QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, November 29, 2010

’Tis The Season To Query?

Now that it’s almost December, most querying writers have one thing on their mind: is this a good time of the year to query, or should I wait till the New Year?

The answer depends on the agent. Some agents go on a query holiday at this time of the year, which can begin sometime in November and end in January. The best thing to do is check their websites, blogs, and Twitter. If you register for the QT agent update, this info will be sent to your inbox (Thanks, Patrick!).

If there’s no indication that the agent is closed to queries during the holidays, you can certainly send yours in, but read Nathan Bransford’s advice first. Or you can listen to author Elana Johnson and wait for the New Year, and spend December making sure your query and manuscript are in the best possible shape.

And if you need another reason to wait, I’ve got the best one yet. A friend of mine received a rejection last year. On Boxing Day. Kind of a downer after a wonderful Christmas day. Oh, and don’t send any queries on January 1st at 12:01 am, especially if you’ve been partying. I’m just saying, you know.

Stina Lindenblatt writes contemporary and romantic suspense for young adults. In her spare time (LOL), she’s a photographer and blogging addict, and can be found hanging out on her blog, Seeing Creative.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Question of Betas

While I have several friends and colleagues who are willing to serve as "beta readers" for me, I feel that nobody who knows you can ever be truly honest.  And I'm culpable in this -- when I read for friends (I'm a 28-year journalist, so I'm asked to do this a lot), I can't really be fully open/honest/ forthright at times because I don't want to hurt my friend or colleague.
I think you finally need to hire a professional editor for unbiased input and reaction. But does this make sense?

This is really a tough question, which is probably why a good beta reader is worth their weight in gold.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately as I've been doing a lot of beta reading and critiquing. Here are some of the things I've learned.

Not every beta reader is right for every story.

That's right. Not every beta reader should read every story. I am finally learning that it's all right to say no. And I'm not talking about when the request is made, but after, when I've had a chance to look the story over. Some stories are just never going to appeal to me. Same with the characters. But how to tell when this might be the case? 
    • When I find myself dreading opening up the document
    • When I can't find a single honest, positive thing to say about the story
    • If it turns out that I'm really not the target audience
      • I do this, because I may inadvertently give out bad advice without realizing it--especially if I'm not familiar with the tropes in the genre.
    • When the story is not at the level the writer thinks it's at.
      • Let me explain this one further. Everyone is going and learning at different rates on the writing spectrum. And what we may think is great when we're at level, say, three, we'd be able to spot the weaknesses on and fix them if we were at level five. So if the writer is at a level three, and the beta reader is at level five, there can be some dissonance there. When this happens, and I know the crit is going to be extensive and probably hard to take (because, let's face it, criticism hurts even if it's only meant to help us), I always email the person I'm beta reading and send the first 20-50 pages or so and ask for permission to continue the crit. I do this, because while crits can sting, I never want one of mine to crush. And I let the writer know that.

Not every writer is ready for a beta reader.

    • As I said earlier, crits often sting when we first get them, whether they're from trusted betas, helpful strangers, agents, or editors. Not everyone is at the point in their writing journey where they're quite ready for that. I remember the first real crit I ever got. It nearly crushed me, even though I'd thought I was ready for it. I set it aside for a day or two and was able to come back and realize that the critter was being a lot more objective about my story than I was, and luckily I let my emotions cool before I did anything drastic. Like reject the crit or give up writing. But I have seen both happen to different people, and I think it was just a matter of rotten timing.
      • And qualifying this--I think it's important that writers are completely honest with themselves before they seek someone to crit their work. We all want praise, I think. It feels good to hear what we did right. That we have amazing characters and an incredible story. But if that's all we're ready for, I think we need to let the critter know. If we're at the point where we want a mix of criticism and praise or an all out blood fest, we need to let the critter know. I think the key here is honest communication--first with ourselves, and then with those with whom we are entrusting our stories.

Not ever writer is ready to be a beta reader.

