QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sell it to me!

Last month I posted something along these lines in the QueryTracker forums, and apparently it was helpful. Now you get to enjoy it too. (Of course, if you were to join the QueryTracker forums, you could see all the other amazing advice we share routinely, but that's another matter.)


One of our members complained (accurately) that it's impossible to summarize an entire novel in 250 words. Which is the absolute truth: any novel that could be summarized in 250 words wouldn't be a novel worth reading. But this member was upset at how many unique and intriguing aspects of the novel's worldbuilding were going to get glossed or omitted. No doubt when writing your own query you got frustrated by the limits of the form, the character shading that got stripped down to stereotypes, the careful setup that got reduced to a trope.


Take a deep breath and play a game of pretend: your next door neighbor called you, frantic, begging you to take her to the emergency room. You grabbed a copy of your novel off the shelf, where it was magically just sitting there bound and printed and with a cover, and drove her there. When you got there, you realized you didn't have your wallet, and the ER staff told you it would be five hours. You're hungry. There are vending machines, but you don't have any money. 

You start re-reading your book and loving it. While you're doing that, I come sit down in the waiting area. Finally I say, "Are you reading a book?"

Instead of telling me, "No, I'm sewing buttons on pickles," you humor me and say, "Yes."

I say, "Is it any good?"

That's when you have a wicked idea: if you can SELL me your book, you'll have money for the vending machines and you won't be so hungry. You have a stack more books at home, so it's not a big deal to sell me this copy. The only thing you'll need to do is convince me to buy it.

Now, given that, how are you going to pitch me the book?  Well, first you'll want to get me excited about it, and then you'll want to slip in the idea that I'll want to read it, and then you'll make the generous offer that well you could let this copy go...  

But what you're not going to do is something like this: "Middle Earth is the home to five major races, each of which explores a different iteration of the human spirit."  And you're not going to say, "The underlying theme of my novel is death, but it's explored slantwise by showing the nuanced ways in which individuals respond to the lure of power." 

This stuff may be vital to the story (and in fact, it is vital to the novel I'm talking about) but it's not vital to the pitch. The pitch needs to be a separate entity. Because queries are not synopses or Cliffs Notes. They're sales letters. 

With that in mind, I think you would say, "It's about an ordinary guy who just wants to live his life, but instead he's forced to protect, and ultimately destroy, the one artifact an evil wizard wants most in the world."

I'd probably sit up and and say, "How'd that happen?"

You'd say, "Well, he had no idea what this ring was when he accepted it, but it was forged three thousand years ago by the Dark Lord in order to enslave the different races that live in Middle Earth, only now this guy Frodo has it. It will give him a really long life, but it's going to turn him into a horrible person if he tries to use it. And the only way to destroy The One Ring is to carry it right into the kingdom where that Dark Lord is. And he knows Frodo is coming."

It's not about giving an accurate portrait of the story. It's about teasing us and making us just as hungry as you are. You don't really care about conveying the nuances of Frodo's relationship with Sam as much as you care about making me shell over five bucks so you can get a sandwich.

Make yourself feel better: look on your bookshelf at your favorite books. Re-read their back cover copy. Think about how much it leaves out. But those few paragraphs still interested you enough to get you reading, right? Even if they didn't convey the subtleties of the character's growth?

It's okay. Take a deep breath. Sell your book.

---

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 unfathomably rich, please contact the riveting Roseanne Wells.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Using Dialogue Tags and Punctuation Properly

Dialogue can be tough, but for a lot of writers, tagging and punctuating it correctly is even harder. Here are some of the most common errors I see, and how to correct them.

Dialogue Tags

You should use a dialogue tag anytime it’s not completely clear who is speaking

A dialogue tag lets the reader know who’s speaking. He said and she said are the most common dialogue tags, though if it’s not completely clear who’s speaking when you use he said or she said, it’s time to use your characters’ names. Let’s pretend for the example below that we’ve just started a new scene:

 “Sorry I’m late,” June said.
 “Where were you?” David said.
  “I just ran by the grocery store on the way home.”

In this example, we tag both June’s dialogue and David’s dialogue with their names. That way everyone knows which characters are involved in the scene. In the third sentence, we skipped the dialogue tag completely, because it’s unnecessary. We know that June and David are the only people involved in this conversation, so once June starts speaking again, we don’t have to tag her dialogue.

