QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Literary Pause

I've become more instinctual about my writing, which sounds a bit odd because I don't write from an outline. From the time I was twelve, I plotted a novel in my head and made decisions based on what felt right for the characters. I'm talking more about trusting my instincts in terms of what I need as a writer, because I've found lately that what I need and what the story needs are often the same.

I'm working on a rough draft now, for example, but it's not behaving. Hmm.

(If you're not a writer and stumbled on this blog because of a bad Google search, you're going to wonder how a manuscript can not behave. You probably think a manuscript is a bunch of words on the page, and if it's not behaving, it's really the writer not behaving. And to you I say...hah. I wish.)

Every writer has his or her optimal daily output, and normally I clear 1200 words a day. I know this because graphing it keeps me writing every day in order to "feed the spreadsheet."

(It tapers off at the end there because I stopped drafting and started editing, and I realized it was pointless to keep tracking.  But you can see production is pretty consistent.)

So now when I suddenly produce any words at all, or only a couple of hundred a day, I know something is wrong. I have naturally fallen into what I call a "literary pause."

Ninety percent of writing takes place in your subconscious. Well, my subconscious; I can’t talk about those who devise a road map before they set down the first word. But a SOTP writer is whirling things in her brain as she’s writing, incorporating everything she sees into her story.

For example, while I was desperately trying to trap an injured stray cat in my yard, my protagonist was reverberating against my heart while I stood in the yard calling "Kitty-kitty!" and I realized something about my protagonist and something about my injured stray love. Abruptly it was obvious that my protagonist needed to be feeding a stray, what that action said about her, and how the feeding of a stray cat emblematized another relationship in the story.

Of course, you'll never read that in the text (well, you read it right here, but in the book) but the reader's unconscious picks up on the subtext behind the cat food stashed behind the garbage cans. Before the reader's unconscious can pick up on it, the writer's has to do the same, only in reverse.

So here I am today, literarily paused, and uncertain why because this novel has an outline and everything, but I honored my literary pause and did what the book required: I listened to myself stuck in neutral.

Did it come to me? Well, I'm blogging about it before millions, so yes. I'm at the cusp of Act II, where the MC has just committed to solving the story problem, and as Amy Deardon says in The Story Template, you can't slink into Act II. You have to explode into it. 

What had I planned? Kind of a slink. And the story "knew" this wasn't right, so guess what stalled out?

That's what I mean by trusting our instincts. Don't get me wrong: it's important to focus on the craft of writing so you have every technique you could possibly use right there in your tool box. But it's not just a matter of bringing to bear your sharply-honed skills. You first need to feel through what the story requires of you. It doesn't matter how well you accomplish something: if it's wrong for the story, it's wrong.

When you find yourself slowing down, ask yourself why. It may be, as I discovered, your plans don't match the story needs. It may be that you aren't ready yet to write whatever is coming up. It may be that part of the story question is involved with a question you're asking yourself, only you haven't yet figured out the answer. And in many cases, time is the only answer. Like a bottle of wine, let the manuscript breathe. Step back and see whether something grows that you weren't expecting.

So although you don't want to give up, and everyone says to write every day, I'm going to encourage you to follow your inclinations when a manuscript needs time off. A day, maybe two. But just enough time for you (and your story) to catch your breath and say This. This is what we both need right now, and then knowing that, you can give it.


Jane Lebak's first novel The Guardian will be re-released this September by MuseItUp Publishing! She is also the author of Seven Archangels: Annihilation (Double-Edged Publishing, 2008) and The Boys Upstairs (MuseItUp, 2010). 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. If you want to make her rich and famous, please contact the riveting Roseanne Wells.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Making the Most of Writers' Workshops

Michael Hauge

Like most professionals, writers should always be seeking ways to expand their knowledge. This might be achieved through reading craft books that delve into your weakness (grammar, characterization, emotions), through feedback from your critique partner or group, or through workshops. The first two options are cheap (free), but workshops provide you with an experience that will raise your manuscript to a level beyond what the other two might provide—if you find the right workshops.

When searching for a workshop, there are several things you should consider:

1. Your goals

Before you select a course, you need to know what your goals are. It could be craft related, such as story structure. It could deal with social networking or marketing. Or it could pertain to research, such as a behavioral analysis of serial killers. Do you want a course that will provide feedback on excerpt from your novel? Most don’t do this, so if this is something of interest, contact the course provider and find out if the instructor is only providing lectures and an opportunity to ask questions, or if you will be asked to submit assignments for feedback. 

