QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, August 30, 2010

Learning From the Masters

Ever read a book by a favorite author and find yourself awestruck by the way she executed a particular turn of phrase, or a description, or a plot point?  Most of us have. And a lot of writers are immediately crushed, wondering how they could ever write half as well.

It's time to stop feeling crushed and start using those moments to hone your own skills.  Here's your step-by-step guide to doing just that.

1. Dog-Ear Your Books

Every time you read a line that brings you to a breathless halt, fold the page down (or up, if you're near the bottom of the page) to the line where the passage begins.  Dog-earring lets you fold and keep reading, and if you get into the habit of doing it, it won't break your reading stride at all.

(Note to people who are horrified by the suggestion that you should dog-ear your books: I suppose you could use post-it flags, but that takes more time and effort.)

2. Write It Out

You'll need a dedicated spiral-bound notebook, so if you don't have one, put it on your list!  After you finish the book, sit down and write out the passages that struck you into your spiral-bound notebook.  Leave your margins intact, and a couple of blank lines between each passage.  Be sure to put a note at the end indicating which book the passages came from in case you ever want to read it again.

3. Analyze This

Third, spend some time with each passage.  What makes it so amazing?  Strong verbs?  Unusual adjectives?  Alliteration? Short, choppy sentences? A unique metaphor?  Make notes, underline, whatever will help you break each sentence down into its components.  Your job is to deconstruct the passage, to understand how the parts were put together, to appreciate the nuances.

Do this with each and every passage you loved.  If you had a lot, this could take you quite a while.  Don't feel you have to do it all at once.  Work on a few passages and then set them aside.  Come back later.

4. Pattern Seeking

When you've finished all the passages for a book, go back over them, looking for patterns.  What is the writer doing over and over that's speaking to you so much?   How can you begin to consciously add those tricks to your repertoire?


One of my favorite writers is Dean Koontz.  When I collect pieces of his writing in the manner described above, I end up with passages like this:
In a green polyester suit...and a tie that might have been the national flag of a third-world country famous for nothing but a lack of design sense, he looked like Dr. Frankenstein's beast gussied up for an evening of barhopping in Transylvania.
[He] had the teeth of a god and a face so unfortunate that it argued convincingly against the existence of a benign deity.
So what's Koontz doing that's working for me?  Well, first of all he's focusing on details in his descriptions, details that bring the characters to life.  Even more than that, though, what stands out is his flamboyant, unexpected use of metaphor and hyperbole.

5. Try It Out

Once you've identified what's working for you, to play with the techniques in your own writing.  Make them your own.


The kind of hyperbole and humor Koontz is using above doesn't often work in my writing, but I have gotten pretty good at a) finding details to bring a scene to life and b) using metaphor and its close cousin simile.  Here's a sample I'm pleased with:
He swerved, and a traffic light flashed by on their right, larger than she’d have thought traffic lights would be. The wire that had once held it aloft eddied across the road in a black tangle. Green and red and gold chips were spattered across the asphalt like misplaced casino currency.
Your turn!  What do you love about you favorite authors' writing?  How can you make their techniques your own?

Carolyn Kaufman, PsyD writes fantasy, scifi, and nonfiction. She loves helping writers "get their psych right" in their stories, and her book on the same topic, THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment, and Human Behavior is now available for pre-order. Learn more about the book at the WGTP website or ask your own psychology and fiction question here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Controlling The Weather in Your Manuscript

Who says you can’t control the weather? You can in your manuscript, and what’s more, you can use it to enhance the mood, guide the plot, or boost the climax.

The weather plays a part in our daily lives: what we wear, how we plan events. The same can be said for your characters. They, too, can notice the temperature outside, what the sky looks like, how the air feels. Your characters’ observations ground them (and the reader!) in the setting, and add a layer of realism to your story.

The weather can also be symbolic of an underlying theme: Rain can symbolize sadness, despair, or new life; a blanket of snow may represent a feeling of stagnation, or hibernation; wind and storms often denote foreshadow a violent event; fog or mist are often the prelude to a revelation or another important event; moving clouds often represent change; thunder, the voice of God or gods, and so on.

