QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Backing Up: Know Your Options

So last week I walked into my computer room and was met by an ominous ticking sound and an even more ominous error message: Operating System not found.

Only two years old, my high-end hard drive had died.  Now, I'm a Geek with a capital G, and I knew just what to do to recover the data from a dead drive.  Problem was, it hadn't just died, it had self-destructed inside.  See, there's a disk inside your hard drive, and it spins.  Well, mine didn't spin anymore. 

My data was gone, and nobody was getting it back. Right about then, a Geek friend of mine offers this on Facebook (where I was bemoaning the passing of said hard drive): 
Don't forget the Primary Directive: "Always Back Up." Alternatively, be more like Jesus. After all, "Jesus Saves."
I told him he was soooooo not helpful.

But fortunately, I'm compulsive about backing up, and all I lost was a few PowerPoint slides I'd edited into an existing (and backed up) presentation.

So...do you back up?  And do you do it regularly?  Let's look at some of your options, including a few Suzy and our readers suggested in a post last fall.

1. The Flash Drive Solution

A lot of people use flash drives.  I, personally, lose them.  Often.  Other people don't lose them...they just accidentally leave them in pockets that go through the wash.  Repeatedly. So I finally attached one to my keychain, and that seems to have taken care of my problem.  I use an 8 GB Verbatim that I love, though a lot of people swear by this Kingston drive or, if you prefer one without a cap you can lose, this one.

The problem with this solution, for me, is that I have to remember to plug my keychain into my computer.  I'm also a little paranoid about the possibility of losing it and having someone steal my manuscript.

The other problem is that I don't just want to back up my writing.  I also do a lot of photography, and 400GB of photos doesn't fit on an itty bitty flash drive.  So I decided to try an external hard drive.

2. The External Hard Drive Solution

Now this is cool. For a mere $80, I got a500GB iPhone-sized drive by a company that knows hard drives and includes sync software that really works: the Seagate FreeAgent Go. You just plug this baby into your hard drive, and it will automatically back everything up every night at a time you designate.

When I tell people about this drive, they often volunteer that you can buy a 1 Terabyte (that's a lot of storage space, folks!) Western Digital myBook at BestBuy for about $100.  What they don't realize is that the myBooks are kind of bulky, and they come in a distant...oh, 50th...in comparison to the Seagate.  I also have a WesternDigital myPassport, which I like, but it really does come in a distant 2nd to my Seagate thanks to inadequate sync software.

So for an easy, inexpensive, reliable all-in-one package, go with the Seagate.

Now I, like you, wonder what that means if there's a fire.  So I bought a second external hard drive, which I keep at work.  I bring it home once a week, back everything up, and take it back to work.

3. Sync Software

Let's say you already have a backup drive, whether it's a flash drive, an external hard drive, or something else, but you don't have good sync software for whatever reason.  Maybe your drive didn't come with it.  Maybe what came with it is confusing, or doesn't work well.

After comparing a bunch of sync programs, including expensive bigger-name applications, I found one that's easy to use...and free: AllwaySync.  If you use it daily, it will eventually prompt you to buy the pro version, but the license isn't expensive, and it's not just for today's version of the program...it's good forever, you'll never have to pay another dime.  This is the route I took to get the most out of my Western Digital myPassport.

4. Email Backups

The nice thing about modern email programs like Gmail is that all of your messages are stored online, rather than on your hard drive (as is usually the case with, for example, Microsoft Outlook).  Gmail also offers an outrageous amount of storage space, so you can email your manuscript to yourself just as often as you like.

5. Online Document Managers

Reader Iapetus999 reminds us that GoogleDocs and OfficeLive let you edit online documents from any computer. These applications even include helpers like spellcheckers, formatting, and sharing, so you can make sure your crit-mates are reading from the most-recent draft!  And as nightsmusic explains, applications like this "can be set to sync periodically while you're working on the document so you don't lose anything."

