What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in
    from   

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Comments

JacketFlap Sponsors

Spread the word about books.
Put this Widget on your blog!
  • Powered by JacketFlap.com

Are you a book Publisher?
Learn about Widgets now!

Advertise on JacketFlap

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
new posts in all blogs
Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Beginning writer mistakes, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 38
1. Agent Reads The Slush Pile Tomorrow - Wednesday, July 25

STATUS: Have to leave a tad early today. My plan is to read a good portion of a client manuscript this evening.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  LAID by James

At conferences, the biggest complaint I hear from aspiring writers is this: there is never any feedback given when an agent or an editor sends a rejection letter.

Or, if there is a response, it tends to be generic--something along the lines of "I just didn't fall in love with the story."

Writers don't have a good sense of what is really causing an agent to stop reading.

Well, this webinar is designed to answer that question. It's a no holds barred (and a tough workshop so be warned) but if you want an honest, straightforward, and helpful response as to why your sample pages might be getting rejected, then this is it.

This is a "fly on the wall" glimpse of an agent reading her slush pile.

I read the first opening 2-pages submitted by the participants of the workshop. If I would have stopped reading, I stop and clearly say why. In general, we tackle about 20 entries selected at random. 

The I crush the writer's fragile ego under my critique hammer… Just kidding. This is not American Idol style.

I don't pull the punch but I do try and be sensitive and helpful. This webinar is not about denigrating the writer but it's also not for the faint of heart.

If you think you are ready, then you might want to consider it. Register here. And I'll see you tomorrow.

11 Comments on Agent Reads The Slush Pile Tomorrow - Wednesday, July 25, last added: 7/26/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
2. A Pitch Is A Pitch Is A Pitch - A Query Is A Query Is A Query

STATUS: Working though 245 emails in the inbox. You can't hide from me!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  DON'T STOP by Foster The People

An yet, writers always have some confusion on what is the difference between a pitch and a query. Seems like a good topic to tackle (as I can already see a myriad list of sub-questions within this topic).

Let's start with the basics.

A query is a professional business letter that introduces your work to an agent or editor. These days, this letter is sent by email rather than snail mail. In the query letter, you will have something called a pitch paragraph. The query letter will also contain an introduction and the author's bio or credentials. It will be one-page long.

A pitch is the verbal delivery of the main pitch paragraph from your query letter. In other words, you need to have a quick way to sum up the opening plot catalyst of your novel in a sentence or two while talking to someone. That way your audience gets a clear and immediate gist of what your novel is about.

Here's a great example from a novel I just sold by David Ramirez called MINCEMEAT. It's a good example because in this instance, I actually did something unique. I pulled out the pitch from the main pitch paragraph. I don't always do that but I did so in this instance. Also, when I was in New York in May, I verbally PITCHED this work to editors using the one sentence pitch highlighted in pink.

Here's my submit letter to editors--which in essence is the agent's QUERY letter to editors (to draw a comparison to what writers are doing when they approach agents):

Hello XXX,
It's pretty rare that I send an email about a manuscript submission that I can sum up in a one sentence pitch. Trust me, I tend to be wordier than that!

But here it is:
All that is left of humanity is on a thousand-year journey to a new home aboard one ship, The Noah, and this ship is carrying a dangerous serial killer.

Intrigued? I hope so. At its heart, the concept for this SF novel MINCEMEAT by David Ramirez is quite simple but what unfolds is layer after layer of complexity.

Since most editors prefer I don't leave it at one sentence, here's a little bit more about the manuscript:

Priss Dempsey is a City Planning Administrator on the Noah, a vessel carrying the last survivors of Earth on a thousand-year journey to a new home.  She is equal parts psychic, economist, hacker and bureaucrat, a vital part of the mission, but her life seems to lose purpose after she experiences Breeding Duty.  Kept asleep through the impregnation and birthing that all women are obligated to undergo, she still feels a lost connection to the child she will never be permitted to know.

Policeman Leonard Barrens approaches her with a request for hacking support in the unofficial investigation of his mentor's violent death. Only Barrens knows that a crime has been committed because he came across the mutilated remains before Information Security could cover it up. To everyone else, the missing man was merely "Retired," nothing unusual.

Their investigation takes them through the lost dataspaces in the Nth Web and deep into the uninhabited regions of the ship, where they discover that the answer may not be as simple as a Mincemeat Killer after all. And what they do with that answer will determine the fate of all humanity.

May

16 Comments on A Pitch Is A Pitch Is A Pitch - A Query Is A Query Is A Query, last added: 7/25/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
3. Blogging Authors Beware! You Can Get Sued. Roni Loren Guest Blogs

Re-posted with permission from original blog post here.

Sara, our lawyer,and I all helped Roni through the situation but here is the whole story below.  You can no longer say that you haven't been warned!

Guest Blogger: RONI LOREN

So today I'm forgoing the usual Fill-Me-In Friday post to talk about something that I've been wanting to blog about for a while but couldn't until the situation was wrapped up.

For those of you who are super observant, you may have noticed some changes on my blog over the last few months. Tumblr posts went away. Fiction Groupie disappeared. I deleted most of my Pinterest boards. The Boyfriend of the Week has changed format. And all my previous posts from the past three years--all 700 of them--now have new photos on them.

Why is that? What happened?