For example, in “Dracula”, Bram Stoker chose London’s rainy, foggy climate to enhance his Gothic novel. Count Dracula can control the weather, creating mists to hide his presence. When he arrives in England, one of the worst storms ever recorded takes place, which, incidentally, he created for his grand entrance.

In “The Great Gatsby”, F. Scott Fitzgerald used the weather to chart his character’s moods—rain for tension, sun for laughter. Daisy ultimately has to choose between going away with Gatsby, or staying with Tom—on the hottest day of the year. The weather perfectly connects with the conflict.

On a more contemporary note, Stephenie Myer successfully created an eerie atmosphere when she chose Forks, Washington for the setting of “Twilight”. The rain (even of the freezing variety) is a backdrop in the story, providing a feeling of chilly foreboding. Bella moves from her comfort zone in sunny, hot Arizona to the constant cloud cover and rain of Forks, symbolizing her progression to a much more mysterious world.

In science fiction and fantasy, the sky is the limit when it comes to adding weather to your manuscript. When you are world building, the weather becomes a crucial element, and you are in control. Volcanoes, floods, earthquakes, wind, rainbows, and lightning are magically yours to command, and vividly express to your readers.

On a much grander scale, many writers use weather as an “event”. In “State of Fear”, Michael Critchton used global warming as the backdrop for the story, wherein the main villains are environmentalists. In Stephen King’s “Dolores Claiborne”, the tension of the story mounts as a total eclipse of the sun looms. Of course, this type of writing can be tricky; research is key.

Whatever the weather, don’t forget to add a splash of rain, a mysterious fog, or a perfect, sunny day. Used appropriately and imaginatively, weather will have a huge impact on your story.

How’s the weather in your manuscript?

Cynthia Watson is in the query process for her first novel, WIND, a Young Adult Paranormal Romance, while writing the second book in the saga, SAND.

Cynthia lives just north of Toronto, Canada, with her Cocker Spaniel, Symon, and five rescued cats.

Cynthia blogs at: http://cynthiawatson.blogspot.com/
Follow Cynthia on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CynWatson

Monday, August 23, 2010

Unleash Your Creative Genius!

Few realize the way dreams have shaped our world. I'm not talking about the aspirations of visionaries, but the literal dreams people have had while sleeping. If you are like most people, your dreams are forgotten within moments of waking. Here are some tricks to help you capture – and make the most of – your creative power.

Trick One - Stay in Bed

The average human spends one third of their life sleeping. Twenty percent of that time is spent dreaming. Dreams are a good source of new material for writers, but how can you capture them? The first step is to stay in the half-awake state for just a few moments longer. Keep your eyes closed. Think about your dream. Try to run through it from beginning to end; this will help you remember it later.

“I woke up from a very vivid dream,” says Stephenie Meyer on her website regarding the origination of her book, Twilight. “Though I had a million things to do, I stayed in bed thinking about the dream.” Later that day she penned it in its entirety. Readers will recognize it as the now-famous meadow scene.

Trick Two – Write It Down

Otto Loewi nearly failed to capture the dream that led to his earning the Nobel Prize. He dreamt of an experiment that would prove once and for all how nerve impulses were transmitted. He woke up long enough to scribble his idea on a scrap of paper, but the next morning couldn’t read his own handwriting. The day that followed was, he later said, the longest of his life because he could not remember his idea. When he dreamed of it the following night, he jumped from bed and went straight to the lab to conduct the experiment that made medical history.

Take a lesson from Loewi. Write legibly or use a computer to record the details of your dreams.

Trick Three - Look Deeper

Don’t be afraid to look for a deeper meaning in your dreams; the answer to a problem may be just under the surface. Albert Einstein dreamed he was sledding down a hill at night, faster and faster until the stars blurred as he reached the speed of light. This dream gave birth to his Theory of Relativity.

Trick Four – Expand and Expound

Robert Louis Stevenson gleaned many plots from dreams, most notably that of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. His wife related how, one night, Stevenson cried out so horror-stricken that she roused him. “Why did you wake me,” he protested, “I was dreaming a fine tale!” She described how the next morning he awoke exclaiming, “I have got my chilling shocker, I have got my chilling shocker!”

Stevenson discovered he could dream complete stories and go back into the same dream on succeeding nights. If you have a dream you want to expand upon, or a plot in which you have reached an impasse, think about it as you fall asleep. You may be surprised when you wake with more material or a solution!