However, you may not be able to go more than a few lines without some kind of indication of who’s speaking. If you do, the reader will start to get confused.

For example, if we pick up where we stopped with June and David’s conversation:

        “I just ran by the grocery store on the way home.”
        “I wish you’d called to let me know you were going to be late. I was starting to worry about you.”
         “I had my phone on.”

By that third line, “I had my phone on,” we  may want to add a sentence tag back in (“I had my phone on,” she said), both to keep the reader from getting lost and to break the dialogue up a bit.

If someone new has several lines to say, and it’s probably not going to be entirely clear who’s speaking until you reach the ___ said  tag, then you should insert the dialogue tag after the first sentence of his or her speech, like this:

“I’m sorry I’m late,” she said.  “I lost track of the time.”

Said

As I mentioned above, said is the most common dialogue tag, because it disappears for the reader. In other words, as readers, we’re so used to seeing it that we don’t really notice it while we’re reading. This keeps it from feeling redundant, even if it’s used frequently.

You should use other tags—like shouted, screamed, bellowed, sobbed, sang, blurted, whispered, wailed—sparingly. These stand out in a big way, and can be very distracting for the reader, particularly when your writing is peppered with them.  You may feel like you need to use such strong verbs regularly to show your characters’ emotions, but you’re usually better off adding a brief sentence that shows the character’s body language or actions instead.

Rather than saying,

“I’m sorry I’m late,” she said regretfully.

or even

“I’m sorry I’m late,” she murmured.

in many cases you may be better off showing the character doing an action. This helps bring the scene to life for the reader.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” she said. She shuffled her feet, avoiding his eyes.

Sometimes you don’t even need the “she said” part:

“I’m sorry I’m late.” She shuffled her feet, avoiding his eyes.

Note, however, that in the example above there should be a period at the end of the line of dialogue, not a comma, the way there is when the dialogue is followed with _____ said. A lot of writers try to follow dialogue with a comma and then an action, but you can’t speak an action. For example:

Wrong: “Not even one,” she offered him a halfhearted shrug.
Right: “Not even one.” She offered him a halfhearted shrug.
Wrong: She offered him a halfhearted shrug, “Guess I got lucky.”
Right: She offered him a halfhearted shrug. “Guess I got lucky.”

You can also include information on what’s happening before or during the dialogue. As I noted earlier, this breaks up the dialogue and can make it feel more natural, since most people don’t speak super-fast without taking pauses. For example:

The man gripped her elbow, steadying her.  “Let me help you,” he said.  “You’re covered in blood.  Is it yours?”

Finally, you can put the dialogue tag in front of the dialogue, though this is a less conventional approach, so it should be used with care. For example:

The two women eyed each other. Then Abbey said, “Are you trying to trick me?"


Finally, if someone is, for example, asking a question, you should always use a proper question mark at the end of the line of dialogue, and then add your ____ said as if you had used a comma (ie, with a lowercase he said or she said rather than a capitalized He said or She said).

For example:


Wrong: “You have to send anyone else to the hospital?” She said.
Right: “You have to send anyone else to the hospital?” she said.


And to pull together several principles we’ve discussed:

        “Hey,” he said.
        “You have to send anyone else to the hospital?” she said.
        He nodded, checking off several adjectives in the mental status area of the intake form.“Three others.”
        “Delusions of influence?”
         “Well, I don’t know that the girl who thought she could disappear would count as a delusion of influence, but the others…yeah, they kind of fit that category.”  He tapped the tip of his pen on the table.  “How about you? Did you have to send anyone to the hospital?”
         “Not even one.”  She offered him a halfhearted shrug. “Guess I got lucky.”




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+

Friday, June 22, 2012

Publishing Pulse 6/22/2012

Updated Agent Listings

Be sure to check out new agents that have been added to the QT database and existing agents who have updated their profiles.

Around the Internet

Going through the revision process? A free program (SmartWrite) helps PC users find clichés, adverbs, overused words, and keeps track of your dialogue tags (via GalleyCat).

Do you write epic fantasy? The good news, according to Agent Kristin Nelson, is that editors she spoke with are now open to receiving epic fantasy submissions.