2. Location 

If you can’t travel or your schedule doesn’t permit you to attend a live workshop, online courses are a perfect solution. Some conferences (e.g. Romance Writers of America and Thrillfest) enable you to download for a minimal fee the audio from workshops. Not all workshops are available, but it’s a perfect option if you can’t attend the conference, or if two workshops you want to attend are offered at the same time.

3. Time

If you’re busy, you might want to select a course that is online, as previously mentioned, and allows you to be a lurker. Be realistic if you are expected hand in assignments. If you don’t have the time to do them, you might want to skip the class, unless you know you’ll still benefit as a lurker. 

Try not to get behind on the reading of the lecture material; otherwise, you’ll miss out on your chance to ask questions. There is nothing worse than finally reading the material two weeks after the course ends, only to discover you have tons of unanswered questions. If you’re going to be a lurker and there are assignments that get instructor feedback, DO read what the instructor had to say about each one. You’ll learn a lot from studying the comments. Even if you’re not lurking, check out the instructor’s feedback and comments on the other students’ assignments. It’s worth the effort. You might discover errors you constantly make, but which didn’t show up in the excerpts you submitted for feedback.

4. Reputation of the Instructor

This is where a little investigative research is required. If the instructor is Stephen King and he’s offering a workshop on writing horror and thrillers, well, what are you waiting for? Sign up now. If he’s instructing on writing erotica, you might want to pass. It could be an instructor has seen a boom with a certain genre and decided to offer a course on it. However, she might not have the necessary background, other than she’s read a few bestselling novels from the genre. If she’s published in the genre, then you can be assured she knows what she’s talking about. Better yet, read at least one of her novels to make sure she does know the subject. No point spending money on a course on characterization when you find her characters to be no thicker than cardboard. 

Another reason to do the investigation is to make sure you don’t end up with an instructor who doesn’t follow through on the course expectations. I was recently in a course in which the instructor constantly promised to post the latest lecture or provide feedback on assignments, but more often than not, it didn’t happen. Her feedback was brilliant, when she bothered to give it. Turns out, the instructor was notorious for not living up to her promises. 

Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to find out about an instructor’s reputation, even with the popularity of social networking. While bloggers gush about awesome instructors, they tend to avoid talking about the duds. If you belong to a writing organization, you might be able to post the question on a forum, and give individuals the opinion of contacting you offline. 

5. Cost

Cost does not equate to quality. I’ve spent over $250 for a course that was a major disappointment (not the aforementioned one), and $30 for one that was amazing. Both offered critiques, but the latter resulted in editor-quality line edits. The other didn’t. The latter had course material not found in a craft book. The former had course material that could be found in any book on writing young adult stories. 

Have you participated in any workshops? Did you find them to be of value? Do you have any other suggestions for getting the most out of your workshop experience?

Stina Lindenblatt writes young adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and blogging addict, and can be found hanging out on her blog, Seeing Creative.  @stinall

Friday, May 25, 2012

Publishing Pulse for Friday May 25, 2012

Success Story

Congratulations to Tracy Holczer, whose success story can be read here.

Query Tracker Database Updates

The profiles of four agents—Drea Colhane, Denise Marcil, Farley Chase, and Halli Melnitsky—were updated this week. Please make sure you double-check every agent's website or Publisher's Marketplace page before querying.

Also, five new publishers have been added to the QT database. You can check out the publisher updates page to see who's new. 

If you're a QueryTracker member (membership is free) you can view the database of more than 1200 agent and publisher profiles. Premium Members can be notified whenever an agent or publisher is added or updates their profile, in addition to receiving access to several other enviable features.

Blogospherically Speaking…

Rachelle Gardner describes the editing process used by many publishing houses.

Nathan Bransford takes all of the fun out of a good knock-down drag-out Us versus Them fight in his article comparing traditional publishing to self publishing.

Want to know what he personally thinks is the right way? (Of course, you do. EVERYONE wants to know what Nathan thinks. He's Nathan.)

While Elsewhere On The Webs…

This recent survey of self-publishing authors suggests that a little bit of both types of publishing might be a good idea. Self-published writers who have an agent, or who go after a traditional deal on their own, earn much more than the average self-published writer.