    • I think there's a huge learning curve that happens, depending on a lot of personal factors. That said, for this point, I think it's important that those who are beta reading are honest with their motivations for critting for others. I think the best beta readers are those that are critting with an eye out to help make the story they're reading as strong as they possibly can. To align with the writer themselves and work together to make the story sing--not to turn the story into what they envision the story should be.

On Impartiality

So my thoughts on hiring a professional editor that would be completely impartial? To be honest, no one is going to be completely unbiased, because we all have certain things we like better than others, certain weaknesses that bother us more than others. So is hiring an editor a good idea? I think it depends on your goals. If you're looking to self-publish, I would definitely say yes. But otherwise, I'm not so sure.

I think it's important for writers to learn the skills they need to polish their own work, and to learn how to listen to their gut when it comes to deciding what works best for their stories. Editors are expensive (and rightfully so, I think), and I believe that a lot of the benefits from hiring an editor could be found for free by discovering some very good beta readers. Free, except for the time you must invest in returning the favor.

So what makes a good beta reader?

  • Someone who will be honest with you. I believe there's honesty, and then there's honesty. In detailing what we think are weaknesses, I think it's important for critters to be honest, but kind. This doesn't mean sugar coating things. It just means stating your opinion and focusing on the writing rather than on the writer. It means not making sweeping statements that include the words: always, never, etc.
  • Someone who wants you to succeed. My best beta readers are those that I can turn to not only for support for the story, but support for when I'm feeling down. They remind me why I'm doing what I'm doing. They're a shoulder when I need one most.
  • Someone who complements your weaknesses with strengths. We're all in different stages in our writing journey, and at different stages within each part that encompasses writing. So while I might be a 10 at description, I might also be a 5 at characterization, an 8 at world building, and a 4 at grammar. So I'd be on the look out for someone who is a ten at characterization and grammar, and maybe I could help them with description and world building. Because a great crit partnership is one where both parties are benefitting from the relationship.

Where to find good beta readers?

I've found mine in a number of places:
  • fellow bloggers
  • forums (QT has parts of a forum dedicated to critting pages and queries)
  • friends
  • online crit groups
  • Facebook
  • any place where other writers hang out
I hope this helps!

Danyelle collects dragons, talking frogs, and fairy godmothers in her spare time. She is currently getting ready to query SLIPPERS OF PEARL, a YA fantasy. She also enjoys making new friends, and can be found at http://myth-takes.blogspot.com.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Agents Requesting Material: The Happy Dilemma

Again we have some questions from the QueryTracker Festival Of Questions.

Do you include a synopsis in the body of the email when sending out a partial?
When sending a partial, it's always best to follow the agent's instructions if any are given. If not, then arrange the following in one document:

  • First page: your original query letter so the agent can remember why she loved your work enough to request pages.
  • Second page: begin your partial material.
  • After the partial material: your synopsis.
  • In the body of the email itself, I would include only thanks for this opportunity and a mention that you have sent everything as requested.

Next question:

I got a partial request from an agent back in June, and the email said to wait 12 weeks for her response. It's been 16 weeks and the agent hasn't replied to any of my emails. Should I just keep waiting for a response? Or would it be okay in this instance to call the agent?
You're not alone, if that makes you feel any better. Same question, different asker:
I am not sure what to do when I query an agent and they make a request and then I don't hear back. Is it okay to call if they don't respond to an email?
I ran into this a couple of times, and it's a head-scratcher. I would say no, don't call.

Here's where having a QT membership helps. A lot. First, you can look at the agent's stats to see her average response time for requested material. If she says twelve weeks but her QT stats show an average of 26 weeks, you know to keep waiting.

Secondly, if you have the premium membership, you can narrow down the agent's response time from the time you submitted. It may be that her average response time is twelve weeks, but her recent responses have taken five months.

One agent who requested my material said she responded in three months, but when I checked her stats, over time her average response time had climbed to 282 days! I could also see that for the past month she'd responded to no submissions at all. With that data, I knew not to nudge her. In another I could see from the QT stats that an agent had requested eight manuscripts in a week, then none for the next two months, and responded to none of those eight for a month beyond that. Again, I didn't bother nudging.

