QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Feature Highlight: Notes and Reminders

In the past, I've written about some of the major features and benefits of QueryTracker. But, recently, I realized I was neglecting some of the more basic tools, and so I decided to write about a few of them. And just because they're basic, doesn't mean they aren't useful.

Keeping Notes

For instance, did you know you can attach private notes to any agent or query in the system? These can be any tidbit of information you think is worth saving. And, unlike posting comments on an agent's profile, these are completely private. Only you can see them.

Creating notes is easy and can be attached to any query in your query list. Go to your query list page, or the agent search page, and click the "Notes" icon as shown below.

You can also create notes from the agent's profile page as shown here:

After adding a note, the "Notes" icon will turn green so you know a note is there.

Setting Reminders

Reminders are like notes, except they'll pop up on a day you specify and remind you to do something. You can use them to remind you to check the status of a query, or anything else you can think of. They're set much like reminders, except you click the "Bell" icon instead of the note icon. Like notes, the reminder icon is available on either the query list, the search list, or an agent' profile.

When setting a reminder, enter a short message to yourself and then specify the date to be reminded. That's all there is to it. On that date, a message will appear at the top of each QueryTracker page informing you of the reminder. If you're a Premium Member you can choose to have reminders sent to you via E-Mail.

And that's all there is to notes and reminders.

Patrick McDonald is the founder and creator of QueryTracker. Though maintaining QueryTracker keeps him too busy to write anymore, back when he did he tended to write in many different genres. Not because he was eclectic, but because he was still trying to find his niche. Though he never discovered his genre of choice, he did find his home at QueryTracker, a place where he could spend time in his two favorite worlds: writing and programming.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

It's a High Stakes Game

Stakes are king, no matter where you are in the process From roughing out a basic storyline to writing a novel, from chopping and pruning a completed novel to querying it (or, for that matter, going on submission, publishing, or talking to Oprah about your book), high stakes define success or failure more than any single factor. Unfortunately, what exactly constitutes “high stakes” in a manuscript or query defies an easy definition.

In the real world, and dictionaries, stakes refer to risk and/or the degree of interest in the outcome. That’s not a bad jumping off point. What a character stands to lose (or fail to gain) if the obstacles you so mercilessly throw at her throughout act two and the three extras you surprise her with in act three trip her up create stakes for that character. But that’s still merely a jumping off point, and mistaking it for the endpoint can make even the most revved-up powerful set of stakes sputter and stall like a 1968 Shelby GT 350 that just ran out of gas.

So, what goes in the tank? Characters. Characters are what give that engine -- the stakes, or “interest in the outcome” -- the fuel it needs to move and, hopefully, pull the reader/agent along. Even the most dire, end-of-the-world, realistic, and believable stakes are only as important as the lens through which they are seen. Which is to say, they only matter to the extent we care about the characters experiencing them. Plenty of people cried about the losses suffered at the Battle of Hogwarts, an imaginary battle at a fictional school for wizards. By contrast, I’m pretty sure everyone I was in the theater with when I saw Pearl Harbor was in the uncomfortable position of secretly rooting for the Japanese by the time they finally attacked the insipid batch of characters the screenwriters threw into what had been a truly horrific, real-world battle. Independent of the characters, there is no question which stakes should and would matter more.

But stakes simply cannot exist independently of the characters. If they could, every book would have the end of the world as its “stakes” and each would be a bestseller and there would be nothing more to worry about. When it comes to querying, that presents a bigger potential pitfall for writers with objectively huge “stakes” than it does those whose stories come down to the impact on one or two of the characters. Our pulses only quicken to (at best, when everything is going well) match the pulse of the characters who are actually facing the menace, threat, pain, problems. A beautifully broken heart or the loss of a beloved dog or a wrongfully shattered relationship being rightfully mended can outpace a nuclear war any day.

The trick, when querying, is to remember that. We don’t get enough words to actually invest agents in our characters, but they’re also painfully aware of that. We DO get enough words to show them that the stakes matter to and through our characters, which is enough to get them to read those first few sample pages where they can be introduced to them. If the description of stakes accomplishes that, it’s done its job.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Engineering a Fiction Series

My current WIP is an urban fantasy serial. I thought I'd take a break from the writing to give myself a refresher course on the business side of publishing. 

Pantsing a book--or even a series--is one thing, but authors must never pants their way through their careers. Better to lay good solid track down now before I get too deep! We all know that revisions can be a trainwreck. :) 

There is a certain appeal to the sound of the words "three book deal".