Speaking of earnings, are you looking for a new job? Several big publishing houses are hiring. Brush up on your publishing know-how before you arrange an interview by studying this "convoluted and snarky, but not entirely untrue" infographic by Mariah Bear  

Food For Thought

One article suggests that what you read can have a lasting impact on your personality—and that the actions of fictional characters may actually influence readers' behavior. A slight alteration to my favorite phrase may be in order—not only must we be the change we wish to see in the world…we should read more stories about said change, too.

Happy Memorial Day!

If anyone will be attending this weekend's Balticon 46—a huge sci-fi/fantasy convention near Baltimore, MD—I hope you'll drop the Pink Narcissus table, where I'll be hanging out with my editors and fellow Pink Narc authors. (My mom made cookies to hand out so, really, I don't see what choice you have. They are MY MOM'S COOKIES. Oh yeah, I'll also bring my book, Bleeding Hearts. :D )

And for those who are unable to attend the con, here's a recipe for a sweet treat, perfect for your holiday picnics. (See what happens when I blog on an empty stomach?)

Have a great weekend everyone!

Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who resides in the heart of the Pennsylvania coal region, where she keeps the book jacket for "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" in a frame over her desk. Visit Ash's blog at www.ash-krafton.blogspot.com for news on her newly released urban fantasy "Bleeding Hearts: Book One of the Demimonde" (Pink Narcissus Press 2012).

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Free Internet Tools for Writers

I recently attended a conference where we discussed online tools for teachers, and that got me thinking about online tools for writers. So today we’re going to look at a few of my favorites, and I hope you all will share your own favorites in the Comments!

1. JoliPrint

I’m a little old-fashioned in that I enjoy reading things on paper rather than online. And if I find something I want to read again, I need to do more than Bookmark it – I can’t find anything in all the bookmarks I have. But it’s kind of a pain to copy and paste an article and then reformat it into a Word document, especially if there are ads built into the page.

Enter JoliPrint, a free website that clears out all but the article you want and formats it into a lovely PDF for download.

For example, I need to write a synopsis, something that I can’t say is a strength. So I pulled up Jane Lebak’s QTB piece, Taming the Dreaded Synopsis. I pasted the address for the article into JoliPrint, and voila! I have a beautifully formatted PDF to print!

You can also add JoliPrint to your blog or website (I just added it to the QTB, you should see a JoliPrint button at the end of this post) or install it in your browser toolbar. You can even have a “magazine” of your reading list delivered to your iPad, mobile, or computer.

2. PhraseExpress

We writers sometimes have to type the same thing over and over again, whether because an unwieldy phrase or name appears often in our manuscripts, or because we’re working hard on those letters to agents.

PhraseExpress is a free text expansion program that resides in your System tray. In addition to learning and correcting spelling errors in any application you use (including email programs, which I find incredibly useful), the program will expand abbreviations as you type. For example, when I use my work email program, I can’t use italics (who knows why *grumble*), so I have to use CAPS to emphasize. I always worry that my students will misread this as nastiness on my part, so I set PhraseExpress to change #notyell into “I’m not yelling, I just can’t use italics in this email program.”

You can set PhraseExpress to quickly insert your author bio (you can even have several set up), your high-concept hook, your website or blog, your contact information, your signature, and other frequently-used phrases into your email queries.

One final use: I once wrote a novel in which the first 3 letters of any character’s name would expand to the full name – it sped up my typing when I was really in the zone and writing quickly.

3. Doodle

Need to plan a time for your writing group to meet, but you can’t find a time everyone can meet? Try Doodle, a website that lets you pick potential meeting times and lets everyone weigh in on what would work for them.

4. Pinterest

I’ll say upfront that I’m a Pinterest newbie, but writers can do a lot with the site. You can save favorite quotes; create story planning and character boards filled with images of people, places, and things related to your story; and share your writing space and favorite tools. How do you use it? Feel free to share your Pinterest writing boards in the Comments!

Your Turn

What other free online tools do you use to make writing easier, more collaborative, more creative, and more fun? Let us know in the Comments!

Carolyn Kaufman, PsyD's book, THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment, and Human Behavior helps writers avoid common misconceptions and inaccuracies and "get the psych right" in their stories. You can learn more about The Writer's Guide to Psychology, check out Dr. K's blog on Psychology Today, or follow her on Facebook or Google+

Monday, May 21, 2012

Think Like an Author

Courtesy of mrpac-man
Finding success in publishing is tricky.