If it appears you should have received a response, assume a technology fail. Send a status query to the agent from a different email address, just in case her reply went into your spam folder (You are checking that periodically, right?)

Please note: we are talking about requested material, not queries. Don't send a status update for a query. If you think you should have received a response, just resend the query.

Once a submission went overdue (to me, that's the stated time plus 25%, although not before 12 weeks under any circumstances) I would nudge at one-month intervals.

A phone call demands an immediate response from the agent (Yes, no, or "I don't remember your project.") The highest likelihood is that the agent won't remember your query and has sent requested material to the back burner due to being overwhelmed by already-signed clients. You don't want to be the equivalent of a telemarketer who asks for money for the Ruthenian Policemen's Fund For Starving Chipmunks while someone is making dinner and wrangling three children. You might well get an answer by pushing, but it won't be the one you want.

Because you won't have stopped querying while waiting for this one agent's response (right? RIGHT?) your efforts are best focused on finding other agents to request your material, thus distributing your hopes more widely. And, of course, working on an unrelated novel. If you do get an offer, you can nudge with the subject line "Offer of Representation: {title of work}" and that will be your final nudge forever.

Best of luck!

Jane Lebak is the author of The Guardian (Thomas Nelson, 1994), Seven Archangels: Annihilation (Double-Edged Publishing, 2008) and The Boys Upstairs (this December from MuseItUp). At Seven Angels, Four Kids, One Family, she blogs about what happens when a distracted daydreamer and a gamer geek attempt to raise four children. She is represented by Roseanne Wells of the Marianne Strong Literary Agency.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Publishing Pulse: 11/19/2010

Possibly prompted by the recent Open Mic Monday, I've seen some comments recently asking about whether we could post on particular topics.  By all means, if you have a suggestion, send us a (polite) email!  I (Carolyn) seem to be the one collecting topics--and you can find my email over there in the right-hand column.

Around the Internet

Over on Novel Journey, Athol Dickson talks about the perils of writing about faith (which for her meant Christianity) in a genuine way.

Are you a procrastinator?  Pimp My Novel offers some tips to help you push through it!

Adventures in Children's Publishing gives you practical steps to write through the kind of doubt that produces writer's block, page dread, and procrastination.

Ever wonder what freelance business writers make?  Quips and Tips shares some rates for those of you who have considered doing a little freelance business writing of 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, November 17, 2010

The Wicked Truths of Edgy Young Adult Novels

The Query Tracker Blog team recently opened the floor to questions pertaining to writing and the publishing industry. Since I’m a huge fan of edgy YA, I naturally jumped at the chance to answer those ones. (Okay, I screamed, “Mine, mine, mine,” at the computer, but what the hey!)

1. I have written a YA novel that doesn't stop at a kiss. I have noticed all the young adult novels people keep telling me to check out don't seem to go as far as mine. So my question is: do you know of a YA published novel that take the characters further than just a kiss and actually write about it?

My bookshelf’s exploding with YA novels that fit what you’re looking for. The question you have to decide is how far you want to take things. If you’re writing younger YA (readers 12-15 years), the kissing tends be tamer. French kissing falls into this category (just don’t get too graphic with it). In older YA (readers 14 years and older), anything can happen, within reason. Remember, you’re not writing erotica, and each imprint has different guidelines as to what’s allowed. You might write the scene one way, and your editor may ask you to change it to fit the guidelines.

If sex happens in the book, make sure it’s organic to the story. Don’t write it because you’re hoping it’ll skyrocket your novel onto the bestselling list. In the examples listed below, the protagonists had their reasons for taking the relationship further than a kiss. For some it was the right thing to do; for others it was a mistake. The great thing about YA is that we can show both sides. The first kiss isn’t always perfect, neither is the first sexual experience. When I was a teen, I devoured historical romances. Talk about setting me up for unrealistic expectations.

Here’re some suggested books to study so you can see the different ways authors deal with kissing and sex.

