LITERARY AGENT: via . Make sure you leave my handle in there so I can see you tweeted it. And include your own Twitter handle below in your comment if you tweeted it.
By: Jessica Strawser,
Blog: Guide to Literary Agents
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Now more than ever before, there are so many things we can do to promote our books, articles, stories, essays, services, and other creative works and skills—regardless of whether we’re self-published, traditionally published, or even not-yet-published. Bookstore and library events remain staples, of course, as do reviews, mentions and bylines in prominent media. But add to the mix blog tours, home pages, social networking sites, free promos, cheap promos, paid placements, Web ads, print ads, Goodreads giveaways, email lists, indie author coalitions, and the myriad services claiming to increase “discoverability,” and one thing becomes clear:
You can’t do them all.
And even if you could, who would want to? Just reading that list is enough to make even a savvy marketer’s head spin.
What you need is a strategy—one that’s developed through a solid understanding of what makes the best sense for you and your work, while allowing flexibility to bend with the changing winds.
I don’t need to tell you that self-promotion and platform building are important. In a reader survey we conducted in 2014, 61 percent of respondents listed “to learn how to promote myself and my work” as one of the primary reasons they read Writer’s Digest magazine, and 45 percent of readers requested even more coverage of the topic.
The February 2015 Writer’s Digest delivers. It’s our best and most up-to-date resource on how to promote your work—and it’s hot off the press and on newsstands now. Here’s an exclusive sneak peek at what’s inside.
Keys to a Successful Promotional Strategy
In creating this issue, first, we identified two key areas worth focusing on: your author website (essential for scribes of all stripes, from freelancer to novelist, from beginner to multi-published author) and Goodreads (a must for book authors in particular). We enlisted experts to deconstruct what you need to know to make the most of each medium. Digital media pro Jane Friedman’s “Your Author Website 101” and bestselling hybrid author Michael J. Sullivan’s “Get in Good With Goodreads” are comprehensive guides ripe for earmarking, highlighting, and referencing again and again. Whether you’re just starting to investigate how to promote a book or you are looking to create a Web presence that will be the foundation of your career, these articles are a great place to start.
Then, we put a call out to the writing community asking for “Success Stories in Self-Promotion”—and we got them, in droves. Learn through the real-life trial and error of writers whose promotional efforts ultimately yielded impressive sales, further opportunities, and, in some cases, even agents and book deals.
Best of all, as those authors share their secrets and tips, you’ll notice one key takeaway that comes up again and again:
If they can do it, so can you.
Doing What Works for You
That underscores the point that in working to improve both our craft and our career, it can help for us writers to stick together—to use one another as the valuable resources we are. The February issue also features a WD Interview with Garth Stein, best known for his runaway bestseller The Art of Racing in the Rain and his latest novel, A Sudden Light. Stein had more great insights than we had space to print, so in our online exclusive outtakes from the interview, he talks about how he came to co-found the literacy outreach group Seattle7Writers, and why every writer should have a writing friend.
The February 2015 Writer’s Digest is already getting some great buzz on Twitter, Facebook and blogs from other writers who likely share in the same platform and promotional challenges that you do. If you’re looking for fresh tips on how to promote your work—plus the usual doses of writing inspiration and craft advice we put into every issue of WD—you won’t want to miss it!
Editor, Writer’s Digest Magazine
Follow me on Twitter @jessicastrawser.
I am fizzy with fangirl-ish glee! Sarah Tregay’s sophomore novel, FAN ART, has been nominated by YALSA (the American Library Association) as one of the best Books for Young Readers, 2015.
This isn’t Sarah’s first time on this fantastic list. Her debut novel, LOVE AND LEFTOVERS, was a YALSA 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults finalist.