Well, you've probably figured it out from the title, but it's because I've been involved in a case regarding a photo I used on my blog. Like most of you, I'm a casual blogger and learned my way into blogging by watching others. And one of the things I learned early on was that a post with a photo always looked nicer than one with just text. So I looked at what other people were doing for pictures. And mostly it seemed that everyone was grabbing pics from Google Images and pasting them on their sites. Sometimes with attribution, most of the time without. And when I asked others (or looked at disclaimers on websites and Tumblrs), it seemed that everyone agreed using pics that way was okay under Fair Use standards.

Here is an example of a disclaimer I found on a bigger site (name of blog removed):

THIS BLOG claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images on this blog are copyright to its respectful owners. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and do not wish for it appear on this site, please E-mail with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed.

And site after site had the same kind of thing. Just look on Tumblr, that same type of disclaimer is on a ton of them. And I'm thinking--well, that must mean it's okay because if that weren't true, sites like Tumblr and Pinterest couldn't even exist because reposting pics is the whole POINT of those sites. So off I went doing what everyone else does--using pics from Google Images, putting a disclaimer on my site, etc.

Well on one random post, I grabbed one random picture off of google and then a few weeks later I got contacted by the photographer who owned that photo. He sent me a takedown notice, which I responded to immediately because I felt awful that I had unknowingly used a copyrighted pic. The pic was down within minutes. But that wasn't going to cut it. He wanted compensation for the pic. A significant chunk of money that I couldn't afford. I'm not going to go into the details but know that it was a lot of stress, lawyers had to get involved, and I had to pay money that I didn't have for a use of a photo I didn't need.

It wasn't fun. But the fact of the matter is, I was in the wrong. Unknowingly. But that doesn't matter. And my guess is that many, many of you are doing the same thing I was doing without realizing it's a copyright violation. So I wanted to share my experience so that you can learn from my mistake.

Here's what I learned about Fair Use:


It DOESN'T MATTER...

if you link back to the source and list the photographer's name
if the picture is not full-sized (only thumbnail size is okay)
if you did it innocently
if your site is non-commercial and you made no money from the use of the photo
if you didn't claim the photo was yours
if you've added commentary in addition to having the pic in the post
if the

42 Comments on Blogging Authors Beware! You Can Get Sued. Roni Loren Guest Blogs, last added: 7/24/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
4. Fridays With Agent Kristin: Episode 8 - Three Reasons Why Prologues Don't Work

STATUS: Agency is going to be closed Monday through Wednesday of next week for the 4th of July holiday. It's a summer mini-break!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? VIVA LAS VEGAS by Jimmy Buffett

When reading requested sample pages, every agent I knows skips a prologue when reading the sample. Today I discuss three reasons why that is so!

Enjoy and have a great holiday next week!


25 Comments on Fridays With Agent Kristin: Episode 8 - Three Reasons Why Prologues Don't Work, last added: 7/3/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
5. Writing Craft: Mechanics Vs Spark

STATUS: Everything is literally on fire around the city of Denver. From Colorado Springs and Monument to Boulder to Fort Collins. I was so happy to see the rain this afternoon. Sadly it only lasted 20 minutes. We need more rain.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WINDOWS ARE ROLLED DOWN by Amos Lee

When I'm doing the Agent Reads The Slush Pile workshop, the toughest moment is when the volunteer reads an entry that is completely sound. In the reading, there is no problem that I can point to and say, "here, this is the issue" or "this is not working." On a mechanical level, there is nothing wrong with the opening pages.

The form is acceptable, the grammar is fine, the writing is solid. I can even identify that the writer understands the tenets of craft. By all the "rules" of writing and publishing, I should be glowing about this entry.

But something is missing.

And I have no other word for the "what" that is missing except to say the work is lacking narrative "spark."

In other words, the writing is missing a distinctive voice.

And when that happens, what can you say during the workshop? That I don't love it? Well, that's not accurate either because when something is missing "spark" it's probably not just a Kristin subjective thing. Listeners sense it too. I can tell by watching the workshop audience. When something lacks spark, it loses people's attention. They start to shift in their seats or stretch or focus on something else.  It's not just me that notices the absence.

On the other hand, when a work has that elusive spark, I know it, because the workshop audience becomes completely still and enrapt in the reading. Their attention is glued to the reader so as not to miss the next sentence. It's a palpable change in the atmosphere of the room.

Sadly I can't give an example because none of my authors have this problem. I'd have to grab something from the slush pile and I certainly couldn't post it here without permission.

And speaking of getting read, it all begins with the perfect pitch paragraph in your query letter. Pub Rants University is hosting Goodbye Slush Pile: How To Write The Perfect Query Letter Pitch Paragraph for your Novel tomorrow night, Thursday, June 28 from 6 to 8 pm Mountain time. Given by yours truly.

I can't tell you the number of emails I've received over the years from participants who have attended, revamped their query pitches, and then landed an agent and went on to sell. Dozens and dozens. In fact, one person even came up to me during the Litfest closing party the week before last to thank me.

You won't want to miss it!

5 Comments on Writing Craft: Mechanics Vs Spark, last added: 6/29/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
6. Critique Workshopped The Voice Right Out Of There

STATUS: I've had many rounds of civilized tea this morning.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? BEDS ARE BURNING by Midnight Oil

The worst thing you an do when traveling abroad is to succumb to the desire to go to sleep right away on arrival.