Forever by Judy Blume

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

The Duff by Kody Keplinger

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Swoon by Nina Malkin

Handcuffs by Bethany Griffin

Forget You by Jennifer Echols

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

Fade by Lisa McMann (sequel to Wake)

Shadow Kiss and Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead (these are books three and six of the Vampire Academy series)

Also, check out author Suzanne Young’s WriteOnCon Vlog: Sex in YA—the ABC’s of Hooking up,and agent Mary Kole’s post, Sex in YA.

2. My question is: is there a viable market for edgy YA fiction, and if so, why does it seem that most agents won't touch it?

First, what is edgy YA? It isn’t as easy to define like a romance or thriller. Nor is it considered a genre. Your novel might be YA paranormal, but it could have edgy elements to it (like sex, drugs, and swearing). These books deal with issues most relevant to teens, and are done with brutal honesty, which is why teens appreciate them. Wise editors know this. And like everything else in publishing, the term is highly subjective. What one person might consider edgy, another doesn’t.

Elements that might make a story edgy include drugs, abuse, sex, cutting, rape, bullying, etc. But remember, it’s not necessarily the issue that makes the book edgy, but the way it’s written. Ellen Hopkins, Jay Asher, Laurie Halse Anderson, Elizabeth Scott (Living Dead Girl), Courtney Summers (and some of the above authors) are just a few individuals who write edgy YA. Read their books. It’s the best way to understand the concept. And don’t worry. It’s still very much in demand.

Every agent has a preference as to what they want to represent. The trick is figuring out which ones are dying to receive your query. Check out the acknowledgment page of the edgy YA novels you enjoyed, read agent blogs and agency websites, stalk follow agents on Twitter to find out what YA books they’re gushing about. And if this still doesn’t give you the answers you’re looking for, then query them anyway. What’s the worst they can say? No? Seriously, no one has ever died from receiving a rejection.

3. I have substituted euphemisms for four letter words in dialogue, when the four letter word would have been more accurate. I just don't know what is acceptable in YA.

Mary Kole has also blogged about this topic here and here. Basically, swearing is allowed in YA, especially since it adds to characterization. But make sure it’s organic to the character. In The Naughty List and So Many Boys, Suzanne Young’s protagonist doesn’t swear. She uses phrases like strawberry smoothie instead. A complete contrast to Break by Hannah Moskowitz. Her main character uses the f-word, but it feels right coming from him.

If you are going to include swearing, a few carefully placed swear words will take you much further than dousing your manuscript with them. Use too many and your reader will stop noticing them, and you’ll lose the effect you were going for.

Please let me know if you have any more questions regarding YA novels. Otherwise, make sure you read some of the above books. Consider them your homework assignment if you’re planning to write this genre. Trust me. It’s the best homework, ever.

Stina Lindenblatt writes contemporary and romantic suspense for young adults. In her spare time (LOL), she’s a photographer and blogging addict, and can be found hanging out on her blog, Seeing Creative.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Plot Points and Vanishing Points

Courtesy of onefatman

In order to create a sense of distance in art, artists use something called the vanishing point. This is the point that everything else in the composition is anchored to.

If you look in this picture, all the horizontal lines are oriented to the small circular point just up and off to the side of the third trunk back. This is the vanishing point--where all the lines vanish into the distance.

But what does this have to do with writing, let alone your plot?

Most people pick up a book to get somewhere. And most stories are about that journey, whether the book is plot or character driven, something is happening. (I'm sticking with commercial and genre fiction as I'm not as familiar with literary fiction. Hands out the salt.)

Imagine the specific things that are happening in the story. These are the plot points. Plot points can be either external or internal to the character. Or even better--both. Those points would be the trees spaced out in the picture. These are the major events in the story. This is where the characters discover the body, where the character finds out he or she is the one who will save the world (or universe), where the characters stumble upon the Item of Extreme Importance, where they learn and grow and Things Happen. The vanishing point in literature is The End. And all points lead to it, eventually.

You see the fence post? This is where your parallel and/or subplots go. Do you see how the fence also reaches for the vanishing point? How it flows in tandem with the trees? The only thing that would make this reflect a little more accurately the picture of the story's structure in my head is if the fence intertwined and overlapped with the trees at certain points. Because somewhere, somehow, those points are going to come together, even if just for a brief moment to preserve the cohesive element that lets the reader know that yes, this is all one (or two or three) part(s) of a bigger whole.