FAN ART is a tremendously special book, as it is at the forefront of the movement to create diversity in young adult literature. In FAN ART, seventeen year-old Jamie is in love with his best friend Mason, but is afraid that if he shares his feelings, he’ll lose Mason’s friendship forever. Ever since I read an early draft of the story back in 2011, it’s been my hope that FAN ART would cross boundaries–that it would allow … [more]
After responding to a query I received this email from the writer:
Thank you, Jessica. I know I'm not supposed to ask questions of an agent, but this time I'm going to chance it, as the answer will influence any queries I send in the future: I have three finished ms, all in the same genre, but I never know which one to send to an agent. Should I send one and add a note that I have two others? Or stay quiet on the other two?
Again, Jessica, thanks for your quick reply, and if I'm off base just delete and I'll understand.
I'll admit I don't always respond to questions like this on queries. Not because I wouldn't like to, but there are some days when I barely have time to get my coffee in and on those days I usually delete. In this instance however I was able to write back a very quick reply and with the blog I can expand on that a bit.
I don't think it ever really hurts to let an editor or agent know that you have other books that you've written and might be available. That being said, the response you receive on a query letter will be solely based on that query alone. So I would worry less about trying to tempt them with everything and focus on that one thing you think is the strongest. What is the strongest story with the strongest hook and the strongest writing? Put everything else aside and make that your focus.
Also keep in mind that an agent usually assumes that what you're querying is your most recent work so if this doesn't grab her it's unlikely something she thinks will be less polished will.
I read The Bishop's Wife
over the break and loved it. I think it's a sterling example of how close observation of a community can be fodder for a tense, well-plotted crime novel. You don't need shadowy billionaires, vast conspiracies, or blonde bombshell nuclear physicists when you've got husbands, wives, community standards and intense feelings.
Of course, this calls for a contest given no one writes scarier short form pieces than the murderous bunch who read this blog (and how I love you for that!)
The usual rules apply:
1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.
2. Use these words in the story:
3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. Example:
wife/midwife is ok but not bishop/bible-shopping
4. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.
5. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again) It helps to work out your entry first and then post.
5. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.
6. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title)
Prize is a copy of The Bishop's Wife!
Contest opens: Saturday 1/10/15 at 10am
Contest closes: Sunday 1/11/15 at 10am
All times are Eastern Shark Time.
If you have trouble with time zones here's a link to help you
Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid
Typically I don't send out submissions between Thanksgiving and the end of the year. Editors (and agents) are busy cleaning off their desks and doing last minute end of the year type things (like eating fudge and drinking champagne to celebrate an amazing year).
I had one submission to go out though, it was under a bit of a time constraint, so I let the author know that I was going to send it to a few editors as soon as I got my query written. Ever helpful, she sent me this:
Dear Awesome Editor:
This story rocks. You should buy it. There are six other sisters, so we can do a series. You should buy them all. The author is a bit neurotic, but she does what she's told and tries to be prompt and considerate.
P.S. Put a few extra zeros in the check. 'Tis the season.
I wish you knew how many times I've said to Jessica, Kim and Beth that I wanted to know why I couldn't just send a query exactly like that. And, well, to be honest, with editors I know really, really well. Sometimes I will. Without the smooches.
On Monday's blog post I made mention of the 38 queriers waiting forme to read their fulls. That garnered quite a round of sympathy from the comments column.
Sadly, those people are going to wait a while longer because there isn't a lot of reading time on the date book this month. January is busy!
Mostly we're getting ready to move next door. None of our contact info will change which makes this the easiest move I've ever had even before it starts. Painting commenced on Friday, and proceeded on Saturday, and continues today. I love the smell of primer in the morning!
These pictures got posted on my Facebook page first
. You do know about my Facebook page, right?
On Tuesday when we talked about things getting too twisted
, it was interesting to see this is not a fixed point on the Ewww barometer. What's "too much" can vary both with the reader and the writer. I often struggle with the idea of violence as entertainment, particularly on days like Wednesday when the violence is all too real.