With publishing still sorting itself out, more and more people are having to think outside the box. Mark Shatzkin discusses the idea of publishers selling direct.

If you keep a blog, Michael Hyatt has a great post on 7 Keys to Writing a Killer Blog Post.

Unable to make it to BEA this year? Porter Anderson has an interesting perspective of BEA on his Writing in the Ether column.

On Self-Publishing

The choice to self-publish or trade-publish remains a contentious issue. Normally, I try to ignore the mudslinging that happens on both sides, but this time was different (in a good way). Author Shannon Hale wrote a post on her position regarding trade publishing (professional) and self-publishing (amateur), stressing the importance of good editors. (I think we can all agree that having a good editor is essential to putting out a good book--no matter how it's published. Editors are worth their weight in gold, and then some. :))

What made this argument between trade publishing and self-publishing different from the countless others was the conversation Shannon's post engendered. Rather than the normal bout of authors getting into shouting matches, a number of blog posts popped up calling for an end to the "us" against "them" thinking.

In Don't Be a Sneetch: an Open Letter Response to Shannon Hale, author Anna Elliott called for authors to rethink how we draw the lines. That instead of drawing them around how we're published--much like the Sneetches who cared too much about the stars on their bellies--we should be more concerned about discussing/debating good books and bad books.

Shannon Hale wrote a follow-up post clarifying her stance and her purpose behind the original post.

Author Kristine Rusch posted about the need to stop the drawing lines in the sand, and Dean Smith called for an end to authors insulting their fellow colleagues.

This week was a timely reminder that we're all in this together, and that this is an exciting time to be a writer because we have so many choices and paths available to us.

Have a great weekend, and happy writing!


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






Wednesday, June 20, 2012

3 Myths About Villains



By Angela Ackerman @angelaackerman

Characterization is a struggle for many writers, and often the most difficult role to work with is that of the villain. We know we want the reader to dislike him and root for the hero instead. We also know that he must act as a counterbalance to who our hero is inside. And we especially know that while our villain needs to be fully formed, he can’t steal the show. 

Because we’re writing the hero’s story, it can be tempting to paint the villain with as few strokes as possible. Being direct and succinct in showing who the villain is and what they want means more air time for the main character, right? Well, yes...but it also can lead to cardboard Muah-ha-ha type villains who come across as cliché. 

So how do we create a three dimensional, credible villain? And how do we make sure the reader dislikes them because of who they are, not because we tell them to? The answer lies in debunking a few emotion-related myths.

Myth #1: Villains Don’t Feel

Some writers believe that because villains cause deep suffering, they must be immune to emotion. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Villains feel. They love, lust after, fear and worry. They show determination, pride and doubt. If they didn’t, they would not have goals and desires or feel moved enough to act on them. 

Heroes and villains are more alike than it might first seem. Both act based on their Internal Landscape (what a person feels moment to moment), and they each have a unique Emotional Range (how deep those feelings run). But, what might make the hero upset may not phase the villain at all. The Emotional Range also influences their moral code. Imagine a line in the sand. The villain will cross that line and do things to achieve their goal that the hero would not. Showing the emotions of both the protagonist and antagonist is important, so always make sure they always bleed through.

Myth #2: Villains Should Only Express Negative Emotions

Again, this is false. Villains should be as rounded as any other character and therefore experience a range of positive and negative emotions throughout the story. Villains are just as capable of love, respect and sympathy as the rest of us, if it fits with their Emotional Range. Powerful, positive emotions also give the opportunity for readers to identify with the villain on a human level. Hold it, did I just say identify with? You bet! Credible villains aren’t sadists in the sense that they are driven by positive feelings just like you or I (Satisfaction, Love, Happiness, Desire, etc). Showing the villain’s root emotions (positive and negative) reveals their motivations to the reader, and promotes a deeper understanding of who they are.

Myth # 3: To Be A Villain, They Must Always Display Strength

On the outside of things, this might appear to be true. After all, the villain’s role is to chose a path and not be deterred by the hero. So while this in itself shows an inner core of strength, it is the writer’s ability to also show the villain’s weakness which will make the antagonist a fully formed, believable villain.  