Those shrubs down there next to the fence? Those are all the major transition points. Places where the plot ebbs and flows to create a smooth story line. Transition points, in my opinion, are incredibly important and often overlooked, at least overtly. The transition points help move the story along and keep it from going static, or just as bad, jerking hither and thither and giving the reader whiplash. The shrubs, down below the ground where the eye doesn't really see them, have hundreds and hundreds of tiny roots and tendrils curling out in the darkness. Those are the minor transition points. In the story, they fine tune the flow even further until the story glides into a smooth experience. These minor transition points are usually only a sentence or two long, but they can make all the difference in terms of how well a story flows.

The leaves on the ground are all the things happening to the characters--both internal and external--that keeps the story rolling. This is the place where things occur and characters make decisions that will lead them to the next tree over. These are the words that get us from point A to point B. The leaves still clinging to the branches of the trees (our plot points) are things/events/ideas/feelings that are ripening as the story goes along, but aren't quite ready to fall into concrete-absolute-this-just-happened yet. 

And the path is where the reader journeys as they read your story. The words that give the reader a sure footing in your world, let them sense and taste it. See it. Experience it. But without all the other parts--the trees, and shrubs, and fence, and leaves, the path would be a barren place left to moulder on the shelf or tucked back in your subconscious somewhere.

Because the story isn't a collection of words printed on a page. It's a living, breathing thing that burgeons into your reader's life and snatches them away. The words and the paper (or screen) are simply the vehicle to get them there.

And you are the artist.

Danyelle collects dragons, talking frogs, and fairy godmothers in her spare time. She is currently getting ready to query SLIPPERS OF PEARL, a YA fantasy. She also enjoys making new friends, and can be found at http://myth-takes.blogspot.com.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Publishing Pulse: 11/12/2010

Open Mic Monday Update

Thank you again to everyone who participated in our Open Mic Monday last week!  We have gathered all the questions (there were a lot of them, and they were all great!) and divvied them up, and Jane posted the first one (with answer!) on Wednesday. We had originally expected to answer them all over the next month or so, but we got more than we anticipated, so we'll be answering questions for the next couple of months at least.  Keep an eye out for your answer!

Around the Internet

Jane Friedman's Ultimate Blog Series on Novel Queries is great for people new to writing queries, as well as for people (like me) who just always struggle, no matter how many times they write queries.

Rachelle Gardner explains the sorts of things agents regularly negotiate in Publishing Contracts.

Adventures in Children's Publishing explains how to Deepen Your Novel with Imagery, Symbolism, and Figurative Language.

Over on Jungle Red Writers, Alicia Rasley guest-blogs on the Top Ten Plotting Problems.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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, November 10, 2010

Acquiring An Agent After Self-Publishing

from the QT Festival Of Questions

Question #1:

I'm a self-published author who has sold a few hundred copies, via family and friends but have failed to get an agent interested. Currently, the book is doing the rounds of the office where I work, and being passed back and forth in the staff room of the college, where my sister teaches. I haven't sought any praise, but the reaction has been truly fantastic, with comments almost in the realms of hyperbole. This being the case, can you tell me how I should go about getting an agent?

Absolutely! Write a second book.

That's not the answer you thought you were going to get, but it's the best way to attract an agent. You've shown some success on your own, but many agents are going to see the publishing pool for this novel as having been tainted by your self-publication.

Writing that moves people to tears and earns unasked-for praise will inevitably attract an agent's attention. If you've got that kind of talent, surely you have more than one book in you. You can then leverage your self-publishing success in order to show an agent that your work has wider appeal.

Therefore take a two-pronged approach: promote the heck out of your self-published work. Get it reviewed as widely as possible, and do whatever you can to connect with others who will love your book. Raise those sales number.

And at the same time, write a second novel unconnected to the first. Put the same effort in as you did for your first. Polish it, and then query agents with a fabulous query letter and an appealing hook. In your bio paragraph, you can note, "I am the self-published author of {Title Redacted} which has sold 5,000 copies."