Trick Five – Pick a character

Have you ever started out as one person in a dream then seamlessly become someone else? Some experts believe we play all the characters in our dreams. For writers, this means we can expand our repertoire endlessly. Pick a character (any character!) from your dream, and you should be able to understand their viewpoint and motivations.

This trick gives you as an author great versatility. That boogie-man that chased you in your dreams the other night? You already know how he thinks, and can nail his voice in your writing.

Trick Six – Invigorate and Inspire

You may be surprised to learn that Thomas Edison invented, among other things, the power nap. He renewed his creativity by curling up on his workbench to sleep for twenty minutes at a time, often gaining great flashes of insight on a particular problem that had been plaguing him. He trained himself to remain in that in-between sleep state for as long as possible.

Artist Salvador Dali took this technique one step further. He napped with a fork clenched in his fist, held out over a plate he’d set on the floor. As he began to doze, his grasp relaxed and the fork clattered onto the plate, waking him. He would immediately sketch the images he had seen in his dreams.

While you don’t need to go so far as finding a workbench or plate and fork, a short snooze will give you a burst of energy and some fresh inspiration to go along with it.

Why It Works

The dreaming mind is free of all the creativity blockers that are usually present in the conscious mind. While you sleep, the power of your creativity has free reign over your brain. Dreams take you to new and exciting worlds. Your writing will be more vivid; as far as your brain is concerned, you are writing about places you have been and events that have happened to you, albeit while dreaming.
Don’t be surprised if ideas come to you in their entirety. “…because I had dreamed it, I couldn’t believe I had written it,” said Paul McCartney of Yesterday after waking with the song in his head. “I thought, ‘I’ve never written anything like this before.’ I had the tune, which was the most magic thing!”

Apply It!

Keep a dream journal and write your dreams down. If you don’t have time to log the whole dream, write down a few details. You may be surprised when you come back to your notes and discover that you can recall the dream in its entirety. Refer to your dream journal often, most especially when inspiration seems to run dry. It's possible to weave many dreams into a single story.

Now, close your eyes, dream big, and let the magic of your own creative power come to you!

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

Friday, August 20, 2010

Publishing Pulse 8-20-10

Around the Publishing Blogosphere:

Agent Rachelle Gardner offers info on the legendary Revision Letter.

Jessica Faust at BookEnds discusses how great (or little) impression is generally made by blog comments.

Working on your query? Nathan Bransford and Writers Beware are dishing out advice on that popular topic.

Guest blogger Chris Abouzeid at Pimp my Novel discusses how to avoid disaster with your WIP.

Publishing News:

Durham University will be offering a course on Harry Potter.

Searching for just the right word? Well, there's a few new ones to consider in the latest Oxford Dictionary.

It's never too late for a book deal. Betty White now has one of the two-book variety. ;)

Contests and Opportunities:

Agent Janet Reid is running a fun little contest on her blog. But hurry... deadline is tonight!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Perks of Being Unpublished

Today's guest blogger, Lisa Aldin, reminds us why the grass is pretty green on this side of the fence, too!

Aw, to be published. It's the dream. To be able to hold your book bound and pretty in your hands. To flip through the pages, overwhelmed with new book smell. To run your fingers along your words. To know strangers might be doing this same thing at this very moment, breathing in your characters, your story, feeling inspired. Changed.

Aw, to be published. To see your book along the shelves. Or in the e-book store.

But it ain't easy.

And for those of us on the other side of the agented/book deal/published fence, still digging our way to success, breaking every fingernail in the process, let's stay positive, shall we?

The grass in Agented/Published Land is greener. Sure. We can see that. Why else would we want over there? But we've got things over here that they don't got. A keg, for one. Just kidding...actually, we have kegs full of melted CHOCOLATE.

Check it out:

1) No Deadlines. No one's waiting for me to finish this manuscript. Okay, I should probably finish it. But life gets in the way. And I can let it without a panic attack. I can keep LIVIN. L-I-V-I-N. My financial situation will not in any way suffer because of my procrastination. I like to think of this as a GOOD thing.