On Wednesday I ranted about people not using the guidelines to write their queries
. I'm absolutely convinced after 18 months of Chum Bucket that the people who don't follow the directions when they query haven't even read them, or maybe not even looked for them. The people who ARE paying attention are almost universally giving me what I need to evaluate their queries. I guess the question now becomes, how do you get people to read the directions first?
Thursday was just filled with sorrow as the news from Paris became bleaker and bleaker. The question that keeps coming back to me is the moment on the street when the attackers forced someone to open the door. Masked men with automatic weapons….would you open the door? I have no idea if I would. I can't imagine being that scared.
And all through the week, the work continued. I always laugh when people say things like "you read queries all day" or "must be nice to be able to read all day." Here's the partial list of things I did this week, things that are the core business of an agent, and the things no one ever really talks about:
1. Auditing royalty statements. Did the correct rate get charged on ebooks? Did the reserve for returns held back on the last statement get accounted for on this statement.
2. Making sure royalty statements are sent. Some smaller publishers get behind like everyone else. My job is to make sure they don't forget entirely.
3. Hatching plans for a non-fiction proposal.
4. Helping a client build a blog
5. Calling editors who've changed jobs recently to catch up on what's on their wish list at the new place.
6. Discussing flap copy with editors and clients.
7. Soliciting blurbs for upcoming books
8. Negotiating contracts
There are some really terrific questions coming up on the blog next week and a couple that really got me jumping up and down.
See you Monday for contest results!
Our first contest of 2015 was a barn-burner! 95 terrific entries! Here are the results.
Special recognition for outstanding achievement in names
Bishop Jack Daniels
Rashda Khan 10:17am
Brent Salish 10:17am
Special recognition for a great first line:
"Jonathan Bishop brought along a six-pack and a hammer to the end of the world."
"The fundraiser at the parsonage required black tie and deep pockets."
Special recognition for a great closing line:
"So long as wifey’s in the trunk and not in the ground, there’ll be no chilling,”"
Jay Stewart 9:23pm
Special recognition for a great phrase:
"another flailing nerd-brawl in the hotel lobby."
Terri Lynn Coop 2:22pm
The Kathy Bates in Misery (Except Nice! Really!) Award goes to:
El El Piper 2:23pm
Andrew Wells Douglass 5:23pm
Special recognition for the BEST prompt word adaptation (ever I think)
Here are the 9 finalists:
(1) JennyC 10:48am
On Bishop Street in London is a small park with a sandbox. I watched from a shelter of trees while my twin daughters built a sandcastle. Sarah and Sophia. Their blond hair blew in the gentle breeze. When Sarah looked up, her cornflower blue eyes mirrored my own.
Until two weeks ago, my former wife had kept their existence a secret. Her voice slurred, she’d left me a message, repenting.
Sarah laughed. My heart hammered against my ribs. Her new parents were both doctors with busy lives. One child would be enough.
I stepped out of the trees.
(2) Donnaeverhart.com 11:11am
I swung a hammer for a living. Probably drank too much Pabst. Oh, and played chess. That’s how I got the nickname. Bishop. You’re surprised? Hell, even the wife was impressed, at first.
Later, all I got was, “Loser this, loser that.”
I mean, it won’t like I married her for intellectual stimulation. As they say. Years of her bitching and come to find out? She’s got a secret bank account. Now, that shook me up. That, and the recording.
Repent? Shit. No offense, but I ain’t a believer.
So. This here drip starts, and I’ll just go to sleep?
(3) Jule M. Weathers 11:59am
Martha and Tilley sat in the church bingo hall perusing the latest issue of Duds for Studs.
Tilley stabbed a wrinkled finger at a model's jean-looking thong and tool belt. "Oh, yes. It's hammer time. I'm ordering this for Henry."
Martha instantly regretted imagining Henry in the thong. "I like the cowboy better."
The bishop's painting glowered, as if he could force them to repent from enjoying their lingerie catalog. Maryjane stuck her dried-apple face between them. "What kind of wife reads those, especially in a church?"