Ah, but what you wanted was to get your current title in front of thousands of readers. A second book would help in that regard: those who read and love your second book will see mention of your first in your bio, on your website, and in your interviews promoting that book. Consider the second book to be free publicity for the first. You'll sell more copies. And if you sell enough copies of Book One, the publisher of your second book may decide it's worth publishing too.


Jane Lebak is the author of The Guardian (Thomas Nelson, 1994), Seven Archangels: Annihilation (Double-Edged Publishing, 2008) and The Boys Upstairs (this December from MuseItUp). At Seven Angels, Four Kids, One Family, she blogs about what happens when a distracted daydreamer and a gamer geek attempt to raise four children. She is represented by Roseanne Wells of the Marianne Strong Literary Agency.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Contest Winners!

Literary agent Joan Paquette judged our last QueryTracker Blog contest on October 27, 2010. We had over 600 entries ranging from picture books to young adult novels. We will contact the winners and provide them with the proper submission email address. Ms. Paquette's winners are as follows:

October Children's Lit Contest Winners

Wow! I was amazed and overwhelmed by the most impressive turnout for this contest, and I had a terrific time making my way through the many submissions. But… how do you go about narrowing down 600 entries to a handful of winners? Not easily, that’s for sure!

The process I followed was to first read through the pitches and mark the ones that stood out to me. Then I went back to the top and read the opening sentences, and again noted those that caught my eye. Then I went back and checked to see which of the two overlapped. After that it was just a matter of reading, re-reading, pondering, mulling, sorting and, in the end, going with my gut.—Which, after all, is a lot of what it really comes down to in this very subjective business.

The selections that follow are those that most captivated me—a combination of hook, voice, writing style, and my particular interests. So without further ado, here are the winners of this Query Tracker contest:

WINNERS: Please send a query and the first 50 pages (QT will provide you with the address).

These pitches left me utterly intrigued, and the opening lines pulled me right into the story. Terrific stuff!

FORGET ME, by Monica Goulet

Pitch: When someone gives up their seat on a city bus for 17-year-old Addy, she thinks nothing of it - until the bus crashes on the way home and the person left standing is the only fatality.

Opener: If I learned anything in the hours after the accident happened, it was that the only difference between a stranger and an acquaintance is an introduction. It made me think about the little boy who'd been sitting behind me on the bus, kicking my seat, when it happened. It made me think about the teenaged girl I didn't recognize who'd been sitting across from me, listening to music on her headphones way too loud. I could hear the beat, but not the words, and found myself tapping my foot, trying to guess what song was playing. I didn't ask if any of them died - not right away anyway.

THE ALYSCRAI, by Deren Hansen

Pitch: In an alternate 1898, sixteen-year-old Alysseren navigates a land infested with steam-powered war machines to stop a rebellion when she learns the tochtin, lemur-like familiars, are preparing to use their human hosts as weapons.

Opener: The thought of being so wicked had been thrilling, almost intoxicating.

The reality was uncomfortable and dull.

It had been easy enough for Alysseren to slip under the pews at the end of the common service. Sister Alice had gone to the vestry to prepare for the High Service and Reverend Dodgson was busy attending to the high priest who'd come to dedicate the new church, so no one noticed she was missing.

That was fifteen minutes ago—fifteen minutes of trying to stay perfectly still curled up on the hard wooden floor—and they still hadn't started the anthem yet.

RUNNERS UP: Please send a query and your first chapter (QT will provide you with the address).

There were so many great projects to choose from! How could I stop at just two winners? The pitches and opening lines for these projects tugged me in as well, and made me curious to read more.

DEAD AGAIN, by Paige Cuccaro


GHOST MACHINES: Specter Cell, by Graham Bradley

LOCK 19, by Sabrina Wolford

MY MOMMY'S A SPY, by Laura Aldir-Hernandez

PRINCESS SASSYLASS, by Nancy Kelly Allen


SNAKES IN PARADISE, by Elizabeth Penney

WORLD WAR ME, by Kevin M. McGreer

Lastly, I want to add that there were some other projects which caught my eye as well. I will be sending out individual emails to these other folks with an invitation to send along their query to me.