2) Legal Issues. I want to use some Beatles lyrics in my story. I don't care if I'm allowed to. Maybe I would care if I had an agent. Or I had a book deal. But now? Nope. Don't care. It's going in there. And from these lyrics could sprout a new storyline. Or character. Or something magical. A Yellow Submarine, perhaps. I do what I want, screw copyright issues.

3) No Pressure. I don't have to worry about sucking too badly. I don't have to worry about letting my agent down and getting dropped. Because I don't have one yet! Suckage away! For now. But then edits come...

4) No Bad Reviews. Ugh. Not to say all authors get these, but I imagine someone, somewhere, whether it be a reader posting a review on Amazon, might hate your story. Sad to think about, I know. But it happens to the best of 'em. But not my problem! Because only a handful of people will even read it right now!

5) Freedom. This sort of goes with No Pressure. But basically I could have my main character streaking throughout the whole novel with few worries. In fact...*edits manuscript quickly.*

6) Brand-Free. One minute, I want to write YA paranormal. The next, YA contemporary. No, a thriller. Wait...something literary. Maybe some women's fiction? A graphic novel? I'm not branded yet. I can jump around all I want. I can still DECIDE WHO I WANT TO BE AS A WRITER. Exploration! Yes! No marketing marks on me, my friend. The sky is the limit.

7) What-the-Heck Moments. Eh. What the heck. Add in that pink unicorn. See #8.

8) For My Eyes Only. No one's asking to see this. Expectations are pretty low for the slush pile.

9) Catch and Release. Seen this movie? One of the very cute characters is a photographer. He said he loved taking pictures...until he started getting paid for it. Now I have no idea if this is true or not, but I see his point. We are writers because we write. No because we get paid for it. Alright, so it would be awesome to get paid for it...But writing without any sort of agent or deal is still FUN and HONEST and TRUE. And things can only get better.

Have any to add? Please do! And I'm sure agented/book deal/published authors are just grinning. Because they've got that green, green grass.

But we've got the chocolate keg! Party on!

Lisa Alden's current project is a YA Paranormal project called The Moon Dog Inn.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Going Mobile

We've been getting a lot of requests from users who want to access QT from their smart phones. But QT just wasn't designed with phones in mind. The files are large and take too long to download, and the layout does not accommodate the smaller screens of a phone.

But enough people asked that I figured it was time to do something about it. So, a new version of QT, designed specifically for smart phones, is now available. It can't do everything the main site does, but close.

If you are familiar with the main site, then using the mobile version should be straightforward and easy. The interface may be different, but the concept is the same.

Here are some of the things you can do with QT Mobile:
  • Search for agents and publishers.
  • Manage your query lists.
  • Read profiles, including statistics and comments.
  • Submit comments.
  • Update the status of your queries.
  • Manage projects and folders.
Now you can research agents while you're stuck in traffic, or waiting for a bus. Got a few minutes while you're waiting for you son's soccer practice to end? Go through the comments posted on some of your agents of interest.

To see some sample screens from QT Mobile, please go to querytracker.net/whats_new.php#100813

To access QT Mobile, point your mobile browser to m.QueryTracker.net

QT Mobile is available to premium members only. If you are not a premium member, but would like to test your mobile device with QT Mobile, point your mobile browser to m.QueryTracker.net/preview.php. Here you can see how your particular device formats QT Mobile.

And one last thing. The site could not be tested with all the different phones on the market -- there's just too many of them. If it doesn't seem to work properly with your phone, please let us know.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Publishing Pulse 8/13/10

The New QueryTracker Newsletter

QT started a new monthly email newsletter and the first issue came out August 1st. The newsletter contains agent information, articles of interest to authors seeking representation, and highlights ways to use QT in your agent search. If you haven't subscribed already, it's free at http://QueryTracker.net/index.php.

Recent QueryTracker Success Stories

Congratulations to our members who signed with agents this week. All the QT success stories can be checked out here.

New Agents Added to the QueryTracker Database

Several new agents and publishers have been added to or updated on 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

WriteOnCon, an online conference for kidlit authors, wrapped up this week. Amazing information can be found in the live chat archives on the WriteOnCon website. You'll find discussions with agents and authors on everything from craft to how to handle a book signing.

Literary agent Nathan Bransford had a great article on writing maladies. My favorite is the "Old Spice Guy Effect (excessive rug pulling)".