"The kind who isn't secretly fooling around with the mailman?" Tilley answered sweetly.
(4) Shaunna 12:42pm
Deacon Ellis was first to leave, though it was his wife in the coffin. As the other mourners followed, the caretaker fussed about the gravesite, adjusting the straps and lid latch, singing colorlessly, "If I had a hammer..."
The bishop, standing near, fingered the letter in his pocket. 'The TTX will make me look dead. I'll gladly live in secret if we are together.' One moment of weakness he would repent forever.
"Did you hear something?" the caretaker asked.
He shook his head, grabbed a fistful of dirt, and sprinkled it on the coffin.
"Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem."
(5) Chantal Nair 1:33pm
“Anything?” A tiny girl in the first pew leaned forward, eager for his answer. The bishop sighed. It was supposed to be a sermon, not a conversation.
“Did you say ‘a child can be anything’?”
If interrupting was a sin, she didn’t seem inclined to repent. He imagined this becoming a terrible new trend: children hammering him with strange questions during his sermons.
“If it’s the Lord’s will, you can be anything you want when you grow up: wife,nun, scientist. ANYTHING.”
The girl leaned further forward, as if to share a secret. “I am going to be a fish!”
(6) Unknown 3:15pm
He holds a tiny hammer above the serpent’s open mouth. “Do you know why we handle snakes in this church?”
I nod. “Mark 16: 17-18, S-sir. Our dominion over evil.”
The bishop smiles.
“People see the power of God, and repent.” He brings the hammer down with a surgeon’s precision, knocking out a fang. “Of course, this bit of ‘dominion’ is our little secret.”
He holds up the fang, a glint of venom slick on the tip. “But you know all about secrets. As does, apparently, my wife…”
I lunge for the door, but the venom has me in seconds.
(7) Matthew Wuertz 4:10pm
Alan toyed with the gun’s hammer, sliding his finger over it.
Then the passenger door opened, and a bulky man sat down while the car groaned underneath. “Don’t,” the man said.
Alan looked around the empty parking garage. “Look, pal, you better get out.”
“Your life is too valuable.”
“You’ve got no idea what I’ve been through.”
“Actually, I do. It’s no secret – not to someone like me.”
“What are you, like a bishop or something, coming to preach repentance?”
The man smiled. “I’m just a servant.”
“What brought you here?”
“Your wife’s prayers, Alan.”
Alan set down the gun.
(8) Carolynnwith2Ns 7:02pm
“Grandma, any regrets?”
“Only one to repent for.”
We stood before the small headstone of Baby Bishop, her first child, born and died same day.
She handed me a new hammer.
“Use the claw end to dig away the dirt at the back of the stone.”
Carved in the granite under the dirt line, “Mercy Killing”.
“She wasn’t right, she was suffering. Now it’s our secret.”
How could such a good wife and mother kill her baby?
At Grandma’s grave, after everyone left, I buried the bloody hammer behind her headstone.
I had carved “Mercy killing”, in the handle.
(9) Steve Forti 10:15pm
“Ugh! Bishopric, diocese – same thing. Why must you always correct me? It’s literally driving me crazy!”
“You mean fig---“
“Seriously? You’re such a grammar nazi.”
“Unrepentant. It’s not my mouth secreting fallacies.”
She glared. All the fish in the sea, and had to partner with this flippin’ alewife. “I hope you get eaten by a shark. One of those ugly malletheads.”
A shadow cawed, and a beak snatched Harry from the water. She chuckled.
“Well that took a tern
for the better.”
And fading into the distance, she could just make out, “You mean a hammerbok…”You'll all be glad to know that I read these final entries about a dozen times, and each time decided on a new winner. This was a VERY tough decision...but then, when is it not? (I can only think of two or three contests when the winner was instantly obvioius)
This week's contest winner is
JennyC if you'll email me with your mailing address, I'll send you a copy of The Bishop's Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison. If by some stroke of genius you already have a copy, let me know and I'll find another prize to send.