I really enjoyed judging this contest and reading all of your work, and I wish every one of you all the very best up ahead.—There’s some amazing talent in this pool and I look forward to seeing many of you in print!

Ammi-Joan Paquette

* * *

A huge QT thanks to Ms. Paquette and congratulations to all the winners.

More on Ms. Paquette can be found on the Erin Murphy Literary Agency Website

Friday, November 5, 2010

Publishing Pulse: 11/5/2010


With NaNo in full swing, some awesome tips from Nathan Bransford in his NaNoWriMo Boot Camp that are relevant to anyone starting a new story:

And in the spirit of NaNo, Rachelle Gardner has an excellent guest post (Erin MacPherson) up on her blog about writing under a supertight deadline. Along with some Twitter tips.

Other Advice From Around the Web

Jessica Faust over at BookEnds, LCC gives some excellent advice on querying agents at the same agency.

Agent Kathleen Ortiz is taking questions on what you would like to know about effective online marketing.

Trying to figure out what genre your WIP falls into? Agent Jennifer Laughran has an excellent post detailing genre.

And finally, an excellent post on why characters aren't real people.

Have a great weekend!

Danyelle collects dragons, talking frogs, and fairy godmothers in her spare time. She is currently getting ready to query SLIPPERS OF PEARL, a YA fantasy. She also enjoys making new friends, and can be found at http://myth-takes.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Plaid Windows

Image Courtesy of african_fi
What makes a story so compelling that prompts one to spend money on a book?

As a bibliophile, I can't imagine not buying books, but as a writer this is a question I often find myself wondering about. What makes great writing great? I'm not talking about what makes a book popular, but what makes a book well written. There are thousands of rules in writing, but rarely are they iron clad. I do think it's important to know what the rules are, so if they need to be broken, the writer is doing so with deliberation to achieve a certain effect.

For me, the beginning of the answer begins with defining what the writer's job is. Writers have the task of taking something intangible, a story that only they can see, and clothing it in words. But like any suit of apparel, one really shouldn't mix plaid with checkered prints, and I'm all for leaving the animal prints for the animals. The words that a writer chooses to dress their story up in will mean all the difference between whether or not anyone else will be able to see what they see. Because...

Writers make windows to other worlds--even if that other world is completely their own. How well words are used determines how clear and pristine the glass to the story window is. The story itself may be one of the greatest ever told, but if the window is covered with soot, dirt, and splotches of mud, the person trying trying to peer through will have a rather rough time of it. Revising, editing, and rewriting are the Windex for the story window. They help clean it up and make it presentable so the next person with their face pressed against the window pane can see a bit of the wonder that captivated the writer in the first place. The story window is a way of sharing that magic.

I have often found that letting the story sit for a few weeks allows me to see it with new eyes. I experience the wonder of the story all over again, and find those small errors that I missed in the previous round of revising. The ones that are now lit up in flashing neon lights. (An excellent article on revising can be found here.) Beta readers and crit partners are another indispensable tool in getting that window to shine. They point out the water spots, the smudges, and the soot frosting the panes.

Writing well is work. Hard work. But I think all that is balanced out by the wonder and the magic of being the first to peer through that particular story window long enough that it becomes etched in a memory that one day becomes a book.

Danyelle collects dragons, talking frogs, and fairy godmothers in her spare time. She is currently getting ready to query SLIPPERS OF PEARL, a YA fantasy. She also enjoys making new friends, and can be found at http://myth-takes.blogspot.com.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Open Mic Monday

We know you have questions about writing, editing, agents, and the journey to publication, so today the QueryTracker Blog Team is taking your questions!

Need some writing advice?  Dying to ask someone that question nobody seems to be able to answer?

If you have any question you want answered, even if it's something subjective that solicits an opinion, throw it at us. We'll research and compile our answers for posting later in the month.  (And if you have something urgent, let us know that in the Subject line -- we can triage if we need to!)

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