For one, not everyone defines success the same way. For some, it's enough to capture a world on paper. For others, there's the desire for validation that comes from finding an agent, a publisher, and/or being read. And there are still others who measure success by dollar signs.

Success is also tricky because all but one of those terms of success relies on someone besides the author or writer.

QueryTracker's mission statement is "Helping writers become authors." I believe this is the first step to success, and that this can happen even before you find an agent or are published.

It all starts with *how* you think.

It has been said that everyone has a book inside of them. While this may be true, not everyone has the ability or desire to sit down and write their book. Of those that do, some find that while they enjoyed writing a book, it's not something they're all that passionate about. But there are those that find magic in their story. Those that find joy in weaving worlds out of words.

These are the writers.

How do they become authors? Somewhere along the way, they believed they were--usually after a lot of hard work, a number of novels (or non-fiction books), finding an agent, and then landing a book deal.

But to my way of thinking, especially with all of the craziness that is in the publishing industry, it can help bring some sanity back into a person's life if they train themselves to think like an author once they realize they're a writer.

What does it mean to think like an author? (For the purposes of this post, I'm defining an author as someone who writes with the desire to be published/read.)

Write with Intent

While everyone's process is different, a book seldom gets written that is not written with intent.

Back when I was just writing because writing was what I did in my spare time, I have a hundred story beginnings, a few middles, and no endings.

An author writes with the intent to be read, and to be read, a person needs to be published one way or another. Usually, people write with intent because they have something to say.

So if you're ever stuck in your story and all your characters and plot have gone on strike, remember back to when you first started. When you were writing with intent, and ask yourself why you started writing this story. What is it you wanted to say?

Finding the Discipline Within the Passion

Writing a book is hard work. Brain-being-shoved-through-a-colander-and-turned-into-oatmeal hard sometimes. Or maybe that's just me. :-)

I love writing. I do. I love the worlds and the people who live just around the corner of my own reality. But, being a naturally lazy person whose brain now shudders whenever I pass the cottage cheese at the grocery store, I'm not always that enthused to write. On the other hand, I'm always very enthusiastic at having written.

An author is someone who goes in and gets the job done. They can be loving the story and rushing back to it every second they can, thinking about it every spare moment, or they can be at a point where deadlines are looming, the rent needs to be paid, and really, there's this new idea that would like to be written once they're through with this one.

A hobbyist talks about writing. Writers, we are all experts at creative procrastination, talk about writing. Authors sit down and write.

Be Willing to Try, to Learn, and to Make Mistakes

One of the scariest things about being an author, in my humble opinion, is the certainty that I'm not always going to get it right. Most of the time I won't--at least the very first time I'm writing the story down.

Big things, small things, and in between things are always there waiting for me to fix during revisions and edits.

But even scarier than those things are the Other Things. The quirks and bad habits I don't consciously realize I have. At least, not at first. This is why it is so vital to keep on learning. To never accept your best as your very best for all time. To never believe you've made it to the top of the writing mountain, and now you have nothing left to learn.

There is *always* something new to learn or relearn. Always.

There are *always* more mistakes to be made. Always.

And that's a good thing. Learning, making mistakes, indicates that you're doing something more than gathering dust. It means that you're trying something new, something hard. Something that could very well end up turning into a beautiful piece of art.

Fear inhibits art, so an author gives him/herself permission to fail. Permission to try. Permission to do.

Be Proud of Your Work

There is a truism is writing, usually in reference to learning how to decide which bits of advice to take when revising your manuscript. You have to look at what aligns with the vision you had for the story and see what advice makes it stronger, clearer, and better.

Take that advice and strengthen your story. Everything else, just let it blow away in the wind.

The truth is, if you write something that comes from the heart, you're never going to please everyone. All books, everywhere, have their critics. And if you are an author and are writing with the intent to be published/read, those critics are going to find you.

It is then, before you read your first critical review that you'll want to remember the other side of the truth above: you don't want to please everyone.

Books that are written by writers who are seeking to please everyone will end up pleasing no one. Those books lose their voice, because they lose the heart of what they were trying to say in the beginning.

Authors know what they want to say (not always easy at first), and they say it without regret or apology. For their story to resonate with readers, it has to first resonate with themselves.