I enjoyed Eric's brief, to-the-point post on dialogue tags over at Pimp My Novel.

Jessica Faust at BookEnds Literary addressed Individualizing the Query.

And just for grins, check out SlushPile Hell.

Wishing everyone a fabulous weekend.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Guest Blogger Jim Warner on Editing

I am delighted to feature Jim Warner as our guest blogger this morning. Jim's article caught my eye because I just turned in my third round of revisions to my publisher on Monday. Each revision round represented multiple edits. I'm rare, I'm told, because I love the revision process. I tease my agent because she actually told my editor I "live" to revise. Um, not exactly true, but I will certainly attest to the validity of Jim's article. ~Mary

Why I Call Writing Editing (And You Should Too)

by Jim Warner

I’m going to shatter some illusions today.

Writing shouldn’t be called writing. It should be called editing.

Why? And more importantly, why should you care?

Because editing and revision are important, and you must do it well. If you think you’re only writing, and what you do after that is merely cleaning up the rough spots and fixing the little mistakes that creep into an initial draft, you’re missing something vitally important.

Here’s how to tell if you’re doing it wrong. Writing rarely feels like work. But something else does, if you’re doing it right. You know that feels like a chore?


I’ve looked all over for a magic bullet, a way to cut down on revision, editing and proofreading. A way to make this awful process shorter, to get back to the fun stuff, like researching and writing. I hate editing. Lots of writers do. Do it anyway.

I’ve been told Rachel Caine can write a book in two weeks. My source likely heard something out of context, but I could (if I worked really hard and didn’t have any distractions) knock out a first draft that fast. I’m no Rachel Caine, but you probably aren’t either. For me, pre-writing can take anywhere from one to three months. It takes me about a month to hammer out a first draft. But I’m not done there. I still have to edit those words, and this takes time. I plan on at least two months, maybe ten weeks. I spend more time editing than I do on any other process.

I have to revise, and I have to revise a lot. This involves a lot more than looking for typos, misspelled words, and grammar mistakes. I tighten up a sentence here, I unscrew an adverb there, I add detail or take some away. Sometimes I cut things. I’ve been known to dispose of entire scenes, even though I use outlines. I’ve also added them. Both made the manuscript better. It’s all part of the editing and revision process.

The ugly truth is, no matter what technique I’ve used, what gimmick I’m applying, whatever system I’m trying, it takes me ten to twelve drafts to make a novel presentable.

You’ll want to speed through the editing. Resist this. It’s best to work only an hour at a time, maybe two at a stretch. Take long breaks between sessions. Do you think that’s too little editing over too much time? I’ve cheated and my beta readers noticed. That novel took more time than if I had done it right the first time. So develop some patience. Two months is not very long to revise a novel.

The reward for all this self-inflicted torture is the tenth draft. When I get to that tenth draft, I’ve caught almost all of the typos. I’m changing words or making the dialogue work better. I long ago caught all the major errors. By the time I get to the tenth draft, I’m polishing, making my prose more saleable. Sometimes I need to do an extra pass or two. It depends on the state of the manuscript. If I’m playing with words and toying with sentences that are already working, then it’s probably okay to stop. If I’m still finding grammar errors or too many commas, I sigh and start another run the next day. Early, so I’m fresh.

I’ve seen websites out there telling you that you can make do with a single pass. Don’t believe them. If you disagree with me, start saving your drafts as separate documents. Make five passes. (You don’t even have to go backwards, although everyone should try that once. You’ll be amazed at what you find.) Read draft five and then go back and take a look at draft one.

If you’re the editor you should be, you’ll see an enormous difference. The first draft will be awful, embarrassing, and nowhere near as good as you thought it was. You wouldn’t dream of sending that piece of garbage anywhere. But the fifth draft, now that baby just might have possibilities.

In about five more runs.

After a few months, you’ll stop thinking of what you do as writing, and rename it editing. It’s more than a word, it’s a state of mind. Don’t give in to the urge to cut corners. There is no easy path. Unlike the Force, you can’t turn to the Dark Side to find a quicker, easier solution.