How can weakness reveal strength? Simple. Each of us, hero, villain or reader, has a Wound. This wound is an experience from our past that hurt us enough that we have altered who we really are in order to protect ourselves from being hurt by it again. We have hardened ourselves in some way and actively avoid situations where the experience might repeat itself. Hollywood Screenwriter Michael Hauge refers to this as Emotional Armour

Wounds are powerful. The villain’s motivations will be rooted in protecting himself from the pain in his past. So, if you give readers a glimpse of his weakness, you provide a window into his personal suffering. In this way the villain shows vulnerability which will create empathy in readers. By using emotion, we help the reader understand a villain’s need or desire, but completely disagree with the path they take to satisfy it.

Obviously the hero should have center stage, but the villain has a powerful role to play, and their motivations and actions must always be credible.  Taking the time to understand who the villain is and what their Emotional Landscape looks like will pay off by providing a worthy adversary for your main character defeat. 


Angela Ackerman is one half of The Bookshelf Muse duo, and co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression. This show-don't-tell brainstorming tool contains lists of body language, thoughts and visceral sensations for seventy-five emotions, ensuring writers will find the right description for any emotional moment.






Monday, June 18, 2012

Using Writing Contests To Improve One’s Game

Long before my first book was published, I was hard at work, putting the manuscript through some very vigorous paces.


Since it was my first book, I wanted a litmus test before I started flinging it at agents. I wanted to toe the waters of publishing before plunging in. I wanted to feel my way cautiously through the dark instead of bumbling through it.



Publishing had become my sport. Was I ready to query agents? Was my manuscript ready? I 'd be going up against some pretty tough competition. I couldn't go out on the field unprepared so I practiced…by competing.


Confused? Don't be. What I mean to say is I entered my manuscripts into writing contests.


Entering contests helped me to do all that and more. Besides learning the rules of formatting and preparing submissions, besides the dubious joys of preparing several synopses, I received invaluable critique, peer-based feedback, and lessons in surviving rejection. These experiences helped me to grow from an amateur hobby writer into a more polished professional who had her eyes on the prize.


Once I had completed the first draft, I decided to spend a full year entering every competition that fit my manuscript. As a result, my synopsis and first chapters were submitted to perhaps a dozen different novel writing contests. Several contests—especially those offered by writers groups whose main objective is to help writers improve their craft and get their writing up to publishable standards—returned entries with heaps of comments on the pages as well as score sheets that provided me with the litmus test I wanted. (HoustonWriters Guild is an excellent example.) While other contests offered critique for a fee, I was able to avoid extra cost by simply choosing the right contests.


Contests also provided great feedback. Currently, my “betas” are readers, not writers or others in the publishing business. While reader feedback is very valuable, it lacks the aspect of knowledgeable constructive criticism. Back when I was a newbie writer, I had zero access to a writer’s critique group. When I began competing, the judges became my circle of well-meaning peers. Thanks to the feedback , I made some excellent revisions. (I also ignored a lot of personal opinion, just like in a real group.)


My favorite “feedback” example: I failed one contest quite miserably because my formatting stunk. While the formatting kept me on the sidelines, I got the opportunity to be evaluated by a third judge who spent a great amount of time commenting and suggesting ways to improve. She admitted the formatting mess was too great to ignore but said I was so close—I had a real chance with this book. That encouragement was my candle in the window.


Best of all, participation in writing competitions steeled my heart against the slings and arrows of rejection. I failed to place in many of the contests. Not seeing my name on some of the results letters was a little disappointing. However, actually seeing my name on a few of the results letters was a huge boost.


I started with honorable mentions. I made recommended changes and revisions and tweaked my synopses. I earned a second place, complete with a gorgeous ribbon and—gasp!—a check. Eventually, I won first place and grand prize overall in a contest I never dreamed of winning.


Grand prize. Say it out loud. I do, whenever I need one little victory to heal the sting of a rejection. Dealing with anonymous judges is far less personal than dealing one on one with agents. Writers new to the game may find it easier to hear a “no” from a contest before they hear one from their dream agent (mine rejected my query twice. I guess once wasn’t enough?)


Perspective. That’s how I would sum up my entire contest experience. In 2007 I had much to learn about writing, and thanks to the critiques, I knew what direction to follow. I needed peer review; many writers and editors gave me the feedback and encouragement I craved. I won some, I lost some, and I learned the rules of the rejection game. It made querying a lot less abrasive.