The trick to acclimating is to suck it up, stay awake, and try not to hit the pillow until about 7:30 or 8 pm. Then go to sleep and you are, more or less, on schedule for the rest of the trip.

Easier said than done really.

So I rang up Kelley Armstrong who had been on our same flight down. I figured she was valiantly doing the same thing and we could combine forces by going out to dinner.

Can't say I was the liveliest conversationalist but I think she'll forgive me. We talked about giving workshops. I'm doing the Agent Reads The Slush Pile workshop tomorrow. As you blog readers know, I always start with a big disclaimer. That 99.9% of what I see during the workshop will not be ready for an agent to see.

Never stops folks though. I think deep down in writers' hearts, they are hoping to be discovered.

Kelley mentioned the same happens to her when she gives writing workshops. She always begins with her disclaimer that she can't get any of her writer students published. They are hopeful all the same.

She also mentioned that beginning writers will often suppress their natural voices as they become so focused on the mechanics of writing. In short, one's voice can be critique workshopped out of them if the writer has a quirky style etc. Often times her job is to allow new writers permission to discover their voice again. (Now it's not to say you ignore craft mechanics, any good writer is going to figure out how to manage both.)

But since I don't ever teach writing per se, I thought that was pretty interesting and something new writers need to be aware of.

24 Comments on Critique Workshopped The Voice Right Out Of There, last added: 8/14/2011
Display Comments Add a Comment
7. An Observation On Character Development

STATUS: It's such a gorgeous day in Denver. I'm ready to pop out early and take Chutney for a long walk.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WALK ON THE WILD SIDE Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians

This weekend I did my first SCBWI conference. For those of you unfamiliar with the acronym, it stands for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. I just had a blast.

As I've done in the past, I did my 2-pages or First pages workshop where writers submit their opening pages, it gets read aloud, and I say yay or nay--would I have read on and why.

This time, I had something happen that has never happened before. My reader chose the first three at random and read them aloud. I would have read on for all three.

That's rare. I've given this workshop a dozen or so times and I've usually found only one submission that I would have read further on. 99.9% of what we see isn't quite ready for an agent to review. By the way, this is not to stay it will never be ready. Just that it wasn't quite there in this incarnation.

Trust me, I don't want to stomp on writers' dreams!

For this workshop, I noticed a couple of beginning writer mistakes that I haven't really talked about yet so I thought I would tackle some.

Beginning Writer Mistake: Opening scenes that make it clear that the writer has not thought through the character's backstory and history before writing the scene.

What do I mean by this? I can tell from reading the scene that the writer is simply trying to create an exciting opening and if the writer had stopped to think about it, there is no way the characters would react as written if the characters had a clear history with either the other character in the scene or to the event.

For example, a Grandma loves to drive fast, in direct opposition to most people's perception of how a grandmother would drive. So the writer wants to show this quirky trait and thus writes an opening scene from the grandchild's perspective who is reacting wildly to the grandmother's driving.

However, if the character is often driven by her grandmother, she'd be used to her Nana's rather erratic speed demon driving habit. So given that history, she wouldn't react dramatically to it; it would be normal.

Do you see what I mean? The writer should approach the scene with the above assumption. Now the writer can still have this opening erratic driving scene but the grandchild character's reaction would be written differently with this history in mind.

And if it's the first time the grandmother has ever driven that character, then that would need to be made clear and then the character could react dramatically. The scene would then work.

But I often see slush pile submissions where it's clear to me that the writer hasn't quite gotten knowledgeable about his or her characters before jumping in to writing scenes about them.

Just another writing tip to keep in mind!

20 Comments on An Observation On Character Development, last added: 9/23/2011
Display Comments Add a Comment
8. Sacrificing Plot And Character Motivation For Fun

STATUS: It's sunny and our windows are open. And it was quiet because of the holiday. I got tons accomplished. I officially declare this an awesome day.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LOVE SONG by Adele
(The Cure were one of my fav bands from my youth and I kind of like her rendition.)

I like the heading of the entry as you can read it two different ways.

1) Just writing for fun and not worrying about the story/motivation,
2) The writer got lost in the fun of the world and forgot that a story needs plot and clear character motivation.

As a writer, sometimes it's great to just say the heck with plot and character and simply have fun with your story and your world. It can unblock that critical voice and let you just write.

I'm all for that!

However, that's why you go through the critique and revision process. You don't want the above and then send me a full manuscript with out that second critical step.

In the last couple of weeks, I've read two full manuscripts that had great beginnings, solid writing, creative and interesting world building, the whole enchilada that starts an agent getting exciting.

Then I hit page 100 or 140. Suddenly the stories stop making sense. I puzzle over the character motivations and why they are making the choices they do. Then I start reading scenes that are fun but don't actually move the story forward in any identifiable way. Then I can't figure out how this scene fits with all the building elements of the first 100 pages.

If I'm this far into the novel and I'm asking the above questions, I'm passing on it. And no, I won't write up an editorial letter because it would be far too complicated and time consuming to really outline these thoughts in a way that will actually help the writer.

By the way, when I'm writing up an editorial letter for one of my clients, on average it takes me 2.5 hours to complete. We often follow it up with a Skype call to just to talk it through and bounce ideas of one another. It's a significant time investment.