If you’re skeptical, try this on for size. I’ve never received a rejection telling me my writing needs work. I don’t get letters that tell me to polish, rewrite, and resubmit. What I get are “enthusiasm” letters. They didn’t like the book enough to represent it. They had trouble with the premise, or they didn’t like the style. It wasn’t right for them. But they never have trouble with the prose. I’ve even received compliments from agents for my writing. And that’s what we are all about, isn’t it? That’s what we’re trying to sell. Good writing.

Ironically, it’s really just good editing.

* * *

Jim Warner turned to writing fiction after he discovered that there were no jobs available for an intergalactic spice smuggler. He's sold everything from liquor to luggage, worked in academic and public libraries, and has composed over a hundred pieces of music. In college, he majored in American history and anthropology. He has completed six novels, including four urban fantasies, a horror piece set in Dark Age Paris, and a science fiction/mystery thriller.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Copyrights (and wrongs)

So, like many writers, I have a sort of soundtrack for each novel as I work on it... music that gets me in the right mindset or relates somehow to the action of the scenes I'm writing. A song, after all, is just another way to tell a story, and so it is no surprise that many writers find themselves moved by lyrics. And what moves you, moves your characters, yes?

Well, however moved you may be by those lyrics, you should make every effort to keep them OUT of your novel.

What you may not realize is that, just as you hope your novel will be, the lyrics are copyrighted. And if you want to include lyrics to which you do not personally own the rights, a publisher would have to get permission from the copyright holder, which is an added hurdle and potential expense.

Titles, however, be they song titles or book titles, are not copyrighted. Which, incidentally, means there is nothing legally stopping you from querying "Gone with the Wind" or "Romeo and Juliet" (but plenty of logistical reasons, natch. And not exactly the way you want to get an agent or editor's attention).

Another copyright wrong involves fictional characters that you yourself did not create. In other words, however fascinating your novel about the adventures of little Albus Severus Potter or how compelling the high jinx that ensue when the Marvel heroes meet the crew of the Enterprise, it's not publishable, because you don't have the rights to those characters.

In a related wrong, you'll probably also want to avoid fictional stories where main characters are real people. Meaning, that novel where Princess Diana travels back in time and causes her own deadly crash will need to stay trunked. ;)

What other copyright traps can you guys come up with?

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.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Publishing Pulse: 8/6/2010

New Agents on QT!

  • Weronika Janczuk of the D4EO Literary Agency is looking for all kinds of fiction and nonfiction.  Be sure to check out her profile and click the genre tab to find out more.
  • Saritza Hernandez of the L. Perkins Agency appears to be focused on e-publishing of romance and erotica
  • Louise Fury of the L. Perkins Agency is looking for MG, YA, romance, and memoir
  • Foladé Bell of the Serendipity Literary Agency is looking for Commercial Fiction, Gay and Lesbian, Historical Fiction, Horror, Literary Fiction, Multicultural, Mystery, Religious/Inspirational, Thrillers/Suspense, Women's Fiction, and Young Adult
  • Jason Pinter of Waxman Literary Agency is looking for Commercial Fiction, Fantasy, Humor/Satire, Literary, MG, YA, Mystery, and Thrillers/Suspense

Cool Stuff From Around the Interwebs

Do you use StumbleUpon?  It's this cool plugin that let's you "stumble" onto supercool sites around the web tailored to your interests.  Feel free to take a look at my StumbleUpon favorites. My stumbles are mostly writing, website coding, and art.  Here are a few of my top writing ones:
 And a couple just-for-fun stumbles:

The Bookshelf Muse has two (1, 2) posts stuffed with Brain Candy for Writers -- odd tidbits and lists of information that will intrigue the writer in you!  Find things like an ISBN lookup, a glossary of space weather terms, info on life in Ancient Egypt, and an encyclopedia of the Renaissance

While you're there, be sure to check out the Emotion Thesaurus (down the right-hand side of the blog...you may need to scroll down a bit to see it).  Each emotional state listed is jam-packed with bulleted behaviors so you can show rather than tell.

Love that one?  Try out the Setting Description Thesaurus; Color, Textures, and Shapes Thesaurus; and the Symbolism Thesaurus (be still my beating heart!) while you're at it!  Again, scroll down and you'll see the thesauri on the right-hand side.

Over on There Are No Rules, Jane Friedman explains Anthologize, a brand spankin' new free, open source tool that will help you make your WordPress blog or website into a book.