6. Online Hard Drives

Our readers like Mozy (which offers unlimited backup for $4.95 a month and will do an automatic backup once a day) and iDrive (which offers 2GB of space for free -- plenty for most people's writing).  PC Magazine gave their Editor's Choice Award to SOS Online Backup, and the Wall Street Journal is a customer.  It's more expensive than some, but offers a lot of power and is easy to use. Carbonite is an automatic backup service for $55 a year.  It's a tiny background application that continually looks for things that have changed on your machine and need to be backed up. For automatic backups on the Mac, try Time Capsule. Edit: A number of people recommended DropBox in the comments -- it's free! (Thanks, guys!)

7. The Hard Copy

It's a pain to print out a manuscript and put it in a binder, but if you're really paranoid (or a sci-fi buff who knows what an EMP is), it might be a good idea to do it quarterly and drop it off in a local safe-deposit box.  That way if the computer world ever implodes, all is not lost.

What did I miss? What are your tips for backing up?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Contest with Jason Yarn Closed

Thanks for a great contest! The 100 entries were reached yesterday, and Mr. Yarn is NOT taking entries directly. If you wish to query him, please read his submission guidelines and do so in the traditional manner.

Looking forward to the results in a couple of weeks!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Agent-Judged Contest with Jason Yarn

Jason Yarn at Paradigm Literary Agency is hosting our contest today!

The contest is now open. CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE SUBMISSION FORM. You must have a QT account (free) and login to access the form.

You’ll be submitting a one-line pitch and the first paragraph of your manuscript.

The contest is open to all genres except short stories and romance.

Mr. Yarn is accepting 100 entries.

Some advice from Mr. Yarn as you prepare your submission:

  • Be careful if you make your one-line pitch a question. It’s not verboten, but asking me something I can answer ‘No’ to is always a dangerous thing.
  • Don’t be flabby – be concrete. Meaning, your pitch line shouldn’t be full of generic clichés like ‘Fate’ and ‘Doom’ without being tied to a concrete story element or character.
  • Your pitch should drive me to read your first paragraph and your first paragraph should make me feel like I’ll die if I don’t see more – you don’t need to tell your entire story in either part, just addict me to wanting to find out what happens next. Good luck!

Mr. Yarn will review the entries and choose up to five winners. He’ll be critiquing your query letter and the first 10 pages of your manuscript!

We anticipate announcing the winners on Friday, April 9 here on the QueryTracker blog. So follow us (widget right over there -->).


Friday, March 26, 2010

Publishing Pulse 3/26/10

Upcoming QT Blog Agent Pitch Contest

Jason Yarn with Paradigm Literary Agency is judging our next contest!

The contest will open on Monday, March 29 at 12 Noon EST. Entrants will submit a one-line pitch and the first paragraph of a completed manuscript. The contest is open to all genres except short stories and romance. Mr. Yarn is accepting 100 entries.

For helpful tips, check out this article by literary agent Joanna Stampfel Volpe who guest blogged for QT on the topic of one-line pitches.

Some advice from Mr. Yarn as you prepare your submission for Monday:

Be careful if you make your one-line pitch a question. It’s not verboten, but asking me something I can answer ‘No’ to is always a dangerous thing.

Don’t be flabby – be concrete. Meaning, your pitch line shouldn’t be full of generic clichés like ‘Fate’ and ‘Doom’ without being tied to a concrete story element or character.

Your pitch should drive me to read your first paragraph and your first paragraph should make me feel like I’ll die if I don’t see more – you don’t need to tell you entire story in either part, just addict me to wanting to find out what happens next. Good luck!

Mr. Yarn will review the entries and choose up to five winners. Winners will receive a critique of their queries and first ten pages. We anticipate announcing the winners on Friday, April 9.

The New QueryTracker Success Stories

QT Member Lindsey Leavitt's debut novel, Princess For Hire, was just released by Hyperion Books. A link to her book on Amazon and a link to her original QT interview can be found on the main page of QueryTracker.net.

New success story interviews were posted for Stephanie Bowman, who recently signed with Alyssa Reuben of Paradigm Agency, and J.J. Murphy, who signed with John Talbot of Talbot Fortune Agency, LLC.

New Agents Added to the QueryTracker Database

Several new agents and publishers have been added to the QT Database recently. Check out the box labeled "New and Updated Listings" on the front page of the main QueryTracker.Net site and view their profiles for website links and genres they represent.