Be proud of your work. Own it. Believe in it. If you don't, how can anyone else?

Finally, I'd like to share a link to Neil Gaiman's Address to the University of the Arts I found via Dean Wesley Smith. It is, hands down, one of the best things I've heard about writing in a very long time. :) I hope you enjoy! 

Danyelle Leafty| @danyelleleafty writes YA and MG fantasy. She is the author of The Fairy Godmother Dilemma series (CatspellFirespell, and Applespell), and can be found on her blog. She can also be found on Wattpad.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Publishing Pulse/May 18, 2012

Social Networking

If you use Twitter or Facebook inappropriately, you could find yourself in trouble with the law. Here’s some advice to help you avoid this from happening to you.

Darcy Pattison discussed the author platform, and when you need to start creating yours.

Guest blog posts are an important way to promote your book. Anne R Allen shared her fifteen tips for being a great guest blogger.
Porter Anderson talked about the Twitter handle and how to use it to benefit yourself and others.  

Publishing Information

To get a better idea of how a manuscript becomes a published book (fiction or nonfiction), check out this post and this post. Both will help you appreciate just how difficult it is to become published.

Your publisher has given you a deadline. Agent Jane Dystel explains what you can do if you’re have problems meeting it.


Author Jody Hedlund talked about jealousy. It doesn’t matter where you are on the publication pathway. It’s something all writers and authors have to deal with from time to time.

Here’s the latest on the Apple antitrust suit.

Do you suffer from these seven bad habits? Agent Rachelle Gardner explains how you can make the most of them.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Story Behind The Success: Lisa Amowitz

Query Tracker is a site devoted to helping writers who seek agent representation. In addition to the huge database of agent listings, Query Tracker also has a lively forum, full of writers and authors, each on their own journey toward publication.

There's also a section reserved for success stories.  Each writer who signs with an agent is welcome to share his/her success story. The interviews are quite informative but sometimes they don't quite reflect the emotional details novice writers crave.

Success stories are about success. For many writers, however, the journey is discouraging and writers often feel alone in their struggles. Those stories can be cold comfort to a writer who feels passed over.

Lisa Amowitz was one such writer. She shares her story today because she knows, all too well, how important perseverance is when choosing the path of publication.

From Clueless Wannabe to Soon-to-be Published Author--The Eight-Year Saga of Lisa Amowitz

I got into serious writing pretty late in life. Though I’d always dabbled, I’m an artist and graphic designer by trade. But after reading the first three Harry Potter books to my daughter (in a very tacky British accent—yes—three entire books) something got under my skin.
I think it was a story.

So I wrote that story, hiding my activities like a CIA operative. It was two years before I admitted my now-overwhelming compulsion to write. My characters spoke to me at random moments—I was obsessed with writing that story.

But guess what? That first book was horrible. It has its fans but, plot-wise and premise-wise, it was unsalvageable. Subsequently, I joined an online critique group who really helped me to clean up my writing. But I still couldn’t plot to save my life.Heidi Ayarbe , Lindsay Eland, Christine Johnson and Kate Milford and a bunch of other up and coming writing stars of the future.), and I joined the Query Tracker forum (aka JustWrite—or JW as I became known), which at the time had about twelve members, including Leah Clifford (aka gypsy gurl).

We all became quite close, chatting day and night. I am still very good friends with a few of the originals (Michelle McLean (eknutswife) and Colleen Kosinski (Coll)—two very smart and determined ladies). The next wave, as QT grew brought in people like Jessica Verday, Elana JohnsonBethany Wiggins, and Mary Lindsey.

I’m dropping names here, because you should note that these ladies are all published. We all started together, whining, grasping at straws, dragging each other along. A number of them got lucky early on.
It’s not really luck—it’s just timing. Their time had come. And then, back in 2008, it seemed like my time had finally come, too.

I signed with a big agent for my third book. I thought I had arrived and would soon be ascending the steps to Writer Nirvana. Game over.

Was I wrong. The agent and I did not see eye-to-eye. She hated my revisions but didn’t really seem to know how to explain what she wanted from me. Her vision of my writing did not seem to mesh with the vision I had for myself. She liked my realistic style and characters but hated my fantasy. I started another book (my fourth book), which was not the one she wanted me to write. She preferred my other proposal, which, ironically became the book I eventually sold, my fifth book, BREAKING GLASS.