I remember the first time I read those words—my favorite author had just announced a deal to keep a beloved series going with a six figure payout. I was excited to learn there were more books coming…but those words curled themselves into a corner of my writer's brain and never left. Without realizing it, I'd set a goal.

I've long abandoned the idea of snagging a six figure payout for my work but the idea of a multi-book deal never went away. At the time I had been writing my first novel and knew that it wouldn't be a stand alone book in a stand alone world.

Choosing the Series Track

There seem to be two basic models for writing a series: there is the central idea/world with loosely-linked stand alones or there is the sequentially-linked stand alone format. When deciding to develop a series, we often choose one model or the other without ever thinking—but, once chosen, that model must be followed to the end.

I'm not sure editors want to hear the words "debut author" and "series" in the same query letter. There is a lot of risk in taking on the first of a series if the book can't stand alone. But isn't that why we pitch it as a series? You ask.

It is…but if you want to sell it as a series, you need to make sure that book will stand on its own legs. In fact, every book needs to do that—stand on its own. Very few readers like picking up a story in mid-thought and the dislike being left hanging even more.

I picture a series as I would a train—I'm the engineer and each of the boxcars is an installment. They are all linked together but they are each their own.


A series isn't a three hundred thousand word novel that gets broken up into chunks. It's a collection of novels connected by themes and characters. A writer shouldn't assume that, in order to read the fourth installment of a talked-about series, a reader will run out and buy the first three books to study up in advance. No one likes extra homework.

That's why it's important to make each book stand on its own. But it’s a series! You insist. My characters have history! Yes, they do…which is why a writer must be sure the series has continuity.

When writing a new installment in a sequential-type series, you have an obligation to provide backstory. Please, do it with skill—no info dumps. Often, a few lines here and there serve as reminders of key elements to keep old readers in the loop and new readers in the know. Balance is key, however.

Continuity is also important in the loosely-linked format—you need to provide a balance of unique elements while still reminding the reader there are other stories to be explored in the series.

Once that balance is found, the stories of a series will display a certain continuity that readers crave in a series. You want those books to be like boxcars in a train: separate yet together. Continuity can be thought of as the hitches between the cars—it will help the reader view the series as a whole (good for consequential book sales) while letting them enjoy one book at a time.


Perhaps you are the writer who is enjoying writing your story and is wondering if the story has series potential.

Maybe you are exploring future book plots, possible character interactions, subthemes and story lines. The key to writing a successful series, however, isn't how far you can blow that book out—it's how well you can control it.

Once again, I envision boxcars on a train (okay, I guess I have a thing for trains. Living where I do, it's hard not to.) In this case, each of the cars are relatively similar in size and shape. Sometimes the train has a tanker or a coal bin punctuating the link up—and the change is refreshing, in a way.

I am not thinking circus train, where one car is a box full of sad clowns and the next is a cage with giraffes hanging out the top. If your series begins to look like that, it means you let an element grow out of control—either a story line got away from you or a character is growing too fast to be contained by the story. Either element will run you into trouble and cause your series to falter…just like that circus train whose engineer doesn't know there's a low bridge around the next bend.

How do you control your stories from ruining your series? You need to always be looking ahead. Keep your characters in check. Know where story lines are going so they don't diverge so hard they split the series or converge too soon in premature collisions. Keeping tight control on the series will help you prevent crashes.


Another reason you may not want to consider—but absolutely must—is cancellation.

There are many reasons why a series gets cancelled and not all of them have to do with the series or even the writing. Sometimes publishing houses change direction. Editors leave. Philosophies change. Sometimes the money dries up and the house closes their doors.

If that were to happen, where do you want to be in your series?

That's why each book must be a stand alone—if there isn't a book to follow, do you want your readers satisfied or ripping their hair out in frustration? You can always pick up a well-written series someplace else…but if you alienate your readers by leaving them stranded, they won't forgive you so easily.

Does Your Story Have Series Potential?

Little did I know, back when writing my stand alone book, I was, in fact, laying the groundwork for a potentially successfully series. My publisher has since contacted the second book and is wondering when the third will show up in her inbox. I still have the responsibility to make sure each of the other books stand on their own feet.

While any story has the ability to spin off, series need better planning. However, with a little foresight, you can evaluate your work and make the important decision of turning your stand alone into a series.

You simply must make wise engineering decision to keep your work on track.

Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who, despite having a Time Turner under her couch and three different sonic screwdrivers in her purse, still encounters difficulty with time management. She's the author of the urban fantasy trilogy The Books of the Demimonde as well as WORDS THAT BIND. She also writes for YA and NA audiences under the pen name AJ Krafton. THE HEARTBEAT THIEF, her Victorian dark fantasy inspired by Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death”, is now available.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

When to email an agent or editor

Over on the QueryTracker forums, one of the perennial questions is when it's okay to contact an agent. Back when I was still in the query trenches, I remember feeling terrified whenever it had to be done...or could it be done at all?

Frankly, with my first two agents, I was scared out of my mind whenever I did attempt to contact them, and we were already yoked together with a contract. There was no reason I should have been so scared to talk to them, but I had them on pedastles in my mind, and I would shrink with fear rather than call. By the time I had my last one, I'd just pick up the phone.

So on the one hand: Don't be scared to communicate with an agent. Agents and editors are in the communications industry. For that reason, they expect a certain amount of communication to take place.

And on the other hand: Don't pester them. There are certain times an agent will expect to hear from you and won't think it's even a little unusual to do so.

So let's go over the times it's a good idea to pester an agent. Ready?

1) When you send your initial query. 

You probably don't need a whole lot of encouragement about this, but some writers do feel unnerved about querying an agent. "What if she doesn't like it?" "What if she feels I'm wasting her time?"

"What if his agency guidelines have changed
 and now he wants all queries submitted
 in iambic pentameter in a
 trebuchet font--?"

No, no, no, no. Take a deep breath and send this query. Make sure you do it according to the guidelines on the agent's website, but don't worry about upsetting the agent or wasting his/her time. This is an understood part of their position and you're not going to annoy them with your one query following the guidelines. (In fact, if you follow the guidelines, you're already in the top five percent of queriers.)

(In case I've instilled within you a false bravery: please never call the agency to pitch over the phone. Follow the guidelines.)

2) When the agent requests more material

Yay! Don't be like me and triple your blood pressure when you get that request in your inbox. (I used to exclaim at the offending email, "This is a mistake! You were supposed to reject me.")  Take your time and assemble the material requested by the agent, make sure it's attached, and then hit send. Close your eyes if you have to. Pace around the house and hyperventilate if you must. It's okay. You had permission to contact the agent this time, so you may do so without fear.

3) When it's been a long time since you submitted the requested material

For you, 48 hours is going to be a really long time since you submitted your requested material, and you'll ask yourself how freaking long it takes to read one book.

"A long time" actually means three months on a partial and six months on a full. Only then may you nudge. No, it doesn't take six months to read a book. But the agent already has a full roster of clients, contracts to read, editors to pitch, conferences to attend, and probably a stack of other full and partial requests.

(When you want to pester an agent while waiting, that's fine, but pester a different agent by returning to step 1. It works. The new agent will just see your shiny new query and won't think, "I bet she queried me because she had already waited three days on a full and couldn't sit on her hands any longer." Bonus: You may get more requests this way and then you can divide your fretting amongs several fulls and partials rather than just one.)

4) When you have an offer on the table

All bets are off here. You've had a phone conversation with an agent who has now offered you representation. This is the point where you contact every single agent who still has a live full or partial from you and let them know, even if you're not at a "nudge" point.

You give the other agents a reasonable amount of time to get back to you (anywhere from one week to two weeks) and rest assured they are happier if you contact them now than if they read your manuscript only to find out they'd wasted their time. (Don't do that.)

Some agents at this point will step aside rather than try to read your manuscript in a few days. But all of them will want to know.

Some agents want to be notified even if they have only your query letter. Other agents don't. Apparently there's no industry standard for that.

5) When the agent has given helpful advice on a rejection and you want to say thank you.

This is another one where I see agents talking on Twitter and voicing preferences that don't all agree. Everyone agrees you shouldn't CC 58 agents on the same query email, but they're really divided on whether it's okay to say thank you to helpful advice.

I always erred on the side of thanking the agent. If I found the advice helpful, I would send a two or three line email (maximum! I know we're writers and we can get carried away here, but don't) and say thank you for your time and your insights. If this manuscript doesn't land a home on this go-around, you will be in my first batch of agents to query on the next book.

On the minus side: you're taking up their time. On the plus side: it's polite and professional, and agents are human beings who take pride in their jobs, so you might as well let them know when they've helped you out. It doesn't cost you to be thankful.

Also, there are times when you should never contact an agent. Ready?