Tips, News & Other Interesting Info from Around the 'Net

Galen Kindley guest blogged at Terry's place and gave a QueryTracker a nice endorsement. Thanks for the shout out, Galen and Terry.

For those of you in the query stage, Chuck over at Guide to Literary Agents shared 5 Query Letter Tips.

Nathan Bransford addressed the Amazon Review Controversy this week. Amazon is reworking its review requirements to prevent negative reviews from people who have not read the books they review. He also blogged about self-publishing.

And my favorite this week was this video from Penguin UK regarding the state of publishing (Be sure not to click off before you watch the second half. It's very clever). Click HERE to view video.

Wishing everyone a fabulous weekend.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dig a Little Deeper - Getting to Know Your Characters

Are you struggling with a certain character? Perhaps wanting to know all your characters better? Answering these twenty-five questions can help you find out both the nitty gritty and the deepest darkest.

Some creative imagery prior to beginning is helpful. Before you ask the first question, take a moment to picture your character in the room with you, sitting in a spot that suits them. If it helps to ask the questions aloud, feel free to do so. Be sure to save your answers; you'll be referring to them frequently.

Good luck, and have fun!

Character Interview Questions

Note: These questions can be answered in first or third person; however, answering them in first person will help you nail your character’s voice (even if your story is written in third person.)

  1. How old are you?
  2. If the house burned down, what one thing would you want to take with you?
  3. Describe your hands.
  4. Describe your nightstand, dresser, or bathroom counter. What’s on top of it? In it?
  5. What is your favorite food?
  6. Describe your economic/political status.
  7. Where do you have a scar or birthmark? Describe circumstances surrounding your scars.
  8. What is the last book you read? What did you think of it?
  9. Do you have an embarrassing habit?
  10. Give one vivid memory of a parent or parental figure.
  11. What is a dream (in sleep) you often have?
  12. Do you have a lifelong dream or aspiration?
  13. How do you go to sleep, and how do you wake up? (i.e. position in bed, etc.)
  14. What is the last thing you wrote?
  15. What grosses you out?
  16. Who is the person you like the least? Why?
  17. Tell me about the last time you cried.
  18. What is something you feel guilty about?
  19. Describe what you do when you look in a mirror.
  20. Describe yourself sitting in your favorite spot.
  21. Tell me about a very treasured item.
  22. Do you have a nervous tic or habit?
  23. Tell me about your siblings…if you have them.
  24. What is your favorite sound?
  25. What is your favorite smell?

I would love to know how this works for you! Leave a comment or drop me an email (address at right.)

*Special thanks to Julie Pullman, who shared this list, and who mentors the Literati Aspiring Teen Authors Group with me.

Suzette Saxton writes books for tots, teens, and in-betweens. She is represented by Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Literary.

Monday, March 22, 2010

To Market, To Market.... Back to Basics on the Technicalities of Pitching Your Novel

Making the transition from scribbler-of-entertaining-prose to aspiring-to-be-published-author can be tricky. And sometimes it seems that the technical details of that process get glossed over, so I thought I'd, ya know... start at the beginning (and when I come to end, stop.)

And when I say "the beginning," of course, I'm referring to the marketing process. Which means you've already got a shiny, edited and complete manuscript ready for publication.

First, you should know exactly what you are asking for from the agents you query. You are not asking them to publish your novel. You are not even technically asking them to sell your novel. You are asking them to represent your interests in the sale of the publication rights (more on that later). Your agent contacts editors on your behalf and, if offers are received, presents them to you so you can decide whether or not to accept (like a real estate agent would). They will also offer their expert opinion regarding that decision and negotiate the details of your contract.

Therefore, when you query an agent, you should state you are seeking representation (not publication).

Which brings us to publication... Naturally, you are hoping for a sale, but what exactly are you selling?

You are not selling your novel. You are not selling the copyright to your novel. What you are selling, for the most part, are the rights to first publication (and sometimes other rights we'll discuss in a moment).

So what are first publication rights, anyway? Well, that means simply the right to publish a book which has never been published before. This is particularly important for newbie writers to understand in this age of POD publishing options.