Yeah, yeah. She actually was right. But that isn’t the point—the point is that she tried to tell me who I was—she imposed her own wishes on me, which totally shut down my muse. I couldn’t write a word.
When she suggested we part in March of 2009, I was actually relieved.  But by summer, I was DESTROYED. Devastated. My QT buddies were signing with agents and landing great deals, one by one—and I'd gone nowhere. I’d hit rock bottom. A shameful has-been.

It was hard. I was depressed and truly discouraged. With the help of my QT buddies and my crit groups, I just kept at it. Kept writing. In the winter of 2010, I submitted the first 150 words of my fourth book, LIFE AND BETH, to a Writer’s Digest contest and forgot about it until I won runner-up for second place out of 400 entries. Best of all, the contest judge--another very well-known but more down-to-earth agent—really liked my book.

However, I had a revelation. A very major revelation. I had to stop writing for others. I had to stop judging my worth as a writer by my outside success.

I had to write for me.

There it was: February 2010, the moment I came into my own.

I started to submit LIFE AND BETH. I got help from the esteemed Elana Johnson to perfect the best query ever (I designed her blog header in return—best barter I ever made!). And I broke ALL the query rules. You see, I didn’t care—I was going to write, and write, and write—and work on my craft. And NO ONE—no agent, editor, no arbiter of good taste was going to stop me.

I sent out NINETY queries over the span of five days. Yes—I knew my manuscript was polished to the best of my ability. Yes—my query was spot-on.

But 90? All at once? I got a request rate of about 27%.

Then came the phone calls from agents wanting to talk about revisions. At one point I had about fifteen manuscripts out for review. I was getting closer—I could feel it. All because I didn’t care. I was going to write my brains out, even if every agent in North America rejected me. The world of publishing was changing—you could smell it in the air. Indie publishing was growing in popularity and offered a new, attractive option.

During the summer, I got a phone call from the agent who had judged the Writers Digest contest. She gave me amazing tips on what I needed to do to make my book better. I began a major revision in hopes she might sign me.

But that never happened. In July 2010 I got an email from Victoria Marini, who'd requested my manuscript. She had about a hundred pages left to read of my ms and planned to finish the WHOLE thing that night. She did—and emailed requesting a phone call. I was expecting another revision song and dance.

Nope. She offered.

I asked for two weeks to consider the wisdom of signing with an untested novice. After contacting the bazillion other agents who had my full, they all stepped aside, including the contest agent (who was moving at the time and couldn’t read my revision that quickly.)

It took a lot of deliberation (Victoria was young, new—completely unknown) but my gut was screaming: YOU LIKE HER. SHE GETS YOU. SIGN WITH HER. I decided that Victoria, who would inspire me to WRITE and stand by me and cheer me on, was preferable to an agent who just didn’t get me, who made me question my skill as a writer.

Fast forward another year to 2011—Victoria went on to submit LIFE AND BETH with gusto. However, times were hard and it just never gained any traction. We both still love that book and have plans for it.

But here is the most important lesson to be learned: I DIDN’T CARE. I'd found my muse. I had an agent who passionately loved my writing, believed in me, and was going to sell my next book, or the one after that. My time would come.

In record time, I wrote BREAKING GLASS. It was almost a year after signing with Victoria, who in that year built her list and skyrocketed from unknown to a name brand. She’d made a good amount of sales and had networked her brains out. The woman is charming beyond belief and I felt so proud knowing that she was the one who would represent me.

We got very close to a huge deal with BREAKING GLASS. Then came an offer from Spencer Hill Press. They were small. I was skeptical. It felt like a repeat of my agent experience. But that had turned out okay. Better than okay.

So we went with Spencer Hill and I am thrilled with them. Now, not only do I have an agent who believes in me—I have a whole team. They even let me design my own book and trailer and gave me all the help I needed. From the incredible Kate Kaynak who has creative ideas streaming from her pores, to my supportive fellow writers like Kimberly Ann Miller, (TRIANGLES, 2013) to my editor, Vikki Claffone—they rock. They are not a publishing house---they are a family!

Am I rich? No. Will I get rich? Who knows. Do I care? Not at all. Money is not the reason I started writing in the first place. I started writing because I want people to read and love the stories in my head.
Thanks to my supporters, I’m going to write, and write, and write until the bones in my fingers crumble from overuse.