Congratulations to all the finalists and thanks to everyone who entered. I hope you had as much fun writing as I did reading your entries.
Thank you AJ Blythe for following Janet Reid's direction and emailing me on this subject. I actually like this back and forth blogging that Janet and I have going and would like to issue a directive. If you ever read a post either of us has done, or in my case any agent has done, that would you would like a second opinion on, please email me. I'd be happy to post my thoughts on the same subject.
For those who didn't read Jane't original blog post here's the gist:
Janet received a question on how she prioritizes referrals. The author wanted to know the difference between a referral by an agent or an author and she explained her process in great and impressive detail. I'll do my best to do the same.
For a long while I was open to submissions by referral only. Then for a while I was open to submissions for various types of mysteries and everything else by referral only. I think now I'm more or less open to everything. More or less.
Believe it or not referrals don't happen very often. I know from experience that most of my clients are very cautious about passing someone my way. I think they feel like I'm busy and they don't want to add to my piles and don't want to be judged on something they might or might not have read. What if they refer something and I think it's absolute crap for example? And I think most agents feel the same. We all have a lot on our plate and we hate to just pass things off to other people, unless of course we really feel it has potential, but needs someone who has a different or better vision for it.
Believe it or not, most frequently I get "referrals" from people I don't even know or have even ever heard of. I'm not sure if its confusion on the author's part or someone really trying to snow me. Those, obviously, I don't consider real referrals.
In Janet's original post the author implied that any agent who didn't respond quickly to a referral from a client was problematic. I'm not so sure. For me a referral usually means that I'll automatically request to read the material. How quickly I read the material however depends on a variety of things and who the referral is from is just one of those things, but not everything.
Remember, I'm a strong believer that an agent should never be judged on the speed she reads submissions because presumably, if she's slow at submissions, it's because she's spending her time where she should be spending her time, with her clients.
So how do I prioritize? Usually by what excites me first. Sometimes I'll just start at the bottom of the pile (those that came in first) and read up, but many times I'll go through, evaluate the queries, and read what I want to read. It's the same way I prioritize the reading pile next to my bed.
That being said, a referral from another agent will often peek my interest enough to move it pretty near the top of the pile. After all, what did my trusted colleague see in this project that they thought warranted a referral? I also tend to move client referrals up a bit and treat them more delicately (you might get a more detailed rejection than normal). In my mind it's a matter of helping the client out. If she went so far to refer someone to me I want the person she referred to have real appreciation for her efforts.
In a nutshell, I would say that referrals from editors or agents probably move to the top of my pile the fastest, clients next and lastly referrals from friends, family, or the random person on the street. In the end however, it's all about the book and whether it works for me.
Do you feel like you are always talking yourself out of success? As soon as you start to set goals for yourself, do you suddenly have nagging thoughts about how you aren't up to the task or how you simply aren't qualified to carry it through?
If you have ever experienced either situation, you need to change the way you respond to your inner dialogue. Instead of obeying your negative commands, you can use positive self-talk to counter the negativity and overcome nearly all anxious thoughts.
Setting Goals and Sticking to Them with Positive Self-Talk
Are you initially filled with excitement when you first set goals for yourself? Are these thoughts then followed by self-doubt and self-defeating thoughts that stop you in your tracks before you even get started?
It can be difficult to make the most of your life when you are constantly talking yourself out of being a success. It can be frustrating and discouraging to have these thoughts constantly plaguing you. Many of us, in fact, don't even realize we have them! All we know is that we don't have the confidence to stick to our plans and reach our goals
But there's another way!
Positive self-talk is an effective way to set goals and ensure that you stick to them, even if you have never been able to do this before. The way this works is that you decide what goal is important to you, and then you plan the logistics of how you are going to attain this goal. When self-doubt starts kicking in, you will respond with affirmations that prove your success without surrendering to the negative pressure. Since you're reading this article, it's clear that you're no quitter and you're certainly not a failure, so start believing in yourself!