Sites like Lulu.com, CafePress, and CreateSpace offer writers the ability to have their book "in print" immediately, but many writers may not realize that by using their POD publishing services, they no longer have rights of first publication to offer to a traditional publisher. Also, publishers vary in their opinion of how much content may be published online before a book considered "published," so it's wise to limit how much of your manuscript is available on your website or blog.

Publishers are far less interested in purchasing the rights to reprint a book, so if your goal is a traditional publishing contract, don't put yourself in a situation where you have no first publication rights to offer.

Finally, in addition to the rights of publication, your contract may also include additional rights... such as rights to electronic publication or rights to publish in another language. Or it may include options for these rights, like they may require a chance to counter-offer on a foreign deal, etc.

In the end, the right to your book remains with you.

H. L. Dyer, M.D. writes women's fiction and works as the Clinical and Academic Director for the Hospitalist Program at a pediatric teaching hospital near Chicago. In addition to all things literary, she enjoys experimental cooking and composing impromptu parodies to annoy close friends and family. Click to visit her personal blog, Trying to Do the Write Thing.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

We're Back

The move to the new server went well, and the main site and forum are back up. Thank you for your patience.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Publishing Pulse: 3/19/2010

Important Reminder

Because the main QueryTracker site (and forum) have grown so much lately (thank you, everyone!), they now need a dedicated server. Patrick will be doing the upgrade over the weekend.  The main site will go down Saturday morning and be back up as soon as he can manage it, though he's given us an outside time estimate of 24-48 hours. We'll be able to keep you posted here on the blog with any breaking news!

New and Updated Agents on QT

Joyce Holland of D4EO Literary Agency is looking for mystery, romance, thrillers, and scifi.

David Patterson of Foundry Literary + Media is looking for general and narrative nonfiction.

Around the Web

Following up on her post from last week about why the oft-given advice to start your story with action may actually backfire, Jane Friedman and Sharon Cousins added some tidbits to help you better understand how to make said action significant enough to draw the reader into the story.

Want to build your blog?  Our own Elana Johnson dishes up practical advice for making it big in the blogosphere on her personal (and very popular!) blog.

Moonrat over at Editorial Ass provides some much-needed advice on getting published the right way and explains why attempts to cut corners can be hazardous to your publishing future.

Moonrat also offers a comprehensive look at how the book submission process works from the publisher's point of view, from the book coming through the door to the sale.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

QueryTracker Upgrade

The QueryTracker main site and forum will be unavailable this weekend (March 20th and 21st) while we perform an important upgrade.

QueryTracker has grown tremendously in the past several months. In fact, it has grown so much that our existing server is often overwhelmed and unable to keep up. For that reason, QT will be moving to a dedicated server. But such a change takes time, so QT will be going off line early Saturday morning, and could remain unavailable for 24 to 48 hours.

Sorry for the inconvenience and thank you all for making QT a success.


On Voracity

Recently, my husband has been having some conversations with his co-workers about my writing career. I'm never there, which sort of terrifies me. But he tells me about them.

It basically goes like this:

Me: What did you say? *panic face*

Him: That you wrote a book. And you're working on getting it published. They say how cool that is, that they wish they could do that.

Me: *snorting* I suppose it's cool. More like a lotta hard work.

Him: I told them that they just don't get you. You're voracious. They don't get it. Most people would've given up by now.

Me: *blinking* *rapidly clicking to dictionary.com to see if he's complimenting me or not*

Voracious: Have or marked by an insatiable appetite for a pursuit. (There are some other (less desirable) definitions, but this is the one I'm going with.)

And you know what? He's totally right. I am voracious. When I want something, I work and work and work to get it. I learn. I research. I go for it. All the way.

I think voracity should be a trait you add to your author characteristics. Because it's hard out there. The query trenches aren't getting any easier. You will get rejected. Over and over. You will hear things that might hurt. Will you give up?

Do you have an insatiable appetite for publication? Are you voracious?

Oh, and since it's St. Patrick's Day, I just want to wish you all the best of luck today in whatever writing pursuit you're voraciously going after!


Monday, March 15, 2010

Writing a Query Letter with Voice

I fell so completely in love with a post from Elana's blog, that I've decided (with her blessing) to re-post it here. Elana is our resident query guru and will be presenting at the LDStoryMakers Conference this spring, along with lots of cool writers, agents and editors.