And that, dear people, is what it is all about. Love your craft. Don’t judge yourself against the successes of others. Persevere. Take advice. Understand the marketplace. Change, Grow, be fearless. Be a warrior. Love yourself and someone will eventually love you back.

You will get somewhere. Maybe not where you expected—but remember, it’s not the destination that matters—it’s the journey.

Check out Lisa Amowitz on Facebook, Twitter, and her blog. And check out Breaking Glass on Goodreads and YouTube.


Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who resides in the heart of the Pennsylvania coal region, where she keeps the book jacket for "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" in a frame over her desk. Visit Ash's blog at www.ash-krafton.blogspot.com for news on her newly released urban fantasy "Bleeding Hearts: Book One of the Demimonde" (Pink Narcissus Press 2012).

Monday, May 14, 2012

Revise/Resubmit Requests

The forums at QueryTracker.net have recently had questions about what to do when an agent gets back to you suggesting changes and asking to see the manuscript again afterward. You haven't been rejected, but you're not being offered representation either. 

If this has happened to you, welcome to the Revise/Resubmit Request.

Receiving one of these is a positive sign: it means the agent thought your manuscript had enough promise not to reject it outright, but it still has quite a distance to go before the agent feels it's publishable. In a typical R/R, the agent will tell you exactly what problems s/he spotted, suggest a means of correcting those problems, and tell you to resubmit it after you're done revising.

If the agent only tells you the first part (the problems) that is not a R/R. It's a rejection with a reason attached. (You're still free to revise, but the agent isn't asking to see the result.)

The changes may be extensive. For example, my first R/R told me to remove two major characters, shift more scenes to the MC's job, build up the romance, and streamline the plot. This would require deleting 40,000 words, changing the timeline, and then re-writing to fill all the holes.

Let's say you receive a similar letter. What to do?

1) Think about it. Don't just scream or slam doors, but really think about what it would take to effect the suggested changes. Talk it out with someone who's familiar with your book. Think about how the changes would work with your own vision of the story.

2) Think about further changes that would be required because of that first set of changes.

3) Do not make any changes you do not fully understand.

4) Do not make any changes you do not agree with.

5) Do, on the other hand, give special attention to the places where you disagree with the agent's suggestion. If you find a better way to accomplish the same thing, use the better way.

For example, in my R/R I was told to remove two characters in order to streamline the story. Instead I removed one and downgraded the other from a major role to a minor role. This worked out because it retained this character's role in the B story, but it effectively removed him from the A story and allowed the romantic interest to do what he did best.

6) Take your time. Seriously, take as long as you need to, and then take longer. And then re-edit before you send it. Most agents would prefer you give the revision the full attention it requires than have you slap-dash some changes together. You're most likely not getting a second R/R from the same agent on the same manuscript, do get it all done right. And that leads to...

7) Carry the changes through fully. If the agent says one of your secondary characters feels stereotyped, then after you make sure that character is fully realized, double-check all the rest of your secondary characters to make sure they too are not cliched and flat. If the agent says to remove a specific info dump, then make sure all your expository lumps are broken down to a manageable size and distributed evenly through the text.

8) This is actually something that should be done between steps 1 and 2. Thank the agent. Ask any questions you have about the agent's comments, and then give a time-frame for how long you think it will take.  (Be generous with that time-frame, and don't give a date because you don't want to think of it as a deadline. The agent understands edits can take a long time.)

A revise/resubmit request can be a terrific opportunity not only to improve your story but also to show an agent how well you take criticism. It's a moment when you can demonstrate your dedication both to your craft and to your story. If you're given this chance, make the most of it, and good luck!


Jane Lebak's novel The Guardian will be re-released this September by MuseItUp Publishing! She is also the author of Seven Archangels: Annihilation (Double-Edged Publishing, 2008) and The Boys Upstairs (MuseItUp, 2010). 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 the riveting Roseanne Wells of the Marianne Strong Literary Agency.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Publishing Pulse: 5/11/2012

Success Stories

Congratulations to our latest success story, Katherine Ernst!

If you've never checked out one of our success stories, they're a great way to learn about how other writers found agents on their way to publication. And, success stories like Katherine's usually include the author's successful query, so you can learn from those who did it right!

Around the Internet

How do you deal with reviews? Author Karen Witemeyer gives you some tips in Riding the Review Rollercoaster on Novel Rocket.