A writer who is unsure if that manuscript is ready for an agent would do well to take a chance at entering a contest or two. If you want to play the publishing game, you need to practice first—and a writing competition may just be the perfect scrimmage for your manuscript.

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, June 13, 2012

The Four Story Pillars (guest post)

Jane's note: I'm very excited today to introduce a guest post by Amy Deardon, author of The Story Template. Her work is the result of an intensive study of successful stories, both movies and novels, breaking them down into their most basic structure and character elements. She took each story and categorized the scenes, timed them (or made note of the page length), noted where and when they occurred, and graphed each story's progress. When she found consistent trends in plot progression and character arc through all these stories, and these elements lacking in stories generally regarded as failures, she combined all this knowledge into her book The Story Template. For more information about her book, you can read my review on my own blog. But for now, I'll turn it over to Amy's discussion of a vital part of story development: the four pillars of your story which will hold up everything that happens in your book. Enjoy!

     

Even if you’re an SOTP (seat of the pants) writer, a little planning before beginning to write can make writing your story easier. I’ll review here a few foundational elements you should know about your story before you start.


The Four Story Pillars
A story (novel or screenplay) is often thought of as having two arms: outer and inner. The outer story covers the external plot: what your friend will summarize when you ask what a story is about. In contrast, the inner story describes the emotional journey of one or more characters. Different types or genres of stories tend to emphasize different arms – for example, a romance or literary work often focuses on inner story, while a mystery or action-adventure usually emphasizes outer story. 

But how else might story be described? If you think about it, a story can also be considered as having two tiers of construction: concrete and abstract. The concrete tier describes the actual events and characters in the story, whereas the abstract tier comments on the broader applications of your story: why it may give insight into society, relationships, or life.

Using these two types of categories, I like to think of the story as having four story pillars. The PLOT is the actual story line with the story goal and external obstacles. The CHARACTER describes the inner emotional journeys of one or more characters. The STORY WORLD describes the specific environment and milieu in which the story takes place. The MORAL describes the theme or the ultimate take-home message that the story conveys.

You can put these four pillars into context, like this:
The STORY PREMISE, which is the fundamental concept that drives the story, comes from just one of these four pillars. For example:

Plot Pillar – Iron Man, Jaws

Character Pillar – Forest Gump, Rocky

Moral Pillar – Facing the Giants, Ender’s Game

Story World Pillar – Fellowship of the Ring, Harry Potter

Although the story centers around one pillar, the other pillars are developed to a greater or lesser extent, even for very unidimensional stories. For example, in the summer 2009 film G.I. Joe, the emphasis is on the OUTER STORY, both the action plot and the cool techno-weapons story world. However, even in such an over-the-top action movie, there is also a rudimentary inner love story of loss and redemption hiding between the bombs and outrageous conspiracy theories.

The more you can develop all four of these pillars, the more resonant and gripping your story will become. Some questions you might ask for each pillar:

PLOT: What is your story question? What is your story goal? What are the stakes of your story (the bad things that will happen if your protagonist doesn’t achieve his goal)? What is the main obstacle (usually the antagonist) blocking your protagonist from reaching his goal? What are some other obstacles?

CHARACTER: Who is your protagonist? What does he want in the story? Does he have a secondary protagonist? (The secondary protagonist works with the protagonist as a team to achieve the story goal, and is often a love interest). What is your protagonist’s “hidden” (emotional) need that will be fixed in the story? Who (or what) is the antagonist? What goals are your protagonist and antagonist competing for?

STORY WORLD: What is the time and place of your story? What are common social customs? What do buildings and structures look like? What do your characters eat, wear, and use? What is the weather like? 

MORAL: What is the ONE universal principal that you want to explore in your story? Some examples of moral might be:

Romeo and Juliet: Great Love Defies Death.
Forest Gump: Unconditional Love Redeems the Rebel.
Fellowship of the Ring: Willingness to Relinquish Power Leads to Preservation.
The Godfather: Family Ties Overcome Individual Virtue.
Rocky: Courage and Persistence Lead to Significance.
The Incredibles: Working Together Allows Each Individual to Shine.