Writing a Query Letter with Voice

Voice is one of those ever elusive topics in writing. I did a post about voice on the QT blog a while back. I've read lots of things about it, sat in on voice classes at conferences, etc.

To me, every piece of writing has a voice. My blog. Yours. Whatever. It all has voice. Some are more distinct than others, but all writing has voice.

Like I said in the QT post, you can create voice through some writing exercises. And I find myself blogging in the same voice as the novel I'm currently working on. (Remember that post? Talk about embarrassing!)

So we all have it in our novels. Which means you must maintain the same voice in your query letter. Unfortunately many of us FAIL at this.

Here's my tip for avoiding the FAIL: Write the query letter from the POV of the character.

My books are almost always first person. So guess what I did to maintain that voice?

I wrote my query letter in first person.


*whispers* Doesn't she know the rules for writing query letters???

Yes, as a matter of fact I do. They should be done in third person, present tense.

Well, how many of you have written your novel in third person, present tense? (I'm pretty sure Lisa McMann doesn't read this blog, but she could raise her hand here.)

Yeah, no one.

So I submit that this is one reason why 99% of the writing population hates writing query letters. It's not in the character's POV. It's not even in a style of writing the author is used to.

So, dude! Why torture yourself? Change it to what you ARE used to writing in. (And then change it back.)

For me, it was first person. I can do present or past tense, so that wasn't an issue. But I wrote my query in first person, from Vi's point of view. (I did the same thing with my synopsis, BTW. I highly recommend it.)

By using Vi's narrating voice, using first person, I was able to infuse the voice of my novel into my query.

Then, really, it's simply a matter of changing the pronouns to get it back to third person, right? Right. (Okay, you'll have to do a little rearranging, but not much. And you'll maintain the voice of your novel, so it's a worthwhile trade-off.)

Query for Control Issues:

In a world where Thinkers brainwash the population and Rules are not meant to be broken, fifteen-year-old Violet Schoenfeld does a hell of a job shattering them to pieces.

After committing her eighth crime (walking in the park after dark with a boy, gasp!), Vi is taken to the Green, a group of Thinkers who control the Goodgrounds. She’s found unrehabilitatable (yeah, she doesn’t think it’s a word either) and exiled to the Badlands—until she demonstrates her brainwashing abilities. That earns her a one-way trip to appear before the Association of Directors.

Yeah, right. Like that’s gonna happen. She busts out of prison with sexy Bad boy Jag Barque, who also has no intention of fulfilling his lame sentence.

Dodging Greenies and hovercopters, dealing with absent-father issues, and coming to terms with feelings for an ex-boyfriend—and Jag as a possible new one—leave Vi little time for much else. Which is too damn bad, because she’s more important than she realizes. When secrets about her “dead” sister and not-so-missing father hit the fan, Vi must make a choice: control or be controlled.

And this is what one literary agent (who requested the full) said: "I found ... your writing/voice refreshing (it’s nice to see someone have fun with their text)."

What do you think? Give it a try and let me know if it works for you!

Thanks for sharing this with us, Elana!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Publishing Pulse 3/12/10


Congrats to Deborah Riley-Magnus, who recently signed with agent Robert Brown of Wylie-Merrick Literary Agency for a twice-dead vampire romance. You can read her success story here.

Tracy E. Banghart recently signed with agent Wendy Schmalz of The Wendy Schmalz Agency for her NANO novel. She shares her success story here. Way to go, Tracy!

Cool New Tool

Researching agents just got easier! Interviews are now just a quick-click away, included with agents' profiles:


Michael Bourret was the first of many agents who will be featured on GalleyCat. Check out the interview to see the one element he doesn't see enough of in YA and MG.

Have you queried the L. Perkins Agency? If so, be sure to read this info about how far they are through the slush pile, and why you may not be hearing back from them. I found it fascinating that they receive 30,000 queries per year.

On the Net

Check out this fun and interesting poll, Who's Your Audience? on kt literary's blog. The answer may surprise you!

Revising for an agent or an editor? There's a great article on the Wylie-Merrick Literary Agency's blog you need to read: Left at the Altar--of Publishing.