Rachelle Gardner is all about finding ideas this week. Her post, 9 Ways to Outwit Writer's Block, is accompanied by another guest post from Ms. Witemeyer, who has more good advice about finding ideas in There's Nothing New Under the Sun.

Ever tell yourself lies to make the editing go easier? Better check out 10 Lies You Might Tell Yourself While Editing and its companion post, 10 More Lies.

Is it email or e-mail? Web site or website? Online or on-line? Find out on The Urban Muse!

Want to get more out of your Facebook fan page? Check out these tips from ProBlogger!

If you have trouble with getting that story started, visit Write It Sideways to learn how to draw in your reader.

Have a great weekend and we'll see you next week!

Carolyn Kaufman, PsyD's book, THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment, and Human Behavior helps writers avoid common misconceptions and inaccuracies and "get the psych right" in their stories. You can learn more about The Writer's Guide to Psychology, check out Dr. K's blog on Psychology Today, or follow her on Facebook or Google+

Monday, May 7, 2012

Character Connection

One of the most common reasons for rejecting a manuscript is when the agent or editor can’t connect with the main character. Sometimes this is subjective; other times it’s not. 

First you need a multi-dimensional, sympathetic character. Next you need to examine your Motivation Reaction Units (MRU). A Motivation can be an action, dialogue, or description that leads your character to react. For example, if you are walking toward your house and it explodes, the exploding house is the Motivation.  The Reaction is what YOU do in response.

The intensity of Reaction needs to match the intensity of the Motivation. If your house explodes, you’ll likely react with more than a mere shrug. If the Motivation is small and the Reaction is over the top, then you’ve got an issue with melodrama. 

Reaction can be action, dialogue, visceral reactions (e.g. heart rate), and/or inner dialogue. Visceral reactions (the body’s response that you can’t control) ALWAYS come first. The rest is up to you and your genre. But if you’re finding you are getting rejections because agents aren’t connecting with your character, you might want to examine your inner dialogue. It might not be enough. Remember, though, it needs to move the plot forward, not force it to sit still while your character contemplates the non-relevant. 

Read the following three versions of an excerpt from In the Dark of the Night by John Saul:

Version with no inner thoughts
“Guess what I have!” Ellen demanded. “You’re going to love it.” (Motivation)

Merrill’s eyes narrowed and she held out her hand. “Give.” (Reaction)

Version with most of the inner thoughts deleted
“Guess what I have!” Ellen demanded. “You’re going to love it.” (Motivation)

Merrill’s eyes narrowed as she ran through the possibilities, except that whatever it was was small enough to be held in one hand. (Reaction)

Merrill held out her hand. “Give.” (Reaction)

Version from the novel
“Guess what I have!” Ellen demanded. “You’re going to love it.” (Motivation)

Merrill’s eyes narrowed as she ran through the possibilities. With Ellen, everything was always wonderful, and everyone was always going to love everything, so she could be talking about almost anything. Except that whatever it was was small enough to be held in one hand. (Reaction)

Ellen Newell’s hands, of course, were larger than most, and stronger, too. Even though she was nowhere near her son’s size, she was just as good an athlete as Kent, and could still beat him at tennis without even breaking a sweat. If Ellen weren’t one of her best friends, Merrill knew she could have hated her. As it was, Merrill just held out her hand. “Give,” she said. (Reaction)

Do you see the difference?


  • Copy a scene from a story in the genre you write (preferably a book you love/admire) and highlight the inner thoughts. Do they move the story forward? Do they give you insight into the character and her goals? What do you like about them? What don’t you like? What do you notice about the amount of inner thoughts on a typical page (this is going to vary among genres)? Compare them to your writing. 
  • Take a scene from your story and analyze each Motivation and subsequent Reaction. Is the reaction enough? Can you expand on it by combining more than one element (e.g. action and inner thought)?  What is your character thinking after the Motivation? Would it help your reader connect with your character if you wrote it down? (Write it down. You can go back later and trim if need be.) You’ll be surprise just how much you can strengthen the characterization by doing this exercise. Better yet, do it for the entire novel. Yes, it takes time, but it’s worth it if readers are struggling to connect with your character.
Stina Lindenblatt writes young adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and blogging addict, and can be found hanging out on her blog, Seeing Creative