19 Comments on Sacrificing Plot And Character Motivation For Fun, last added: 10/1/2011
Display Comments Add a Comment
9. Not Quite The American Export I'd Hope For

STATUS: TGIF! I haven't seen a good funny (that I could share on the blog anyway) in ages. I need to rally the troops to send some my way again.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME by Jewel

I was reading Publishing Perspectives this morning and came across an article that just made me groan. Of course there are scam artists all around the world but in general, the whole shady practice of pretending to be a literary agent and charging reading fees has been a pretty American concept.

Alas, not anymore.

Great. One of the things I'd prefer not to be an American export…. Not to mention, there are SO many more resources available online here in The States to help writers avoid the publishing-money-scam pitfall. I can't imagine the same holds true in India. Perhaps I have some intrepid blog readers there who might help spread the word by posting links to the article or starting chats on the subject.

9 Comments on Not Quite The American Export I'd Hope For, last added: 10/4/2011
Display Comments Add a Comment
10. Scarier Than Halloween

STATUS: The last 70 degree day. Okay, I'll admit it. I popped out early to play a round of really bad golf. The weather was beautiful. The company sparkling. Kristin shanked every shot into trees. Ah yes, I'm THAT horrible beginner on the golf course that you never ever want to play behind of.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THRILLER by Michael Jackson (I mean, duh, what else could possibly be playing on the iPod tonight.)

What's scarier than Halloween? Writers signing publishing contracts not fully understanding what they are signing.

I figured I'd devote this entry to scary clauses in contracts that actual writers have signed.

1. The option clause into perpetuity.

Such a monster! I've seen this in too many small publishing house contracts to count. Any decent option clause will allow the publisher a look at the next project (usually narrowed down to specific type and genre) and that's it. Unsuspecting writers have signed contracts where they literally have to show a publisher every work they do--even if the publisher doesn't want it. The clause obligates them to then show their next project, and then the next project and so on.

I think any writer can get out of this (and the court will rule in the author's favor) but probably not without some substantial cost and a good lawyer.

2. Low royalties based on net.

Don't get me wrong, having royalties based on net isn't necessarily egregious. It is when the publisher tries to pass off royalties based on net to be equivalent to royalties based on retail price. In other words, they offer they same as "standard" such as 10% to 5000 copies, 12.5% on next 5000, and 15% thereafter but it's based on net receipts.

Sounds good until you calculate the math. 10% of net equals about 5% of retail price. Not exactly the same thing so do your monster math.

3. Warranties and Indemnities clauses where the author is on the hook for all the costs.

The author should only be fully responsible if they are found guilty and in breach of this clause. I've seen clauses where authors are on the hook for the full cost of even an alleged breach and yet they have no say in the proceedings. Oi! Even Frankenstein got a better deal.

4. Joint accounting.

Publishers love joint accounting. That means they link the monies of multiple books together. In short, an author doesn't see a penny of royalties until ALL books in the contract earn out and only then are royalties paid. You might be waiting years and years to kill that zombie.

5. Unmodified competing works clauses.

If you aren't really really careful, you might be legally obligated to not pursue any other writing work until the books in your contract are out of print and the rights revert back to you.

This is definitely worst case scenario but depending on the language in the contract, you might have backed yourself into this corner. Talk about hamstringing your career as a writer.

For me, in this digital age, the above are way scarier than anything that might go bump in the night.

21 Comments on Scarier Than Halloween, last added: 11/3/2011
Display Comments Add a Comment
11. Writing To The Market but Also With The Book Of Your Heart--Guest Blogger Sara Megibow

STATUS: I wish I was working late tonight but I can't....

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? O HOLY NIGHT by Josh Groban

Marie Lu is not the only author having an exciting release week! Sara's very first agented author book is hitting shelves today. Hard to believe but yes, it really does take that long from sale to publication for this to be the first.

What better way to celebrate than to guest blog? (Okay, I'm making her toast with champagne, too, but you get the picture.) Huge congrats Sara and Miranda!


What did debut author Miranda Kenneally do that's making her book release so exciting? CATCHING JORDAN hits bookshelves today and the buzz surrounding this book is absolutely incredible (ESPN picked up a review of the book yesterday and the Seventeen Magazine online book club is running a feature on it tomorrow).

Here's the secret - Miranda wrote the book of her heart. She did NOT write to some hot trend.
What's hot in young adult novels right now? Well, one might agree that fantasy and paranormal and dystopian are hot. Contemporary young adult, conversely, might be hot or might not be hot depending on who you ask (I personally am a huge fan, obviously). And, contemporary young adult sports novels? yikes.

CATCHING JORDAN didn't sell right out of the gate. We DID find the perfect editor for it, but we also had a handfull of editors pass saying, "no one is interested in reading about sports." Yes, the heroine of this book is captain and quarterback of her high school football team. Yes, there are some scenes on the playing field in which the teammates are talking football plays and field positions and stats. When I read this book in the slush pile I fell immediately in love with the characters, the voice, the dialogue and the personality. THAT'S what I saw in it which made me jump up and down with glee. And that's what these tremendous reviews seem to be saying too.

If Miranda had ever asked an agent, "should I write about vampires or about football?" it's likely her first book would have turned out differently. But, as a great credit to her and to our art, she didn't ask that question. Instead she wrote a book that takes a chance on a concept that we haven't seen before. And, it's paying off!