By developing all four of these story pillars, you will establish a strong base for your story to resonate with the reader or viewer. 

---

Amy Deardon is a research scientist who had already written articles, newspaper columns, and other nonfiction when she wanted to write a novel. When getting the words down was more difficult than she anticipated, she undertook a detailed study of how story works. The result is an algorithm published in The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using The Universal Structure Of Story (also available in a print edition.) She's the author of A Lever Long Enough, and has documented her experience of overcoming skepticism with both faith and science at her blog.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Never, Never Give Up: Writing and Winston Churchill

Courtesy of mitchlaw
Taking a word, a thought, a picture and spinning them into a story is hard.


Refining that story into something wonderful is even harder.


Being able to share it with other people, most of whom you will never meet or know, is harder still.


Continuing up the path, no matter what setbacks occur along the way, is perhaps the hardest of all.


It's times like these that I think back to Winston Churchill. The quotes I'm about to share have nothing and everything to do with writing--with getting up one time more than you've been knocked down.




“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”


We write because we have something to say. That something can be meant to entertain, to enlighten, to bring laughter or tears, or a myriad of other things besides. Most often, if you peel back the words to expose the meaning, you find bits and pieces of the author's heart scattered across the pages.

A story can be a deeply personal thing, while at the same time, it is something that wants to be shared. Something that needs to be shared.

So stand up and say something.

Like a coin, there is another side to standing up and speaking, and that is to sit down and listen.

It isn't easy to have your work critiqued or to receive an editorial letter that's more red than anything else. It isn't easy to look at those shards of your heart embedded within the words and realize that they're only a rough approximation of what you really meant to say.

It takes courage, humility, and patience to be willing to learn--first how to see the flaws in our writing, and then how to fix them. Over and over and over again.

And that is what we must do if we wish to be great.


Then comes the time when we learn that all that hard work to get the story as perfect as we can on our own is only the first of many steps.

Each step is another chance to be rejected. To learn that your best isn't quite good enough. Yet.

It isn't failure if you keep striving. If you keep learning. If you never give up.

It doesn't matter how many rejections you get from agents, editors, or readers. If you have something to say and the will to keep learning and honing your craft, you will succeed. You may not be a breakout success in terms of how others look at it. It may take a lot longer than you thought it would. You may have to readjust your expectations from time to time, but you will make it.


This goes twofold. Don't give in to the doubts and worries that will beset you along the way. And don't give in when it gets hard to find your audience. There have been a lot of things posted recently on the Internet about less than scrupulous behavior some authors (both trade and self-published) and other industry professionals have engaged in.

Don't do it.

No matter how much you want your book to succeed and be liked, never sacrifice your integrity to get there. It's just not worth it.


In writing, be honest to the story. Understand the message of your story--both in your mind and how it actually comes across in paper. Be deliberate and mean what you say. This is why beta readers and editors are so crucial. The story is alive and playing inside our heads. We know what we mean, but our meaning doesn't always come across as clear as we think.

That's what revisions are for.

Before you're published, it's a good idea to sit down and figure out exactly how you're going to approach reviews. There will be people who will love your work. There will also be people who hate your work. How are you going to handle them?

In general, it's a good idea to leave the reviews to the readers and move on to your next book. There have been a few authors who successfully manage to engage the reviewer by commenting on their blog or their review, but doing this well can be a difficult balancing act. Whatever you do, be kind, be courteous, and be professional. If you need to vent, do it offline with trusted friends and family. We're only human, and some things we encounter along the way will hurt. It's okay to hurt, but it's never okay to do the hurting.

And lastly, one of my favorite quotes of all:


This writing gig is hard. It's filled with ups and downs that swoop in out of nowhere, leaving us reeling--both with delight and discouragement.

Choose to look forward instead of needling yourself over past mistakes and disappointments. Your writing will improve--if you are working at it--with each book you write. Some will be easier to write. Some will be better than others. And some will be more popular while others will be less so.

Keep looking forward. Keep going. So long as you have something to say, keep saying it. And eventually--eventually--you will get there. Querying doesn't last forever. The sting of obscurity or unfavorable reviews doesn't last for always. The edits for each book eventually ends. Writer's block can be overcome.

And the story you have inside of you will one day be told.

But only if you never, never, give up.



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