And on the Guide to Literary Agents, writer and MD Lisa Rankin describes how social media has poised her upcoming book to become a success.

Keep cool and have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Making A Plan

So it’s summer. I’ve been staying up late and sleeping in the next day. I have hours and hours of free-time, and I’m finding that I don’t use it as judiciously as I should. So I’ve made a plan for my writing. I encourage you to do the same.

1. As part of your plan, include a schedule. I’m a very scheduled person, so this works well for me. I also put my kids in several activities so they’d have something to do and stop whining at me. So as I sat down to write out my plan, I looked over my schedule. My mornings are taken up by two things: sleep and taxiing the kids to various activities.

No sweat.

I looked at my afternoons. The kids usually rest (ha ha ha ha!) or play at a friend’s house or watch a movie. Okay. This is my time. I scheduled my afternoon’s to write. Not surf the Internet.


Then I usually shower after that. I like to let all the words I’ve just penned ruminate in the hot water. Then I fix dinner, watch TV with the fam (or other family things) and by 9 PM I’m back at the computer.

2. As part of your plan, set a goal. If it’s to write a certain number of words each day, great. If that freaks you out (or causes severe depression if you don’t make it), set a timer and write for those 30 minutes or whatever.

The point of the goal is to keep yourself on track. I mean, with twitter and facebook and blogs and texting and this forum and that one and and and, it’s very easy to waste your writing time.

3. Decide what to write before you sit down. Many of us have multiple ideas/projects. Pick one. Work on that one. It’s easier to see yourself getting something done if you’re consistently working on one manuscript at a time.

Write your other ideas down, but don’t let the shininess of them steal the brilliance from your WiP.

If you find yourself floundering, hopefully making a plan will get you back on track. Do you have a plan? What is it? How do you fit writing into your regular life?? I’m going to d-i-e when school starts again.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Guest Post-Cynthia Watson: Premature Querying

Our guest post today is by aspiring author, Cynthia Watson:

Premature Querying (Rapid Submission), or, It’s Not Me, It’s You

A lot of us unagented, unpublished writers have probably been there at one time or another.

You’ve just created the MS of your dreams; exciting, funny, sensitive, fantastical, cerebral, beautiful, sexy. You’re walking on air; you want to shout it from the proverbial mountain tops; share your feelings of euphoria, and amazing good fortune with the agenting world. One word of advice: DON’T. Although you’re sure this is THE ONE, please heed my advice, and remember your judgement is clouded; it’s usually high on expectations, and low on reality. You are not seeing your MS clearly. This is commonly called the Honeymoon Phase.

Regrettably, the Honeymoon Phase is often accompanied by the embarrassing but little spoken of malady many writers suffer from: Premature Querying, sometimes referred to as Rapid Submission, or RS. Some factors that commonly contribute to RS are unrealistic expectations, inexperience, excitement and ego; not to mention high levels of caffeine, or nicotine. One of the downsides of RS is psychological. It can decrease self-confidence, increase frustration, and cause many a writer to prematurely break up with their MS. And, of course, RS will force many a literary agent to head for hills, shouting, “It’s not me, it’s you.”

To gain control of your relationship with your MS, and avoid the unpleasant, and humiliating side effects of RS, slow down, and wait for the next stage in your relationship with your MS: The Reality Phase. This is the most important phase and one where the real work begins, with eyes wide open. You need to develop a MS that has lasting qualities: perfect grammar, structure, pace, voice, vivid imagery, realistic dialogue, conflict, resolution; in other words, polish. This phase takes great care, patience, and TLT (time, love and tenderness, in the words of Michael Bolton).

Once you have gained control, and developed a rock-solid relationship with your MS, you can avoid Premature Querying, penetrate the querying process with confidence and satisfaction, move on to the Commitment Phase, and maybe even live happily ever after.

* * *

Cynthia Watson is in the query process for her first novel, WIND, a Young Adult Paranormal Romance, while writing the second book in the saga, SAND.

Cynthia lives just north of Toronto, Canada, with her Cocker Spaniel, Symon, and five rescued cats. More about Cynthia can be found on her website and her blog.

Thanks to Cynthia for sharing her wisdom with us today.