So, if you are looking at publishing and are tempted to ask, "do you think XYZ is hot right now?" stop. Take a deep breath. Yes the market is important but so is writing a book you believe in wholeheartedly. Miranda did just that for CATCHING JORDAN. It wasn't in the hot trend but in a sense, she did keep the market in mind because it has a luscious romantic element. Something we've seen in other successful contemporary YA novels recently. Cheers to an author who took a chance and to the readers (and editors) (and reviewers) (and ESPN) who are loving that gamble!

-Sara

12. Big Reveals Shouldn't Happen In A Conversation

STATUS: Gosh, it was too gorgeous outside to work. What the heck. It's January. I need it to snow so I don't want to skip work!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? RIGHT DOWN THE LINE Gerry Rafferty

One of the problems of having blogged for so long, since 2006 if you can believe it, is that I often feel like I'm repeating myself. When I mentioned this to an agent friend of mine who also blogs, she said that I simply can't worry about it.

I think she's right. So I've probably blogged on this topic before but what the heck, it's worth saying again.

A novel's plot should not be a series of conversations where characters move from one place to another and all they do is have chats with other characters.

(Anne Rice's INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE might be the one exception. But even at closer look, you can see that Rice didn't fall into that trap. Even though that novel is basically one long conversation, the vampire narrates scenes as if they were actually happening so there is sense of immediacy, action, and event plotting to carry the novel.)

We see this a ton in fantasy manuscripts but hey, it's not limited to that genre. Recently, I've seen this structure in a lot of young adult samples we've been reading.

By the way, established writers can fall into this trap--usually when they are on deadline and simply trying to get the story on the page.

Take a moment to evaluate your own novel. How many times do you have characters sitting down and having a conversation? If it's a lot, you might want to start rethinking your "plot"!

13 Comments on Big Reveals Shouldn't Happen In A Conversation, last added: 1/11/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
13. Creating An Editorial Road Map

STATUS: I'll be out of the office all next week for the RT Convention in Chicago. Wait, wasn't I just out of town?

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? PYRO by Kings of Leon

More and more as of late, I find myself creating what I call an editorial road map for any novel.

Now, when I edit a client manuscript, I use track changes to make comments as I read along. That's pretty standard

But lately, after I finish the entire read, I then go back through the novel to construct the road map. In this process, I literally skim through the work, chapter by chapter, and I create an outline of all the major plot points by chapter for the novel.

I find that the process of formulating the outline allows me to create a framework for writing up my editorial letter.

Via the outline, I can clearly point out what works, what doesn't work, where it should build tension or escalate the stakes, what could be deleted to tightened or even if the story has gone off the rails completely.

It's definitely more work on my part but I think it a valuable exercise. In fact, my "road map" critiques are becoming a bit legendary with my clients. *grin* They love it (or maybe they are too afraid to say otherwise!)

And to be blunt, from a lot of the sample pages and full manuscripts I've read within the last 6 months, I think many writers could benefit from doing a critique road map of their own. It really does force you to ignore character, dialogue, description and boil the story down to its plot skeleton core.

A lot can be revealed about pacing and story arc.

Hum…. I'm sensing there may be a workshop idea here.

22 Comments on Creating An Editorial Road Map, last added: 4/9/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
14. Panster And The Editorial Road Map

STATUS: A lovely lovely spring day. I'll work for a bit and then simply enjoy the day.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WHY by Annie Lennox

As a writer, are you a panster or an outliner?

I ask because your answer determines when you'd assemble the road map of your novel.

If you are a panster, don't attempt the road map until you have finished a full draft and at least one revision.

Why? Because if you do it too early, the process of outlining can suck the creative spark or essence of storytelling right out of your project.

I've seen it happen with several of my clients who are not intrinsic outliners. It is simply not how their creative process works and the process of doing so dampens the story voice.

But eventually, once the story is down on paper (or should I say computer screen) then I highly recommend the road map. It reveals, very clearly, the bones of the story.

More importantly, it also reveals what is structurally weak in the plot.

26 Comments on Panster And The Editorial Road Map, last added: 4/11/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
15. Writing Craft: Breaking The Rule: Show Don't Tell

STATUS: What is up with over 100 degree days in Denver in June? We live here because summer tends to be awesome. We could be confused with Phoenix this week.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? NOVEMBER by Ben Williams

A week ago I attended Denver Lighthouse Writer's Litfest where I gave my Agent Reads The Slush Pile workshop to over 50 hearty souls--which convinces me yet again that writers are gluttons for punishment.

As I was giving the workshop, inspiration hit for a couple of blog posts I could do on writing craft that I think my blog readers would understand and find helpful.

So guess what I'm going to do this week if I can find 30 minutes of time to get one posted?

Writers are often given writing "rules" that woe be you if you break them. And for most cases, because beginning writers have not mastered craft yet, these rules hold true. But if a writer knows what he or she is doing, breaking the rule can often create something really unusual that will work and be amazing (but will have a lot of aspiring writers crying foul that so-and-so writer does it and gets away with it.)

For example, how often have you heard that as a writer, you should show and not tell? Too many times to count I imagine.

Do you want to know one NLA writer who breaks this rule all the time at the beginning of her novels? Sherry Thomas. Sherry has won the Rita Award twice in a row now (the romance genre's highest honor) and her debut novel PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS was named one of Publisher's Weekly best books of the year in 2008.