1) When you are drunk.

2) When you are angry. If you're going to react to unfair and pompous rejections, do so by screaming into a pillow or sending a nasty email to yourself, then deleting it. Later on, have a good laugh at the agent's expense.

But do not involve the agent in your venting. Ideally, the agent will never know she or he got under your skin.

3) When you're worried that your material got lost in cyberspace or it's been two whole weeks or your friend got a response from that agent faster than you did. Don't fret over this stuff. Email doesn't go missing nearly as often as you think it does, and agents tackle their inboxes in different ways. Take a deep breath and go pester a new agent.

Okay? Okay! So now go there and send your emails, and follow up appropriately, and remember to laugh. Keep those queries flying!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Plotting vs Pantsing: A Daoist Writer Contemplates the End

"In the planning stage of a book, don't plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it." — Rose Tremain

I’m a Potterhead. Over the years, I’ve collected all sorts of Pottery (see what I did there?) from wands to Gryffindor scarves to fond memories of the first time I had a Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Bean*.

Tutti-fruitti. Mmmm. Delish.

However, my most cherished piece of HP memorabilia isn’t sitting on my desk or living in a photo album. It’s an idea. A piece of writer’s nerdistry. I remember reading an article wherein Rowling said that she’d written the last chapter as part of her earliest work on the series.

She knew how the story would end all along—and wrote her stories so that they would all work toward that ending.

The Yin
As I myself evolved from a reader into a writer, I often thought about that. Her technique made complete sense.

I was fascinated by the absolute loveliness of the series. Everything just seemed to fall in place like a wonderfully intricate mosaic. It made the reader in me very, very happy. Stories like that are fulfilling. I’m glad she knew the ending because it made for an amazing journey.

I added Rowling’s idea to my writer’s “toolbox”. Knowing the end helps ensure the story gets told in a fulfilling way. It enables a writer to include all those elements that come together to form the final picture.

I began writing on Team Pantser. Rowling’s “advice” served me very well. My first books were definitely not plotted out. I knew where I wanted each one to end up and happily pantsed my way through the book until I got there. And somehow, the stories worked. They had those delicious elements and clues and resonances interspersed along the way that culminated in fulfilling endings.

So why the Rose Tremain quote? you ask. It would seem to be the exact opposite of the philosophy I’d developed for my writing. But that’s the thing about writing: we grow with every story we write. Our craft develops. We learn. We change.

The Yang
As I continued to evolve as a writer, I had a feeling that I couldn’t write by the seat of my pants forever. I’d learned too much about story arcs and acts and structure to ignore the pros of plotting a book.

My first romance novel was also my first plotting project—and that’s because romance readers have very high expectations. If I didn’t plot the romance story line, it would have been in serious danger of flopping. A relationship story requires a pattern of ups and downs in order to invest the reader in the outcome.

And outcome is key. A romance novel has one major requirement: a happy ending. Knowing that the story would end up in a happy place allowed me to write that story to get there. I didn’t know it would end up with the ending it got. I just knew love would find its way.

And the times, they were a-changing. I was approaching a new place in my writing, someplace strange. A place where planning became essential to my writing process. I had begun to play for the other team. The Plotters.

I began studying Save the Cat. I scrutinized beat sheets. I even found these nifty references here and here that help me make sure I hit my beats on time by plotting out not only the beats but also the appropriate word counts associated with them. Never in my wildest pantser dreams could I have imagined the joy of the science of plotting, the mathematical precision of putting delicious story elements in their proper order.

The Conflict
But there is a word I associate with concepts such as mathematic and scientific. Clinical. Furthermore, there are other words I associate with clinical. Cold. Precise. Spiritless.

Last October, I got out my beat sheets and plotted a story, planning on banging it out the next month for NaNoWriMo. The beats were primo. The plot was *mwah* magnifique! The story was intricate and fulfilling and waiting to be written. All I had to do was connect the dots.

That’s when something terrible happened. I tried to connect the dots. Tried to write the story in between those defined points I’d so carefully plotted.

I didn’t feel like writing it.

I didn’t feel.

The plotting was perfect but in plotting, the process became clinical. Cold. Spiritless. I couldn’t figure it out at first. Thinking it was just a little bit of exhaustion from my day job, I back-burnered the project. I pantsed a different story and had a blast doing it. After some space, I went back and looked at that NaNo project and realized what went wrong.