Elana and I have joined forces for a blog contest. My own agent Suzie Townsend is offering a prize of a 40 page submission+critique, and Elana has seven signed copies of cool YA books. So come to Elana's blog or mine to enter, contest ends Sunday night.

Have a fantabulous weekend!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Shelf Awareness in Novel Genres and Women's Fiction

The idea of genre seems pretty basic. After all, you're generally expected to start your query letter with the genre (and wordcount) of your novel. But genre lines can be a bit blurry, so it can be tricky to know what genre you're writing in-- especially if you're new to publishing. And it's fairly important to narrow it down-- agents are not looking for romantic dystopian historical cozy mysteries with paranormal elements. An agent's job is to sell your book and that means they need the easiest possible way to convey to publishers what sort of product they're selling.

At first, I had a heck of a time deciding my novel's genre. One of the more amusing discussions of this is posted in my own blog in Genre Crossing and The Edge of Memory.

I read all sorts of genres, and so influences of several genres found their way into my novel. It's a mystery, but not a whodunnit. It's suspense/thriller, but personal. It prominently features romance, but it isn't a romance novel. It has paranormal elements, but they're fairly subtle.

This might suggest a feeling of "something for everyone" but conventional publishing wisdom states this is not a desirable place to be. Publishers and editors (and therefore agents) need to know where your novel will be shelved and how it will be marketed. After all, that is their job... to produce and market your novel. Time is of the essence, so simpler is better. Which does sometimes seem to leave a more complicated book a bit nowhere.

So, during my early rounds of edits, I sent a survey to my test readers asking them what shelf they would expect to find my novel on, and got a wide variety of responses ranging from "Psychological Thriller" to "Family Saga" to "Mystery" to "Romantic Suspense" to "Whatever shelf Jodi Picoult is on."

If I had paid more attention to that last suggestion, I would have been on the right track sooner.

In that same survey, I asked if there was an author or a novel that my test readers considered my novel similar to in style or audience. I received a number of flattering responses, including Fannie Flagg, Nancy Pickard, Maeve Binchy, Anita Shreve, and most frequently Jodi Picoult. After a little research, I discovered these awesome authors are categorized as "women's fiction" when they're not over on the "Bestsellers" shelf.

At long last, I found a clear genre match in the definition of women's fiction from the FWA:
Women’s Fiction: Fiction which includes subjects and themes that range far beyond romance. The woman is the star of the story and her changes and emotional developments are the subject. Relationships are at the core of the plot. Could involve relationships with siblings, parents, friends and not necessarily just a lover. Doesn’t have to have the standard “happy ending” but there is a life-affirming resolution to the story. Focuses on the hopes, fears, dreams and even secret fantasies of women. (Examples: “Shellseekers” Rosamonde Pilcher, “Fortunes Rocks” Anita Shreve, novels by Sue Miller and Elizabeth Berg.)

YES! That's The Edge of Memory, absolutely. I simply hadn't realized that what I was writing (and reading!) was women's fiction. I had actually confused women's fiction with its subgenre, chick lit. The simple fact is that genres overlap. Books may be marketed in more than one genre. The single best way to describe your genre, in my opinion, is to identify comparable books and authors and determine how those novels are being marketed successfully.

So Take Home Tips from what I've learned on Genres:

  1. It's important in marketing your project to identify the best fit for genre category. This gives agents, editors, publishers the most efficient way to pitch your book up the chain.

  2. There are different expected book lengths by genre, so bear that in mind when marketing. I posted about wordcounts here and included Colleen Lindsay's wordcount breakdown by genre.

  3. Once you've identified your genre, read the current releases in your category to get a feel for the current market.

  4. Although important, genres can be flexible, too. I've seen agents posting that they market a cross-genre book in either category, depending on the pitch-recipient.