So obviously somebody agrees that she has mastered craft and Sherry always begins her novels with a lot of exposition--usually a big no-no. But for her voice, it just works. Just last month, Sherry released her latest historic romance entitled BEGUILING THE BEAUTY which John Charles said in the Booklist review: "Thomas distills superbly nuanced characters and flawlessly re-created settings worthy of a Merchant and Ivory into a gracefully witty and potently passionate love story that sets a new gold standard for historical romances."

And, if you check out the beginning of her novels, it's all exposition. BEGUILING begins with the following:

It happened one sunlit day in the summer of 1886.

Until then, Christian de Montfort, the young Duke of Lexington, had led a charmed life. 

His passion was the natural world.  As a child, he was never happier than when he could watch hatchling birds peck through their delicate eggshells, or spend hours observing the turtles and the water striders that populated the family trout stream.  He kept caterpillars in terrariums to discover the outcomes of their metamorphoses—brilliant butterflies or humble moths, both thrilling him equally.  Come summer, when he was taken to the seashore, he immersed himself in the tide pools, and understood instinctively that he was witnessing a fierce struggle for survival without losing his sense of wonder at the beauty and intricacy of life. 

After he learned to ride, he disappeared regularly into the countryside surrounding his imposing home.  Algernon House, the Lexington seat, occupied a corner of the Peak District.  Upon the faces of its chert and limestone escarpments, Christian, a groom in tow, hunted for fossils of gastropods and mollusks. 

He did run into opposition from time to time.  His father, for

23 Comments on Writing Craft: Breaking The Rule: Show Don't Tell, last added: 6/28/2012
Display Comments Add a Comment
16. When It’s Not Really An Answer

STATUS: I’m obviously not blogging in the morning…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BREAKEVEN by The Script

This is strange enough to blog about because it’s happen three times in the last 10 days.

Toughest part is that I know that most writers are going to say that this is not really an answer. And I’m going to have to agree.

So what am I talking about? I’ve read three sample pages recently that were well-written, had good story concepts, and the authors definitely understood craft. But (and isn’t there always a but?) I didn’t ask for a full because I honestly didn’t like the characters in the story enough to spend a whole novel with them.

And yes, I completely get that there is a world of literature out there with unsympathetic characters. In fact, that could be considered a literary tradition.

Yet, it’s too simple to say I’m passing on asking for a full SOLELY for that reason. I have read fiction where the main narrators weren’t wholly sympathetic and yet I found myself totally intrigued by the nuance of those characters and the stories to read the entire novel. My book club’s pick for last month, Lev Grossman’s THE MAGICIANS, comes to mind. I really enjoyed that one.

So there is a balance—that fine line between tough characters and a story that remains gripping despite that.

For a couple of these sample pages, that wasn’t the case—at least for me.

And I know that’s not really an answer but it was the only one I could honestly give.

26 Comments on When It’s Not Really An Answer, last added: 8/21/2010
Display Comments Add a Comment
17. Guaranteed To Give You A No

STATUS: It’s Thursday already?

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? ARTHUR'S THEME by Christopher Cross

About three weeks ago, the agency started receiving a series of calls from a local gentleman writer. Anita, being the lovely and generous person that she is, answered, gave information and lots of resources to help out the caller.

Evidently that wasn’t enough because this person proceeded to call us several times a week insisting that he had to talk to me. The first couple of calls Anita answered and calmly explained why she doesn’t forward inquiry calls to me and offered help in general terms. When he became belligerent with her, she stopped answering the phone when caller ID clearly showed who it was.

Then we received lots of voicemail messages. It definitely got my attention but not in any way that’s going to help this person’s writing career.

Then he decided to visit the agency in person.

Folks, let me just say that if you come to the office and try and browbeat my assistant, you will be dealing directly with me and you won’t like it. Even though I posit myself as a nice Midwesterner, you will see the Big B—up close and personal. No one treats my assistant that way.

And I’m sure this goes without saying but at that moment, there was no way this person could have pitched his book that would have induced me to look at it.

33 Comments on Guaranteed To Give You A No, last added: 8/22/2010
Display Comments Add a Comment
18. Track Changes Coming Back To Bite You?

STATUS: Snowing in the high country. You know what that means. Ski season is upon us!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? PENCIL THIN MUSTACHE by Jimmy Buffet

Given the dominance of PCs in the world, most writers are probably using Microsoft Word as their main word processing program.

Lately we’ve received a slew of sample page submissions that have all the writer’s revisions clearly outlined in track changes.

Oops.

Although interesting, we really don’t want to see your writing process.

Just a friendly reminder to make sure you submit a “clean” version. The way to do that is to go to Review, then accept (or reject as the case may be) all the changes in your manuscript. When all are cleared, a little window will pop up to say that there are no more changes or comments in the manuscript. Then it’s clean.

Then there is no way for someone to open up “final with mark up.”

Happy Writing!

28 Comments on Track Changes Coming Back To Bite You?, last added: 10/28/2010
Display Comments Add a Comment
19. After 200 Webinar Pitch Critiques...

STATUS: ! I think that exclamation point says it all.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? ISN’T IT ROMANTIC by Rod Stewart

I can unequivocally give my blog readers the #1 culprit of why pitch paragraphs in adult or children’s SF&F query letters miss.

Drumroll please….

Convoluted plot that can’t be followed in the pitch paragraph.

Interestingly enough, in the presentation itself, I gave the missing plot catalyst as the# 1 reason for why we pass. Convoluted description of the plot was #3. I might have to revise that!