I knew too much about what was going to happen. Knowing exactly the who’s, the how’s, and the when’s took all the joy of discovery out of the writing. It made writing the story (and I shudder to write this) work.

And I never want writing to feel like work. My day job feels like work. Work equals (shudder) work.

Writing is the part of my week that restores me, rejuvenates me, uses the muscles I don’t get to use at the day job. It is what balances me and keeps me sane.

The Daoist Writer
I have come to think of this in Daoist terms. Writing and day job are yin and yang. They are push and pull. They are two very different halves that make me whole.

Balance in technique also keeps me whole. And that’s where Rose Tremain restored my sanity.

Her quote originally made me wonder if my Rowlingesque mindset was the wrong thing for me as a writer. I needed to look at my craft, my books, and my techniques. Here's what I discovered.

• Knowing the ending and pantsing my way there worked for some of my books.
• Plotting and beat-sheeting a book before writing worked for some of my books.
• Pantsing instead of plotting would not have worked as well for my first romance.
• Plotting and beat-sheeting a story before writing any of it—before I got to know the characters and their world—made the passion of writing the story fizzle out, leaving a cold, clinical task.

And so the ultimate Daoism emerged:
• There was no single perfect way, no one true path to writing my stories.

The Balance
Rose Tremain’s advice wasn’t saying that Rowling’s way was wrong. It was simply another truth. That was the balance I needed. Tremain’s words became the yang to Rowling’s yin.

So, that it? you ask. Here I thought you’d clear it up, once and for all, what we should be—plotters or pantsers?

And the answer is: don’t ask me. Ask your story.

Your story may spring fully formed and armored from your forehead, like a Greek goddess. Your story may require a structure to serve the genre, such as mystery or romance. Your story may pop into your head, ending first, a final moment that is the essence you want to share. Or your story may be whispered to you by your muse, scene by random scene, in drops of inspiration.

If you are the type of writer who has a consistent writing process, your stories may be conceived in one particular fashion and your technique is the same from book to book.

I can’t write with a one-size-fits-all approach. My stories are too varied. Maybe if I were to stick to one style, one genre I could use one technique. But that’s not me. My day job is very strict in the sense that there is only one right way to do what I do, with piles of company policies to ensure it gets done that one right way and boatloads of state and federal regulations to ensure I don’t decide to start freewheeling it. My writing is definitely the yang to my day job’s yin.

I am a Daoist. I strive to keep my life in balance, and each part of my life in balance with itself.

Writing is no different. My state of enlightenment enables me to realize that I am not meant to be pure plotter or pure pantser. I strive for simplicity, naturalness, and spontaneity while giving a story the structure it requires for reading fulfilment. My stories are best served by a balance of the two approaches and, when I write using the best of each of those two techniques, I achieve my goals and create stories that I really, truly love.

And that’s good karma for me.

What team do you back—the Pantsers or the Plotters? Or are you a free agent like myself? 

*Not to be confused with the first time my husband had a BBEFB. He found the bag of jelly beans next to the computer one night and, bathed in only the light of the monitor glow, did not realize he was about to eat a vomit-flavored one. Much racket ensued. Geez, can that man hold a grudge.

Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who, despite having a Time Turner under her couch and three different sonic screwdrivers in her purse, still encounters difficulty with time management. She's the author of the urban fantasy trilogy The Books of the Demimonde as well as WORDS THAT BIND. She also writes for YA and NA audiences under the pen name AJ Krafton. THE HEARTBEAT THIEF, her Victorian dark fantasy inspired by Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death”, is now available.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

New Year's Resolutions that Actually Work

Statistically speaking, by the time the chips and dip are passed around at the pre-bowl game on Superbowl Sunday, as many as half of people who make a New Year's Resolution have already broken it. One month of an unused gym membership has been paid for. The dairy-free/gluten-free/sugar-free diet was replaced with an ice cream sundae by January 15th. Sure, the intention was to avoid eating out at all costs, but surely it doesn't count for a friend's birthday... or a weekend getaway... or when you're just really busy... right?

It can be all too easy to let resolutions like "lose weight" or "go to the gym more" fall by the wayside as life gets in the way. Don't let this happen to your writing goals.

All too often, I see writers with New Year's Resolutions like "sell a book," or "get an agent," or or "finish my next novel." Now, unlike "lose weight" or "go to the gym more," they are measurable goals. After all, the moment you get an agent, you'll be shouting from the rooftops! So it should count as a reasonable resolution for the year... except it doesn't.