H. L. Dyer, M.D. writes women's fiction and works as the Clinical and Academic Director for the Hospitalist Program at a pediatric teaching hospital near Chicago. In addition to all things literary, she enjoys experimental cooking and composing impromptu parodies to annoy close friends and family. Click to visit her personal blog, Trying to Do the Write Thing.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Psychology in Fiction Q&A: Delusional Disorders

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is intended for writing purposes only and does not represent psychological advice.
QUESTION: I'm writing for a character I'd like to classify as having some sort of disorder, but I’m not sure what would fit with circumstances properly or how to reflect that in speech or thought patterns, and interpersonal relationships with strangers, close friends and those of the opposite sex.

The character is female, twenties, and would need to have some paranoia and believe she is on an extremely important mission. Other symptoms I could squeeze in could be hallucinations, easy to distract, or things like that. If possible I’d like to keep her thought patterns fairly logical but if no disorder fits I'm up to the challenge. I'd also like to leave the possibility open that she may not be as "disordered" as she appears.
ANSWER: Sounds to me like a delusional disorder, probably grandiose delusions with some paranoia, would be your best bet.

I'll explain better what that means in a minute, but the good news is that people with delusional disorders may seem totally normal to other people until and unless the delusion is triggered. So she might seem totally normal to people she encounters in casual day-to-day life, like the supermarket checkout person and even people she works with if their interactions are extremely shallow.

A delusion is a not-based-in-reality idea that you can't get the person to shake regardless of evidence. Many (all?) really die-hard conspiracy fanatics are delusional.

You didn't mention whether her important mission is something that could really happen. For example, if she believed that the President had tapped her as a civilian to go on some mission for the CIA, that's possible in the world as we know it. Ridiculously unlikely, of course, but possible. Possible = "nonbizarre delusion."

If she believed, by contrast, that aliens were beaming a mission into her brain using an implant they put there when they abducted her as a child (or whatever), that's not possible in the world as we know it. Impossible = "bizarre delusion."

Technically, if someone has bizarre delusions, they automatically get a schizophrenia diagnosis. For your character, it would be paranoid schizophrenia with prominent grandiose delusions.  Grandiose delusions, according to psychology's diagnostic manual, are "delusions of inflated worth, power, knowledge, identity, or special relationship to a deity or famous person."

Even with a paranoid schizophrenia diagnosis, you still wouldn't have to add a bunch of unnecessary symptoms -- the strange ideas (delusions) could be her key symptom.

Someone with a fixed delusion is going to believe they're right and others are wrong, but your character could wonder once in a while if she's losing it, as long as she always decides she isn't. Someone with a delusion is also going to see "proof" in innocuous things that others might never even see as significant. And she will definitely become aware that others think she is unwell, and that will be uncomfortable. She might even start to buy the idea that she is, but the beliefs/delusions need to persist.

I think you probably need to write her ideas and the "proof" she sees as a little over the top from time to time, so the reader wonders if she's not just mentally ill. At the same time, the evidence could be convincing to her -- and perhaps to the reader from time to time, too. You could also play with using her as an unreliable narrator. In a lot of ways that's all mental illness is -- something that keeps someone from being a reliable narrator on life as most people see it. :)

Hope that's helpful!

Remember, if YOU have a psychology in fiction question you want to see answered here, use the Q&A form on the Archetype site (note in the "extra information" area that you'd like to see the question answered on the QueryTracker Blog) or send me an email at c k a u f m a n (AT) querytracker (DOT) net. (Take out the spaces in the first word and please use Q&A in your Subject Line!).

Friday, March 5, 2010

Publishing Pulse 3/5/10

We want to shout out a huge congrats to our own Mary Lindsey who signed with Philomel/Penguin this week!! Here's her Publisher's Marketplace announcement:

Mary Lindsey's debut Shattered Souls, a dark and dangerous forbidden love story about a Speaker who helps lingering ghosts pass to the spirit world and the Protector who has pledged to serve her, to Jill Santopolo at Philomel, by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency (World).


Cool Stuff:

Recently Mark McVeigh conducted 15-minute skype interviews with authors. Kelly Polark and Sharon Mayhew shared their experiences. It's sort of fun to hear what Mark had to say.

Chuck Sambuchino, blog author over at Guide to Literary Agents, has agreed to answer your questions about agents. He's being hosted at Lisa Amowitz's blog (who was a runner-up in the last Lucky Agent contest! Congrats, Lisa!), so head over there to leave your questions for him.