Post webinar, most participants got the concept of “inciting incident” or main plot catalyst pretty clearly; it was building the rest of the pitch paragraph that proved tough. I think everyone who submitted a pitch to be critiqued got a sense of just how hard it is to create a good one.

A bit of advice? Your pitch is not something you want to go it alone on. You need feedback and from a variety of sources. If you learn nothing else from that session, take that tidbit away with you.

And because I’m a nice person, I’m going to share my Top 10 list for blog reading edification.

KRISTIN’S TOP 10 LIST OF WHY ADULT AND CHILDREN’S SF&F QUERY LETTERS GET A REJECTION

Reason 10: Generic descriptors of the story

Reason 9: Overkill on World Building details and not enough about the story itself.

Reason 8: Explaining that unlike already published SF&F novels, your work has character development

Reason 7: Popular trends (such as Vampires, Werewolves, or Zombies) with no unique take clearly spelled out in pitch

Reason 6: No mention of or insight into the characters who will be driving the story

Reason 5: The manuscript is 250,000 words (or more!) and this is unpublished, debut author

Reason 4: The work is called SF&F but it sounds more like a mystery or thriller or something else.

Reason 3: Convoluted Plot that I can’t follow in the pitch paragraph

Reason 2: SF&F stereotypical archetypes as the “hook”
--the mysterious object
--the unexpected birthright
--the quest
--the villain that has risen again
--exiled to another planet
--mayhem on spaceship to new planet
--Androids with heart of gold
--The main character as the key to saving the world or species
--the just discovered talisman

Reason 1: No hook—or mention of a plot catalyst that is new or original in this genre

35 Comments on After 200 Webinar Pitch Critiques..., last added: 10/28/2010
Display Comments Add a Comment
20. After 200 Webinar Pitches…Take 2

STATUS: Heading out early to meet with tax accountant.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THE SWEETEST TABOO by Sade

Sara was in the office today so we put our heads together on a couple of other tidbits of feedback we gleaned from the all the pitch critiques we did.

Here are a couple of other culprits we discovered while critiquing that would have made us pass had we not being doing that editorial input.

1) Too much emphasis on the world building without giving equal weight or emphasis to the story and the characters in it.

2) Mechanics of the writing was unpolished—as in there were syntax and obvious grammar errors within the pitch itself.

3) Vague descriptions such as: “suddenly a new discovery threatens everything INSERT CHARACTER NAME holds dear.” The problem is that such grand but vague statements don’t tell the reader anything. It’s like saying “this restaurant serves food.”

4) We couldn’t understand the world because the description was unclear. (By the way, we debated whether this fits under “convoluted plot” of yesterday’s entry but we don’t think so it. It feels separate.) You have to choose the right details about your world in the pitch because you can’t explain everything. You can only highlight an element or two that will stand out as unique about the world.

5) Writers who made up a name for a creature or an element but didn’t include any explanation of what it was in the pitch so it didn’t have context. This leads to confusion.

That’s all she wrote folks.

More Sade music on iLike

18 Comments on After 200 Webinar Pitches…Take 2, last added: 10/30/2010
Display Comments Add a Comment
21. Sounding Too Adult

Status: I already know that tomorrow is going to be a 10 or 12 hour day.

What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? SILENT NIGHT By Nat King Cole

As the young adult genre continues to do well, it’s no surprise that a lot of authors who write for the adult market might want to try their hand at a YA novel. This evening I finished up a client manuscript and then read a couple of submissions.

Several of them were from authors looking to do just that. I passed on two of them because the writers hadn’t nailed the YA voice. It’s hard to pinpoint and clearly explain to the writer what exactly is off about the voice but ultimately, the character felt too experienced and capable in the story to be a teen.

In other words, the writer had imposed too much of an adult perspective into the narration. It’s a tough balance and all I can say is that for me as the reader, it just feels off or unconvincing. And it’s tough to correct because even a good critique reader might not be able to explain to the writer about how to fix it. I know that if I had to explain it to these two passes, I’d be hard pressed to give concrete feedback the writer would find helpful.

So if you are a writer looking to make that transition, be sure to read a lot in the YA genre and maybe even have a teen or teens on board as part of your critique group. After all, they would know best.

28 Comments on Sounding Too Adult, last added: 12/10/2010
Display Comments Add a Comment
22. Culprit: Writing Mechanics

STATUS: Was out of the office last week. Although I worked, it’s not quite the same as getting stuff done while there.

What’s playing on the iPod or the XM radio right now? CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ by The Mamas & The Papas

This past weekend I attended the Missouri Writers Guild Conference in St. Louis and did my infamous “Agent Reads The Slush Pile” workshop.

For those of you who don’t know, this is the workshop where I pretend that I’m sitting in my office reading the opening two pages of a submission. In reality, this would all be done electronically and there would be no volunteer reading the entry aloud but you get the picture. In the workshops, as the volunteer reads, I’ll say “stop” if I wouldn’t have continued reading and state why. If I would have read on, we’ll hear the first 2 pages in its entirety.

I personally think this is probably the toughest workshop a writer can participate in but it’s always wildly popular. I do my best to be encouraging but brutally honest—a tough balancing act.