Re-Programming Your Mind
Affirmations are essentially positive statements that re-program your mind for the positive. The moment you have a self-defeating thought you'd be able to counter the negative with a motivating statement. An example of a positive affirmation is: "I am worthy of great success," or "I see myself in the winner's circle." What this does is replace negativity with thoughts that will help you move toward your goals instead of further away from them.
Positive self-talk is easier to implement than you might think. You may not be aware of the severity of the negative dialogue currently within your mind. However, once you begin with positive self-talk, you will suddenly realize that you are self-sabotaging the goals you set for yourself from the minute that you make them. This process can open your eyes to exactly how much this inner conversation has been interfering with your life. You'll feel hopeful that you can now set goals and surpass them.
Through positive self-talk you will be able easily set long and short-term goals for yourself. And when you use affirmations, you'll have accessible tools to help you push yourself further than ever before. Learning to quiet negativity with positive thoughts is a great move toward setting and attaining future goals with ease. You can become Your Own Hero.
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I signed with a wonderful agent and we're currently in the middle of the submission process (read: the manuscript is out with editors and we're in the excruciating waiting stage). Her plan was to send another round of pitches out in the next couple of weeks.
Then the bomb fell. Said wonderful agent just told me the agency is closing due to a retirement, and she had to make the difficult choice to leave agenting. I don't know the whole story, but it sounds to me like this was not an expected turn of events and that her decision is based more on personal circumstances than a desire to leave the business.
She will be letting many of her clients go, but wants to keep my project and continue to try to make the sale. If the project doesn't sell, severing ties will be simple and I'll go back to the query trenches. It's when I think of that hypothetical and much-dreamed of sale that I get all kinds of confused.
Is it foolish of me to let her sell this book when I already know she won't be around afterward? I'm green to the business side of publishing, but I would imagine an agent-author relationship doesn't end when a sale is made. She reassured me there would be a transition process and she would try to match me up with another agent, but would another agent really take me on immediately after someone else negotiated this first sale? They won't be the ones seeing the financial benefit, after all.
Maybe I'm over thinking this, but my career is only just beginning and I don't want to mess it up with an ignorant choice...
You're not over thinking this at all. You're asking exactly the right question and your Spidey sense is telling you Something Is Wrong.
Your agent should be thinking about what is best for you
right now. She should withdraw all submissions, and let you start fresh with a new agent. If you start fresh, your new agent earns the commission from the sale and handles the deal. If Old Agent sells the book, your new agent gets none of the revenue (ever) and most likely is stuck with all the work.
There's absolutely no reason for her to keep the book other than she loves it and wants to sell it. I'm sorry but that's NOT how a responsible agent makes choices. She is supposed to advising you on what's best for YOU, not what makes her happy.
In the best of all possible worlds, what makes her happy is also what's best for you, but this is not the best situation at all. This is an abrupt retirement that leaves you without an advocate. It's irresponsible and unethical. You may quote me in large red letters. You are NOT going to agree to that. And if you need a visual aid for that conversation here ya go:
Unless there's a death or illness or some other abrupt life event that precipitates a business closing, this is something that requires careful planning.
This is actually one of the questions you want to ask before you sign with an agent (blogged about here previously
) but it sounds like your agent was as surprised by this turn of events as you were.
Here's what to do:
1. You thank your agent for her work and offer sympathy for this turn of events that neither of you are happy about.
2. You ask for the submission list. And I mean names as well as publishers.
3. You ask her to withdraw the submission because the agency is closing.
4. You make sure she has. (I am assuming here that your agent is responsible and will do what she's supposed to)
5. You start querying. You mention your agent left mid-submission and you have editors who were considering the work.
6. You do not talk about this anywhere else ever again until you are happily published and it's one of your war stories.
You will survive this. It will make a good story.