Also, he's hosting another Dear Lucky Agent contest on his blog. This time the genres include paranormal romance and urban fantasy. And hey! The agent judge? The fabulous Joanna Volpe.

I love getting the inside scoop anywhere I can. Author Kiersten White posted some cool stuff about her editor Erica Sussman at Harper Teen. There's info about trends, editing, what she wishes authors knew, and more. Check it out!


There seems to be a plethora of blog contests going on all the time. There's no way I could highlight every one of them here. But Weronika Janczuk has one going on right now that is priceless. She's a slush reader for a literary agent, so she knows her stuff. Check this post for full details. And follow her blog, because I bet she's going to have a few more tricks up her sleeve. Oh! And it ends in only a few hours, so enter quick!

Carolina Valdez Miller has put up some links to more cool contests. VR Barkowski has quite the list going on in her sidebar. I highly recommend skipping over there!

Book bloggers are also a great place to win free books and connect with the writing/reading community.

And well, I've got a giveaway for autographed books coming up (Monday) on my blog and Suzy's joining me this time around with an amazing prize package of her own. So come over to our blogs next week (or now) to join in the fun!

Have a fabulous weekend! Catcha on the flip side.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Inspiration for the In-Between Times

I love the Olympics. I spend half my time wiping tears from my eyes during the coverage. To watch people achieve greatness that pushes the limits of the human body's ability moves me. It evidently moves others too because there is a big jump in ice skating lesson enrollment after the Winter Games and gymnastics classes boom after the Summer Games.


Because seeing others achieve greatness inspires us.

As writers, we need to seek out sources of inspiration. I don't mean just for premises. I'm referring to the kind of things that motivate us to keep pushing and learning our craft. To inspire us to not give up. Something or someone to give us a shove when we stall out.

Who or what is that for you?

For me, I have my amazing blog author peeps here, on QT, who kick my backside when I need it. I also belong to several local writers' organizations that hold monthly meetings. Just hearing about others' successes and difficulties inspires me to keep plodding along.

Recently, I hosted a retreat at my river house for twenty writers in various stages of the business from multi-published to aspiring. We had brainstorming sessions and brought in a creativity coach. We all came away with renewed enthusiasm. It's contagious, I tell you.

Writing is a lonely business at times. I want solitude and quiet when I write, but I've learned that it's the in-between times that are critical to my productivity at the keyboard.

Don't do this alone. Find something or someone that inspires you to keep going. Join a writers' forum like the one on QueryTracker. Become a member of a local writers' group.

Find inspiration for the in-between times.

Wishing everyone a fantastic, inspired week.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Leap and the Net Will Appear

Leap and the net will appear. This Zen phrase has been cropping up in odd places in my life lately, most recently on a scrolling marquis at the dinosaur museum as I drove past. And it made me think. How can we as writers put this into practice?

The biggest hurdle. First, let's take a look at the biggest hurdle. I spoke with Bree Despain, author of The Dark Divine, at a local bookstore. We were discussing her journey to publication, and she made a comment that struck me: "The hardest part about getting published is finding an agent; once you achieve that, things get easier." Many of you who follow this blog are striving to find an agent, and I want you to realize that just by being here, by learning all you can about this industry, you are improving your chances of success. You are already on your way to surmounting the biggest hurdle.

The trait you need most. I've heard this time and time again from authors, agents, editors, etc. In order to succeed in this biz you need perseverance. To quote bestselling author Jodi Picoult, "Writing is grunt work - you need to have self-motivation, perseverance, and faith… talent is the smallest part of it." Perseverance is something we blogged about in 7 Characteristics You Need to Get Published. So if you run into a wall, don't give up - figure out how to climb over it.

Dare to Be Remarkable. If you don't believe in yourself, why should an agent or editor take a chance on you? The key is to go forth with confidence in all you do. How? Here's a good place to start: Commit one act of bravery per day. Comment on an agent's blog, join a discussion in a forum, make contact with an author you admire, query your dream agent. Before long, these daily acts of bravery will become second nature, and you'll discover that you have built the bridges that will lead to your success.

Go ahead - make the leap!

Suzette Saxton writes books for tots, teens, and in-betweens. She is represented by Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Literary.