Why not? You do not have all the control when it comes to whether you get an agent or not, and even less control over whether a book sells. Thinking that you do places all the blame on yourself if it doesn't happen, and that isn't good for your self-esteem, which writers struggle with enough. It isn't great for your writing career, either.

So, what to do? Don't set writing resolutions at all? Of course not! Just make sure they're SMART. (Specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound). With one month under our belts, there is plenty of time to re-evaluate not what we want to achieve, but how we get there.

Want an agent for a book you've already revised to perfection? Maybe your goal looks like this: By December 31, 2016, I will have queried at least 75 agents and entered two contests. I will work on my query until it shines, and tweak it if I'm not getting the request rate that I want. I can stop querying before I reach these goals if and only if I get an agent sooner.

Boom. That is a SMART goal, one you can achieve regardless of the market, or your story, or what an agent ate for breakfast the day she read your query.

"Finish my next novel" sounds like a great goal at first. I've been writing lists of New Year's Resolutions for more than ten years and I had to learn the hard way that this one isn't SMART. It turns out, books are never finished--at least not until they hit the printing press and you're out of time to revise. After realizing that I never defined "finish," I set a different goal for the next year: Work on WIP until it is ready for critique partners to review, then take their advice for another revision. By December 31, 2016, have WIP ready enough that I feel comfortable querying it. 

As you're writing this year, don't set yourself up to fail your goals. Make sure they're SMART, then implement a way to track them (I just started tracking my word count using stickers on my calendar, and it's working like magic) that keeps you accountable. Then you'll be amazed what you've accomplished by the end of the year.

Rochelle Deans sometimes feels like the only writer on the planet who rushes through the writing so she can start editing. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two kids under two. Her bad habits include mispronouncing words, correcting grammar, and spending far too much time on the Internet.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Editing the Muse #writetip

As a writer of all lengths of fiction, I always seem to have a work in progress. My muse, who apparently has some sort of attention deficit, like to bounce between novels and short stories and back again. Sometimes, I actually finish things. More often than not, I’m editing.

I’ve learned a lot about editing and revising over the years, through books and online classes and (my favorite) reading books by authors whose style I adore. I’m heading back to my WIP for a long, hard look and I’m considering doing some editing. For those of you who are also currently wallowing in edits, I thought I’d share some thoughts on the process.

I have a huge list of bookmarked articles on the subject... and these are the ones I always re-read when I need to refocus.

Fellow writer and former Query Tracker blogger Elana Johnson recently posted an article on “good vs. done.” It’s a rallying cheer we all need to remind us of our talent and our self-worth (as well as an opportunity to visit her fun vocabulary. I love to listen to her write.)

Sometimes, an editor or feedback group will recommend edits or revisions. It’s easy for us to think it’s because what we wrote is, as Elana puts it, sucktacular. But it’s not. Changes make something that’s already good even better.(And anyways, if it was truly sucktacular, they would have told us to shred it and start over.)

So, once we’re firmly reminded that we’ve already written something worth keeping, it’s time to edit it. Dustin Wax writes that there is no good writing, just good re-writing. Having edited my first novel over the space of three years, I have to agree with him. I find this to be a splendid philosophy for anyone facing the daunting task of staring down a first draft.

Before you start, it’s important to ask yourself what, exactly, you need to do. Are you making surface edits or major revisions?  I came across Dennis G. Jerz’s article “Revision vs. Edition" and found a great quick-reference list.

While polishing a short story can be done in a manageable amount of time, editing a large volume—say, a four-hundred page novel—can be downright overwhelming. One trick many authors--and editors--use is to break the process into steps. You can find an example of a breakdown here.

It also helps to make a list of changes you want to make throughout the piece. Just tackle them one at a time and you make big progress with every small step. Take it chapter by chapter, task by task, and remember: keep going. It’s worth the work.

And then, once you think you have that WIP right where you want it, read Nathan Bransford’s advice to see how close to “done” you’ve gotten. If necessary, lather, rinse, and repeat.

But if it’s done, then it’s all good.

Right? *evil smiley because we all know done is never, ever, really, truly, done*

Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who, despite having a Time Turner under her couch and three different sonic screwdrivers in her purse, still encounters difficulty with time management. She's the author of the urban fantasy trilogy The Books of the Demimonde as well as WORDS THAT BIND. She also writes for YA and NA audiences under the pen name AJ Krafton. THE HEARTBEAT THIEF, her Victorian dark fantasy inspired by Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death”, is now available.