As I’ve given this workshop before, I can tell you several things about it:

1. I always begin with a dire warning and remind writers that they might not be ready for this. I’ve yet to have a participant withdraw an entry (and that always surprises me).
2. 99.9% of what I’ll see in the workshop is not ready for an agent to read.
3. For this workshop, only one entry made it past page 1. The majority of the others, I said stop within the first 2 paragraphs.

Like I said, brutal.

One participant asked a great question. He asked whether all agents would agree with my assessment on when to stop or would those opinions differ given the agent.

I replied that yes, of course opinions would differ but in the case of Saturday’s seminar, I don’t think they would have. Why? The biggest culprit that made me stop reading was a lack of mastery of writing as a craft. The entries had classic beginning writer mistakes we agents often see. And this isn’t to say that the writers in this workshop couldn’t master writing as a craft—just that they hadn’t mastered it yet. I’m confident everyone in my workshop will grow and mature as a writer as they learn.

A list of the culprits? Here they are.

1. Telling instead of showing.
2. Including unnecessary back story.
3. Loose sentence structure that could easily be tightened
4. The use of passive sentence construction.
5. Awkward introduction of character appearance.
6. Awkward descriptions/overly flowery language to depict.
7. Starting the story in the wrong place.
8. Not quite nailing voice in the opening.
9. Dialog that didn’t quite work as hard as it should.
10. A lack of scene tension even if the opening was suppose to be dramatic.

The great news is all of the above are mechanics that a beginning writer can learn.

But you have to be fearless. And the only way you’ll learn it is through a strong critique that points out the issue.

52 Comments on Culprit: Writing Mechanics, last added: 4/15/2011
Display Comments Add a Comment
23. What The Heck Do I Say To Help?

Status: Reading right now. Chutney is curled up in a blanket that she spent 10 minutes fluffing.


What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? DON’T DREAM IT’S OVER by Paul Young


For the last two nights, I’ve been reading a full manuscript that I requested. I really like the writing and the concept is super cool but for over 100 pages, the story hasn’t gone anywhere (or I should amend that—it’s going somewhere but moving slowly).


So definitely a pacing issue.


Yet, I’m still reading. I know I’m probably going to have to pass but I so want to be able to tell the writer why and how they might revise. But pacing is THE hardest writing mechanic to explain when it’s not working. If I point to an individual scene, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the writing except the scene is not doing enough in terms of building the tension or revealing another hint to the over-arching story that is unfolding.


In other words, there is no easy fix where I can say “do xyz” and you’ll transform the story.

49 Comments on What The Heck Do I Say To Help?, last added: 4/18/2011
Display Comments Add a Comment
24. Groan Worthy

Status: The subway is getting a little steamy in terms of humidity these past few days.


What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? CONNECTED by Stereo MC’s


Several years ago, way before tags were available on blogger, I did a really popular post on openings to avoid when writing fantasy novels.


Last week, I went to lunch with an editor from Tor and LOL, we got to brainstorming other “great” openings. So I’ve got a few to add to the list. Now I wanted to link to that previous entry but darn of I can find it! If anyone has it handy, post in the comments and I’ll embed the link.


From what I remember of the previous list, we saw a lot of fantasy novels with main characters gathering herbs in the forest. Who knew what a popular past time that was? Openings with battle scenes where the reader had no connection to the characters was another big winner.


Sure, any masterful writer can grab any of these “openings” and do them justice but for us mere mortals, they tend to be groan worthy.


The latest contenders:


1. Man sitting on steed in pouring rain.

2. Woman standing on high wall looking out into the distance at something

3. The city chase scene

4. Aftermath of a battle

44 Comments on Groan Worthy, last added: 6/24/2011
Display Comments Add a Comment
25. Because It Carries More Weight When George R.R. Martin Says It

STATUS: I was at work for a full day yesterday. Today I'm working from home. Guess I pushed that envelope too far.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SUPERSTAR by The Carpenters

Agents are fans too! On Sunday, some friends and I headed down to the Tattered Cover in Lodo to get our copies of A DANCE WITH DRAGONS signed by the grand master himself.

Given the huge crowd of fans, no one was allowed to pose and take a picture with Mr. Martin. (Smart move on his part!) My friend happened to snap an incredibly dorky shot of me after he signed my book and I was walking away. Shows how comfortable with myself I am to share this lovely photo with the world.


But before the signing, Mr. Martin shared a tidbit of wisdom that all writers could benefit from. He mentioned that aspiring writers would often come up to him and declare that they were working on a 7-book series--just like him.

To paraphrase Martin, he said that being a beginner, unpublished writer declaring that he is writing a 7-book series is kind of like being a guy who has just started rock climbing and announcing to the world that the first climb he's going to do is a little hill called Mount Everest.

That's absolutely not what you want to do. It's too hard. Too big in scoop. If you are a beginning rock climber, you want to start with the climbing wall at your local REI or a small hill that won't kill you first.

As an agent, I've given this advice any number of times but in the end, writers don't believe me. Okay don't believe me. Believe George instead! Forty years in this biz, he knows what he's talking about.

Martin's recommendation? Start with short stories where you are forced to have a beginning, middle, and end. You are also forced to nail plot and character in a short amount of space. Then graduate to something bigger--like a novella or one stand-alone novel. Master that. Then tackle the big series.

30 Comments on Because It Carries More Weight When George R.R. Martin Says It, last added: 8/6/2011
Display Comments Add a Comment

View Next 12 Posts